Monthly Archives: October 2014

Why we drink green juice

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I drink green juice every morning and so does my toddler. I do not drink green juice to replace the vegetables I eat, I treat it as a supplement to my daily diet. I would never eat as many vegetables as I juice in a day, much less all in one early morning serving, therefore I’m getting a lot of vitamins and minerals that I would not otherwise get in my diet. I would definitely not be able to get my toddler to eat vegetables for breakfast, but she happily drinks her green (or sometimes red) juice every morning before her usual meal.

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Some argue that without the pulp, I’m losing all the fibre so it’s not as beneficial as eating vegetables. I get plenty of fibre from the whole fruits and vegetables that I eat later in the day as well as from my afternoon smoothie. Aside from fibre, most of the nutrients are in the juice: and to reiterate, the nutrients that I get from my morning green juice are extra nutrients that I would not otherwise consume.

As far as the concern about a blood sugar spike after drinking juice, that is more of a problem with sugary fruit juices. Vegetable juices do not have a high enough fructose content to have the same effect.

Drinking vegetable juice has been proven to be an effective method of getting a variety of vegetables in your diet4. The plethora of benefits from eating (or drinking) more vegetables include reduced blood pressure4 and delayed onset of Alzheimer’s disease2. For children, a higher vegetable intake lowers their risk of obesity5. Vegetables are high in vitamin A, which is crucial for brain development in growing babies and children 3.

I never used to eat a lot of vegetables (oddly enough for a vegetarian), until I became pregnant. I wanted my child to get all the benefits of a nutritious diet from the get go, so I forced myself to eat them. Over time I became accustomed to eating them regularly and actually began to enjoy the taste. When my daughter started eating solids I upped the ante even more and slowly cut out processed food. I wanted my daughter to eat healthy and stay away from junk food so I decided to lead by example. However, I was still concerned that neither my daughter or myself were getting enough vegetables, so when she was about 18 months old I started juicing a variety of vegetables.

Children’s diets are strongly correlated with their parent’s diets, and mothers who eat healthy are more likely to have children who become healthy eaters 1. Infants and toddlers who are fed healthy food are more likely to become healthy eaters in adulthood as well as have better overall health later in life5.

It doesn’t matter how you get your vegetables, as long as you and your children are getting enough. So whether you prefer to eat them, drink them, or both, just make sure your family is getting a good amount and variety of vegetables.

References

1. Hart, C. N.; Raynor, H. A.; Jelalian, E.; Drotar, D. Hart, C. N.; Raynor, H. A.; Jelalian, E.; Drotar, D. Child: Care, Health & Development. May2010, Vol. 36 Issue 3, p396-403. 8p. 4 Charts. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01072

2. Lahiri, Debomoy K. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2006, Vol. 10 Issue 4, p359-361. 3p.

3. Rosales, Francisco J.; Zeisel, Steven H. Nutritional Neuroscience. Jun2008, Vol. 11 Issue 3, p135-143. 9p. 2 Charts. DOI: 10.1179/147683008X301522

4. Shenoy, Sonia F.; Kazaks, Alexandra G.; Holt, Roberta R.; Hsin Ju Chen; Winters, Barbara L.; Chor San Khoo; Poston, Walker S. C.; Haddock, C. Keith; Reeves, Rebecca S.; Foreyt, John P.; Gershwin, M. Eric; Keen, Carl L. Nutrition Journal. 2010, Vol. 9, p38-48. 11p. DOI: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-38

5. Venter, C.; Harris, G. Nutrition Bulletin. Dec2009, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p391-394. 4p. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2009.01784.

Vaccines do not cause autism part 2

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There has been a lot of uproar in the anti-vaccine community over the last couple of months. It all stems from a supposed CDC whistle-blower coming forward with allegations that the CDC hid some of the results of a study they conducted years ago.

There was no cover-up, as the data has been available to the public the entire time. The current uproar is quite similar to the last one: it’s basically skewed data and financially-motivated people taking advantage of the emotionally-driven parents of autistic children.

I will not go into detail about what is wrong with the anti-vaccine community’s current argument, because I couldn’t explain it any better than it has already been explained here. I would like to point out however, that the CDC study is not the only study that proved there was no link between vaccines and autism. There have been studies conducted across the globe proving vaccines to be safe.

Anti-vaccine activists claim the mercury levels in vaccines are higher than the EPA’s recommended safe limits, but they are referring to the thimerosol content. Thimerosol is a mercury COMPOUND. Just like table salt (NaCl) is a compound that contains chlorine (a poisonous gas), Thimerosol (ethylmercury) is a compound that contains mercury. The toxic form of mercury found in seafood is METHYLMERCURY. Ethylmercury (C2H5Hg) does not accumulate in the body the same way methyl mercury (CH3Hg) does, therefore it does not have the same toxic effects. Yes, ethylmercury can be toxic to humans as well, but it is broken down much more efficiently than methylmercury which enables it to be cleared out of the bloodstream much quicker, minimizing any chance of neurotoxic effects1. Anti-vaccine activists need to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges.

The vaccine in question is the MMR vaccine, but “Most vaccines licensed in Canada do not even contain thimerosal. Only influenza vaccine and most hepatitis B vaccines contain thimerosal” (Public Health Agency of Canada). In the U.S., thimerosol was removed from routine child vaccines in 2001 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Yet plenty of parents still refuse to give their children any vaccines for fear of autism.

Yes, vaccine injury is possible, in extremely rare cases. But the chances of having an adverse reaction to a vaccine is lower than the chances of contracting the disease you are being vaccinated against. It is also lower than your chance of getting into a car accident. Yet most people still drive in cars on a regular basis. Parents still drive their kids to school and activities every day without a second thought. So why do so many parents hesitate to give their children potentially life-saving vaccines? It is mind boggling that so much fear has been created surrounding vaccines given the overwhelming evidence supporting their safety and efficiency.

I used to work with children with autism. I saw first-hand the confusion and heartbreak that their parents had to deal with, wondering why their kid wouldn’t look them in the eye, or play “appropriately” for their age, or in some cases simply speak. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for those parents to come to terms with the fact that their kids may not ever be just like all the other kids their age, or as they had imagined them to be. I cannot say that I know how they feel, but I can still empathize with them.

That is why I do not blame those parents who look for someone or something to blame for their child’s autism.

That is why I can understand how so many parents of autistic children misguidedly blame vaccines.

But I do blame the people who fear monger those parents into making illogical decisions.

Vaccination rates have gone down, but autism rates have failed to decline and now we’re dealing with outbreaks of whooping cough and measles to boot.

A few rotten apples with ulterior motives have used the strong emotions of parents of kids with autism to fuel a dangerous anti-vaccine movement. Misinformed yet very vocal parents have spread false information which has led to a drop in vaccination rates, leading to outbreaks of diseases that were preventable. Some have died from these diseases.

People don’t seem to get the severe consequences of the anti-vaccine movement. Not vaccinating your child against preventable illnesses doesn’t just threaten your child’s health, it threatens the general public’s health. The people it harms the most are those that are immunocompromised.

An older child who contracts whooping cough has a good chance of survival with treatment, but a 1 month old baby who’s immune system has not yet developed is in danger if exposed.

Newborns are not old enough to get vaccinated, but if everyone around them has been vaccinated they are protected by “herd immunity”. The same goes for immunocompromised children and adults.

If you or your child are eligible for vaccinations, it is your responsibility to get those vaccinations. In my opinion, parents who choose not to vaccinate their otherwise healthy children are no different than parents who drive their kids around with no seat belts or car seats.

I do believe that the rise in autism and other childhood neurological disorders is caused by a rise in the amount of toxic chemicals we use. But I do not believe that one chemical alone is the cause; rather an accumulation of multiple chemicals, coupled with the absence of proper nutrition that would allow the body to break these chemicals down efficiently. The best way to keep your kids healthy is to feed them real, nutritious food and keep them away from unnecessary chemical exposure.

Giving your child Tylenol every time you see a runny nose is NOT necessary.

Feeding your child highly processed food filled with synthetic ingredients is NOT necessary.

Slathering toxic products on your children is NOT necessary.

Vaccinating your kids IS necessary. 

*Note: while I lean towards the pro-vaccine side, I do acknowledge that there are more vaccines prescribed than necessary these days (ex. Chickenpox isn’t exactly a crippling or fatal disease) and immunocompromised babies and kids should not get vaccinated until their immune systems can handle the load.  That being said, I still think vaccines are necessary for public health and I’m grateful to live in a world where I don’t have to worry about my child contracting smallpox or polio.

References

1. Dórea JG, Farina M, Rocha JB. Toxicity of Ethylmercury (Thimerosol): a comparison with Methylmercury. J Appl Toxicol. 2013 Aug;33(8):700-11. doi: 10.1002/jat.2855. Epub 2013 Feb 11.

Say NO To Drugs!

IMG_4197.JPGTaking pharmaceutical drugs for extended periods of time can lead to severe long-term consequences, but there is no real risk associated with taking the natural remedies listed above for short or long periods of time.

Research has shown ginger powder to be just as effective as the prescription drug sumatriptan in treating migraines but with far fewer side effects 3.

Although gravol is marketed as a drug for nausea it is actually an antihistamine. Antihistamines have been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes in women with severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum)2. Despite these findings, gravol is still commonly recommended by doctors for pregnant women dealing with morning sickness.

Tylenol is considered generally safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women in the medical community, but so was Aspirin until 1986 when it was found to be the culprit behind increased cases of Reye’s syndrome in children. A recent review of the research of acetaminophen safety during pregnancy discovered that it may not be as safe as previously thought, and may increase the risk of asthma for children, as well as put them at risk for liver problems4.

If your child has a high fever, by all means go ahead and grab that bottle of children’s acetaminophen to bring the fever down (untreated high fevers in children can cause fever-induced seizures). But for other symptoms, you might want to think twice before reaching for that bottle of pills.

It seems that as a society we have become a bunch of wimps. We reach for a magic pill at the first inkling of an ache or pain, but that habit could prove to cause us more aches and pains later on in life if we are not cautious. More troublesome is the long term effects these drugs could possibly have on babies and children.

Pharmaceutical drugs are never 100% safe, and should only be used sparingly when absolutely necessary. With all of the available over the counter pills these days it’s far too easy to over-use medicine. If you are in excruciating pain or unbearably uncomfortable with your symptoms, first try a safe natural remedy and if that doesn’t work – go ahead and take a pill. If you have a minor headache or a mild throbbing in your back – suck it up people.

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References

1. Drugs.com. Accessed October 15, 2014: http://www.drugs.com

2. Fejzo MS, Magtira A, Schoenberg FP, MacGibbon K, Mullin P, Romero R, Tabsh K. Antihistamines and other prognostic factors for adverse outcome in hyperemesis gravidarum.
Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2013 Sep;170(1):71-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2013.04.017. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

3. Maghbooli M, Golipour F, Moghimi EA, Yousefi M. Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of migraine headaches. Phytother Res. 2014 Mar;28(3):412-5. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4996. Mar;97(1):128-39. doi: 10.1016/j.jri.2012.10.014.

Power Oatmeal for Babies and Toddlers

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I started making a simpler version of this oatmeal for my little one when she was around 8 months old and I slowly changed it to add more flavour and nutrition as she got older. The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

3 pears (can be substituted for apples, or a mix of both)
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 cups milk (or 1 1/2 cups water)
15-20 almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
Maple syrup (optional – if your child prefers slightly sweeter oatmeal – not recommended for babies under the age of 1 due to risk of infant botulism)

1. Preheat oven to 350•F.
2. Cut the pears in half, core them and lay them flat in a baking dish. Add an inch of water to the baking dish and put it in the oven. Bake the pears until they are soft, about 20-30 mins depending on how ripe they are (you should be able to easily slide a fork through them).
3. As the pears cool, add the oats and milk to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook about 10 mins, stirring frequently, until the oats are fully cooked and the consistency is quite thick.
4. Puree the pears in a blender or food processor, using the same water they were baked in. If you prefer your oatmeal to have a thicker consistency then add just enough of the water to puree the pears, if you prefer a runnier consistency then add more water.
5. Grind the almonds in a coffee grinder or food processor into a powder. Add the pear puree, ground almonds and cinnamon to the oatmeal and stir until well blended. If it is too bland for your tot, add some maple syrup (for

Makes 3-4 toddler servings. You can also make a bigger batch minus the ground almonds and freeze extra servings (add the ground almonds in after thawing).

Oats are high in manganese, phosphorus, copper, biotin, and vitamin B1. Almonds are high in biotin, vitamin E (an antioxidant) copper, manganese, as well as healthy fats. Pears are high in fiber – the pears in this dish helped my daughter’s constipation tremendously when she was a baby. Cinnamon is anti-microbial so it’s perfect for cold and flu season!

Although baking the pears makes this recipe time consuming, it helps retain more nutrients than other methods of cooking pears. If you simply don’t have the time, you can also peel and slice the pears, place them in a saucepan with just enough water to cover them and cook until soft, then mash them with a potato masher.

Food for thought: What is a healthy diet?

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Healthy diets have been proven to aid everything from weight loss to cancer treatment, while unhealthy diets have been linked to everything from ADHD to diabetes.

What most people think of when they hear the term “healthy diet” is low fat and low sugar. The new train of thought making its way into the mainstream is “simple ingredients, real food”. It has become the norm to look at nutrition labels to check the calories, fat, and sugar content of food; but we also need to check the ingredient list for artificial ingredients. If an item has a gazillion ingredients, half of which you can’t pronounce, IT’S NOT REAL FOOD! Granted, you may not be able to pronounce half the chemicals that make up a pear either, but pears are real food – “pear flavour” is not.

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Everything that you eat or drink either nourishes your body or harms it. Now that doesn’t mean that if you eat a doughnut you’re going to die. If you’re otherwise healthy, and you eat healthy most of the time, an occasional treat here or there won’t be the end of the world. The “good chemicals” in the abundant healthy food you eat will counteract the few “bad chemicals” you consume.

However, a lot of people don’t seem to understand the meaning of occasional.

A slice of cake once a week is occasional. A couple of cookies and an unhealthy muffin every single day is NOT occasional.

A drive-through meal once a month or so is occasional. A Big Mac combo meal a couple of times a week is NOT occasional.

A good tip for eating a healthy diet is not keeping unhealthy food in your house. When you’re really hungry and need a quick fix, you are more likely to grab something unhealthy if it is available. So simply don’t make it available at home. This will also force your kids to eat healthy snacks instead of junk food every day. Make sure you have lots of cut-up fruits and veggies in your fridge so the whole family can munch on something healthy in between meals.

Also, don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, otherwise you’ll have an even harder time resisting all the convenient junk food on the shelves. I know when I’m really hungry I want to eat whatever is in sight, so I do my grocery shopping after having a meal or snack.

If you have a sweet tooth (✋☺️) and just can’t resist eating sweets, bake your own instead of eating store-bought pastries. That way there are no artificial flavours, colors or preservatives, and you can make “healthy” sweets by substituting all purpose flour with whole wheat or spelt, and replacing refined sugar with other sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

The next time you eat something processed ask yourself, “is this real food?”

Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

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I took my toddler to the park the other day and of course, out of all the kids on the playground, my daughter decided that she wanted to play with the one that kept coughing in her face.

Despite my best efforts to distract her and lead her to other areas of the playground, she insisted on hovering around the germ-spreading child.
Which is why I’m not the least bit surprised that she has now come down with a cold herself.

I have been using all of my natural home remedies to help her feel better, so I thought I would share them since cold and flu season is upon us.

Over the counter cold and flu medications don’t “cure” you, they simply alleviate your symptoms. The only “cure” for a common cold or flu is your own immune system.

That being said, there are plenty of things you can do to give your immune system a natural boost:

1. Get lots of rest. The less activity you do, the more energy your body can allocate to fighting off viruses and bacteria.

2. Eat foods high in Zinc. Zinc has been proven to boost your immune system7. I have been giving my daughter a small bowl of pumpkin seeds every day. Other foods that are high in zinc are lamb, beef, sesame seeds, lentils, garbanzo beans, cashews, quinoa, turkey and shrimp10.

3. Steam. For adults, leaning over a pot of boiling water and taking deep breaths is a quick way of loosening up congestion. This method is obviously not practical with young children. A more baby or kid-friendly option is to sit with your child in the bathroom, with the shower running on the hottest water setting (make sure the door is closed and the fan is turned off). Although this method is not very environmentally-friendly, it will turn your bathroom into a steam room which helps loosen up any nasal or chest congestion. A less wasteful option is to use a humidifier in your child’s room as he or she sleeps. It loosens up their congestion which helps them breathe better which in turn helps them sleep better.

4. Carrot-apple-ginger juice. If you have a juicer, extract the juice of 4-5 carrots, 2 apples, and a 1-inch piece of ginger. The apples and carrots make this juice sweet so it’s more appealing to kids, and both the beta carotene in the carrots as well as the anti-microbial properties of ginger give this kid-friendly drink a good immune system boost6,8.

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5. Parsley Smoothie. This may not sound very appetizing, but if you blend half a bunch of parsley with a cup of berries, half a cup of yogurt, 1 banana and enough water to get it to your desired consistency, you will barely taste the parsley. Berries have a high vitamin C content which is widely known to help fight off colds and parsley is a potent immune system booster4

6. Herbal water (basically Indian herbal tea without the tea bags). Boil half a teaspoon each of fennel and celery seeds along with 2 cardamom, 3 cloves and 2 sticks of cinnamon bark in 2 cups of water until the water is reduced in half. Wait until it cools, then add a teaspoon of buckwheat honey and drink it. This is my mother’s herbal remedy and I give my 2 year old about 3/4 of a cup 2x a day when she is sick. Fennel seeds, cloves, celery seeds and buckwheat honey have antimicrobial properties1,3,9,11 and cinnamon and cardamom enhance immune system functioning2,5. You can also throw a 1/2-inch piece of ginger root into the pot for an added immune boost. Ever since I started using this remedy, my daughter’s colds have decreased in duration and severity. The trick is to keep taking it until the cold is completely gone, not just until you start feeling a bit better; otherwise the symptoms will just get worse again. I drink it myself when my daughter is sick and it prevents me from getting sick as well (anyone with a snotty-nosed, sneezing, coughing yet affectionate toddler knows that it’s almost impossible to not get sick yourself when your kid is sick).

And don’t to forget to wash both your hands and your kids’ hands before you eat, as well as whenever you leave a public place. Prevention is always easier than treatment!

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The advice in this post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. Visit your doctor if you or or child are sick and your symptoms are severe or last more than a few days.
References

1. Al Akeel R, Al-Sheikh Y, Mateen A, Syed R, Janardhan K, Gupta VC. Evaluation of Antibacterial Activity of crude protein extracts from seeds of six different medical plants against standard bacterial strains. Saudi J Biol Sci. 2014 Apr;21(2):147-51. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2013.09.003. Epub 2013 Oct 5.

2. Bhat J, Damle A, Vaishnav PP, Albers R, Joshi M, Banerjee G. In vivo enhancement of natural killer cell activity through tea fortified with Ayurvedic herbs. Phytother Res. 2010 Jan;24(1):129-35. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2889.

3. Cortes-Rojas DF, de Souza CR, Oliveira WP. Clove (syzygium aromaticum): a precious spice. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2014 Feb;4(2):90-6. doi: 10.1016/S2221-1691(14)60215-X.

4. Karimi MH, Ebadi P, Amirghofran Z. Parsley and Immunomodulation.
Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2012 May;8(4):295-7. doi: 10.1586/eci.12.12.

5. Lee BJ, Kim YJ, Cho DH, Sohn NW, Kang H. Immunoregulatory effect of water extract of cinnamon on anti-CD3-induced cytokine responses and p38, JNK, ERK 1/2, and STAT4 activation. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2011 Dec;33(4):714-22. doi: 10.3109/08923973.2011.564185. Epub 2011 Mar 29.

6. Lo HM, Wang SW, Chen CL, Wu PH, Wu WB. Effects of all trans retinoic, retinol, and beta-carotene on murine macrophage activity. Food Funct. 2014 Jan;5(1):140-8. doi: 10.1039/c3fo60309a.

7. Stafford SL, Bokil NJ, Achard ME, Kapetanovic R, Schembri MA, McEwan AG, Sweet MJ. Metal ions in macrophage antimicrobial pathways: emerging roles for zinc and copper. Biosci Rep. 2013 Jul 16;33(4). pii: e00049. doi: 10.1042/BSR20130014

8. Sultan MT, Buttxs MS, Quayyum MM, Suleria HA. Immunity: plants as effective mediators. Journal Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(10):1298-308. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.633249.

9. van den Berg AJ, van den Worm E, van Ufford HC, Halkes SB, Hoekstra MJ, Beukelman CJ. An in vitro examination of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of buckwheat honey. J Wound Care. 2008 Apr;17(4):172-4, 176-8.

10. Whfoods.com, (2014). zinc. [online] Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=115 [Accessed 4 Oct. 2014].

11. Zhou Y, Taylor B, Smith TJ, Liu ZP, Clench M, Davies NW, Rainsford KD. A novel compound from celery seed with a bactericidal effect against Helicobacter pylori. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2009 Aug;61(8):1067-77. doi: 10.1211/jpp/61.08.0011.

“Naturally-Derived” Does NOT Equal “Natural”

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Don’t let the term “naturally derived” fool you: neither Health Canada or the FDA have labelling restrictions or definitions for any marketing claims containing the word natural. Always read the ingredients and decide for yourself just how “natural” the product is. Companies are naturally (pun intended) trying to make money so they will use whatever marketing tools they can to get people to buy their products.