At a recent talk on the link between dental health and whole body health, dentist Felix Liao of Whole Health Dental Center talked about a whole host of reasons that children might have narrow jaws, poor bites, or crooked teeth. (And he explained why these issues are whole body issues, not just about the mouth). One of the problems, he said, in the development of health mouths is the fact that babies are exposed to so many chemicals these days before they are even born.

The Environmental Working Group came out with a report in 2005 called Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns that found a whole lot of unnatural stuff in newborn cord blood. The Executive Summary reads: “Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied.”

287 chemicals. 180 of them carcinogenic.


I was similarly freaked out when I read about the persistent organic pollutants in human breastmilk in Sandra Steingraber’s fascinating book, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood. It’s a scary thing that the best food for your baby is actually full of unhealthy compounds.

Some people would just throw up their hands and say, “What can you do? We live in a toxic world!” But there are some steps to lessen your body’s chemical burden:

  • Eat as close to the source as possible. Vegetables, fruit, and nuts are best from sources that limit the use of chemicals if they use any at all. Lots of farmers at your local farmers market don’t spray or do so minimally, but they don’t take the time and expense to get certified organic. “Pastured” meat and eggs — foods from sources that let animals graze on pasture — is going to be healthier and taste better than food from a big company that uses feed that may have chemicals and then has to use chemicals in the manufacturing process because of so much contact animals have had with feces and disease. And the less processed food, the fewer question marks and less exposure to who knows what in processing plants.
  • Do a short-term cleanse or even a detox protocol under the guidance of a nutritionist — something that will help your liver to process all the icky stuff it’s been burdened with and help it to work better from here on out. This might include juicing or just cutting back on some things you eat too much, or a focus on a more alkaline diet.
  • Use a sauna, a far-infrared sauna if you can, or do anything to regularly work up a sweat
  • Have mercury amalgams safely removed by a dentist who takes extreme measures to keep you from any additional exposure. Combine this with work with a nutritionist to incorporate supplements like chlorella that can help your body cleanse from the inside out.

Holistic health practitioners might have a lot of other suggestions, depending on how you’ve been living. But doing the above before even considering pregnancy is probably one of the best ways to ensure that you have the safest possible blank slate of a body. Doing between kids — if you have a break between breastfeeding and conception — is also a great idea. And if you’re all done child-bearing, consider it a gift to yourself!

And you’re setting a great example: if you start the day with a green smoothie, maybe the kiddos will want to do the same. Then maybe by the time your children become parents in a possibly more-toxic world, perhaps their baby’s cord blood won’t have so darn many scary ingredients!

Jessica Claire Haney blogs about living naturally — most of the time — at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.