December 19, 2012
Like it may have for many of you, the shootings last Friday ignited something inside of me that said, enough is enough. I have come to a place where I realize it’s not ok to just sit back and be thankful that my children were not the victims. The time has come for all of us to engage in the solution. But where to start? There are so many issues wrapped up in what allows a 20 year old to walk into an elementary school and single handedly change the destiny of over 25 families.
As I watched CNN on Friday, Sanja Gupta pointed out that most likely the killer had a neurochemical imbalance. Of course he did. As did the other crazy killers that have been linked to prior mass shootings. In fact, it is public knowledge that all of these shooters were either on or withdrawing from antidepressant or antipsychotic medications. Obviously giving chemicals to a neurochemically imbalanced child is not the answer.
We need to be more proactive. We need to stop searching for a drug that will cure all our children’s problems. As parents we need to do more. Every parent should be asking themselves what can they do to raise neurochemically BALANCED children.
Although I am a parent, I am by no means a parenting expert. But as a family chiropractor, I do know a few things about nurturing healthy families. After 16 years of working with thousands of families, it is clear to me that we should all be implementing Five Key Essentials into our family’s lives to keep them physically & mentally healthy.
Five Essentials for Healthy Family Life:
1. Give your kids a purpose.
Teach your kids that the greatest joys in life come from within. Model for them that there is no deeper satisfaction in life than working hard, serving others, and dedicating oneself to something bigger. Teach them that compassion, love, and forgiveness are as important as getting straight A’s or winning a little league game. As the wise Dalai Lama once said:
“My hope and wish is that one day, formal education will pay attention to what I call education of the heart. Just as we take for granted the need to acquire proficiency in the basic academic subjects, I am hopeful that a time will come when we can take it for granted that children will learn, as part of the curriculum, the indispensability of inner values: love, compassion, justice, and forgiveness.”
2. Keep your kids nervous system functioning at 100%.
Our brain and nervous system releases thousands of chemicals every second into our body. These chemicals make us happy, sad, hungry, sleepy, and drive every human function. The only thing protecting this amazing system is your skull and spine. So why do many parents take better care of their kids teeth then their spine?
Keeping your spine healthy is the most important thing you can do to keep your brain and nervous system functioning at 100%. A recent study of over 2000 patients revealed that chiropractic care significantly improved their well being: including emotional well being, negative feelings toward self, depression, difficulty sleeping, and family relations.
3. Teach your kids the power of eating healthy foods.
Our food has a powerful effect on how we feel and function. Today, more man-made and unhealthy chemicals exist in our food than ever before. Chemicals used to preserve food such as monosodium glutamate, and others such as dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and nitrates are poisoning our children’s bodies and minds. Studies demonstrate that these Chemicals cause countless physical and mental health problems. If you’re not taking action to ensure that your family is eating fresh, non processed foods, you’re asking for health problems down the road.
4. Model for your kids that exercise is NOT optional; it’s one essential key to a happy life.
When did exercise become a choice? It is a necessary daily habit that can bring you joy, energy, health, and vitality better than any drug can. Yet, many Americans still don’t carve out time to engage in daily exercise. Researchers have shown that walking for 30 minutes each day quickly improves patient’s symptoms faster than antidepressant drugs do. It’s simple, it’s free, and there are no side effects.
5. Detoxify your household.
We live in a massively toxic world. In order to raise healthy children we have to begin to be aware of the toxins that are harming us both physically and mentally. Take small steps to detoxifying your world: buy organic, unplug the microwave, throw away your plastic containers, limit your prescription medications, buy paraben and SLS free hair & skin products, and stop allowing preservatives and dyes that are so prevalent in our foods today into your home. Begin to get educated on this topic. In 2013, we will be doing more workshops on toxin-free living in our office to get you up to speed.
I realize there are no easy answers to this complicated subject. I know that mental health experts debate treatment protocols all the time. The answer is NOT going to be found in a new medication. It’s going to be in getting people OFF of medications and getting back to health basics. It’s time to look at what causes a child to be neurochemically imbalanced, starting at the chemicals that we inject into a child on the day he is born.
Parents need to stop blindly allowing prescription drugs to be the answer for all their children’s health needs. We need a better health plan than that. The above 5 essentials is that plan. Please share this information with the families in your community. Mental health is no longer one family’s problem, it has now become ALL of our problems. Once we begin to take responsibility for our community’s health, and stop relying on medications, we can stop this madness.
January 31, 2012
I was raised by a health food freak mom. As soon as we could read, my mom taught my sister and I how to read labels on packages of food. She had a list of forbidden toxic ingredients that we were not allowed to eat: sugar, red dyes, and nitrates were the main items we were to avoid. My sister and I had a game that we played at the grocery store, and that was find a yummy food item that met mom’s criteria. Some trips we would hit the jackpot and find lots of tasty and healthy treats, and other days we would leave disappointed that no new discoveries were made. I remember the one item I really wanted was a fruit roll up. All the kids at school had them. They would gleefully rip them off the plastic paper they came on and wrap them around their fingers with delight. I was so envious. I debated with my mom about those fruit roll ups for years, yet she held her ground saying that sugar was the first ingredient. She then went on to teach me that the order of ingredients in a food item told you how much it was in the food. Her rule: sugar couldn’t be in the first four ingredients. Keeping her rules in mind, I scoured the grocery store for years looking for new, exciting foods that were healthy. Little did I know then that this game taught me a life long lesson that I put to use when I went to college and started to chose my own food, and even now as a mother raising a healthy family.
Fast forward forty years, as a family Chiropractor and a mother of two I think often about how best to teach kids about health. I think about it when a parent brings their child to me who is suffering from chronic ear infections or a suppressed immune system. Or the mother who is raising athletes and wants to know the best health practices for injury prevention. I especially think about kids and health when I am in line at Starbucks and I see a group of sixteen year olds order venti frappuccinos with extra whip cream. I can’t help but think about health and our children when I drop my daughter off at her school and see the growing number of obese children. I am saddened by the state of the health of our children in our country. Not enough is being done to show our kids that health should be a priority. Despite massive research indicating that our lifestyle choices determine the diseases we will get later in life, our society is not teaching children what these choices need to be. Health is a journey, not an end result that happens upon us as adults. Just like we all work hard to teach our kids to be kind, considerate, smart, and wonderful people, we need to have a strategy for teaching our kids about health.
What are those best practices for teaching our kids about health? Well it begins with examining your own belief system about health. Most Americans are taught that health is an absence of symptoms. If you don’t have pain or any conditions requiring medications, you must be healthy. The problem with this belief system is that conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes take years to develop in our bodies. During those years, most of those patients are symptom free. Unfortunately, with those three conditions, by the time they are discovered, a patient can be very ill. The first step to raising a healthy child is understanding that symptoms are not the best way to judge your health.
Numerous research studies are now showing that up to 80% of all chronic illnesses in our country are related to our lifestyle choices: what we eat, how much movement we get, and how much stress we have in our lives. Many experts now agree that we can avoid many diseases that our parents and grandparents had just by changing our lifestyle habits. What this means is if our parents had diabetes, we don’t have to get diabetes if we apply good nutritional habits when we are younger. If breast cancer runs in your family, take steps now to eat foods that don’t feed cancer cells or give the body an environment where cancer can thrive. Many doctors are preaching that most cancers can be avoided by increasing fruits and vegetables and limiting processed foods. With this current research in mind, below are what I feel are the seven key steps in teaching your children about how to live a health life.
1. The best way to judge your health is by the lifestyle choices you and your family are making.
Stop looking at health as symptom-free living. Start looking at health as a journey. Your symptoms are going to come and go. It’s your daily health habits that will determine the quality of your overall health. What type of foods are your children eating? Do you know what is in the foods that you buy? Are you getting regular fresh fruits and veggies in your diet? What is the sugar intake of your child? Do you eat out a lot? Do you eat at fast food restaurants frequently? Is your child getting lots of movement throughout the day? I always tell my patients that there are five key things you need to incorporate into your life to be healthy: good nutrition, daily movement/exercise, proper rest, a good mental attitude, and a properly functioning nervous system. I highly recommend that families use these five as a health check list. When one of these pieces is ignored, the body will move out of a state of health and be more susceptible to illness.
If you do have a child that is catching colds a lot, in pain, or dealing with poor health, you don’t want to ignore those symptoms. That is not what I am advocating. What I do strongly urge you to do is look at your lifestyle choices and see if there are food and/or activity level changes you could make in your child’s life that might help him or her feel better. Reaching for a medication is often a quick way to treat a symptom, when the real cause of a problem is a nutritional imbalance, a toxicity, a lack of movement, a stressful situation, or maybe a little of all these things.
2. How are you modeling health for your child?
The most important thing to remember is that raising a healthy child starts with you being healthy. Take a moment to step into your child’s shoes. If you were looking at you, would you see a person who works on their health everyday. Do they see or know that you exercise? Are you making good healthy food choices for yourself? Are you incorporating fruits and vegetables in the majority of your meals? Would you see a parent that prioritizes health? I treated a family in my office many years ago, where the parents were not healthy, ate fast food a lot, didn’t have good sleeping habits, and rarely exercised. They constantly asked me questions about exercise habits for their children. You could see they wanted to break the unhealthy cycle for the kids. I applauded them for thinking that way and continually advised them on strategies to implement that would make their kids healthier. The challenge was that you can’t ask your kids to implement healthy habits if you’re not willing to change. Eventually these kids grew up and started taking on the same bad habits their parents had. As much as we may want our kids to do health differently, you have to start by YOU doing health differently.
3. Start talking about health in your family.
In my household, health is a constant source of conversation. I recently read an article about a 17 year old girl who only ate McDonald’s McNuggets and now doctors are telling her that if she keeps up that trend she will die. When I picked my daughter up from school and she asked me about my day, I told her about the article. We talked about what happens to your body when you put fast food into it. I wasn’t expecting her to have a huge ah-ha moment and jump on a no fast-food band wagon with me, but what I was doing was planting seeds. Talk with your kids about the health choices you are making as a family. When we packed our kids school lunches, we would point out that we were putting fruit and a good protein source. Now that they pack their own lunch they know the healthy formula to follow. When we make dinner we explain why we choose the recipes that we did and how they benefit our health. My 9 year old son has recently become obsessed with cooking shows and making us dinner. He always points out to me that he put protein in his meals, because he know that is a crucial item for every meal in our house. This was a kid who just a few years back would constantly ask for ice cream for dinner. Perhaps the repetitive seeds I have been planting are starting to grow.
4. Teach them how to read labels.
Just like my mother did, I teach my kids how to read a nutrition label. Since my son has been a sugar lover, instead of just vetoing every sugary treat he would ask me for, I taught him how to look at the number of grams of sugar an item had. Now he will come to me with a food item and tells me right off how many grams of sugar and protein a product has. Together we talk about if that item is a healthy choice or not. It’s also a chance for me to discuss with him how much sugar he may have had that day, and how well his body will handle more. With all the chemicals that are put in foods these days, I also point out to my kids that the long words that are hard to pronounce in a food are most likely a preservative used to make the food last longer. What I love about reading labels is that we get to talk through the process of selecting foods that help your body function at it’s best. My hope is that someday when they are not under my roof, that process will be second nature to them.
5. Include them in the food choices for meals, snacks, and lunches.
Once you start talking about the food choices you are making in your household, empower your kids to start making some of the meals. This is a great opportunity to help them make healthy choices on their own. Remember that some day they will be making their own meals, so knowing how to make a great tasting healthy meal is a fantastic life skill. When we first started letting go of the control of making dinner, and let our son jump in and make a meal, it wasn’t always pretty. One of his first meals had all starchy carbohydrates topped with sugar. I applauded him for his efforts and continued to plant seeds that helped him make a more balanced meal. At 9 years old he can now make us all dinner that is not only healthy, but tasty, too.
6. Hang around people that make health a priority.
A recent study showed that having a buddy who packs on pounds makes you 57 percent more likely to do so yourself, according to the key findings of James Fowler, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California at San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., a sociology professor at Harvard, who have studied social networks for 10 years. “Consciously or unconsciously, people look to others when deciding what and how much to eat, and how much weight is too much,” said Fowler.
The same thing happens with our kids. Recently my daughter told me that she was having an Izze soda pop with her lunch at school everyday. I was shocked. She knows how much I am against soda, but also knows that I will let her have an Izze soda every once in awhile because it doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup. But everyday! My health brain was freaking out. Calmly I asked her why she was having an Izze everyday, and she said because all her friends drank one with lunch everyday. The power of friends, just like the study said. I discussed with her the implications of drinking Izze’s daily had on her body. We talked about the fact that soda did not help her body function the way she wanted it to feel and perform. We also talked about everything in moderation, and an Izze every once in awhile is ok.
A few years back my daughter was quite resistant to hearing about my healthy food choices. Then something happened that changed that. She started hanging around a family who prioritized health and nutrition as much as we did. The mom of this family also taught her children to read labels, limit sugar, and be conscientious about what goes into their bodies as much as we did. My daughter loved this family, respected the mom, and saw the kids having a positive, fun attitude about the food choices they were given. This changed my daughter’s attitude towards me and my healthy ways. She suddenly saw that we weren’t some freakish family who didn’t have dessert all the time. She began to embrace health as a process that can be fun. It also gave her something in common with a friend she loved dearly. The power of friends!!
7. Make Health Fun!!
The most important piece of teaching health to your children is to make it fun!! The journey of health can be enjoyable. Kids will gravitate to people and situations that are exciting, new and makes you laugh. Don’t lecture them on healthy choices, make a game out of it. Recently, in our family, we have gotten into juicing. I have been trying many different ways to put together tasty and healthy fruits and vegetables. Last week, I put together what I thought was a great healthy combo: spinach, kale, and apple. I gave my kids a glass and asked them to rate it. My son has a thumb rating system. Thumbs up is a 10 (best ever!) and thumbs down a 1 (it sucks!). They both gave this drink a thumbs down and told me it was horrible. We all laughed at my attempt to get kale and spinach into them. Back to the blender I went. Next up was spinach, apple, banana, orange, and lemon. Although it looked green and healthy, they loved it! Two thumbs up! They giggled as they drank it, and teased me about my how I was trying to make them healthy. The process was fun and full of good nutrition. This morning I told them that we were going to make our own chocolate. My daughter turned to her brother and said, “Look out, She has some freakish healthy chocolate recipe.”. We all laughed, yet I know that we will have a great time discovering new ways to make chocolate together.
So make health in your household fun! Teach your kids that health is a journey to be enjoyed. Model for them that health should be a priority. And every once and awhile drink an Izze with them.
Cheers to better health in your family!!