Your Child’s Toxic Burden: What a Holistic Pediatrician Wants You to Know
This is an excerpt from an interview I did with holistic pediatrician Elisa Song, MD, for the Toxic Home Transformation Summit that you can check out here!
Robyn: Hey, everyone, and welcome to the Toxic Home Transformation Summit. I’m really pleased to introduce you to Dr. Elisa Song, who is a holistic pediatrician and a pediatric functional medicine expert.
That means she’s one of these rare medical doctors and practitioners who look for the root cause of a problem, find ways to treat the body as a whole, and work to rebuild the immune system and detoxify the body.
Her practice is Whole Family Wellness, which you can find at wholefamilywellness.org. She’s helped thousands of kids get to the root cause of their health concerns and to thrive in body, mind, and spirit.
She studies integrative pediatrics and blends functional medicine with homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and essential oils. She treats a lot of kids with colds and ear infections, asthma, eczema, autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and autoimmune illnesses.
She’s also the host of the Thriving Child Summit and has created Healthy Kids, Happy Kids online, which you can find at healthykidshappykids.com. You can also find her at Dr. Elisa Song on Facebook. Welcome to the Toxic Home Transformation Project, Dr. Song.
Elisa: Thank you, Robyn. Your summit is so important because we know our kids are living in this toxic soup. Separating the fact from the fear and really empowering parents is what it’s all about.
Robyn: To start can you tell us the story of why you’re a holistic pediatrician? Why don’t you just hand out antibiotics and offer vaccines and leave it at that, like most pediatricians?
Elisa: When I was an undergrad at Stanford, I saw a flyer for the American Holistic Medical Association Conference. I have no idea what possessed me to attend this convention, but I went and I heard from amazing people like Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil. I was hooked and really wanted to get more involved with naturopathic medicine.
While I was in medical school and completing my residency, my heart wasn’t really in it. The entire time, I questioned the way our kids were getting sicker and sicker.
We were great at trauma and emergency care, but we weren’t great at getting kids off of medicine, getting them healthy, or reversing the side effects of medicine. I found functional medicine a year after I finished residency.
Things come into your life for a purpose, and I went to a conference called Food is Medicine. I went and heard Mark Hyman for the first time, and that’s where I found my passion.
We need emergency steps sometimes, but what we really need for our kids is this root cause foundational approach. We need to figure out how to get them thriving from the inside out and not just make things pretty on the outside while they’re a mess on the inside.
Thankfully, I didn’t start this journey because I was sick or my kids were sick. I just have a passion and wanted to see kids healthy and happy, thriving, joyous, and vibrant. I saw what functional medicine can do by taking a holistic approach, and I want to bring that information out to the world.
Robyn: Have you been practicing long enough to see a significant shift in the health of children? Is it just me, or are we seeing their health decline rapidly?
Elisa: It’s not just you. We as a society of mamas, papas, educators, and grandparents need to wake up because, unfortunately, it’s not changing fast enough at the policy level.
I finished my pediatric residency in 2000, and I saw one child with autism in the three years of my pediatric residency at UCSF. I was told if I saw a handful of autistic kids in my career, that would be a lot.
Fast forward five years later, and my practice is flooded with autistic patients.
We know that about 50% to 55% of kids have some sort of a chronic diagnosis like eczema, asthma, autism, or anxiety. If we keep going on this trajectory, then by 2025, it’s estimated that 80% of our kids will have some sort of chronic diagnosis.
People call it the “new normal,” but I have to say, this is not okay. Eczema and anaphylactic allergies to food are not normal. I think the evidence is there about what’s going on, and a lot of it is what we’re doing to our kids and the toxins that they’re exposed to.
Robyn: There are a handful of kids in every class who are on the autism spectrum.
Elisa: That’s right. By 2033, it’s estimated that about one in four kids will have autism. That’s a considerable increase, and it’s worth examining.
Robyn: What’s your theory about autism and the increasing amount of toxic body burden–or the toxicity that we’re all exposed to? Is there a correlation or is there a causation between toxicity and autism?
Elisa: There is a huge correlation, but as I tell parents, there’s never one cause. There’s a whole backstory of the toxins that are built in this little person’s life, starting from inside the womb.
The toxic burden builds up and causes immune system dysregulation, causing further detoxification dysregulation, which we call mitochondrial dysfunction.
All of these systems start to break apart until eventually there’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sometimes it’s a vaccine or an antibiotic or a major emotional stressor, but there’s something that really overflows this toxic inflammation bucket.
Then we have to figure out what happened. What are all the little things along the way that we could have stopped or could have educated parents to reduce, starting from pregnancy or preconception. What would have reduced that baby’s burden of toxicity so that we didn’t have this issue of something tipping the scale?
The problem isn’t just with vaccines. I’ve had patients diagnosed with autism who have never had a single vaccine. So we also need to look at things like food additives.
The food additive industry has been one of the largest growing industries in the world, and there are correlations between certain food additives and emulsifiers used to keep our food together. Gluten, sugar, and salt are all food additives, and artificial chemicals can lead to autoimmunity and diseases like cancers.
When it comes to what’s going with our kids, so much of it is an autoimmune reaction. Our kids’ immune systems are fighting their brains and fighting their detoxification capacities. That might show up as eczema patches on their cheeks, but it an autoimmune reaction and a wake up call.
When we see those eczema patches, we need to stop and ask where the toxins are coming from. How can we help the baby strengthen their immune system and their detoxification reserves so they’re not burdened by everything they encounter?
Robyn: I hear a lot of functional practitioners using this metaphor of the bucket. We’ve all got a bucket, and when there are too many stressors or enemies for our immune system to fight, the bucket gets full and it starts overflowing, and that’s when we tip over.
Elisa: That’s right.
Robyn: I want to talk about both not putting yucky stuff into the bucket–which is what the Toxic Home Transformation Project is all about–and how to drain the bucket. Which is what we do when we undergo a significant detox, which is my specialty.
Elisa: I tell parents that the decision to put anything into your child’s body is yours alone. We make all kinds of personal choices–like what kind of food we feed our kids or what kind of products we put on their skin. Parents need to recognize they have a choice. You can find a functional medicine practitioner or a holistic pediatrician to work with you.
Dr. Elisa Song is a holistic pediatrician in Belmont, CA, and can be found at Whole Family Wellness. She runs the Thriving Child Summit and teaches thousands of parents and children how to regain their health when facing autism, ADD, anxiety, chemical sensitivities, food allergies, and more at HealthyKidsHappyKids.com.
— Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is a single mom of four salad-eating, adulting kids.
She has a FREE video masterclass you can sign up for here, to learn how she got herself, and her kids, off the Standard American Diet, to lose 70 pounds and ditch 21 diagnosed diseases.