Do Kids Need to Detox?

If I had been asked this question 20 years ago, I would have gently explained that kids are clean — they haven’t had time to accumulate toxins or sully their health with the usual culprits associated with smoking, drinking and partying.  However, sadly, we have all heard the news stories about noxious chemicals — many never properly tested by the FDA — found in breast milk.  States all over the country are mounting legislative actions to ban BPA and phthalates and flame retardant chemicals in products targeted to people younger than age 7.  How many of you have young children that drink out of plastic containers or chew on plastic toys or wear flame-retardant pajamas?  I’ve never understood the thinking that some chemicals in your pajamas would really save your skin in a burning house!  I recently had an otherwise healthy patient who woke up every morning with high blood pressure and headaches.  Until we got rid of her “memory-foam” pillow.  Soft and comfortable maybe — but full of really yucky chemicals.  Today’s kids are bombarded with so many chemicals, it boggles the imagination.  Plasticizers (BPA and phthalates) to render plastic softer, are some of the worst.  They are also used as dispersants, to hold synthetic perfumes “in suspension” so the aroma lasts longer.  An example of one of the worst offenders is fabric softener.  If you have young children and care about their long-term health, please try to “green” your cleaning and laundry supplies as much as possible.  Clean with white vinegar and baking soda.  Use the Japanese- style laundry discs that electrostatically attract dirt with no detergents at all.  Avoid buying food that has been packaged in plastic.  Freezing liquids in plastic containers break down the plasticizers into the water even more aggressively than microwaving plastic.  Please do not freeze your water or any other liquid in plastic bottles.  Unfortunately, your kid definitely bears a higher chemical burden that she would have 100 years ago.  The many symptoms of “toxicity” would produce a very long list, but may include: difficulty with elimination (not pooping every day or having strange BMs, or profuse sweating), headaches, rashes, bleeding gums, funny body odor, muscle and joint aches, difficulty breathing or concentrating, memory problems, heart palpitations, sensitivity to sugar, or MSG or grains.

Your child undoubtedly co-exists with noxious chemicals.  If your child is chubby, s/he is more likely to be “toxic” because the body tries to wall off chemicals that can’t be broken down in the relatively non-vascular fatty tissues.  This is one of the reasons a dry sauna can be a very helpful adjunct in detoxing — fat cells are heated up to the point of exuding toxins, which can then be eliminated through perspiration.  Always rinse after every sweat when enjoying a sauna.  And a sauna may be too intense for a young person.  Keep track of their pulse and breathing if spending more than 5 minutes at a time in the sauna.

A very basic approach to detox, which would also work well for kids, is to combine support for the liver (the major organ of detoxification), with a gentle laxative program with bulking agents such as psyllium short term or ground flax seeds for indefinite use, and a very mild cathartic such as aloe or prune juice or fennel seeds.  An effective and very safe liver support agent is the amazing and healing Milk thistle (silybum marianum) and you could take the recommended dose from a good quality product found in many health food stores for a month to 3 months once a year.  If you or your child do not have at least one complete stool daily (ideally dark brown, passing easily and not sinking like a rock to the bottom of the toilet bowl — that signifies an impacted stool from delayed elimination) use a mix of bulking and stimulating to promote the daily poop.  Some people find that they need to “rotate” their laxatives for best effect.  Ideally you would need no laxatives (and I’m talking about 3 stewed prunes or 1/3 cup prune juice, or 1/2 cup Smooth Move or detox-type tea daily, not harsher over-the-counter cathartics like Senecot) but it’s worse to not poop daily.  Make sure to train your young child to respond to the call of nature as soon as feasible, and also to let you know if they didn’t poop today.  You may need to ask them.  If at the end of the day, no poop, provide one of the suggested remedies, as well as a heaping spoonful of ground flax seeds or psyllium husk stirred into 1/2 glass of water.

Water is actually the first order of business with any detox program.  Ideally this should be your child’s only beverage.  I know that is nearly impossible what with today’s advertising geniuses.  However, please make all other beverages (besides non-caffeinated herbal teas) “treats” and never, ever, give your kids soda pop.  Diet sodas are the worst.  They are nothing but a brew of liquid chemicals.

Movement is also critical to stimulating lymphatic circulation and drainage.  The lymphatic system is the internal “garbage collection” system that doesn’t have a pump behind it, like the circulatory system has.  Therefore, in order to stimulate lymphatic “clean up” mechanisms, the muscles must be working and pushing against the lymphatic structures.  This means get moving!  Every day, at least take a 20 minute walk.  Ideally you would break a light sweat for 40 minutes 3-4 times weekly.  This applies to children too.

Unfortunately the quality of our food is less than 100 years ago as well.  Soil was richer then.  It didn’t have half a century of industrial farming compromising soil integrity.  You and your child should take a high quality multi-nutrient supplement.  I personally use a super green-food powder even though I also eat organic greens daily.  Colorful natural foods, ideally organic, from a rainbow spectrum, will  go a long way to  providing all the building blocks your body needs to promote tissue healing and the innate detoxification process.

Don’t have junk food in the house and don’t eat it yourself!  Avoid the three big “bad” foods which are refined flours, corn syrup in all its permutations, and hydrogenated oils.  Eat some food raw every day, but cooking generally makes food easier to digest.  Steam, broil or bake your foods.  Never deep fry.  Donuts have to be some of the worst food in the world: refined flour, sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, then deep fried in hydrogenated oil.  Yucko!

Most of the toxic burden gets into our body through our food or through the air we breathe.  If you live in a city consider getting a good HEPA filter for each bedroom in your home.

Extra info:

rainbow nutrition makes food visually appealing, for examples:
RED: tomatoes, red pepper, raspberries, radishes, apples

ORANGE: carrots, pumpkin, yam, squashes, rutabaga, salmon caviar

YELLOW: yellow pepper, lemon, summer squash, sweet potato

GREEN: avocado, limes, spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, broccoli, sprouts

BLUE/VIOLET: grapes, blueberries, eggplant, black beans, seaweeds, red cabbage

some foods are OK to eat non-organic because not a lot of pesticides are used in growing them:

asparagus, avocado, banana, broccoli, cabbage, kiwi, mango, onions, papaya, pineapple, sweet corn, sweet peas.

some foods are heavily sprayed with pesticides when grown commercially and you should definitely choose organic or avoid these foods:

apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, spinach, strawberries