Ayurveda: Bringing Healthy Babies into a Modern World

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Today I’m going to look at two crucial ways that Ayurveda can help to bring healthy children into the world. One involves improving fertility; the other involves promoting the healthy brain health of fetuses and babies.

Falling sperm count is a serious modern problem. Back in the 1990s, Danish researchers reported “a genuine decline in semen quality over the past 50 years”, with possible implications for male fertility.

Numerous studies have linked this phenomenon to BPA, a chemical found in many plastics used to make food containers, bottles and coatings in tin cans. It is also commonly used in thermal paper in cash register receipts. Researchers claim BPA can disrupt hormones, raising the risk of a wide number of health problems such as diabetes, obesity and cancer — and disrupted sperm production. A recent Washington State University study indicated that the chemical “disrupts the delicate DNA interactions needed to create sperm.” BPA also has the potential to harm infants and the fetus. The chemical has already been banned in baby bottles in Europe because of safety fears.

The second and equally disturbing concern is the high “body burden” of toxins carried by women of childbearing age: toxins that can harm the brain development of fetuses and babies.

While the commitment to organic food and natural materials is steadily increasing around the world, we are still faced with the legacy of industrialization: a level of toxic exposure that has serious implications for future generations. Studies have focused on the three pollutants (lead, mercury and PCBs) because they are especially pervasive and persistent in the environment. Scientists identified specific risk factors to fetal and infant brain development for children of women with higher blood levels of these chemicals.

And studies show that as women grow older, the blood levels of chemical toxins increase exponentially. Women aged 30 – 39 had a 12 times greater risk and women aged 40 to 49 had a risk 30 times great than women aged 16 – 19.

The reason that risk increases with age is because the toxins accumulate in body over time. PCBs and BPA are fat-soluble chemicals. They bind to the fatty lipid layer that surrounds every cell in the body. This is where the ancient detoxification treatments of Ayurveda provide unique benefits.

In a study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in its September/October 2002 issue have shown that Maharishi Ayurveda Panchakarma therapy offered at The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa greatly reduces the levels of 14 important ˜lipophilic’ (i.e. fat-soluble) toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in the body, which would otherwise remain in the body for a very long time. Studies founded by the National Institute of Health and conducted by Maharishi University have shown that person’s receiving Panchakarma treatments had a 70% reduction of heavy metals, pesticides and other hazardous chemicals than the general population.

These are the only treatments that have been proven to reduce the levels of fat-soluble toxins in the body.

For both women and men considering parenthood, a serious commitment to reducing the levels of toxins would be considered at least three months before trying to conceive a child.

The Raj offers a pre-conception and infirtility program that includes individualized treatments, diet, life-style recommendations and herbal preparations. For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

How the Health of Your Child May Be More in Your Control Than You Think

This week a news headline caught my eye: “Mother’s Diet Affects Silencing of Her Child’s Genes”. The research, conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, took place in Gambia and showed a clear link between a mother’s diet before she becomes pregnant and the life-long health of her child.

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I’m always excited when I see modern research that underscores knowledge promoted by Ayurveda. For over 20 years The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center has been offering a Pre-Conception Program. This program is recommended to begin eight-weeks before parents try to conceive a child. The program begins with Panchakarma, the traditional Ayurveda detoxification and purification treatments, to remove harmful toxins and promote balance in the physiology of the parents. The parents then follow a specific diet, lifestyle changes and herbal supplements recommended by an Ayurveda expert. By the time the child is conceived, an ideal environment has been created from which to create the child and in which to nurture its development.

To me the idea always seemed driven by common sense as much the data on levels of environmental toxins found in wombs and research on specific vitamins and nutrients that support fertility and child development. (See the blog post “Optimizing Fertility with Ayurveda“). But this new research took things to the level of “epigenetics”.

Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Without altering the underlying DNA sequence, genes can actually be turned off. These epigenetic changes may last through cell divisions for the duration of the cell’s life, and may also last for multiple generations. The press release from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine explained, “While a child’s genes are inherited directly from their parents, how these genes are expressed is controlled through ‘epigenetic’ modifications to the DNA. One such modification involves tagging gene regions with chemical compounds called methyl groups, which results in silencing the genes. The addition of these compounds requires key nutrients including foliate, vitamins B2, B6 and B12, choline and methionine.”

This means that what we eat and how we live our lives can turn off or turn on the genes we are born with. And it can also turn off the genes that we pass on to our children.

One interesting outcome of the study was that what the mother ate before pregnancy was more important than what was eaten while carrying the child. Researcher Andrew Prentice, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The key message is that a mother’s nutrition before she becomes pregnant is super-critical…There is a lot going on before the moment of conception.”

He also noted that pre-pregnancy diet has been linked to the chemistry of genes involved in obesity, cancer and the immune system and that these early days could shape a child’s chances of everything from developing diabetes in their 40s and 50s to having a heart attack in old age.

This study only focused on the diet of the mother, prior to conception. Ayurveda recommends that both the mother and the father attend to their diet and to the balance of their physiology before trying to conceive a child. Since 50% of the child’s DNA comes from the father, it seems obvious that that too plays an important role in determining the future health of a child.

For more information on the Pre-Conception Program at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa go to:

http://www.theraj.com

 

 

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