But how often do we stop looking at others and look at our own behaviors? Now, you know that I would never encourage a parent to feel unnecessary guilt, but there is a big difference between guilt and productive self reflection.
So here are some facts for you:
- Sugar surpresses the immune system, stops the body from absorbing minerals, and affects brain activity. (check out this really well researched article) Yet how many of us feed our kids cereal, juice, "occasional" (often daily) treats, fruit snacks, granola bars, fruit bars, and refined grain products?
- About 3% of children are diagnosed with dairy allergies, but I believe the number is much higher. There are two types of allergic reactions to dairy- immediate and delayed. The immediate is usually diagnosed because, well, diagnosis is easy. The child drinks milk and then they react. The delayed reaction is much more difficult to detect, especially with the sharp rise in food allergies in children. Symptoms of a dairy (or any delayed reaction food) allergy? Increased mucus production and frequent upper respiratory infections. If your child has suffered from more than three infections over the course of the season I strongly encourage you to remove dairy from your child's diet- it's easier than you think and could be THE thing that improves their health.
- Other things that can affect your children's health- lack of sleep OR poor quality sleep, stress (yes, kids feel stress), poor gut health, sluggish digestion, indoor air pollution, and an improperly developed immune system...
But we live in a state of fear of all illness, and of bacteria and pathogens in general. We hear stories about colds that turned fatal or a seemingly minor illness that was actually some rare deadly tropical disease. We're told to "kill 99.9% of germs" in our homes, use hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap, and hose our kitchens down with bleach or risk illness in our family. We live in fear of minor illness, and as a result we are taking actions that are actually making our children MORE sick MORE often.
I'll tell you a little secret- I babysit for sick kids. I always have. And never, not even during the throes of their food allergies (although then it was probably because they were already sick...), have I or my children gotten sick afterwards. I don't use any antibacterial products in my house- no bleach, no lysol, no antibacterial hand soap or hand sanitizer. Yet, this past year, we haven't had any of the colds or flu or most of the other yuckiness that has gone around. When my kids do get sick, I don't look around for others to blame, I look at my own practices- have we been eating healthy? Have my kids been under stress or not sleeping enough? Have they been eating more sugar than usual (in fact, Izzy's ear infections this year came the week after Halloween, the week of Christmas, and the week after Valentine's Day)?
I strongly encourage all parents- stop looking for others to blame when your children get sick, stop believing what the media tells you about nutrition and bacteria, and take your family's health into your own hands!