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    Birth Defects and Miscarriage

    Update 12-29-17

    So much fearmongering abounds regarding birth defects and miscarriage that it seemsa good idea to take a deep breath and really examine what the facts are.

    We ALL want a healthy, happy baby of above-average intellect and capabilities, and perhaps it’s understandable that most wish to err on the side of caution and avoid anything that has been even distantly linked to problems with fetal development. But much of the info that is presented as fact, is actually misleading to the point of being downright deceptive. And the stress and fear that some of these scare tactics causes parents-to-be is not healthy for achieving/maintaining pregnancy anyway.

    Beyond that, the climate of paranoia that prevails in the media and has spread thru modern life like a contagion, causes parents to raise their children pretty much from the day of conception, in an atmosphere of constant terror and overprotection that is not beneficial for raising well-adjusted and independent kids. We cannot exist in a bubble eating nothing but flaxseed, hemp twigs, spring water, and prenatal vitamins for months before TTC (Super Ironic Update from the year 2017 - in the 5 years since this essay was written flaxseed has been shown to be dangerous in pregnancy! so even when you try to eat all the right things they could be the wrong things!) and we need to be able to separate fact from fiction in order to maintain our sanity.

    Reminder – please always remember that the media sells their “product” by being controversial and shocking people into paying attention, and vitamin manufacturers, naturopaths, herbalists, and so on, make their money by promoting their viewpoints as well. Both media and the natural-living boosters make millions of dollars off of playing on your fears. Dr. Mercola, Weston Price, and others, have as much to gain from promoting their viewpoints, as any drug company. And the media makes money off of the controversy and so is highly motivated to play both sides one against the other.

    What are the TRUE causes of miscarriage and birth defects?

    • Genetics – Just from sheer bad luck, parents may carry defective genes that cause genetic diseases. You may never know you are a carrier for one of these diseases until it strikes. Some genetic disorders can be handed down just from one parent, while others need a gene present in both parents to manifest itself. Others still are one-time-only mutations; sheer random chance that could affect any of us at any time. Most genetic disorders are well known and documented. Some cause increased rates of miscarriage, while others cause mild challenges that people are able to manage, and go onto to live long and healthy lives.

    • Chromosomal anomalies – Down Syndrome is the best known, but there are dozens of chromosomal disorders that can cause miscarriage and birth defects. Something goes wrong in the formation of sperm, egg, or union of the two and an error is created in the genes that affect development negatively. Some of these conditions are incompatible with life and others are linked to lifelong disability. Poor egg/sperm quality regardless of parental age may contribute to this (some people have poor sperm/egg quality for many reasons aside from age.)

    • Parental age and resulting poor sperm/egg quality – Beyond chromosomal anomalies, parental age has been linked to an increase in a wide variety of disorders such as autism and schizophrenia and also an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and learning disabilities.

    • Alcohol, drug abuse – Alcohol abuse during pregnancy is known to cause fetal alcohol syndrome and drug abuse before and during pregnancy has been linked to a variety of disorders such as ADHD

    • Prescription drugs – Certain prescription drugs have been proven to cause birth defects and may contribute to poor egg/sperm quality. Even prescription drugs taken by your mother when you were in her womb (such as DES) may affect your sperm/egg quality and increase risks of birth defects for your offspring.

    • Smoking – Increases risk of miscarriage and may be linked to lower birth weight (see below) Also linked to early menopause which can cause lower egg quality, and lower sperm quality.

    • Poor implantation in the uterus and placental development issues – sometimes the fertilized egg implants in an area where there is a lack of good blood flow such as around the cervix or atop an existing scar (C-section, PID, etc.) This can lead to a less healthy, less effective placenta that gets less nutrients to a baby and sometimes this poor development may lead to cord accidents (see below). The placenta may also implant on the cervix which can cause hemorrhage (placenta previa), and the placenta may tear free from the uterine wall, either partially or entirely (placenta abruptio) Implantation may also occur in the Fallopian tubes which cannot sustain a pregnancy (tubal pregnancy).

    • Multiples – multiple births have been linked to higher rates of miscarriage, in addition to lower birth weight and prematurity. Autism may be more common among multiples. Also, poor implantation and problems with the placenta and umbilical cord are much more common in multiple pregnancies.

    • Problems with umbilical cord – sometimes the cord is badly formed or is damaged during pregnancy, reducing the amount of nutrients a baby receives. This may be linked to where the baby implants in the uterus. It is more prevalent among multiples and one condition called twin to twin transfusion syndrome only occurs in identical twins and can cause disability or fetal loss. Contrary to popular belief, the cord around the baby’s neck is not a common cause of miscarriage/birth defects but it does happen.

    • Low birth weight and prematurity – Babies who are born early and/or do not weigh much are more likely to die at birth or shortly after, and have developmental problems. Many things such as smoking, placental problems, and multiples are linked to low birth weight and prematurity.

    • Maternal obesity, diabetes, gestational diabetes – higher rates of stillbirth, placental and cord problems, and birth defects have been observed in women who are very heavy or develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

    • Chronic health conditions in the mother – High blood pressure, thyroid conditions, heart problems are all linked to higher rates of pregnancy loss and birth defects.

    • Exposure to certain diseases such as rubella, toxoplasmosis, and Fifth’s Disease during critical parts of fetal development can cause disability or loss. Also, bacterial infections such as listeriosis and salmonella poisoning have been known to cause pregnancy loss.

    • High fever or exposure to excessive heat (above 103 for longer than 20 minutes) during critical phases of fetal development - stay out of hot tubs and saunas!

    • Exposure to extreme amounts of industrial chemicals such as pesticides, hair dye, nail polish remover, paints, welding fumes, paints, and heavy metals may cause birth defects and does cause lower sperm quality in males that may lead to having more offspring with birth defects. This is NOT the sort of exposure that most of us receive unless we work in a setting where we are regularly exposed to these chemicals for years without adequate protective gear.

    • Lack of folic acid – known to cause neural tube defects like spina bifida. Also, excessive salt intake and drinking green tea may cause folic acid to leach from your body. Some people have an inability to use folic acid and it can build up to harmful levels; they need to use only folate. And please continue taking folic acid or folate through the entire first trimester of pregnancy and then wean off. Do not just suddenly stop taking it cold turkey as this has been associated with losses for us.

    • Lack of dietary iodine – known to cause a condition called “cretinism”, a form of mental disability. Uncommon in our modern world but once common. Always double check with your doctor before taking iodine if you have thyroid problems, though.

    • Excessive intake of certain nutrients – Vitamins A and D and various minerals have been shown to cause birth defects in high amounts and it is reasonable to assume that other nutrients may also cause or contribute to birth defects. Excessive intake of certain nutrients/exposure to minerals has also been linked to poorer sperm quality and birth defects.

    • Birth accidents – something goes wrong during birth and the baby is deprived of oxygen for some time.

    Notice anything about that list above? Most of those things are either very easy to avoid or else are totally out of our control anyway. The vast, vast majority of birth defects and miscarriages are either utterly preventable by doing a handful of sensible things like not drinking during pregnancy, not smoking, staying out of hot tubs or saunas, and taking folic acid or folate if that is better for you, or are simple bad luck that none of us can control anyway like genetic/chromosomal abnormalities, birth accidents, or just bad luck about where your baby implanted.

    Things which have gotten a TON of media attention but are NOT the cause of many/most/possibly even any birth defects:

    ** IVF – there has been much ado about studies showing a link between birth defects, miscarriage, autism, and IVF. It is much more likely that rather than IVF CAUSING those things, that the group of people who pursue IVF are preselected to be at higher risk for those issues. Most people who pursue IVF are doing so for reasons of infertility, so they may have lower sperm/egg quality to begin with.

    Obesity is also linked with infertility. The couples pursuing IVF may be older. Older people are also more likely to suffer from health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and thyroid issues.

    Problems with implantation and multiples, and as a result, low birth weights, are also much more common with IVF pregnancies. Even “vanishing twins” which are much more common in IVF pregnancies, can contribute to birth defects or pregnancy loss.

    All these things combine to debunk the idea that IVF is causing birth defects.

    **Aspartame – snopes.com: Aspartame -- Sweet Poison? There has been NO LINK found between aspartame use and birth defects. The FDA has approved aspartame in 2-3 glass servings a day during pg, let alone beforehand (and this is the amount I urge everyone to stick with while swaying) And in people who are obese, insulin resistant, diabetic, or who have gestational diabetes, excess sugar intake actually DOES cause birth defects and so using a safe and sane amount of aspartame may help people stick to a sensible, diabetic diet during pg.

    If you don’t like or want to use aspartame, that’s fine! Don’t. But the idea that aspartame is causing these zillions of birth defects and the FDA is somehow covering it up is completely unsupported by any facts whatsoever. We know most of the reasons why birth defects occur (even when we don’t always understand WHY they happen when they do). If there was a strong link between aspartame use and birth defects, it would be obvious by now, just like the links between smoking and birth defects, maternal age and chromosomal anomalies, etc. There is simply no way that aspartame can be causing massive numbers of birth defects, it just doesn’t mesh with reality.

    **Pesticides and organic produce – (to clarify, I am NOT TALKING about people who work around pesticides or live in areas that are heavily polluted with pesticide residue. I am talking about incidental pesticide exposure and in particular, organic vs. normal produce because there is a very prominent bunch of people promoting the unproven myth that pesticides on produce is causing massive amounts of birth defects and autism.)

    The amounts of pesticides you receive from fruits and vegetables at the grocery store is MINISCULE. There is a link between HIGH levels of pesticide exposure in professional pesticide applicators and birth defects and those who live their whole lives in very polluted areas, but that is SO much greater than the incidental amount that most of us are exposed to on a daily basis that it really cannot be compared. The amount of pesticides and other pollution that some people have to live in on a daily basis, in water, air, soil, and food, in foreign countries (even some countries like Japan are extremely polluted compared to the US, Australia, and Europe) is much much much greater than the difference between an organic apple and a normal one. Wash your fruit, that’s all you need to do!! I even wrote an essay about how to do that here: http://genderdreaming.com/forum/ttc-...pesticide.html

    One study claimed to find a link between excessive pesticide use and autism but it was later analyzed and found that parents who use a lot of pesticides, may have been predisposed to genetic disorders like OCD and autism to begin with (researchers found that they used pesticides habitually and had autistic/OCD tendencies themselves, so it was unclear if this was a genetic link or if it was really pesticide exposure). Also, speaking for those of us who are poor, if I limited myself to organic fruits and veg because of an unwarranted fear of pesticides and birth defects, I would not be able to afford fruits and vegetables, which are great sources of folic acid known to prevent birth defects. Organic fruits and vegetables may also be more likely to contain microorganisms such as toxoplasmosis and listeria that are KNOWN to cause birth defects and pregnancy losses.

    I washed 2-3 dogs a day in pyrethrin flea shampoo and worked outdoors next to a field that was being repeatedly crop dusted while my boss sprayed fly spray constantly for 3 months before and during the early days of my pregnancy with DS 3. Perfectly normal little boy. Not that I advise doing that of course, BUT it just goes to illustrate that the difference between an organic carrot and a normal carrot that you have washed and peeled, is really really not likely to be causing birth defects for anyone and is NOT at the root of most birth defects. Working in agriculture even for a few days exposes you to way way more pesticide than you are ever exposed to thru diet.

    **Lack of well balanced diet in the months before pregnancy – A lot of well meaning doctors and nutritionists promote eating a very well balanced diet before pregnancy, taking large amounts of vitamin supplements, and even threaten people with birth defects and miscarriage if they don’t. But virtually all modern people are getting adequate (even excessive) amounts of nutrients already. It is highly unlikely that anyone eating a normal diet, even if they are swaying pink, could be causing harm to a future pregnancy. The exception is folic acid or folate which everyone must be taking. FA and folate are the ONLY nutrient ever shown to prevent birth defects when taken prior to pregnancy.

    Socrates, Einstein, Shakespeare, and most of the great minds of history were conceived to parents who were eating a diet so lacking in nutrients that it makes even the most restrictive modern diets look like gluttony. Yet most babies were born perfectly normal and healthy anyway. Even when we were conceived, taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy was uncommon (when I was conceived, it was unheard of!!) The vitamin and mineral peddlers LOVE to promote this myth as fact because it sells vitamins, but never forget, they make a LOT of money off people thinking they risk immediate death if not bathed constantly in copious amounts of nutrients.

    If anything, modern humans are actually erring on the side of being TOO well nourished. Very high protein intake has been linked to birth defects, as has overly high blood sugar. Since we know that obesity, diabetes, and other medical conditions linked to the modern diet like high blood pressure, are linked to birth defects much more reliably than something as amorphous and ill-defined as “an unbalanced diet” is, it is very unlikely that anyone eating a normal, modern diet, even an LE style diet (which is based on the World Health Organization's recommendation for what a healthy pre-pregnancy diet should look like!) is at any risk of birth defects. Being on a sensible diet for a few months prior to conceiving, is fine and safe. The LE Diet was designed to fit into the recommended guidelines of reproductive endocrinologists for safe weight loss before and during HT attempts.

    Never before in human history have people been as well nourished as they are now and it’s really a very large unknown if taking all these vitamins and minerals all the time is even good for us. We are all basically lab rats in the biggest experiment in human history!!! Some researchers and medical professionals (such as Dr. Dean Edell) believe that the increase in cancer during the 20th century may be partially linked to excess nutrient intake, some recent studies have indicated that vitamins may cause cancer (and have proven that they probably do nothing to prevent it), and it is not at all unreasonable to wonder if during fetal development, when cells are growing and multiplying at a phenominal rate, if excess vitamin/minerals may somehow interfere with that delicate process.

    To sum up, we know the reasons behind most birth defects and they are either very easy to prevent, or are unpreventable. The handful of things that get the most media attention are actually the least likely to cause birth defects (but at the same time, causing drama about them is making a LOT of money for certain parties). Just by virtue of taking folic acid or folate, not drinking and smoking during pg, and having a child at a younger age, you have already done all you need to do to prevent the vast majority of birth defects and most of the others are unpreventabale anyway.

    Don’t make yourself crazy worrying over things that have little to nothing to do with causing birth defects and miscarriage anyway!!
    Last edited by atomic sagebrush; December 29th, 2017 at 05:43 PM.
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  2. #2
    Dream Vet

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    I totally agree with you on everything except pesticides. I was recently at a conference at UCLA where Brenda Eskenazi presented her over decade long work studying the effects of pesticides on IQ and behavioral disorders in the Salinas Valley. The scope of this study in terms of length, and rare and deep participation from the families involved- allowing Eskenazi and her team into their homes repeatedly for years I think makes it an incredibly convincing study linking ingestion of pesticides- I forget which specifically- with lowered IQ and increased behavioral disorders. And what she found that surprised me was that working with pesticides and living near crop dusters was almost equal to simply ingesting pesticides on produce, both lowered IQ by an average of 7 points I think. From what I understand, she really created a long term in depth study that was able to rule out thing like- the choice to ingest pesticides- these children were not choosing pesticide ingestion because of OCD for example. I can imagine in many cases studies about effects of various substances take a whole bunch of data and make whatever result appear out of it as you often write, but I think there is something of value in this. Lowered IQ, ADHD and autism are not birth defects, but perhaps in those genetically predisposed, somewhat preventable. CERCH – Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health » The CHAMACOS Study (I added that website and some the links seem under construction but there are 2 interesting looking studies on sperm that seem to be on there)http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2011/...sure-lower-iq/
    Last edited by lindi; March 31st, 2012 at 02:19 AM.
    and my HT

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    Great info!

    There is also a thing about low progesterone levels in pregnancy Causes

    Most of the scientists think that low progesterone is a sign of an nonviable pregnancy while the minority think low progesterone might be the cause of m/c.
    It is still a matter of debate Progesterone - Using Progesterone to Prevent Recurrent Miscarriage

    Based on my experience,I tend to agree that in some cases low progesterone might be the cause of m/c.

    My 1st pregnancy: no prog. supps-m/c at 11 weeks ( but they were twins, so who knows,,,)
    2nd pregnancy (DD1): prog supps prescribed by my ob/gyn from 6th week-12 week ( Utrogestan 300mg daily)
    3rd pregnancy (DD2): no prog. supps, threatening m/c at 10 weeks ( profuse bleeding, I thought I was having m/c, but in hospital they saw hearbeat ), hospitalized, got prog shots for 7 days ( bleeding practically stopped after 1st shot) and Utrogestan til the end of 13 week
    4th pregnancy ( this one): Utrogestan 200 mg from 6th week- 12 week ( Utrogestan 200 mg daily)
    m/c 2001
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by lindi View Post
    I totally agree with you on everything except pesticides. I was recently at a conference at UCLA where Brenda Eskenazi presented her over decade long work studying the effects of pesticides on IQ and behavioral disorders in the Salinas Valley. The scope of this study in terms of length, and rare and deep participation from the families involved- allowing Eskenazi and her team into their homes repeatedly for years I think makes it an incredibly convincing study linking ingestion of pesticides- I forget which specifically- with lowered IQ and increased behavioral disorders. And what she found that surprised me was that working with pesticides and living near crop dusters was almost equal to simply ingesting pesticides on produce, both lowered IQ by an average of 7 points I think. From what I understand, she really created a long term in depth study that was able to rule out thing like- the choice to ingest pesticides- these children were not choosing pesticide ingestion because of OCD for example. I can imagine in many cases studies about effects of various substances take a whole bunch of data and make whatever result appear out of it as you often write, but I think there is something of value in this. Lowered IQ, ADHD and autism are not birth defects, but perhaps in those genetically predisposed, somewhat preventable. CERCH – Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health » The CHAMACOS Study (I added that website and some the links seem under construction but there are 2 interesting looking studies on sperm that seem to be on there)Prenatal pesticide exposure tied to lower IQ in children
    lindi, I am talking about the PARENTS being genetically predisposed to using a lot of pesticides due to autistic/OCD tendencies and also being genetically predisposed to having children with autism. Not the children ingesting pesticides because their parents use them a lot. The study to which I am referring found a link between high use of pesticides and kids with autism, but correlation does not necessarily equal causation. The parents were using pesticides heavily for some reason and there needs to be a followup study done to see if that link is legitimate or coincidental.

    Please understand, I am not talking about HEAVY exposure to pesticides during pg which is 100% not safe and can def. cause serious health problems, or the kind of exposure to toxins that comes in living every day of your life in a polluted environment like the Salinas Valley. I am talking about the difference between eating organic vegetables and regular vegetables and regular day to day incidental exposure to pesticides that we all experience just randomly. I'm sorry but I do not believe that the average child walking around has a difference in IQ of 7 points because their moms ate normal produce.

    That anyone's child is getting autism because they did not eat organic vegetables or because their husband sprayed Raid on a bee's nest once prior to conception, is extremely, extremely unlikely and very hurtful and guilt inducing to those people who have done the best they could and whose child has autism.

    And for people who cannot afford organic vegetables who are now not eating any fruits and veg because they are scared of pesticide residue, is a step in the wrong direction because the folic acid in fruits and veg actually can PREVENT birth defects with much more data supporting it than the pesticide-autism link.

    I know that autism and other disorders are not technically birth defects but lumped em in there for ease of writing.
    Last edited by atomic sagebrush; March 31st, 2012 at 03:07 PM.
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    That's a good point Z and I will edit the post to reflect that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by atomic sagebrush View Post
    lindi, I am talking about the PARENTS being genetically predisposed to using a lot of pesticides due to autistic/OCD tendencies and also being genetically predisposed to having children with autism. Not the children ingesting pesticides because their parents use them a lot. The study to which I am referring found a link between high use of pesticides and kids with autism, but correlation does not necessarily equal causation. The parents were using pesticides heavily for some reason and there needs to be a followup study done to see if that link is legitimate or coincidental.

    Please understand, I am not talking about HEAVY exposure to pesticides during pg which is 100% not safe and can def. cause serious health problems, or the kind of exposure to toxins that comes in living every day of your life in a polluted environment like the Salinas Valley. I am talking about the difference between eating organic vegetables and regular vegetables and regular day to day incidental exposure to pesticides that we all experience just randomly. I'm sorry but I do not believe that the average child walking around has a difference in IQ of 7 points because their moms ate normal produce.

    That anyone's child is getting autism because they did not eat organic vegetables or because their husband sprayed Raid on a bee's nest once prior to conception, is extremely, extremely unlikely and very hurtful and guilt inducing to those people who have done the best they could and whose child has autism.

    And for people who cannot afford organic vegetables who are now not eating any fruits and veg because they are scared of pesticide residue, is a step in the wrong direction because the folic acid in fruits and veg actually can PREVENT birth defects with much more data supporting it than the pesticide-autism link.

    I know that autism and other disorders are not technically birth defects but lumped em in there for ease of writing.
    The part of the study that I found most interesting was Eskenazi found ingesting pesticides on food had equal impact to exposure in the field- she studied something secreted in urine to gauge pesticide ingestion. She studied children in Oakland and found very high levels of pesticides, sometimes as high as children who went to school under crop dusters. She then had families where she fed them organic produce to see how the pesticide levels changed. My point in bringing up this study is certainly not to make anyone feel guilty for causing low IQ or autism- these things are just being studied in meaningful ways right now, and its information I think has merit and can be helpful. From what I understood at this conference, there are specific genetic tendencies to be susceptible to various toxins and so of course there are people who are more an less affected. I truly hope these studies effect on people, or my effect posting, doesnt serve to make someone with a child who has been diagnosed with a developmental issue feel guilty or bad, but to help people make choices-I think this particular study is very relevant.
    and my HT

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    I just stumbled over this AWESOME article by chance...Atomic, is there any way we can sticky it?
    Sept 2008 & successful boy sway June 2010.
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    Yes I can sticky it. I thought it was a pretty good article too and I was intending to help reassure people because I know pregnancy = stress.

    Here is the thing about the organic vs. inorganic (and I wasn't going to address this but I've been stewing about it for a week and stumbled onto this old thread).

    My mom smoked like a chimney, drank alcohol while pg, ate nothing but processed junk, never took prenatals, grew up in Indiana where they'd actually go out with picnic lunches and watch the crop dusters spray the corn, and yielded me and as we all know I'm brilliant LOL.

    I SO totally understand wanting to feel that you're doing the best for your kids and it is fantastic that you and so many others have the ability and resources to even be in a position to make the choice. I applaud your desire to help people and share info, but the organic debate is a toughy because it's a matter of circumstance and not choice for the majority of people.

    When ya walk into a grocery store with $50 in your pocket to buy food for your kids for a week or two or three, it's not about "making choices". There aren't any choices to be made, you do the best you can with what you have. You buy what is cheap or your kids go hungry. If you work in agriculture or live in "Pesticide Alley" or if you live in a 3rd world country where you actually need pesticide to prevent your kids from getting malaria or to ensure they have enough food to eat without it being destroyed by insects, it's not about "making choices". It's not like people are, "well, I'd rather have the $2 a lb. extra that I'd spend on these organic apples so I can go get my nails done and buy a box of bonbons". More like, "well, I can eat an apple or some white bread and Miracle Whip and Velveeta, what's it gonna be?"

    We are all moms doing the best we can for our kids. It is hurtful for some of us who do not have the ability to "make choices" to read things about how our kids are going to be stupid and autistic because we ate some grapes when we were pregnant because we were trying to do the best thing and eat healthy for our baby. And it's devastating for people who actually have a child who faces challenges because they already blame themselves and secondguess everything.

    The fact is that virtually everything that has been proven to cause issues with developing babies is either very easy to avoid like smoking, drinking while pg, having babies when old, taking folic acid and avoiding certian medications, or impossible to avoid like freak occurences that can strike any one of us at any time and are not anyone's fault. The rest of it is not proven, just theories, and BTW people make $$ off the "crunchy" movement and have just as muddled motives as any multinational corporation in that regard so take everything with a big grain of salt (or organic sea salt if you prefer).
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    What about licorice. I cant seem to find that thread. There was a discussion about licorice linked to autism.
    I am very nauseous and every sugarfree pastilles have licrorice extract in them. They used to contain aspartame, but they switched to Stevia. They are small, but I end up eating one small box. Nothing to worry about? As it is not raw licorice, or?

    Btw, very informative thread
    Last edited by Cauliflower; November 5th, 2013 at 05:30 PM.
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    Bump
    Happy mom of two beautiful boyz
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