Tag Archives: family health

The Four Foundations of Children’s Health: Pillar One – Whole Family Health

Toronto Naturopathic Doctor

In October, I had the privilege of meeting with a group of parents to discuss strategies for optimizing their children’s health. The discussion centered around four “pillars” of health that form the strong foundation for future health.

The first “pillar” of the foundation is “Whole Family Health”. By “whole family health”, what I refer to, is the state of harmony in the family unit as a whole, a concept absent from most discussions on “personal health”. Parental stress has an enormous impact on our children’s well-being. In this video Dr. Gabor Maté, a leading authority in the area, gives a great overview of this concept.

The majority of brain development and maturation occurs from birth to the age of three. Over this period our brain weight increases from 18% to 80% of our adult brain weight. One of the ways parental stress directly affects children is through the creation of anxiety, which in turn affects their brain development during this crucial time.

Uncontrollable, chronic adversity experienced early in life may cause detrimental effects in developing brain architecture, as well as the chemical and physiological systems that help an individual adapt to stress, setting the stage for a lifetime of anxiety.

Two common stressors for most of today’s parents are:

  1. The pressure to be a “perfect” parent
  2. Over-scheduling

The pressure to be a “perfect” parent

A better goal (for you, and your child) is striving to be a “happy, healthy parent”. Here are some guidelines to help with this concept, offered by renowned herbalist and women’s health expert, Aviva Romm, MD.

Over-scheduling

In our family, we address this by limiting our children’s involvement in extra-curricular activities, even if this means they will never be a multi-lingual, prima ballerina, concert pianist, with black belt in karate, who will attend Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.

We tend to forget that even without extracurricular activities, our children have nearly the equivalent of a full-time job with their regular schooling.

We commit to a “family day” on week-ends, on which we schedule no activities, but rather spend time together allowing the day to unfold as it will, and lastly, are open to giving them a day away from school if we feel they need it.

These relatively simple steps have allowed us to be more relaxed, and therefore “present” as parents, and resulted in more relaxed and happy children.

In my next posting, I will elaborate on the second “pillar” of health we discussed, “Family Nutrition”.

Please join us in moving our families towards better health and improving the health of our children and future generations!

Until next time,

Du La, ND, Acupuncturist

 

Posted: 2014 December 4

 

The Four Foundations of Children’s Health: Pillar Two – Family Nutrition

Toronto Naturopathic Doctor

In our family, and for the families we work with, we emphasize nutrition as essential for optimal health. Eating a well-balanced, whole foods diet will improve most health issues and prevent a myriad of chronic health problems.

We also feel better when we eat better!

We do not feel there is one diet for every person, but we do think there are important guidelines that will get most of us, most of the way there.

With so many different diets and eating ways, it is easy to get lost in all the details.

Michael Pollan sums it up so well: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Eat food,

This basically means to eat real food.

Avoid packaged, pre-made, fast food that is so convenient but so unhealthy. If you can eliminate most pre-packaged, prepared or take-out foods from your diet, you are eliminating most of the excess sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, food additives and preservatives you are presently eating. We encourage all of our patients to eat real food, whole foods and get in the kitchen more.  Getting in the kitchen with your kids will help them learn to to eat more sensibly as well, setting an example for a lifetime of healthier eating habits.

not too much,

This reminds me of the Japanese concept “Hara hachi bu”.  This translates, loosely, to: eat until you are 80% full.

Most of us are simply eating too much food. If you cut back on your intake, you will likely strike a better balance with what your body actually needs to be healthy. This is particularly important for those of us who are sedentary and not striking the right balance of calories in versus calories out, and consequently gaining extra body-fat/weight as we age.

mostly plants.

On our home, we structure our food intake according to the Harvard  School of Public Health’s “Healthy Eating Plate”: a simple, visual approach to balanced eating. To ensure a balanced intake of foods, including having “mostly plants”, ensure each major meal consists of:

  • half fruit or “non-starchy” vegetable
  • a palm size serving of healthy protein
  • and palm size serving of healthy grains “starchy” vegetables (e.g., potato)

By eating this way, we are eating about 75% plants, most of which are of the healthier “non-starchy” variety.

Once you’re in the routine of using these simple guidelines, you will actually have, in most cases, dramatically changed the way you are eating, and will notice it in the way you are feeling! Importantly, by modeling healthy eating, we will also be fostering in our children healthy habits they can carry with them through their lifetimes.

If you need more help, we have quick, simple healthy meal ideas and tips and are happy to support you along this journey towards better nutrition! Ask us for help!

Tune in to my discussion of the next pillar, the microbiome.

Until next time,

Du La, ND, Acupuncturist

 

Posted: 2015 January 8