The Let’s Talk About Vaccines event held at National Integrated Health Associates was educational, engaging and enlightening. I had the privilege of sharing my experience at this event with students, trainees and colleagues in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Howard University’s College of Medicine. My focus for that talk was the Holistic Pediatrician’s Management of Vaccine Refusal. Your stories, the information shared and the discussed research by Dr. Suzanne Humphries, Barbara Loe Fisher and the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) served as an incredible background for teaching empathy to current and future providers and promoted the perspective and need for more personalized and precision medical approaches to keeping our children healthy and protected.Read More
Integrative Health Blog
Let's Talk About Vaccines
When: Aug. 25, 2016
Time: 5:00 - 8:00 pm
5225 Wisconsin Ave. NW #402
Washington, D.C. 20015
Please join us on Thursday evening, Aug. 25, 2016, for lectures, information and education about vaccine safety.
Gastrointestinal symptoms occur frequently in children.
Unexplained abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea and gassiness all commonly prompt a visit to the doctor’s office. More and more research is showing the importance of gut health for a child's healthy immune system, healthy brain and overall wellness. Therefore, here are some ideas for optimizing your child’s gut health:
A healthy gut starts with a healthy dietRead More
April is Autism Awareness Month. It is estimated that 1 in 68 children in the United States has autism, a complex disorder which impairs social and communication skills. Often times, the symptoms of autism are thought to be irreversible, but continuing research is showing that a variety of interventions may improve, and sometimes reverse autism. While there is a wide spectrum of approaches to autism treatment, the following three form the basis of biomedical interventions for children with autism:Read More
A question about baby mattresses was submitted recently to our Wholesome Mama's Facebook group, and the answer is important to share with new and expectant parents. Babies spend a lot of time sleeping, an estimated 16 to 18 hours per day. For decades, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) has promoted the “Back to Sleep” campaign, encouraging babies to sleep on their backs, which has been successful in reducing the incidence of SIDS. However, there is evidence that the mattress that your baby sleeps on may also increase a baby’s risk of SIDS.
Studies show infants exposed to chemical emissions from mattresses
In 2014, a study by the University of Texas was released which found that “infants are exposed to high levels of chemical emissions from crib mattresses.” The researchers examined 20 new mattresses and found that they contained over 30 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Moreover, new crib mattresses release about 4 times the amount of VOCs as old mattresses. And even more alarming is that the VOC level is significantly higher in the infant’s breathing space than in the general air. The researchers estimated that the infant laying in the crib is exposed to twice the VOC levels as someone standing in the room. Therefore, the researchers concluded that a good strategy to reduce this VOC exposure would be to let a new mattress air out for an extended period of time, perhaps in a garage or outdoors.
This research seems to suggest that an old mattress would be protective; however, a used mattress comes with risks as well. Dr. Jim Sprott, a New Zealand scientist, is convinced that a number of chemicals, which includes phosphorous, arsenic and antimony used in fire retardants, are directly responsible for SIDS. His theory is that these chemicals combine with fungi in the mattress and create a toxic gas. He further proposes that used mattresses are more likely to have the fungus in it to mix with these chemicals than new mattresses. His theory is based upon a research study in published in 1994 by Dr. B. Richardson which brought this information to light. Dr. Sprott strongly recommends that these chemicals be removed from crib mattresses, but industry standards continue to mandate the inclusion of fire retardants.
Protection from chemicals and gases in crib mattresses
Teresa Fuller MD, PhD
It’s common knowledge that adolescence is characterized by risk-taking behaviors and experimentation. As a parent, you try your best to warn your adolescent children about the dangers they may face, especially regarding drug and alcohol abuse. One type of drug use that is less commonly recognized is prescription drug abuse. In fact, after marijuana, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused drug by teenagers.
A very disturbing trend
Nearly 50% of Americans take at least one prescription medication, and the sale of prescription painkillers quadrupled from 1999 to 2010. Therefore, prescription medications are readily accessible by children and teens. It’s estimated that 25% of teenagers has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime.
One disturbing risk taking trend in regard to prescription drug abuse is for teens to gather for what’s called pill parties, or “skittling.” In these settings, kids are encouraged to bring any pills they can find, and then the pills are dumped into a bowl for them to sample. The risks are very high, given that the child may be taking a very dangerous medication, and is also mixing medications together. These types of gathering have resulted in significant illness and even death for some teens.
So what can you, as a parent, do?
1) Regularly inspect your medicine cabinets and dispose of all medications that you are not using. Many people hold on to left over medicines “just in case” they need it later. Please dispose of it to decrease the risk of a child accidentally or intentionally taking the medication. Many communities now offer a "medicine disposal day" in conjunction with the police so that medication can be safely turned in and not disposed by flushing it down the toilet, thereby adding it to the water supply.
2) Talk to your children about the issue of prescription drug abuse among teenagers and educate them about its dangers. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they are aware of or have attended pill parties or other types of social gatherings that encourage drug use.
Vitamin D is critical to health
Winter season is an important time to think about your (and your child's) vitamin D levels because vitamin D deficiency is especially prevalent during this time of the year. Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for your health at every age. In fact, the illnesses associated with vitamin D deficiency are numerous. Consider the following recent studies:
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with greater cancer risk.
- Vitamin D has been shown to be an effective treatment for psoriasis.
- Vitamin D supplementation reduces incidence of autoimmune diseases, specifically multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes (when taken during infancy).
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased incidence and severity of asthma and wheezing disorders.
- Vitamin D enhances the immune response and provides protection against upper respiratory infections, influenza, and middle ear infections.
- Vitamin D deficiency affects the cardiovascular system. Deficiency of vitamin D increases the risk for heart attack, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, metabolic syndrome, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common
Given the importance of Vitamin D to the function of so many different bodily systems, we need to ensure that our levels are within a healthy range. The recommended blood level for vitamin D is 30 to 80, but rarely do we find a patient in the healthy range.
Here are 3 ways to optimize your vitamin D level:
Outdoor Time: First of all, vitamin D is a misnomer. It’s not a vitamin, but actually a hormone that is produced in your own body. Vitamin D production requires sunlight. So inadequate exposure to the sun, which occurs frequently in our indoor-prone, sedentary society, is a big factor in vitamin D deficiency. The best way to improve your vitamin D level is to make it yourself.
Just ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight exposure can generate 10,000 to 20,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D. (People with darker skin may require five to ten times that length of time for the same resulting levels.) Make sure that you avoid excessive sun intensity resulting in sunburn.
Teresa Fuller, M.D., Ph.D
Breast Cancer Prevention Starts in Childhood
According to a recent interview with Dr. Graham Colditz published by Medscape in December 2014, at least 1/2 of breast cancer cases can be prevented, largely by promoting a healthy lifestyle in girls at a young age. In fact, Dr. Colditz has challenged us to start prevention by age 2 years old! I recently wrote about this topic in an October 2014 article, Breast Cancer Prevention Begins in Childhood?, but it’s worth revisiting based on the sheer magnitude of impact that a few simple preventive strategies can yield.
“Cancer risk is accumulating from before the time a girl hits menarche,” says Dr. Colditz. Menarche is the onset of menstrual periods, which occurs at an average age of 12 years old in the US. Therefore, clearly the emphasis on early detection and screening for breast cancer is incomplete. Instead, our focus should be on educating parents and young women about the steps that they can take to eliminate their controllable risk factors.
Lifestyle Factors Play a Role in Cancer
In the article highlighting this interview, Dr. Colditz demonstrates that 68% of breast cancer cases are attributable to controllable lifestyle factors which are weight (32%), breastfeeding (15%), physical activity (11%), alcohol consumption (5%), diet (3%) and tamoxifen (2%). I suspect that diet plays a larger role than is suggested in this article, especially since the diet strongly correlates with weight.
So, given that 1 in 3 American children are overweight, and that few children are exercising for the recommended sixty minutes per day, we have a lot of room for improving our children’s risk factors. Dr. Colditz is not the only one who is making these recommendations. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has been long promoting the adoption of a healthy diet in childhood for cancer prevention. In their booklet Nutrition for Kids, they state: “Cancers of the colon, breast, and prostate are influenced by diet, exercise, and healthy weight control. Lifelong eating habits are established in childhood, and the longer the exposure to cancer-fighting foods and the avoidance of cancer-promoting foods, the greater the likelihood that cancer won’t strike during adulthood.”
Teresa Fuller M.D., Ph.D
“Literally, the average child now spends more time watching TV than attending school. This kind of electronic engagement has had a profound effect on kids’ behavior and the development of their brains.” Dr. Scott Shannon
The above quote by Dr. Shannon highlights the growing problem of children spending too much time with media. On average, children and teens are spending 7 hours per day with media. With Christmas just around the corner, people are lining up to purchase the latest media devices. Popular gift ideas include tablets, smart phones, video game consoles and laptops. But I’d like to recommend caution regarding the trend to make these the top gifted items for children.
Here are 3 reasons to reign in the media exposure for our children:
- Media contributes to overweight children. Media consumption is mostly a sedentary activity, and therefore a strong contributor to weight gain. In a recent study, it was found that children who consume media for more than 2 hours daily and who have less daily physical activity than recommended were 3 to 4 times more likely to be overweight. Media has another powerful way of helping put on the pounds, and that’s through advertising. Several very intriguing studies have looked at the food advertising during prime time, and during Saturday morning kids’ programming. The vast majority of food promoted on television contains low quality grains (i.e. mostly refined, low-fiber grains), a deficiency of many important minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin E, and high amounts of sugar and fat, promoting weight gain.
Childhood Illnesses: Colds…Chicken Pox…Heart Disease?!
Starting three years ago, it became routine to test all 9 to 11 year olds for cholesterol level. According to a December 2011 Pediatric News article, “…heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems in adulthood are often the end result of cardiovascular risk factors that went unrecognized throughout childhood…”1
I’m glad to see that we, as pediatricians, are acknowledging the fact that heart disease, like many other diseases, really starts in childhood. And while I fully support the screening process, I’m much more interested in prevention. What should we do during that first decade of our children’s lives to make the screening unnecessary? It’s all about diet and lifestyle.
Trending Toward Disease
For the past thirty years, child health has been going in the wrong direction. Childhood overweight and obesity has skyrocketed during the past 3 decades. And that trend is directly linked to the increased incidence of a variety of heart related disorders in children, most notably high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and high cholesterol levels. This is a very serious problem, given that epidemiologists are proposing that life expectancy for this rising generation of children could be shortened by as much as eight years. So, what are the primary factors leading to these disturbing trends?