Toxicity has proven to be one of the biggest factors at play in our 21st century health epidemic. It has been linked to: cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and other brain issues, hormone disruption, reproductive complications, heart disease, developmental issues, autoimmune diseases, intestinal permeability (leaky gut)...toxins contribute to almost all disease processes in the body by causing cellular toxicity, oxidative damage, and inflammation.
One of the biggest problems with toxins is that they can bio-accumulate, or stay in your body and build up, especially in your fat cells. I’ve always taught that your body fills with toxins the way a bucket fills with water, and when the bucket overflows, that’s when symptoms or disease processes occur. The more ‘hoses’ or sources of toxins coming in, the faster the bucket fills. This is a great analogy, but it begs the question:
If my adult body is a bucket, what are my 18-month old twin daughters’ - pint-glasses?
What is a newborn - a solo cup?
What is a fetus - a shot glass?
Children’s toxicity is a serious issue that has to be addressed, even before conception. I recommend anyone thinking about or wanting to get pregnant to spend a few months detoxifying their life before they conceive. Your baby wants a healthy home to develop in, and their cells will thank you! (a great book on this topic is called Origins - How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of our Lives, by Annie Murphy Paul)
Think it doesn’t matter to your baby what you eat, what you breathe, what you think? Think again! Research has linked mother’s exposure to pesticides to childhood cancer and particulate matter exposure (PM) in air pollution to autism (especially in the third trimester), impaired mental development, anxiety, ADHD, among others.1,2,3 How do the those chemicals get into the baby? the same way everything gets there - the umbilical cord! According to the EWG:
In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in collaboration with Commonwealth, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.
Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied.” 4
This is critically important to the immature, developing brain. As adults we have what’s called a Blood-Brain-Barrier, and it’s just that - a barrier that keeps things in the bloodstream out of the brain. The blood-brain-barrier doesn’t develop until about 1 year of age, so any toxic exposure before 1 year old could potentially wind up in the brain! 6
After birth the exposures don’t stop, quite the opposite! Most babies are then given vaccines with ingredients like mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde in them; many are fed formula made from corn syrup solids and cheap dairy; they are CONSTANTLY given plastic toys and bottles with endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates; and then they lay on bedding that contains flame retardants linked to cancer.5 Oh by the way, this is all before they start eating the standard American food supply filled with sugar, preservatives, trans fats, additives, colorings linked to hyperactivity, and other toxins. This is why allergies have skyrocketed. This is why asthma is through the roof. This is why kids get put on psychotropic ADHD drugs. This is why ‘Type 2 Diabetes’ is no longer called ‘Adult Onset Diabetes’, because it starts in kids.
So what can you do?
Here are my Top 5 Steps for Raising Non-Toxic Kids:1. Feed Kids Real Food - This concept is simple, the application - not so much. Real food helps the body detoxify, fake food is toxic. The problem is today that most kids foods are horrible. They are loaded with sugar, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, chemicals, and colorings - all which have toxic effects. Then a child may exhibit behavioral issues, and what’s the cure? A psychotropic medication! This is wrong. Feed your kids real food, not food that looks like real food. Eat foods that grew on a plant, not foods that were altered in a plant. Even if it is a real food - was it sprayed with pesticides? Read your labels. Eat organic. Avoid GMO’s. Know the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. Vegetables all have amazing detoxification properties, whether it’s fiber helping to move toxins out of the bowels, a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli or cauliflower which can boost Glutathione and stimulate Phase I detoxification in the liver, or something like cilantro which can help bind heavy metals - eating real food is a must and the first and most important step to raising non-toxic children.
2. Avoid Vaccines and Medications - this is a heated topic that everybody seems to have an opinion on, but regardless of what you think about how well vaccines are able to protect against transmittable diseases, there is no doubt that they are toxic. Vaccines contain metals like aluminum, preservatives like formaldehyde, neurotoxins like MSG, cells from other species, GMO ingredients and aborted fetal tissue cells. You can find the list of ingredients here. Medications are toxic too, especially to children! Antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed to children and they DESTROY the bacteria in the gut (that’s their job after all) which leads to a leaky gut, decreased immune function, allergies, toxicity, inflammation….in fact antibiotic use has been shown to disrupt steroid hormone metabolism (estrogen, testosterone, adrenal hormones, etc), bile acid metabolism, and inflammatory pathways!7 I can’t tell you what to take and what not to take, so do your research. There is a time and a place for medications, but the overuse leads to further disease, and they add to your toxic burden. For my kids, we wouldn’t touch this stuff unless something was life-threatening.
3. Get Rid of (Some) Plastic - this one is basically impossible. Plastics are everywhere in a kid’s life, so you have to limit exposures. For my wife and I, every couple weeks we ‘purge our plastics’, which means we get rid of some or put them up and away, but the amount of plastics our babies are still exposed to is insane. Toys, bottles, cribs, car seats, it’s everywhere. We try to use as many wooden toys as possible. Cloth toys are fun, but I’m sure they have flame retardants all over them. The public has become aware of the endocrine-disrupting Bisphenol-A (BPA) in plastics, so many products are now labeled BPA-Free (careful- there are other Bisphenols like BPS that haven’t received the publicity yet!) However the biggest culprit in plastics is called Phthalates. This compound has been shown to disrupt reproduction and hormone balance in both men and women, and kids have the highest levels of exposure, with levels decreasing with age.8,9 A great book on this is called Slow Death By Rubber Duck. The name says it all :)
4. Look for Other Exposures - So often we hear about something like BPA or Lead on the news or read a blog post and maybe we avoid some things like GMOs, vaccines, or plastics, but there are so many hidden culprits of toxicity. Look for other exposures in your home! Some of the other exposures could include:
-Polyurethane Foam Bedding - cribs, nursing pillows, etc have hormone-disrupting flame-retardants linked to cancer that are getting into your child’s body at alarming rates according to a recent study from Duke University.5
-Heavy Metals (lead, mercury, arsenic) - in our air, soil, vaccines, dental fillings, toys from China, possibly in drinking water (look at Flint MI), etc. Long been known to disrupt brain development and function!
-Air pollution - we just bought an air purifier for our nursery to decrease toxic exposure. This is a huge issue in Utah! Read our last blog post to learn all about it.
-Get a water filter on your sink, get a shower filter on your shower, switch out your teflon cookware for non-toxic (ceramic, stainless, cast iron). Some of these steps are simple, one-time moves that can dramatically decrease exposures over time!
5. Use a Detox Product or Protocol - The last step for raising Non-Toxic Kids is to be used when you feel like your child’s bucket is already full - detoxify them with a more structured detoxification protocol. *If you can keep the bucket from filling up too quickly, you never need to dump it, so if you follow the first 4 steps this may never be a need in your family.* This is the step where I would strongly recommend working with a natural healthcare provider. There are many things out there to help aid detoxification in children, from detox recipes and detox drinks, to magnetic clay detox baths, to even ‘binding’ products that can help bind and excrete toxins. Many parents in the Autism community have tried more in-depth methods of detoxification like heavy metal chelation. You can also measure the toxic burden to know exactly what is interfering with your child’s health, but once again these are more in-depth methods that require the assistance of a healthcare provider. The concern with asking Dr. Google or doing a protocol that you read about online is that it may help and may be effective, but it also may not help. Using cilantro for a heavy metal detox, for example, is known to ‘stir up metals’ in those that are very toxic, but not necessarily excrete them. The analogy is often used of ‘stirring up’ a beehive - not good! Consult with someone who can walk you through this to make sure that it is safe and effective.