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A Holistic Perspective on the Digestive System of Infants and Children - Page 2

Author // Laurence B. Palevsky, MD

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A Holistic Perspective on the Digestive System of Infants and Children
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Some of these culinary herbs are used to treat many of the common ailments frequently brought on by food choices that produce mucus and inflammation and weaken the digestive system. While it is hard to avoid many of the cold, damp and smothering foods, culinary herbs help to counter balance the weakening effects these foods have on a child’s digestive and immune systems.

Most of the chemicals that make up the body’s immune system are derived from the diet we feed our children. The proteins, fats and carbohydrates in our food become the amino acids, fatty acids and saccharides of pro- and anti-inflammatory chemicals in the immune system. These nutrients also stimulate the activity of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system in different ways specific to each individual child.

Most of the vitamins, minerals and water needed as co-factors for these reactions are derived from the diet as well. A diet of foods that contain healthy proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water will feed the immune and nervous systems the necessary nutrients for maintaining health and homeostasis. A weakened and stressed digestive system in a child is more likely to contribute to a state of acute and/or chronic moisture, especially along the digestive lining, than one that is balanced, supported and nurtured with the proper nutrients and environment.

A child’s body consists of almost 70% water. Water is the best beverage for children and adults. A diet of salty and sweet beverages and foods has a dehydrating effect on the body as does a low consumption of water. The body naturally responds to dehydration by increasing the production of mucus membranes. This moisture appears as an increase in mucus production, most often in the airways, nasal passages, oropharynx, intestines, and skin, sometimes even as rashes or inflammation. Excess mucus is produced in these areas to maintain hydration and a strong defense against invading pathogens. Over time, an increase in mucus production can be excessive, often providing an ideal environment for bacterial or viral growth.

If a child’s system is strong enough, he or she will get sick and burn off the excess mucus, usually with a fever, to restore the proper lining of the mucus membranes. If the child is not strong enough, or continues to be given too much salt and sugar, overproduction of mucus in the body will continue. By lifting the burden of excess sugar and salt in the diet and offering water as the main beverage, a child’s body can then use its innate healing ability to clear the excess mucus and restore homeostasis to the defense system.

When a child presents with any of the above undesirable symptoms or illnesses, a switch to a diet of whole, simple foods and a reduction and/or elimination of the cold, damp or smothering foods will often alleviate many, if not all, of the clinical problems. In so doing, the child’s digestive, immune and nervous systems will become stronger, allowing him or her to better deal with external environmental stressors. In many cases this normal healing process occurs without complication or even an awareness that it is happening in the body at all.


Items that are cold and damp in quality to a child’s digestive fire include:

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, ice cream)
  • Soybeans and processed soy products (soy milk, soy cheese, TVP, soy bars, soy burgers, soy powders)
  • Commercial infant formulas (milk and soy based)
  • Other commercial milks, e.g., rice milk
  • Raw fruits and raw vegetables
  • Wheat and most flour products
  • Baby cereals and commercial cereals


Items that are smothering in quality to a child’s digestive fire include:

  • Wheat and most flour products
  • Baby cereals
  • Heavy, thick fruits, e.g., bananas
  • Thick, creamy foods
  • Greasy, oily foods
  • Juice, soda, soft drinks, shakes, smoothies
  • Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Fried foods and oils, foods cooked under high heats
  • Iced or refrigerated foods and beverages
  • Peanuts
  • Processed, packaged and refined foods with dyes, chemicals, preservatives, additives, metals, colorings, partially hydrogenated oils,margarine, shortening
  • Antibiotics



Pathways Issue 12 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #12.

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