When parents hear “nutrition matters for baby” or “kids need a good breakfast”, what does that really mean? There are plenty of vague platitudes out there filling parenting web and print media, cereal box side panels, and TV ads. But how important is this, really?
Even before pregnancy, what we moms eat and what toxins we are exposed to affect our unborn children. Whole foods organically grown in healthy toxin free soil without genetically modified seeds or feed grains will safely nourish you and your kids – and it really does matter. For example:
– Vitamin D status before and during pregnancy may affect growth of the fetus, length of pregnancy, and immune function for baby after birth. Babies may be at more for risk intrauterine growth retardation in moms who are vitamin D deficient. Even adult outcomes for mental illnesses may be impacted by mom’s vitamin D status during pregnancy.
– Ideal iron status – not too much, or too little – is crucial for normal fetal development. Iron can cause lasting damage to fetal organs and brain tissue, if the wrong amount is on board.
– Toxic exposures for you now may influence whether your grandchildren get cancer.
– Ultrasounds may damage DNA expression in your baby’s brain. Limiting exposure to these while pregnant may be safest.
– Missing folic acid, a single simple nutrient, can have catastrophic outcomes for baby. Taking it before you conceive may prevent birth defects.
– Unvaccinated babies have fewer allergies, ADHD, and chronic disease than vaccinated children. Toxins in vaccines along with early and aggressive exposure to injected antigens may be making our children more chronically ill. This bolsters the need for strong nutrition to support strong immune response. Even vaccinations taken by mom prior to pregnancy may have a negative impact too.
– Breastfeeding is as or even more powerful than vaccination at preventing infectious diseases – so powerful in fact, that the CDC has promoted cessation of breastfeeding to keep natural antibodies from negating those in vaccines! Score another point here for nutrition solutions over pharmaceutical ones.
– Genetically modified organisms in food crops (GMO) are linked to increased allergies and organ damage. These foods are unlabeled in the US – so that means you’re probably feeding them to your family. Look for foods that tell you they contain no GMO ingredients. Livestock and farm raised salmon are typically fed GMO corn. Splurge on organic meats to avoid this when you can.
These are just a few bullets from the staggering amount of information on nutrigenomics – that is, how nutrients (and toxins) impact gene expression and outcomes for our babies. But one fact is too often overlooked for parents nowadays: Nutrition really matters, and it’s up to us to engage it. Your child’s immune system depends on a steady flow of toxin-free nutrients and foods, and a well functioning digestive tract, in order to mount a vigorous response to fight infection. Your child’s brain needs the same, to grow and function to potential. Nutrition is an ensemble piece if there ever was one. Nutrients and foods work together, relying on each other in cells and processes in the body, to create a hale and hearty human. No pharmaceuticals – vaccines included – do these jobs. Food and nutrients do this.
Despite this old wisdom – documented by decades of nutrition science and practice – pediatrics today pays little due to helping parents build kids’ nutrition. Nutrition studies are not part of your pediatrician’s training. Emphasis is heavy on pharmaceuticals, a shift that has happened in the last generation. As a child, I visited the pediatrician very rarely; I have not a single memory of me or any of my four siblings going to the doctor with an illness. We each passed through the rites of chickenpox, mumps, and measles; we never got ear infections; we very rarely got colds or flu. My friends came from families of three, five, or even six or seven children. I knew no one with asthma, allergies, diabetes, epilepsy, or other conditions or disabilities. With all the pharmaceuticals now given to children beginning from birth, we must ask if these are making kids less well, and more debilitated. Over half of US children now have a chronic disease or disability – obviously, using more pharmaceuticals has not improved health for our children.
Pay as much attention as you can to real food for your family. Cooking from scratch is a lot of work, but start – somewhere. Even a few more whole food meals or snacks a week will give your kids fewer toxins, more minerals, varied protein, and essential fats and oils – all key for brain and immune function. Even busy families can begin with these ideas:
– Trade processed fortified breakfast cereals (infamous for delivering too much corn syrup, sugar, additives, or even too much iron for some children) for whole grain oatmeal, eggs, or additive-free organic breakfast meats
– If cereal is non-negotiable, transition to organic brands that use whole grains. Add raw nuts and seeds like cashew, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds.
– Once a week, try a session with your kids of making your own cereal. Use whole oats, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, honey – any granola recipe can do.
– Trade sugary GMO concoctions like Ensure, Pediasure, or Carnation Instant Breakfast for power shakes made from organic almond, hemp, or coconut milk; add whey powder, nut butters like tahini, honey, and ripe banana. Let your kids experiment with ingredients, within your parameters of fruits, seeds, nut butters, cacao nibs.
– Stuck on Cheezits and Goldfish crackers? Rotate in crunchy nut and seed mixes, Justin’s Nut Butters, raw young asparagus, or crisp bell peppers. Add dips like guacamole or hummus. If all else fails, offer nut butters and dips rich in brain building fats with the crunchy cracker favorites.
– Is Friday pizza night? Give your own homemade a try, and let your kids in on the project. If making your own dough is daunting, purchase an empty pizza round from your grocer’s freezer section and build from there. Use organic cheeses. Experiment with toppings like olives, fresh basil leaves, raw tomato slices, scallion, or barbeque chicken; let your kids spice the pie with fresh minced oregano, raw minced garlic, or fresh hot pepper.
– Use a crock pot once a week for a home cooked meal. Meatballs and sauce, meatless minestrone, pot roast and vegetables, and lentil dahl are just a few meals that cook themselves and offer protein, minerals, fats, and oils.
What I usually hear in my nutrition practice is this: The more families get into preparing real food, the more they get into it. It grows on you. And the best part is seeing your children become healthier and happier, from the inside out.
How was your child’s school physical, did you talk about upcoming flu season and how to use nutrition and food to stay healthy?
Probably not, but you likely were encouraged to get a flu shot for your child, even though they have a fairly poor record of success. Plenty of not so subtle efforts are afoot to pit parent against parent and doctor against parent, sadly. Increasingly, parents come to my office with anxiety over pressure felt socially, at school, and in the doctor’s office to “just do it” – vaccinate to the CDC’s specs – regardless of a family member’s medical needs, history, ethical or efficacy questions, or existing laws that protect choice.
How bad can it be? Well, it has gotten grim. In Africa, a report has been made of children have been vaccinated at gunpoint. In 2007, Maryland schoolchildren were rounded up into a courthouse and forcibly vaccinated under watchful eyes of armed officers and police dogs. And in 2011, a Chicago mother was held in a gunpoint stand off with police after she refused to continue Risperdal for her daughter, a medication that the girl tolerated poorly.
School physicals are where the pressure may be at its worst. Many parents believe if they don’t vaccinate their children, school access is denied – a fallacy not upheld by existing laws nationwide. Most states have exemptions to permit individual needs around vaccination. Your child can go to school without following the CDC vaccine schedule, in most states. This may not be easy, but your child’s health and safety are too precious to risk, if any possibility exists that a vaccine may trigger a reaction – which I have witnessed many times, in my twenty odd years in pediatric nutrition practice.
There are many reasons to individualize vaccination schedules, like any other medical treatment. Some children have allergies to ingredients in shots (click here for vaccine ingredients, and here for information on traces of nuts in vaccines), or family history of adverse reaction. Every parent should know the eight questions to ask before giving any vaccine to a child.
Manage the pressure at your child’s next physical by presenting some of the information below. If your doctor won’t discuss it, consider finding a pediatrician who respects your concerns. A naturopathic doctor or osteopath are often informed on options beyond vaccines for preventing and treating infectious diseases, such as how to use food, nutrition, and herbal tools to support the immune system. Chapter 6 of this book explains how to find different types of providers; another chapter explains how to use nutrition to stay healthy and avoid infections. Here are points to discuss with your child’s health care provider:
(1) Vaccinations can spread disease. They are supposed to prevent disease, but disease transmission from vaccines has been repeatedly documented. If your child just started school and just got sick, proximity to newly vaccinated peers may be a factor. Here are examples:
– Flumist vaccination showed a 2.5% rate of transmission from recently vaccinated to unvaccinated persons. Meanwhile, getting no vaccine for flu at all showed only a 4% risk of flu – which means that getting this vaccine not only makes an arguably insignificant difference in protecting you from flu, it may actually spread the flu as well.
– Polio vaccine is a documented source of polio infection. According to the CDC, cases spread by polio vaccine are essentially identical to wild type cases – meaning that the “protection” from vaccine was just as dangerous as actual infection.
– Prevnar vaccine has been shown to worsen the virulence of pneumococcal bacteria strains in sputum of vaccinees – meaning that children given Prevnar can spread more virulent bacteria than unvaccinated children.
– Chickenpox (Varicella) transmission after vaccination has been documented, and is most likely if a rash develops after getting the shot. Even MedLine Plus states that vaccinated children can still get and spread chickenpox. Chickenpox outbreaks continue to occur even in highly vaccinated populations.
– In recent pertussis outbreaks, many of the infected were vaccinated. Click for another study that showed the same finding. Some speculate that vaccination has triggered a new more virulent strain. Meanwhile, pertussis continues to circulate at the same level as it did prior to use of any vaccine. Boosting preschool children with pertussis vaccine has correlated with an increase in cases in adults and teens. Pertussis vaccines (DTaP) are the most frequently reported for injuries they cause to infants.
(2) Vaccines can fail. They can fail to protect entirely, or may create a weaker, false, or transient immunity – meaning that it may be easier, not harder, for diseases to spread in vaccinated populations. Flu, pertussis, pneumococcal infections, measles, mumps, and chickenpox have occurred in highly vaccinated populations. In spite of this, health officials still believe vaccines are successful, still insist unvaccinated persons in good health spread disease, and still urge us to get vaccinated! Examples:
– A study in Canada found measles outbreaks occurring in populations with over 90% vaccine compliance but sill blamed measles cases on unvaccinated persons.
– MMR vaccine failures are documented; waning immunity to measles caused by use of MMR is a frequent concern in the medical literature. Teens vaccinated as toddlers may be especially vulnerable.
– This study in the Marshall Islands decided MMR vaccine was a success even though, once again, an outbreak occurred with high vaccination compliance. Giving extra doses of vaccine was touted as the cure for the epidemic – it may have run its natural course anyway. Poor sanitation, poor nutrition, and crowding – all known factors in disease severity and transmission – may well have caused it in the first place.
– Chickenpox (Varicella) vaccine failures are noted above. Another pitfall introduced with chickenpox vaccination is the rise in shingles, a more severe and painful infection with Varicella virus that afflicts older persons. Without frequent boosting from naturally circulating chickenpox in children, older persons may suffer waning immunity to the virus, thus becoming more susceptible to shingles.
– Some argue that when data on infectious disease are juxtaposed with timelines for when vaccines were introduced, it’s noticeable: Vaccines may not have prevented much of anything. Infectious disease may have dropped mostly due to vast improvements for hygiene, nutrition, and advent of antibiotics in the twentieth century. Some infectious diseases indeed trended downward in a dramatic way, well ahead of widespread vaccination.
(3) Vaccines don’t reliably protect the herd. The mainstream medical community believes that you have been “immunized” once you develop antibodies to a disease, and that if enough people are vaccinated, “herd immunity” kicks in – that is, there are enough people with immunity to keep an outbreak from occurring. But outbreaks are documented in highly vaccinated groups – proving that vaccines don’t reliably confer herd immunity.
Flu shots are especially encouraged for anyone with a health condition that might make them more vulnerable to infection. But this may be more wishful thinking than reality, according to a prospective cohort study of 263 children that found that “children who received flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization, compared to children who had not received the vaccine.” For children with asthma, the risk was worse.
(4) Vaccines contain highly toxic and highly allergenic ingredients. Read vaccine product inserts (available on line) before you go to the doctor’s office – these are lengthy documents that you might want some time to understand. The prevailing belief is that the small amounts of toxins and allergens in vaccines are safe to inject. But would you let your child lick even a tiny amount of formaldehyde? How about mercury? Many are concerned that industry interference has kept safety standards dangerously low for vaccines, and no review had been made of the cumulative effects of repeat injections.
Children who are allergic to egg or pork may need to skip flu shots, since several brands contain these. Nut oils are a controversial ingredient that manufacturers have not had to disclose to the public, under current laws protecting proprietary formulations. Mercury remains in about half of flu vaccines brands, and other shots given to kids. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is in some vaccines, so if this is an ingredient you avoid in food, you won’t want to inject it. Vaccines may also contain formaldehyde, aluminum, genetically modified viruses, yeasts, and bacteria, along with antibiotics, human tissue components (from aborted fetal tissue), and proteins or tissue components from monkeys, chickens, pigs, and cows.
(5) Deciding to defer shots? Then it’s important to keep your child’s immune system healthy. This is where nutrition can play a starring role. Children need varied diets. They should be amenable to accepting many fruits, vegetables, protein sources, and healthy fats and oils. All of these contain nutrients essential for good immune function. If your child is a picky eater who sticks to starchy processed stuff – like Goldfish crackers, sweetened yogurt, breakfast cereal, bread, and milk – you have your work cut out for you. You may need to supplement to add protective nutrients, though foods are the best sources.
– Vitamin A’s protective effect against measles and other infectious diseases is legend in public health nutrition circles, and was recently revisited in British Medical Journal. Cod liver oil at ½ to 1 teaspoon daily is an adequate amount for children in normal nutrition status. Vitamin A rich foods (or foods with lots of vitamin A precursors) are easy to get if you have a juicer or good blender. Try tomatoes, carrots, kiwi, papaya, spinach, kale, or peaches if you’re juicing. Cooked pumpkin, yams, beets, or butternut squash are good sources if you’re cooking. A pressure cooker makes this job fast and easy; baking is easy if you can plan ahead.
– Zinc and iron keep key detox and immune proteins functioning normally. Organic grass fed beef, pork, nuts, seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, and spinach are good sources. If your child’s diet is void of these, have your doctor check ferritin level to see if an iron supplement is needed. Iron supplements can be poisonous, so use them only with supervision. Zinc is safe to supplement, and can be purchased in kid-friendly chewables, liquids, or teas. For children eating poor diets that lack mineral-rich foods, give 15-30 mg of zinc daily.
– Underweight children may get sick more often. If your child’s body mass index is below 13 or 14, or below the tenth percentile for his or her age, s/he may be healthier with more weight. Allow liberal servings of healthy foods and fats/oils like avocado, organic eggs, ghee (clarified butter), organic butter, olive oil, flax oil, nuts and seeds, sesame tahini, or coconut milk curries. You can check your child’s body mass index here.
– Vitamin D has an excellent track record for preventing flu and reducing incidence of complications from upper respiratory infections. Give children 1000-3000 IU daily in drops, or allow time in the sun, to get healthy doses of vitamin D.
– Remove foods that trigger wheezing, runny/stuffy nose, itchy rashes, or other signs of inflammation. Your child’s immune system will be more organized to fight true infections if allergens are off the table.
– Add a high potency probiotic – at 15 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per dose or higher. In my practice, some children do best at very high doses – up to 250 billion CFUs/day. This varies widely, but don’t give up on probiotics until you’ve tried a high potency blend for at least 2-3 months for your child. These not only improve digestion and protect the intestine from invading pathogens, they can help fight colds, reduce eczema, prevent flu, and lessen respiratory infections too. One of my favorites is Klaire Labs’ Prodegin, a high potency, soft chewable for children.
Poor outcomes happen to children from vaccines on a daily basis. In fact, the government has been compensating families for vaccine-triggered injuries and deaths for over twenty years. So before you let your children join the millions of students getting vaccinated for school, talk through these issues with family and health care providers. Find solutions that gift your child with good health.