Raising Healthy Kids in a Toxic World

I don’t usually pull the “age card” in our youth oriented society, but I’m going to just put it out there and tell you that I am a grandmother of 7 kids and I have been a pediatric registered nurse for 36 years!   Now, neither of these admissions alone, or in combination, makes me a wise old sage who has all the answers.  However, the fact that I was working as a pediatric nurse in the 1970s when the autism rate was 2 per 10,000 (and it is now: 1 in 50), and over that same time period childhood cancers skyrocketed and asthma rates increased 300%,  makes me wise enough to ask the question “What the hell is going on?”

So I did ask, and this is what I found out: Currently, 52% of US children suffer from one or more chronic illness,  7.3 million kids now have allergies, and 1 in 7 school age children are receiving prescriptive psychoactive drugs. Should I continue with the obesity and diabetes statistics, or do you get the picture? I know I’m being bold, brazen and brash, but I don’t think these dire circumstances allow for much tact or diplomacy.  Our kids are waiting for us to wake up and change some things around!

You might be thinking “how could our children, who live in the greatest, most medically-advanced country in the world, be experiencing these types of health problems? But the truth is, even our Infant Mortality rate (the number of deaths of infants under one year old per 1000 live births), which is the most important indicator of the health of a nation as it is associated with maternal health, quality and access to medical care, socioeconomic conditions, and public health practices, is embarrassing. In 2011,  the US ranked 34th in the world (meaning 33 other countries including Poland and Slovakia had a better rating than us). (1)

But, let’s not dwell on the negatives.  I am a firm believer in the idea that once a problem is clearly identified, the focus should be on the solutions.  As the author, Jim Rohn wrote:  “Circumstances do not get better by chance, they get better by change.”  It is only by moms, dads, grandparents, pediatricians,  teachers (and all us who care about children) waking up to the truth, and collectively taking action to bring about the necessary changes will our kids have the best chance at living healthy and happy lives unencumbered by illness.

The Role Environmental Toxins, Poor Nutrition and Vaccines Play in Our Children’s Health:

The authors of a 2006 study that appeared in JAMA (2) suggested that the answers to our children’s health crisis are to have better health insurance coverage and more specialists.  Although access to health care and having additional doctors are both important, I believe there are more effective ways to approach the problem of the escalating number of sick children.  For one thing, we need to look at the underlying causes of their illnesses.  Although genetics play a role in most illnesses, we can no longer deny the fact that having 87,000 man-made, chemicals (with only 413 of them ever tested for safety) is wreaking havoc on our own and our children’s health. Additionally, the nutritional status of our kids has greatly deteriorated, and finally since the early 1990’s, there has been an insane increase in the number of vaccines (36-45) that our kids receive before the age of 5. To me, these factors are striking and I believe in combination they set the stage for the disastrous health consequences our children are experiencing today!

Connecting the dots between environmental toxins and the deterioration of our children’s health is no longer a pie-in-the-sky hypothesis. Many published studies indicate a very clear connection (3). According to renowned physician and author of Our Toxic World a Wake Up Call, Doris Rapp, MD, “A range of developmental and learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, behavioral disorders and autism appear to be linked to pesticides.” (4)  Dr. Rapp also tells us that 60,000,000 lbs. of pesticides are applied to 30,000,000 acres of lawns yearly, and that 30 to 90% of fungicides, herbicides  or pesticides cause cancer,  30% cause reproductive problems and 25% of them may cause genetic/birth defects.  According to Dr. Rapp, “ Our bodies and our children’s bodies are becoming toxic dump sites.”

Poor Nutrition: Since many of our children have been seduced by the fast food industry and the fact that up to 90% of US families food budget is spent on processed food, a good percentage of children experience suboptimal levels of important nutrients needed to prevent illnesses or restore their health once an illness occurs.

Vaccines: Although almost every article you read on this subject in the mainstream media claims that all the studies have shown there is absolutely no link between vaccines and children’s health problems especially autism – that is simply not true. There is good science pointing to a connection (some studies listed below) (5), and more importantly there are hundreds, if not thousands of parents of sick children who can tell you they had a normal child up until he or she received several vaccines in one day.  Another scenario that is often recounted by parents is that their child was showing signs of illness and they got their vaccines anyway. To read more about health problems caused by vaccines read this article.

Positive Solutions: Many individuals have already become quite savvy when it comes to reducing the number of chemicals they and their children are exposed to.  Some are beginning to eat locally-grown or organic food and purchase green cleaning and personal care products. In addition to making these wise choices, I have compiled a list of tips to refer to prior to conceiving, during pregnancy and to use as a reference during your child’s formative years.  Hopefully these tips will optimize your child’s chances for living  a robust, happy and healthy life!

Tips for Raising Healthy Kids in a Toxic World:

Prior to Conceiving:

Getting Healthy before Getting Pregnant:  If a woman minimizes her exposure to toxins and maximizes her nutrition before and during her pregnancy, she will greatly decrease the chances that her offspring will develop health, behavioral and or developmental problems in infancy, toddler-hood or at any time during the child’s formative years.  Since we now know that many children’s diagnosed with medical conditions improve when their toxic load is reduced, they are given a whole-food, organic diet rich in nutrients , allergenic foods are removed and measures are taken to support their GI system and improve their liver’s ability to detoxify, doesn’t it make sense to have the parents address areas of their own health prior to conceiving?  Check out this article for more details on this subject and an extensive list of ways to Get Healthy Before Getting Pregnant.

Decisions During Pregnancy:

  • Although obstetricians, midwives and pediatricians are part of our health care team, as a former childbirth instructor and labor and delivery nurse, I encourage parents to never abdicate total responsibility for the health of their children to these professionals.  Become informed, research these topics and play a very active role in the various decisions that impact your child’s health.
  • Choose your birth care provider wisely by interviewing obstetricians and or midwives until you find one that respects your desire to minimize invasive procedures during pregnancy, labor and birth such as inducing with Pitocin, forceps, early cord clamping, etc.
  • Continue a healthy, mostly organic diet that limits processed foods & sugar and contains at least 80 gms of high quality protein per day. Eat every few hours to avoid blood sugar dips.
  • Include organic nuts and seeds for calcium and fiber.
  • Take high quality supplements including a comprehensive natural and absorbable prenatal multi vitamin with at least 800mcg of Folic acid, 50mg of the B vitamins, 1800mg of Calcium.  Also take a mercury free fish oil (source of Omega 3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA), Vitamin D, & probiotics. 
  • Avoid dental work that inserts or removes amalgam (mercury) fillings.
  • Avoid antibiotics and other over-the-counter medications as much as possible.
  • If feeling sick, first try increasing Vitamin C, drinking hot water with lemon, herbal teas and rest.
  • Avoid the flu vaccine (which contains mercury) and other vaccines. Go to NVIC.org.
  • Continue exercising and increase fiber to maintain daily bowel movements.
  • If RH negative, ask for Rhogam without mercury (Thimerosal).
  • Avoid unnecessary ultrasounds (See Pathway magazine Issue # 22).
  • Interview pediatricians and make sure you find one that respects your opinions regarding vaccine safety, minimizing antibiotic use, etc.
  • Start natural childbirth education classes earlier. See the The Bradley Method.

Once the Baby is Born:

  • Insist on bonding immediately after birth.
  • Unless you test positive for Hepatitis B, do not allow the administration of any vaccines to your newborn.
  • Breastfeeding ensures optimal nutrition and closeness but it’s not always the easiest task.  Surround yourself with supportive successful current or former breastfeeders to provide guidance.
  • While nursing, continue your pregnancy supplement regimen, a high quality diet with at least 80-100gms of protein, extra fiber and lots of pure water and other healthy fluids.
  • Especially if there is a family history of allergies, eczema etc., postpone the introduction of solid foods to at least 6 months.
  • Hold off on any grains until baby teeth begin to come in.
  • Vaccines:   Research this topic and discuss with your child’s pediatrician the idea of delaying and or reducing the number of vaccines your child receives.  Always ask for Thimerosal free versions.  For more facts read, Safer Ways to Vaccinate.

Maximizing ting Your Child’s Nutrition to Minimize Health Problems: 

  • Breast feed for at least one year.
  • Introduce foods one at a time leaving 3-4 days in between each new food to assess immediate and or delayed reactions. Start with organic, homemade (when possible), vegetables and fruits. Once your child has shown tolerance to most foods, provide a wide variety of nutrient dense organic foods including vegetables, fruits, and quality sources of protein, etc. After one year of age, add gluten free whole grains (millet, brown rice, quinoa, etc.), organic eggs, grass fed beef, chicken, turkey, etc. Children are much less likely to develop food allergies when the introduction of food is postponed, and especially if grains, nuts, eggs are delayed until after a year.
  • Avoid sugar-laden processed foods.
  • If a child is showing signs of irritability, aggression, or attention issues, stabilize their blood sugar levels by offering protein rich snacks and meals every 3-4 hours.
  • Instead or resorting to prescription drugs for behavioral problems, read The Over-Drugging of a Nation.
  • Encourage your kids to play outside for exercise and vitamin D.
  • Consider adding appropriate  supplements such as a comprehensive multi, Omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics, and Vitamin D.

In General:

  • Minimize their exposure to toxins by using natural or green cleaning and personal care products.
  • Click here for a list of which foods are most important to buy organic (such as spinach, chicken, rice, apples, etc.),  The Dirty dozen vs the Clean 15 (avocado, corn, kiwi, cabbage, etc).
  • One of the best nutritional bonuses I gave my children and recommend to any parent concerned about their children’s health is to make organic vegetable juice. Even a small amount packs a big punch as it will supply an assortment of easily absorbed vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Get kids involved by letting them select the veggies and fruit to be juiced.
  • Filtered water is important for our health and kids need at least 4-6, 8oz glasses per day. Use stainless steel bottles instead of plastic.
  • Avoid microwaving food especially in plastic containers.
  • Avoid using chemicals on the lawn and do not send the kids out if you live near a park or golf course when these toxic substances are used.
  • For cooking use: stainless steel or glass cookware and discard any Teflon or aluminum based pots or pans.
  • Avoid scented candles,  artificial room sprays and perfume.
  • When building or remodeling, use materials that have out-gassed.
  • Minimize exposure to mold &dust. Consider a HEPA filter for children’s bedroom.
  • Choose eco-safe toys.
  • Use a “green” dry cleaner.
  • Avoid having amalgam fillings placed in your child’s teeth, they are 50% mercury.
  • Use natural, safe and botanically based skin lotions, shampoos, conditioner, etc.
  • Encourage your children to exercise to prevent obesity and help eliminate toxins via sweat.
  • Instead of giving your child the flu vaccine every year, familiarize yourself or consult health professionals who are well versed in using Natural remedies for health issues.  See article Natural Ways to Prevent the Winter Cold and Flu.
  • Minimize exposure to Electromagnetic fields by not putting laptops on your lap, using a wire with your cell phone and turning off all wireless devices at night.

So there you have it. Advice from someone who surely does not have all the answers, but who does care deeply about children’s health and has a few decades of experience under her belt. While reading through this long laundry list of what to do and not to do, I encourage you to start wherever you are and take small steps toward a greener life, using common sense as your guide.

The solution to the current children’s health crisis is to recognize that although environmental toxins abound, children’s nutrition has steadily deteriorated and giving 36-45 vaccines before the age of 5 is wreaking havoc on their health, we do have options.  It is time for all of us who care about our children to educate ourselves beyond what our doctors are telling us so we can develop better, safer strategies for raising healthy kids. Quite simply, we need to stop being influenced by the slick propaganda created by food and pharmaceutical companies whose focus is more on profit than on health.  The goal is clear and the time is now…We need to do our homework  and trust our inner wisdom when it comes to minimizing toxins, maximizing nutrition and finding more natural, yet effective common sense approaches for protecting our kids against illnesses!

Bio: Maureen McDonnell, RN is the health editor of WNC Woman Magazine.   She is also the cofounder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet (SOKHOP.com) and the Medical Coordinator of the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer.       Contact Maureen at MauraHealth@aol.com






Maureen H. McDonnell, RN

I am a registered nurse with a strong interest in helping to reverse the escalating number of children affected by chronic illnesses. After coordinating the Defeat Autism Now! Conferences for 10 years, I joined forces with Jill Urwick to form Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet. This website and our conferences focus on the role nutrition and toxins in the environment are playing in Autism, ADHD, childhood cancers, etc. More importantly, our goal is to offer solution-based information that is both practical and affordable.

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