Exposure to toxins for our children is pervasive – all the way from plastic food packaging to BPA laced bottles and cans. While it may be impossible to totally protect our children from environmental toxins, there is a critical step we can take to help protect their health besides just doing what we can to help avoid or reduce exposure to toxins in the first place. That important step is to use specific natural detox foods which are known to help counteract the effects of these toxins. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of environmental toxins and whether those within the conventional medical establishment admit it or not, toxins are having an increasingly detrimental effect on our children’s health. The outdated belief that our bodies are well-equipped to handle all the toxins that we are exposed to is still being proclaimed by many in mainstream medicine despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Any healthcare provider who says we should sit back and stop worrying, especially when it comes to our children, isn’t keeping up with the literature. The truth is that the problem is real and growing worse. Toxins that today’s children are being exposed to while they are in the womb and in early life can potentially impact them for decades.
Parents can teach children to eat and live in a way that helps protect them from toxins
The medical establishment must admit it and parents must learn not only to make lifestyle changes to help minimize exposure but also to boost their children’s bodily defenses and detoxification systems by supplementing the diet with specific foods, herbs, and nutrients, according to integrative family medicine expert Dr. Robert Roundtree, MD, in an article on environmental toxins and children’s health published in Alternative and Complementary Therapies. “The lifestyle practices [parents] put in place right now for their children—and the way parents teach children to eat and live—are going to affect them the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Roundtree.
While the problem may seem overwhelming, adopting a defeatist attitude only keeps us from moving forward. Instead, Dr. Roundree advocates that parents affirm that there are positive steps they can take to help their children reduce toxic exposures and boost their children’s bodies’ ability to clear toxins. First, of course, is avoiding or minimizing exposure to some of the worst toxic culprits in our environment: cigarette smoke, flame retardants, cleaning products, personal care products, pesticides and chemical food additives, etc.
10 specific foods and nutrients to support your child’s detoxification pathways
In addition to avoidance, there are some nutrients, foods, and natural options for supporting your child’s detoxification processes and helping his or her body defend against the negative effects of toxins. Let’s take a look at 10 of the most important natural detox foods, herbs, and nutrients for protecting your child against toxins:
- Probiotics. The healthy bacteria that line the gut have a powerful influence on how toxins are broken down in the GI tract and the liver. Unhealthy bacteria in the gut lessens or alters the ability to detoxify and eliminate certain toxins. Probiotics, especially different strains of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, can help replace unhealthy bacteria with healthy bacteria,
- Prebiotics. Prebiotics are perhaps just as important as probiotics. They act as fertilizer to help the healthy bacteria grow better. Good prebiotic supplements include inulin, arabinogalactan, and fructo-oligosaccharides while good prebiotic foods include Jerusalem artichokes, onions, jicama root, leeks, and asparagus.
- Fiber. Fiber, like flaxseed meal and chia seed meal, helps bind toxins and move them out of the body through the digestive tract. The lignans in these two fiber sources can help block the effects of endocrine-disrupting toxins.
- Brassica vegetables. Broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cabbage, Brussels’ sprouts and cauliflower contain phytochemicals known as glucosinolates which get converted into isothiocyanates when chewed. Isothiocyanates stimulate the body to be more resistant to toxins.
- Ellagic acid. Pomegranate juice, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, goji berries, purple grapes, strawberries, pecans, and walnuts all contain high levels of ellagic acid. This phytochemical is a powerful antioxidant that increases the liver’s detoxification enzymes.
- Turmeric. Turmeric is the major spice in curry. This yellow pigment contains curcumin, a powerful phytochemical that enhances the liver’s detoxification enzymes, decreases inflammation, and protects the liver.
- Garlic. This food is also a detoxifying medicinal herb that contains sulfur compounds known to decrease inflammation and increase antioxidant activity in cells.
- B vitamins. Choline, folic acid, and vitamin B12 are B vitamins needed to assist in a detoxification process known as “methylation.” Good sources of choline include eggs, wheat germ, cauliflower, legumes, and spinach. Good folate sources include green leafy vegetables, legumes, beets, asparagus, and fortified cereals/breads. Excellent vitamin B12 sources are fish and seafood, poultry, grass-fed beef or lamb, and organic dairy.
- Artichoke. Artichoke is a mild flavored vegetable that protects the liver and enhances detoxification, particularly by increasing glutathione and stimulating bile flow. Glutathione is the body’s major detoxification antioxidant.
- Sea vegetables. Sea vegetables, like nori used in sushi roles, and certain types of algae, like Chlorella, contain compounds known as polysaccharides that bind to both heavy metals and organic toxins in the gut, increasing their elimination.
Steps you can take now for your children
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and to take on a fatalistic attitude about toxins in our children. However, Dr. Roundtree reminds us that there are reasonable steps we can take to lower their burden of toxins. We can start now by increasing our children’s intake of foods and nutrients known to gently support the body’s detoxification pathways.
To boost detoxification and the body’s defenses Dr. Roundtree recommends that kids eat foods for supporting detoxification from the list above as often as possible. He recommends one serving of cooked brassica vegetables or broccoli sprouts every day. He also encourages parents to utilize fresh garlic in lightly cooked foods; curried rice, bean, and vegetable dishes; berries or pomegranate juice mixed with sparkling water; a daily probiotic and prebiotic; flaxseed meal or chia seed meal; liquid chlorella or sea vegetables; and foods high in choline, folate, and vitamin B12 (or a good B vitamin supplement). What we do now can make a difference, so let’s start introducing our children to these natural detox foods and nutrients today.