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How important is detoxification before conception? Could clearing your body of its toxic burden before pregnancy lead to a greater outcome for you and your baby?
Understanding the influence of the environment on your body, its interface with gut bacteria and the resulting genetic expression is essential when planning for parenthood. The connection between parental health and the health of one's offspring is very significant. The youngest among us are not free from the downstream impact of parents' starvation or obesity, and definitely not environmental toxin risk. In fact, due to developing immune, endocrine, organ and neuromuscular systems, fetuses and babies are even more vulnerable.
Since the completion of the human genome study in 2003 and the human microbiome project, due to be completed this year, we have a greater understanding of this.
When we're focused we hear the headlines and connect the dots. Last summer, Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory stated that based on the statistics and the use of glyphosate (Roundup) in our food supply, that by 2025 one in two children will have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. The CDC has been tracking the growth in prevalence of ASD for years, from 1 in 150 in the year 2000 to 1 in 50 today. Other childhood disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), obesity, asthma and allergies are also on the rise.
I often describe this eventful rise in disease figures as the hyper-response of our immune and neurological systems. Children are now being born with hyper-reactive immune systems, unable to distinguish friend or foe and attacking what years ago would have been considered benign proteins. Neurologically, they are hyperactive, agitated and anxiety prone. The immune and neurological systems are closely intertwined in the gut of a newborn with cross-talking chemicals between both systems. Their little dysregulated GI tracts are too often refluxing/purging unacceptable proteins or blocking assimilation with constipation.
The immunological response is a moving target these days. Potentially deadly anaphylactic reactions to food substances have increased, affecting 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. That's roughly two kids in every classroom. Meal planning has become complicated and dangerous as food allergies among children have grown -- the CDC states a 50% increase between 1997 and 2011! If the recent recommendation to desensitize early is what it takes, I am all for it. However, it's important to appreciate that this is not in sync with what should be happening naturally within the body. Generations before avoided nuts because of aspiration risk until a child was at least three years of age or older. When those children were ultimately exposed, they did not experience the anaphylactic response we see today.
There are over 84,000 chemicals on the EPA's TSCA Inventory (a list of chemicals manufactured or processed in the US) and over 17,000 pesticide products on the market. The world of convenience and plenty that we live in is taking a toll on our offspring's health. The biggest source of exposure to many of these chemicals is from our food supply. The information that we take into our bodies from food and interpreted by our gut microbiome and released into our bloodstream has wreaked all sorts of havoc.
Our food is the greatest source of information to our microbiome and our bodies at large. Nutrigenetics is defined as the impact of genetic differences between individuals and their response to what they eat and its ultimate influence on their health status and disease risk. Nutrigenomics is the interaction between dietary components and your genome resulting in changes that affect your gene expression. The adulteration of our food supply over the last 50 years has significantly impacted our nutrigenomic profile. Pharmacogenomics, or the study of how genes affect a person's response to drugs, is an additional influencing factor on our health outcomes as many of us are exposed unknowingly to drugs in our water and food supply in addition to the drugs that we are prescribed.
According to the CDC's US prescription drug data report for 2007-2008, the use of multiple prescription drugs increased 20% and the use of five or more drugs increased 70% from the prior decade. One out of every 5 children, (or 20% of children) use at least one or more prescription drug, specifically asthma medications, antidepressants, bronchodilators and CNS stimulants.
Awareness of all of this has stressed to me the importance of preconception detoxification. Reducing our toxic body burden and inflammatory responses to the chemical agents winding up in our bodies may have a better influence on pregnancy outcome. No one can make any promises, but common sense and the literature suggest that reducing toxic body burden and inflammation can help set a foundation not grounded in dysregulation.
In 2002 when I first lectured on the subject of preconception detoxification at a meeting of like-minded parents and professionals in Armonk, New York, I spoke of an Australian study that had been published in 1998, which showed chemical toxins (chlorpyrifos) found in the meconium of newborn infants. Another study, in 2005, spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of the 10 babies tested. Chemicals included persistent organic pollutants, substances like DDT that was banned back in the 70s. Little did I know that the battle was just beginning and that no one would wake up... We still haven't woken up... And now most recently the lives of an entire family hangs in limbo after being poisoned by a fungicide that was banned in 1984. Not only do these chemicals continue to be used, even when new applications are not made, the residuals linger in our environment causing neurotoxic damage to future generations.
The most important takeaway is to realize that there is more in your power to optimize your pregnancy outcome. I recently launched a preconception wellness program rooted in my 30 years of clinical experience, traditional and emerging science. Build Your Best Bump guides couples through a preconception wellness process for 3 months before they begin trying to conceive. A diet based on whole foods combined with functional foods and supplements formulated to reduce toxic body burden and establish a foundation of essential pre-conception nutrients will prepare a woman's body to nurture and grow a healthy baby. With a program like Build Your Best Bump, couples can feel confident that one's body and mind are in the best shape for the next generation to have the best chances to thrive. Prevention is the enemy of guilt.