By Nancy Webster
I’m so glad we’ve never lived in a place where laundry lines are visible or prohibited, because for 21 years, ours were crowded with more sheets and blankets than clothes. All eight of our children were bedwetters. One child wet the bed until age fourteen, and the youngest age a Webster child got dry was six. I remember being shocked to learn that most children get dry at night about the same time they get dry in the daytime.
Bedwetting is not a problem “big boys” and “big girls” want their moms to discuss with other mothers. And back then, there wasn’t the internet to tell me that more than five million school-age children wet the bed at night—or why it happens.
Oh, there were the reasons for my children’s wetting I heard from my mother. She said to withhold liquids two hours before bedtime and to make them wash and hang out their wet sheets and PJs by themselves, “because they’re just too lazy to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.” Desperate, I admit, we even tried that.
We also tried “lifting” them, which means before we went to bed, we prodded and mostly carried them to the potty, and then tried to get them to wake up enough to pee, thinking that would get their bladders empty enough to make it through the rest of the night. It rarely worked, and basically, we were just reinforcing the problem, because they weren’t really awake when they peed.
When one of our boys wanted to go on a Cub Scout campout, we even resorted to a nasal hormone spray from the pediatrician—but it didn’t work, poor kid. We also tried avoiding spicy foods and citrus fruits, two of the categories some said were culprits in creating the problem.
The approach that helped the most was an alarm system combined with behavior modification. The company which rented us this $1,000 set-up explained their theory that bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, is caused by a person sleeping too deeply. When the very, very loud alarm went off, my husband and I would wake up while our sleeping child (then nine years old) snoozed on. We’d rush into the room, flip on the lights, jiggle and call to and even soak with a wet, cold rag the face of our child until he woke enough to get out of bed to turn off the alarm himself. Then, before he could go to the toilet to finish urinating (the alarm usually stopped his flow), he had to turn on the bathroom light and splash cold water on his face until he was awake.
After using the bathroom while fully awake, he had to return to the bright room, change the sheets (we double-sheeted with a plastic shower curtain liner between sets), and reset his alarm before turning off the light and getting back in bed. He also had to keep a chart of how each night went, and this was mailed to a “counselor,” who encouraged him with praise letters.
In the daytimes, he was to practice the nighttime routine so it became automatic at night (but when semi-asleep, he screamed and fought us for weeks before the automatic happened). He was also to practice bladder-stretching exercises in the daytime by drinking as much water as he could and holding his pee for something like ten minutes after he thought he couldn’t make it any longer. I offer these tips, because they can be used with any bedwetting alarm system, and might be needed before you conquer the big WHY of bedwetting.
Our child who took the longest to get dry at night also suffered from polyuria (excessive urination) during the daytime. Sometimes he had to pee every 15 minutes. The pediatric urologist had no clue why this happened.
Then, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, taught me the why I’d sought for so long. She contends that enuresis and polyuria are the result of abnormal gut flora. These flora produce a variety of toxins, many of which are excreted via the urine. Toxic urine irritates and inflames the lining of the bladder and urethra, making the bladder unable to hold much.
This problem sometimes results in chronic urinary tract infections and cystitis (bladder infections) if the gut dysbiosis is not addressed. Antibiotics to treat the infections only exacerbate the problem in the long run, even if they ease symptoms for a while, because the antibiotics destroy good bacteria in the digestive system.
For the sleeping child (or even teen or adult), the irritated bladder may empty without waking the person, because the bladder was never full and so never produced the sensation of needing to urinate. If a gut healing program like the GAPS Diet (see “Addressing the GAPS in Your Health” in this catalog) is instigated, bedwetting will likely worsen (or start) in the first stages as die-off of bad bacteria increases toxin levels in the body, making the urine even more problematic for the already irritated bladder. This is why it is important to control die-off using a slow build-up of probiotics and various foods as they are reintroduced on the GAPS Introduction Diet. The GAPS diet can ultimately bring complete relief from enuresis, polyuria, and chronic urinary tract infections.
Meanwhile, Dr. McBride recommends the use of alarms, drinking a comfortable amount of water, and temporarily avoiding foods high in salicylates and oxalates, which won’t be hard when following the GAPS Intro Diet. She also says to take cranberry supplements to reduce inflammation in the bladder.
This is where Beeyoutiful’s easy-to-swallow Cranberry Power Cleanse vegcaps come to the rescue. They’re a combination of cranberry extract with uva ursi. The cranberries contain powerful compounds called proanthocyanidins, which discourage harmful bacteria from clinging to the lining of the urinary tract. The herb uva ursi has long been used for its healing power over urinary tract infections, cystitis, and even kidney stones.
This is a much more efficient, healthy and taste-less way to ingest cranberry benefits. Most cranberry juice is sweetened and watered down—i.e., made less effective—yet pure cranberry juice is nearly undrinkable for most people. For kids who can’t yet swallow pills (I was fourteen before I learned!), the caps offer the added benefit that they can be crushed and mixed with food.
When I volunteered our twins for a sleep study research project, I learned from the administrator that sleep patterns tend to shift as adolescence begins. The result is that a sleeping child usually is better able to notice the sensation of needing to urinate and becomes able to rouse herself to make it to the bathroom. This is why most (but not all) children eventually “grow out” of bedwetting. They do not, however, grow out of other gut-caused health issues, which will eventually worsen if not addressed. So I encourage you to see bedwetting as an early sign that your family can benefit from following the GAPS Diet.
Meanwhile, see the sidebar for homemade laundry soap recipes to save you money on all that extra laundry.
HOMEMADE LAUNDRY SOAP
1/3 bar soap*, grated
½ c. washing soda**
½ c. Borax powder
15 drops essential oil (optional)***
In saucepan, melt grated soap with 6 c. water. Add washing soda and Borax, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into 2 gallon bucket. Add soap mixture and stir. Add 1 gallon plus 6 c. water and stir. Let mixture sit 24 hours to gel. Will be lumpy/gooey. Stir briefly before using. Use ½ c. per full load of laundry. Can also transfer to empty liquid laundry soap containers for storage.
2 c. finely grated bar soap*
1 c. washing soda**
1 c. Borax
Mix well. Store in airtight container. Use 2 T per full load. If desired, add a few drops essential oil*** to wash water.
*Suggested soaps: Fels-Naptha, Octagon, Ivory, Sunlight, Kirk’s Hardwater Castile, Zote, or homemade lye soap. Don’t use heavily perfumed soaps.
**Washing soda is not the same as baking soda. You will find it and Borax in the laundry aisle.
***Suggested scents: lavender, rosemary, orange. Tea tree or eucalyptus will kill dust mites.
Nancy Webster is one of Beeyoutiful’s regular researchers and writers, a homeschool mother of eight, and leader of the Southern Middle Tennessee chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. She is the moderator of Beeyoutiful’s health forum, www.MerryHeartMedicine.com, where you can ask questions and learn from others about this topic and many more. Nancy lives with her family on their “partially working” farm in Tennessee.