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Help for kids in a toxic world

As concerns grow about disorders in children, you can protect them from bad food and chemicals.

By Karen Garloch
kgarloch@charlotteobserver.com
Karen Garloch
Karen Garloch writes on Health for The Charlotte Observer. Her column appears each Tuesday.

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  • Choose whole foods, unprocessed, organic when possible, grass-fed meat and eggs, and good quality fats, such as olive oil and fish oil. Not all saturated fat is evil, Matthews said. Coconut oil, for example, has antifungal, antiviral and antimicrobial properties and is easily absorbed and digested.

    Eliminate foods with artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

    Avoid MSG, also called “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” on ingredient lists.

    Limit sugars generally, and use unrefined sugars, such as agave nectar, maple syrup and raw honey.

    Avoid high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

    Avoid trans fats.

    Avoid commercial cleaning products that include chemicals.

    Shop at farmers markets or join a food co-op to buy food economically, straight from the farmer.

    Ask for vaccines without mercury (also called thimerosal).

    Limit the number of shots at any one visit. Avoid combination vaccines that have more aluminum than individual shots.

    Don't vaccinate children who are getting sick, have been sick or are taking antibiotics.

    Read “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Vaccinations” by Dr. Stephanie Cave and “The Vaccine Book” by Dr. Robert Sears.

    Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet: www.SOKHOP.com.

    Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology: www.dienviro.com.

    Defeat Autism Now: www.defeatautismnow.com.


  • Anyone can have high blood pressure. But some are more likely to have it, including:

    African Americans

    People who are overweight

    Adults over 55

    Sedentary people

    Source: Go for BP Goal campaign, sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.


  • Blood pressure basics

    Blood pressure is the force of blood against artery walls. The first or top number represents the pressure when the heart contracts. This is called systolic pressure. The second or bottom number represents the pressure when the heart rests between beats. This is called diastolic.

    Blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day. When it's too high for too long, that's hypertension. High blood pressure – typically defined for adults as 140/90 or higher – often doesn't make its presence felt until it's too late. People who have it may feel fine. Untreated, it can lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.

    Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    Preventing Problems

    Get your blood pressure checked by a doctor. In addition to avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol and increasing exercise, you can improve blood pressure with diet. Processed food often contains a lot of salt (as well as calories). Cook your own meals, don't add salt as you cook and don't put a salt shaker on the table. Most of our taste for salt can be modified with time. Increase your potassium intake by eating more fruits and vegetables.

    Read more at

    http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/prevention.htm

    Sources: Dr. James Rippe; CDC


One in six children has a neurological, developmental or behavioral disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One in six is overweight. One in 26 has food allergies. One in 150 is diagnosed with autism.

“We have something going wrong,” said Maureen McDonnell, a nurse and organizer of the recent “Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet” conference in Charlotte.

“We're seeing epidemics of children's conditions,” she said, “and after 31 years of being a pediatric nurse, I really feel that most of these conditions are preventable.”

McDonnell spoke at the Charlotte Convention Center before an audience of mostly mothers who were hungry for information about protecting their children from bad food and chemicals.

During the three-day weekend, about 750 people strolled past exhibits of water filters, vitamins and organic toys. They read promotions for “natural” treatments for autism, asthma and attention deficit disorder. They heard experts in nutrition, environment and medicine offer advice on raising kids in a “toxic world.”

Ten years ago, McDonnell organized another conference, called Defeat Autism Now, which taught parents about the possible connection between autism and mercury in vaccines and introduced them to unconventional treatments, such as biofeedback and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Many of these therapies and theories are controversial and widely criticized by mainstream medical experts who say the claims have not been validated by scientific research. Advocates such as McDonnell counter that most traditional doctors don't understand basic nutrition and are trained in a medical system that is supported by pharmaceutical companies.

The Charlotte conference was McDonnell's first on the broader themes of nutrition, environment and safe vaccines. She collaborated with Charlottean Jill Urwick, who has used natural interventions to treat her two children, one with autism and one with ADHD.

“What pediatricians offer parents is very limited,” McDonnell said. “When it comes to important, concrete information on raising kids in this toxic world, they're in the dark ages. There are very few ‘green' pediatricians out there.”

So, McDonnell and Urwick brought a “holistically oriented” pediatrician from Virginia, Dr. Elizabeth Mumper, to speak to parents about resisting traditional medicine's “one-size-fits all” approach to childhood vaccinations.

Environmental activist Dierdre Imus, author of “Growing Up Green,” advocated the use of “green cleaning products” in homes, schools and hospitals.

And nutritionist Julie Matthews of San Francisco outlined appealing ways to prepare healthy meals and snacks.

While Imus, who's a vegan, advised the audience to avoid all fish because of mercury contamination, McDonnell offered a less extreme approach. “You don't want to feel defeated before you even get started,” McDonnell said.

Change one thing at a time, she suggested. Read a book about “green” living. Buy a few organic foods. Recycle more. Grow your own vegetables.

“Everybody takes it to the level that they need to take it to,” McDonnell said. “There's a way to make good choices and not have the concept overtake your life.”

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