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I’m a big believer that kids want to do what feels good for their bodies but, let’s face it, sometimes things taste bad or feel icky.  Here are excerpts from an email from a mom who read my previous blog post, “Natural Remedies for Acute Cough”, and the game she and her boys played to fight those viruses!

Here’s the email:

Thanks for the call yesterday. I’ll let you know as soon as we get in to see the MD. In the meantime, this should make you smile.

Picture the kids and I sitting with mugs of tea in hand.
“This is a new tea that will help to kick the last of your coughs out of your chest.” says I bravely, knowing that the crushed garlic and honey water will most likely be rejected.
The 5 year old willingly takes the first sip… “ooooh it’s spicy!” he says wrinkling his nose

The 7 year old looks at his cup suspiciously…

I frantically cast my mind about, searching for strategies… and then I remember the beginning of your blog post!

“We’re going to play a game – the ‘Take That’ game!” I say triumphantly.

Now everyone is listening…

“Think of something in you body that is bugging you and/or makes you feel unhealthly and take a big sip of tea and yell ‘TAKE THAT'”

Needless to say they were hooked immediately (the yelling was an important component of the game) and the garlic tea disappeared in mere seconds.  Long after the tea was gone they continued gleefully verbally abusing their coughs, itchy bums, runny noses, etc.

Thank you!

So, here’s to a rousing game of “TAKE THAT!” for all of you.  No more colds, flus, viruses, bacteria, worms, lice, whatever!

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Spring is finally upon us and with it comes the sneezing, sniffling, itching, burning, wheezing, and irritibility of allergies.  It is not too late to nip these symptoms in the bud with a family cleanse.  If you and your family do a cleanse now, you can lower the inflammation in your body and help your immune system calm down to decrease the allergic response.

I’ve written, before, about my older daughter who is now 7.  This week she’s had eczema pop up on the inside of her elbows and she’s been sneezing and rubbing her nose and scratching her entire body.  Poor kid.  The other day she said to me with exacerbation, “Mom, when are we doing our family cleanse?!”  And I had to admit that with birthday parties and life’s general craziness, I hadn’t gotten around to it.  Sigh. Another parenting fail.

However, this week is the week we’ll start.  Ours is pretty straightforward – no wheat, no dairy (except butter), no sugar, no corn products, and no junk food.  For the grown ups – no alcohol or caffeine.  I give a homeopathic cleansing combo to the kids and my husband and I take a stronger herbal combo.  This year I might throw in some natural anti-histamines since both my daughter and I have started our symptoms.

The idea is to give the body a break from foods that may increase inflammation and trigger the histamine response.  My daughter and I can generally get away with a little wheat and sugar here and there if we’re guests for dinner or at a party but during allergy season, nope.

The theory is that the inflammatory response in the body has a threshold where, when reached, it goes whole hog and creates symptoms to get rid of invaders – runny nose to flush out the nasal passageways, runny eyes to flush them out, and, well, you get the idea.  The trouble with allergies is that the body creates this response over non-threatening invaders like pollen and grasses.  We can’t control the amount of pollens and grasses – so those are going to bring us closer to our threshold, but we can control our food.  If we keep “offensive” foods out of the diet, we’re going to avoid getting closer to the inflammatory threshold, therefore avoiding that allergic response.

The theory makes sense to me and I’ve seen great results with myself, my daughter and my patients.  If you’d like guidance with foods and cleansing products, check in with your naturopathic doctor.  Here’s to feeling better!

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My kids and I made this pie for Thanksgiving and my extended family gobbled it up.  Usually they’re a pretty tough sell on my alternative foods so I’m sure this one is a good one!  I think we’ll make it again for Christmas.  This recipe is adapted from one taken from, The Perfect Pie, by Susan G. Purdy, which is one of my favourite recipe books of all time.

Here you go…

Pie crust:

2 cups flour (we used whole grain spelt flour which makes the crust a little heavy.  You can use white spelt or all-purpose spelt if you like for 1 cup and 1 cup of whole grain spelt.  Our next attempt I’ll use kamut.)

3/4 tsp salt

Optional sweetener: 2 Tbsp granulated sugar (I think the kids threw some sugar in when I wasn’t looking!)

8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter (with our next attempt I might use coconut oil instead

3 Tbsp cold vegetable shortening

1 large egg yolk (save the white part to glaze the semi baked crust)

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (the kids loved squeezing the lemon)

4-5 Tbsp ice water, as needed

(Egg glaze: 1 large egg white beaten with 1 Tbsp water)

Mix the flour, salt, sugar, into a bowl.

Cut up the butter and shortening and work them into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly, with bits the size of rice.

Add the yolk and lemon juice.  Toss lightly.  Add ice water, 1 Tbsp at a time, just until the dough begins to cling together in clumps.

Turn the dough out onto wax paper and form it into a ball, then flatten into a 6 inch disk, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Roll out the pastry to and line the 10 inch pan.  Be sue the fluted edge is high so it will contain the filling.  Partially blind bake for 12 minutes with weighted liner (You can buy fancy liners at specialty stores – we used a smaller pie plate.  The liner keeps the pastry from rising and turning into a big puff ball.) Remove the liner and bake for another 5 minutes until starting to look golden.  Brush the warm crust with egg white glaze.  (In the olden days I used my fingers to “brush” on the egg white.  My husband bought me a pastry brush and, well, it’s much better.  Go figure.)  Cool on a wire rack.  Reduce the oven heat to 400 degrees F.  Place a flat baking sheet in the oven to get hot.

The filling:

2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk

2 cups cooked and mashed fresh organic sugar pumpkin

1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar to taste

1 1/2 cups coconut milk (that’s right! the full fat kind from a can (organic is better to avoid the BPA in the liner but it’s pretty hard to find) (I know, I know, genius, right?!))

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted (maybe you could use coconut oil if you’re going totally dairy-free?  I haven’t tried it yet since we’re okay with butter in our household)

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/8 tsp cloves

In an electric mixer or in a bowl with a whisk, beat the eggs and yolk, then add the pumpkin and beat well.  Beat in the sugar, coconut milk, melted butter, salt, and spices.  Set the pan containing the pastry shell on a flat baking sheet for ease in handling.  Pour the filling mixture into the prepared pastry shell, and set it on the preheated flat baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven for 40 – 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted into the custard 1 inch from the edge comes out clean.  Do not over bake.  When the knife comes clean at the custard’s edge, the pie is done even thought the center may not be set; the internal heat of the pie will complete the baking out of the oven.  Cool the pie on a wire rack.  Serve at room temperature.  (You can use whipped cream as a topping if you like and you’re not dairy-free.  We ate it on it’s own.)  Refrigerate leftovers.

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The Environmental Working Group has come out with their 2012 sunscreen guide.  Check it out at this link:

http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/all-sunscreens/

This organization has rated sunscreens with a variety of criteria and come up with the best and worst ones.

Now, keep in mind, those of us with sensitive children know that we can use the very best product on the market and it may give our kid a rash.  My daughter gets a different rash from different sunscreens each year.  What works one year, doesn’t necessarily work the next.  And what works for her, almost certainly gives me a rash!

Make sure you do a patch test on your sensitive kid to see how their body tolerates the sunscreen.  Put a little sunscreen on the inside of the arm or wrist and wait at least 24 hours to observe for reactions.  3 days is even better.

Also, remember, that sensitive kids experience the feeling of sunscreen on their bodies differently than not-so-sensitive people.  Even if you can’t see a rash or problem on the skin, the scent of the sunscreen or the texture may be awful for them.

Good luck and feel free to let me know which products were okay for your kid’s body.

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Most moms I know who are working from home put time into their “non-child related work” while the kids are napping or after the little tykes have gone to bed.  This seems like such a good idea in theory, but, I can tell you from experience, it’s quite difficult to achieve in practice.

The deadline looms and your little one gets an ear infection.  Which means the nap doesn’t actually happen.  Neither does a regular bedtime.  Neither does a full night’s rest.  The deadline gets tighter and poor mom and kid get more and more stressed and upset.  Mom gets sick too and, well, it’s rather difficult.

I’d highly suggest that you recruit some sort of child care for the times that you need your attention and focus to be away from the kids and on your paid or volunteer work.  Perhaps a student looking for some fun with young kids.  Perhaps a nanny share with friends.  Perhaps a part-time daycare program.

When you have the time to actually get your work done, the time you spend with your kids will be more enjoyable too.  You’ll be able to focus on them instead of trying to type out that email while cooking lunch and wiping a bum.  Your mood, energy and overall health will be better so you’ll even be more fun and more patient when you’re with them.

And for your kids, it’s great for them to play with other kids.  It’s great for them to play with and learn to trust other grown-ups.  It’s win win win all around.

If you have any tricks for working for home with young children, I’d love to hear about them.  I think it’s important for moms and dads to share our stories.

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Yep.  Estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin, prolactin… All of these hormones affect our digestive systems.  So, certainly if a women comes to me with wonky digestion, we talk all about her hormones – how’s the menstrual cycle?  How was her digestive system during pregnancy?  How about when she was breast feeding?  What about during peri-menopause?

In naturopathy we’re lucky enough to see and make these connections.

Usually, if hormones are out of whack, women may find some interesting symptoms:

  • Constipation before the period is common.
  •  Looser stools or even diarrhea when the period starts.
  • Pregnancy is variable – with heartburn, bloating, gas, constipation and more.
  • Nursing moms often report the smoothest digestion of their lives (often abruptly changing when they wean their kids).
  • Peri-menopausal women may find their digestion becomes a source of great frustration as hormones fluctuate. Heartburn one day, constipation another day and running to the bathroom quickly another day.

So what can we do?  Through taking a thorough history, performing a physical exam and sometimes lab testing, we can figure out what’s happening with these ever-changing hormones.  Add in thyroid hormones, blood-sugar hormones, hormones for mood and feelings, stress hormones – and you get a pretty interesting puzzle.

Treatments depend, of course, on the cause of dysfunction but generally, I suggest herbs, some supplements and dietary changes to help balance the hormones and ease transitions. Acupuncture can be helpful too.  I might suggest some comfort measures for an upset stomach or bowel, but I keep in mind that over time, when we balance the hormones, the digestive symptoms will clear up.

I’ve been practicing over 10 years now, and I still find each person’s body fascinating to decipher.  In naturopathy we really do look at the whole body and how the various parts work (or don’t work) together.  And, we try to get at the root cause of what’s going on and causing trouble.

If you’re having trouble with your digestive system, check in with an ND – we’ll ask lots of questions about your entire self, including your hormones, to figure it out.

For those who would like to check out some studies about this topic, here are some that I’ve found interesting…

1. Progesterone receptors and serotonin levels in colon epithelial cells from females with slow transit constipation.
Guarino M, Cheng L, Cicala M, Ripetti V, Biancani P, Behar J.
Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2011 Jun;23(6):575-e210. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2011.01705.x. Epub 2011 Apr 11.
PMID: 21481100 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Related citations
2. Variation of symptoms during the menstrual cycle in female patients with gastroparesis.
Verrengia M, Sachdeva P, Gaughan J, Fisher RS, Parkman HP.
Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2011 Jul;23(7):625-e254. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2011.01681.x. Epub 2011 Feb 17.
PMID: 21332597 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Related citations
3. Duodenal and renal transient receptor potential vanilloid 6 is regulated by sex steroid hormones, estrogen and progesterone, in immature rats.
Jung EM, Kim JH, Yang H, Hyun SH, Choi KC, Jeung EB.
J Vet Med Sci. 2011 Jun;73(6):711-6. Epub 2011 Jan 7.
PMID: 21228508 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] Free Article
Related citations
4. Expression of estrogen and progesterone receptors in the anal canal of women according to age and menopause.
Parés D, Iglesias M, Pera M, Pascual M, Torner A, Baró T, Alonso S, Grande L.
Dis Colon Rectum. 2010 Dec;53(12):1687-91.
PMID: 21178865 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Related citations
5. Effects of progesterone on motility and prostaglandin levels in the distal guinea pig colon.
Xiao ZL, Biancani P, Behar J.
Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2009 Nov;297(5):G886-93.
PMID: 20501437 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] Free PMC Article
Related citations
6. Progesterone receptor A mediates VIP inhibition of contraction.
Cheng L, Biancani P, Behar J.
Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2010 Mar;298(3):G433-9. Epub 2009 Dec 17.
PMID: 20019164 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] Free Article
Related citations
7. Effects of ovarian failure on submucosal collagen and blood vessels of the anal canal in postmenopausal women.
Elbanna HG, Abbas AM, Zalata K, Farid M, Ghanum W, Youssef M, Thabet WM, El Awady S, El-Sattar MH.
Int J Colorectal Dis. 2010 Apr;25(4):477-83. Epub 2009 Nov 10.
PMID: 19902226 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Related citations
8. Do fluctuations in ovarian hormones affect gastrointestinal symptoms in women with irritable bowel syndrome?
Heitkemper MM, Chang L.
Gend Med. 2009;6 Suppl 2:152-67. Review.
PMID: 19406367 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] Free PMC Article
Related citations

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If your child is sensitive, you’ll need to get creative with sunscreen.

I have 2 kids. My older daughter has very fair, sensitive skin and is incredibly sensitive to textures. The second daughter, not so much. When it came time to put sunscreen on my first bundle of joy, we encountered some resistance. To put it mildly. The second thinks sunscreen is hilarious and fun. Go figure.

Sensitive kids honestly feel the sunscreen differently than most people. Here are some quotes from sensitive kids I’ve known: “It feels like I can’t get away from it. I feel trapped.” “It itches. I don’t like itching.” “It’s so slimy. I can’t get it off.” “It smells bad in my nose all day long. I can’t get away from the smell.” “It burns. It hurts and it burns.” (with no visible signs of irritation)

No wonder they don’t want to wear it.

So here are some tips to help parents and kids apply sunscreen so their perfect little bodies will be a little safer.

  • If the child has sensitive skin, do a patch test on the inner, softest area of the arm. A reaction will usually occur within about 12 hours but it may take up to 3 days. Some kids with sensitive skin will not get a reaction if the sunscreen is washed off at the end of the day. Others will react no matter what.

How about kids who are sensitive to texture? Tricky to say the least.

What doesn’t work:

  • No amount of reasoning will work. Take my word for it. Telling them they’ll get cancer in 40 years if they don’t calm down and let you slather on the goo today, doesn’t register in their minds at all.
  • Bribery might work once or twice, but beyond that, not really.
  • While it may seem like a good idea to hold the kid down and smother on the sunscreen, I can tell you, that will backfire. When it comes time to leave the house next time and the time after that, the kid will be nowhere to be found. Also, she’ll just rub it off.

What might work:

  • Apply the sunscreen when the kid is sleeping. If your child is a deep enough sleeper, you might be able to gently rub some on. This too may backfire, however, if your child is a light sleeper. Mine started waking earlier and earlier each day to make sure I wasn’t leaning over her bed sneaking on the evil cream.
  • Create a song. I like this one because it’s fun and can break the tension. “Sunscreen is delightful, it smells so yummy.” (while you’re putting it on) “Sunscreen is wonderful, now hop like a bunny!” (after you’ve finished)
  • Have the kid do it herself. I know, I know, the mess can be atrocious. She’ll miss spots and it takes foreeeeever. She’ll also get used to the texture and feel in control of her own body. Both excellent investments in time.
  • Create a routine. “In our family, we ALWAYS put sunscreen on before we put on our hats.” Or “shoes, sunscreen, hats.” There will still be resistance but the odds of getting the sunscreen on do increase.
  • Try oil sunscreen. And different brands with different textures. To a kid who is sensitive to texture, sunscreen A may feel completely different than sunscreen B. To the average person, they may feel exactly the same.
  • Try to find out what exactly is bothering your kid about applying sunscreen.
  1. Is it the hysteria in mommy’s voice as time passes and she is becoming later and later for that meeting? Try starting the routine earlier so you’re truly calm and not feeling pressured.
  2. Is it the feeling on her skin? Try different brands.
  3. Is she relating it to a previous cream problem? My daughter held a grudge against cream for ages because I’d used some on a rash and it made it much worse. She thought, therefore, that cream was always going to cause pain and intense itching. Including her as an investigator during the patch testing helped a lot to ease her worry.
  • Give up. If you are having a hard time, have your child wear long sleeves and long pants. Light cotton, silk, or sunsuits can be entirely preferable for a kid who feels oppressed by goo all over her body. A little cream on the face may be possible if you promise that it doesn’t need to be slathered all over the body.

So good luck with the sunscreeen.  I hope you and your sensitive kids will find comfortable, creative ways of dealing with it.

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