“Are you going to feed your baby gluten?”
Out of all the questions to ask a pregnant woman, you wouldn’t believe that this is the one I was asked most.
I suppose this makes sense… I don’t eat gluten after all. Neither does my husband, Frank. He has an autoimmune condition called Celiac Disease that damages his small intestines and causes inflammation from eating gluten.
He has a very solid reason to avoid it, but I don’t.
At least that’s what some people think.
I, too, have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Instead of my body attacking my small intestines, it attacks my thyroid gland and causes debilitating symptoms.
It doesn’t stop there, though. If Frank eats corn, his legs and arms breakout with itchy, swollen eczema. And if I eat dairy, my throat fills with mucous and swells up making it uncomfortable to swallow and talk.
But if you were to look at my blood results, I technically don’t have an “allergy” to dairy. Although we haven’t tested Frank, I bet we would find the same for corn.
I technically don’t have an “allergy” to gluten either, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that it is a major trigger and contributor to my Hashimoto’s Disease. There is no doubt that once I removed gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and many other foods from my diet, I felt like a new person.
The reason behind why these foods are such major contributors to Hashimoto’s and many other autoimmune conditions, is for a different post (hint: it has to do with “leaky gut”). But I am using them to help build my case.
What case am I building?
When I told people that we are choosing NOT to feed our children gluten, or dairy, or soy, corn, sugar, and a variety of other foods, even though they don’t have diagnosed food allergies, I watched their jaws hit the floor. The puzzled looks. The judgement.
So, I am here to tell you WHY.
We Have a Problem
And by “we,” I mean our country. Since most of us like to see numbers, let’s take a look at a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:
“As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—had one or more chronic health conditions. One in four adults had two or more chronic health conditions.”
Given that this figure is from 2012, I personally believe the numbers are actually higher now, especially if you include the number of people living with undiagnosed conditions. But, I could be wrong.
I hope I’m wrong…
Soon, if it isn’t the case already, 1 out of every 2 parents will have a chronic condition. Unfortunately, I see more and more families in this situation, and an increasing number of families like Frank and I with BOTH parents suffering from chronic disease.
So, naturally, Frank and I have to wonder – what affect does this have on our children?
Genetics Play a Role but They Aren’t Everything
When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, I wasn’t surprised.
My family is filled with thyroid problems of all types – hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, thyroid cancer, hyperthyroidism, Grave’s disease, etc. This goes back generations and spreads throughout extended family.
Many people seem to think our children, especially our daughters, are doomed to a life of autoimmune thyroid conditions. And considering that Frank also has a family history of autoimmune disease, it seems inevitable.
Yes, genetics DO play a role. I am an example of that. But just how much of a role do they play?
It might be less than you think…
Amy Myers MD, in her book The Autoimmune Solution states the following:
“Yes, there is a genetic component in autoimmune disorders. However, twin studies have shown that autoimmunity is only 25 percent heritable, which means that the environment is a far more significant part of the picture: 75 percent, to be exact.”
The 75% is a combination of lifestyle and environmental factors, both of which tend to (usually) fall under our control.
Additionally, the amazing field of epigenetics tells us that circumstances within our life can actually turn our genes on and off and can cause chemical modifications that affect how our genes are expressed.
That’s right! Gone are the days of believing that our genes are our destiny! We have WAY more control over our health than we used to think – and way more influence on our children’s health.
So, we (Frank and I), have a choice. We can either amplify that 25% in our children, or we can shut it down. Guess which one we choose?
Which one would you choose?
The Answer Lies with US
Frank and I often say that we can’t “unknow” what we know.
Meaning – we will not suddenly turn a blind eye to all of the things that contributed to our diseases just for the sake of making life (especially parenthood) easier and more convenient.
Instead, we choose to embrace our lifestyle, because the triggers in our environment and diet that caused us to become sick could potentially make our children sick.
We can’t just sit back and take our doctors’ word for it every time they give us their medical opinion, because their medical opinions are part of the reason that we are in this chronic state. So we choose to do our own research and build a healthcare team willing to work with us as we navigate our medical concerns for our family.
Not only that, but we can’t rely on our government agencies or food and product manufacturers to test for the safety of pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, and additives, because they aren’t in the business of safety, and we learned that the hard way.
Instead, we choose to make our own food, cleaners, etc. and vote with our dollars by buying safer products.
We can’t expect (nor do we want) the CDC, doctors, or pharmaceutical drugs to swoop in and rescue us by quickly fixing all of our problems. This is NOT the answer to chronic disease, nor is it the answer to the prevention of chronic disease in our children.
The answer is actually much simpler than a quick fix.
The answer lies with us.
It’s HOW we raise our children. It’s ensuring that the food our children eat is actually nourishing. That every product we use on their skin works with and not against their body. That the water they drink is pure and free of harmful additives. That every drug that enters their bodies is thoroughly researched and absolutely needed.
The solution is better sleep. Less stress. Less stuff. And more time outside.
We research every product from diapers to detergent to vitamins and supplements because the health of our children and future generations is in our hands and we take that responsibility VERY seriously.
We Can and Will Do Everything in Our Power to Change Our Family History
We refuse to give-in to the “kids” meals, sugar-laden foods, toxic products, and activities that we KNOW are contributors to chronic disease just for the sake of giving our children the “childhood” others think we should give them. We will not crumble from the judgement, criticism, or misunderstandings we receive along the way.
What we will do, is educate our children and lead by example to ensure that they understand just how powerful a truly healthy lifestyle can be. So that they, our future leaders, can empower others to take charge of their health and live a happy, long life free of chronic illness.
We can’t change genetics, but we CAN change our environment.
So, tell me… if you knew you had the power to change your family health history of chronic disease, would you? Would you wait? Or would you start now?
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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?!