Have you ever had periods of time where you felt “out of sorts”? Our children often feel “out of sorts too.”
Being healthy is not simply a matter of ‘feeling fine’ or being free of symptoms. A true indicator of health is when the body is able to adapt to the physical, chemical or emotional stressors placed on it. The nervous system is integral to this process, controlling a delicate balancing act so that order and harmony are continually recreated.
There are a myriad of stressors that accompany our modern lifestyle and children are particularly vulnerable to them. From conception onwards, stressors create a compounding effect and the result can be a child who is immune-challenged or who struggles to learn, to express themselves, to interrelate and to be truly healthy. Parents can usually sense that something is ‘not quite right’ with their child; however, by understanding and reducing stressors they can help avoid illness, alleviate symptoms and encourage optimal body functioning for all of life’s stages.
Physical stressors can impact the body even before birth. The vertebrae of a foetus’s tiny spine can be misaligned (known as a subluxation) due to restricted positioning in the womb. Movement within the womb is vitally important as it stimulates the development of the brain and nervous system, while research suggests that a lack of mobility may be one contributing factor for developmental delay.
Spine and nerve distress due to the birth process itself are exceedingly common. Contributing factors include false labor, a long or very short labor, failure of the mother’s cervix to dilate, the use of drugs to increase contraction intensity, the use of vacuum extraction or forceps, caesarean section delivery, and the cord around the baby’s neck. Even straightforward vaginal births can create subluxations. In one fascinating study, over 1500 newborns were examined and it was found that 90% of these babies had suffered birth trauma and associated strain through the neck and cranial areas, while only 10% had freely mobile skulls.
This is why chiropractors recommend all babies have their spine checked post-birth. When the nervous system is not functioning well it affects the communication channels of the body and impacts on all aspects of health. Particularly for babies, it can affect their neurological development and their capacity to sleep, to breast feed and to digest milk.
Subluxations occur throughout life; for instance, when learning how to walk, ride and climb, when playing various sports, when acquiring injuries from accidents, and when sustaining a poor posture. For this reason, both children and adults benefit from having their spines regularly adjusted.
Science now understands that a foetus is a human being and that the womb is not just an incubator – it is dynamic, living environment greatly influenced by the stress its parents experience. Epigenetics and other areas of research show us that emotional stress affects human beings at all stages of life, including in utero, creating changes at a cellular level that can be detrimental.
Emotional stress can be caused by a hostile or uneasy environment. If a child feels their safety or the safety of either parent is threatened, physiological responses arise which can result in anxiety, personality issues or health complaints.
Poor sleep habits can also contribute to stress. If a baby or child does not wake up easily and with energy each morning, this could indicate they are not getting enough quality sleep. Parents could try getting them to bed an hour earlier for a period of time and watch how this can transform grumpy or emotional behavior. Implementing a set routine for dinner and bedtime makes life easier for everyone.
Unborn babies and breast fed children are exposed to toxins that a mother inhales or ingests, or that pass through her skin. It was once thought that the placenta shielded the foetus from these toxins but we now know that the umbilical cord carries not only the building blocks of life but also a steady stream of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides that cross the placenta just as readily as residues from cigarettes and alcohol.
In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in collaboration with the Commonwealth, researchers found a total of 287 different industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of ten babies. Among the chemicals were eight perfluorochemicals used as stain and oil repellants in fast-food packaging, clothes and textiles, dozens of brominated flame retardants and their toxic by-products, and numerous pesticides.
The dangers of exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied. With this in mind I would urge all couples planning to conceive and those who are currently pregnant to take great care with the quality of their food, water and other beverages, and to avoid alcohol and drugs. Pesticides, colorings, additives and hormones in foods are all toxic to the body, as are most over-the-counter and prescriptive drugs. Toxins are also commonly found in cleaning products and personal care products such as toothpastes, shampoos and deodorants.
As well as avoiding chemicals, we can help our bodies by paying attention to our diet and digestive health. The old saying of “we are what we eat” is very true, however, we are also “how well we digest and absorb our food”. It is estimated that approximately 60% of our immune cells reside in our colon (bowel). Toxins and dietary allergens can affect our digestive capacity and impact our immune system, leading to all manner of health complaints. Sadly, millions of children suffer with eczema, asthma, allergies, sleep problems and behavioral difficulties – to name but a few of the repercussions.
Infants are born with immature digestive systems that are not able to easily break down and assimilate foods, and so inappropriate food introduction can compromise digestive strength for life. The top eight allergens responsible for 90% of food-related allergic reactions are: milk, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. These should be introduced with caution and at age-appropriate times (for more information, please see Which Foods When on the website www.welladjusted.me)
High quality probiotics are an essential aide to digestive health. These ‘good’ bacteria have been shown to alleviate an array of childhood health issues such as colic, eczema, asthma and gastrointestinal symptoms associated with autism. Acidophilus is just one strain of bacteria; there are in fact about 500 other beneficial strains that play a vital role in helping to keep the gut clean and healthy. They occur naturally in the gut but can be killed off by chemicals (such as chlorine and fluoride found in water and other products), drugs (including antibiotics and the oral contraceptive pill) and stress.
Newborn babies benefit from probiotics given daily via breast milk, on the nipple itself or mixed into formulas. Offering probiotics well before the introduction of solid food provides a critical period of repair and support for an infant’s digestive system.
Restoring Balance via the Nervous System
The nervous system is the master controller of our body; if its communication channels become fuzzy, distorted or damaged then we can experience all sorts of malfunction. Imagine your nervous system is like the lighting system in your home. If the lights start to dim, you might not be able to cook dinner very well, you may start banging into furniture, you may trip and hurt yourself, or you may feel frightened. Exactly how the dim lights influence a person will vary but the issue is still the same – there is a communication problem which needs fixing.
Whether we have a large spine or a tiny little spine, if that spine is creating nerve distress then our magnificent bodies cannot operate smoothly. More and more chiropractors are now working with pregnant couples to help facilitate straightforward births, and adjusting newborn babies to ease birth trauma. Infant adjustments are very gentle and typically a baby will be soothed by these techniques.
Chiropractors often work with other allied health practitioners such as homeopaths, naturopaths and Chinese medicine practitioners to address lifestyle factors that may be depleting a child’s life force, such as poor diet or exposure to toxins.
While chiropractic care is by no means a cure-all, by improving the function of the spine and nervous system, the body is able to recalibrate and recreate balance so that overall body function improves. When this is combined with positive, proactive lifestyle changes, true health is indeed achievable.
If you would like more extensive information on the above topics please refer to my new book “Ticklish”
Dr. Jennifer Barham-Floreani, chiropractor and author is a published authority on pediatric health and holistic parenting with “Well Adjusted Babies 2nd Edition” referred to as “the new holistic bible for pregnancy, childbirth and beyond” for families across the globe. Jennifer’s career has been dedicated to encouraging the “health literacy” of families and she has received many international awards for her three books. As a mother of four, Jennifer has become an authentic guide for couples and families with her website “Well Adjusted” she shares clinical and personal experience, research and inspiration to help parents raise happy, healthy children. www.WellAdjustedBabies.com