Bedwetting is a problem for about 15 per cent of children after age ten. If your child is still wetting the bed after age six, and he's dry during the day, it's worth investigating. Bedwetting has a number of causes, including the possibility that it
In a child, bedwetting happens mostly because a child's nervous system is still too immature for total bladder control. Stress, anxiety, fever, infections and food intolerances may trigger episodes of bedwetting. In cases of allergies, corn, cow's milk, cocoa, cola, citrus fruit and food colouring agents have been identified as common causes. Even allergies to inhaled allergens such as dust or housedust mites can be a cause (Crook WG, Genitourinary allergy, in Speer F (ed), Allergy and Immunology in Children, Springfield: Charles C Thomas, 1973: 690-4).
In the case of food sensitivities, my own clinical experience suggests the following sequence of events:
Many allergic reactions involve the fluid retention mechanism think of the swellings in hives, a blocked nose, obstructed bronchial tubes in asthma, swollen meninges in migraine. These are all tissues which have to draw off fluid from the blood to become swollen themselves;
The blood becomes more viscous (thickened) because of this loss of fluid. The body signals that this needs to be corrected, creating thirst, and so the child drinks;
Allergic swellings (except for those in migraine) are painless, and may occur in and around bodily organs, coming and going unnoticed. This is referred to as a 'masked allergy' because it is unseen. Many children appear to suffer from these unseen allergies;
When these swellings subside, all that stored fluid is quickly sent to the child's bladder, causing an urgency to pass urine. This can become a problem when the child is asleep because the bladder can fill very quickly, before the child is fully aroused from sleep.
Although bedwetting is commonly associated with stress, you should also investigate symptomless urinary infections (both bacterial and parasitic) and diabetes. A urine test may rule out or confirm an infection.
Bedwetting can also affect about 15 per cent of the very old. An elderly person suffering from Alzheimer's disease is likely to become progressively more incontinent. An easy option for doctors and nursing staff at institutions is to introduce an in dwelling catheter into an incontinent elderly individual. As these can cause trauma and infection, such a practice should be resisted.
Never scold the child or an elderly person for wetting the bed
Praise the child for dry nights, but do not comment on this to an elderly person
Ensure that the child or the elderly person with urinary incontinence doesn't drink anything within two hours of bedtime. (This may be difficult with 'masked allergies' because these create thirst)
Encourage the child or elderly person to urinate before going to bed
Wake the child or elderly person two hours later to empty the bladder once more
During the day, make sure that all caffeine drinks coffee, tea, cola, cocoa are avoided
Try to institute bladder training. You can help them achieve this by postponing their trips to the toilet to urinate during the day. Then, at night, you can alter their conditioned sleep pattern by using a bell that is set to sound when the child or elderly person wets a special sensor pad in the bed.
Providing there is no physical cause for bedwetting, try one of the following homoeopathic medicines:
This should be taken at potency 6CH, taking four pilules every night for three weeks. If there is no improvement at this time, higher potencies should be used until the problem is resolved.
Another tried and tested remedy is five drop doses of the mother tincture of Verbascum thapsus both in the morning and at night (Boericke W, Homoeopathic Materia Medica, 9th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Boericke & Runyon, 1927: 671).
Osteopathy, chiropractic or cranial osteopathy can correct any structural problem in the spine or pelvic basin which may be putting pressure on
the nerves to the bladder (J Am Ost Assoc, 1994, 94(7): 606-9). Manipulative therapy is also of value for urinary incontinence in older patients (Dodson D, Osteopathic Annals, 1979; 7(3): 115-9).
In China, the praying mantis' egg case commonly used in powders or pills usually in a dry fried form, successfully treats bedwetting in children. A good quality sample should be dry, yellow, lightweight and intact. It is administered in three gram doses (Bensky D and Gamble A, Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, revised edition, Seattle, WA: Eastland Press Inc, 1993: 393-4).
North American Indian Medicine
In the traditional medicine of North American Indians, 20 drops three times daily of the tincture of the bark of Rhus aromatica (sweet sumac) is useful for bedwetting (Weiss RF, Herbal Medicine, 1st English edn, Gothenburg: Ab Arcanum, 1988: 250-1).
In isolated cases, hypnotherapy has helped bedwetting teenagers. However, this is not considered suitable for young children.
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homoeopath and osteopath.