This has been a burning question for me ever since I started studying nutrition. I was aware of the growing numbers of children with chronic conditions but I’m now experiencing this in my clinic. Most have been unwell for 6 months or more and are struggling with conditions like weight gain, allergies, fatigue, anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavioural and learning difficulties, and digestive problems. For some, their illness has prevented them from going to school, and they have mostly been offered band-aid solutions like pain killers, antidepressants, laxatives, appetite suppressing medications and other serious medications.
In May this year, I decided I needed to gain a deeper understanding to help me treat the health conditions affecting our children. I attended a 3-day Mindd Foundation and MAPS (Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs) training course with other qualified health practitioners including doctors, paediatricians, naturopaths, osteopaths, nurses and chiropractors . The training focused on immunology (or the immune system) and best practice biomedical approaches to treating these conditions affecting our children.
Many of these chronic health conditions our children are experiencing have their roots in immune dysfunction. Our immune system is designed to respond to the environment, protect us against pathogens we encounter daily, and react against foreign substances and even cancer cells.
Let’s take allergies and asthma as an example. One in three young Australians have allergies and one in four have asthma. These conditions are driven by inflammation and inappropriate response by the immune system to the environment. Genetic factors influence susceptibility but do not explain the huge rise in these conditions. A cleaner environment, declining exposure to infectious diseases, unhealthy diet patterns and chemical exposure are being examined as likely contributors. According to paediatrician Professor Susan Prescott, these factors start to influence a child’s immune system while in the womb. She writes that the transfer of a mother’s microbiota begins during pregnancy. This provides the baby with the beginning of its own microbiota and paves the way for the immune system to develop. Research shows that microbiota is influenced negatively by high fat, low fibre diets, obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Smoking, environmental chemicals, stress, medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and method of delivery have all been shown to have an impact on the health of a mother’s microbiome and her child. This rich interaction between mother and child shows how important the mother’s health is to a child’s future health and can be a predictor of immune health.
Through my university training and now MAPS training and Mindd certification, I focus on uncovering the factors that have influenced a person’s health and determine any biochemical imbalances preventing healing and recovery. Blood, urine, stool and other tests are often used to identify individual deficiencies and abnormal pathology, and treatment recommendation such as dietary changes, lifestyle changes and therapeutic doses of minerals, vitamins, amino acids and essential fats may be prescribed.
If you are pregnant, planning pregnancy or have a child with allergies, asthma, behavioural or gut issues, and you would like to find out more about the importance of immune health and gut health I’d love to help you.