Integrative Health Blog

Can Half of Breast Cancers Be Prevented?

Posted by on Thu, Jan 01, 2015

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.”

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Tags: cancer, children's health, pediatrics

Three Reasons to Avoid Excessive Media Exposure for Children

Posted by on Mon, Dec 22, 2014

“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.
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Tags: obesity, children's health, pediatrics

Holistic Pediatrics: How to Protect Your Child From Heart Disease

Posted by on Mon, Dec 08, 2014

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?

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Tags: heart disease, holistic nutrition, children's health, pediatrics

Is It a Big Deal That My Child is Overweight?

Posted by on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

 

One in three American children are overweight or obese

It’s now common knowledge that childhood obesity has become an epidemic in our country. One in every three children is overweight or obese.  While this issue has been getting less media attention recently, we don’t want to underestimate the looming health crisis that will result from such large numbers of children being overweight.   We have already been seeing a staggering increase in common childhood illnesses, such as asthma and allergies, because of the increasing toxicity of our environment.  Overweight and obesity add yet another burden to our children’s stressed systems. 

Overweight and obesity may put your child at risk for the following diseases:

Type 2 Diabetes: Obesity is the most significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes.   A serious illness, diabetes is the leading cause of many serious medical problems later in life, such as kidney disease, blindness, heart disease, and circulation problems leading to amputation.

High blood lipid levels: By lipids, we are referring to cholesterol, triglycerides, low and high density lipoproteins to name the most common ones.  Obese children often have lipid disorders, specifically: high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, high LDL levels, low HDL levels.  These abnormal lipid levels lead to increased cardiovascular risk.

High blood pressure: High blood pressure also increases with overweight and obesity in childhood.  Just like other health problems, it continues into adulthood which sets these children up for cardiovascular disease later in life.   

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Tags: obesity, children's health, pediatrics

Can Diet Affect ADHD?

Posted by on Mon, Nov 17, 2014

Is there such a thing as an ADHD Diet?

The answer is yes…and no. 

What this mean is this: a child’s diet is a critical piece in the treatment of ADHD.  However, the right diet doesn’t treat just ADHD symptoms, but it makes the brain work better in general.  So, an ADHD diet is actually a brain healthy diet.

What happens in ADHD? 

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are brain disorder diagnoses usually made by a pediatrician or psychologist. It is characterized by inability to concentrate, restlessness, and impulsiveness, but may be difficult to diagnose. It is often first reported by teachers or parents. There is no single cause of ADHD. Rather, scientific research suggests the effects of many underlying causes, which taken together are expressed through each individual's genetic make up as a group of symptoms qualifying for a diagnosis of ADHD.

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Tags: ADHD, holistic nutrition, children's health, pediatrics

5 Reasons to Choose a Holistic Pediatrician

Posted by on Wed, Nov 05, 2014

One of the most important decisions you have to make as a parent is the choice of pediatrician.  Whether you are expecting a baby, or have just moved into a new area, or are simply no longer satisfied with your current pediatrician, you have the task of choosing the right doctor among the numerous pediatric services in your area. Many prospective parents call the office as they are searching for a pediatrician, wanting to determine if a holistic pediatrician can meet their needs.  While different parents all have their own unique concerns, there are a few commonalities among parents in the search for a pediatrician who will partner with them in the best interest of their children.

Common Concerns for Choosing a Holistic Pediatrician or Traditional Pediatrician:

1. You want to raise your baby in the most natural way possible. When your child develops an earache, a stuffy nose or constipation, what should you do?  You want to know safe and effective options that are drug-free if possible.  You want to know herbal or homeopathic options for your young child.  While many conventional pediatricians aren’t familiar with many of these interventions, a holistic pediatrician will be.

2. You want accurate information about vaccines and the choice of vaccination to be yours.  After studying mountains of vaccine information on both sides of the issue, one thing is clear: there is a lot of misleading information pro and con.  A holistic pediatrician  believes it’s his or her responsibility to know both sides of the issue, and objectively discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with you, the parent, so that you can make an educated, informed decision for your family based on facts instead of fear.

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Tags: children's health, pediatrics

Winterize Your Medicine Cabinet with These Natural Remedies

Posted by on Mon, Oct 06, 2014

We all know that feeling of waking up with a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. That feeling of dread that “I’m coming down with something.” 

It’s that time of year when we’re are about to be bombarded with the winter viruses, bringing their familiar illnesses such as the common cold, bronchitis and influenza. How many times have you been caught unprepared for the illness? 

In keeping with a natural and holistic pediatric approach, I’m going to suggest that you winterize your home now by stocking your home medicine cabinet (and kitchen pantry) with natural and effective tools you’ll need to fight back against the illnesses that are surely coming your way. 

Here are 7 things that you should have around to be ready for the winter:

1)      Zinc is great for the immune system, and studies have shown that it can shorten the duration and the severity of a cold. When the scratchy throat starts, have some zinc lozenges in the house.

2)      Vitamin C: As soon as that runny nose or cough hits, you want to load your body with vitamin C.  Make sure you keep vitamin C rich foods, like bell peppers, broccoli and strawberries, on hand all through the fall and winter.  And also, have a vitamin C supplement on hand.  The last thing you want to do when you’re sick is drag yourself to the market.

3)      Garlic is a natural antibiotic with both antiviral and antibacterial properties.  Crushing fresh garlic releases its immune-boosting properties.

4)      Ginger is both antiviral and anti-inflammatory.  And it also settles an upset stomach.  So if the stomach flu hits your home, you’ll definitely want this on hand for relief.

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Tags: natural remedies, children's health, pediatrics

Worried About Enterovirus D68? Here’s What You Can Do

Posted by on Mon, Sep 29, 2014

 

Many people are calling enterovirus D68 the “new respiratory virus.” 

In fact, there’s nothing new about this virus which was first identified in 1962.  Enteroviruses are a common cause of respiratory illnesses in the summer and early fall.  This particular strain of enterovirus, D68, can cause respiratory illness that ranges from mild to severe.  I’m sure you’ve seen many of the severe cases highlighted in the news. 

So here are 5 things you can do to help your child prevent enterovirus infections:

  • Make sure your child is using the basic infection prevention strategies which include frequent handwashing, coughing into her sleeve, and avoiding sharing utensils or cups with people who are sick.

  • If your child develops respiratory symptoms, make sure you’re giving him lots of healthy fluids like water, soup broth, freshly made fruit and vegetable juices and tea.  You can use herbal teas such as ginger tea or Echinacea.  Add raw honey and lemon which also help fight bad bugs.  Do not use honey with children under the age of 12 months!

  • Boost your child’s vitamin and mineral intake by giving her lots of fruits and vegetables.  Flavor your vegetables with disease fighting extras such as garlic, turmeric and onions.

  • Use a humidifier. Moisture is an important defensive weapon that your upper respiratory tract uses to keep out the bad bugs.  You can power up your humidifier by adding a few drops of lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, oregano or peppermint essential oil to the water reservoir.  These essential oils help fight infections, reduce congestion and improve sleep.

  • You’ve probably been advised to use a saline nasal spray to help with congestion.  That’s a good idea.  But even better is using a Xylitol nasal spray which is anti-microbial in addition to reducing the swelling.

These tips will help your family prevent and fight enterovirus and the multitude of other respiratory viruses that you’ll face in the coming months. Learn more about holistic pediatrics.

 

 

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Tags: children's health, pediatrics

Seven Ways that Exercise Maintains a Healthy Brain

Posted by on Mon, Sep 22, 2014

Our children’s brains are under attack. 

Take a look at these startling statistics from a comprehensive surveillance report by the CDC that spanned 2005 - 2011 which shows that among children aged 3-17 years:

  • 6.8% have ADHD

  • 3.5% have behavioral or conduct problems

  • 3% have anxiety

  • 2.1% have depression

  • 1.1% have autism spectrum disorder 

Moreover, research by the National Alliance on Mental Illness has found that among children ages 9 to 17, 21% have a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder, and that suicide is the leading cause of death in youth ages 15 to 24.

These numbers show us why brain health is a major focus of research today.  The good news is that there are many things we already know about how to maintain a healthy brain.  Last week, we talked about the importance of “brain food.”  And here’s another habit that is critical to brain health -- exercise.  Your brain needs an abundant blood flow to sustain its high energy demands for function, and exercise is a great way to increase blood flow to the brain.


Here are 7 ways that exercise has been shown to benefit the brain:

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Tags: children's health, pediatrics, brain health

4 Great Nutritional Brain Health Boosters for Children

Posted by on Sat, Sep 13, 2014

Brain Food for Optimal Concentration, Creativity and Cognition

Now that our kids are back in school, they’ll need all the brain power they can get.  Our brain function is so vitally connected to what we eat that Dr. Scott Shannon, noted psychiatrist says this: 

“In order to ensure that your child’s brain is able to function well…you must first ensure that it is being properly nourished.…Poor diet is without a doubt one of the major reasons we’re seeing such an incredible spike in the number of kids diagnosed with and medicated for mental and emotional disorders.  Even drugs can’t help our kids when they are quite literally being starved of their mental and emotional health.” Scott Shannon from Please Don’t Label My Child

Indeed, more and more studies are showing just how powerful food is in the function and growth of the brain.  On the other hand, the wrong foods are absolutely detrimental to brain function. We as parents need to equip our children with the tools they need for better concentration, creativity and cognition. So here are four great nutritional brain boosters:

1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables! 

Our children need at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Parents of a picky eater have to be very creative about getting the fruits and veggies in, such as smoothies and milkshakes with hidden fruits and vegetables. 

How do fruits and vegetables boost brain power?

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Tags: children's health, pediatrics, brain health