Many parents don’t discuss their child’s bedwetting openly due to their own or their child’s shame. If your fully potty-trained child wets the bed, read on for some insights on root causes and solutions. Keep in mind that some wet nights are normal in toddlers and preschoolers, so don’t worry too much until your child reaches school age.
The medical model
Parents often wait years for a child to “grow out of” bedwetting, while the child endures shame and isolation. Families often give up on being woken up by loud bedwetting alarms that usually don’t effectively reprogram the child’s physiology. Medications that suppress urination don’t always work. Even worse, they often have side effects that make them impractical in the long term. And then there is the recommendation of tonsil and adenoid removal. This may work in some cases. However, it is invasive and suppresses the immune system over time by removing these tissues responsible for guarding the gates of our airways.
Like any good puzzle, bedwetting is a complex and multifaceted problem with a large set of emotional and social implications for the child and family. Below are some of the common causes of bedwetting. Your doctor will want to rule out medical causes based on any personal and family history or a symptom picture consistent with a medical condition that can cause bedwetting. These may include:
- Tethered cord syndrome
- Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
- Chronic or recurring urinary tract infections or interstitial cystitis
- Endocrine imbalances
- Sleep apnea
Even in cases where bedwetting has an identified cause, nutritional therapy can be quite helpful. For example, if your child with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome wets the bed, working on the individual nutritional imbalances and food sensitivities can reduce both bedwetting and the symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome itself, improving quality of life significantly.
Food and environmental sensitivities
Any food or environmental sensitivity can aggravate bedwetting. The most common food offenders are dairy and wheat. Along the same lines, mold and dust mites are common environmental sensitivities. For this reason, keeping moisture levels down and keeping the home clean is important.
An elimination diet or a low-allergen diet will help if your child’s symptoms are aggravated by a food sensitivity. Some foods that may be culprits include:
- Refined sugars
- Citrus fruits
- High-oxalate foods
- Additives, preservatives and food colorings (which we all should avoid anyway)
- Caffeine (which is a diuretic and should be avoided anyway)
- Dyes, preservatives, additives
- Other foods/food components
I don’t necessarily recommend that parent place their bedwetting child on an elimination diet. Doing this may make your child feel punished, and may unintentionally imbalance nutrients. It’s a better idea to take a full history and decide whether food sensitivity testing or a trial elimination of a specific food is in order.
Gut flora imbalances
Doctor Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome, notes that bedwetting, frequent urination and recurring urinary tract infections are often caused by imbalanced gut flora. In fact, certain gut microorganisms can release toxins which may irritate the bladder. This may result in frequent urination and nighttime urination, among other symptoms. Pinworms and other parasites can also cause bladder irritation, causing or aggravating bedwetting.
Probiotic foods and supplements are a helpful adjunct to nutritional balancing. As I have discussed in my post on probiotics, it’s important to start with small amounts of probiotics and increase them gradually as tolerated.
Heavy metal toxicity
As mercury toxicity expert Andy Cutler notes, mercury is a diuretic. It was a common ingredient in diuretic medications before the newer loop diuretics came onto the market. Mercury and other toxic metals also accumulate in the pituitary gland. There, they can suppress the production of vasopressin, anti-diuretic hormone. Because the kidneys are a major exit route for toxic metals, the bladder can become irritated as the body attempts to excrete the metals at night.
Additionally, toxic metals, especially mercury, deplete the vitamins and minerals necessary for enzyme systems throughout the body. The urinary frequency and bedwetting in children and adults with metal toxicity problems may result at least in part from a lack of electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium and chloride.
B-12 and/or folate insufficiency
Interestingly, there is a link between bedwetting and deficiencies in vitamins B-12 and folate, sometimes due to poor methylation. For example, this study found that in spite of comparable blood chemistry markers in the bedwetting sample and the control group, much lower levels of these vitamins in bedwetters compared to their peers.
I suspect a strong overlap between metal toxicity and these vitamin deficiencies. Why? Because the same predisposing genetic factors that predispose certain people to have B-12 and folate deficiencies also predispose them to accumulate more toxic metals. In turn, the vitamin deficiencies and heavy metal accumulation reinforce each other in a never-ending cycle.
Heavy metals weaken gut health, imbalance gut flora and increase food and environmental sensitivities. What if the lowest common denominator were nutritional depletion and imbalances due to heavy metals in the body?
The bedwetting study I cited above does not mention heavy metal toxicity. However, it lists other factors alongside B-12 and folate insufficiency. These include “a proposed deficiency in endocrine maturation,” “decreased bone age and bone mineral density” and “delayed maturation of regulatory central nervous system functions.” Each of these problems can result from heavy metals, especially mercury.
Hair tissue mineral analysis for bedwetting
To solve the problem, you need to find out what’s causing it. I recommend a hair tissue mineral analysis for deeper troubleshooting. I have extensive experience interpreting hair tests. By understanding which minerals are depleted and which ratios are skewed, I can write a plan to restore balance.
In 2014, I worked with an eleven-year-old boy. His doctor proposed removing his tonsils and adenoids as a last resort to deal with his bedwetting. The bedwetting alarm, various forms of therapy, a rewards system and even punishments did not work. Even his overnight diapers often failed. He was mortified: “I turn into a super-soaker at night!”
Sleepovers and camping trips with other children were out of the question. He was desperate for solutions, but skeptical about surgery. He told me: “If I knew for sure that it would work, I’d do it. I’d even let them chop off one of my arms. But nothing else has worked, so why should this?”
A non-invasive tool
The results of the hair test showed a pattern of extreme highs and lows in various minerals and wild departures from ideal mineral ratios. Mercury, aluminum and cadmium were high. I wrote a nutritional and supplement plan to rebalance his system.
Additionally, we reduced my young client’s overall heavy metal load. His father finally stopped smoking in the home and car to reduce exposure cadmium exposure. The family switched to an aluminum-free deodorant, and they purchased a high-quality water filter for their home. His mother ordered a hair test for herself, too, because the most likely cause of his mercury burden were the six metal fillings she had in her mouth during the pregnancy.
Success at last!
Within a week, my young client stopped soaking through his diapers. As time went on, he had more and more dry nights. Soon, he felt comfortable giving up the diapers. In fact, his mom reported that within three months, the savings on diapers and laundry had fully paid for our work together. Best of all, I received a thank-you note saying: “Thank you for my tonsils and my sleepovers!”
If you need support
If you have a child in your life who can’t seem to stop wetting the bed, don’t hesitate to email me at sara@buildnurturerestore for a complimentary 30-minute consultation.