Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Congratulations! You have decided to go gluten and dairy free. You are committed to eating less sugar. You are trying really hard to cut back on coffee and alcohol. But you are only human. Nine out of ten ain't bad.
After a week of eating clean, enjoying better sleep, and realizing you are in a better mood, you slowly look around at your children and realize the pattern you have allowed them to fall into:
Waffles for breakfast (Trader Joe's healthy, whole grain, of course!)
Bread and Goldfish Crackers for lunch (sprouted sourdough bread makes you worry less about the Goldfish.)
Juice with their snack (hydration is important, and Jessica Alba sells Honest Juice, for heaven's sake.)
Dessert if they promise to finish the healthy dinner you have prepared for them (Homemade cookies are better than Oreos, am I right?)
Perhaps this is not you. Perhaps this is just me. I may or may not have been overheard this week telling a friend that I know my kids throw away the giant carrot I pack in their lunch, so I include a crappy bag of pretzels as well, just so they will eat something.
For years, as a young and Type-A mother of four young children, I would scour blog after blog, looking for healthy tips to incorporate into my family- vegan moms, nutritionist moms, hippie moms, paleo moms, LDS moms- and think to myself:
"My kids won't eat a veggie omelet for breakfast and a paleo bento box for lunch! They turn up their noses at fruit for dessert. What the heck is wrong with me?"
I remember another time where I baked homemade Lara Bars for dessert. We had friends over for dinner and I smugly served my homemade dessert to Jackson, then 18 months old. Look at this feat of awesomeness, friends! Since we ate so healthy at the Woodward house, I knew he would be satisfied with his delicious, lovingly prepared treat. He ate a few bites and then literally threw it across the table and told me, "NO COOKIE." My sweet friends finally got to laugh and I threw the rest away.
Sometimes healthy stuff is gross.
Sometimes your kids don't want to eat that weird crap you picked up from a vegan website. Even if you promise them that it will make their eyes and muscles stronger. They don't care. But you do! So what do you do?
Let's discuss a few general principles of juvenile health. What do you really have to worry about as a mom?
1. Gut health
3. Brain development
If you can focus on addressing these areas, you can relax about the Goldfish. Life is too short to try to be perfect.
It really is true that all disease starts in the gut. Your immune system is predominantly located in your gut. Your gut manufactures B vitamins. It creates 80% of your serotonin. It is called "the second brain". Your immunity and your brain health rest on the health of your small intestine. And from the looks of it, our small intestines are not healthy. Ergo, our childrens' small intestines are not healthy.
What are you concerned about with your children?
Studies show that all of these disorders can be linked to intestinal dysbiosis. It is too simplistic of a notion that all of these disorders are caused by poor gut health. As an integrative practitioner, I know that the body is a complex web of interconnected systems and symptoms, and one entity is not to blame for all problems. However, the gut does have a huge impact on the general health of the body.
If you are concerned about diseases or disorders plaguing your child, you would be wise to implement a few simple gut health changes.
1. Eat more vegetables.
I don't mean snack on raw cauliflower. That is nasty. Who would do that? If you would do that, I apologize and did not mean to offend. Steam or quickly broil your veggies, and then add plenty of sea salt and butter. Kids will eat steamed, buttered, and salted veggies. I promise. Try it.
Vegetables prepared in this way benefit the body in many ways. The fiber acts as a prebiotic, much better than any lab-synthesized probiotic. The prebiotic fiber serves as food to your 100 trillion strains of endogenous gut bacteria, allowing them to happily flourish and do their jobs in your intestines.
I have kids in my practice that can't poop. Think about this. If you can't poop as a kid, how are you going to grow up to be a happy adult? Does it ruin your whole day if you don't go poop? It ruins mine. Give your kids vegetables and ensure well-adjusted, happy, normal adults. No, I am kidding. They will still have problems like everyone else.
Cooked, buttered vegetables will help you poop.
The butter provides butyric acid, which will strengthen your colon cells, allowing for a strong colon that has a better chance of fighting cancer. The sea salt provides trace minerals and sodium, which regulate intracellular and extracellular fluids. You want plenty of trace minerals in your children.
2. Use magnesium to move things along.
If your kid is backed up, use Calm Powder as a gentle way to help him poop. Most likely, his body is just deficient in magnesium. A healthy gut will allow for regular poops. Use 1 tsp each evening, dissolved in warm water.
3. Eat more protein than sugar.
If you can't take away all of the sugar, make sure that each meal contains 10-20 grams of protein. Protein is satiating. Eating sugar alone (or things that turn into sugar quickly, like Goldfish crackers) spikes the blood sugar enough to make it dip quickly, causing a desire for more sugar. Make sure each meal or snack involves some turkey lunchmeat or hummus or homemade meatballs.
Please note that I do not tell you to take a probiotic. Supplements are just that- they supplement a diet. Use food as medicine to achieve your purposes. You truly cannot outsupplement or outmedicate a bad diet. This goes for children too. More veggies, more protein, and more fat will create a better GI environment for your little ones.
Getting sick is the worst. It is hard for little ones, and it is hard for Mommy. How do we boost immunity in our children?
First, consider that not every illness is a cause for concern. Being sick helps a little immune system develop. A friend gave me this book a decade ago and I have referred to it many times over the years. Sometimes a fever is just a little immune system getting stronger.
On a preventative note, make sure your kids are getting plenty of Vitamin C. It is not a cliche. First of all, your adrenal glands need more vitamin C than any other part of your body. Children are getting adrenal fatigue. I have been hair testing pediatric clients and finding an adrenal stress pattern in the soft tissue. If you can boost adrenal function, you can boost immunity because the body will be inherently more resistant to disease.
I like MegaFood Whole Food C. Better than the pill, though, is the whole food. Allow free access to the fruit drawer, and stock it with tangerines and oranges in season. Squeeze lemon juice over veggies or in water. Make homemade lemonade.
If it is sick season, you can use Oil of Oregano to catch a cold or flu at the first sign. It has to be at the first sign though, or all may be lost. We have been using oil of oregano for 5 years now, at the advice of my dear friend Nicole. It has stopped more sickness in this house than I ever thought possible. Dilute the oil with olive oil and take a few drops down the back of the throat. Repeat every 2-4 hours until symptoms abate.
Sugar really does suppress the immune system. If you can wean off excess (notice I did not say all) sugar, your kids have a better chance of staying healthy.
Your brain is an amazing feat of creation. Children are born with a brain that is only 1/4 of the size of their adult brain, and by age 3, their brain is 80% of its adult size! I read that from birth to age three, over a million neural connections per second are taking place in the developing brain.
If you are interested in more of the fun science, check out this cool resource. The graphic is fascinating!
There are so many easy things you can do as a mama at this point to encourage optimal brain development. The brain is made of 80% cholesterol- mostly fat. Your brain is mostly fat. Your brain needs fat.
But if you have a 0-3 year old, consider helping his brain develop well by giving him fat. Animal fat. Not avocados.
Grass-fed red meat.
Natural ground turkey.
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.
Eat the meat. You and your baby. When moms ask me what the healthiest thing they can do for their kids would be, my answer is always the same:
And fat, and veggies. If you can live 80% of life around the meat/fat/vegetable guideline, then you can have some leeway with ice cream and cereal and pizza and candy and soda. We live in this world; we have to be realistic.
Make the foundation building blocks strong, and a few wobbly pieces at the top won't make too much of a structural difference.
Fat develops a healthy brain. If your kid has an aversion to meat, it is probably because their stomach acid is not strong enough to digest the meat. That is unusual for children historically, but it is getting more common. Give them an ox bile pill before each meal or a bit of apple cider vinegar to help stimulate digestion. This helps your kid poop normally, too.
Good food develops good guts, good immune systems, and good brains. Think about those principles for yourself and for your children. Consistency trumps perfection.
What do you think? What do you do for your children? Let's talk about it on Facebook.
Yours in health,