I have long been greatly concerned about all the parents out there who feel
helpless when their children have health problems. They feel alone and inadequate
in dealing with problems that impact their children’s health and well-being.
The truth is that every day, parents make choices that affect their family’s ability
to be healthy. Each choice is like a droplet of water in an upward or downward
stream of health. When added together, these choices have an enormous collective
effect, taking us either towards or away from health. In terms of diet, we are often
guided by what’s convenient, fast, and affordable. Computers, electronic games,
and television have replaced playing outdoors, sports, and family conversation.
We treat our children with antibiotics and medications that help in the short run,
but depress our children’s overall ability to bounce back on their own. So what’s
a parent to do?
Thankfully, the complex issues related to our children’s health are made simpler
in Digestive Wellness for Children by Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., C.C.N. As both
Dr. Lipski and I have been aware for nearly two decades, digestion plays a key
role in the overall health of our children. Dr. Lipski offers many important concepts
and breakthroughs that lead us to rethink common children’s health issues.
Such far-reaching issues as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic abdominal
pain, attention deficit disorder, headaches, juvenile arthritis, and many more health
concerns can be resolved by changes in lifestyle and diet. When digestion is
improved, immune function improves and comes back into balance. Your child’s
energy, behavior, and sense of well-being improve on all levels.
This book is a must-read for every parent who is interested in being proactive
about their child’s health and wellness. Dr. Lipski artfully weaves the scientific
information into an easy-to-read and extremely usable guide for parents. Digestive Wellness for Children will give you the confidence to try new options, because they
are based upon current scientific research.
You will become more fully informed about the increase in children’s illnesses
in our country and how our busy lifestyles contribute to the problem. You’ll
find practical ideas about creating healthy family meals, making the transition to a
healthier diet, and shopping. You’ll also find specific information about how digestion
works and why probiotic bacteria are so critical to gut health. You’ll begin to
understand why your child is so sensitive to his/her environment and what you can
do to reduce food and environmental sensitivities. Finally, you’ll find specific
information and recommendations on more than thirty-five specific health conditions— from infancy through adolescence.
For many years, I have been impressed by the way that Elizabeth Lipski has
kept abreast of the latest knowledge and information in the nutritional sciences,
and how it applies to health conditions that can challenge your children. Her first
book, Digestive Wellness, has become a classic in the field. Digestive Wellness for Children is a companion to that earlier work. We now recognize that the digestive
tract plays an important role in determining our health. We are not “what we eat”
but rather “what we absorb from what we eat,” “what wastes we can eliminate,”
and “how well our gut ecology is balanced.” Many of our children have longstanding
health issues that can be resolved when these issues are addressed.
This book makes an important contribution to people’s understanding of the
important relationships between gastrointestinal physiology, diet, and health. For
parents who are not familiar with this exciting and important topic, this book will
provide an introduction and a guide to how they can gain better control over digestive
function and its relationship to their children’s health.
Dr. Lipski’s book helps the reader to understand how to approach this objective
with precision. Enjoy.
—Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S.
New York Times award-winning author of more than twenty-five books
including The Fat Flush Plan, Before the Change, and
The Fast Track ONE-DAY Detox Diet
Our Children’s Health
All ancient systems of healing, however much they differ among
themselves, share with one another a common skein that divides them from
modern clinical medicine. They all approach sickness as a problem of
balance and relationship, the result of disharmony between the sick person
and his environment rather than the product of specific diseases. To the
traditional healer, disease itself has no reality independent of the person
who is sick and the web of relationships of which he is part. By understanding
how this universal wisdom was displaced from the conceptual
basis of modern Western medicine, we can learn how to restore it.
—LEO GALLAND, THE FOUR PILLARS OF HEALING
OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT WELL |
Our kids are in trouble. Consider the following statistics on childhood disease in
the United States:
• About 300,000 of our children have arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis, the most
devastating type, affects 70,000–75,000 children.
• According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma
prevalence among children and teenagers increased approximately 5 percent
each year during the period of 1980–1995. Asthma now afflicts 4.8 million of
our children (15 percent of boys and 10 percent of girls) under the age of
eighteen, and 600 die from the disease each year.
• 12 percent of our children suffer from respiratory allergies or hay fever.
• Over 8 million of our children get migraine headaches, resulting in over a
million lost days of school each year.
• Approximately 10 percent of our infants and young children develop eczema,
and 60 percent of these children will continue to have problems with eczema
into their adult years.
• It is estimated that irritable bowel syndrome affects 17 percent of our highschool
students and 8 percent of our middle-school students.
Learning, behavioral, developmental, and mental health challenges have increased
as well, afflicting an estimated 17 percent of our children—that’s 12 million
• Eight percent of our children (10 percent of boys and 5 percent of girls) have
a learning disability.
• Three to 6 percent have an attention deficit disorder.
• The diagnosis of autism and pervasive developmental disorder is skyrocketing,
with at least a tenfold increase in the United States in the last twenty years.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 10 percent of our children and adolescents
suffer from mental illness that is severe enough to warrant medical attention.
• Between 2 and 6 percent of our children and adolescents are depressed.
• Suicide is the third leading cause of death in children aged ten to nineteen
• In 2002, 11 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written for children—
but recent studies indicate that the use of antidepressants in children
doubles their risk of suicide.
• In the past twenty years, the average age of onset of bipolar disorder (also
known as manic depression) has fallen from the early thirties to the late teens.
Overall, between 5 and 30 percent of American children have a chronic illness.
And “adult” illnesses such as type II diabetes and heart disease, formerly rare
in childhood, are now appearing in children at alarming rates.
Despite all of the advantages of the American lifestyle, many of our children get
off to a rough start. How many of us have spent long nights pacing with an
unhappy baby? Sixteen to 26 percent of infants experience colic in their first few
months, and as many as 10 percent of infants experience eczema, diaper rash,
and/or cradle cap.
Food allergies affect 2 to 8 percent of infants, and allergy to milk is the most
common; in infants, cow’s milk intake is also strongly associated with spitting up
and vomiting. Spitting up and an unusual amount of vomiting occurs in half of all
newborns and two-thirds of infants aged up to four months old. It’s normal for
babies to spit up from time to time, but 0.3 to 8 percent of infants have more serious
gastroesophageal reflux disease that may be associated with poor weight gain,
fussiness, hiatal hernia, cystic fibrosis, or other health problems.
Bigger Children, Bigger Problems
Simple, natural strategies can solve some of the health problems of infancy, and
many others are quickly outgrown. But as our children grow, they can develop
other digestive health issues. Constipation, for example, accounts for 3 percent of
all visits to pediatricians and 25 percent of children’s visits to gastroenterologists.
Encopresis (fecal soiling or unplanned bowel movements in children older than
four years) affects 1 to 3 percent of our children. Celiac disease, which limits the
body’s tolerance of gluten-containing grains, affects 1 in 300 American children.
Our Kids Are Fat
Young people in our culture have unhealthful eating patterns, and television, computers,
and video games contribute to their lack of physical activity. Forty-three
percent of adolescents, for example, watch more than two hours of TV daily.
(Author’s note: As one of my sons commented, “You don’t break bones while
playing Nintendo.”) Obesity in our children has become a grave concern. In 1999,
13 percent of children aged six to eleven years, and 14 percent of adolescents and
teenagers, were overweight. According to the Surgeon General’s 2003 report, the
percentage of overweight children and adolescents has more than tripled in the last
CHRONIC ILLNESS IN CHILDREN: THE DIGESTION CONNECTION
What is the common denominator here? If your child’s digestion isn’t working
well, his/her overall health will suffer. The purpose of eating is to provide healthful
nutrients to each cell of the body; if this is interrupted, or if proper nutrients
aren’t taken in, children begin to show mental, behavioral, and medical symptoms.
Many children’s health problems actually stem from poor food choices,
unhealthful lifestyles, and faulty digestion. It may also surprise you to learn that
digestive problems are directly linked to a slew of seemingly unrelated juvenile illnesses
including arthritis, attention deficit disorders, autism, migraines, asthma,
depression, diabetes, and more. And much of this illness is preventable, controllable,
or curable! You can learn to recognize the digestive factors in your child’s
health and behavioral issues, how to find solutions, and how to encourage a healthier
diet for your entire family. There is something you can do.
Digestive Wellness for Children provides parents with a step-by-step plan for
making healthful changes in their family’s lifestyle. The approach is from a biological
rather than a medical viewpoint. The standard medical approach is to diagnose
and provide “appropriate” treatment, either drugs or surgery. The biological
approach involves cleansing, feeding, and nurturing the child’s entire being—
using simple but effective tools to improve the way he/she feels. By understanding
the functions of the gastrointestinal tract and looking for the underlying causes of
disease rather than settling for mere treatment of symptoms, we can begin to correct
our children’s problems in a lasting way.
It is recommended that you start by reading the first two sections of this book.
Then, in the second two sections, you can go directly to the specific chapters that
apply to your child’s health needs.
The first chapters of the book explore the causes of digestive illness that are
related to the American lifestyle. Then we take a trip through the digestive tract,
where we find a beautifully orchestrated system of integrated harmony. We look at
the microbes that populate our internal world, and at the effects we feel when they
are out of balance. We move on to discuss dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome,
which often underlie digestive illness and many other health problems. These
chapters provide the groundwork to really understand the causes and effects of
poor lifestyle choices and medical therapies on your child.
Then we focus on health improvement and problem solving, with information
and practical tips on how to develop a wellness lifestyle. The biological
approach is based on the concept of “biochemical individuality”; just as each of
us has a unique face, body, and personality, so too do we each have a unique biochemistry
and unique needs. One child’s need for a specific nutrient can be thirtyfold
higher or lower than another’s. When it comes to food, one person’s
pleasure is another’s poison. Although you may believe that it’s important to eat
certain foods like bread, eggs, meat, milk, oranges, and tomatoes, these may or
may not be healthful for your child (or for you). It depends on how well that specific
person can use them.
The last two sections of the book discuss strategies for dealing with digestive
and digestion-related health problems, including information about the latest
research on nutritional and herbal therapies. Certain digestive issues characteristically
occur at various stages of childhood, from infancy through the teen years.
Other health issues like arthritic conditions, migraine headaches, and skin problems
may actually be the consequence of faulty digestion. The goal is to help your
child’s body reach its own natural balance, which will allow it to heal. Day in and
day out, cell by cell, the body continually replenishes itself. With the correct balance
of nutrients and activity, your child can become healthier and more resilient
The book contains some exercises and questionnaires designed to help you
shop and cook more wisely, and to increase your awareness of your child’s body
and mind so you can help him/her breathe more deeply, relax more fully, and
live more freely. Finally, the Resources section lists professional organizations
that can refer you to nutritionally oriented physicians and health professionals,
and the Appendices provide detailed information on laboratory tests and natural
Functional medicine, which is concerned with early intervention in health
problems and improving the chances of a return to full health, is an integral part of
the biological approach. Much of the information in the field of functional medicine
is new, and most physicians will be unfamiliar with many of the laboratory
tests recommended herein. Take this book to your pediatrician’s office, and ask
the doctor to work with you in this new way.
Although we may not be aware of it, we all practice medical self-care. When
we get a headache, we take an aspirin or go for a walk. If we have indigestion, we
take an antacid or drink ginger tea. We know when we’re too sick to go to work.
Most of the time, we make our own assessment and treatment plan, expecting that
the problem will pass with time; when these plans fail, we seek professional help.
This book will expose you to new plans, ideas, and tools so you can be your own
family’s health expert. Just as one tool won’t work for every job, not all of these
tools will work for you, but some will, and even your failures may yield information
that you can apply toward the goal of your child’s best health.
An Overview of
Children’s Health Issues
Our Kids: Overfed
It’s appalling that here in this land of plenty, with access to a wide variety
of foods, that we still have a significant proportion of the population
selecting foods that lead to inadequate intakes of critical nutrients.
—JANET KING, CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL OAKLAND RESEARCH INSTITUTE,
CHAIRPERSON OF DIETARY GUIDELINES, SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Grocery store shelves are filled with high-profit, tasty foods that ultimately
make us sick. Packaged foods can be healthful, or not; there are some highquality
packaged foods, but the vast majority are stripped of most nutrients
and loaded with antinutrient chemicals. Fresh is always best—and yet despite the
abundance of fresh produce available to us all year, we turn to frozen vegetables
and canned fruits. We eat microwaved and/or genetically modified foods. We feed
our children processed Lunchables because it’s convenient. The producers of all of
these “foods” reap the profits, while our overall health as a nation declines.
THE NEW “NORMAL”
Our culture offers an enormous amount of choice and options—but much of what
we consider “normal” is killing us. We think it’s normal to eat packaged foods on
the run or to skip meals entirely, to immunize our children with chemical-laden
vaccines, to stare at computer screens all day, to eat dinner in front of the television,
and to drive around a parking lot looking for the “perfect space” rather than
walking half a block. We think it’s normal for our kids to spend their days hooked
into an electronic lifestyle and snacking on sweets and junk foods.
We are, essentially, three or four generations into an enormous, uncontrolled
experiment, and we are already seeing the problems that can result. The air we
breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat, the cleaning products we use, and
the personal-care products we use expose us to chemicals that simply weren’t pres-
ent in our environment a hundred years ago. Each day, for example, the average
person is exposed to over 100 different chemicals. If we get enough antioxidants
(substances like vitamins C and E that protect cells against oxidative damage) from
our foods, we can easily slough off most chemical toxins. But what happens when
we eat poorly or are exposed to more chemicals than our bodies can handle? What
will occur as generation after generation of Americans grows up on highly
processed, nutrient-depleted foods that are filled with pesticide residues, colorings,
man-made fats, and fake sugars?
The purpose of this chapter is to look at some of what our culture overlooks as
normal and to confront some of the lifestyle challenges that we face as parents today.
Our children’s world is vastly different from when we were children. If we simply
accept the normal, we will surely do ourselves and our families a huge disservice.
MODERN-DAY EATING: TOO MUCH, AND YET TOO LITTLE
We are the most overfed and undernourished people in the world. Nearly half of
our daily caloric intake comes from high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods. Although
current studies report that we are consuming more nutrients than ever before, this
is due to an alarming increase in our total daily calories. And it is clear that not
only what we eat but also the way we eat has changed—for the worse. We often
eat the same way we put gas in our cars: stop, fuel, and go. Forty-five percent of
our meals are eaten away from home (that’s up from 39 percent in 1980). Many of
us skip breakfast, and others skip both breakfast and lunch.
The Standard American Diet Is “SAD”
Even if you are trying to feed your children well, foods just aren’t what they used
to be. According to the food tables published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) over the past fifty years, we’ve lost half of the calcium in broccoli, 88
percent of the iron in watercress, and 40 percent of the vitamin C in cauliflower.
Partly because of such nutritional changes in food and mainly due to poor food
choices, we are eating more calories but not getting the nutrients we need. Today,
20 percent of women and children do not meet the recommended daily allowances
for vitamin E and zinc. A study of high-school runners found that 45 percent of
girls and 17 percent of boys were deficient in iron; 31 percent of female college
athletes were also found to be iron-deficient.
The average American gets 18.6 percent of his/her calories each day from
sugar, 21.4 percent from fats and oils, and 5 percent from sweetened soft drinks,
versus only 4.5 percent from vegetables and 3 percent from fruits. It’s worse for
the average teenager, who gets 20 percent of his/her daily calories from refined
sugar: an average of 34 teaspoons (544 calories) for boys and 24 teaspoons (384
calories) for girls. Such calories are called “empty calories” because their utilization
by the body requires magnesium, B-complex vitamins, and chromium—all
essential to energy production, bone health, nerve and muscle functions, and mood
regulation—but the refined sugar itself contains none of these nutrients.
In the 1950s, Coca-Cola sold only a 6.5-ounce bottle, but today, some stores
market a 64-ounce, 600-calorie version! Soft drinks are our biggest dietary source
of refined sugar, accounting for about a third of our sugar intake. We’re now consuming
twice as many soft drinks as in 1974, and children consume a disproportionate
amount; they drink more soft drinks than fruit juice by the age of five
years, and more soft drinks than milk, fruit juices, or fruit drinks by the age of
The teen years are a prime time to build bone and help prevent future osteoporosis.
Instead, teenagers put themselves at greater risk of broken bones because
soft drinks deplete bones of strengthening minerals without contributing any. A
boy aged twelve to nineteen years drinks an average of 24 ounces of soda per day
(that’s 868 cans per year), and a girl in that age range drinks 18 ounces daily (651
cans annually). Unfortunately, girls get only about 60 percent of their recommended
calcium on average, and girls who drink soft drinks get only about 48 percent.
Calcium is critical to healthy bones, teeth, and proper nerve, brain, and
muscle function. We also use it in nearly every cell in the body.
The Real Cost of Eating Out
Now that we’re eating on the run and on the road, our “food dollar” has much
more to do with convenience and taste temptation than with nutritional value:
• In 1997, almost half of all money spent on food was for food and drinks outside
• Also in 1997, one-third of our food dollars was spent on fast foods.
• Older children eat a higher percentage of meals away from home (26 percent)
than preschoolers do (18 percent).
• Restaurant and fast-food consumption in children increased nearly 300 percent
between 1977 and 1996.
• Children who drink soft drinks take in an average of 188 more calories per day
than children who drink other types of drinks.
• In 1977–1978, we ate 18 percent of our total calories from food prepared
outside of the home. By 1996, this had increased to 32 percent.
• Compared to home-cooked meals, meals prepared outside the home were
higher in calories and fat, yet lower in fiber, calcium, and iron.
What Do We Eat per Person per Year?
These USDA statistics on what we ate in 2001 might surprise you!
• 142 pounds of caloric sweeteners (nearly 6.3 ounces per day): cane and beet sugar
consumption was down to a mere 61 pounds, consumption of hidden corn sweeteners
rose substantially to 79.2 pounds per person, and we each ate 0.3 pounds of
syrups and 1.1 pounds of honey (percentage-wise, children eat more sweeteners
than adults do)
• 24.3 gallons (388.8 cups) of coffee
• 87.9 pounds of added fats and oils, including 32.5 pounds of hydrogenated
• 26.7 quarts of ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and ice-milk
• 25.1 gallons of alcohol: beer 21.6, wine 2.2, distilled liquor 1.3
• 46.4 gallons of carbonated soft drinks: diet soda 11.1, caloric soft drinks 35.3
• 4.2 pounds of potato chips
• 22 pounds of candy
• 38 donuts
—source: Economic Research Service, USDA,
Food Consumption Data 2001,
• Only 34 percent of dinner entrées are completely “homemade,” and nearly 7
percent of those are sandwiches.
• The average American purchased carry-out meals 118 times in 2002.
• Americans get a full quarter of their vegetables from eating potato chips or
• Fast-food chains and restaurants have “supersized” foods so we eat more and
spend more, and they have higher profits. (Rent the movie Supersize Me!)
• We spend $110 billion on fast foods today, in comparison to $6 billion in 1970.
Given the facts above, it is perhaps not surprising that 16 percent of children
aged six to eleven years, and 14 percent of teenagers, are overweight or obese—
rates that have tripled in the past twenty years. Our thinness-oriented culture, however,
encourages our young people to combat this excess weight with a variety of
methods. When surveyed, 43 percent of students reported trying to lose weight,
most through exercise, and many combining exercise with eating less food or less
fat, which are all healthful ways to shed unwanted pounds. But 13 percent of the
students who had tried to lose weight said that they fasted for twenty-four hours or
more; 8 percent said they took diet pills, powders, or liquids; and 7 percent of girls
and 2 percent of boys reported using laxatives or vomiting to assist with weight
loss. Obviously, we have a serious problem here!
THE WILL TO CHANGE
Our physical bodies are composed of the foods we eat, and if we don’t get the
nutrients we need, our bodies first begin to show the deficiencies as irritability,
lack of attention, and other mood changes. Is it a coincidence, then, that 20 percent
of our children have learning and behavior problems?
It’s time to focus on health rather than convenience and to develop better
habits. Instead of asking, “Does this look and taste good?” we should ask, “Is this
healthful, will it contribute to my biochemical balance and help me feel better, and
will it taste good?” We need to exercise regularly and think positive thoughts. We
need to relax by ourselves and with friends. We need to create balance in our lives.
And we need to impart this lifestyle to our children by modeling healthful behavior
Take breakfast, for example: Studies show that eating breakfast enhances
school-aged children’s ability to learn and behave in a classroom setting, and that’s
why many public schools offer breakfast to students. Although school breakfast
and lunch programs may not offer the most exciting foods, children who partake
of them have higher nutrient status than children who don’t. Small, frequent meals
keep children’s energy levels even and their minds alert. Snacking also reduces
the incidence of children’s tantrums!
Think of the body as a woodstove: You light the stove in the morning so it will
warm the house while you work; throughout the day, you put in small amounts of
wood; and at night, you fuel the stove and then let it die down before you go to
sleep. Similarly, if we give our children small meals and nutritious snacks
throughout the day, they are utilized and burned efficiently. Although we eat primarily
to nourish our bodies, we mustn’t forget that meals are also a time for
relaxation, rest, and renewal. Numerous studies show that we digest food better if
we are relaxed, and many people seem to know this intuitively, as indicated by the
global customs of saying grace or taking a couple of moments to “center ourselves”
before a meal.
Chemicals and Convenience:
Consumer Be Aware!
Today, not a single child is born free of synthetic chemicals.
—BILL MOYERS, PBS DOCUMENTARY TRADE SECRETS
Research now confirms what many parents and teachers have long
suspected: that some children experience behavior, learning, or
respiratory problems when they eat foods containing petroleum-based
additives like dyes, synthetic flavorings, and certain preservatives.
—JANE HERSEY, DIRECTOR, FEINGOLD ASSOCIATION
Eighty-nine (89) percent of 10,500 ingredients used in personal-care
products have not been evaluated for safety by the CIR, the FDA,
nor any other publicly accountable institution.
—COSMETIC INGREDIENT REVIEW PANEL, FDA OFFICE OF COSMETICS AND COLORS
Thousands of years ago, nomadic people foraged and hunted for food. When
populations increased, farming and animal husbandry enabled more people to
be fed with regularity. Foods were grown nearby and eaten fresh and primarily
in season. Nowadays, however, a global economy supplies our food, and it seems
perfectly normal to buy Granny Smith apples imported from New Zealand, apricots
from Turkey, salmon from Norway, and mineral water and wine from France. We
have grown accustomed to nectarines in winter and oranges in summer.
Are foods shipped from far away just as nutritious as foods grown locally? A
ripe, juicy tomato from your backyard has about the same measurable nutritional
value as those pale hothouse tomatoes sold in winter. But even though these foods
share some of the same scientific measurements, our intuitive measurement tells
us they are different in some important ways. This chapter will give you a “heads
up” on what lurks in your foods and personal-care items. You’ll also get some
insight into microwaved, irradiated, and genetically modified foods.
FOOD ADDITIVES—AND SUBTRACTIONS
Americans love the convenience of frozen foods—but most frozen foods contain
additives that make them less perishable. Aseptic packaging to lengthen food’s
shelf-life kills much of the bacteria that cause spoilage and food poisoning—but
simultaneously kills the beneficial bacteria that actually help maintain our health.
Today’s food production, transportation, and processing methods destroy or
extract valuable nutrients, add preservatives and other chemicals, and even change
the very genetic makeup of foods to “enhance” them.
Preservatives and Other Problems
From earliest times, meats and other foods were salted and “cured” to preserve
them. Later, foods were jarred and canned with sugar, salt, and vinegar to keep
them from perishing. Pickling foods like cabbages and cucumbers is a way to preserve
them while retaining their original character and much of their nutrient
value; pickling actually adds enzymes and beneficial bacteria that support health.
But because so much of today’s food is shipped from afar and packaged to last
months or years, chemicals are added to stabilize and preserve it. In the United
States alone, more than 3,000 food additives (dyes, artificial flavorings, dough
conditioners, texturing agents, anticaking agents, and so on) are used to extend
shelf-life and enhance flavor, appearance, and consistency. The average American
eats an alarming 14 pounds of additives each year!
It is well documented that a class of common preservatives called sulfites
causes asthma and respiratory problems in certain individuals. (Author’s note:
Current research indicates that only a tiny percentage of the population is sensitive
to preservatives and other food additives, but in my practice as a clinical nutritionist,
I have seen many people with these sensitivities. One fifteen-year-old told me
that eating a single drop of food coloring would put her in anaphylactic shock, a
severe, possibly life-threatening allergic reaction, within ten minutes. Another client
can no longer eat in restaurants because of her severe reactions to monosodium
Children consume more of these potentially harmful substances per body
weight than adults do. Ben Feingold, M.D., a pioneer in the field of food sensitivity
and child behavior, found that many food additives caused significant behavior
and learning problems. The long-term effects of additives on developing children
are of special concern—but no one really knows what those effects are. And
although additives have been tested singly, they have never been tested in combi-
nations, so we have no idea of their synergistic effects either. (Author’s note: This
ongoing dietary experiment reminds me of my favorite experiment with a childhood
chemistry set; I used to mix two chemicals together and then watch the testtube
“Just Like Sugar”
Splenda, also called sucralose, is one of our newest eating experiments. This
sweetener is manufactured from real but nutritionally depleted sugar through a
five-step process in which three hydroxyl groups in each molecule are replaced by
People who use Splenda are starting to report allergic reactions such as hives; others
say eating the sweetener causes them to be overly emotional and display symptoms
of mental illness. Recently, I saw a client who began having intense stomach
pains right after she began using Splenda. Consider the following list of possible
symptoms resulting from Splenda consumption, adapted from Dr. Joseph Mercola's
website at www.mercola.com:
• Flushing, redness, and/or burning
feeling of the skin
• Rash and/or itching
• Blisters or welts
• Stomach cramps
• Dry heaves
• Feelings of food poisoning
• Bloated abdomen
• Pain (body, chest)
• Seeing spots
• Dulled senses
• Becoming withdrawn and/or losing
interest in usual activities
• Feeling forgetful
• Unexplained crying
• Feeling depressed
• Altered emotional state such as feeling irate, impatient, hypersensitive
• Trouble concentrating/staying in focus
• Feeling faint
• A panicky or shaky feeling
• Panic attacks
• Mental or emotional breakdown
three chlorine atoms, converting the sugar (which, by the way, never had any chlorine
in it before) to a chemical called 1,6-dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-BETA-D-fructofuranosyl-
4-chloro-4-deoxy-alpha-D-galactopyranoside. This chemical is 600 times
sweeter than sugar by weight.
Marketers, focusing on the fact that we eat too much sugar and running with
the current low-carbohydrate craze, advertise Splenda as “just like sugar but without
the calories,” and the sweetener has already found its way into hundreds of
food products. In response to consumer interest, General Mills is creating lowsugar
versions of its three most popular cereals by reducing the amount of sugar
by 75 percent and replacing it with small amounts of Splenda. This will potentially
affect a huge number of children.
We want to believe that this chemical will let us eat our cake (or cereal) and
still be thin, but we are letting ourselves be duped, as no scientific findings indicate
that Splenda will help us lose weight or be healthier in any way. Surely
long-term research has shown it to be harmless? No: there have been few studies
at all, none in children, and no long-term studies in humans—except for the one
we are now conducting by eating it! (See the inset “Splenda Symptoms?” on
WAVES OF THE FUTURE
Modern food processing and preparation seriously deplete the average American
diet of many nutrients. In making white flour from whole-wheat kernels, twentytwo
vitamins and minerals are removed; when the bran and germ go, so do 98 percent
of the vitamin B6, 91 percent of the manganese, 84 percent of the magnesium,
and 87 percent of the fiber. In making breakfast cereals (even many health-food
brands) by extruding a slurry of grains through nozzles to create shapes, the high
temperatures and pressures destroy vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fats. And
now that 90 percent of American homes have a microwave oven, even the health
benefits of a home-cooked meal are suspect.
Microwaving has spread like brushfire over the last two decades. Despite the
apparent public consensus that microwaving is safe, not much scientific literature
has clarified either its safety or its danger. In 1991, Hans Ulrich Hertel and
Bernard Blanc of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology studied some of the
effects of microwave usage by giving eight people specific foods that were prepared
raw, cooked in a conventional oven, or cooked in a microwave oven. The
researchers reported that microwave cooking lowered hemoglobin levels and cholesterol
levels while elevating white blood cell counts. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to our cells,
so low levels indicate anemia and fatigue. A rise in white blood cells
indicates that the body’s immune system is gearing up to defend against a challenge,
most typically an infection. (Author’s note: A current client of mine who
has used microwave cooking exclusively for the past thirty years also has low
hemoglobin and elevated white blood cell levels.)
The researchers also found structural changes in the microwaved food that
were not seen in the conventionally cooked food. Dr. Hertel stated,
"There is extensive scientific literature concerning the hazardous effects of
direct microwave radiation on living systems. It is astonishing, therefore, to
realize how little effort has been taken to replace this detrimental technique
of microwaves with technology more in accordance with nature. Technically
produced microwaves are based on the principle of alternating current.
Atoms, molecules, and cells hit by this hard electromagnetic radiation are
forced to reverse polarity 1–100 billion times a second. There are no atoms,
molecules, or cells of any organic system able to withstand such a violent,
destructive power for any extended period of time, not even in the low
energy range of milliwatts."
Another study showed that when breast milk was microwaved to 98.6ºF, almost
all its protective antibodies and lysozymes were destroyed and its vitamin C level
was reduced. But a different study reported that if breast milk was heated to only
140ºF, there was no damage to its vitamin B1, vitamin E, or essential fatty acids.
Microwaving is too recent an innovation for us to know what the long-term effects are.
One Child's Journey into Health
At a conference many years ago, I heard a naturopathic physician speak about a
child who would not eat and was nearing starvation. After questioning the parents in
detail, the doctor discovered that all of the child's formula and cooked food had been
heated in a microwave oven; that a computer was left running in each room of the
home twenty-four hours a day; and that the child watched a great deal of television.
The doctor believed that the child's difficulties may have been due to electromagnetic
disruption. Within twenty minutes of being given a dose of a single homeopathic
remedy, the child said he was hungry. The doctor instructed the parents to
turn off computers and TV sets unless they were being used, and to cook all of their
son's foods conventionally. With these simple changes, the child flourished.
Given the possible health concerns, does it really take that much longer to
cook in a conventional oven or on the stovetop?
Another questionable modern technology used on our food supply is irradiation.
Irradiation is a clever way of utilizing nuclear waste materials to keep food fresh
longer and reduce the risk of food poisoning. It kills all bacteria (like Salmonella,
a major problem in poultry, meat, and egg production) and leaves no radiation in
the food itself, but the process may destroy more than we want it to; irradiated
milk, for example, loses 70 percent of its vitamin A, thiamin, and riboflavin.
Irradiated foods contain molecules found nowhere in nature. The U.S. Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) groups these “radiolytic by-products” in two categories:
“known radiolytic products” such as formaldehyde and benzene, which
are proven carcinogens, and “unique radiolytic products,” which are new molecules
that haven’t been characterized. What’s frightening is that no one knows the long-term
effects of these “unique” molecules on our health. Studies in the 1950s, however, showed
that animals eating irradiated foods had a wide
variety of health problems including premature death, reproductive dysfunction, a rare
form of cancer, chromosomal abnormalities, liver damage, low weight gain, and vitamin deficiencies.
The FDA has approved irradiation for use in beef, pork, chicken, other poultry, eggs in the shell,
fruits and vegetables, wheat, wheat flour, juice, spices, dried-vegetable seasonings, and sprouting seeds.
Seventy-five percent of our beef producers and 50 percent of our poultry producers have signed agreements
to use this technology. Due to lingering health and safety concerns, however, the European Parliament
limits the use of food irradiation to spices, dried herbs, and seasonings. Many researchers are opposed
to such massive experimentation done at our risk, and worry about all the environmental problems associated with
handling radioactive materials at small irradiating facilities throughout the country.
Irradiated foods are labeled as such only when sold to the first buyer. The standard
wording is “treated with radiation,” “treated with irradiation,” or “electronically
pasteurized” and is allowed to be as small as the other smallest labeling on the
package. Consumers are supposed to see irradiation labeling, if applicable, on the
• Plant foods sold in whole form in a package (for example, a label on a bag of
beans or oranges)
• Fresh, whole fruits and vegetables (a label on a fruit or vegetable, box, or display)
• Whole meat and poultry in a package (a label on a package of chicken breasts)
• Unpackaged meat and poultry (a label on the butcher’s display)
• Irradiated meat and poultry that are part of another packaged food (a label on
a frozen chicken pot-pie showing that it contains irradiated chicken)
You won’t see any such labeling, however, when irradiated ingredients are
provided at salad bars or deli counters; served in school lunches, restaurants, hospitals,
or nursing homes; or used in processed foods like soups or applesauce.
There is also no labeling on irradiated spices or seeds. Whole cases of irradiated
fruits and vegetables are marked with a symbol on the crates (see Figure 2.1), but
consumers typically see only the unpacked contents.
For more than a hundred years, most of our produce has been hybridized, meaning
that two or more varieties of a particular plant have been cross-pollinated to create
a new variety. Many hybridized foods often look or taste better than their “old”
counterparts, but their nutritional value is often sacrificed for ease of transportation
or resistance to pests, drought, heat, or cold. Corn, for instance, contains 14
percent less protein now than it did forty years ago. Today’s technologists are taking
hybridization a step further by splicing genes into dozens of foods to make
foods bigger, sweeter, juicier, longer lasting, and more plentiful. Most of us eat
genetically modified foods (GMFs)—also called genetically engineered (GE)
foods—on a regular basis, and yet many people are completely unaware of the
issues involved in their creation.
Agricultural genetic engineering generally involves changes to seeds. Many soy
and corn varieties, for example, have been modified to be resistant to an herbicide
called Round-Up so that a field can be sprayed with the herbicide and only the
weeds, not the crop, will be killed. Other varieties have been given genes from the
soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which makes the resulting “Bt” plant resistant
to insects that go through a larval stage. Proponents of this biotechnology assert that
it will reduce pesticide and herbicide use, make crops more resistant to frost damage and
drought, increase food’s nutritional value, and even help clean up environmental
contaminants. Opposition, however, is based on the fact that little long-term testing
has been performed on GMFs prior to their release into the food supply.
Although the outcry against GMFs has been large in Europe, Americans have
been relatively quiet. Japan, the European Union, Russia, and many other countries
require the labeling of GMFs. The FDA has refused thus far to require labeling
of GMFs in the United States. In fact, up to 60 percent of the foods now on our
supermarket shelves contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Many
processed foods contain soy derivatives, corn syrup, or cornstarch, and if you eat
foods containing soy or corn that has not been organically grown, you are probably
consuming GMF products. This includes any food that contains corn syrup,
soy oil, soy protein, tofu, corn chips, popcorn, tortillas, and more.
Despite some consumer protest, farming of genetically modified crops is increasing
steadily in the United States:
• Soybean acreage was 17 percent GM in 1997, 68 percent by 2001, and 80
percent in 2003.
• Bt corn (introduced in 1996) was 8 percent of corn acreage in 1997, 26 percent
in 1998, down to 19 percent in 2001, and then up to 30 percent by 2003.
• 10 percent of cotton was herbicide-resistant in 1997 versus 56 percent in 2001.
Because genetically engineered crops were first developed in the mid-1990s,
their long-term costs and environmental consequences are yet to be determined. In
an initial study of such issues, researchers at Cornell University dusted Bt corn
pollen onto the leaves of milkweed plants, which are the sole food for the caterpillar
stage of the endangered monarch butterfly. Nearly half of the monarch caterpillars
that fed on those leaves died, and the remainder grew to only half their normal
size. What other animal species may also be affected by genetically altered plants?
Suffice it to say that more testing must be done before we can know the long-term
effects that these crops may have on the environment—or, for that matter, on our
Exposure to environmental toxins is a serious public health issue. According to
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 50,000 synthetic chemicals are
dispersed into our environment, many of which are known to disrupt the normal
functions of our body’s systems. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects
of these chemicals, beginning in utero
, when fat-soluble metals and other toxins
are pulled from the mother’s body to the baby’s during pregnancy. The Environ-
mental Working Group and the Red Cross examined umbilical cords from ten
newborns. They identified 287 industrial chemicals with an average of 200 per
umbilical cord. Compared to adults, children breathe more air, drink more water,
and eat more food for their relative weight, and may also be less capable of
eliminating some toxins; for example, children absorb about half of the lead they
ingest, whereas adults absorb only one-tenth. Children also play close to the ground
and have hand-to-mouth activity that increases their exposure to toxins.
Before Food Is Food
Farmers used to grow many different foods, rotate their crops, and use “natural”
fertilizers. Today, most food grown in America comes from corporate agrifarms
that produce monocrops, and our soils are being depleted as a result. Chemical
fertilizers add only the nutrients necessary for healthy plants, not nutrient-rich
foods. Worse, chemical pesticides can damage our nervous and immune systems
and are especially harmful to children, who are exposed to more pesticide per unit
of weight than adults are. Nearly three-quarters of the produce consumed by small
children contains pesticide residue.
In 2003, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) looked at 116 chemicals
in the blood of ordinary citizens. Of the thirty-four pesticides tested, the average
person had thirteen in his/her bloodstream, and blood levels of chlorpyrifos (an
organophosphate pesticide banned for residential use in 2001 because of its negative
effects) were found to be twice as high in children as in adults. The CDC
report showed that children and women of child-bearing age carried the heaviest
pesticide burdens—which is alarming, because pesticide exposure in the womb
and during the first three years of postnatal life has been found to lower birth
weight, increase the incidence of birth defects, and hinder normal neurological
development and reproduction.
In 1993–1997, pesticide residues were found on 19 to 24 percent of all produce.
Pesticide residues on imported foods have increased in the last decade, and we
currently import many foods grown with DDT and other pesticides that have been
banned for use in the United States. As of January 2006, however, all imported foods
are required to meet current United States standards for allowable pesticide types
and residue level. And fortunately, organic farming and integrated pest management
(combining natural insect-control methods to reduce the use of pesticides) are
An emerging concern is second-hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke
(ETS), which is the smoke that drifts into a room from a cigarette plus the exhaled
smoke from a smoker. About a quarter of American adults smoke, half to a third
of all children under the age of five years live in a household with a smoker,
and children who live with smokers have more respiratory problems and more
health problems in general. A 1992 study by the EPA reported that ETS causes
150,000–300,000 respiratory tract infections in infants and toddlers under the age
of 18 months, resulting in as many as 15,000 hospitalizations. Children with
asthma are especially at risk from ETS. ETS affects between 200,000 and 1 million
asthmatic children each year.
Your child’s risk of hospitalization from your smoke doubles with just half a
pack a day. Mothers who smoke during pregnancy run a greater risk of having
children with hyperactivity and/or lower intelligence. And of the over 4,000 chemicals
that have been found in cigarette smoke, at least forty-three of them are
known to cause cancer.
Cotinine, an easily measured metabolite of nicotine, is used to determine the
health risks of people who are around smoke. High cotinine levels, which correlate
with cancer risk, are commonly found in nonsmokers. Between CDC statistics
gathered in 1991–1994 and 1999–2000, cotinine levels decreased by 58 percent
for children and 55 percent for teenagers, indicating that children’s exposure to
cigarette smoke was dropping, but cotinine levels were still found to be twice as
high in children as in adults. So if you smoke, it’s not just your own health that you
affect, but also the lifelong health of your children and other family members.
A child’s nervous system begins forming long before birth, as embryonic neurons
branch out and make the connections that transport information to and from the
brain and body. The more branches and connections made, the larger the brain will
be. The neural pathways formed in your child’s first three years of life are the basis
for his/her ability to learn and develop; during this time, exposure to heavy metals
can have significant, detrimental consequences.
Lead is toxic even at extremely low levels. There is no known biological use for
the element in the human body and no known safe level of lead in children. Early
lead exposure is associated with cognitive deficits that persist into adolescence and
adulthood; one study, for example, demonstrated that high-school students with
high lead levels in early childhood had a sevenfold increase in failure to graduate.
High levels of lead have also been found in children with autism, attention deficit
disorders, and learning problems. High lead levels, whether in childhood or adult-
hood, can translate into problems with thinking and behavior later in life, and in
extreme cases can correlate with criminal problems.
A major effort has been made in the United States since the 1970s to reduce
lead in the environment. In 1991, former U.S. Secretary of the Department of
Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan declared lead poisoning to be the most
serious environmental disease of North American children. A recent CDC report
shows that the number of American children with lead levels above 10 parts per
million dropped from 4.4 percent in 1991–1994 to 2.2 percent in 1999–2000. This
great improvement is due to an active public health campaign to remove lead from
gasoline, paint, and other products, but lead toxicity continues to be a huge problem
in America and worldwide.
The exposure of children to mercury during pregnancy and breast-feeding and
from fish, vaccinations, dental amalgams, and coal-powered fuel plants is of grave
concern for neurological development. Mercury readily passes through the placenta
to the fetus. In one study, mothers measured for mercury prior to pregnancy
and after birth showed decreased mercury levels because the babies’ bodies pulled
mercury from the moms’ during pregnancy, and the newborns showed higher mercury
levels than the mothers did. Even at low levels of exposure in the womb, the
effects of mercury on the fetal brain and nervous system can lead to later problems
with memory, attention, language, and other skills.
Through regular vaccinations, our infants and children take in potentially
toxic doses of mercury from the vaccine preservative thimerosol, which is 49 percent
ethylmercury by weight. The number of recommended immunizations rose
significantly in 1989, and until recently a typical child received a cumulative total
of 237.5 milligrams of mercury from standard vaccinations. Parental outcry has
resulted in the removal of thimerosol from many current vaccines, but not all.
Although most children are able to rid their bodies of this toxin, at least 15 percent
of children have poor detoxification capabilities. A controversial but growing body
of evidence links increasing levels of mercury in immunizations to outcomes
including autism, developmental delays, and other learning disabilities (visit the
website www.vaccinesafety.edu/thi-table.htm). Immunization is of great personal
and public benefit, but be sure to ask your physician to use only vaccines that do
not contain thimerosol.
In 2001, the National Wildlife Federation documented that concentrations of
mercury in New England rainfall were up to four times the safety limit established
by the EPA. Sixty-three percent of this mercury comes from coal-fired power
plants and from incinerated mercury-containing products. Each year, approxi-
mately 160 tons of mercury is released into the atmosphere over the United States,
with only about fifty tons collected by “scrubbers.” And China may seem far away,
but its mercury emissions of about 1,000 tons per year drift and fall on our waters
and land. Mercury from these sources pollutes our water, air, and land, and ultimately
our food supply.
Fish consumption is the most common source of mercury exposure in the general
population. Mercury from food is 90 percent absorbed and deposited into our
tissues, with the highest concentrations residing in our kidneys, liver, red blood
cells, bile, brains, testes, and nervous systems. The FDA and EPA advise pregnant,
potentially pregnant, and lactating women, as well as children under the age of
five years, not to eat swordfish, shark, king mackerel, or tilefish, and to limit
intake of albacore tuna to once weekly. They also advise a 12-ounce weekly limit
on intake of low-mercury fish such as light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
Although I’m no longer of childbearing age, I follow the same recommendations
to be on the safe side.
PERSONAL-CARE AND HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
Personal-care items can be a source of many “hidden” chemicals and allergens. A
2004 report from a nongovernmental “watchdog” called the Environmental Working
Group (EWG) states that 99.6 percent of the 7,500 products analyzed contained
one or more ingredients never studied for safety by the Cosmetics
Ingredient Review (CIR, the cosmetic industry’s self-regulating panel): “One of
every 120 products on the market contains ingredients certified by government
authorities as known or probable human carcinogens, including shampoos, lotions,
make-up foundations, and lip balms manufactured by Almay, Neutrogena, Grecian
Formula, and others. An astonishing one-third of all products contain one or
more ingredients classified as possible human carcinogens.”
What Lurks in Your Toiletries and Household Cleaning Products?
It’s important to consider what’s in your house-cleaning products as well. An
innocuous dishwashing detergent usually contains several dangerous chemicals such
as naptha (a central nervous system depressant), diethanolamine (a possible liver
poison), and chlorophenylphenol (considered a toxin). And this is only one of many
household items! Just think: air freshener, window cleaner, scouring powder, bleach,
laundry detergent, all-purpose spray cleaner, toilet cleaner, oven cleaner, tub and tile
cleaner, furniture polish.... Luckily, many cleaning products without these harsh
chemicals can be found at health food stores and even in regular supermarkets.
As consumers, we naively assume that somewhere, some regulatory agency is
looking out for our best interests, but apparently that isn’t always the case; of the
75,000 chemicals registered with the EPA, only a fraction has undergone complete
testing to determine its potential contribution to health problems. As with environmental
toxins, children are more susceptible than adults are to the negative effects
of household chemicals. Please take the time to examine the products you use in
your home. For information on ingredients in common toiletries and cleaning
products, visit the EWG’s website at www.ewg.org/reports/skindeep.
What's in Baby Shampoo?|
The other day, a mom proudly told me that she uses Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo
on her baby every night. She probably feels safe using such a prominent product—
but the EWG has identified several “red flags” among the shampoo's ingredients:
• Five ingredients (acrylates copolymer, cocamidopropyl betaine, PEG-14M, PEG-80
sorbitan laurate, and quaternium-15) may contain harmful impurities linked to
cancer or other health problems.
• Two ingredients (PEG-14M and PEG-80 sorbitan laurate) may contain impurities
linked to breast cancer.
• One ingredient (tetrasodium EDTA) may increase exposures to carcinogens and
other ingredients of concern.
• One ingredient (fragrance) is an allergen.
• Nine ingredients (sodium hydroxide, glycerin, fragrance, sodium trideceth sulfate, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, hydrolyzed silk, PEG 150 distearate, and amodimethicone) are unstudied for use by the CIR or have insufficient data.
Using Johnson & Johnson's Baby Shampoo probably won't harm your baby,
but how can you know the cumulative effect of all the chemicals and cosmetics in
your home? On the other hand, the ingredients of Tom's Baby Shampoo, a more natural
product, are all foods or found in foods, and the possibility that these ingredients
may be harmful is slim:
• One ingredient (fragrance) is an allergen.
• Six ingredients (fragrance, chamomile extract, citric acid, herbal tea [chamomile],
glycerin [vegetable], and cocobetaine [coconut oil]) are unstudied or have insufficient
The Hygiene Hypothesis: Too Clean!
Marketers make us believe that adding protective antibacterial substances to
sponges, cleansers, soaps, and other personal-care and home-care products makes
us safer. But many scientists believe that constant exposure to microbes in infancy
and early childhood contributes to the health and responsiveness of the adult
immune system. The hygiene hypothesis, a theory that our environment is actually
too clean, suggests that our culture doesn’t sufficiently challenge our immune system.
We have improved sanitation, low bacterial availability in food, fewer childhood
infections, increased use of antibiotics, and routine vaccinations. Children
who have little challenge by microbes may be at increased risk for developing
ongoing conditions such as allergies, eczema, and asthma.
OUR FOOD HAS CHANGED
The life in food gives us life. Once a plant is picked or an animal killed, a grain
split or milk homogenized, it begins to lose its enzymatic activity. Transporting
foods over long distances diminishes their life-giving capacity. Canned, frozen,
and packaged foods often contain adequate nutrients, but we know instinctively
that these foods are different from fresh or homemade foods. In fact, processed
foods are enzyme-deficient; they don’t contain the enzymes that are critical aids in
digestion and metabolism. Fresh fruits, vegetables, local fish and game, grains,
beans, nuts, and seeds give us these essential enzymes. A body that doesn’t have to
work overtime making enzymes has more energy for other processes.
Whole foods are in balance with themselves and with nature. When we eat
them, we benefit from their balance. Later chapters in this book will show you
how to bring the health-supporting benefits of whole foods to your family.
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