Between the Hashimoto’s Disease (me) and the Celiac Disease (Frank, my husband), and the Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s, Vitiligo, and Grave’s Disease within our extended families, many people just assume that our kids are destined for a life of autoimmune disease.
I’ll admit. It’s a hefty genetic history to pass on to our tiny babes.
Take me back 5 years, and I would have agreed that yes, our children are indeed doomed for a life a chronic illness. But, that opinion has changed.
While I understand that genetics and family history do play a small role – it’s just that: small.
The LARGER part is associated with various triggering events (environmental stressors, viruses, parasites, stress, etc.) and gut health (leaky gut, in particular).
Frank and I are living proof that taking control of environmental factors and prioritizing gut health can lead to remission of chronic autoimmune disease symptoms.
Plus, we did it all (and still do) without the continuous use of any prescription or OTC drugs except for a small dose of thyroid replacement hormones.
Knowing what we know now, and after suffering the debilitating symptoms of autoimmunity, the last thing we want is to encourage the development of disease in our children.
Instead, we choose to do everything we can to PREVENT it.
It is unfortunate, though, that many of the common habits and traditions of childhood have morphed into the unhealthy environmental factors that we (Frank and I) turned away from to overcome our autoimmunity.
So, when it comes to raising our kids… we have a choice: follow the norm and give in so that our children can have (what some refer to as) a “normal” childhood…
Break away from the pack, and raise our kids using habits and traditions that contribute to real health and vitality, lessening their chance of developing an autoimmune disease.
We choose option 2.
And while we completely understand how HARD it is to go against the norm within the world of parenting (parental shaming is a very real thing), it is not an excuse. If all of us continue to follow without ever stopping to challenge or question, nothing will change.
Given the rising rates of childhood chronic diseases (including autoimmune disease) year over year – SOMETHING must change.
Be the change you wish to see in the world. – Gandhi
It’s as simple as that.
So, below are 6 of the many ways we are taking charge of our children’s’ health.
1. We will NOT take offense to what other people think.
There are a lot of strong opinions out there, and many of them are thrust upon us on a daily basis. This was the very first thing we learned as new parents, and it started well before our first child was even born.
A couple of examples: some people think we are “extreme” or really “dramatic” because we don’t feed our kids gluten or dairy. We’ve even heard that it’s child abuse (really, guys?) when we purposely deny cake and ice cream at birthday parties.
Years ago, these types of criticisms would have bothered us. We would’ve absorbed it all… and let it fester for days, thinking of the best ways to respond and really stick it to ‘em.
But we learned that type of attitude is exhausting.
At the end of the day, it is Frank and I, and our children, that have to live with the decisions we make – no one else. And as a result, this makes everyone else’s opinion and/or inflammatory comments lose their power over us.
Change will never happen without a backbone.
Besides, if we raise our children based on what other people think… we will raise children that think it’s okay to live their lives based on what other people think. And that’s no way to live. Do you agree?
2. We will not feed our children “Kids’ Food”.
Kids’ Food consists of:
- Happy Meals
- Sugar breakfast cereals
- Juice boxes
- Artificially flavored “fruit” snacks
- Neon colored ice cream
- Artificial mac n’ cheese
The list is endless. The problem?
This isn’t REAL FOOD!
Our bodies, and especially the bodies of our developing children, were NOT designed to eat highly processed, artificially fortified foods. They offer nothing more than empty calories, a sugar high, and craving for more.
Prior to the 1900s, kids’ food wasn’t a thing. Children ate what their parents ate – which at that time was real food because fast food (as we know it today) wasn’t an option.
Now, the children’s food industry has its hand in so many places: schools, TV commercials, social media, holidays, restaurants, vending machines, and even workplace cafeterias.
They focus on 3 things: fat, sugar, and salt and they will do everything in their power to get you to buy. Box tops, toys in cereal boxes, sweepstakes, celebrity endorsements, and misleading marketing… it is a business after all.
The reason packaged snacks and meals have become the norm in most households across the U.S. is because they are so convenient! Literally NO preparation required. Which is very enticing in our frantic and flustered society we live in.
But at what cost?
These are the same foods that almost everyone recovering from autoimmune disease will eventually have to eliminate in order to feel their best. We did it, and so have countless others, because they make us sick.
Call us “no fun,” but we are not participating in or giving a dime to the children’s food industry. We choose, instead, to vote with our dollars and feed our children the REAL food that God gave us, starting with breast milk right from the beginning.
3. We will be very picky about the type of doctor(s) our children see.
The first pediatrician we found for our children seemed great at first, until some of our questioning revealed forced policies, lack of choice, parental shaming, and prescription drugs to solve each and every issue.
We realized that the PRACTICE (keep in mind that medicine is just that) of pediatric medicine these days can be less of an actual practice and more of a set of rules. These rules strip us of our parental rights to make informed decisions for our children.
What we’re looking for, instead, is a doctor that respects parental choice, acknowledges that our relationship is a true partnership (not a one-way street), and uses a functional medicine approach to treat and prevent chronic illness and autoimmune disease.
Functional medicine saved our butts, and it will likely save our children too.
4. We will continuously educate ourselves, as parents, about all things regarding health.
Three reasons (of many, but it would take too long to list them all):
First, it is our responsibility as parents to be our children’s best medical advocate, and that requires us to be educated. We need to be involved and ask questions until we have true informed consent regarding all options.
Second, outsourcing the health of our children to the “experts” (doctors) severely limits treatment options and knowledge.
The human body is incredibly complex. There is just no possible way for one doctor (or even a team of doctors) to know everything in the limited amount of time they have with us, or our children.
Combining our knowledge with the opinion and experience of a trusted doctor makes for a much better decision making environment because knowledge is pooled.
Third, many diseases and ailments are frequently treated with one thing: over-the-counter or prescription drugs, all which carry risky side effects.
And yet, there are thousands of natural God-given remedies that can relieve symptoms, AND help the body heal without so many risks.
Unfortunately, those natural remedies are rarely written on a prescription pad. So, it’s up to us to learn about them and use them when appropriate.
Plus, education just helps us to be in control. We can confidently navigate the terrain of any health issue because we have the right tools and resources to do so.
5. We will educate our children (& homeschool if circumstances allow).
Ensuring true health for our children starts with us, so we must lead by example. Frank and I are already doing this because we don’t have a choice – we have to or we won’t function.
But we also have to make a conscious effort to educate our children about WHY we live the way we do. We need to explain the changes we made to reclaim our health.
If we don’t involve our children in our daily everyday habits, like grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning with environmentally safe and nontoxic cleaners, organic gardening/composting, nurturing healthy relationships, building a strong faith, etc. then we fail to equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to continue these habits.
All of these habits require time though. Since we want to teach our children these behaviors and habits, we require even more time!
In order for us to maximize our efforts and equip our children to thrive in this world, we have to spend the time teaching them all of this.
Sadly, the public (and often private) school systems do not spend nearly enough time stressing the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including faith, our relationship with our environment (including people and planet), or even how to budget!
Therefore, we choose to take one less vacation per year, so we can afford to spend this time with our children. Our goal is to prepare them the best we can, through homeschooling.
6. We will create HEALTHIER birthday and holiday traditions.
The word celebration should really just be replaced with the word sugar.
Somehow, a monstrous amount of sugar has wriggled its way into every holiday, birthday, wedding, and school celebration via clever marketing like Christmas tree shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Pinterest-inspired parties.
When you add up all of the celebrations throughout the year, there is not much of a break. Every single month has something, even if its not an official holiday (like the Super Bowl).
Sprinkle in some birthday parties, both at school and for family & friends, and you’ll have a nice, consistent schedule of sugary treats (and that doesn’t account for leftovers, like from the Halloween candy that lasts for months).
Sugar = inflammation. And given how much is added to ketchup, pasta sauces, beverages, and even things like peanut butter, most people don’t really get a break. That means constant low-grade inflammation… a breeding ground for disease.
So, we are ditching the sugar part of traditions & celebrations and replacing with various alternatives like: experiences (such as spending the day at a State Park), low-sugar REAL food snacks/treats, and practical/educational gifts.
It may not be simple. It may not be convenient. But it WILL be worth it.
Everything I just mentioned points to one overall concept: advocacy for our children’s health.
We are choosing to address the chronic disease epidemic from the bottom up. We start with our children, because that is the ONLY way it will change for future generations.
If we make the hard decisions now and teach our children that you don’t have to follow the popular opinion, maybe there is a chance that our children will learn the value of making hard decisions for themselves.
With the next generation of independent, intelligent people to help guide us out of the habit of reacting instead of being proactive, humanity can finally start to swing back in the right direction.
Do you think it’s time to provide a foundation of real health, real decision making, critical thinking and REAL ADVOCACY?
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Hi! I’m Anna, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. After managing my own autoimmune diseases using lifestyle, habit, and mindset changes, I now work to teach others how to navigate the treacherous and confusing journey of chronic illness living. I firmly believe YOU hold the power to question, think critically, and become your own rock-solid advocate in a world full of unhealthy habits. Consider me, and my husband, Frank, your autoimmune disease health coaches. Are you ready?!