Over a week ago I posted on Instagram about cleaning chemicals and that they can negatively impact our kids’ microbiome.
The way that the microbiome was being assessed and studied was through the lens of childhood obesity. Ultimately, kiddos who were exposed to more of the conventional cleaning chemicals (even a few times a week), had microbiome changes that seemed to also result in more obesity in those same kiddos.
Additionally, it seemed like kids who grew up in households with ‘greener’ cleaning products had less of these issues: fewer microbiome changes and lower incidences of obesity.
Some of the questions I still have and didn’t get into with that IG post are:
- Is obesity really our biggest worry for our kiddos?
- What does it mean to us that our kiddos are ‘obese’?
- What does it mean that cleaning chemicals are ‘better’?
- What other factors could be at play?
As much as I LOVE and appreciate microbiome knowledge-bombs, I admit that I have a knee-jerk reaction to the information- and even my own post. One of the things that I have been challenged by through my entire clinical life is to present information and offer informed choice without fear.
As an integrative family medicine provider, I witness quite a bit of parenting fear. Mostly it’s the usual fears of keeping kids alive, safe, and healthy. But I also hear many fears of doing everything ‘right,’ being a perfect parent or having the perfect birth, not putting ‘toxic’ things into their bodies, or feeding kids a ‘healthy’ diet.
While these fears are also normal and common, they contain elements of elitism and also judgement. In order to be perfect, right, healthy, or non-toxic, we have to identify what all of those things even mean. And possibly denigrate or reject things that don’t fit the bill. To be ‘perfect-right-healthy’ is somewhat grounded in privilege and access.
I can take a great example, sheepishly, from my own parenting. Some years ago we drove by the McDonald’s near our house that has a giant Play Place. My son asked to go for the millionth time. I said “Nope, that ball pit is nasty” and made some reference to the food being poison. It was an off-hand, distinctly thoughtless comment made while driving, but definitely belied some judgement, right?
Months later some good friends came over and brought McDonald’s. Their son wasn’t really up for what we were making for dinner, and they pre-empted the discomfort and brought something that they knew he would eat. After they left, my son asked me in a quiet and worried-sounding voice, “Mama, why did they feed him that? Why did they give him poison?”
Well, if that doesn’t guarantee me #1 Doctor-Mom Of The Year, I don’t know what does.
While I appreciate all of the insight that we can gain into the mighty microbiome and into childhood metabolic disruptions (of which obesity could be a manifestation), what else isn’t being said?
Families who are prioritizing green cleaning chemicals may also be making different choices about dietary inputs, physical activity, and/or sleep. They may have the privilege and access to make these choices. And all of these choices can also affect the health of our microbiome, and could also be correlated with obesity or the lack thereof.
While it might be tempting to make the leap that green cleaning = less obesity, keep in mind that there are so many dimensions to health. Let’s be careful and thoughtful about our goals, the meanings we make, the level of ‘perfect-right-healthy’ we think we have acheived or not, and whether they are proper companions in our walkabout to well-being.
#wellbeingwalkabout #childhoodobesity #socialdimensionsofhealth #perfect #right #healthy #mightymicrobiome #parenting
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