Q: Are detox regimens safe—or even necessary—for children?
—Sharon G., Chicago
A: 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 smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating junk food, or other bad habits. Recently, however, we have seen reports about noxious chemicals—many never properly tested by the FDA—detected in breast milk. States all over the country are mounting legislative actions to ban BPA, phthalates, and flame retardant chemicals in products targeted to people younger than age 7.
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/polyurethane pillow. Sure, the pillow was soft and comfortable, but it was also full of nasty chemicals. Similarly, today’s kids are bombarded with so many chemicals, it boggles the imagination. One of the worst offenders is fabric softener. If you have young children, please try to “green” your cleaning and laundry supplies as much as possible.
Unfortunately, today’s children definitely bear a higher chemical burden than they would have 100 years ago. The list of “toxicity” symptoms is varied, but may include: difficulty with elimination (constipation, profuse sweating), headaches, rashes, bleeding gums, muscle and joint aches, difficulty breathing or concentrating, memory problems, heart palpitations,and sensitivity to sugar, MSG, or grains.
Your child undoubtedly coexists with noxious chemicals. Chubby kids, in particular, are more likely to be “toxic” because the body uses fatty tissues to wall off chemicals that can’t be broken down.
A basic approach to detox, which works well for kids and adults, is combining a mild laxative (such as aloe, prune juice, or fennel seeds) with a bulking agent (such as psyllium fiber for short-term use or ground flax seeds for a long-term solution). It’s also important to use a safe liver support agent: I suggest milk thistle, an amazing liver-healing herb. Use a high-quality product and give your child the recommended dose for one to three months once a year.
Ideally, water should be your child’s only beverage. Of course, this can be challenging with all of the tempting juices, sodas, and other drinks on the market. But try to make all other beverages “treats” (with the exception of non-caffeinated herbal teas), and never give your kids conventional soda. Diet sodas are the worst—nothing but a brew of liquid chemicals.
Movement is also critical for stimulating lymphatic circulation and drainage. Try to take a 20-minute walk every day. And ideally, you and your children want to break a light sweat for about 40 minutes, 3—4 times per week.
Finally, another problem we face is that the quality of our food isn’t as high as it was 100 years ago. Soil was richer then. So it’s important that your child take a high-quality multivitamin. I also suggest (and use myself) a green foods powder. Incorporating a rainbow of colorful, natural foods—ideally organic—into your child’s diet goes a long way toward providing all of the building blocks a body needs to promote tissue healing and the innate detoxification process. Avoid the three big “bad” foods—refined flours, corn syrup in all its permutations, and hydrogenated oils. Steam, broil, or bake your foods. Eat fresh greens daily. And try to eat some raw food every day.
Create a Colorful Diet
Make food visually appealing to children by incorporating a rainbow of colors in meals. Here are some examples: