Contributor: Jessica Hutchins, MD
Childhood disease is rising at an alarming rate. Autism, ADHD, asthma, recurrent ear infections, allergies and obesity are commonplace in our schools. Current statistics estimate that one to three boys per classroom have ADHD — and this likely is an underestimated because it’s based on kids with a medical diagnosis.
Many factors undoubtedly are responsible for this epidemic. However, what your kids put into their mouths is a contributing factor that you can control.
Yes, change is hard. Yes, there will be power struggles. And yes, as soon as they walk out the door they may choose to eat whatever they want. But one of the keys may be to educate your children to love their bodies and value the nourishing quality of what goes inside. And if you feed children nourishing meals whenever they are in your control, they may be better able to handle the times when they don’t eat healthy with less toxic burden.
To sum up my recommendations: Just eat real food!
Processed foods usually are filled with chemicals and inflammatory fats and very little real nutritional value. You may have heard about chemicals that are allowed in foods in the United States, but banned in other countries. While I’m not saying government interference is the answer, this should make you think, “Why would these ingredients be banned anywhere?”
Food dyes are one of these chemicals allowed in the United States. These artificial dyes definitely have been shown to increase hyperactivity in a subset of children. There are countless case reports in the biomedical autism/ADHD community of behavior improving with removing the dyes.
Phenols are another class of chemicals that seem to affect behavior in a subgroup of kids. They are banned in several countries. Some of these kids have a problem with sulfation, a chemical reaction important in the body. They may feel better limiting the salicylates found in high phenol foods such as apples and grapes.
Most of these kids have difficulty processing the artificial phenols that are in artificial coloring, artificial flavoring and artificial preservatives such as BHT, BHA and TBHQ. These synthetic phenols are derived from coal tar, benzene and petroleum.
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A few other chemicals to look out for include brominated vegetable oil (BVO) and azodicarbonamide.
BVO, found in flame retardants, has been in many sodas and sports drinks for years in the United States, despite companies removing this ingredient for production in other countries where it has been banned for decades.
Just recently, companies have attempted to meet consumer demand for nontoxic ingredients and have been phasing this out of many products. PepsiCo announced in May 2014 that it would discontinue use in all of its drinks. Azodicarbonamide is used as a flour bleacher and dough conditioner. Thanks to public demand, Subway has removed this “yoga mat” chemical from its breads.
Given the lack of any nutritional value and lack of true safety data for these chemicals, what is the harm in demanding better quality nourishment for our kids? We cannot assume that if our government allows these chemicals to be put in our foods that they must be safe.
When we vote with our dollars by choosing to buy products that are sustainably produced and chemical-free, we actively shape the market place.
Help change the way our kids nourish their precious bodies, starting with yourself as an example. Every one of us is so unique and biochemically different, sometimes the best research data to listen to is the testimonial of your own child’s health.
If you need support in making these positive changes for your family, consider enlisting the help of a functional or integrative medicine practitioner to personalize a real food nutrition plan for your child.
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This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.