Children’s Health…An Inconvenient Truth….what moms can do NOW!
Remember when you first saw Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” that depicted the dire state of our environment due to global warming? It wasn’t easy to watch, but it did help many of us awaken to the facts and realize that as a result of the industrialization of our world – most notably the creation of 87,000 new chemicals in the past 100 years – our planet was changing… and not for the better! The good news is – once the awareness took hold, solutions began to emerge, and positive changes ensued.
So what about our kids and their health? Well, I’m afraid your reaction to the facts surrounding the current state of ill health our children are experiencing may be similar to those you felt when watching the movie. However, for solutions to emerge, the facts once again must be revealed and discussed. The purpose of this article however is not to evoke despair, but rather to emphasize effective solutions and hope so that our children’s health and well-being can be restored.
Ready or not, here are the current stats:
- 54% of the children in this country have one or more chronic illness.
- There has been a 300% increase in Asthma in the last 30 years (6.7 million kids are affected)
- 12 million of our kids have Type 2 Diabetes (this is a lifestyle and diet related illness, not genetic)
- Obesity rates have tripled in children in the last 30 years (17% of children between ages 2 and 19 are either very overweight or obese)
- 3 million kids suffer from allergies
- The CDC reports: 1 in 6 children have either a neurological, developmental or behavioral disorder
- 1 in 6 children in public schools now receive special education
- ADHD affects 5 million children
- 1 in 7 school aged children receive antipsychotic medication
- The Autism rate which was 1 in 5000 30 years ago, is now, according to recently released numbers from the CDC, 1 in 36…
- The fastest growing population of people with cancer, is children under age 13
- And finally, the Infant Mortality rate of a country is one of the most important indicators of its health as a nation. It is the number of deaths of infants under the age of one year per 1000 live births. Currently, according to the CDC, the US has a higher infant mortality rate than 27 other countries. Despite the fact that we spend more on healthcare by far than any other country in the world, a baby born in the US today is less likely to see his or her first birthday than one born in Hungary, Poland or Slovakia
This “new normal” is not normal!
As you can see, kids today have more chronic illnesses than ever before, and as a society we should refuse to accept those statistics as normal! Thankfully, children are no longer dying at a young age from infections (as they did prior to our collective understanding that contaminated water supplies, exposure to sewage, malnourishment and poor hygiene practices made them more susceptible to infections.) Additionally, the advent of antibiotics in the 1950s and the introduction of vaccines (which, at least in theory, help them resist infection) all contributed to longer survival rates and healthier children.
But now, it seems we have traded one problem for another and currently we have a different breed of children’s health problems to contend with. The argument that all these conditions were always there in the numbers we are seeing today, (but we just become better at recognizing and diagnosing them) is a fallacy. Ask any well-trained pediatrician or school nurse or teacher who was working 30 years ago how many kids were unable to focus or required special education or stood outside the nurse’s office at lunch to receive their medication for hyperactivity or bi-polar disorder. Our schools and our society at large are struggling to deal with all the children who are handicapped by these physical, behavioral and developmental issues and require special services.
Having this many kids affected by asthma, allergies, Autism, ADHD, Type 2 Diabetes, autoimmune illnesses, and learning and behavior problems should not be considered normal, and the root cause or causes of these conditions must be discovered and addressed.
Why moms? Why Now?
Across the country and across the globe, mothers are beginning to speak out and share their concerns about how sick their kids are. These conversations combined with the natural wisdom mothers possess as to what is best for their children has led to an unearthing of solutions, very smart solutions!
See, mothers, not medically trained nurses, doctors or researchers hold the key to unlocking the answers as to why this tsunami of sick kids has hit. And more importantly, since we carry, care for (and most often are the ones to shop and cook for) our kids, we hold the power for preventing and treating these conditions.
Here are a few solutions as to What Moms Can Do Now:
- Become informed and form a Team: Although your pediatrician is an important member of your child’s health team, don’t abdicate total responsibility for the health of your child to him or her. Do your research and find effective, safe and natural ways to prevent and treat various conditions and then discuss them with your child’s medical doctor, chiropractic physician, nutritionist, and other integrative practitioners.
- It was no slouch or ill-informed, self-proclaimed healer who said “Let food by thy medicine”. That came from Hippocrates, the father of medicine and one of the wisest men who ever lived. So take the Hippocratic Oath as a mom…When your child is showing early signs of a cold or infection, before heading to the pharmacy, make a pot of homemade soup and include: organic vegetables, an organic protein source, parsley, garlic and other herbs. Get that juicer out from the back kitchen cabinet or head on out and buy yourself an affordable Nutri-bullet and start whizzing up some organic vegetable juice (carrot, green apple, spinach with a touch of fresh lemon is a good place to start). Familiarize yourself with healing herbs such as Echinacea and Astragalis, Peppermint, and Chamomile, etc. (we like the Gaia Herbs brand, but there are many great brands to choose from). These and many other natural remedies will support the body’s immune system and its innate ability to heal. Medical treatment of course may be necessary, but even then, continue to support the body with healthy food and natural remedies.
- Get on top of the Vaccine Debate: Try not to reduce the very complex subject of vaccines to a simplistic “for or against” opinion. After 40 years as a pediatric registered nurse, I can tell you there are many ways to protect your child from infection and enhance their immunity. Unfortunately, these natural approaches do not receive the same well-funded advertising and air time as vaccines do. Nonetheless, do your research on this topic and come to your own conclusions. Although the concept of vaccinating makes sense (who wouldn’t want to protect their children against infections?), the effectiveness of many vaccines is questionable. Add to that issue, the toxic ingredients they contain – such as formaldehyde, propylene glycol, aluminum, aborted fetal tissue, mercury, polysorbate 80 etc. (that are injected directly into your child’s blood during the most vulnerable stages of their development) and most people come to realize that this common practice may not only be ineffective but may be doing more harm than good. The World Mercury Project and The National Vaccine Information Center are two good sources that will provide you with credible and eye opening information to help you make informed decisions regarding the 36-45 vaccines that are currently being recommended for our children before the age of 5. Additionally, check out this article Safer Ways to Vaccinate.
- Help for Picky Eaters: When I initially counsel parents on the role healthy eating will play in their child’s health, they often respond by saying “Great idea, Maureen, but my child only eats two foods!” Don’t despair if your child like most kids is a picky eater. The pickiness can be a sign of nutrient deficiencies (especially in the all-important mineral Zinc). I encourage parents to begin by giving their child a high quality, easily absorbed multi vitamin designed for kids. If after a few weeks, their repertoire of foods does not expand (and they have white horizontal lines on their fingernails, indicating a Zinc deficiency), consider adding additional Zinc Picolinate. Start with 5mg and gradually increase to 20 or 30mg per day. Stay within the recommended dosage parameters unless you consult a nutritionally savvy practitioner.
- Hydrate with nourishing fluids: Much to the chagrin of the dairy industry, we now understand that after a baby is weaned from the breast, milk -especially dairy based milk may not be the healthiest substance to ingest. As long as adequate and absorbable forms of calcium is supplied in other ways (such as greens, nuts, seeds, calcium citrate supplements, etc.), milk is not mandatory for optimal health. Many kids also have sensitivities to dairy (which may manifest as a chronic cough, recurrent ear or sinus infections, snoring, an inability to focus, rashes, etc.). If a milk type substance is desired, alternating between non-dairy calcium fortified milks such as Hemp milk, Coconut milk, Flax milk, Rice, etc. are usually tolerated quite well. Of course, replacing any sodas or sugar-laden juices with water is a great way to obtain optimal hydration. If necessary filtered water or sparkling water can be enhanced with a splash of organic, low sugar juice. Iced tea can be made with organic peppermint or a combination of herbs and kept in the fridge for easy access. Keeping your kids hydrated throughout the day by giving them at least 6-8 glasses of filtered water and other non sugar fluids is important for their overall health.
- Balance their blood sugar levels: If a child has difficulty focusing, if their moods are unstable, if they get irritable or anxious, or they have periods when they feel weak and tired, try giving them a protein source every 3-4 hours to balance their blood sugar levels. Although you don’t want to overload them on protein, having an organic hardboiled eggs, rolled up turkey slices, a handful of organic nuts, a protein based smoothie or a protein pop will do wonders for stabilizing their mood, energy, focus and overall health. For snacks: instead of sweets or fruit, try some organic humus, organic almond butter (if your kids don’t have a nut allergy) and chop up some veggies for dipping. Make some fresh organic chicken, turkey, beef and veggies based stews and soups and freeze them for meals during the week.
- Gut health: We hear so much about the gut microbiome these days and for good reason. 80% of the immune system is headquartered just outside the gut. So if your child is dealing with an immune dysfunction (recurrent infections, autoimmune illness like rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, allergies, etc.), healing the gut is a great place to begin the healing process. Additionally, the brain neurotransmitter that is responsible for keeping us in a good mood, reducing anxiety and depression and helping us focus (Serotonin) is also manufactured in the gut. So if we want our kids (and ourselves) to be in a good moods, sleep well and avoid depression, gut health is key. We can improve the health of the gut by reducing sugar intake, eating a non-inflammatory organic diet and by giving your kids (and yourself) a high quality probiotic. Additionally, Google “fermented foods” and start making your own homemade sauerkraut (which is teaming with good “friendly” probiotic bacteria). Good friendly bacteria or probiotics bump out the bad organisms which in turn strengthens the immune system. It is often said in the holistic, integrative world of medicine “heal the gut, heal the child!” Antibiotics are notorious for wiping out the good friendly bacteria, so if your child does have to take an antibiotic, be sure to give a probiotic (not at the exact time of the antibiotic, but throughout the course of treatment and well afterwards) and continue to support the body nutritionally.
Give it time mom…
Transformation does not happen overnight: Unlike medications that tend to mask symptoms, but generate more immediate results, dietary changes, supplements, herbs, juicing etc. can take time to produce results. However, from my experience with my own children, as well as having guided and advised many moms over the past 4 decades, by dealing with the underlying causes of illness, these comprehensive and natural approaches tend to bring about long-lasting improvements and often resolution of the various conditions that are all too common today.
Our country has been heavily influenced by the quick fix, magic bullet pharmaceutical approach to health and we have only recently awakened or rediscovered many of these natural healing strategies. So, reversing the illness trends in our kids is going to take some time. Give yourself that time to learn, hang out with like-minded moms (who also want to investigate the underlying causes of these disorders and not just treat the symptoms.) Research, read, watch enlightening documentaries such as “Bought”, “Trace Amounts”, “Forks over Knives”, “Cowspiracy”, “The Autism Summit” and “Supersize Me”. Google the GAPS Diet, vegetable juicing, etc.
Just as the movie “The Inconvenient Truth” spurred a revolution in thoughts and actions about our environment, I am seeing a movement of moms (reconnecting with their own instinctive wisdom and empowered with knowledge of natural healing) develop. Not surprisingly, this movement is leading to the restoration of health and well-being in many of our children!
Maureen McDonnell has been a holistic, nutritionally-oriented RN for 40 years. She was the former national coordinator of the Defeat Autism Now! Conferences and is the co-founder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet. Maureen owns a supplement company Nutritionists Choice and lectures widely on the role the environment and nutrition play in women and children’s health. She has 11 grandkids and lives in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. She can be reached here.