Things To Consider – for the Health of Your Child and Family!
Becoming a mother or parent can be daunting. So much to think about, so much to prepare. Sometimes we get so caught up in what everyone else is doing, we forget to step back and critically consider what is necessary. What may seem innocent and routine in our preparation for parenthood could perhaps be part of the childhood illness epidemics we are now witnessing. This may seem like a bold statement, but as you read further you may begin to think there is some substance to the statement.
Over the last three decades, there has been an unprecedented rise in obesity, diabetes, allergies, autism, asperges, ADD, ADHD, asthma and general ill health amongst children. In 2001, 40% of children were born with a life-long illness. Clearly our current mode of health care is having an impact on the psychological and physical health of our children, and if we are going to change this, then it’s important we move in a different direction. Medicine is wonderful for critical care and nobody can deny this, but I’m not so sure it is winning the race for good health.
I was dragged up in the 60’s and 70’s and I say dragged because we had all the freedom in the world to ride bikes, play in mud puddles and generally run a muck, but we knew we had to be home before sun down. Despite our barefoot lifestyle, myself, my siblings and friends all managed to get through to our twenties without too many trips to the doctor’s office. In fact, I’m 54 and I’ve never had an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, pain killer or any prescribed or over-the-counter medications. My children who are now all adults have never had any medications.
There are not many modern-day mothers who can attest to this. Things have changed dramatically and for the most part, I believe we have been pulled into a false sense of security and have not thought critically about the many gradual changes in the last 30 years. So, I decided to go back and see what has changed since the 60’s and 70’s that may have some impact on our children’s health.
- When my mother became pregnant, she did not have glucose tolerance tests nor did she have scans to asses the time when the baby was due – she knew approximately and that was good enough for her.
- There were no inductions, or very few, as the schedule was based on when the baby was due, not when it was convenient for everyone else or fear mongering about due dates. The French have a gestation of 42 weeks (they calculate it differently which allows them an extra 2 weeks), yet we have 40 weeks… when did we become a different species to the French?
- C-sections were few and far between and only in extreme emergencies.
- There was no Vitamin K required at birth, obviously God made the mistake after the 1960’s.
- There were no Hep B vaccines within 24 hours of birth and I doubt many babies would have been exposed to Hep B throughout their entire childhood and adolescence.
- Breast feeding was the only option, infant formulas were only for extreme cases where a mother had difficulty breastfeeding or the mother died at birth.
- There were only twelve vaccines throughout your school years.
- Antibiotics were only given in extreme cases, rather than 14 doses every winter for every ailment.
- Bonjello and amber beads were not there to soothe the tooth eruptions; mother and baby learnt to deal with it without too much pain on both parts.
- Giving medications for unruly behaviour was never done, discipline was all that was needed.
- There were no mass shootings by children and adolescents.
- Television closed at 9.30pm and didn’t open sometimes till late in the afternoon the following day – test patterns on the TV were a given for most of the day.
- There were no screen devices to disrupt sleep, nor playstations or violent online games.
- Tonsils and appendixes were taken out as they were seen as the problem, and once again God made a mistake and they were really just surplus organs.
- The pill was something quite new; thalidomide was all the rage.
- Our first food after breast feeding was not Farex fortified with metalic iron, but rather something our mothers made up from scratch, like mashed pumpkin and stewed apple.
- Sunscreens were unheard of – you just covered up with clothes and hats or used coconut oil to tan your body.
- Sunglasses were not required as a fashion statement.
- Flour, bread, salt and cereals were not fortified, most food was not refined and was still packed with vitamins and minerals.
- There were no grocery stores filled with GM foods, colours, flavours, fake foods, packaging, nor soft drinks – diet or otherwise, no 100 flavoured juices, it was just orange and apple.
- There was only one milk with cream on top, rather then thirty varieties.
- Butter was favoured over margarine and fat was never seen as a curse for health.
- No one had heard of cholesterol or statin drugs.
- There was no morbid obesity nor obesity crisis.
- The only people who were taking medications were the elderly.
- Wheat had not been hybridised and the green (chemical) revolution was only just starting.
- Everything was real food – nothing was organic, natural, low fat, sugar free or 99% fat free.
- There were no trendy vitamin deficiencies and the only supplement taken was vitamin C in times of cold.
- BPA plastic, pthalates, hormone disrupting plastics and non-stick were not in the vocabulary.
- Type 1 diabetes was rare and type 2 diabetes only affected the very old.
- Fat, salt and sugar were all healthy and a good part of the diet.
- Food was real food, rather then a mixture of flavours, colours and additives that disguises itself as food, but in fact are food like substances.
- We got most of our food from a butcher, fruit and vegetable shops and dairy.
- There were no superfoods, just food.
- No one had a gluten or dairy allergy or intolerance.
- We had 250ml of milk every morning tea at school, and sandwiches were the usual lunch.
- GUT issues were when you ate something bad and had to vomit or had diarrohea for a day or two.
- Backyard vegetable gardens were more the normal rather than rarity.
- There was always a lemon tree in every backyard.
- Pantries didn’t exist or were small compared to their modern counterparts.
- There was no phobia for germs and we cleaned with a few rags and vinegar.
- Only one lesson a week at school was dedicated to PE.
- There was only one type of sugar, one type of butter and one type of salt.
- If we wanted takeaway, we took our saucepans to the local chinese restaurant.
- Fish and chips were a favourite and Mc Donalds, Burger King and Pizza Hut were not around.
- No one needed to save day light – so there was no daylight savings.
- Mammograms and PAP smears were thought to be a foreign language.
- No one had heard of an autoimmune disease – now there are 200+.
- Anti-depressants were not prescribed for every condition from hot flashes to post traumatic stress.
- HRT – was the sub name of a car.
The world was very different just a short time ago. Could it be the modernisation and acceptance without question of modern day life that has been the downfall for our children’s health?
I understand that we cannot go back to the 60’s and 70’s. However, it is important to note that we have evolutionary bodies and our modern lifestyle is not suited to our paleolithic bodies. We have evolved in a natural environment. Day, night and the seasons have always been an important part of our biochemistry, weight gain/loss, vitamin D and A production, sleep patterns and general wellbeing.
Bit by bit our decreased immunity, poor pain tolerance, conveniences and medical procedures have crept into our lifestyle and for the most part, societies have embraced them as being something good and doing no harm. But each one contributes in some way to the health issues our children and adults have today. To become aware is the first step and then education on how our evolutionary bodies can live in a modern world is the key to health and wellbeing.
It is not my belief that it is one thing that causes obesity, autism, asthma, allergies and other modern maladies, but rather many things accumulating to compromise the gastrointestinal tract and immune system. The GUT is the protection from the outside world to the inner body. If the GUT is compromised, perfectly normal foods are seen as the enemy by the otherwise usually uncompromised immune system. When these two systems are compromised, they impact on physical and psychological health in a child and adult.
Look through the list. Some you can do nothing about, but there may be some things you haven’t considered that you can actually change; changing your diet, having a garden, not taking as many non-prescription medications, reducing your prescriptions, changing night-time routines, thinking about screen time and considering routine procedures. Generally changing habits, thoughts and actions in order to change lives will be the solution.
Changing Habits is all about education and providing ethical and sustainable foods. My website, facebook page, newsletters and books, in particular Changing Habits Changing Lives are jam packed with information to help you live your best and most healthy life. When we have health, our life begins to change in many ways. It’s a step by step process and an awakening to making changes that can impact your life, your children’s and that of our future generations. If we don’t change, then we will become part of the growing problem of acceptance and complacency. Become active in the choices you make for you and your family, rather than a sheep following the leader to a not so healthy future.
We live in a loop; each generation impacts future generations. What we do to our bodies will affect future generations. What a grandparent does affects the grandchild. We may think we are just abusing ourselves with food, lack of sleep, chemicals, alcohol, medications, drugs, lack of movement and no consideration for one’s innate unique body. But in reality, collectively we are affecting the health and survival of the human species.
As my friend Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani says, “If we consider that most children today have allergies, developmental challenges or are clinically obese — as parents, we need to have a RADICALLY different approach to health, don’t you agree?”.
Happy Changing Habits,
Nutritionist and Health Advocate