Autism, ADD, childhood obesity, and diabetes — the rate of serious childhood diseases is on the rise, with these epidemics leading the way. Why? And what can be done about it?
Because of the childhood obesity epidemic and related conditions like type 2 diabetes, The Center for Disease Control estimated that an entire generation of children born since 2000 may live shorter lives than their parents. 1 Other experts, like Christopher Murray, who serves as director of Seattle’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, argue that today’s kids may not live shorter lives than their parents, but they do risk spending their older years in poor health.2
Either way, the outlook is bleak.
Women are delivering low birth weight and pre-term babies in epidemic numbers, and both conditions accurately predict future health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Even more troubling, rates of autism have increased from one in 10,000 to one child out of 68, or 3.5 million Americans diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. 3
At a time when giving birth to a healthy baby seems more and more difficult, most women are unaware of how their nutrition and lifestyle can positively impact the health of their future child.
2 COMMON PROBLEMS IN A ‘HEALTHY’ PREGNANCY
During pregnancy, many changes occur in a woman’s body, including:
- Your progesterone rises, which is natural and very good because this hormone is essential for retaining the fetus. However, along with elevated progesterone, blood sugar also increases. Both blood sugar and progesterone play an important role in your developing baby’s brain, yet this increased blood sugar (along with ever-increasing stress and a diet of sugary, processed foods) sets the stage for a systemic yeast infection to become even more acute.
- Your immune system is weakened. This happens so that your own antibodies do not see your developing baby as an enemy, but weakened immunity also makes it more difficult for your immune system to stave off bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
Studies show that as many as 85 percent of women have a vaginal infection when they give birth and pass on dangerous pathogens to their newborn babies instead of the beneficial bacteria that create a foundation for wellness.4Vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy has become so common that most doctors don’t think twice about recommending over-the-counter products or prescribing vaginal creams and suppositories. The Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that “yeast infections are more common during pregnancy than in other times of a woman’s life” and “do not threaten the health of your baby,” which we now know doesn’t tell the full story.5 A yeast infection during pregnancy may be the sign of an underlying Candida infection that can be passed on from mother to baby.
Babies who aren’t born with an abundance of beneficial bacteria can start life with gastrointestinal pain like colic reflux and even infant constipation. They may not develop the necessary immunity, enabling them to cleanse out the inherited toxins from their parents and grandparents.
From this state of weakened immunity, a baby is vulnerable to more serious health problems, including autism.
THE AUTISM-INFECTION CONNECTION
Understanding fungal infections may be the key to unlocking the mystery of autism. When a woman has a systemic fungal infection (Candidiasis), she can infect her baby, and neither of them may have any visible symptoms.
Babies born with yeast in their gut (inherited from mothers with Candidiasis) lack the normal, healthy bacteria that establish a thriving immune system. A baby’s blood-brain barrier isn’t formed until 6 weeks after birth. Before the blood-brain barrier is formed, there is potential for fungal, bacterial, and viral infections to enter a baby’s brain.
A large number of children with autism are known to have gastrointestinal troubles, and researchers have linked autism with gut bacteria. The inner ecosystem of the gut, also called the “second brain,” can impact the health of the entire body — including brain development, behavior, and mood. Pregnancy and the first two years of life are considered the critical window to nourish a baby’s inner ecology to support gut, immune, and brain health.
When assessing autism risk, it helps to remember that a baby’s inner ecosystem is passed down from the mother. In 2012, Caltech researchers discovered that a viral or bacterial infection during pregnancy could increase a child’s risk of developing autism. Researchers also observed that changing gut bacteria with beneficial probiotics could help to reduce symptoms of autism. Solidifying the brain-gut connection, researchers believe probiotic therapy could be potentially transformative for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.6
MOM’S MOOD MATTERS
Establishing a vibrant inner ecosystem is just one way an expecting mother can influence her baby’s health — a mother’s mood can also help or harm her unborn child.
When a mother is under excessive stress during pregnancy, her fetus ends up with expanded adrenals, and the baby is unable to handle stress. (Adrenals are glands that provide energy to every system in the body.) When the adrenals are healthy, a person is calm and centered with excellent mental focus. Children who experienced expanded adrenal cells in the womb will be highly intelligent but will find it difficult to concentrate. These children are often diagnosed as having ADD or ADHD.
Research also ties mood back to the health of the gut. Friendly gut bacteria have been proven to reduce anxiety, largely related to the gut-brain connection we already discussed. Probiotics can heal the “second brain” to provide a range ofneurological benefits. In a 2015 study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, researchers suggested that probiotics could help to improve mood, especially in cases of aggression and depression.7
BODY ECOLOGY’S PREGNANCY PROTOCOL: 4 IMPORTANT STEPS
The Body Ecology Diet emphasizes establishing a healthy inner ecosystem, cleansing your body of built-up toxins, and nourishing your adrenals as an ideal way to prepare your body for pregnancy.
If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, it’s not too late to start thinking about your own health:
- Start the Body Ecology program — this will help both parents build health and vitality to pass on to their baby.
- Build up a storehouse of nutrients in your cells — which will also help a mother have an easier time when she reaches menopause.
- Eliminate toxins that have been accumulating in those cells throughout your life.
- Eliminate stress as much as possible before and during pregnancy.
7 BENEFITS OF FERMENTED FOODS DURING PREGNANCY
You may have heard of pregnant women who crave the unlikely combination of pickles and ice cream. Craving pickles and ice cream is actually your body’s way of saying it needs sour, fermented foods rich in beneficial bacteria and the sugar to feed them. Unfortunately, most commercial pickles and sauerkraut are pasteurized and contain too much salt and vinegar, so you won’t get the health benefits of true fermented foods. And ice cream is full of sugar that feeds Candida yeast.
The Body Ecology program is the only nutrient-rich, probiotic diet that encourages daily fermented foods and drinks. These superfoods establish plenty of good bacteria in your intestines that quickly populate your birth canal. Easily digestible milk kefir and cultured vegetables are especially nourishing to a mother’s inner ecology. Maintaining this healthy inner ecosystem is the crucial first step to wellness for you and your baby.
When your baby passes through the birth canal, he will be inoculated by beneficial bacteria and be well on the way to establishing his own inner ecosystem. For this reason, research supports the long-term benefits of probiotics during and after pregnancy: Probiotic bacteria can protect children and pregnant women against heavy metal exposure.8 Probiotics during and after pregnancy may also reduce the risk of eczema in children by almost half, another rising childhood epidemic.9 Consuming probiotics during pregnancy can even protect against listeria, a pathogen lethal to pregnant women.10 Nutrients researchers say that supporting the infant gut microbiome with probiotics proves promising to address the growing childhood obesity crisis that can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.11
Enjoying probiotic-rich fermented foods during pregnancy can provide lifelong benefits:
- Create a healthy inner ecosystem– Fermented foods lay down the foundation for a healthy and strong gut.
- Provide more nutrients – When fermented, a food’s nutrients increase hundreds of times. The microflora, abundant in unpasteurized, fermented foods, act like enzymes to properly process a food, releasing all the nutrients for you to absorb. At the same time, they help retain those nutrients so your blood delivers the best possible nutrition to each growing cell in your baby’s developing brain and body.
- Improve digestion – The microflora in fermented foods increase the bioavailability of each meal by improving digestion.
- Reduce damage from sugar – Microflora enjoy the sugars in food and shield you from damage that sugar can often cause.
- Control cravings – Fermented foods help control cravings for carbohydrates and provide that sour taste so many pregnant women intuitively crave.
- Help the body detoxify – Microflora will attack toxins, combat parasites, and restore the acid/alkaline balance of your intestines.
- Help babies digest mother’s milk – Mother’s milk is nature’s most perfect food for babies. But it is critical to establish a healthy inner ecosystem so that a baby can digest the milk. We often say that finely pureed cultured veggies and small amounts of fermented beverages should be introduced as “baby’s second foods.”
Ideally, potential mothers and fathers will follow the Body Ecology Diet for six months to two years before conception. A father’s genes also contribute to a healthy placenta, liver, and adrenals — all important to strengthen a baby’s immunity. You now know that nutrition and lifestyle can significantly impact your health and the health of your baby. If you are planning to have a child, the Body Ecology program is your foundation for creating wellness.
- Jiminez, April. Junior Weight Wars: Tackling obesity on Long Island. LongIslandPress.com 7 December 2006.
- “Americans Are Living Longer, but Not Necessarily Healthier, Study Shows.”
- “Facts and Statistics.” Autism Society.
- The most common vaginal infections are: candidiasis (75%), bacterial vaginosis (16%) and trichomoniasis. Hamilton, Carey. Bacterial vaginosis often goes untreated. The Salt Lake Tribune. December 2006. Vaginitis Due to Vaginal Infections. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. October 2004.
- “Pregnancy complications.” Womenshealth.gov.
- Elaine Y. Hsiao, Sara W. McBride, Sophia Hsien, Gil Sharon, Embriette R. Hyde, Tyler McCue, Julian A. Codelli, Janet Chow, Sarah E. Reisman, Joseph F. Petrosino, Paul H. Patterson, Sarkis K. Mazmanian. Microbiota Modulate Behavioral and Physiological Abnormalities Associated with Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Cell, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.11.024.
- Laura Steenbergen, Roberta Sellaro, Saskia van Hemert, Jos A. Bosch, Lorenza S. Colzato. A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.04.003.
- Gregor Reid et al. Randomized Open-Label Pilot Study of the Influence of Probiotics and the Gut Microbiome on Toxic Metal Levels in Tanzanian Pregnant Women and School Children. mBio, October 2014 DOI: 10.1128/mBio.01580-14.
- Dotterud et al. Probiotics in pregnant women to prevent allergic disease: a randomised, double-blind trial. British Journal of Dermatology, 2010; no DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09889.x.
- University College Cork. “Combating Infectious Disease With Probiotics.” ScienceDaily.
- Nutrients. 2015 Apr; 7(4): 2237–2260.