At the moment, 1 in 36 children struggles with autism nationwide, a disorder characterized by problems with social interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. While the cause of autism is unknown, there are many risk factors that might contribute to its development, such as certain genetic conditions. Still, a more obscure risk factor for autism is toxic exposure. Children exposed to acetaminophen in the womb are 19% more likely to develop autism, according to a study from the European Journal of Epidemiology. So, pregnant women should avoid taking this medication, sold under the name Tylenol, excessively or in high doses.
Furthermore, exposure to heavy metals from baby food might also contribute to the development of the disorder. In the winter of 2021, a congressional investigation exposed four major baby food companies for allowing dangerous arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury concentrations in their products. These naturally occurring metals are neurotoxic, which means frequent exposure can irreversibly affect children’s developing brains. Beech-Nut, one of the oldest baby food manufacturers in the country, was found to allow 886 ppb lead and 344 ppb cadmium in its raw ingredients when the maximum limit for both metals is only 5 ppb.
The Link Between Exposure to Heavy Metals and Autism
Because infants and toddlers have a higher nutrient update by the gastrointestinal tract, they can absorb a greater concentration of toxic metals from baby food. If a child is mostly fed commercial baby food, they might at first show neurotoxicity signs such as weakness or numbness in the arms and legs, headaches, and cognitive or behavioral problems. Over time, as heavy metals accumulate in their brain, these symptoms might give way to autism.
The existence of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in the brain will cause oxidative stress, which occurs when there are too many unstable molecules known as free radicals in the body and not enough antioxidants to destroy them. Oxidative stress can be a sign of autism, as many children with the disorder have greater levels than is healthy. For instance, exposure to mercury will cause neurotrophin-3, a marker of oxidative stress, to be present in the child’s body.
Even though all heavy metals are neurotoxic, lead is particularly harmful to the developing brain, as it can cause permanent mental capacity loss. Many children who survive lead poisoning are left with intellectual disabilities and behavioral disorders, including autism spectrum disorder. The prevalence of autism has been increasing at a very alarming rate, from just 1 in 150 children in 2000. While this may be due to better diagnosis tests, ingesting toxic baby food and in-utero exposure to acetaminophen might also be significant contributors.
3 Natural Alternatives to Tylenol for Pregnant Women
Approximately 50% of pregnant women use acetaminophen worldwide. However, it is important to note that only those who take the medication excessively have a higher risk of giving birth to a child with autism. Using Tylenol occasionally is unlikely to impact neurodevelopment. If you are looking for natural pain relievers, these are some alternatives to acetaminophen you can try.
Due to containing eugenol, a natural pain reliever, cloves are also used to manage pain such as headaches, arthritic inflammation, and toothaches. Eugenol is one of the active ingredients in cloves that is effective in numbing the nerves in the area you apply it, providing temporary pain relief. Toothaches can be alleviated by dampening a cotton ball with clove oil and placing it on the painful area.
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin, which can ease swelling and reduce inflammation. Studies have shown that turmeric may have pain-relieving properties equal in some cases to those of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Curcumin also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it can also reduce fever. If you have a mild fever, you can drink a glass of turmeric milk or chew on a chunk of turmeric with a pinch of salt.
Otherwise known as frankincense, Boswellia is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a pain reliever. It comes in the form of tinctures, pills, and topical treatments. It can be effective in reducing inflammation and easing pain and stiffness. While Boswellia is generally safe, topical application can cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is best to apply a small amount when you are using it for the first time.
3 Safer Alternatives to Baby Food
A study found that up to 95% of baby food on the market contains at least one toxic metal. The study results were made public before the congressional investigation, which confirmed that most store-bought baby food is tainted with heavy metals. So, it is only natural to want to find safer alternatives for your developing child. These are three ways you can reduce the amount of toxic metals in your child’s diet.
Choosing Natural Alternatives Instead of Commercial Baby Food
This is a suggestion from the previous study led by the non-profit organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures. The following are four natural alternatives to commercial baby food you can feed your infant or toddler:
- rice-free snacks instead of rice snacks to lower the heavy metal content by 93%
- plain water instead of fruit juice to reduce the heavy metal content by 68%
- a cold banana instead of teething biscuits to lower the heavy metal content by 91%
- other fresh produce instead of sweet potatoes to reduce the heavy metal content by 73%
Breastfeeding for One Year or Longer
While over 80% of American mothers breastfeed, few keep doing so for one year or longer, as pediatricians recommend. Breastfeeding for as long as you can will delay your child’s need for baby food and will also bring about numerous health benefits. Children who were breastfed have a lower risk of asthma, diabetes, lung infections, and stomach bugs. Women who breastfeed have a decreased risk of ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and breast cancer.
Avoid Feeding Your Child Rice Too Often
Rice can absorb 20 times more arsenic from the soil and water it grows in than other crops. So, it is not a good idea to feed your child white rice often. When you do cook it, make sure to add plenty of water that you drain off when the meal is ready. Better alternatives to white rice are basmati and sushi rice, as they contain less arsenic.
Are you still unsure about what food to feed your baby? By virtue of the Toxic Baby Food Replacement Initiative, you can now request nourishing, safe, non-toxic products made by ethical companies that test for toxic metals and other dangerous contaminants. All you have to do to receive free baby food is fill out the form at the bottom of the page, and someone will contact you for more details.
About the Author
Jonathan Sharp is Chief Financial Officer at Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. The law firm, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, assists parents whose children developed autism due to being fed toxic baby food and due to exposure to Tylenol in the womb. Jonathan Sharp is responsible for the management of firm assets, case evaluation, and financial analysis.