PREVENTING AND HEALING CHRONIC CHILDHOOD CONDITIONS
Wouldn’t it be nice if your doctor or midwife gave you a magic wand along with your newborn? Life would be so much easier if you could make any problem, heartache or wound disappear with a simple wave of the wand. Though magic is off the table (for now), there are a number of simple, effective, and rewarding tools that can be used to optimize your child’s health.
Using the simple steps outlined below, we can dramatically improve the health of our children’s brains and bodies at any age. Increases in the number of chronic illness cases today are directly related to a rise in inflammation and a reduced ability to fight environmental stressors (lowered resilience.) Our children’s optimal health starts with combating the causes of inflammation and ensuring that the beautiful system they were born with doesn’t deteriorate.
TO REDUCE INFLAMMATION AND BUILD THE BODY’S RESILIENCE:
1. Get Involved and Show Super-Sized Love
a. Get down and play with them, laugh and read to them, always make direct eye contact, and cuddle/massage often. ↦ Developing this bond activates a sensory nerve in the child’s brain that releases oxytocin and natural opioids, which decrease stress response systems and provide the child with feelings of wellbeing, while also helping the young brain to develop. ↦ Interacting with your child in a positive, respectful way establishes pathways in the brain that help him manage emotions well, think rationally under pressure, calm himself down without recourse to angry outbursts, attacks of anxiety or, later in life, self-medicating with substances like sugar, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs. b. Place order in their lives. Placing order means developing reasonable boundaries and daily routines. c. Respect and honor them.
2. Nourish Their Little Bodies
a. Breastfeed Your Baby ↦ Despite all of the marketing hype, manufactured formula can’t come close to the nutritional and immune-protective properties of breast milk. Study after study has shown that babies who are breastfed are not only healthier but often smarter, too. If you’re having trouble nursing, contact a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League Leader (http://www.llli.org/). Moms do the best they can though, and if circumstances prohibit you from nursing your baby, there are many other ways to support his or her immune system and prevent inflammation. ↦ If your baby seems unable to tolerate your breast milk, or is colicky, gassy or cries a lot consider what is going on in mom’s body that might be irritating to the baby (e.g. sensitivities to dairy, wheat, eggs, or other common foods can result in colic, gas, reflux or other symptoms that make it difficult to breastfeed). A simple elimination diet for two weeks may help isolate potential food triggers. b. Eat Whole Foods ↦ Instead of spending money on processed foods, put your resources toward vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy fat sources. It’s extremely important to limit all processed foods for young children. Whole foods look very much like the plant or animal they came from and contain much higher levels of nutrients than processed foods. Processed foods typically contain artificial colors and flavors, which have been linked to hyperactivity, behavioral problems, allergies and even cancer. Most contain dangerous preservatives as well as inflammatory oils and sugar. Don’t be fooled by processed foods that say they are ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ as these are no substitute for a whole food! ↦ Eat protein, fat and complex carbohydrates at every meal. Remember, vegetables are carbohydrates too! c. Eliminate GMO Foods ↦ Genetically modified organisms (GMO) have been linked to sterility, allergies, asthma, digestive upsets, autism and birth defects. Top offenders are the following foods if they are not organic: corn, soy, canola and sugar beets. To learn more, check out the Institute for Responsible Technology. www.irt.org. A food labeled as “USDA Organic” cannot, by law, contain GMOs. d. Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods ↦ Key nutrients like magnesium, zinc, selenium and iodine as well as trace minerals are typically missing in today’s Standard American Diet (SAD). Our bodies need minerals to function properly, so eating mineral-rich foods like liver, bone broth (from grass fed animals), sea vegetables and vegetables can give your health a boost. Brightly colored vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and other phytonutrients. Be sure to eat 7-9 servings of them per day. ↦ Homemade, mineral-dense bone broth is an easy way to keep your children nourished. Giving your child bone broth everyday may help heal the gut and allow the body to heal from the inside out. If your child does not seem to respond well to bone broths (possibly due to glutamate or histamine issues), meat and vegetable stocks can be an excellent substitution. e. Test for Food Sensitivities ↦ Food sensitivities and intolerances cause a different kind of immune response in the body than classic allergies, and they may also cause chronic inflammation. ↦ Testing for them is different than the typical “scratch test,” and the best and most economical way to test for them is for you to do an elimination diet at home. ↦ Remove the top allergens (gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, nuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish) for 2-4 weeks. ↦ Add them back in one at a time every 4th day while keeping an eye out for unusual symptoms like headaches, rashes, inattentiveness, hyperactivity and constipation. Be sure to keep a food as symptoms may take 2-3 days to appear. ↦ Consider consulting with a holistic or integrative practitioner who may have other laboratory or office-based methods of testing for food sensitivities. Incorporating these simple dietary changes can improve your child’s health in several ways: ↦ By improving digestive health: The gut is the largest gate between the outside world and our internal environment, and it plays an integral role in healing and preventing disease. Researchers estimate that between 70% to 80% of the immune system is in the digestive system. Paying extra attention to your child’s diet is crucial to stopping inflammation where it starts and gets to the root of many problems. ↦ By improving glucose control, limiting inflammation, and adding vital nutrients, you give your body the tools it needs to heal and function.
3. Let Them Loose
Any one step counts! In fact, adding any type of exercise or regular movement will help reduce inflammation. Children are naturally active, and encouraging their physical activity helps nourish their development and growth, and improves their growing immune system. Working up a good sweat is a great way to eliminate toxins from your body as well as increase the function of your mitochondria, giving your body more energy. Can you guess the number one way to reduce oxidative stress in the body (damage from free radicals)? Exercise!
4. Teach Them to Relax:
Our thoughts, feelings and emotions have a direct effect on our health, so teaching our children to manage stress is essential in healing and preventing diseases. Help your child learn relaxation skills by: a. Offering encouragement and maintaining a safe, serene, well-structured environment. b. Focusing on gratitude to build the child’s sense of humor and optimism. c. Keeping open communication, between parent and child, not judging and never negating their emotions. d. Being aware of and honest about your own stressors and emotions. Children are like sponges and can sense and absorb even subtle changes in your mood or behavior. e. Mindfulness. Adults and older children can learn to reduce the effects of stress by practicing mindfulness techniques such as meditation, prayer, yoga and tai chi. Practiced consistently, these techniques can increase attention and calmness. ↦ Managing stress limits anxiety, keeps damaging hormones at bay, sparks brain growth, changes gene expression, improves blood circulation and digestion, detoxes the body, switches off unhealthy genes and enhances the overall immune system and maintains a balanced inner world. f. Get Proper Sleep. Our body doesn’t consume much energy while we sleep. That leaves more energy available over eight or nine hours per night for the body to remove toxins, make hormones and fight infections. Failing to get enough rest means our bodies cannot complete those important tasks, which boosts the chance of developing problems due to excess toxins, inflammation and hormone imbalances. Most people, including children, just don’t get a good night’s sleep anymore. Deep restful sleep is necessary for the body to repair itself. Establish proper bedtimes so the adrenal glands don’t go into overtime and cause undue stress.
a. Being thankful helps create a subconscious world of positivity that governs 90% of our thoughts and actions. This positive energy boosts optimism, which in turn helps prevent disease, and improves their health and immune system. b. Being thankful does not mean sweeping your challenges and frustrations under the rug. But even on the darkest days, there is usually something positive to acknowledge. c. Singing with your child about all the positive things in your lives is a fun way to stay optimistic. Gratitude songs can be as silly as being thankful for belly buttons, or they can be more thoughtful and serious.
6. Clean Up Their Surroundings
a. Toxins are all around us and are often invisible. Regular exposure can slowly accumulate toxins in our bodies and force the liver and other organs of elimination to work extra hard to remove them. A high body burden of toxins can make it especially difficult to lose weight and, worse, damage metabolism. The easiest way to combat environmental toxins is to eat clean and live a healthy lifestyle. But some people have accumulated such a high body burden of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals (mercury, lead, arsenic, etc.) that they need additional detoxification support. This may include detox-boosting foods, supplements, herbs, saunas and sometimes chelating medication (only under a doctor’s supervision). ↦ Choose Non-toxic Personal Products Just because it’s sold in a store doesn’t mean it’s safe. Many personal-care products contain damaging parabens, phthalates, and endocrine disruptors, and some even contain carcinogens and heavy metals. Check out EWG’s Skin Deep database. (www.ewg.org) or look for products marked with the “non-toxic certified” or “made-safe” label. ↦ Choose Non-toxic Cleaners Many cleaners, especially those that are scented, contain toxins and neurotoxins that can trigger symptoms like headaches and breathing difficulties. Learn to use vinegar and/or baking soda, and check out the Environmental Working Group’s Cleaners database (www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners). ↦ Discontinue Pesticide Use Pesticides can cause neuro-developmental damage while disrupting your endocrine system. Learn to use safe alternatives to keep pests at bay. ↦ Reduce EMF (electromagnetic frequency) Exposure Wireless and wired devices such as refrigerators, wireless phones, Wi-Fi systems and cellular phones emit frequencies that may stress the body and cause symptoms such as headaches, pain, depression and sleeping disorders. Be sure to limit exposure to fields as much as possible, including removing Wi-Fi from the home or at least turning it off at night. If your child must use a portable electronic device, at least put it in “airplane mode” while they use it. ↦ Eliminate Endocrine Disruptors Canned food, fluoride, chlorine, nonstick cookware and plastics are the main sources of endocrine disruptors that can cause neurological as well as hormonal damage. Eliminate exposures whenever possible. ↦ Filter Drinking & Bathing Water Not only are endocrine-disrupting chlorine and fluoride typically added to municipal water, but many times lead, arsenic and pharmaceuticals are also not filtered out. What goes on the skin goes into the body without being filtered out by the liver. A reverse-osmosis filter can remove heavy metals and endocrine disruptors from your drinking water but may also remove important minerals. Research to determine what type of water filter is best for your family’s current living situation. ↦ Choose glassware for eating and drinking Many plastics, especially when heated, leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals, while glazed ceramic ware can give off dangerous heavy metals. ↦ Cook with stainless steel, cast iron, or lead free ceramic. Avoid aluminum surfaces for cooking and baking (use parchment paper if necessary) and avoid having your food come into contact with aluminum foil.
7. Fill in The Gaps:
a. Your child’s diet is absolutely crucial to her ability to live a healthy life and have a strong immune system. Any in her nutritional levels can interfere with the healing process, so consider adding minimal dietary supplements, like vitamin D3, high quality probiotics, magnesium and/or fish oil to her diet to support her young immune system and restore or maintain health and balance.
PAY ATTENTION TO SOFT SIGNS
Seemingly low-level health problems like colic, cradle cap, projectile vomiting, acid reflux, chronic constipation/ diarrhea, red cheeks/ears after eating and chronic ear infections are signs of a dysregulated immune system. These signs may be risk factors for developing bigger health problems down the road including problems such as autism, ADHD, asthma, autoimmune disorders and other chronic diseases. Catching these soft signs early is the key to a brighter future.
FIND A KNOWLEDGEABLE PRACTITIONER
Working with a naturopath, integrative or functional-medicine doctor or health coach is a great first step towards optimal health, as these practitioners look for the root causes of diseases and disorders. You can find a database of holistic practitioners at www.epidemicanswers.org/providers
OTHER MODALITIES OF HEALING
These days there are so many options available to heal and prevent chronic illnesses and diseases. Look for a knowledgeable provider where you live.
Some of the many tools include:
↦ Homeopathy ↦ Acupuncture and Acupressure ↦ Massage & Reflexology ↦ Cranial Osteopathy ↦ Chiropractic ↦ Aromatherapy ↦ Reiki or Energy Medicine ↦ Chinese Medicine ↦ Hydrotherapy ↦ Reflex Integration ↦ Herbal Medicine ↦ Nutritional Therapy ↦ And many more
VISIT OUR WEBSITE
Our website offers a starting point for parents looking to understand why their children are chronically ill and what can be done to recover them. We provide parent-oriented educational resources, including webinars, newsletters and networking tools, which empower people to confidently embrace the healing journey for themselves and their families.
Our hope is that by educating and empowering parents and caregivers (next best thing to a magic wand of health), we can get more kids on the road to recovery and inspire the cultural changes that will be necessary to keep our children safe and healthy in the future.
For more information, please visit Epidemic Answers at www.epidemicanswers.org.