Category Archives: Childrens Health

Household disinfectants promote obesity gut bacteria

817 cleaning products

New research shows those powerful and toxic household disinfectants do more than kill germs — they also kill off vital gut bacteria and shift your gut microbiome signature to promote obesity.

Our gut microbiome consists of several pounds of bacteria and research increasingly shows how powerfully these bacteria influence our overall health.

The composition of the gut microbiome determines much about our immune health, personality, brain function, and weight. In fact, scientists are increasingly discovering a connection between our microbiome signature and a propensity toward obesity.

For instance, being born via C-section versus vaginally, bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding as an infant, and frequent antibiotic use in childhood, all factors which affect the microbiome, have been associated with a much higher risk of obesity.

Also, both mice and human studies show that inoculating the gut of an obese subject with the gut bacteria of a thin subject causes swift weight loss. The reverse is also true — thin mice quickly become fat when inoculated with the gut bacteria of obese mice.

Now, a new study adds more weight to these findings by showing that multi-surface cleaning disinfectants are another factor that promotes an obesity microbiome. Children who grow up in households that use these products regularly are more prone to obesity.

The Canadian study showed that three-year-old children who grew up in homes where these products were used two or more times a week were more overweight than their peers who grew up in homes where these products were used less often or not at all.

The bacterium scientists looked at is called Lachnospiraceae. In animal studies, higher levels of Lachnospiraceae is associated with increased body fat and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a stepping stone condition to diabetes and is often found in people with obesity.

Fecal samples from children in homes that used eco-cleaners or detergents free of the bacteria-killing ingredients did not show the same elevated levels of Lachnospiraceae.

It was important in the study to look at the home environments three-year-olds grew up in because microbiome researchers find that our lifelong gut microbiome is largely determined by age three.

Although more work needs to be done in this arena, animal studies have produced similar results.

Can you alter your gut microbiome signature?

Although it looks like the gut microbiome signature we develop in infancy plays a large role in our lifelong health, it is not completely set in stone.

In fact, the gut microbiome is increasingly being viewed as a dynamic organ that can change composition in as little as three days. The foods you eat profoundly influence your gut bacteria.

The best strategy to promote a healthy gut microbiome that favors fat burning over fat storage, healthy immunity, and balanced brain function is to eat a large and diverse array of produce, mainly vegetables, at every meal. It’s important to eat many different kinds of produce on a regular basis. Gut bacteria health is based on diversity, which is created by a diverse produce-based diet.

Gut bacteria also respond positively to regular exercise, an environment and diet as free of environmental chemicals as possible, and consumption of fermented and cultured foods and drinks, such as kefir water, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

Ask me for more ways to promote a healthy gut microbiome.

When teen menstrual cramps and PMS are disabling

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It’s an all-too-common scenario for teen girls today: That time of the month comes around they are home from school white-knuckling it through agonizing menstrual cramps, having only just endured a week of equally debilitating PMS depression and anxiety.

It’s just your standard entry into womanhood, right? Not!

Although hormonal irregularity is normal in the early years, excessive pain and anguish is not. It signals underlying causes of hormonal imbalance that may be alleviated through diet and lifestyle changes.

Of course one must also consider the possibility of serious medical disorders  such as uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, or, most commonly, endometriosis, disorders that tend to be overlooked in young girls in early menses.

Going beyond NSAIDS and the pill for teen cramps

The conventional approach to severe cramps and PMS is the use of over-the-counter pain medication and low-dose oral contraceptives.

Oral contraceptives are synthetic hormones that interfere with the body’s natural hormonal feedback loops and disrupt the balance of intestinal flora, not to mention raising the risk of serious medical complications such as migraines, stroke, and even cancer.

Although birth control pills can bring relief, it’s better to ask why hormones are imbalanced in the first place. Birth control pills merely resolve the symptoms but not the cause of teenage menstrual cramps and PMS.

Underlying causes of severe teen cramps and PMS

The female hormonal system is intricate, complex, and easily toppled by many modern habits we consider normal. Add standard teenage predilections for excess and indulgence, and you’ve got a recipe for monthly sick days home from school.

Here are some common factors we see when looking at teenage menstrual cramps and PMS with a functional medicine perspective:

Unstable blood sugar skewing hormones. This is very often an underlying factor of hormonal imbalance in women of all ages, but particularly in teens. Skipped meals, diets high in sugar, caffeine, processed carbohydrates, junk foods, and other staples of teen diets can cause the delicate balance between estrogen and progesterone to spiral out of control

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) frequently occurs when blood sugar is chronically out of balance, and brings with it the requisite symptoms of severe cramping and PMS. Other PCOS symptoms include depression, acne, irregular periods, and ovarian cysts (with pain).

A diet that eliminates sugar, minimizes caffeine, regulates carbohydrate consumption, and focuses on plenty of produce and healthy proteins and fats can help bring blood sugar, PCOS, and the accompanying cramps and PMS under control. Of course, this won’t be easy for the average teen girl, but sometimes the pain of the problem outweighs the pain of the solution.

Adrenal imbalances. The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop each kidney and produce adrenal hormones. Teen habits of missing sleep, pushing themselves too hard, skipping meals, and eating too much sugar all send adrenal function into over drive or under drive.

Adrenal imbalances severely impact hormonal balance and can deplete progesterone, the “calming” hormone that helps prevent PMS.

Too much screen time. Hormonal balance is tightly linked to the light cycles of day and night. The blue light emitted from smart phones, tablets, and TVs are interpreted as sunlight by the brain. When teen girls stare into their phones texting and sharing late into the night, the brain, and then the hormones, become awfully confused as a result. (This also causes insomnia.)

Although restricting exposure to screens is a tall order for today’s teens, you may be able to convince your daughter to wear orange glasses  use an orange film over the screen, or download an app like f.lux or Twilight that filters out blue light after sunset.

These are just a few ways in which modern teen habits can result in severe menstrual cramps and PMS. For more information on how to balance hormones and alleviate cramps and PMS using functional nutrition, schedule a visit with me.

Many girls’ ADHD misdiagnosed as depression, anxiety

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When we think of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) we think of the boys — they’ve received the lion’s share of diagnoses and attention. But turns out we’re focusing mainly on characteristically boys’ symptoms, leaving a lot of girls in the dust with their symptoms and very bad outcomes in adulthood.

While boys act out and are hyperactive, ADHD in girls expresses itself more as disorganization and inattentiveness.

Symptoms include a tendency toward daydreaming, trouble following instructions, and making careless mistakes.

These symptoms can lead to feelings of shame for girls who feel the pressure to perform. They see these symptoms as personal flaws instead of a neurological condition.

Sadly, this continual sense of failure can lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and a four to five times greater risk of self-harm and suicide.

These girls are more likely to have fewer friendships and get into unhealthy and abusive relationships that mirror their inner lack of self worth.

Girls tend to develop ADHD later than boys and it can get worse as they get older. Many don’t get diagnosed until adulthood and spend their lives trying to manage it on their own and feeling shame about it.

Missing the cues of ADHD in girls

The diagnosis of ADHD in girls has increased 55 percent in recent years, compared to 40 percent for boys. Despite this increase, many girls still go undiagnosed (while there is over diagnosis of boys).

This is because the symptoms of feeling unfocused and disorganized lead to depression and anxiety. As a result, girls miss out on services that may help their symptoms in childhood and instead are prescribed anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, which can exacerbate symptoms of ADHD. Many doctors also believe girls can’t get ADHD.

ADHD in adult women

As women take on careers and raising children, masking their symptoms of ADHD can become more difficult.

The researchers found that adult women with high IQs and ADHD suffer from constant feelings of being frantic and overwhelmed trying to manage day-to-day basics. Adult women have become the fastest growing users of ADHD medications.

ADHD and functional medicine

With any neurological disorder, including ADHD, we always seek to support the brain as much as possible. This can mean looking at foods that are inflammatory to the brain (gluten is a primary one) and gut health, another known link to brain health. For more advice, please contact my office.

Maternal PCOS can raise the risk of autism in children

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Researchers have discovered that polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS  is linked with an almost 60 percent greater risk of giving birth to a child who will develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

As many as one in ten women of childbearing age have PCOS, a hormonal disorder, and it can affect girls as young as 11. It is the most common female hormone imbalance in the United States.

Although the exact link between maternal PCOS and autism isn’t clear, the findings support the notion that sex hormones early in life play a role in the development of autism in both boys and girls.

PCOS exposes the developing fetus to excess androgens, hormones that play a role in male traits. These androgens are believed to affect the development of the brain and central nervous system, increasing the risk of an ASD.

In the study, researchers looked at children ages 4 to 17 who were born in Sweden between 1984 and 2007. They found that a maternal diagnosis of PCOS increased the risk of having a child with ASD by 59 percent. Continue reading

Did childhood trauma play a role in your autoimmunity?

childhood experiences and autoimmunity

Autoimmune patients expend considerable effort finding the right diet, supplements, lifestyle, and practitioner to manage their autoimmunity.

But did you know your experiences from childhood could be provoking your autoimmunity as an adult?

Abuse, belittlement, insults, neglect, loss of loved ones, parental acrimony… the traumas children weather unfortunately become a lifelong “operating system” that has profound influences on immunological and neurological health. Traumas in childhood affect not only physical and cellular health, but also our DNA.

Early traumas make it hard to turn off stress

In a healthy situation, a child can respond to stress and recover from it, developing normal resiliency.

However, chronic and unpredictable stress in childhood constantly floods the body with stress hormones and keeps it in a hyper vigilant inflammatory state. In time, this interferes with the body’s ability to turn off or dampen the stress response.

In fact, research that compared the saliva of healthy, happy children with children who grew up with abuse and neglect found almost 3,000 genetic changes on their DNA. All of these changes regulated the response to stress and the ability to rebound from it. Continue reading

Lack of sleep causes gene changes

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We all want enough sleep so we’re less cranky and more alert. We want it for our kids too. But recent research found an even more important reason: Sleeping less than six hours a night for one week can lead to more than 700 changes in the way our genes behave. Among these are genes that regulate stress, our ability to fight disease, our sleep-wake cycles, inflammation, and aging.

Researchers believe this helps explain why chronic sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stress, and depression.

Sleeping less than five hours a night has also been linked with greater risk of death.

Early mornings hard on youth

Researchers are increasingly sounding the alarm about the ill health effects of early mornings. They suggest elementary school start at 8:30, middle and high school at 10 a.m., and university classes at 11 a.m.

These wake up times better match the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Early starts are particularly onerous on youth because sleep is when they develop mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sleep deprivation can also be fatal as sleep-deprived teens are more likely to get in car accidents.

One study found British students were losing an average of 10 hours of sleep a week, making them more deprived than doctors on a 24-hour shift.

Another study of 900,000 children globally found American youth are the most sleep-deprived.

Most workers should start the day at 10 a.m.

Children and teens aren’t the only ones who should start the morning later. Research has also found early work times are not in sync with the internal clocks of working adults in their 20s and 30s. In fact, the nine-to-five day is best suited only for children under 10 and adults over 55.

Meanwhile, young people between the ages of 14 and 24 are the most sleep-deprived group of any age sector. This translates to a more drastic impact on gene expression that can raise the risk of various health disorders.

Limit screen time at night to facilitate sleep

Although our body clocks may be more in tune with later wake times, poor habits play a role in sleep deprivation, too.

Adults and children are on their smart phones and tablets late into the night, not only forcing themselves to stay up too late, but also over-exposing their internal clocks to too much “artificial daylight.”

The blue light emitted from LED screens used on smart phones, tablets, computers, and LED televisions are similar to the daylight.

This suppresses the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone, while keeping the adrenal hormone cortisol active. The result is insomnia and poor sleep.

It’s important to limit screen time at night. If that seems like too much to ask, wearing orange tinted glasses can limit the blue wavelengths from entering the eyes and induce evening sleepiness.

A small study of Swiss teen boys showed they felt significantly more sleepy at night after wearing the glasses at night for just one week. Also, apps for your devices such as f.lux reduce blue wavelengths emitted from your screen as the sun goes down, resulting in less eyestrain and better sleep at night.

Poor sleep can have many causes including those I’ve already mentioned, but also blood sugar imbalances, hormonal imbalances, brain-based issues, and more.

Ask me for more advice on improving your sleep.

Hashimoto’s and autoimmunity linked to autism

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Managing your hypothyroidism isn’t just about losing weight and having warm hands and feet. If you’re a woman who could get pregnant, it could play a role in whether you have a child with autism. A 2015 Finnish 
study that looked at risk factors associated with autism found that women who tested positive for autoimmune hypothyroidism, or Hashimoto’s, were 80 percent more likely to give birth to a child who developed autism than women who did not.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system destroys the thyroid. But Hashimoto’s is only one of many autoimmune diseases. Autoimmunity means the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the very thing it was designed to protect — you. Which organ, gland, tissue, or chemical the immune system attacks depends on different factors, such as genetic predisposition and what triggered the autoimmunity. For instance, certain foods or chemicals are linked with certain autoimmune conditions. Rates of autoimmune disease are skyrocketing and many people go undiagnosed for years or a lifetime despite symptoms.

Similar studies have also made correlations between other autoimmune diseases in the mother and increased risk of autism in their offspring. For instance, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel conditions have also been suggested as links to autism.

Why maternal autoimmunity can cause autism

Why can maternal autoimmunity cause autism in a child? Immune cells, called antibodies, that coordinate attack of the mother’s body in autoimmunity can be passed to the child. This can cause the child to be born with an autoimmune reaction already taking place in his or her body. In some case of autism, they are finding that these children are born with autoimmune attacks happening in the brain.

Evidence of this was demonstrated in a startling way when scientists injected one group of pregnant monkeys with antibodies taken from human mothers with autistic children. Another group of pregnant monkeys was injected with antibodies taken from mothers of neurotypical children. Compared to the control group, the monkeys who received the antibodies from mothers of autistic children gave birth to monkeys who grew to demonstrate atypical social behavior.

Manage autoimmunity before pregnancy

If you’re a woman who would like to get pregnant, it’s important to screen for and appropriately manage any autoimmune condition you may have. For instance, if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, it’s not enough to just take thyroid hormone. If you leave the autoimmune component of your thyroid condition unchecked, it could lead to more autoimmune diseases and you are at risk of passing the autoimmune antibodies to your child.

Managing autoimmunity is a comprehensive dietary and lifestyle approach designed to regulate an overzealous immune system so it does not attack the body. People with unchecked autoimmunity tend to be in very inflammatory states. Autoimmune management involves a comprehensive diet to reduce this inflammation.

Sometimes chemicals or metals can trigger or exacerbate autoimmunity, so it’s good to screen for that as well with the Cyrex Array 11 Chemical Immune Reactivity Screen.  This doesn’t tell you the quantity of chemicals or metals in your body like other tests, but rather whether your immune system is reacting to them. This is vital information when you have autoimmunity.

Lifestyle factors such as chronic stress, too little sleep, an unhealthy relationship, a job you hate, and other negative influences can also raise inflammation and provoke autoimmunity. These are important factors to consider as well when managing an autoimmune disease.

It’s vital to shore up your health, balance your immune system, and manage any known or undiagnosed autoimmune reactions before getting pregnant. This will increase the likelihood of having a neurologically healthy child.