Reducing Your Child’s Risk of Autism And Other Disorders: Conception, Pregnancy, And The Newborn Infant, Part I

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Having children is one of the things in your life that will alter your future more than anything you will ever do. Although it is filled with uncertainty and a great deal of trial and error, most everyone you ask will say their lives are transformed for the better because of the decision  to have a child.

This series of posts about conception, pregnancy, and the newborn infant are intended to be companion pieces to the recent vaccination series – Vaccinations: A Choice or A Mandate? If you are considering having children or are pregnant, these posts are intended to help guide you through the many decisions you will make affecting the health of you and your child.

We hear a great deal from the medical and health communities at large about what we should be doing to make a better foundation of health and future for our children. But many of those pieces of advice are actually counter to what our children need to be healthy. For instance, we are repeatedly reminded to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – but very little is said about including a good variety of healthy fats and proteins – foods which contain the most nutrients per serving – and fermented foods full of natural probiotics which keep your immune system in optimal condition. The information here provides a thorough treatment of these critical topics, and won’t leave you hanging on what to eat for maximum nutritional support.

Please take some time to read through these posts about things you can do to give your child the best possible chance for a healthy and happy life. Good foundations are extremely important, and one of the best ways is to focus on a healthy lifestyle and superior nutrition through nutrient-dense foods.

In the vaccination posts, I talked extensively about the factors that can lead to disorders such as autism, ADHD, ADD, and other related issues.

This list of items will address those concerns and provide some tools with which to do what you can to prevent the development of health issues. (some of these item are from the following resource: Pathways To Family Wellness, Maureen McDonnell, R.N.):

Prior to conception:

  • Spend six months to a year improving dietary habits and lifestyle choices. Whenever possible, eat organically and sustainably-produced produce, and locally-sourced food from farmers who use safe practices – no synthetic pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals, and do not use GMO (genetically-modified substances, crops, or feed for their animals). Eat meats/meat products, raw dairy, safe-sourced seafood, eggs from pastured birds, and fats from healthy sources such as butter, lard, tallow, olive oil, coconut oil, and sustainable produced palm oils.

Remember: a real, whole food is something that our ancestors would have eaten. If it’s not real, don’t eat it! For some ideas on foods that really pack a nutrient-dense punch, check out this list:  11 Healthy and Nutrient-Dense Foods At A Glance. Want more information on what the differences are between processed, whole, traditional, organic, and sustainable foods? Read: How Well Do You Know Your Food? Find Out!

  • Reduce or eliminate processed and refined foods – and in particular, sugar and white flour products, and most all packaged or prepared foods from the store. Throw out artificial fats like margarine, “butter spreads” and those containing soy and vegetable oils like canola, soybean, cottonseed, and others.

Want to learn more about why claims made on packages of the foods you buy in the store are usually false? Read Fortified and Processed Foods: Are Label Claims About Nutrition True? and Reading Labels in The Store – Don’t Be Fooled By Marketing Lingo!

  • Minimize or eliminate the use of over-the-counter drugs, antibiotics, birth control, and other medications.
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco.
  • Begin or continue an exercise routine that is suitable to your abilities, interests, and is something you can do regularly and that you enjoy.
  • Consider a detoxification or cleansing program – especially if your lifetime exposure to chemicals and toxins includes prescription and over-the-counter drug use, a diet of processed foods, or if you live or work in a chemical-laden environment
  • If detoxification does not reduce or eliminate symptoms, consult with a knowledgeable practitioner – a medical doctor familiar with alternative treatments, chiropractor, nutritional therapist, naturopath, or other health care specialist familiar with advanced detoxification protocols.
  • If you have mercury-based amalgam fillings, consider having them removed by a holistic dentist familiar with proper removal of these substances. Check out the American Dental Association web site to find practitioners who can safely remove these types of fillings at least 6 months prior to conception. Do not have them removed while breastfeeding.
  • In addition to a healthy diet, begin taking a whole-food based, organically-sourced multivitamin supplement. Synthetic supplements, which make up the bulk of what’s on the consumer market, are not bio-available (meaning, they are hard for the body to absorb because they are not naturally-occurring nutrients accompanied by necessary co-factors and enzymes) and can cause more toxicity in the body. A whole-food based, organically sourced supplement is real food for your body, and will add to the nutrition you are consuming along with your real food diet to give your unborn child the best support for growth and health.
  • Add naturally-fermented cod liver oil to your diet. The best product available on the market is from Green Pasture Products. Fermented cod liver oil is a highly potent source of Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Vitamin D must be accompanied by Vitamin A for absorption, and is associated with the reduction of many degenerative diseases and health issues such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. These nutrients support the immune, reproductive, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. Getting Vitamin D levels tested is a good idea, especially if you have consumed a processed diet for any length of time.
  • Find a “green” dry cleaner if you  use dry cleaning services. The chemical used in most dry cleaning facilities is perchlorethylene, a known carcinogen.
  • Drink filtered water. For more information about water filtration systems, call NSF International at 800-673-8010 or visit their web site. Because most filtered water does not contain adequate minerals, drink home-made bone broths from the bones of animals and birds on pasture,  make a nettles infusion and drink daily, or add sea salt to your water or organic cranberry juice not from concentrate to provide necessary mineral supplementation. Cranberry juice is also an excellent natural lymphatic stimulant.  Be sure your diet is rich in sustainable and organic foods, and your mineral intake will be higher.
  • Replace plastics in your home as much as possible, including containers for storing food and water, and for cooking. Stainless steel, cast iron, glass, ceramic, wood, and bamboo are all good alternatives. There are also many eco-friendly alternatives available for cookware, dishes, and utensils.
  • Limit consumption of seafood containing toxic amounts of mercury. Do include in your diet plenty of safe seafood choices. For more information, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium site.
  • To build beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract and immune system, consume naturally fermented foods - yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented vegetables, natto, kimchi, and take therapeutic-grade probiotics. Good brands include BioKult, GUTPro, Nature’s Sunshine, Prescript-Assist, and Biotics Research. Probiotics and “fermented” foods bought in grocery and health food stores are generally a waste of money as they do not contain adequate levels of friendly bacteria strain necessary for optimal gut and immune health.
  • Avoid flu shots and other vaccines at least one year prior to conception.
  • Minimize exposure to  electromagnetic fields in the home and office. Computers, televisions, and cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation. Do not sleep with these items in your bedroom. Use cell phones only when necessary. You can purchase protector diodes which greatly reduce EMF radiation from devices (such as cell phones) you use from Premier Research Labs.
  • Take reasonable measures to make your home green and minimize exposure to radiation, chemicals, and other harmful toxins. If you are planning a home remodel, consider green materials, paint, and other supplies for your project. Select no-VOC paints and sustainable wood instead of composites or resin-based products. Minimize exposure to building materials and allow outgasing of new materials such as countertops, flooring, or furniture. Many different green countertops and flooring are available.

During pregnancy:

  • Continue a high-quality whole foods diet that includes organic or sustainable whenever possible. Greatly reduce and eliminate sugar, refined, and processed foods.
  • Continue to take a whole foods-based, organically-sourced multi-vitamin supplement.
  • Make sure you are getting plenty of healthy fats and proteins in your diet – extra virgin coconut oil, olive oil, and palm oils, lard and tallow from healthy animals raised on pasture, whole (raw is a plus) dairy from milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, yogurt, and kefir, grass-fed meats, game, and organ meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs from chicken on pasture, and safe-sourced seafood.
  • Try to avoid dental work while pregnant. If you cannot avoid it, consult with a biological or holistic dentist that can counsel you about safe procedures, if absolutely necessary. To maintain your bones and teeth, eat a healthy diet complete with healthy fats and proteins, organic whenever possible, and fermented cod liver oil.
  • Avoid antibiotics, over-the-counter, and prescription medication. There is no pharmaceutical drug on the market that has been proven safe for pregnancy. A new study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine show that antidepressants are especially dangerous to take during pregnancy.
  • Continue a moderate regimen of regular activity and exercise, one that is gentle and enjoyable for you and your condition. It is important to stimulate circulation and peristalsis (the contraction of muscles that propel movement in the digestive tract) because intestinal motility slows as a result of pregnancy hormones. Pregnancy yoga, pilates, walking, stretching, cycling (on a stationary bike as you become further along), dancing, water exercise (in a non-chlorinated pool or water), and dancing are safe.
  • Avoid the flu vaccine or any other immunizations.
  • If you get sick, rest and take care of yourself. Drink plenty of filtered water and continue a healthy diet. Hot water with lemon and ginger, garlic, or peppermint with raw honey is a good treatment for colds, flus, and other viruses. Do not use goldenseal during pregnancy.

To read more about natural remedies, read this post: My Home Medicine Cabinet – What I Use To Remedy Ailments.

  • Interview a practitioner who will work with your philosophy about pregnancy and childbirth – midwives, doulas, and some obstetricians are open to alternative and complimentary philosophies.  Find one that makes you feel comfortable and empowered. Home birth is an option that is not right for everyone, but is something that you may consider if you have the right type of support and environment. However, a study published by the British Medical Journal found that natural birth at home with certified practicing midwives is safe for low-risk mothers and their babies. The study followed 5,000 mothers in the U.S. and Canada, and found that these home births with low-risk mothers had much lower rates of medical interventions when compared with intervention rates for low-risk mothers giving birth in hospitals.
  • Consider other alternatives in care during pregnancy. Acupuncture, acupressure, massage, yoga, shiatsu, Traditional Chinese Medicine, nutritional therapy, naturopathic care, homeopathy, chiropractic care, and other forms of body and energy work are all good treatments for pregnancy. Research each modality and interview practitioners or get referrals from people you know to locate the person(s) right for you.
  • Avoid ultrasounds unless absolutely necessary. There are no conclusive studies showing ultrasounds are safe during pregnancy. Of greater concern are the studies showing how prenatal ultrasound affects brain development. Even standard, “routine” ultrasounds are not medically necessary and have not been shown to improve birth outcomes. Issue #22 of Pathways To Family Wellness has an informative article on the potential relationship between ultrasound and autism.
  • Choose birth care providers wisely. Rather than selecting a provider or place of birth because of your insurance coverage, select providers who are willing to support your philosophical core beliefs about pregnancy and childbirth. Decisions made about “unnecessary treatment” may vary drastically between home birth midwives, birth center midwives and obstetricians. Define your values, beliefs, and wishes, and then seek a provider accordingly.
  • If you decide to use childbirth classes, start early. Seek classes outside of the hospital environment, with independent groups that offer support and knowledge about natural childbirth. Finding a birth-support doula is essential for a better birth outcome. The perceived need for medication can be eliminated with proper breathing and relaxation techniques and adequate support during birth. Additional information on natural labor and birth procedures is available in Pathways to Family Wellness, Issue #24.

Prior to and during labor:

  • Minimize intrusive procedures during labor such as induction with Pitocin, pain meds, epidurals, forceps, C-sections, and early cord clamping. Research these procedures and discuss them with your practitioner. Pathways to Family WellnessIssue #21 has an article that relates many of often unnecessary procedures to an increased risk of autism.
  • There is a higher risk of autism in cesarean-delivered babies. Although it’s tempting to skip labor, labor is actually mother nature’s way of preparing the child for life outside the womb. The baby’s neurological function is enhanced by naturally passing through the birth canal and through cranial molding.
  • Walk during labor, and stay in an upright position or on all fours as much as possible for pushing and delivery. This greatly maximizes the ability of your pelvis to easily open and birth. It minimizes the need for doctor intervention and pulling with the use of forceps and vacuum extraction. Any form of pulling or rotation to the baby’s delicate spine in labor may have a lasting affect on his or her future nerve system function.
  • Interview several pediatricians, naturopaths, or other knowledgeable child health care providers during your pregnancy to find one who accepts your views on health and is open to discussing and giving careful consideration to invasive care with drugs and vaccines. Many parents are now seeking providers outside the typical allopathic model, choosing instead holistic practices which offer safer, more natural options to achieve health and well-being.

When you consider all the options you have for preparing your body for pregnancy, childbirth, and after care of a newborn infant, it can be extremely overwhelming to sift through all the information that is available. Just remember that anything advising you to do something that goes against your intuition and participate in something that isn’t natural can adversely affect your child’s health.

Modern medicine has many things to say about procedures, medications, and chemicals being “safe options” for your pregnancy, childbirth, and aftercare choices, but please carefully consider what the pharmaceutical companies and medical industry have to gain before you choose to use artificial means and prescription medication or drugs as a part of your overall program in your pre and post-childcare regimen.

Please check back for the conclusion of Reducing Your Child’s Risk of Autism and Other Disorders: Conception, Pregnancy, And The Newborn Infant, Part II.


7 Comments

  • ivy
    September 23, 2010 - 11:09 AM | Permalink

    I share similar views on nutrition and health but I am tired of such speculative “articles” that link any and everything to autism. I do research for a living, and proving causality is the hardest thing in the business. This article is junk science. Quoting a book is also not enough because books don’t go through a rigorous peer review – anyone can write anything as long as they can find a publisher. Please do some research before proclaiming such things as fact and sending off pregnant women to acupuncturists, holistic dentists, etc. Alternative medicine has the same problems of establishing “safe” interventions as traditional medicine.

    • October 2, 2010 - 12:32 AM | Permalink

      You are off target here. Almost all human knowledge was acquired without the use of peer reviewed studies, but through observation, reason, experience, and common sense. These traditional ways of learning have proved to be far more reliable than studies, which are often flawed and/or biased.Every drug approved by the FDA must be proved safe by studies, yet hundreds of drugs found to be “safe” by studies have been withdrawn when experience shows they are unsafe. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from these drugs,just in the last few years.
      While honest, well designed studies can be very valuable,the belief that only peer reviewed studies show truth is misguided and naive.
      I think of peer reviewed studies as often being faith based, a faith in science being all knowing, and a faith in scientists always being competent and impartial, which is just not true. This is born out by my experience as an attorney, where it is well known that anybody can find a scientific expert who will interpret peer reviewed studies to support any position you care to take.

      This article is based on solid research into what really matters, observation, reason, experience, and common sense, as well as some well done studies. I trust it.

  • September 23, 2010 - 2:54 PM | Permalink

    Ivy – I am sorry to hear you believe this article to be “junk science”. A good portion of the information presented here originates from a woman who is an R.N., has worked in the health industry for over 30 years, and has had the opportunity to see these kinds of activities work and be effective in both clinical and personal settings.

    None of the items listed in this article are harmful or questionable in any way toward human health, and certainly not pregnant women. I’m sorry you feel that peer-reviewed research is necessary to recommend a pregnant woman go to a holistic dentist or acupuncturist for treatment. These modalities, unlike western medicine, carry no risks toward the pregnant mother or unborn child. Furthermore, there are no studies, peer-reviewed or not, proving those treatments are harmful.

    I have been a researcher for many years and have a large following of readers on my blog, as well as have the respect of many people in the food and health communities. The source I quoted is not from a book, if you would take the time to go to the link provided, it is from a reputable magazine published by Chiropractors – who are also medical professionals -and contains well-written and researched data. Please read the entire article and consider the things said in it before making criticism. Not once in the article have I stated that doing these activities will guarantee that your child won’t develop a disorder like autism – only that they will help reduce and possibly prevent those things from occurring. The language in this article doesn’t state that any certain thing or things causes autism – it suggests that cumulative factors, including diet, environment, and medications like vaccines can be a tipping point in the development of disorders like autism. If you read the research of Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, author of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome, you will find from a well-known and reputable pediatric neurosurgeon that her research and observations have very much proven that abnormal gut flora from the parents (in particular the mother), transfers from the mother to the infant and builds the same type of flora, thus setting the correct environment for a disorder like autism to occur. The vaccines and other factors like diet and environment are not the cause, but the tipping point. I talk extensively in the other article, Vaccines: A Choice or A Mandate (Pt. I) about Dr. McBride’s research and findings.

    The last thing I’d like to say is that I can point out many instances where “hard scientific” evidence has been turned over by the scientific community because something else was learned or it was discovered that the study was funded to reach a desired outcome. Many scientific studies, although not all, have a bias because the industry has a lot of money where companies pay research labs (even in clinical settings at the university level) to publish specific information stating that a study yielded a specific outcome. I’m not at all a person who is ready to just believe a study because it is considered “scientific”. Observation and causal links are also scientific, and they must not be overlooked in determining the results of something. Unfortunately, in health and medical communities you will find a lot of instances where the studies are just simply bogus and if you follow the money trail, you’ll find that these have been slanted in favor of industry profit. Natural health is different because although the people in those industries want to make a living, many of them aren’t getting rich off their trade and do it because they care enough to help people out of health issues conventional medicine cannot resolve. Many of those practitioners and authors started doing what they do because of their own health crisis and the failure of conventional medicine, and are now dedicated to helping others. With few exceptions, most of the practitioners I know are living on a modest income and continue to do their profession because the desire to help others is stronger than anything else.

  • September 24, 2010 - 7:16 PM | Permalink

    I thought the article was beautiful and I would give anything to have had it before I had my beautiful daughter 22 years ago. Thankfully she did not develop autism, but she easily could have because of my health at the time and my putting her at risk with vaccines unaware of the dangers (I watched my nephew “vanish” mentally right before my eyes after his vaccines, he now has severe autism but was fine before). Thankfully I did adapt a healthy diet right after her birth and raised her on a very clean diet free of allergens and toxins and sugar.

    I will certainly send this to my daughter so she can have access to a well written article for any future pregnancies.

    Thanks!

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