These workshops support and educate parents on children’s nutrition, allergy prevention and relief, immune protection, and foods to avoid for AHDD and Autism spectrum disorders.

Have you ever gone to a baby shower? Everyone loads up the expectant mother with all of the newest and latest baby gear.

Have you ever sat in a new car? You know that “new car smell?” That is an example of off-gassing from vinyl and plastic products. So is that film that magically appears on the windshield of a new car every few weeks.

All new plastic, vinyl, varnished, synthetic materials emit gas, including new baby items.

Did you get a new crib and mattress? What is in that mattress? Fire-retardant chemicals. Be careful of pajamas, too. Many also contain fire-retardant chemicals.

Are you nursing naturally or buying formula? What kind of formula? Does it contain soy? Are you using tap water or filtered water in your formula? Are you microwaving the formula to heat it up? Are you using plastic bottles to feed the baby? New government regulations require biphenyl A-free plastic in baby bottles but what else is in that plastic that we don’t know about?

What about the paint in the baby’s room? Is it low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds)? Is there wallpaper or new carpet in the room? What about electronics? They can create electromagnetic fields.

How about what we put on our babies? There is a huge market in baby skin care products. Baby shampoo, lotion, diaper rash cream — the list goes on and on. Do babies really need all of these products? The answer is no.

Most of these products contain chemicals and toxins and can be absorbed through the skin. Babies have about double the skin surface per body weight as adults, which means they can absorb a higher ratio of chemicals through the skin. Most baby skin care products are completely unnecessary.

The few that may be necessary from time to time can easily be made with natural ingredients or more natural commercially made products can be purchased.

Our pediatrician recommended we steer clear of diaper cream and use petroleum jelly. Now I know petroleum products may not be good for us. There is a risk of PAHs or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are cancer-causing chemicals found in crude oil and its byproducts.

While there are no studies linking cancer to petroleum products, I think it is better to err on the side of caution, especially when there are natural alternatives available.

How about diapers — disposable or cloth? And diaper wipes are something most of us don’t even think about. These have ingredients that we may not want our baby’s skin. Not only are we wiping these across our child’s skin several times a day, but it’s also remaining on the child’s skin until with bathe them.

This means ingredients are on our baby’s skin almost constantly until they are out of diapers. The same pediatrician recommended that we use water and cloths for the first few weeks of our son’s life. When a mainstream pediatrician is making that recommendation, it makes me think wipes perhaps aren’t as harmless as we think.

Think about your cleaning products. Spray chemicals become airborne and we breathe them in. Did you know babies breathe more air per body weight than adults do? That can increase their exposure to airborne toxins. There are natural alternatives to every cleaning product you are using today.

Be careful about baby’s laundry, too. I am not a fan of conventional baby detergent. How dirty are your baby’s clothes? Use natural laundry only when necessary and skip the fabric softener, which leaves residue and chemical fragrance on clothes.

Vaccinations are another concern for many parents. There has been a lot of news about inoculations in the news in the last few years.

Be aware the vaccination protocol has changed since we were children. In the 1970s, children received 23 doses of seven vaccines by age 6. Today’s 6-year-olds may have received 48 doses of 14 different vaccines, up to eight on a single day.

In the 1970s, the first vaccine was administered at two months old; today it is at 12 hours old. Many health care professionals are concerned about the general public educating themselves about vaccines; however it is your responsibility and right as a parent to do some research and make the most informed decision for your child.

Which first foods are you going to feed your baby? Is it going to be organic? Are you going to start with rice cereal? You might be thinking: Isn’t that what everyone starts feeding their baby? Well, actually no.

Rice cereal is a processed refined carbohydrate. Before processed food and commercial baby food, people fed babies the same type of food they were cooking for the rest of the family. Many parents are returning to this traditional way of feeding baby.

Will you cook your baby’s food in non-stick cookware? Not a good idea.

Are you going to warm your baby’s food in the microwave? Consider the word “microwave” — micro means small, “waves” of what? Radiation. I don’t think radiating our food is a good idea.

We are learning that even after delivery, there are many challenges to keeping our babies safe that continue through infancy into the toddler stage and on through childhood.

These issues are most important for our children, especially babies. Their immune and central nervous systems are immature and vulnerable to exposure from chemicals. Their bodies are not as capable of eliminating toxins. Their brains and bodies are still developing and we don’t know what exposure to these things can mean for their long-term development.

We all know having a baby is a big responsibility and adding this list of items can seem overwhelming.

Just realize that most of these items are choices — choosing a healthier alternative over a conventional one. Once you understand the risks, you are better equipped to make the right choices for you and your little one.

 

Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.

Did you know that gluten is one of the most difficult substances for humans to digest? Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye and barley. From these grains, wheat is the predominate grain in our diet.

Wheat also is the grain that has been hybridized over the last 50 years. This hybridization caused the gluten content in wheat to increase. This is believed to be the main reason that many people are reacting to gluten today.

Reactions can be quite varied from digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation to headaches, arthritis, thyroid problems and even infertility. These can all be symptoms of gluten intolerance.

Behavioral issues also can be attributed to gluten sensitivity. ADHD, autism and bipolar disorder can be exacerbated by gluten. Many people find their symptoms of these issues are significantly reduced by eliminating gluten from their diet.

Celiac disease is the most serious form of gluten intolerance and is considered an autoimmune disease. The body sees gluten as a foreign substance and begins to makes antibodies against it. Celiac disease is considered a gateway autoimmune disease. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease all can be triggered by celiac disease.

The good news is that there are many ways to manage gluten intolerance. From learning about hidden sources of gluten to gluten-free alternatives, it is easier to live gluten free today than ever before. There is also evidence that suggests that a specific type of diet could even heal gluten issues.

These are the types of things that I will discuss in a four-week class about gluten beginning Wednesday at Monroe County Community College. Helpful resources and information will be supplied.

A second class on Wednesday will focus on allergies, autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The three conditions are on the rise. Doesn’t it make you wonder why these problems that were virtually unheard of a generation ago are so prevalent today?

Food allergies have become so prevalent among children that it is not uncommon for each classroom to have several children with food sensitivities. Many children have multiple food sensitivities. This is usually a result of a compromised digestive system, which can be healed.

Seasonal allergies are no longer something that adults experience just in spring and fall. Many people, including babies, are experiencing “seasonal” allergies most of the year. Often this is also a result of a compromised digestive system and/or chemical sensitivities.

Years ago, autism affected 1 in 10,000 children; today it is estimated that 1 in 50 children are affected. There are many theories as to why autism is on the rise. The one obvious connection is that something is causing autism; it is no longer simply genetics. There are many different theories about possible causes and ways to lower the risk of autism. There are also several therapies, diets and doctors that can treat and even cure autism.

ADHD is a term that we didn’t even know 25 years ago. It started as ADD (attention-deficit disorder) but then the hyperactivity component was recognized. We then had ADD and ADHD. Now medical literature uses the term ADD with or without hyperactivity.

There are two schools of thought with ADHD. Many people are encouraged to put their child on Ritalin and some see improvements. Unfortunately, there haven’t been long-term studies of these types of medications.

There are alternatives to treating ADHD. Many functional medicine doctors are finding that deficiencies can play a role in behavioral and learning problems. We also know that many of these children can be sensitive to chemicals in our environment and our food. Some children also have a genetic component that can be managed effectively.

 

Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.

“If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.” — Pearl S. Buck

Are our children any different than we were as kids? Are they doing the same things? Are they eating the same foods? Is the environment the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago?

We know that their health is different. When I was a kid I knew one girl with asthma and, looking back, one or two boys that today would probably be diagnosed with ADHD. No one had a peanut allergy or a milk allergy or was gluten intolerant. I never even heard the term autism until I was in my 20s.

There have been 80,000 new chemicals introduced in the last 20 years and most of them have never been tested for safety. These chemicals can be in our food, the air we breathe, the clothes we wear and the beds we sleep in. Today, more than 200 chemicals are being found in newborn babies’ umbilical cord blood samples.

Did you know most children’s pajamas are treated with flame retardant chemicals? And so are their mattresses?

Sixty years ago all the food we grew was organic because we hadn’t started using pesticides on our crops. None of our food was genetically modified.

When I was young, processed food was available but wasn’t an every meal staple. I remember that TV dinners seemed so cool, with all your food in separate compartments including dessert! I ate cereal for breakfast most days, but many of my friends were still eating a home-cooked breakfast. We packed a lunch because there wasn’t any choice until we got to high school. And everyone ate a home-cooked dinner.

Remember when McDonalds was a treat? Maybe once a month, if you were lucky? Remember what a small-sized pop looked like? Remember when water came from the tap, instead of a plastic bottle with BPAs?

Microwaves came out in the late 1960s. Most families had one by the ‘80s. I remember my mom said she didn’t think it was a good idea to heat our food up with radiation waves. She always was ahead of her time. Research is indicating that radiating our food may not be good for us after all.

We made popcorn in a pot or a popcorn maker with the little butter melting compartment that never seemed to work quite right. Our kids are microwaving their popcorn in bags that are coated with chemical non-stick coating.

How about “screen time” or “electronics” as we call them in our house? When we were kids we watched TV — all 12 channels when cable became available! We had some weekend morning cartoons and some after-school shows. Today’s children have more than 200 channels to choose from as well as on-demand shows. Not to mention pay-per-view movies and DVDs. That’s kids’ programming 24 hours a day!

What about video games? I remember when a friend got an Atari. Kids today have a choice of Wii, Playstation, iPods and cellphones. Screens have something called flash rates, which can have an effect on mood, behavior and hyperactivity. Ever notice how your child can become angry when it is time to stop playing and sometimes that mood will linger?

Whatever happened to playing outside? Today’s children are entering kindergarten without the gross motor skills that we had by age 5. Kids aren’t getting enough exercise, either, as witnessed by soaring childhood obesity numbers.

Have body care products changed? We didn’t use much — shampoo and soap and maybe some lotion. I remember the first time we bought “cream rinse,” now known as conditioner. It replaced the “No More Tears” detangler that my mom thought was the greatest invention ever.

There was no such thing as sunscreen in those days. Why weren’t we getting skin cancer? Think of all the products that line shelves today. They’re not made with natural products; they are full of chemicals.

How about the pace of life? Are we busier today? Absolutely. Multi-tasking wasn’t even a term until recently. We run ourselves ragged, driving our kids from one activity to another and grabbing some fast food on the way.

Has life changed? Yes, and our health along with it. The most apparent change is in the health of our kids. Allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD, diabetes and obesity are at all-time highs. Our children are trying to tell us something. Are we going to listen?

Join me for a workshop on children’s health from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Monroe County Community College. Learn how to have healthy babies, how to re-establish health in your child and how to give your child a lifetime of health.

 

Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.

As spring arrives, our thoughts often turn to gardening and yard work. Along with thoughts about which trees and bushes need pruning and what type of flowers to plant come thoughts of a nice green lawn.

This is the perfect time to consider how our lawn care practices are affecting the environment. Often, we don’t realize the multi-faceted impact of our lawns.

One of the major concerns is the impact that herbicides have on animals and wildlife. Our own pets are being affected by these chemicals.

Studies show that lawn chemicals are being detected in dogs, even among dogs in residence where chemicals were not applied. These chemicals can spread to neighboring homes and can be detected more the 48 hours after application. Researchers believe these chemicals are linked to bladder cancer in dogs.

Dogs are not the only animals affected. Cats generally have a wider home territory than dogs and can expose themselves to a greater area. Our pets track these chemicals into our homes, which can affect our health and the health of our children.

Insects are also negatively affected. The effects on pollinators are especially concerning. Bees, specifically, are directly affected by these applications. Dandelions are integral to bees’ survival, as they are the most valuable early spring wildflower for bees.

If a bee hive survives the winter, the bees will be safe from starvation if they can stay alive until the dandelions bloom. Bees collect pollen and nectar from plants as their food source. They make honey from the nectar and pollen is their sole protein source, which they also use to make food for their young.

As you may have heard, our bees are in trouble. Researchers have been looking for answers to Colony Collapse Disorder for some time. Scientist are warning that exposure to chemicals is one of the reasons for declining bee populations.

This is a serious problem because bees do a lot more than just produce honey. It is estimated that honey bees pollinate approximately 15 billion dollars’ worth of American crops. Bees pollinate crops like apples, melons, broccoli and cranberries. Blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent on bees for pollination and almonds depend 100% on honey bees.

Bees also collect pollen from clover and plantain weeds. By waiting to cut our lawns until the flowers from these wild plants have bloomed, we can positively impact the local bee population.

The pesticides that are toxic to bees can remain for weeks after application. Not only is the bee that is exposed to the pesticide likely to die, but the whole hive (up to 60,000 bees) could also be killed. When the bee returns to the hive with toxic pollen which is then fed to the young, the entire hive is in danger.

Rather than using spray, employ organic gardening methods. Don’t worry about a few weeds in your lawn, they’re not going to hurt anyone. But that herbicide or pesticide that you may be using certainly could.

Did you know that many people react to chemical sprays, especially those with auto-immune issues? Many asthmatics also have bad reactions to lawn treatments. Others may feel ill, have an allergic-type reaction or unexplained rashes.

All of those chemicals wind up in our ground water, which contaminates well water and drinking water. Eventually they make their way, along with pesticides and fertilizers, to pollute our lakes and streams. The residues of these chemicals can be found in our tap water.

The overuse of synthetic fertilizers is contributing to serious contamination of our water supply as well as damaging our soil. It is important that homeowners and professional landscapers realize the impact these products are having on our health and environment.

Using herbicides on driveways, sidewalks and parking lots adds to the already high levels of these chemicals in our environment.

If you are determined to spray, look for sprays that are less toxic to bees and wait until evening when the bees are no longer foraging or even better, wait to spray until the flower has wilted.

Better yet, change your mindset about your lawn. Having a green lawn all summer uses up valuable water supplies — a luxury that we still have in the Great Lake State but one that won’t last forever, especially if we continue to pollute our fresh water supply.

Most Americans don’t have pristine lawns all summer long and that’s okay. It’s just a perception that we need to have unnaturally green grass. As long as our kids and pets have a soft place to play and run, does it really matter if there are some dandelions or some drier patches?

The quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil we grow our food in is so much more important than the way our lawn looks.

Try using organic practices and give the herbicides and fertilizers a break. Sit back and enjoy your dandelions, knowing that you are positively affecting not only your family’s health and the health of your neighbors but also the health of our planet.

 

Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.

The toxic load placed on humans begins early and often. Did you know that babies are born with more than 250 toxins found in the umbilical cord? That is a huge toxic load to be born with. No wonder we are seeing so many childhood disorders.

If you are planning to conceive, it is helpful to clean up your body and environment before conception. Consider a cleansing diet or a fast about nine months before you think about getting pregnant. Change the food you are eating to organic, look at your cleaning chemicals, food storage containers and cookware. Minimize your toxic load before you conceive and you will minimize your unborn child’s toxic load.

For those women who are having trouble conceiving, changing your diet and lifestyle can sometimes significantly influence fertility. Many women have had success conceiving and giving birth to healthy babies by understanding which nutrient dense food the body needs.

The goal of any expectant mother is always to have a healthy child. That is why doctors prescribe prenatal vitamins. But good health for your baby actually begins before you conceive.

Did you know that you can significantly influence the health of your child if you change your diet six months before you conceive? Giving your body the correct nutrients and rebalancing your body before you begin to nourish a baby can make a big difference in the health of your baby. It can avoid all kinds of childhood illnesses and can even influence things like facial bone structure and crowded teeth.

A significant but little understood issue in children’s health is digestive system health. A baby in utero has a sterile digestive system, in other words, no good or bad flora in their digestive tract. The first good bacteria the baby is exposed to is through the birth canal where they take on the flora of their mother, which is good if the mother has a healthy balance of good to bad bacteria: 85 percent good to 15 percent bad is a good ratio.

Unfortunately, most of us today have the inverse; 85 percent bad to 15 percent good. This is due mostly to our modern diet too heavy in sugar and refined grains with little to no fermented foods. Fermented foods that contain probiotics (good bacteria) help to feed the good flora. Sugar and refined grains feed the bad bacteria.

How about babies that are born by cesarean section? What is the first bacteria they are exposed to? All the bacteria in the delivery room. Not good. In fact, doctors can determine if a 10-year-old was born by cesarean section based on their digestive system flora.

In the early part of our life the ecology of our digestive system is created. Antibiotics disrupt this delicate balance and can be very detrimental in early childhood. Research indicates that antibiotics given in early childhood can change the ecology of the child’s gut for life. This doesn’t mean that antibiotics should never be used, it means that they should only be used when absolutely necessary and in conjunction with support for the gut through probiotics.

Why is the balance of bacteria so important? The digestive system affects every system, cell and organ of the body. The digestive system’s job is to provide nutrients, through food, to every cell in the body. We know that the balance of gut bacteria influences digestive health; diarrhea and constipation are indicators that the flora is not balanced. The gut also affects brain function, regulates our moods and behavior and can contribute to learning disabilities, anxiety and depression. It is also linked to autoimmune disease, heart disease and cancer.

It is helpful for the mother and father to rebalance their digestive system flora before conceiving, but if that has not been the case, there are options to help your baby have a healthier balance. Breast feeding is the best thing for babies, even if mom’s flora is out of balance. Supplementing with a baby probiotic can help and making wise choices for baby’s first foods is very important.Once upon a time, baby food was prepared naturally by the mother, grandmother and family members. Food consisted of fresh meat, good fats and vegetables cooked and mashed with broths or gravies and then served to the baby. Homemade broths were always a mainstay of an infant’s diet, very nutritious, easily digested and very healing for the gut. In America, that diet has been replaced with high sugar juices, grains, cereals, processed foods and processed dairy products.

There is so much we can do to ensure the health of our babies. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize how much influence we have over this. We take our prenatal vitamins and hope for nine months that our babies will be healthy.

What we need to understand is that we can start to influence the health of our babies nine months before we conceive. We also need to know that it is never too late to start feed our babies the right foods to make them healthy. That’s something we can all do, even if our babies aren’t babies anymore.

 

Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.