Natural health: 'My seven-year-old daughter has started to bite her nails'

Natural health: 'My seven-year-old daughter has started to bite her nails'

My seven-year-old daughter has started to bite her nails. It could be linked to a recent house move. What would you recommend?

I think you are quite right — nail-biting is often linked with stress and nerves. Individuals who bite their nails typically do so without even being aware that they are doing it, and once they start, it can be hard to stop the habit. Nail biting is also known as onychophagia, and when it extends to chewing the skin around the nail bed, it is called dermatophagia.

Biting and chewing of the nails is a way of self-soothing, and in some cases self-stimulation to ease feelings of boredom. The B-vitamins are important to help offset the effects of stress in the body and mind. It is common for many adults, particularly those who work under pressure, to take a B-complex to help cope with increased demands of life, and children are no different in their needs in times of stress.

My favourite gentle B-complex for kids is Floradix’s Liquid herbal B-Complex Formula, available from Boots. This formulation contains the vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B7, and B12 together with yarrow, watercress, spinach leaf, olive leaf, galangal root, ginger root, rosehips in a base of pear, apricot, orange, carob extract, passion fruit, lemon, grape, and apple juice. Your daughter will need to take 5ml daily (this can be taken in water if need be).

Topically, gentian tincture can help bring your daughter’s attention to the fact that she is nibbling on her nails. It is incredibly bitter tasting, so will act as a deterrent for absent-minded chewing or biting of the nails and surrounding skin.

Gentian can be painted directly onto the nails and left to dry, leaving no trace besides the terrible taste. It is used in herbal medicine as a bitter digestive tonic, so is quite safe to ingest.

My elderly mum gets a UTI almost every six months, which needs to be treated with antibiotics. What can she do to minimise the risk of getting the infection in the first place?

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are very frustrating indeed — whether the symptoms are painful urination, urinary urgency, or urinary frequency. These are far more common in women than men, due to the fact we have a shorter urethra, making it easier for bacteria to transfer over into the bladder. This also explains why E. coli is the most common bacteria identified as the root cause for most UTIs in women.

One product I always recommend in the prevention and treatment of UTIs is D-mannose. It is a water-soluble product based on mannose, the simple monosaccharide sugar in cranberries which is responsible for the prevention of bacterial growth and development.

D-mannose works by binding to the bacteria which causes bladder and urinary tract infections. This means the bacteria is flushed out during urination, rather than sticking to the bladder wall where it can multiply out of control. The fact that it is water-soluble means that it is absorbed and excreted very rapidly — so it brings fast relief for an existing infection.

Sugary and processed foods certainly don’t help when it comes to UTIs, so if your mum likes her sweet treats, then it is important that she cut back on these, and eliminate them completely any time she feels the early twinges of a UTI.

It is also important to drink plenty of water both to prevent the likelihood of developing a UTI, and also to help flush the bacteria out with an existing infection.

Cranberry juice can help, but only if it is unsweetened. Cranberries are naturally very tart and not sweet, so the juice typically comes with sugar or artificial sweetener added. Biona Pure Cranberry juice is a brand which contains 100% pure organic cranberry juice and nothing else.

There are high potency cranberry supplements available, but these should not be taken together with blood-thinning or anticoagulant medication such as aspirin and warfarin.

NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.

Do you have a question for Megan Sheppard? Email it to feelgood@examiner.ie

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