Parent Health and Wellbeing

From the Desk of DocSmo: Your Child and the Natural World

When you stop and think about it, it’s not hard to find examples of how the natural world influences the health of our children and us. We are an integral part of our environment, and our environment is an integral part of us. Weather, air quality, water quality, radiation levels, the presence or absence of light: these are just some of the environmental factors that determine the health of you and your child.

Like with most things, it is useful to look at extremes cases to try and define the more subtle affects of environmental factors.

Let’s begin with sunlight. Too much sunlight, especially when your child is young, and they get skin burns immediately (and skin cancers and cataracts in the long run). Some believe that light exposure to children at night can cause common vision problems like nearsightedness and astigmatism. Clearly too much sun is not good for your children. On the other hand, too little sunlight can give a child vitamin D deficiency along with its associated health problems both immediate (a metabolic bone disease called rickets) and long term (possibly multiple sclerosis, breast and prostate cancer, and adult onset diabetes).

Let’s also consider radiation exposure like that from the sun, the earth (in the form of discharges. Large amounts of radiation do very bad things to us just like visible light does. Occupations where people work near radiation are associated with premature illness and death. Examples of these are radiologists, nuclear power plant workers, and pilots and flight attendants. Naturally occurring sources such as radon gas, medical exposures (like those from a CAT scan), and pollutions exposures (nuclear wastes and, in my generation, above ground nuclear testing) to radiation can also be a negative influence on your child’s health. How about a lack of radiation? Could it be possible that we need a small amount of radiation to stimulate certain biologic processes in us just like light does with Vitamin D? I really don’t know, but I suspect so.

Finally, let’s consider our relationship with the microbial world. Traditionally in medicine, we have concentrated on the microbes that we know cause disease like Salmonella stomach infections, Strep Pneumonia (which causes so many lung infections), and Staph Aureus (which causes invasive wound infections). In the past 10 years, researchers have realized that the vast majority of microbes on and inside us are absolutely necessary to our health! We cannot be healthy without these little creatures. Furthermore, the very artificial and sterile world that we have created for ourselves may be causing a lot of disease! The point is that too many pathogenic bacteria are clearly bad for you and your children’s health, but equally harmful may be a lack of healthy bacteria that we cause by being too clean and sterile. Antibiotics for the treatment of disease, food irradiation, soil depletion, etc. may be robbing us of essential “health sustaining” microbial life.

Finding the balance with the natural world is a constant struggle as our species takes over and dominates the earth. I certainly do not advocate going back to the cave, but I feel we need to pull back and find a more natural balance with our surroundings. My approach is the minimalist approach. Any time I can replicate what I call a natural life, I will. That means walking or riding a bike whenever possible, being outdoors whenever possible, eating locally grown food, even from your backyard when possible, opening those windows and turning off the A/C system, handling and using complex chemicals such as pesticides and solvents as little as possible, living with animals, slowing down the pace of life with less media and more human interaction. Our relationship with the natural world is one of the great challenges facing us and our children.

Adopt a Healthy Dental Diet for your Children (Pedcast)


DocSmo, your pedcast host: you  know, those practical, portable mp3s that help educate parents on a vast variety of parenting topics from conception to confirmation.  Let me remind you that by listening to this pedcast, you are agreeing to my terms and conditions posted on my website.  I am probably not your child’s doctor, so for specific advice with regards to your child, please consult the wonderful person you call your pediatrician.


Today’s topic is a big one…the number one chronic disease in children: dental decay.  Healthy gums and teeth important for long term health. Many experts now think that heart and blood vessel disease that lead to heart attacks and strokes may be caused by poor dental hygiene.  Even Alzheimer’s has been implicated in the dirty mouth paradigm.


When I was child, I used to get sugarcane stalk to chew on all day; dental visits were terrible.  I have memories of dinner table discussions between my parents about what causes cavities.  4 kids, and expensive dental visits got them thinking hard!  They didn’t know that sugars in the mouth cause most decay.  They were busy giving me 5 cents to go to Fred’s Fruit Stand to get sugarcane to chew on all day!  Isn’t that ironic.


We know what causes dental decay now: Strep Mutans- bacteria that ferments sugars into acids  which melt the enamel off your teeth.  Diet has a lot to do with this process: frequent exposure of teeth to sugars is a recipe for decay.  The longer sugars are in your child’s mouth, the worse the decay.  Some children are lucky and get really good enamel, but not most.


Word is out about stopping the bottle by 1 and no bottles in the bed; now we have sippy cups that do the same thing. ”But I dilute the juice doctor”, I can hear the parents say. Remember, bacteria don’t need a lot to eat; even very dilute sugar can get them going and destroy your child’s dental enamel in a flash.


While we are on the topic of nutrition, here are some easy things you can do to reduce dental decay in your children.

  • Make sure your children brush their teeth at least twice per day when they are old enough.
  •  Use flouride toothpaste when they are old enough to spit it out and not eat it.
  • In between meals, drinks should only be water.  No dilute juice, soda, tea, or anything with sugar in it including milk.
  • Snacks should not be sugary or sticky; sugary and sticky is the worst (Ex: candy, soda, sugar gum, gummies including vitamins).  Instead, give them dental healthy snacks- popcorn, nuts, cut up veggies or fruit.
  • If your child is old enough, chewing sugar free gum after meals and snacks is great for your teeth…pulls out plaque and bacteria from creavices
  • At Halloween when they have all that candy, let them have fun for a set period of time and then remove the candy.  Their slow enjoyment could be very expensive when the dental visit time comes around.

Sounds like little things, but following these guidelines could really improve your child’s health and save you a small fortune in dental bills.


I hope you learned a little something from that discussion of dental decay.  Fast, practical and portable are always my goal.  If you like what you hear, invite your friends to listen.  And make sure you subscribe on iTunes or at my website, by simply hitting the RSS feed button and signing up; a free pediatrics degree is here for the taking.  Please feel free to send comments to my blog.  I will try to answer comments and post interesting thoughts.


This is Dr. Paul Smolen broadcasting from beautiful studio 1E, that’s first child’s bedroom, east side of the house, hoping that you don’t delay protecting your child from dental decay!


Until next time

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1. oralhealth.pdf (application/pdf Object)
*By listening to this pedcast, you are agreeing to Doc Smo’s terms and conditions.


© All Right’s Reserved.

Let’s not forget to care for the Mamas and the Papas! (Pedcast)

As parents, it’s easy to become absorbed in your children’s well-being and forget to take care of yourself.  Don’t forget,  one of your most important assets is YOU. Taking care of yourself now can make a world of difference economically, physically, and mentally down the road.  In this “Pedcast”, Doc Smo reminds parents to be mindful of their well-being and illustrates some simple ways that you can improve your health for the betterment of you and your family.

Subscribe on iTunes!

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*By listening to this pedcast, you are agreeing to Doc Smo’s terms and conditions.

All Right’s Reserved.