Childhood is a time for growing naturally, playing and being playful, being spontaneous, expressing feelings freely, learning, and developing imagination. It is also a time for you, as a parent, to delight in the joy and spark of your child’s emerging self and to recognize and affirm her strength, vitality, and potential. She is constantly expressing her body’s inner intelligence and radiant health.
While medical professionals tend to focus on discrete physical health issues, parents have a responsibility to understand their baby’s basic and innate health. Nonetheless, there may be times when your baby gets unbalanced and sick, and her energies—and yours—are directed toward restoring her health. There may be times when her everyday activities of exploring the world are put on hold. Physical health is necessary for your baby to progress in her physical, emotional, and intellectual development, and to reach her full potential.
As a parent, a basic understanding of how disease happens gives you insights into ways to help your child build her defenses against illness. Effective defense against disease means not only avoiding germs but also building a strong overall physical constitution, so that when your baby does become sick, her body can fight the illness more efficiently.
Some trends in children’s health today show a decrease in disease resistance. Diseases that were once rare in childhood—obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes—are on the rise in children. In addition, an increasing number of children are being diagnosed with and medicated for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other mood disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 10 million children in the United States (nearly 14 percent) take prescription medication on a regular basis.
Researchers are finding that many of these conditions can be reversed or prevented through lifestyle choices. So, while obesity and mood disorders might not be immediate concerns in your baby’s first three years of life, the choices you make for her now can set the stage for preventing these conditions in her childhood and throughout her life. For instance, you can help prevent obesity as she grows by providing her with whole, nutritious foods, daily activity, and plenty of sleep. Furthermore, prevention of obesity is associated with the prevention of type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and heart and cardiovascular problems.
Those same lifestyle choices—nourishing food, activity, and adequate sleep and rest—help your child’s brain function at its steady best and steer clear of triggers for dysfunction. Over the past decade, several studies have demonstrated a connection between certain food additives, such as Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and behavior associated with ADHD. Studies have also shown that refined sugars and highly processed foods aggravate depression and other mood disorders. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, depression, or another mood disorder, you can avoid (or at least minimize) the need for medication by exploring links between the condition and your lifestyle choices.
By making choices that nourish your baby’s health, you provide her with a strong, balanced body that is unlikely to give way to chronic disease in and beyond childhood. However, diseases that are impacted by lifestyle choices are not the only threats to your child’s health. Surrounding her are bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. In addition, her health faces threats from toxins and pollutants. Her best protection against these body invaders is a strong immune system.