How Does Food Affect Development?

Before I dive into this topic, I want to share something from the bottom of my heart:

I feel like health can be a negative topic in some of our minds and we don’t want to be a fanatic or weirdo or crazy person. So in sharing this, please understand that I’m just writing down what I learn. I am passionate about raising a healthy family, living as naturally as possible, and serving God to the best of my ability! I love talking about all these things, so that’s why it’s all going on this blog! In no way do I want to cause fear or anxiety in people’s lives about how much trash in in conventional food! Just wanted to give some facts and food for thought…:)

I have no doubt that all of us pull out the box of Cheerios from the cupboard some days and say “Here’s your breakfast!” to our child. Or we give them ritz crackers for a snack because that’s easy and quick. Maybe we struggle to give our baby enough tummy time because she just doesn’t like it that well. All these things are normal and real struggles in our home. Well, not the baby tummy time part right now (14 months is a bit big for that;) Cheerios for breakfast? Yep. Ritz crackers? (My hand is raised.)

We also may have noticed the increase of ADHD, Autism, dyslexia and other developmental and learning disorders in the last decade! Although some will try to say that we are just better at diagnosing something like autism, I’m not so sure about that! In an article I read that talked about the fact that the majority of autistic people were born after 1987, it seemed like they were avoiding real facts (as in, not researching how the ingredients of vaccines truly affect a child’s brain). There is constantly research being done autism, yet I’m not seeing many answers. It seems the root problems are being skirted around.

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It reminds me of the verse in 2 Timothy 3:7 “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I realize that Paul was speaking in a different context there, and yet I see that coming out in our culture today. People (yours truly included!) are researching and learning new things, but are we really finding truth? That is definitely my goal, in researching and in blogging that I will find truth, make it practical, and be able to share it!!

Well, I didn’t come here today to talk about vaccines! But I do want to share with you some truth I’ve learned from this book “Childhood Development: Taking the Neurological Voyage to Maturity”  *affiliate link* by Joan Martin and Edith Witmer. This book is written from an Anabaptist perspective.

I remember Joan from when I was a little girl; she came to our community to work with my childhood best friend, who had cerebral palsy. I haven’t actually talked to Joan since becoming an adult, but I know a lot of people have used her and found answers to their children’s needs.

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Here’s a quote from the book:

Does the food we eat make a difference in our lives? In our ability and vitalities?

When we look at civilizations that have been healthy and notice their eating habits, the answer to those questions stands out in black and white. And we see, as the saying goes, we are what we eat. Diets that are filled with empty calories and toxins create sickness and lethargy. People groups who eat real food, in correct proportions, have more vitality, energy, and well being. And their bodies heal faster.

Today we have little girls reaching puberty as early as eight or nine years old. Part of the reason for this probably comes in the meat or milk products they are eating, where hormones that are fed or injected into farm animals are passed along into the food they provide.

She goes on to share some of the problem ingredients that are in a lot of processed and canned foods that we buy off the shelf, in the snacks we feed our children, even in the vegetables we buy off the shelf at the grocery store.

Chemicals are freely sprayed on the soils, the plants are showered with them, and then after they’re picked, some fruits and vegetables are injected with poisonous, cancer-causing substances. If you want more information about what chemical is used, the healthy and EWG (Environmental Working Group) has a site that has a lot of chemical information, etc.

So let’s talk about what some problem ingredients are… Food coloring and preservatives would be right at the top of the list. There is research done on how food dyes cause a deficit in attention and hyperactivity, and Joan also mentions that “food colorings and preservatives increase brain distress that shows itself in neurological abnormalities.”

What about preservatives? Most preservatives have the word sodium in them, whether it’s monosodium glutamate, sodium phosphate, sodium nitrate, sodium benzoate. While sodium occurs naturally in some food, in most cases where it’s used as a preservative it is synthetic. It’s not even real. We really need to start reading our labels on soda cans and food cans, like cream of chicken soup and store-bought pickles.

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is used in a lot of restaurants, especially fast food, to make their food taste good. I’m not going to go into all the details of how MSG works… But I know what effect it can have on people and that I will share. Many people experience swelling, migraine headaches, tingling, even seizures after consuming MSG. Oh and it has many labels: hydrolyzed soy protein, whey protein isolate, soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, natural flavor, and lots more.

I understand that it does not, at least outwardly, affect everyone the same. But what’s it doing internally and to our brains that we don’t see or know about? There are stories in the book and I’ve read lots of stories online about people that have taken MSG out of their diet and felt dramatically different and better!! Also, my own dad has avoided it most of his life… We always knew when he ate MSG or some form of it. He gets severe headaches, brain swelling, achy muscles, and he just has to sleep it off.

A little different subject, but I owe a lot of my health research to him. It was awful when he would get sick and I just wished we could figure out what caused it! My mom did an amazing job at reading labels, but like an article I read says, they don’t always have to label it. And they cover it up with other names, so how are we supposed to know?!

I wanted to talk yet about white flour. Did you know that when we eat white flour in the form of bread, cookies, and cake, it turns straight to sugar when it enters our blood stream? Did you also know that bleached white flour has NO nutrients left in it? They strip it down to nothing. Here is an excerpt from Health and Love.

You need to know that the manufacturers remove the six outer layers, the bran of the wheat seed and the germ that contains 76 percent of the minerals and vitamins.

Also, 97 percent of the dietary fiber is lost. Iron, B vitamins, Vitamin E, 70 percent phosphorus, 50 percent calcium and magnesium are all removed.

After all the nutrient and layers are removed the flour is preserved, aged with chlorine dioxide and bleached. After that it is made whiter by adding ammonium carbonate, chalk and alum all that to make it look and appear more better for us the consumers.

In the final stage, there is sorbitan mono-saturate added which is an agent that is anti-salting. Also, there is potassium bromate.

The potassium bromate is actually a potent oxidizer that can damage cells.

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This is just crazy to me! We don’t buy bleached flour, and rarely get regular white flour either, as it has been covered in chemicals from the time is was planted. I like to stick with organic white flour, either from Costco or there’s Azure Standard, which is a phone or internet-order company… And someday, I hope to grind my own flour! But for now, this works! They carry only non-GMO and lots of organic grocery items, body products, cleaning products, etc.

Joan has a list in her book of foods that will drain mental resources in her book. I find it very interesting.

  • foods with artificial sweeteners or coloring
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • sugary fruit drinks, colas and juices
  • refined white sugars and breads
  • trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils
  • processed snack foods and lunch meats

She also has a list of five toxins that cause brain fog:

  • gluten
  • artificial sweeteners
  • MSG
  • refined sugar
  • fluoride

Wow! Those are quite the lists! But here’s what I know… When I do eat artificial foods, or lots of white flour stuff like bread and cookies and whatever, I definitely have less energy, less zeal to do stuff! I mean, maybe not right away because of the blood sugar high, but those foods don’t provide lasting energy! And the other thing is, the less I eat those things, the less I crave them! 🙂

This is getting really long, I know! Kudos to you if you’re still reading!

I just want to say yet that please don’t be fearful or overwhelmed about all this information! We know that wisdom comes from God, and we each need to pray about what is best to feed our families! He understands each of our current situations and will guide all of us!

And here’s one more cool thing I learned from the book: It’s great to let babies eat with both of their hands until they’re older, as in 2 or so. It helps them develop both sides of their brain, so they have better coordination in life! Yay! Let your kiddo eat with his fingers!! 🙂

Peace and blessings to you!!




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  1. Marianna says:

    I loved how thorough this article was. I was so uneducated with my first two, but with my last baby I learned so much about the virgin gut, the importance of waiting until six months to introduce solids, how to keep her away from toxins, and what foods to give her. Keep spreading your knowledge!

    1. Joella says:

      Thank you for your comment! I want to keep learning more and sharing more! So important!!

  2. Such good information! We’ve seen the importance of diet and whole food eating in our family! There’s something to be said about trauma and diet, as well! Our children who experienced trauma before coming home to us through adoption are greatly effected by processed sugars, dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives, and msg! Thank you for sharing this information!

    1. Joella says:

      I’d like to know more about how trauma and food relate! Will have to research! Thanks for commenting Naomi!!

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