Category Archives: health

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Things that make you go Poop.

A few weeks ago I found myself with my oldest son at Walter Reed to meet with a pediatric gastroenterologist. An x-ray revealed that he…really had to poop. “Constipation is very common in children with attention deficits,” the specialist told me.

My son already eats a healthy diet and drinks lots of water, but apparently he doesn’t think to go and it has backed his system up. She prescribed him a two step regime of prescription laxative. The first step was a “clean out day” followed by a twice daily maintenance phase, which could go on indefinitely. I wasn’t excited about the prescription, but after we started his stomach aches went away. For the long haul though I wanted to look at more natural fixes for his constipation. Hence the cookies.

My mother in law suggested prunes. My son is an adventurous eater, but prunes are gross. I found some recipes online for baked goods, but they all seemed old lady-ish. I ended up with this delicious creation that essentially uses chopped up prunes like raisins in oatmeal cookies.

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 honey
1/3 brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup flour (we use rice flour- you do you)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 oats
2/3 cup chopped prunes
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Step 1- all the dry ingredients go in a bowl. We only had whole cloves so I had Andrew smash some.

Clove smash

Clove smash

Step 2- add in egg, softened butter, and honey.

Step 3- add chopped prunes. A tip- take he pits out BEFORE mixing in with batter. Andrew thought these looked like poop.
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Step 4- drop onto cookie sheet

Step 5- bake at 325 for 25-30 min. It is hard to tell when they are done because they are a darker cookie. They should be firm.

Cookies

Cookies

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Springtime Spirulina

Today is the first day of spring. We woke up to sun shining and birds chirping…and boogers.  All five of us were wrestling over the tissue box. It is that allergic rhinitis mucus, the clear type as opposed to the yellow green of an infection. I should have remembered because it happens every year since we moved to Maryland.

As grown ups my husband and I used to take over the counter pills, but I didn’t want to give kids that fuzzy head feeling. Last year I stumbled upon “spirulina,” and it worked like a charm. For us it literally turned the faucet of boogers off.

Spirulina is a blue green algae with incredible nutritional value. 70% of its dry weight is plant protein. It has the same calcium as milk and same iron as beef. It is also high in vitamins A and C. What’s more? It has natural histamine blockers. It works with your immune system to prevent seasonal allergies.

How do you get it? There are multiple ways. I prefer the powdered form mixed into a shake. I’ve also seen raw food bars with spirulina but they lack the 2000mg you need to see a big difference. There are also capsules but the dose is   6 a day.  If you want to try spirulina I urge you to buy a lab grown version from the store. Algae growing naturally absorbed heavy metals from the water.

I like my spirulina smoothies so much that I kept them up long after allergy season. It made it easy to consume my daily protein as a vegetarian. When we redid our kitchen last month my spirulina powder was moved and I forgot about it. Thanks to these boogers we can get back on spirulina track.

If you have tried spirulina post a comment with how you liked it.

 

 

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A 1st Birthday Cake for Baby

You have probably seen the photo meme of the baby boy eating the blue cake with the words “bring me another smurf.” I admit that I laughed when I saw it on Facebook. The joke about the smurfs was funny. And first birthdays are so special, particularly to the parents. Everyone has the classic baby-in-the-highchair-with-cake-on-the-face photo; it is like a rite of passage.

Bring-me-another-smurf

I wanted to make a special 1st birthday cake for my baby boy too, but set out to do so without the artificial dye. Artificial colors, like the blue dye used to make the cake in this meme, are derivative of coal tar and linked to health concerns. Some studies found there are short term effects like migraines, anxiety, and hyperactivity. Other studies found links to food dye and cancer. Some artificial food dye, such as yellow #5, are banned in Europe but found throughout the grocery store in the United States.

The parameters for my cake were 1) have nothing bad 2) have some redeeming nutritional value and 3) taste so good everyone will eat it. We ended up making a Parsnip and Carrot Cake. This is a wheat free and dairy free recipe. It was hugely successful. Why Parsnip? Like carrots, they are tuber vegetables rich in fiber, Vitamin B, and Folic Acid. They also have a natural sweetness that allows for less sugar added to the cake.

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I encourage you to try your own Parsnip and Carrot Cake.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp palm oil or coconut oil
  • 1 ½ cups grated parsnip
  • 1 ½ cups grated carrot
  • 1 ½ cups  almond flour
  • 1 Tbsp coconut flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

1.    Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a cake pan. I used three little ones. I wanted Joe to have his own cake, and I had to make a special allergen free version for Andrew (the frosting I made had dairy so I made a special dark chocolate frosting for him).
2.    Grate parsnip and carrot finely.  Sophie helped with this part on a plastic grater.

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3.    Combine eggs, parsnip, carrot, oil, syrup and vanilla in a large bowl.  Stir to form a batter.

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4.    Combine almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and spices in a small bowl.

5.    Mix the dry and wet together into a very thick batter.

6.    Pour into your cake pan (s) and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Frosting:

I used a homemade cream cheese frosting. I had to throw out some of my rules for this part.

1 stick butter (softened)

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

2-3 cups of confectionery sugar (stir in until you have the right consistency)

Sprinkles are naturally colored sprinkles by India Tree.

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Don’t forget to share.

 

Run mama run

Run Mama Run, Training for a Race with a Family

This morning my husband woke the kids up early, got them dressed, and walked them down to the sidelines to see me run by our hotel during the Disney Princess 1/2 Marathon. I asked him to do this because I knew seeing  the kids would recharge me for the rest of the race, and also because we all were part of the training for this race.

With three kids, training for a race is not as easy as it used to be.  Gone are the days of putting them in the jogger stroller. Giving up running isn’t an option now though, in fact,  it is more important them ever. Parents are children’s first role model. I want my kids to value fitness. For me, exercise is a way to stay healthy, to have energy now and live long to see them grow.

That being said, once I committed to running the race, training for it had to be built into the “family” calendar. I trained with three runs a week- a steady 5k, speed work (hills and sprints), and one long run that increased by one mile each week up to 10 miles (the plan was 13 but I had to cancel it a few times for bad weather). Plus weight training two times a week and two days of rest.

With work and school, appointments and activities, the time to train had to come out of hide, so I had to minimize the time it took me away from the kids. Sometimes it meant running early in the morning, late at night, or during my lunch break at work. I started saving the last half mile of my runs to take the older kids with me, one at a time, for a quarter mile each. They were also great partners for speed work. My husband planned special time during my long runs, which ran over 90 minutes by the end.

No matter how you exercise, whether it is running or swimming or yoga, keep it up for you and your family.

 

home birth CPM

Midwives help people out

Dear Maryland Legislators,

My children were born at home (on purpose!) with the help of skilled and compassionate midwives. Unfortunately not every family in Maryland has this option because there are too few homebirth midwives. There is a bill this year to license Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) which will allow families that choose homebirth to use these birth experts to deliver their babies. CPMs are certified by The North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). Currently in Maryland, only Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are licensed to attend women in their homes or birth centers. CNMs routinely turn clients away due to full practices. Maryland has only one freestanding birth center.

Homebirth is a safe option for mothers, in fact, for low risk deliveries it is safer than a hospital birth. Comparisons between hospital and homebirth data demonstrates that homebirths have fewer intervention. The average Cesarean rate in Maryland hospitals is almost 30%. Less than 1% of homebirths end in transport to a hospital and C/S. And lets not even talk about the rate of infections at hospitals. Licensing CPMs will make it even safer by enabling CPMs to transfer care to other providers and the hospital when needed, without fear of prosecution. Licensing will ensure that CPMs have access to lifesaving medications so that they can immediately respond to rare but serious complications.

By passing this legislation, Maryland will join 26 other states that allow CPMs to practice legally. This is a smart move for the state. Licensing CPMs will reduce health care costs for Maryland families. A homebirth with a CPM is approximately one-third that of a planned vaginal hospital birth. Homebirth mothers have higher breastfeeding rates, which reduces cost for both Medicaid and families.

I may (or may not) be done having my babies, but this piece of legislation is very important to me. I think every Maryland family should have access to a midwife.

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If you want to tell your elected officials to support midwives, call or write them today. Go to www.mdelect.com and put in your address to learn who your representatives are.

 

chemical name

Ingredients you can eat, even if you can’t pronounce

On this Blog I often write about foods you should avoid and why. For a change I want to assure you of some ingredients that may sound scary but actually just fine to eat. Lately I have noticed more and more people switching to a whole foods diet and the mantra “don’t eat what you can’t pronounce.” This is generally good advice, but here is a list of ingredients that you need not pronounce. The FDA label laws requires scientific names be used on several ingredients. Manufacturers are allowed to put the common name in parenthesis after the scientific one, but there isn’t always room on the label.

  1. Beta carotene: Is a group of chemicals found in colorful fruits and vegetables like carrots and pumpkins. It is converted in the body to vitamin A and is an antioxidant.
  2. Steviol glycosides: This is an alternative to sugar from the Stevia Plant. I grow it in my garden.
  3. Xanthan gum: Is a thickener made from a bacteria mixed with sugar. It is often used in gluten free baking and is considered harmless.
  4. Sodium stearoyl lactylate: is a chemical derived from lactic acid and used to mix water and oil in baked goods. Lactic Acid, another scary name, is made from fermentation of a plant such as corn or beets.
  5. Alpha-linolenic acid: is an Omega 3 Fatty Acid found in some nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils and has a ton of health benefits.
  6. Vitamins: Many vitamins have a crazy scientific name.
  • Ascorbic acid — Vitamin C
  • Retinol—Vitamin A
  • Gamma tocopherol—Vitamin E
  • Thiamine mononitrate— Vitamin B1
  • Cyanocobalamin— Vitamin B12
  • Pyridoxine hydrochloride—- Vitamin B6
  • Calcium pantothenate—Vitamin B5
leaky gut

Freaky Deaky Leaky Gut

Have you heard of Leaky Gut? Chances are your doctor hasn’t, or if he has, it wasn’t during medical school. It is a relatively new diagnosis, yet to be accepted by all medical practitioners.  It covers a range of symptoms such as bloating, cramping, brain-fog, migraines, and aches and pains. The cause is not always clear, but could be food intolerances, parasites, high sugar diet, drugs, an underlying condition like celiac, even stress.

Another term for Leaky Gut is intestinal permeability. When many people think of the intestines, they think of a garden house. The intestine is over 25 feet long, and it does process food from start to finish through digestion, but the walls are not solid. Instead it is made of millions of cells held together with microscopic spaces in between. When everything is healthy, these spaces selectively allow nutrients to pass from the intestine to be absorbed into the blood stream, while pushing the toxins and waste out of the body. When something goes wrong, these little spaces become bigger, and allow undigested particles, waste, and toxins into your body. Your immune system attacks them as foreign invaders causing an auto immune response. They also end up in your joints, nerves, and brain, causing further damage to your system.

If you suspect you could have leaky gut, you should discuss your concerns with a provider. There is no test for Leaky Gut, but he or she will probably recommend blood and urine tests to look at your nutrient absorption and food tolerances. If you aren’t sure, try taking this quiz below.

This quiz isn’t intended to diagnose your problems nor does it provide a comprehensive health analysis. Only your Doctor can do that.

 

After eating do you experience abdominal pain or bloating?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never

 

How often are you stuck in the bathroom dealing with either constipation or diarrhea?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never

 

Have you ever noticed mucous or blood in your stool?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never

 

Do you ever feel extremely tired for no reason, confused, or suffer from poor memory or mood swings?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never

 

Do you have any known food allergies, sensitivities or intolerance ?

A. Yes, there is a long list of foods I need to avoid

B. Yes, I need to avoid the big triggers like wheat and dairy

C. I suspect I may have food allergies or sensitivities

D. None

 

Are you troubled by sinus or nasal congestion, asthma, hay fever, or airborne allergies?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never

 

Do you have eczema or notice frequent skin rashes or hives?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never

 

How often do you notice joint pain or swelling, or arthritic like pain?

A. Almost always

B. More often then I think is normal

C. It happens sometimes

D. Rarely to never

 

Do you take NSAIDS anti inflammatory medicines such as Aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin?

A. Almost daily

B. Once a week

C. Every now and then

D. Rarely to never

 

RESULTS: If you answered A to the above Leaky Gut could definitely be the culprit to your health issues. If you answered B you should still consider discussing Leaky Gut with your doctor. If you answered C or D you probably have good digestive health.

 

In most cases, a Leaky Gut can be healed over time with a healthy, tailored diet free of GMOs, processed foods, refined sugars, and full of nutrients and probiotics. Considering how large of an organ the intestine is, and how it works with virtually every system in your body, it is clear how good nutrition whether or not you have Leaky Gut will improve your well being.
 

 

Staying Outside of the Vaccine Debate

Who would guess that a few milliliters of serum could cause such a debate. If it wasn’t for Facebook I might not have known how strongly people feel and what a large division there is between the Vax’ers and the Non-Vaxers.

In recent years there has been a growing number of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as rubella, measles, mumps, HPV, polio, and the seasonal flu. They cite studies that indicate a link between vaccines and certain medical disorders, most famously Autism Spectrum Disorder. The medical community meanwhile has stood by the position that not only are vaccines safe, they protect children who would otherwise be at risk. Recently the CDC has stated that diseases we thought irradiated, such as polio, are showing up again. Since 2007 over 1,000 children have died from preventable diseases.

If you are wondering where I stand, we vaccinate our children, but it wasn’t a decision we arrived at quickly or easily. Before I let the pediatrician inject anything into any of my children we research the risks and benefits of each vaccine. In the end we felt in our hearts and minds that the likelihood of contacting a dangerous disease more more probable that a vaccine injury. Also, on a anecdotal note, having been in the Army for so long I have had every possible vaccine ever created, to include anthrax, and I am still ticking.

But this week news is spreading that Jenny McCarthy, a face of the non-vaccination side, “might be wrong.” Her 14 year old son, Evan, was diagnosed early as being on the Spectrum. McCarthy attributed his disorder to vaccines he received. She went on to be a critic of vaccinations and published two books. In 2010 it came out that the diagnosis for ASD might have been hasty, and there could be a different disorder, such as hearing or visual impairment. She stands by the original diagnosis for Autism and claims these rumors are false.

So why does it matter what other parents are doing? Because un-vaccinated children could spread diseases to your children who have not yet been fully immunized (either haven’t received initial or booster shots). Do an image search for measels. It looks really painful. Children don’t get their second MMR until they are 4-6 years old, leaving them vulnerable to this disease. Other children have compromised immune systems and cannot be immunized and must rely on herd immunization. For this reason I understand the anger and frustration at people like Jenny McCarthy, regardless of whether or not her son has Autism.

Despite these concerns, parents have the inherent right to parent as they feel best for their children. Non-vax-ers are not being lazy. Most likely they put a lot of time and energy and soul seeking before choosing to not vaccinate. Their side of the controversy is not without evidence. According to the “National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program statistics reports” the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) fund had paid out 2,114 awards totaling $1.7 billion, mailing for people injured by the DTAP vaccine.

So, before you go blast Jenny (calling her an idiot or a menace as I have seen already today), take a moment and emphasize with her. We are all doing the best we can with what we know and what we have experienced.

 

 

Grocery store score...Brussels sprouts.

Five Tips to Help Kids Learn to Love Vegetables

A few weeks ago I came home from the grocery store excited from the cool produce my kids had picked out, like this stalk of Brussels Spouts. I posted on Facebook and a lot of friends were curious whether the kids would eat them. It inspired to think of some of the tricks I have used over years to get my kids to eat vegetables. Here are my top five.

1) Help them understand why they are good, specifically. My son cracked me up a few months ago when he came in from climbing on the monkey bars and was rooting through the fridge. “Help me mommy,” he said, “I’m looking for something to eat to help me climb more monkey bars.” Saying something is healthy might not have much meaning for young kids, but they may be interested to hear what is good for building muscles to climb trees, or strong bones so they can be tall enough to ride the roller coaster, or something to boost their immune system so they don’t get sick,

2) Family Rule- You Must Try It. All I require is one bite.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard the kids say they DON’T like something, remind them of our family rule to try it, and have it turn out that they LOVE it. This is not a one time thing. No matter how many times it is served they have to try it that meal. Their tastes can change or I could have prepared it differently.

3) Let them get involved. Let them pick out vegetables at the store, or help wash or cook them at home. In my house I have the kids work in the garden with me. I remember as a child going out to my parent’s garden to “get dinner.” This lets kids feel like they had a choice in their meals.

Sophie picked out this turnip because it was her favorite color.

Sophie picked out this turnip because it was her favorite color.

4) Skip the snacks. It is self evident that kids eat better when they come to the table a little hungry. I struggle with this one all the time. My oldest gets off the bus and eats a snack because he is starving. I serve an early dinner because we have soccer/dance/cub scouts/etc but now he is not hungry. It is important to manage the snack to meal ratio.

5) Cook it with a chicken. I guess smothering it in cheese would work too. Vegetables are healthiest in their rawest purest forms, but they have to be eaten to be of nutritional value. This is what we did with the Brussels Sprouts. Guess what? The kids ate them. Even little baby JP.

Roasted vegetables with chicken.

Roasted vegetables with chicken.

Andrew loved this meal.

Andrew loved this meal.

Sophie thought this was so funny.

Sophie thought this was so funny.

Special Occasion Food and Elimination Diets

Lets face it, special occasions are all about the food. For some events the food is the highlight of the day, such as Birthday cakes, Thanksgiving turkeys, and Easter eggs. Sometimes it is small things you may not even realize you associate with events, like a cold beer after a day of yard work. It might be something unique to you. My husband likes to go to the gym, because he knows he will stop for a raspberry turkey flat bread afterwards. I specifically remember drinking a NA beer with teammates after a big mission in Iraq thinking, we are drinking this beer not out of taste, and certainly not for a buzz, but out of custom. This sort of food custom brings comfort. We share meals together to strengthen our bonds. Food is a huge part of our culture.

When we learned that my son, Andrew, was allergic to 16 foods, to include wheat, rice, oats, milk, cheese, eggs, soy, coconut. bananas, yeast, and more, I didn’t know what I would cook for him. I had mastered those kid friendly meals such as macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets, but during the elimination diet phase of his treatment I couldn’t give him most normal kid food. For breakfast is was apple slices and sunflower butter. Lunch could be a chicken breast and broccoli. Snack was a big wedge of watermelon. Dinner an ear of corn and bunch of grapes. All in all very little cooking for me and pretty healthy for him, but I longed to give Andrew those  special occasion meals. Sunday morning waffles were a treat he looked forward to all week. In our house Fridays were pizza nights.

This replaced Sunday morning waffles and scrambled eggs

This replaced Sunday morning waffles and scrambled eggs

In the beginning I called every dinner I made “dinner miracle.” Below is a picture of a “pizza” I made from spouted corn tortillas, tomato sauce, and chopped cauliflower. Andrew loved this. School lunches were the hardest because they had to travel via Andrew’s swinging back pack.

Fake pizza, featured here with a warm quinoa salad and turkey

Fake pizza, featured here with a warm quinoa salad and turkey

It was easy to stay focused on the diet for us. After three days Andrew’s eczema had cleared 100%.  After a week he stopped complaining of tummy aches. He was having an easier time sleeping and staying focused. Even a plantar wart on his foot that had been bothering him for a year went away on its own. After three months we began adding food back in to Andrews diet to see if there were foods he tested reactive to that he could actually tolerate now that his gut was healing. Our Naturopathic Doctor said it was up to us which to try first. We started with those foods that would allow us to bring back some of our family traditions. As of today, we have added rice, coconut, and yeast back into his diet. This was huge over the summer because it meant I could buy him almond milk ice cream, which contains rice syrup and coconut oil. It also means he can eat Daiya almond milk cheese. I can make quinoa pasta with Daiya cheese and call it Fake mac’n’cheese.

Recently I posted a blog about making an allergen free pumpkin pie. It was important to me do make this seasonal treat. It would often be easier for me to have Andrew eat before we go out, but I recognize that this would deprive him of the fellowship of eating with others. Depending on where we are going there may be no menu options for Andrew. Below is a picture I took of Andrew at a local restaurant patio where we were celebrating the end of my husband’s soccer season. I had packed him almond butter truffles. They totally melted and had lost their shape, but as you can see Andrew didn’t mind. He was happy to be at the table.

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It will be the first Thanksgiving where we are allergen conscious, and also the first thanksgiving where I am not cooking. I am not packing any food as we head to Philly to see my in laws, but rather I am leaving it up to my father-in-law. Worst case scenario…I know for a fact my boy eats turkey legs.

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