Being the new parent of a child with Down Syndrome (DS) can be very overwhelming. Apart from dealing with the emotional roller coaster ride, your schedule becomes jam packed with medical appointments and therapy sessions immediately after you give birth.
What happened to the quiet time you wanted to spend staring at your gorgeous newborn?
Sadly, it doesn’t happen.
Naturopathic advice can provide stability and direction to new parents essential during those first weeks/ months/ years.
Naturopath Gabi Giacomin has compiled a list of the things she believes are crucial to the healthy development of a child with DS, from the perspective of a Natural Medicine Practitioner.
Her point of view is biased; It is vitalistic, holistic and naturalistic:
New Parents by Naturopath Gabi Giacomin
This is an approach you can begin when you are home from hospital and settled. This list is based on a natural approach to raising your child with DS.
The most important thing you can do for your child is to REMOVE ALL CHEMICALS FROM THEIR ENVIRONMENT. And since their immediate environment is likely to be their home, you must start there. Current research reveals that our homes are the most toxic places we are exposed to. Chemicals, sprays, heavy metals, toxins in our homes will affect our child’s ability to be physiologically healthy. There is no point wasting money on expensive supplements and therapy if your children are being exposed on a daily basis to chemicals in their drinking water, food, bath, paints, sunscreens, sprays, perfumes etc. It’s important to begin the process of replacing plastic containers and drink bottles with glass or stainless steel. Think about investing in a good water filter for your home and an air purifier. Avoid buying new furniture, clothes, toys, carpets with a strong smell. Wash them first if you can’t avoid this. Make sure the washing powder and sprays you use to clean your home are as natural as possible or make your own. If your child attends pre-school you may have to supply your own sunscreen, insect repellant and organic food if they won’t. Your child’s immune system will be much more resilient if you clean up their environment first. It may take a year for you to do this, but it will save you so much money and time in the future if your child is not getting sick all the time.
The second most important thing you can do for your child is GIVE THEM RAW, FRESH, ORGANIC FOOD ROTATED EVERY FEW DAYS. It is essential you start this as early as possible as children who are raised from birth on raw vegetables, fruits and organic meats will be much healthier and won’t crave sugar. The older a child gets, the harder it is to change their dietary and living habits. Ideally, they would eat 5 small – medium meals per day as opposed to 3 large; breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Each meal should consist of raw salad and vegetables* with meat and healthy fats like avocados, coconut or olive oil. Snacks should be fruit and a non dairy based yoghurt like coconut. If your child has difficulty chewing meat, you can cook it and put into a food processor. You can also blend raw vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, capsicum, cucumber this way for a young child who doesn’t have teeth or a child who has trouble chewing. You can mix supplements with meals to disguise them. Purified water should be available all the time to drink and a glass or stainless steel bottle with a silicone straw is ideal. Make sure you aren’t cooking their food in Aluminium baking dishes as this will very quickly become absorbed into their food and bodies. Replace all Aluminium cookware with glass or ceramic.
The third most important thing is to SUPPORT YOUR CHILD’S PHYSIOLOGY using vitamin, mineral, amino acid and phytotherapy-rich supplements. As you know, the biochemistry of a person with DS is complex. New research reveals that it can be treated with successful outcomes. Pathology associated with DS can be minimised or eradicated if epigenetics are supported. Gene over expression can be down regulated to minimise damage to neurons and epigenetic mechanisms such as the methylation cycle. Methylation is critical for the production of neurotransmitters, detoxification and DNA replication. Without support your child’s health will gradually decline as they mature. Supporting methylation means removing chemicals from your child’s environment, giving them raw, fresh organic foods AND providing extra nutrition. Fortunately, methylation is a nutrient driven cycle using active folate, vitamin B12, choline, betaine and cofactors such as B vitamins, zinc, magnesium. Finding high quality supplements is crucial to your child’s health. Many people don’t realise that supplements bought off the supermarket shelves are often poor quality, contain allergenic fillers and heavy metals. It is crucial you seek out the best quality supplements you can afford.
The fourth most important step is NEURODEVELOPMENT (ND). ND is the cornerstone of our children’s treatment. It is well known that the first six years of a child’s life are crucial for optimising brain development and neurogenesis – the growth of neurons. The effort you put in in those first six years will determine their intellectual potential for life. A recent study on ND techniques used at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP) proved that programs based on early reading and maths in combination with athletics can double the rate of intellectual development of a child with Down Syndrome. The study looked at a 25 year longitudinal database containing the records of 248 children with Down Syndrome. Combined mental and physical training stimulated nerve cell growth and from this perspective development was positively impacted. The approach of the IAHP is one of environmental enrichment – using sensory stimulation (lights, sounds, music, pictures) to promote neurogenesis – recognising that all areas of the brain are connected. So rather than using speech as a foundation for visual language you could just as easily use visual stimulation to improve speech. If speech is obtained at an early age you are stimulating other areas of the brain. In conclusion the authors ask us not to think of DS as just a chromosomal problem, but to re-imagine it as a problem in developmental neurobiology – brain development.
HOLD IT TOGETHER. It isn’t easy being the parent of a child with DS. But most parents wouldn’t change the experience for anything. They become strong, capable, sensitive, aware human beings. They have beaten their own personal best. We defy anyone to challenge them in any capacity. They have been through personal pain, personal grieving, personal exhaustion like no-one on this earth understands. And they get up and do it all over again. Daily.
- if your child has continuous diarrhea, soft, cooked vegetables are a better option.