As mothers we all want the very BEST for our children. Good grades at school, a strong sense of self, excellent social and emotional wellbeing and let’s face it, as little visits to the doctor as possible right?!
But what if we are sabotaging their health and don’t even realise it?
When I first started out on my health journey one of the things that shocked me most was the stats around children’s health. Obviously it didn’t hit home as much as it does now, raising two babies of my own. But still, it is hard to ignore.
According to the WHO, childhood obesity has increased 10 fold in the last 40 years with overweight children also rapidly on the rise. Where numbers like 1 in 10 children were overweight, it is now 1 in 4! We also know that there are a whole host of health issues that result from being overweight if left unmanaged. This can range from something as serious as diabetes, to poor concentration and learning difficulties, mood disorders and low self esteem.
I’m so excited to bring you this interview with award nominated health journalist and gut health guru Kale Brock to talk all about the health crisis affecting our children and to celebrate his upcoming FREE TO AIR documentary on Sunday 9th December 7pm AEST with expert commentary on the matter.
We also discuss the nutritional guidelines and what we as mums can do to lay the foundation of real health for our babies as well as his kids book all about the importance of, well, the gut of course!
Firstly, congrats on such a successful launch of your Gut Movie doco last year. What has accomplishing that project meant to you?
The Gut Movie was the ultimate project that I could have put together on the gut and the gut microbiome. So, for me it was about creating a one stop shop and a powerful tool that people could use to educate themselves or others on the whole gut microbiome story. Seeing cinemas full of people coming to see this film and everyone having a laugh and enjoying the overall message meant a lot, and was incredibly fulfilling.
Having primarily focused on spreading the important message of gut health, what has sparked your passion to now address the topic of children’s health?
The stats on children’s health is quite dismal and concerning for a start but I suppose the biggest inflection point for me was seeing my nephew come into the world. I have loved seeing his incredibly blessed upbringing and wonderful health that he gets to experience compared to a lot of children his age. I think it’s quite a horrid injustice the fact that we allow parents to remain uneducated, doctors to remain uneducated, and other practitioners to remain uneducated about the significant impacts that dietary choices can have on these worrying statistics and I’d love to see them start to reverse. I’d love to see the government start to incentivise bringing up healthy, happy children.
What’s one thing about children’s health that is clear to you, that isn’t clear to others?
One thing that has become clear to me is that it is spiralling out of control and that we are at epidemic levels of ill health. We have startlingly prevalent incidence of things like Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and a whole lot more. Not to mention overweight and obesity, allergies and asthma. And these things right now are mostly being treated via medication and pharmacological approaches. And I think, to ignore the fact that the human body is never short of a drug – a manifestation of a certain set of symptoms that we label a disease is never due to a pharmaceutical deficiency. That is something that has become incredibly clear to me and how prevalent this issue is and how many people don’t realise that we can actually affect massive change on those numbers with our dietary and lifestyle choices.
What has shocked you most about the state of our children’s health as a nation?
What has shocked me most is, again, the prevalence of these sort of conditions that are largely dietary related. I think it is shocking the fact that we’re unable to or are unwilling to acknowledge the profound link between what we put in our mouths and the subsequent outcomes we experience, or our children experience, in their health and wellbeing. We need to actually acknowledge this and become more educated about this fact.
Do you think gut health has a part to play in restoring the health of our children?
Having built my career sharing a message that is centred around gut health and the microbiome, I certainly believe that a lot of the problems that we see in Australian children these days, and children generally in the West, stem from a malnourished standpoint. Including imbalances in the gut microbiome.
I think a lot of issues we see have origins within the gut microbiome and we can affect change in the gut microbiome very rapidly and very easily when we switch to a wholefoods nourishing diet.
What can parents do to ensure they give their children the best start in life?
In my research with leading experts in the field, the general consensus is that mums and dads need to detoxify before they conceive and they need to prepare their body’s with fantastic nutrition throughout the pregnancy and then of course they need to breastfeed when the baby’s born. We could go into the specifics here but what we really need to do is acknowledge the natural processes of nature, and clean up the body before we commit to actually having a child.
As a mum I see a lot of conflicting advice about what we should be feeding our babies in the early stages, to the point where there is contention around what age we should be feeding them. My particular grievance is around the push to feed them rice based, packaged foods. What are your thoughts on these recommendations and do you think they are serving our children’s long term wellbeing?
One of my concerns is that we are introducing foods to babies too early, when the gut lining is unsettled and doesn’t have a huge degree of integrity. However I’m all for wholefoods and if those wholefoods can be vegetable based predominantly that is always going to be the best for the child because we know that high fibre foods have a very positive impact on the gut microbiome…And thus ensures a happy, healthy, long lasting life for that child.
Do you think there are issues with our nutrition guidelines? If so what changes would you like to see?
Yes I think there are some issues with the nutritional guidelines that we have been given here in Australia, however, I think we’re also over critical of them because we do see a large emphasis on fruits and vegetables and acknowledgement of healthy protein. I think we’re starting to see more of an acknowledgement of the organic industry and how important it is to eat organic food that’s free of harmful pesticides and chemicals.
Obviously we haven’t gone far enough because we still see horrible statistics and maybe that’s due to the implementation of these guidelines, I’m not sure, but certainly there are ways we can improve. But we also need to remember that everybody has a unique set of nutritional requirements they need, to help them thrive throughout life. So I think we need to work within the framework of whole foods and within that framework find our own niche and path that really suits us as an individual and human being. I think we need to start using logic and intuition to determine our food choices rather than rules and guidelines.
I notice my 2 year old gravitating to a lot of packet foods in the aisles that have fun looking characters and colours on the packaging. Do you think Big Food is to blame for the rising rates in obesity and other health disorders?
I do think that big food, and big industry and our government has had a large role in determining the health outcomes of the young Australian population. There’s no doubt that the intimate ties between industry and government, not just in the food space but also in the medical and media space (all these different areas where the lines are blurred between industry and government) are concerning. And we know that when there is money involved and when there is a revolving door situation, we see undue influence on policy and legislation. And I think that’s been the case here.
We need to start incentivising healthy food and disincentivise unhealthy packaged food. Maybe we need to go down the route of cigarettes? Maybe we need to start labelling processed food in black and white plain packages, with no mascots or characters allowed. But then how do you draw the line between a processed food and something that’s a wholefood? For example, what if Kombucha starts being labelled as a processed food because theoretically it’s high in sugar? But it’s fermented…How do you draw the line there? It’s a tricky scenario.
But again I think this comes back to education. We need to empower individuals to make food choices based on solid information, not info that’s been drip fed from industry through government, through education systems and then finally to the consumer. We need to go from science, or from evidence based sources to the consumer directly.
What are your thoughts on junk food advertising?
Again I think it comes down to education. When people educate themselves and vote with their dollar by purchasing wholefoods that nourish the body then these junk food companies are either going to go bust or start serving wholefoods themselves. There’s no way this can continue. But I do think it’s important we have guidelines around what we can advertise to sensitive and impressionable minds. Who gets to determine those? I’m not sure. But they’ve certainly got a lot to answer for in terms of what’s happening and what has happened in the past.
For all the mums reading this who want to try and make changes to their own children’s health, what steps can they take?
I just hope that they start to step back and objectively look at the results they’re getting with their health and their children’s health and really ask themselves in an honest, kind way if what they’re doing is serving them and serving their higher purpose.
More tangibly, I think we just need to start feeding our kids wholefoods and prioritising their nourishment over time and convenience. And I know it’s very easy for me to say that as a young person without children. But what we prioritise we give time to.
I think we really need to start recognising the powerful link between what we’re feeding our kids and the health outcomes they experience. If we want healthy children who grow up to be healthy, successful and fulfilled adults then we really need to get their nutrition right from day one. And if it’s not day one, then start now.
There’s no reason you can’t go out tomorrow and start feeding your kids better food than what you’ve fed them today. Educate yourself along the way. It really is a journey of a thousand steps. Little changes make a huge difference.
Think macro. Act micro. And you’ll start to see some very significant changes.
What’s next for you? I hear you have a gut book for kids coming out soon?
Yes, I’ve got a lot on at the moment. We’ve got the short doco coming out which is airing for free on Sunday 9th December 2018 on my Youtube channel (Kales Broccoli) and we’ve also got Mandy Microbe’s Big Gut Adventure a book that teaches kids about gut health currently available for pre order here. The doco and the book are sort of tied together.
Then next year we’re moving on to some more films and perhaps another book or two.
It’s interesting being in the media space and the film space as an independent creator because so many barriers have been broken down with the advent of the internet but at the same time with the inherent rise of so many creators you are swimming amongst a pool of busy fish. I try to slow myself down and comfort myself in the knowledge that no one can tell the stories that I want to tell like I can…for the good or the bad.
So that’s become my job to just tell stories and I have a lot more planned and I hope they fall into the category of inspiring people, or making people feel something, or take action. Making the world a better place really. So whether that’s a narrative, a book or a documentary it doesn’t really matter to me.
I just want to have a big impact on this planet while I’m here. That’s really why I’m doing what I’m doing, because I see the injustices that are currently in place, around kids health for instance, and I want to correct that. And hopefully with the dissemination of these projects that will happen.
Kale Brock is an award nominated writer, producer and speaker. With a background in TV journalism, Kale has a passion for creative story telling with a special interest in health & wellbeing.
UPDATE: The documentary is now available on YouTube