By Victor S. Sierpina
Infertility, premature birth, children with neurological conditions such as autism spectrum and attention deficient disorders, obesity and diabetes are now rampant in our society.
Scientists have determined these problems have been increasing rapidly over the last decade and longer.
No single cause for these trends been agreed upon by specialists. Factors such as brain injury, genetics, behavioral and social problems all play a likely role.
I am going to suggest a not-so radical idea. These problems in the ability to conceive, to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby are primarily linked by several common causes: nutrition, lifestyle and environment.
To put it basically, we are living very different lives than our ancestors whose diet was mainly whole, home-cooked foods, without the chemicals that are part of our contemporary environment.
In the past, babies were all breast-fed and obesity in adults or children was rare. And how about daily activity levels? Stress?
Our environment has changed radically. Foods are now highly processed pesticides and insecticides in them are common, chemicals from plastics disrupt vital hormonal pathways and nutrient deficiencies alter expression of genes and increase birth defects.
Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill insects, often by poisoning their nervous systems. These same chemicals enter our food supply and the bodies of mothers and their fetuses, risking damage to children’s neurological development. Commonly used chemicals to manufacture omnipresent plastic products include BPA, PCB, and phthalates interrupt hormonal signals, essential to fertility and healthy babies. Some of these chemicals banned for decades, like PCB and insecticides like DDT, or heavy metals such as lead remain in our environment as potent neurotoxins and endocrine disrupters.
If you or a family member is interested in conceiving and raising a healthy child, I have a recommendation. A must read is the upcoming book “SuperFoods Rx For Pregnancy: The Right Choices for a Healthy, Smart, Super Baby.”
This is written by the well-known, best selling author of “SuperFoods Rx” doc, Steve Pratt, MD. It is coming out in April or May from Wiley Press and can be preordered at www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118129547.html.
In the meantime, here are some key points from that book to improve fertility, to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby:
• Eat more SuperFoods — and their related food friends — for optimal health before, during and after pregnancy. This applies to both mothers and fathers. Buy organic and local when you can. (See below for a list of Superfoods.)
• Avoid environmental toxins that could have a negative impact on your baby’s health in the womb including heavy metals, BPA, BPS, PCB, phthalates, pesticides, insecticides. Eat organic foods whenever you can and detox your home environment. Look up the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” of foods with higher or lower levels of environmental toxins. Use house plants to detoxify your home and use nontoxic cleaning supplies.
• Maintain a healthy weight, “exercise any day that you eat,” avoid giving alcohol to underage children such as your fetus and don’t smoke (anything).
Following these common-sense principles will result in an increased chance that you can conceive, bear and raise a healthy child and will live long and well enough to enjoy your grandchildren.
The well-researched SuperFoods are:
Apples (and asparagus and artichokes)
Beans (every kind)
Blueberries (and other varieties of berries, grapes)
Broccoli (and Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, mustard and turnip greens, Swiss chard, arugula, turnips, broccoflower)
Dried and freeze-dried Fruits
Extra virgin olive oil, first pressed (and canola oil)
Honey (dark, local honey)
Kiwis (and guavas)
Oats (and other whole grains like brown rice, barley, wheat, rye, quinoa, spelt, yellow corn, wild rice, ground flaxseed, wheat germ, couscous)
Onions (and chives, scallions, shallots, leeks)
Oranges (and other citrus)
Pomegranates (and pomegranate juice, plums, peaches, nectarines)
Pumpkin (and carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, mangoes, apricots, bell peppers — orange, red, yellow and green)
Soy (and tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt, soy nuts, edamame, tempeh, miso)
Spices (cinnamon, turmeric, oregano, peppercorns, garlic, rosemary, ginger, paprika, cumin, cloves)
Spinach (kale, collard greens Swiss chard, arugula, mustard and turnip greens, bok choy, romaine lettuce, seaweed)
Tea (green, black oolong, white, rooibos)
Tomatoes (and pink grapefruit, watermelon, eggplant, papayas, guavas)
Turkey breast (and skinless chicken breast)
Walnuts (and other nuts and seeds)
Wild salmon (and halibut, tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring, trout, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, lobster)
Yogurt (and kefir, Greek yogurt, soy yogurt)
.Dr. Sierpina is the W.D. and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch.