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Increasing evidence suggests that childhood life circumstances have an enduring effect on later life chronic morbidity.1 Today, stress, anxiety, and the adverse effects of social isolation related to the COVID-19 pandemic are pervasive—especially among children2—and rising rates of noncommunicable chronic diseases in younger people mean that many individuals are spending an increasing proportion of their life coping with sickness.3 We know that children’s health and development are a function of the complex interaction among biological and environmental influences.4 Early childhood is the period that offers the greatest opportunity for preventing or mitigating illness and setting the course for healthy development.4 Early intervention leads to better outcomes for both the physical and emotional well-being of children and the adults they will become.
At IFM’s 2021 Annual International Conference (AIC) online experience, expert clinicians explored the latest findings connecting early childhood experiences and environmental exposures to disease progression later in life. The sessions on pediatric health at AIC offered key insights into functional medicine interventions that promote optimal cognitive and physical development, from infancy to adulthood.
The pediatric track features a variety of case-based discussions on functional medicine interventions with positive outcomes for younger patients. Topics include the impact of early life stress and trauma, how to build resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic (as well as its effect on childhood mental health, physical activity, and academic progress), and the role of the exposome-metabolome in chronic childhood and adult disorders.
Steven Berkowitz, MD, on the Impact of Early Life Stress Across the Lifespan
In this talk, Dr. Steven Berkowitz will explore the topic of early life stress and its impact on health across the lifespan. This includes discussion of how an individual’s cumulative lifetime trauma exposure can contribute to overall health and well-being.
Liz Mumper, MD, on Helping Children Navigate Anxiety and Depression During the Pandemic Unprecedented global illness, economic uncertainty, and political unrest have had extraordinary effects on the mental and physical health of children and adolescents. In a relatively short time, we have collected data about the pandemic’s effect on children’s mental health, physical activity, and academic progress. Adverse childhood events are known to have long-term health consequences, but there are ways to nurture resilience during challenging times.
Robert Naviaux, MD, on Exposome-Metabolome Interactions in Chronic Childhood and Adult Disorders
Every population is made up of individuals who have a spectrum of sensitivity to environmental risk factors for chronic illness. This presentation will describe the links between dozens of environmental chemicals that can be measured in the blood and the metabolic changes they produce that can be used for diagnosis, prognosis, and management. Results from studies in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and adults with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) will be discussed.
For more information about AIC 2021 learnings, please view the following:
- Margolis R. Childhood morbidity and health in early adulthood: life course linkages in a high morbidity context. Adv Life Course Res. 2010;15(4):132-146. doi:1016/j.alcr.2010.10.001
- Loades ME, Chatburn E, Higson-Sweeney N, et al. Rapid systematic review: the impact of social isolation and loneliness on the mental health of children and adolescents in the context of COVID-19. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2020;59(11):1218-1239.e3. doi:1016/j.jaac.2020.05.009
- Sears ME, Genuis SJ. Environmental determinants of chronic disease and medial approaches: recognition, avoidance, supportive therapy, and detoxification. J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:356798. doi:1155/2012/356798
- Sege RD, Harper Browne C. Responding to ACEs with HOPE: health outcomes from positive experiences. Acad Pediatr. 2017;17(7S):S79-S85. doi:1016/j.acap.2017.03.007