Although the focus of this article will be on preventing thyroid health issues in children, the truth is that the information I’m about to provide will help to prevent these conditions in many people who don’t have a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition. But I wanted to place the emphasis on children, because many of the health issues experienced during adulthood can be prevented if we teach our children and grandchildren how to take better care of their health. And most children are going to follow the guidance given by their parents and grandparents.
For example, when I was a child I ate plenty of junk food, including fast food, candy, cupcakes, ice cream, etc. I also drank plenty of fruit punch, soda, and cow’s milk. Whenever I was sick I was given medication, such as antibiotics or Tylenol. And I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a time and place for medication, but most children obviously don’t realize the negative impact that antibiotics and other drugs can have on their body. I can’t say stress was a huge issue growing up, although I also can’t say I was brought up in a relaxed atmosphere, as my mother and father didn’t get along, my mother yelled a lot at at everyone in our house, and in addition to this money was very tight.
As for toxins, my mother smoked two packs of cigarettes each day for all of my childhood and teenage years. While there are numerous studies which show the relationship between smoking and Graves’ Disease (1) (2), there aren’t too many studies regarding the direct effects of secondhand smoke on thyroid health, although I did come across a study which suggests that being exposed to second hand smoke can disrupt thyroid function (3).
Can Thyroid And Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions Be Prevented?
Here’s a question for you. If I was brought up eating a healthier diet, in a more relaxed atmosphere, and if I didn’t grow up living in a house with a smoker, would I have not developed Graves’ Disease? Possibly, although of course there is no way of knowing for sure. The truth is, nobody can make the guarantee that living a healthy lifestyle will prevent the development of any chronic health condition, but I think it’s safe to assume that eating well, managing one’s stress, and reducing your child’s exposure to toxins will minimize their chance of developing such conditions in the future.
So let’s take a further look at these three factors which can play a huge role in the prevention of thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions in children:
Diet. It’s really sad the way many children eat. Once again, I grew up eating plenty of junk food, never had vegetables (and I mean never!), and I ate like this for the first 20+ years of my life. Many other parents also give their children too much junk food, as they don’t realize the negative impact of frequently giving children refined foods and sugars, artificial ingredients, pasteurized cow’s milk and soda, too much pizza and pasta, and other unhealthy foods. In many cases both the mother and father are guilty of feeding junk to their children, but I realize there are some situations where one parent wants their children to eat healthy, but the other parent doesn’t care about healthy foods, or perhaps they don’t want to spend the extra money on healthy food.
But it’s not just the parents who are to blame. The public schools are also guilty of serving junk food to our children. Earlier this year I attended a nutritional seminar, and they compared the lunches from different countries. When looking at the lunches of children in the United States, it’s common for them to be served foods such as chicken nuggets and French fries, corn dogs, pizza, cow’s milk, and other junk food. On the other hand, when looking at the school lunches from other countries, such as Japan, Sweden, and Korea, the children are served foods such as fish (not fried), vegetables, and rice.
Stress. Many children live in a stressful environment, and once again, the parents are greatly responsible for controlling this environment. I understand that there are other stressors, such as the pressure of doing well in school. But it’s up to the parents to create a relaxing environment for their children, and it’s also a good idea to teach your children how to better manage their stress. The problem is that most adults don’t make an effort to better manage their own stress, and when their children see the way they handle stress, this will frequently get passed onto the children.
Of course feeding your children healthier foods will help to stabilize their blood sugar levels, which will keep their adrenals strong, and thus help them to better handle stressful situations. Similarly, making sure they get adequate sleep at night (9 to 10 hours) is also important and will help them to better manage their stress. They also need to keep active, as when I was young I remember frequently going outside to play. But these days, many children spend most of their spare time watching television and playing video games.
But even if you feed your children healthy food, make sure they get sufficient sleep, and encourage them to be active, you still should help them to better manage their stress. Besides giving them plenty of love, you also might want to show them how to meditate, engage in deep breathing, or perhaps participate in activities such as tai chi, karate, etc.
Toxins. We tend to overlook the impact that toxins have on our own health, and the same can be said when it comes to the health of our children. But let’s remember that these toxins have a much harsher impact on developing immune systems, as well as on other areas of the body. Most of the people I see with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions are adults, but I have dealt with some children, and I wonder how much these toxins are responsible for the development of such conditions in children.
I mentioned cigarette smoke earlier, but of course there are many other toxins children are commonly exposed to. If you use household products with chemicals, such as cleaning agents and/or air fresheners, then these alone can have a harsh effect on a child’s respiratory system and immune system. If you use pesticides in your house then these can lead to health issues. Besides making the switch to natural products, consider investing in a quality air purification system to place in your child’s room.
I’m not going to get into detail about childhood vaccinations, but many children are over-vaccinated. And while I realize that some manufacturers have made changes to the ingredients in certain vaccines, some of the chemicals added are still potentially toxic. If you feel that you must get your child vaccinated, then at the very least try not to get a bunch at the same time, as this can overwhelm their immune system.
Finally, there is still a lot of controversy when it comes to electronic pollution. But as many people reading this already know, there does seem to be evidence from studies that frequent cell phone use can increase brain tumors (4). So while it might seem paranoid to suggest that children shouldn’t talk on cell phones, if you must have your child talk on a cell phone then at least show them how to put it on speakerphone, or buy them an earpiece so they don’t need to hold the phone against their head. And I would also recommend minimizing the electronic devices in their bedrooms. I know it might seem like I’m going overboard, and maybe I am, but I’d rather be safe than sorry, and I personally don’t see the need for most young children to have a cell phone and/or a television in their room.
In summary, although there is no way to guarantee that your children or grandchildren won’t develop a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, there are things you can do to help decrease their chances of developing such a condition. Making sure they eat a healthy diet is probably the most important thing you can do, although you also want to help them improve their stress handling skills, and to minimize their exposure to toxins. You also want to make sure they get sufficient sleep and some exercise. There are other factors I haven’t covered here, but if you focus on the ones I did cover you will greatly improve both the current and future health of your children, and can greatly minimize the chances of them developing Graves’ Disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and other chronic health conditions in the future.