One of my favourite Doctors in the field of Health, versus Healthcare, is Dr Yoni Freedhoff. Yesterday was Mother's Day and I challenged mothers to do the right thing with their children's diet and avoid Junk Food.
Of course, many children know what the right thing is too and we can take our lead from them. Companies like McDonalds and Coke work hard to get into the schools. It is not just that they offer cash strapped schools a deal on dispensers but they sponsor a lot of activities.
The schools are very vulnerable to this pressure. But if the kids push back....
Here is the post from Dr Freedhoff's site about this today. Full quote:
"A little while back I received an email from a blog reading grandparent. He wanted to let me know about his 9 year old granddaughter's response to learning that her school dance was to be funded by Coca-Cola,
"Dear Dr Freedhoff,I reached out to him and asked if his granddaughter might want to write a short comment regarding her decision as well as send along a photo of her protest shirt.
Thought you would like to know that my granddaughter Frances (9) has refused to participate in a Cola-Cola dance which her school has arranged as part of some sports sponsorship thing, this without any prompting from me. She must have been reading your blog. She wants to wear a t shirt with "water " written on it."
"I did not want to be in the coca cola dance, because little children shouldn't be dancing in the favor of a soda company. Also my sports teacher shouldn't be encouraging small children to drink it. You need to stick to healthy foods like fruit,vegetables,meat,and occasionally oils and sweets.And for those public health folks who think partnerships of their organizations with the food industry are a-ok now you know that even some 9 year old kids perceive them as problematic conflicts on interest.
So Mothers and Grannies and Dads of today. What will be your answer to your kids in 10 years time - When they know that you knew now about junk food but you said and did nothing?
If you see one post on why our education system is not for you now - please look at this short presentation.
The old have always complained about the young. But today there is a new aspect of being young that worries an old man like me. Many cannot leave home and grow up. This is new. Student loans are at the top of the list. Low earnings are the other side of the equation.
The reason for this permanent state of child living is debt. The reason for this is the end of the job world but not the end of the expectations that came with the job world. Here is the data for the UK.
"Research by the Co-operative Group has identified a 'lost generation' of 18 to 30-year-olds in the UK for whom debt is normality – a so-called debt-eration – and who are finding it hard to become independent in the UK's challenging economy.
More than eight out of 10 (84%) young adults in the UK admit to having received financial support from their parents since "coming of age".
Young adults in the 18-30 age range have asked their parents for financial help for a range of things from food shopping costs (43%) to holidays (36%) to debt payments (16%) and house purchases (8%).
Even beyond financial support from the 'Bank of Mum and Dad', a high proportion of young adults (80%) still rely heavily on their parents for help with basic tasks and decision-making. The most common areas for support including transport (40%), chores such as cleaning and ironing (34%) and help with finding a job (27%). The traditional pattern of youngsters leaving home when they go to university has made way for a new generation of those staying near or at home for their higher education and then staying put.
The research highlights that money is an issue for young adults, with nearly a third (31%) not feeling financially independent. The report has identified a "debt-eration", with nearly two thirds (60%) of 18 to 30-year-olds admitting to having debt. The findings reveal that for this generation debt is normal, with 77% not alarmed or worried by it.
Yet, despite parents and guardians helping their offspring repay debt, nearly a third of young adults are hiding their debt from their parents, amounting to an average burden of £3,579 of secret debt.
The main sources of debt for this age group are: student loans (63%), credit cards (31%), personal loans (23%), overdrafts (19%) and money borrowed from parents (18%).
In addition, the group's earning expectations do not live up to reality. Over two-fifths (41%) earn less than they thought they would in relation to their age and education level and, on average, people aged 18-30 take home £7,187 less than they thought they would. Also, according to the findings, more than a tenth (16%) of 18 to 30-year-olds do not feel they have a job that matches their qualifications."
And this group will soon be parents!
For me the starting point is to stop trying to make the old system work. Thousands of pounds/dollars of student debt is not a good start. Thinking that this will lead to a well paying job or a career is mistaken. The jobs are not there for the young and cannot be anymore. The world has changed. The yoing are going to have to think about how "To Make a Living".
The why's and hows are in my first book, "You Don't Need a Job".
Changing the bureaucracy is a slow and sometimes impossible task. So how are kids in Atlantic Canada going to get access to the kind of learning that they need now?
The answer is that a number of citizens have tired of waiting and are starting to off what many kids want and need right now. Here are some that I know.
Jevon MacDonald and Gavin Uhma, are based in Halifax. Jevon is an Islander by birth and is one of the regions top entrepeneurs. They are starting to offer Programming to kids. Jevon with Milan Vrekic are also starting a co working place for start ups called Volta Labs.
Maureen Kerr on PEI has been working with UPEI to offer Robot making and programming for kids.
Peter Rukavina and the UPEI Library are offering labs in Minecraft.
Don't you find this encouraging? Who else is doing this? Might it be you?
It might be a good thing to all get together. And BTW well done UPEI for being such a help.
Our children's health is in our hands as parents. It's tough to hear this. But it's the truth.
"We are raising our children in a world that is vastly different than it was 40 or 50 years ago," says Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity doctor and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa. "Childhood obesity is a disease of the environment. It's a natural consequence of normal kids with normal genes being raised in unhealthy, abnormal environments."
Here is the summary of a great article on this in Scientific American. The full article is here.
"This is a lot more complicated than ‘eat less, exercise more,'" Freedhoff says. "If weight management or childhood obesity prevention and treatment were intuitive, we'd have a lot of skinny kids running around." Freedhoff himself is developing a program for families that focuses on "redrafting" kids' and families' environments, starting with more home cooking.
"Every parent would die for their child, but most won't cook for their children on a consistent basis with whole ingredients," he says.
"What I'm amazed by is the constant use of fast food to pacify children and reward children—there is no event too small for candy or fast food."
There are many places communities could start: making school lunches healthier, ditching vending machines and access to fast food inside schools, not celebrating sports wins at fast food joints, and ending the use of candy or fast food as rewards, such as "pizza days" and other unhealthy food-themed school events, to name a few.
"People don't appreciate that parents are around children a minority of their days," he says, so it really will take a village to turn back the clock in terms of kids' environments. "If we had a time machine, it would be the world's best weight-loss program," Freedhoff says. "It's the world that has changed, not people."
I may be able to help you a bit. My new book "You Don't Need Medicine to get Healthy" is a comprehensive manual for what what is really going on and what each of can do to take charge of our heralth - AND of our children's.
A real "Traditional Marriage" would be one that surely has lasted for millions of years and that was the same the entire world over for all humans. There is such a model and it not one man and one woman united to raise a family.
The Real Traditional "Marriage" was the Tribe.
Who we are as men and women was formed by this experience. The story of the real traditional mariage began more than 2 million years ago with the advent of a new proto human. Home Erectus.
HE had the first modern human body plan. She had narrow hips, enabling her to run and her babies had big brains. She lived in a hunting culture where the tribe moved a lot. She and the baby had to be mobile. How evolution solved this complex equation produced us - modern homo sapiens.
So this is why we are what we are and not what the traditionalists think. This is the real tradtion.
The Homo Erectus infant could not be carried to term as our ape cousins do. The pelvis had to be narrow to allow us to run but the dense nutrition of our new diet had expanded the size of the brain. The head would be too big to fit through the now much narrower pelvis. The evolutionary answer to this paradox was to birth the baby prematurely. HE babies and human babies are born at least 6 months premature. HE, and human, babies are totally helpless when compared to apes and other primate babies. Raising a HE baby was a much more complex job that any other ape or monkey mother would have confronted.
This then set up the next evolutionary challenge. How does a mother, who is on the move all the time, care for a helpless infant? How does she ensure that she does not have more children than she can carry or care for?
This problem was solved by long term breast feeding. Constant breast feeding suppresses fertility. Hunter Gatherers cannot afford to have lots of children. Long term breast feeding reduces fertility. Constant breast feeding for two years also ensures that the child has the most robust immune system possible. Tribes that had long intervals between children had an evolutionary advantage. Children with good immune systems, had an evolutionary advantage. Long term breast feeding was the process. Breast milk evolved as a long term diet for infants that adjusted its composition as the child aged. Also, in the pre tool era, breast milk was an easier form of feeding a child than pre chewing the food.
Once again, there is another problem that has to be solved. If all the mature women in the tribe are having children, as apes and other primates do, the demands of raising a big brain child that is slow to mature will overwhelm the tribe. Raising a complex, slow to mature advanced hominid, was too much for a single mother on her own.
This too drove an evolutionary response. In tribes where the middle aged women stopped being fertile, more kids lived until adulthood. Many closely aligned females shared the work. And so Professor Sarah Hrdy thinks menopause, a uniquely human attribute evolved. Human females are the only primate to have menopause.
And so what about the men? How did this challenging role of raising young who were helpless or of little use until maybe 8 affect men? The answer might be in how HE used sex as a social binder.
Human females are the only primates, other than bonobos, to have emotional and recreational sex. Human females do not come into estrus as all other primates do. When they are fertile, there are no visible signs. Human females can choose when they have sex and with whom. Sex was not closely linked to reproduction. With long term breast feeding, their fertility only came on in 2 or 3 year intervals. They are the only primate whose vaginas have adapted to face to face sex. Why is this so? There must be a good evolutionary reason for sex to be fun. Sex must have been used to strengthen bonds between men and women and not only for procreation. Then the question arises, was this to strengthen the pair bond or to strengthen the pair bonds?
What then is the “Traditional Family”?
From evolution’s point of view, would it be smart for a woman to place all her meat expectations and all her protection on one man? What if he was killed? Who would feed her and her children? What if she died? Who would look after her children? (Sex at Dawn by Ryan and Cacilda Jetha ) Would it be smarter to have more than one partner and so that all the children were the children of all the tribe? We can never know. But it is likely that, in a culture where there was no property and where all food was shared, that sharing partners would be the norm. The physiological set up for human sex suggests strongly that sex is a deep part of how we “groom” each other and so strengthen our social bonds.
In this case the whole tribe has to raise all the children.
As well as sharing the men, did women share the babies? Human female physiology suggests that we did. Human females, who live in groups, coordinate their estrus cycles with each other. There is a good evolutionary reason for this. It means that there are always several lactating women at all times. Should a mother die, her child can still be fed. Tribes that could do this had better evolutionary outcomes.
Many factors bond the social group intensely. Food is shared. Bodies are shared. Love is shared. Children are shared. Hunting itself is intensely bonding. As is gathering and communal food preparation.
So what about health and aging? In such a small group, was there room to spend 20 years looking after granny? Here is where Michael Rose’s Plateau comes into view.
In a group of 35 people, that moved all the time, there is no room for grandpa and grandma to retire, get feeble and need to be looked after. In a group of 35, with 16 young, it is also vital to keep the key knowledge intact about where the water is, what plants will heal, where the game goes, what the stories are and all the vast repertoire of hunting and gathering lore that we cannot imagine today. We talk of skills today and have no comprehension of the skills needed to hunt and gather. In tribes where the old were active and contributors, the next generation survived.
Here is the most important evolutionary outcome of all. We, as Professor Michael Rose makes clear, are designed to grow old as fit, healthy and active people. Yes, we will get wrinkles and go grey. But we are designed to age well. Tribes where the old were not well, did not last.
So as the institutions of the modern age wither and die, we may well be forced to consider this model again. For we need more than a stressed out couple or single person to raise a child. We cannot just ship dad off to the home. We cannot afford to all live alone.
I see some form of this real traditional model coming back - what about you?
Many children today find it very hard to concentrate. Many are hyper active. Many are on the autism spectrum. Many have very serious allergies. Many are consistently ill. Most of these kids have digestive problems. All of this presents the child with a barrier to learning.
There is a link.
The main thesis of this, and the related posts, is that we as parents have much more influence over our child's ability to learn and to develop than any school. This influence is at its most powerful in the first 3 years of life and our influence begins prior to conception.
We know that we give our kids our genes. We also see, over time, the mystery of how our kids pick up our habits and gestures.
But there is a new element that we inherit that science is just now starting to see as being very important and, unlike genes and habits, this inheritance is largely in the control of the parents. It is the innate gut flora and immune system. More information here. In the womb, your baby is a blank slate in terms of gut flora and immune system.
Ideally, and of course we can't always have the ideal, when your baby is born vaginally, she picks up mainly mum's gut flora and sometimes a bit of dad too. So if your gut flora is healthy then, your baby will inherit a healthy system herself. Then if you breast feed, she will pick up your immune system. If you have a good immune system, then your baby will quickly develop a good immune system too.
I am now going to do a dangerous thing. I, a man, will offer adivice to women.
I know being a man makes it odd to give advice - I can never have a child or breast feed, but as a father and a grand father, I hope that you can have give your baby the best start possible and so I offer you all that I know to help you in this. And BTW, Dads to be, your gut flora is in the vagina too so it is up to us to get with the program as well.
Why should this matter?
We are learning that gut health is at the core of not only general health but also it is strongly linked to the development of the brain. There is a strong link being made between gut flora and autism and many kinds of attention disorders. Here is a series of articles on Gut Fora and why it is important and what you can do to improve it.
So what to do? Great gut flora and a great immune system is the best start you can give your child.
So what might compromise your gut flora? The two risks are anti biotics and grains.
The easy risk to deal with are antibiotics. You know if you have taken them and so, if you have, you can work to repair the damage. For while they kill off the bacteria that we worry about, they also kill off the bacteria that we depend on. If you as a mother to be have been on a course of antibiotics before or during pregancy, work hard to restore your gut health. Probiotics are very useful in repropagating your gut. Fermented food such as sauer kraut and kefir help too. Cereals and legumes work against good gut health. Animal fat and fish oil help too.
Get your gut health tested after you know that you are pregnant. You can get it tested here right now in the largest citizen science project ever.
The harder part is to reduce or eliminate grains from your diet. Cereals are the foundation of the western diet. They are the core of most of our meals and snacks. But they contain elements that disrupt our gut flora.
The best science resource for all of this is Dr Natasha Campbell McBribe - Here is her site.
Then after birth, please think about your baby's diet then. It makes no sense to be careful with your diet before she is born, and then revert back to the diet that can compromise her gut health. The challenge is that all of our culture tells you to feed your baby cereals. The culture makes it hard to continue breastfeeding.
So all I can do is to ask you this one question. Do you want your child to have the best start that you can give her, or not?