Are you aware of the elephant (TOXINS) in your room and how it’s affecting your family’s health?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I am writing today’s post both as a Health Coach and a concerned mother. I first became aware of the impact that toxins have on our health when I was researching for a way to heal my daughter’s severe eczema way back in 2014. Till then I had absolutely no idea how much these hidden chemicals in our environment (inside our homes and outside) impacted our health. I had no idea that by simply breathing, walking and eating we are exposed to thousands of chemicals every single day! 

When I got to know that companies can introduce chemicals into the environment without any test to show that they are safe, it took my sense of disbelief to a different level. Add this to the fact that neither is it possible to review the potential effects of all the different chemicals nor does everyone have the same detoxification capabilities and you actually start to get a sense of the real picture. It is indeed truly alarming!

Unfortunately for most of us, toxins are like the “elephant in the room”. It takes up a lot of space and has a HUGE impact on our lives including our health but we are often unaware of exactly HOW. In fact, our children are particularly vulnerable since their organs are still developing. 

I hope that by sharing this information with you I am able to increase your awareness about this really important topic and help you and your family make healthier choices to minimise your exposure.

(In the second part to this post, I will show you exactly how. I will also share a handout on some non toxic and eco friendly brands that are available in the market today.

In this post, however, I go deep into some of the toxins that are we are most often exposed to in our houses and elsewhere. Toxins are a scary word for most of us. It originally means a “poison of plant or animal origin” and for most of our history our bodies have dealt with this and we have evolved over time to metabolise and eliminate most of these toxins naturally.

However, with the advent and explosion of man-made chemicals in the 21st century, our bodies do not even recognise most of the toxins and are not equipped to deal with them. We have now landed in the midst of a global health crisis of sorts. And our children are bearing the brunt of it. 

Toxins may be ingested through food, inhaled and applied to our skin. These are substances found in pesticides and fertilisers, health and bathing products, industrial pollutants, preservatives and additives in processed food, petrochemical fuels and solvents, cookware and other plastic products used at home. Even in minute doses, many of these can wreak havoc on our hormones, immune system and nervous system. And when these build up over time they can eventually overload our detoxification system leading to various chronic health conditions including cancer. 

Infact, just as modern medicine has almost eradicated erstwhile childhood diseases like rubella, measles, mumps, polio, tetanus we are now grappling with modern childhood diseases like eczema, allergies, asthma, autism.

Does this sound familiar to you? Does your child or another child you know suffer from any of these? 

Infact, some of the common symptoms that children (and adults) can exhibit (but certainly not limited to) connected to toxin exposure are

  • Sinus congestion
  • Allergies and eczema
  • Gut issues like constipation, diarrhoea, poor digestion
  • Difficulty concentrating, attention deficit hyperactivity
  • Development effects on the nervous system
  • Sleep problems
  • Obesity in children (and adults)
  • Puffy, dark circles under the eyes

Environmental toxins can result in obesity in children and adults by interfering with the process of glucose and cholesterol metabolism thereby inducing insulin resistance. This is a direct precursor to rising rates of obesity in babies (who are still breastfeeding) and children across the world. Indeed, many toxins can and do act as an endocrine disruptor in children and interfere with their natural hormones as they are capable of mimicking those very hormones. As a result, we now see early breast development and onset of puberty in young girls especially if they are also overweight. Rising cases of allergies, asthma and skin conditions like eczema can also be at least partly attributed to higher levels of toxin exposure through inhalation and application on the skin.

But before I get into what the most common toxins are you also need to understand HOW exactly they can affect your health (Source credit: The Toxin Solution by Dr Joe Pizzorno)

  • Toxins poison enzymes so that they don't work. Since every physiological function in our body depends on these enzymes, toxin damage has a huge impact on our bodily function
  • Toxins displace structural minerals leading to weaker bones
  • Toxins can damage nearly all the organs and systems
  • Toxins damage DNA leading to premature ageing and degeneration
  • Toxins modify gene expression leading to individual health problems and that of future generations
  • Toxins damage cell membranes so that respond properly and are unable to get important messages
  • Toxins interfere with hormones and cause imbalances by mimicking, blocking and inhibiting and inducing hormones
  • Toxins also impair the body's ability to detoxify leading to further issues

A few of the common toxins that we are exposed to are given below-

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP): These toxins enter the body when we eat the foods prepared on these surfaces. These are mainly Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) like PFOA and PFTE which are found in non-stick, stain resistant and water repellant surfaces in cookware, water-resistant clothing, pizza boxes, microwavable popcorn bags, food wraps, paint and cleaning products. When non-stick cookware is heated, these toxic chemicals like PFOA and PFTE are released which are likely carcinogens, are contributors to weight gain and obesity apart from other health concerns.

BPA, BPS (bisphenols): These are chemicals which disrupt our endocrine system thus wreaking havoc on our hormones and subsequently has an adverse impact on the development of reproductive organs of children. This can cause weight gain and obesity, neurological disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity in children and other health conditions. These are usually found in storage items like plastic bottles, food cans, containers, baby bottles, soothers and plastic microwaveable plates and dishes just to name a few.

Phthalates: Phthalates are also found in a host of products like plastic food containers and children’s toys. Hence it becomes very important to be aware of the toy quality especially if the children are young and teething. They are also routinely found in cosmetic, makeup and personal care products which contain artificial “fragrances” and “parfum”.

Parabens: These are another group of chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties especially as far as estrogen is concerned. Parabens are used in countless personal care products lotions, perfumes, anti deodorants, shampoos and conditioners to name a few. It works as a preservative and inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold and amongst other health issues have now been associated with wheezing and eczema in children.

Triclosan: It is yet another endocrine-disrupting chemical and is routinely found in antibacterial soaps. These are just a few of the many thousands of chemicals that our children are routinely exposed to in the modern world. It is indeed alarming and I do not want to mince words while saying this since it will not serve anyone at all, least of all our children.

However, having said this, it is in our hands what we want to do with all this information. We can fall into despair or we can do something about this starting with our homes and immediate environment. I really hope that you will choose the latter.

As someone wise had said, “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change”.

Resources for further reading

Healing the new childhood epidemics by Dr Kenneth Bock and Cameron Stauth

The Toxin Solution by Dr Joe Pizzorno

Children and environmental toxins by Philip Landrigan

 

YOU are the “expert” on your child (especially in terms of nutrition)

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As parents and as caring family members, we all want to give the best start to our children's lives by giving them a healthy start. But we tend to underestimate how often that intention gets hijacked by other subtle forces at play. My own personal experience with a child who used to be a picky eater (we have made HUGE progress in the past year or so) showed me that none of us is really immune to those influences unless we choose to open our eyes to the way that it shapes our children's health.

As a result, both as a mother of two children and as a health professional, I am quite concerned about the nutritional value of the foods that children today are having on a regular basis. There are many things that are worth emulating the Western countries for but their modern diet is not one of them. Unfortunately, as more and more international food giants look for newer markets and launch their highly processed products along with highly refined marketing campaigns in India, it is difficult to resist the allure of what they seem to be offering us. We have the same problem with Indian manufacturers peddling their processed foods products to our children.

What do these highly processed foods seem to offer us?

Convenience- YES

Taste- YES

Affordability- YES

Nutritional Value- MAYBE (or in some cases MINIMAL and/or HARMFUL)

Should you be concerned with the impact these foods may be having on your child? ABSOLUTELY!

While childhood obesity is one of the most obvious manifestations of this worldwide epidemic, there are less obvious health issues that our children are facing today and which can all be traced back to their diet (along with other causes)

ADD, ADHD and behavioural challenges

Digestive disorders

Fatigue or low energy levels

Inability to concentrate and lack of focus

Poor immunity (having constant colds and cough) and prolonged recovery from an illness

Diabetes and kidney disease

Overfed and undernourished

Do you have a child who has weight issues?

Do you have a picky eater who refuses to eat anything apart from refined and processed foods and minimal vegetables and fruits?

Do you have a child who craves for sweet foods and has them on a regular basis?

Do you have a child who has behavioural issues, digestive issues, low energy or poor immunity?

We may not realise how critical role poor nutrition plays in all of this and as a result many children today are "overfed" and at the same time "undernourished"

As you may have realised by now, this article aims to highlight and bring awareness to one of the main causes behind the poor health of many children today- their equally poor nutritional status. Most children (at least in the urban areas) are getting the requisite calories needed daily but are NOT getting the necessary ingredients that their developing bodies need to repair, grow, maintain optimal health and have robust immune systems. As a result, we are seeing many of the "consequences" of this nutritional status in our children from a very early age. Today we have seen a massive explosion in the number of children suffering from obesity, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, other chronic conditions, neurological disorders, behavioural issues and many more.

As one of the unintended consequences, we have started normalising many of our children's health issues. Chronic health issues like eczema, asthma, recurrent headaches, allergies, digestive issues, anxiety are actually "symptoms" of underlying imbalances and one of the causes is usually nutritional deficiencies. Healthy children are pretty resilient and usually bounce back quite quickly from a bout of illness with some rest, time and proper nutrition. However, even this time taken to recover from an illness can become extended as many children today suffer from low or poor immunity. I have covered this aspect of children's health in my previous article and webinar.

(You can view my previous article on this topic "Is your child's immune system at risk?" by clicking HERE and the webinar by clicking HERE)

Even if you are not sure whether this is really the case for your child and irrespective of whether he or she has any health issues as of now, would you really like to wait to find out? 

OR

Would you like to become more proactive by taking full responsibility for your child's health and therefore her nutritional status as a parent and do what is right even if it means being sometimes "unpopular"?

Today, as parents we have become far too lenient with our children's health. We have confused being a "good parent" to being a "popular one". Somehow we have come to believe that our children should be never unhappy or uncomfortable and that it is our duty as a parent to ensure the same 24X7.

Do we all want what is best for our children? Of course we do!

Does it mean that they will be happy with whatever decisions we make for them till they are ready to take that responsibility? Not always!

A toddler or a 5 year old does not know what to eat that it is nourishing for her, yet we let them decide every meal. Even a 10 or 12 year old will not fully comprehend why they need to eat the nutritious foods that we give them, but they need to eat it anyway. So does a 15 year old for that matter, but the conversations that we have on this subject will be different and will depend on their age. (This is exactly the reason there is an age restriction when it comes to smoking and alcohol and driving, we know our children are not yet capable of making these decisions on their own, they need us as parents to guide them).

As far as food is concerned, as we have become scared of saying NO to the things that are affecting our children's health, in effect we are saying YES to processed and nutritionally depleted foods which will have long term impact on our children's health

And childhood is the time when their little bodies need the MAXIMUM amount of highly nutritious foods as their brains and other organs develop, the foods that they eat now will lay the foundation for their health for the rest of their life. This is equally true of their eating habits and preferences. So if we have not helped our child learn to develop a taste for vegetables AND other nutritious foods, learn to be adventurous in trying new foods and develop good eating hygiene, chances are that is exactly what they will still be like when they are 40 years old!

YOU are the "expert" on your child 

As parents, we need to educate ourselves and protect our children by making healthy choices FOR THEM. 

We are the "experts" on what is BEST for our children in terms of nutrition and everything else. And we simply cannot outsource that responsibility to other people, organisations and corporates!

Being the parent of a "picky" eater, for a while I lived under the illusion that my child was somehow to blame for preferring to eat fewer vegetables and unprocessed foods and prefer breads and other such refined foods. Once I realised my folly and started to take back responsibility for my child's nutrition, I started to make changes which were necessary all the while keeping the bigger picture in mind. It has not been an easy process, but we have made much progress and it all started with me realising this need to make changes.

The one other thing I would like to point out is our need to celebrate special occasions like birthdays with a menu comprising solely of what we would otherwise call "junk food". Somehow it has become acceptable that children's birthday menu reads like a fast food chain restaurant's menu. Instead of the concept of "treats" which we were raised with and looked forward to occasionally, our children are being raised on a daily diet of foods like pastries, cakes, fries, candies etc which have crowded out other wholesome and natural foods.

 

 

 

"Our bodies are hardwired for sweet"

We all need to be aware that children have a natural affinity towards sweet as a part of their nature to ensure survival when they are born. The sweet receptor as an important part of the taste system enables their bodies to make the decision of whether to accept a particular food (and hence ensure survival) and also to prepare the digestive system about the foods coming in. Sweet also acts as an analgesic towards pain and helps calm down babies and children. It is this basic biological mechanism that is being exploited by an onslaught of highly refined, sugar laded foods that are luring them to choose these foods over other healthier options that they actually need to grow.

Food is both nutrition AND enjoyment and we need to teach our children to choose options which satisfy both these needs. 

This is what I have learned over the years BOTH as a parent and as a Health Coach

We simply cannot give away our responsibility of providing proper nutrition to our child to "experts" no matter who they are!

We need to stop making excuses about what our child "likes to eat" (read junk and processed foods like pizza, soda, chips) and take back our power as a parent from the clutches of the food industry

We need to educate ourselves about the foods that we are giving our children and the impact it is having on their health, our ignorance can cause our children harm in the long run

We can choose to celebrate special ocassions like birthdays with healthier dietary options without compromising on taste 

We have to model the behaviour and preferences for a healthy life and eating hygiene ourselves; we cannot expect our children to follow something which we are not embodying at home

We owe it to our children to give them as healthy a start in childhood as we possibly can even if it means going against popular societal trends at that time and being "unpopular" at times; we are not here to win a popularity contest

And most importantly, we are not "depriving" our children by doing all of this, we are actually giving them the gift of long lasting health

Watch the recording of the webinar “Is your child’s immune system at risk?”

Reading Time: < 1 minute
Is Your Child’s Immune System at Risk_

Watch the recording of the webinar "Is your child's immune system at risk?

In this webinar I covered the following-

how the new "normal" for children's health has become chronic illness
a rise in chronic inflammation in children leading to eczema, allergies and asthma
gut health and immunity
honouring the body's innate ability to heal
how to get started

WATCH THE RECORDING OF THE WEBINAR

Webinar on “Mindful Strengths Parenting”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I hope you were able to join me for my webinar "Mindful Strengths Parenting'. If you were unable to do so, you can view the webinar anytime you want by clicking HERE

 

 

Mindful parenting does not mean being a “perfect parent” and is not something you can fail at. It is not easy and like many other things needs practice before we can get better at it. At the same time, strengths based parenting can provide our children with 2 vital psychological tools- optimism and resilience. Infact, helping our children connect to their strengths during difficult times is one of the most important things we can do for them.

As a mindful parent, we need to…

Keep asking “What is truly important here?

Acknowledge, name and meet all challenges with awareness; this means being aware of our shortcomings, limitations, insecurities and frustrations and then working on them

Cultivate an awareness of our “interconnectedness”- if we are not doing well, our children will not do well and vice versa. This means that we need to take care of ourselves emotionally and physically so that we can take care of our children the way we would like to

Most importantly, we need to learn to be present and express our love for our children in those everyday moments that make up our life and deepen our “connection” with our children

A strength based parenting approach helps our children to

develop and cultivate a growth mindset

play to their strengths while at the same work on their weaknesses

receive praise that is based on the process rather than the person

build self esteem by connecting her to her strengths

embrace their strengths and feel valued and important in the family

When we combine the two, MAGIC happens!

To know more about "Mindful Strengths Parenting" you can view my webinar on this topic by clicking HERE

I have also touched upon the little known but highly relevant phenomenon "peer orientation" briefly in my session as it very relevant for us as parents. We need to be aware of this if we are to raise children who mature into compassionate, genuinely independent, resilient adults who go on to lead purposeful lives and contribute to society. I have written a book review for the book on this topic "Hold on to your kids- why parents need to matter more than peers" by Dr Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufield and I HIGHLY recommend reading this book.

You can read it here -

https://aninditarungta.com/book-review-hold-on-to-your-kids-why-parents-need-to-matter-more-than-peers/

If you would like to be kept updated on any upcoming webinars/workshops, please sign up for the newsletter by clicking HERE

Book review- “Hold on to your kids- Why parents need to matter more than peers

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I read a TON of books on various subjects including parenting for both professional and personal reasons. But very rarely does a book grab my attention the way that this book has. As the name itself suggests, this book is about parenting but it differs from the other books I have read on this topic in a very important way. It brought to my notice a phenomenon many of our children (especially in the urban areas) are facing today but mostly goes unnoticed and under the radar by their parents. It is the phenomenon of "peer orientation".

Before I delve briefly on what "peer orientation" is about I would like to highlight a few of the other points that the authors make in this book. Parental influence has always been well established over generations and is considered indisputable and irreplaceable, but sadly that is no longer true in many ways in today's world. The problems that our children face today has reached epic proportions both in terms of mental and physical health. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety, lack of self control, bullying, suicide, loss of resiliency, stress have increased exponentially. If these issues had not been there and our children were well adjusted, settled and positively grounded and content we would not need to worry much, but that is not the case in many societies across the globe. Parents have as much love, concern and good intentions for their children as did the preceding generations and there is a lot of parenting literature to help them. Inspite of this, something has shifted fundamentally and this book should serve as a wake-up call for you are much as it did for me.

As the authors have pointed out, the entire context in which parenting takes place has changed. As a result, the role of the parent is being undermined by forces that most parents are not aware of and are not ready to deal with. The critically important attachment relationship between parents and their children which is at the foundation of parenting is in danger. The authors put forward powerful reasons why this is so and show in this book why the main and the most damaging reason is the competing attachments that children today are developing with their peers.

The authors call this "peer orientation". This competing attachment is undermining parental authority and also diminishing the attachment that the child needs to have with the parent as long as the child needs to be parented.

The book brings about a few critical points about "peer orientation"  and some of the important ones are

  • children like any other warm blooded mammals have a natural instinct for orientation; they need to be guided and nurtured by someone
  • children cannot be oriented both towards adults and their peers at the same time; they must necessarily CHOOSE between the two
  • even though this phenomenon is now becoming "normal", it is not "natural" or "healthy" and has negative consequences in the long run

We need to become conscious of this need for attachment that all humans have (adults and children). This is what creates communities, families and keeps us all connected emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally and physically with each other. This connection could be taken for granted in many ways in the preceding generations. But that no longer holds true for us today.

The book describes in details the six different ways of attaching- senses, sameness, belonging and loyalty, significance, feeling and being known. If these bonds of attachment are strong and development is healthy, these facets are interwoven closely into a strong bond and children will find ways of staying close and holding on even when physically apart from their parents. However, peer oriented children live in a world filled with severely limited and superficial attachments driven by the least vulnerable way of attaching- sameness. This explains their need to resemble one another in look, behaviour, thoughts, tastes and values.

The other disturbing revelation for me was the false independence that a peer oriented child portrays and which seems to be a good thing. On the contrary, they are still dependent but now they depend on their peers for guidance - a set of people who are NOT truly dependable, mature, appropriate, responsible or compassionate. 

Many parents do intuitively know and sense that something is just not right with their relationship with their children but may not know what is exactly wrong. Beneath many parent's anger and frustration of failing to connect and parent their children lies a sense of hurt and betrayal. This intuitive feeling is usually ignored and pushed under the carpet by relegating this to "normal teenage issues" or some other such cause. This works for many parents till it stops working at all. In an extreme situation, this can end with a teen committing suicide as she is unable cope with or has problems getting along with her peers. Usually though, this plays out in the forms of rude behaviour, name calling, increased aggression, bullying, precocious sexuality all of which are discussed in details in this book.

Collecting and reclaiming our children

The good news is, however, that this book also discusses in details how to "reclaim our children". For those children who are not very far down the roads with peers can be "collected" and the attachment relationship can be strengthened in four simple ways- get in the child's face or space in a friendly way, provide something for the child to hold on to, invite independence and act as the child's compass point.

For those children who are too insulated by peer attachments will need additional efforts which are explained in the chapters towards the end of the book-

Preserve the ties that empower

Discipline that does not divide

Don't court the competition

Recreate the attachment village

The last chapter also deals with the role that technology plays in our children's lives and in the parent- child relationship. I am very wary not about the digital revolution per se but about the negative impact it has on children who are too young to handle it. Timing is everything and it is as true in the case of digital gadgets or video games as it is in the case of alcohol or sex with regards to children.

I love this quote from the last chapter

"We want children to be fulfilled with what they truly need before they have access to that which would spoil their appetite for what they truly need"

I hope this book review has opened your eyes to the issues that you may be facing yourself with your children or some other family you know may be facing. Let this serve as a wake up call for you (as it has for me) and also give you HOPE that there is a lot that can be done to undo the damage. We need to be aware of this if we are to raise children who mature into compassionate, genuinely independent, resilient adults who go on to lead purposeful lives and contribute to society.

I had written about raising children who are resilient in my earlier post "To Raise Resilient Kids, Be a Resilient Parent" and you can read it HERE.