In today's maddeningly chaotic world, it can be a challenge to even provide your kids with the basic necessities while maintaining your sanity. When it comes to the influences of various industries, including the pharmaceutical and food industries, it can be difficult to decipher the truth from the deceit. Here are a few practices to help you make more informed choices to nurture the health, growth and development of your kids:
1. Read Labels
Processed foods have deleterious effects that are delayed, variable, and cumulative. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), found in processed foods alter gut bacteria, affecting immunity, digestion, and the gut-brain-axis.
When it comes to GM (genetically modified) foods, beware of the high levels of pesticides as well as introducing your little one’s DNA to genetically altered plants. What’s dangerous for the plant, can’t be good for your kids. Be very discerning about labels, or better yet, avoid “foods” with labels all together, since packaging is a good indication that your food is highly processed.
2. Beware of Inflammatory Foods
Gluten has been shown to cause gut inflammation, which can cause IBS and other damaging effects on the immune system, digestive system, and nervous system.
Dairy can also be an inflammatory food for some when it is highly processed, such as in cheese sticks, yogurt, and pizza.
Sugar is simply toxic. It causes widespread, chronic inflammation, weight gain, and behavioral changes.
For kids prone to allergies, other foods to be aware of are: eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, and nuts (i.e. peanuts, pecans, cashews, and walnuts).
3. Get Rid of Plastics
While our water has been filtered to remove flouride, pesticides and other chemicals to minimize negative effects on our children’s thyroid and brain development, we should be careful to minimize the impact of plastics, such as plastic toys, water bottles, food containers, and even processed foods. These products are shown to negatively affect sexual development. Playing with a plastic toy from time to time seems harmless, but regular exposure to plastics can really add up over time, with delayed results. One simple solution to minimize exposure: Switch those plastic containers and water bottles to glass.
4. Support Immunity Naturally
Infections, big and small, are part of natural immune building and fortification. While in more severe cases a round of antibiotics may be necessary, too frequent antibiotic cycles can destroy the healthy, protective bacteria of the gut, leading to persistent low-grade immune deficiency and digestive weakness. Under these conditions, children become vulnerable to new infectious invaders and are unable to fight them off. Offering natural solutions to fight off the occasional cold or flu, such as garlic or ginger tea, or as little as daily massage, can help support the body’s innate ability to heal itself and boost immunity.
5. Focus on the Gut
The key to a healthy immune system, nervous system, and endocrine system, in addition to virtually every function of our bodies is a healthy gut. A poor diet, high in sugar and other inflammatory foods, in addition to medications and antibiotics can cause long-term damage to the gut. Research shows that even a single dose of antibiotics can reduce the healthy, protective bacteria in the gut for up to 12 months. An imbalance in the good vs. bad bacteria in the gut can lead to a variety of health conditions, including allergies, inflammatory conditions, behavioral and mood disorders, GI disorders, and weakened immunity. Foods that support the growth of the good bacteria include natural probiotics in the form of fermented foods like miso soup, kimchi, sauerkraut, sour pickles, and kombucha. Selling your kids on kimchi may be tough, but exposing them to gut-healthy foods early will have an incredibly powerful impact on their physical and mental development, not to mention the rest of their lives.
6. Fuel the Fire
The body, especially a child’s body, is like a furnace; fuel it with warm, nourishing foods and it will run efficiently, with optimal energy and exuberance; but fill it with cold foods and drinks and it will slowly lose strength, leading to slow digestion, slow metabolism, weakened immunity, and inefficient functioning of all systems. While kids are young, you have an opportunity, as parents, to determine their eating habits. Introduce them to warm drinks, especially water, while limiting sugary juices. Teach them to associate warming, nourishing foods, like broths, soups, and roasted roots with comfort and love.
The Take Away?
Despite advances in technology and medical care we have more chronically ill kids today than ever before. Perhaps this should be a wake-up call to return to our child-rearing roots, when kids played in the dirt, in nature, not with plastic, manufactured toys. At a time when what we ate was recognizable to both our brains and our bodies as food, and ingredients were few and pronounceable. Switch to a nutrient-dense, unprocessed, organic, real-food diet. Let your kids get a little messy and allow their bodies to heal naturally.
f you are interested in learning more about how to implement a natural and holistic approach to your child's health ask us! Acupuncture, pediatric massage, and herbal medicine are safe and incredibly effective tools to support your child's development and health and nurture a lifetime of health.