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Children: the importance of food in the first 1000 days

Interview with Stefano Gandus, pediatrician expert in neonatology and allergology. From pre-conception to two years of age, this is how food determines an individual's health.

The health of the adult begins from his conception- indeed, from before. Andfood plays a fundamental role. From good dietary rules when trying to have a baby (did you know, for example, that eating fish helps fertility ?) To rules for pregnancy, breastfeeding and weaning. But above all, in general, we understand how and whythe foodof the first thousand days is so important. The initial imprinting defines our relationship with food in the futureand much more: itis a determining factor for the physical, emotional and psycho-intellectual developmentof the individual. Interview with the Genoese doctorStefano Gandus,medical specialist in pediatrics and homeopathy, expert in allergology and neonatology.

First of all, let's clarify: the 1000 days of life mean from conception to the second year of age : they are 270 of the pregnancy + 356 of the first year +3 65 of the second year.

" The scientific literature of today has definitively confirmed the importance of the first days of life as a period of formation of the basis for the health of the individual " - Gandus begins - "Pre-pregnancy nutrition , during pregnancy and for children up to two years of age it is perhaps the most relevant factor among those that interact in modulating development. And it is the one on which a person has more leeway for its practical impact (while it is more difficult, for example, to manage the impact on our body of environmental molecules such as air pollutants, electromagnetic waves, or drugs and also emotions, as they produce even toxic neuromediators (positive impulses - serotonin - or exciting - adrenaline).

Quality and quantity, what are the basic principles?

The food principles are divided between macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and their salts.) These principles do not provide us with calories: we must replace this old concept with that of energy (which is formed in the mitochondria). What quantity should I take? It is identified by guidelines, but we must increasingly support it with the concept of quality .

What are the fundamental factors for quality feeding of the baby?

There are two: acquire good eating habits (from the parent), which must grow in harmony with a positive relationship between the child and the food and the child and the adult who takes care of his nutrition. In fact, a serene psychic situation favors digestive and assimilative processes. Otherwise , the absorption of nutrients is disturbed. Forcing is never good , as well as non-respect for taste. Forcing the child to eat more or less or different from what he wants is wrong: it is necessary to offer food in the right quantities and leave a margin of choice to the child , who still has a sort of internal regulatory mechanism. Growth charts make sense to follow growth, but they should not be taken in a constricting sense as a roadmap to follow.

What are the tips for getting to conception?

First of all, they concern the lifestyle and nutrition of both parents and will then apply to the mother also during pregnancy and breastfeeding. For the woman, the food intake will have to be slightly higher in quantity than what she has always eaten ( moderately hyper-energetic ), because she will have to form a new body inside hers. And don't change your diet, on the contrary: respect your tastes and habits , with caution and common sense for foods at risk.

What are the foods at risk?

From pre-conception , chemical (toxic) sweeteners and white sugar (sucrose) must be abolished. Eliminate as much as possible even precooked foods, stored for a long time (such as cans of tuna or meat rather than ready-made sauces) and refined (including salt and sugar, which should be eaten whole). During pregnancy and breastfeeding , alcohol must then be reduced ( half a glass of wine a day is already the maximum limit and it is better to be red) and, in particular, during pregnancy, game, sausages and offal (hepato-renal overload); crustaceans and molluscs ( risk of gastroenteritis, allergies, hepatitis - unless they are super-cooked) and to a large extent solanaceae (solanine, present in potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, etc., is somewhat toxic for the nervous system central).

Let's get to breastfeeding: what are the right rules?

Breast milk is the perfect food for the newborn: try to keep it at least six months, for the following reasons: The macro and micro nutrients of breast milk are very precious growth factors and immune stimuli ; it is not a contaminated food; has the right temperature and generates a unique emotional relationship between mother and child, unrepeatable in life.

And who cannot give their own milk?

In the absence of breast milk, formulated milk is a valid alternative . They are products derived from a modification of cow's milk and are made with updated nutritional criteria and therefore are balanced .

Tips for feeding mom while breastfeeding?

They are the same as in pregnancy but less rigid, especially on crustaceans, molluscs, game.The feeding must be varied, because it enriches the milk with tastes that the baby learns to recognize and therefore educates himself to the taste of substances that he will find again at weaning. Scientific research today is showing us that foods favor the expression of genetic potential during the development of the early stages of lifehence the arrival of healthy micro and macro nutrients to the cellit opens its chromosomes like a fan to express itself in the best possible way.

Here we enter the domain of epigenetics ...

Yes: the information brought by food, which favors potential gene expression, starts from conception and is maximum in the first months of embryonic life, but is maintained over the first 1000 days . Favoring genetic expression means that if your cells and genes are informed by healthy and diversified substances, they will in turn be able to express a growth potential until reaching a development that is not only physical but also psycho-intellectual wider and more harmonic . This epigenetic concept is called 'metabolic programming'.

Let's talk about weaning: when and how should it happen?

Between the fifth and sixth month the digestive and absorption systems are mature and there the gradual introduction of solid foods takes place, which the baby will tolerate all the better, the more his intestinal mucosa has been prepared by breastfeeding. The window between 5 and 7 months is the one in which it is easier to tolerate food and not create allergies ; delaying weaning is not advisable. The child's self-regulation must always be respected , because what he does not eat today will eat tomorrow. The waste that he will eventually show in discovering new foods is not dangerous, mothers and fathers should not worry : the important thing is a varied diet and a lot of patience .

P er regarding the vegetarian diet, if well conducted, and ev ntualmente with medical experts and nutritionists guide, recent surveys say that does not create problems for the proper development of the child.

And from weaning to the completion of the second year of age, that is the end of the famous '1000 days'?

There are some rules that should be respected: never cow's milk before the year; fresh fruit and oil seeds after 9 months; no sugar and salt for up to two years. But the main rule from weaning onwards is this: what counts is the example of the parents , the child lives on their model, so it is the parents first of all who must take care of eating healthily.

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