Children’s health is important. They are the canaries in the coal mine – what is happening to them is most likely happening to you.
Children are our most vulnerable members of society and Sydney-based paediatrician Dr Deb Levy has witnessed first hand the rise of illness in children. Allergies, eczema, asthma and diabetes as well as mood and mental health disorders are becoming alarmingly more common in children. It is predicted this generation of parents may outlive their children.
The most common diseases on the rise in children are:
- Atopic Disorders: Eczema, asthma, food allergies and hayfever.
- Obesity: According to the Australian Beureau of Statistics, one in four children in Australia are overweight or obese. With obesity comes all of the problems of chronic diseases: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, liver problems and joint problems.
- Mood Disorders: It is predicted in the future one in twenty five children will have some form of ADHD or autism. Studies have shown the rise in numbers cannot be attributed to the fact that we have better tools for detecting these conditions. The only feasible way to explain the increase is by looking at lifestyle.
There is a genetic component to all of these conditions yet the rise in the number of children affected by these conditions cannot simply be explained by a shift in our genes. It takes hundreds of years for genes to change. We should rather be talking about epigenetics; how certain genes are being switched on and off by lifestyle choices.
The 5P’s – a holistic framework to treat & prevent disease in children
Although Deb is a conventionally trained doctor, she takes a holistic, integrative approach to medicine. She combines the best of conventional medicine with an in-depth knowledge of nutrition, biology, and science to create safe treatment plans including a combination of prescription medication and personalised lifestyle programs.
Deb has drawn on both her professional and personal experience as a wife and mother to approach illnesses more holistically, looking at the root causes to not only treat disease more effectively, but to prevent disease and help children thrive.
Deb has developed a framework she calls her “Happy kids program” she refers to it as the 5 P’s:
Plate: The importance of good nutrition for children’s health
Nutrition is essential for overall good health. Two of the most studied nutrients for management and prevention of atopic disorders are vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system, while omega-3 prevents chronic inflammation.
In modern society we have been taught to fear the sun as it may cause skin cancer. We cover our skin whenever we venture out into the sunshine. While it may protect from developing skin cancer, it results in most people including children having a vitamin D deficiency. The sun is our best source of this important vital vitamin.
We have also been brainwashed into believing fat is ‘bad’ and to avoid. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Healthy fats are essential. We should never be giving low-fat foods to our children. They should be drinking full cream milk, eating real butter, enjoying meat cooked in butter or lard, and using olive in their food.
One of the biggest nutrition challenges faced by parents is the fussy eater. Research by Blackmore’s shows more than 50% of parents in Australia are concerned their children are fussy eaters – 85% of children don’t eat their vegetables.
Deb’s top tips for dealing with a fussy eater includes:
- Empower yourself: Understand what your child is eating and what they should be eating
- Plan ahead for the week
- Involve the children in growing vegetables, shopping and the preparation of food
- Give children healthy choices ‘do you want the broccoli or the zucchini with your dinner tonight?’
- Set a good example for your children
- Make mealtimes fun
- Don’t give up. Reward any positive steps in the right direction
Play: Encourage children to play outside
Children learn and develop through play. It is important to encourage children to get outside and stretch their bodies and have some fun. When they are allowed to play in the dirt it helps build their immunity by developing a healthy gut microbiome. They are also getting all-important sun exposure for the synthesis of vitamin D.
Limit the amount of time spent indoors looking at screens. It is well known the more hours a child spends watching TV the greater the chance of them becoming obese. There is also an emotional toll when children and teenagers spend too much time playing computer games and watching the iPad.
Pause: Children need down time
Poor sleep is a common problem for both adults and children. In children the problems experienced with sleep are age-dependent. Young children often don’t know how to go to sleep. They haven’t been given the right environment to promote sleep.
Poor sleep hygiene, overstimulation and an unhealthy diet all contribute to sleep problems in children. When children get older screentime starts to get in the way of healthy sleep.
People: Children need social connections
One of the consequences of spending too much time behind a screen is a sense of social isolation. Children need to connect with other people. There is a famous long-running Harvard study highlighting the importance of relationships and how they impact our longevity, health and wellness.
Real connections are not made on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Deb doesn’t believe school age children should be on social media, and if they are they should be supervised.
Protect: Children are exposed to environmental toxins
There are a few aspects to consider when we are trying to protect our children. The most important one is the environment and exposure of toxins. Of particular concern are endocrine disruptors. Children are being born with abnormalities attributed to certain chemicals; starting puberty earlier.
What we believe is safe today is likely to be proven unsafe tomorrow. There are hundreds of thousands of chemicals in the world today. Only a few have been safety tested. They are only pulled out of circulation when a problem is detected. An example of this is BPA. It was not considered to be a problem and now we are making sure food containers are BPA-free.
Be aware of your environment and what you can control. At home use non-toxic cleaners.
Preconception: Mum’s heath before pregnancy
Adding a sixth P to Deb’s framework: Preconception. It is not always possible but it is important for a mother to ensure her health is optimal before falling pregnant. The mother-to-be must consider her environment, personal health and nutrition to support a healthy pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy environment throughout pregnancy supports an optimal outcome.
Contributor: Dr Deb Levy
Dr Deb Levy, a holistic paediatrician. She uses a holistic integrative approach which means combining the best of conventional medicine with an in-depth knowledge of nutrition, biology, and science to create safe treatment plans which may include both prescription medication or personalised health lifestyle programs or both.
Original Article Source: Dr Deb Levy – The 5P’s for Children’s Health