Have allergies hit your neighborhood yet? Snow is receding for many of us and that means… pollen – and a tough time for many kids. Fall or spring, when allergies hit, several natural tools work well. Put these naturopathic supports in your toolbox to alleviate allergy symptoms. These can work gently and quickly to ease sneezing, runny nose, weeping stinging eyes, or congestion, without some of the side effects some children have from drugs like Benadryl or Claritin. Somnolence (too sleepy), hyperactivity, or insomnia are common unwanted effects from these drugs. The right prescription drug can literally be a life saver too, especially for asthmatic kids during this challenging time of year. Be sure to follow your physician’s instructions, and don’t mix herbs or supplements with medicines unless your pharmacist or physician says it’s okay.
Non- inflammatory diet – Avoid trigger foods that exacerbate inflammatory reactions. If your child has rashes or eczema that come and go, hives, wheezing, or asthma, test for food reactions, not just inhaled allergens. Test both allergy (IgE) and sensitivity (IgG). Avoiding trigger foods can markedly improve respiratory and skin symptoms. This testing is a routine part of my pediatric nutrition practice. Sugary processed foods and processed fats also worsen inflammation in the body, so minimize those by replacing them with whole foods and healthy fat sources (fish oils, avocado, organic eggs or meats, organic nuts and seeds, flax meal, olive oil).
Quercetin – This is one of many flavonoids, which are phenolic compounds found in many plants, including herbs, teas, fruits, vegetables, roots, and wine. Quercetin has broad anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It is not an anti-histamine, but it does inhibit enzymes that start inflammatory cascades in cells. You’ll find lots of quercetin in onions, raw apples, berries, and broccoli. It is widely available as a supplement in capsules or in chewable blends for kids. Quercetin can protect against damage caused in tissues and cells by swelling and inflammation. It can also chelate iron. If your child has low iron or anemia, use this with professional supervision. If your child has iron overload, quercetin may help. Otherwise, usual doses are 250-500 mg daily for school aged kids.
Fenugreek – Like quercetin, fenugreek has strong anti-oxidant and free-radical-scavenging power, meaning it will help cells avoid damage from reactive oxygen species that wreak havoc in the body when inflammation from allergies is high. It has a long history in traditional medicine across many cultures, and has been used in breastfeeding to increase milk supply. For seasonal allergies, its astringent properties may help drain inflammation in sinuses and lungs, and break apart mucus trapped in those spaces. Available in tinctures or capsules; my preferred encapsulated brand is from Medi-Herb. Antronex from Standard Process is another favorite of mine for easing sinus drainage and phlegm; it contains fenugreek, comes as a small, slippery, easy to swallow tablet, and can be safely dosed up to several daily as needed til symptoms improve.
Butterbur – This herb showed itself to be as effective as Allegra in a clinical trial for hay fever. The same outcome occurred in another trial that compared butterbur to Zyrtec. And again when butterbur was tested against placebo. No side effects were noted in these trials. So, it works – but can your child use it? It hasn’t been tested in children for allergies as far as I could find, but it has been tested in children for migraines, with no toxicity or ill effects observed. This makes it a possible winner for kids who need allergy relief but get too drowsy or activated with the usual over the counter drugs. Dosage tested in children was 50-150 mg daily for four months.
Probiotics – The good news on probiotics just won’t quit. Taking probiotics helps reduce upper respiratory infections and inflammation, and can reduce seasonal allergy symptoms like rhinitis (runny nose!). Make them a routine part of your child’s daily food and supplement plan. Lactobacillus strains that have been proven effective at reducing allergic symptoms in sinuses are L. paracasei, L. acidophilus, and L. salivarius. Bifido species were helpful too. These strains can be found at relevant potencies in better probiotics, such as from Klaire, VSL, Custom Probiotics, or Kirkman Labs. Don’t expect them to be cheap, and keep them refrigerated. Chewable probiotics sitting on your supermarket shelves are of virtually no value – the potency is dubious, and too low in any case; and, there are unnecessary fillers that may have more allergens. Buy the good stuff. My clients can do that here at 10% off – let me help you pick one. Ask for regular (not chilled pack) shipping to save a bundle and immediately store in refrigerator on arrival.
Nettles – Nettle is another somewhat miraculous herb. It has anti-histamine power, and inhibits mast cells, which are another key component of allergic reactions. Like quercetin, it also interrupts enzymes in cells that trip inflammatory cascades. It seems to most relieve itching and sneezing. It’s available as dried leaves which can be steeped as tea, which many kids will be agreeable to sip if they aren’t feeling well. It’s also widely available in capsules, chewables, or tinctures. 100-300 mg daily for children is a usual dose.
Vitamin C – Years ago, researchers found that a 2 gram (2000 milligram) dose of Vitamin C lowered histamine in test subjects by nearly 40%. It actually interrupts histamine formation in the first place. Two grams is an ordinary dose that you may have used before during colds or flu. Vitamin C is a natural laxative too. For some kids, this dose may loosen bowels (perhaps a desired effect, if your child has constipation). Start at about 100 mg and work up slowly, to make sure you don’t trigger diarrhea. Taking this with bioflavonoids makes C even more effective.
Curcumin / Turmeric – Check my blog post on how to easily eat more of this potent anti-inflammatory herb. Though results on how well it works for asthma have been mixed, researchers have found that it inhibits mast cell response, which means it may have anti-allergy effects.
Measles Infection – Has your child had measles infection? There is an up side: Getting actual measles has shown a lifelong protective effect against allergic diseases (and certain cancers!). If your child contracts measles, be sure to support them nutritionally, as this can give them an easier, uncomplicated course of infection. Check my post on how to do that here.
Homeopathics – A number of homeopathic remedies in 12c or 30c potencies (available at many health food stores) can quickly alleviate allergy symptoms. These are used by placing 3-5 pellets under the tongue in an empty mouth, away from foods or fluids. Let them dissolve. If no change in symptoms, the dose can be repeated in 30 to 40 minutes for 12c potency pellets; or 45 minutes to every two hours for 30 c potency pellets. When the correct remedy is used, a clear response occurs. When it does, stop – more is not better. If a partial improvement occurs with a relapse into worsening symptoms, then you’re likely on the right track and another dose is indicated. If no improvement occurs, you’ve chosen the wrong remedy. Euphrasia, Sabadilla, and Allium Cepa are common choices for allergy season. A helpful blog on this can be found here.
There are so many options to help your kids feel better during allergy season, and they don’t all have to be pharmaceutical ones. If your child does well with those – celebrate! If they struggle with side effects or only partial improvement, natural supports may work better. This is a short list. There are many more options that skilled providers have at their fingertips. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider a product for children like D-Hist Junior chewables (10% off to my clients and followers). It has a blend of some of the items mentioned here, and may be a helpful add on to medications if your doctor gives it a thumbs up.
Curcumin (which comes from turmeric root) has garnered more and more attention for its many healthful effects. Dubbed the “Solid Gold” of India, it’s one of the preferred tools for kids I work with too, because most of them have chronic inflammatory conditions like asthma, eczema, autoimmune problems, or food allergies. One of curcumin’s standout properties is that it is a potent anti-inflammatory, so it helps my patients with these conditions improve. It also has broad anti-microbial action, and can kill some bacteria, viruses, molds, and even cancer cells. It became a darling of the autism community a few years ago when it emerged as a key part of supplement protocols for kids on the spectrum. At least one study showed it could improve social behaviors in rats poisoned to trigger autism-like features. Curcumin also reduced repetitive, obsessive behaviors in the rats. Another study showed curcumin can reduce oxidative stress in the brain and exert a protective effect against certain toxins – two problems frequently found in children with autism. It boosts glutathione levels in the body, which is a powerful antioxidant that our own cells make to protect against toxins and infections. Glutathione itself shows benefits for autism features as well. And, it is an excellent source of iron, zinc, and manganese.
When curcumin pills and powders starting pouring on the market, these were objectionable for some of the kids and parents in my practice. They were hard to swallow, or tasted too pungent. Apex Energetics makes a tasty liquid version, which gives 420 mg standardized curcuminoid extract per teaspoon in an easy to administer suspension. This works well and kids love it – but it’s expensive.
The good news is that you don’t have to make your kids swallow a bunch of costly pills or buy expensive supplements to get enough curcumin and turmeric daily. All you need is a lot of high quality organic turmeric spice and/or some fresh organic turmeric root. It actually tastes good in a lot of foods besides your favorite curries – which you can liberally add more turmeric to as well. I’m currently eating about 2-3 tablespoons daily of turmeric powder, and fresh root when I have it. The root is softer and less stringy than fresh ginger root, which makes it easy to add to smoothies.
If eating turmeric isn’t appealing for your child, I recommend the Apex product mentioned above over powders, pills, or capsules. You can find it via health care providers like me, or through web-based supplement sellers. It’s very easy to administer, formulated for easy absorption (with medium chain trigylcerides and vegetable glycerin), and it’s easy to control the dose. It will work to correct oxidative stress in the body. Caveat: Dosing this too quickly can cause your child to feel worse, if they have entrenched inflammation from conditions like asthma, autoimmune problems, or autism. It’s best to start with a lower dose (~100 mg) and work up to at least 420-500 mg daily. Many children do well on about a gram (1000 mg) of curcuminoids daily, with slow ramping up.
If you’re using turmeric powder to get curcumin’s antioxidant benefits, you’ll need to eat somewhere in the range of 1-2 tablespoons of turmeric daily. Powdered turmeric spice has about 3% curcumin in it by weight. To reach a beneficial dosing range for curcumin (400 mg or higher daily), eat powdered turmeric by the tablespoon! Curry powders, which are spice blends that contain turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and other spices, don’t deliver as much curcumin – but that’s no reason to pass on curry dishes, which are just plain delicious with loads of nutritional benefits. You can also add extra plain turmeric powder to any curry dish to boost curcumin in it.
What about fresh turmeric root? I have not yet found analysis for fresh root versus powder, but it’s likely that any whole, fresh food has more nutrition value and active phytochemicals than a powdered dried form.
Fresh turmeric, powdered or raw, has a fruity essence that pairs well with unexpected flavors. Here’s a few ideas – and if you need help purchasing supplement items mentioned in this blog, contact me.
Tumeric Raspberry Salad Dressing: Whisk with a fork or immersion blender, makes enough for 2-3 salads:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1-2 teaspoons sesame tahini
- 1 Tablespoon turmeric powder or 1/2 inch minced, peeled fresh root
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (cherry wood aged balsamic vinegar is really good here)
- 1 teaspoon raspberry preserves
Cocoa Turmeric Power Packed Smoothie: Place all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth. Adjust liquid to
Odd bedfellows merge to make a rich, fruity-chocolate flavor
- 1/2 cup crushed ice
- 6 oz unsweetened organic almond milk
- 2 Tablespoons sesame tahini or nut butter of choice
- 1 scoop Apex Glycemovite (my favorite for taste and nutrient profile), Thorne MediBolic, or Systemic Formuals Chocolate Metaboshake protein and multivitamin/mineral powder
- 1 scoop organic grass fed whey powder such as ImmunoPro
- 2 Tablespoons turmeric powder or 1 inch peeled fresh root
- 2 Tablespoons organic unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 Tablespoon organic flax meal
- dash organic stevia powder or 1/2 teaspoon raw honey
Mild Thai Red Curry Sauce Over Salmon: This recipe is adapted from At Blanchard’s Table: A Trip To The Beach. Prepare this sauce while your fish is baking, and enjoy with wild caught (not farmed) salmon, ahi, haddock or any firm fish. Rinse the salmon and lay it on aluminum foil on a baking sheet, skin side down. Pour the sauce over the salmon. Bake at 400 degrees for 9-15 minutes (depending on size and thickness of the fish) til just flaking but not dry. Remove from oven and wrap the foil to enclose the fish lightly. Let it rest for 2-5 minutes and serve.
- 1 TBSP coconut or olive oil
- 1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 cup chicken broth (best if it’s your homemade stuff, or use organic full fat broth)
- 1 can unsweetened canned organic full fat coconut milk (not So Delicious coconut milk in carton)
- 1 Tablespoon gluten free tomato puree
- 1 Tablespoon Thai Red Curry Paste
- 2 Tablespoons turmeric powder or 2 inches peeled minced root
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika (more if you like it hotter)
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon peeled minced ginger root
- 1 teaspoons gluten free tamari sauce
Heat the oils gently and add garlic and ginger, cooking x 1 minute. Add the turmeric, cumin, curry powder, curry paste, and paprika. Stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
Raise the heat to medium and add the tomato puree, tamari, coconut sugar, coconut milk, and chicken broth, whisking well after each addition. Cool for about 10 minutes, stirring often – don’t let it boil. When edges are gently bubbling, pour over fish and bake.
With balsamic and ghee glazed beets and cauli-cilantro “rice”
Eczema even as painful as this child has can be healed naturally. Finding the right foods to emphasize, foods to withdraw or only use sometimes, and restoring gut health are key to naturally healing eczema. While you use soothing with skin treatments (which can help a lot by easing pain and itching), heal the underlying causes.
Eczema can hurt more than your child’s skin. Eczema can mean that inflammation is active systemically – that is, all over the body, inside and out. These widespread reactions can mean your child has more anxiety, more behavior problems, a pickier appetite, or more frequent infections. Where to start?
1) Plan on 3-4 months to see full improvement. Repair takes time. Painful eczema may mean the immune system is reacting to something deeper than skin, from the inside out. Identify the suspects, and you can repair and heal the skin. This takes good, non-inflammatory, nutritious food. Antibodies to trigger foods stay in the blood for at least three to six months after you stop eating that food. Every time your child eats even “a little” trigger food, the immune reaction is amplified. For best results, avoid the worst offender trigger foods completely. Remember, kids need food to replace what is withdrawn, and it must be of equal or greater nutritional value. Just withdrawing foods only to eat lesser ones will weaken your child and delay repair of healthy skin.
2) Get proper testing. Elimination diets won’t help after a certain point. If you’ve already tried months of withdrawing this or that, and your child still has eczema, it’s time to get properly tested. Allergy tests may not show the type of reaction that is active when a child has eczema. So if you’ve been to your allergist, and the tests looked normal, you may need a different test. I often start with these tests in my own practice, when the trigger foods remain a mystery:
Wheat/Gluten Reactivity and Autoimmunity Panel (click “Array 3” here) – Gluten (wheat protein) is so often a culprit, and so often incorrectly assessed – even by specialists in pediatric allergy and gastroenterology – that this is the panel I go to if I need an emphatic, clear, and detailed picture of exactly how a child’s body responds to eating gluten.
ELISA IgG Food Antibody Profile – Several specialty labs offer this test. I like using these labs best because they have developed a way to sample dozens (93 to be exact) of foods with a very small amount of blood, which is good for kids (who we all know hate to go for blood draws). There is even a method that uses just a few drops of blood from a fingerstick – so you can collect the sample at home and mail it in (nice option for teens or older kids).
There are many other tests out there. I review these options with my patients. Bottom line: Get tested if your child still struggles with eczema and you’ve done everything else you can.
3) Look at the gut. Emerging evidence supports the scenario that eczema starts inside, in the gut, and not outside, on the skin. Your allergist probably told you to get rid of carpet, launder sheets twice a week with hypoallergenic laundry soap, use natural fabrics only, or consider returning your dog or cat to the SPCA. Again, if the eczema is still there, or your child’s skin remains tender and highly reactive to even a puppy’s cuddle, it’s time to go deeper for answers. Humans evolved with microbes and the latest news is that these microbes are expert traffic directors for our immune systems. They may actually teach our immune systems what to react to and what to ignore, especially at the level of the gut wall. They exchange genes with us – potentially helping us write the software for our immune systems. The possibility is that this relationship with microbes gives kids an opportunity to reboot the software.
Here’s what to do: Clear any constipation, diarrhea, or bowel infections with high dose probiotics, a better diet without sugary and processed foods, and with herbs or even prescription medications to clear and balance microbes in the gut. Elimination diets can fail if this step is skipped, so don’t overlook that gut health piece. Need help? Work with me to do this safely and effectively.
4) Build with the right protein for the job. If you take out a protein source, put back a different one of equal or better value. Make sure it isn’t inflammatory – this is where testing is useful. For example, don’t replace cow’s milk with rice or almond milk. They both lack protein. Use those subs with a protein powder blended into a shake, or add a protein food, like egg, meat, nuts or nut butters if allowed, quinoa with legumes, and so on. Kids need this protein to build and repair! Another example: Don’t switch soy milk, tofu, and soy yogurt in for milk either. Both have protein, but soy is often as triggering as cow’s milk. You may even get better results with elemental (amino acid based) protein products; many are available, but knowing how and when to use them is the key.
5) Add natural anti-inflammatories. Herbs and supplements, topically and orally, can be great adjuncts or even good primary strategies. Skin salves can be great soothers, and herbs abound for this purpose. A favorite resource of mine for this is Rebecca’s Apothecary in Boulder. They can ship, and answer questions for you. For oral use, some of my favorites turmeric, curcumin, fish oils, nettles, quercetin, vitamin C in higher doses (to bowel tolerance), calendula, calcium lactate, and lots of healthy fats from coconut, organic eggs and grass fed meats, and tolerated nuts or seeds.
Long short, eczema can be healed naturally. Your child doesn’t have to suffer. Some kids have so many food reactions that they can’t possibly remove all of them from their diets and they need special supplementation until they get well enough to safely eat those foods again. I routinely navigate these options for my clients, so contact me if you need help!
Can food boost your immune system and mood? You bet! See if you can eat your way away from colds and flu this season by making a daily effort to give your kids the tools that our immune systems use to fight infection.
As fall and winter progress, and it’s darker and colder, your vitamin D levels are probably dropping. Your serotonin may be as well, with low natural light exposure. People are passing colds back and forth. Time for Winter Wonder Foods! Eat to carry you through to sunnier, warmer times ahead. You will replenish nutrients and antioxidants that your immune system and mood will appreciate. These are among my favorites for this time of year. Most are readily available and in season, with prices that may be better than in other months.
Turmeric Root – For a long time now, the functional medicine community has suggested this powerful antioxidant in supplements. Both turmeric and its popular component curcumin have been extensively studied. Curcumin comes from turmeric root. Many families of kids with autism are reporting happy outcomes by supplementing curcumin – read testimonials here, and there are undoubtedly more around the web. For my practice and my family, I love turmeric for its antiflammatory properties, supportive digestive action, and potential as an anti-microbial. When we have colds, I juice fresh peeled turmeric root with fresh peeled ginger root, whole lemon (skin and all), apples, celery, and cilantro. We also use it liberally in cooking. For curries, I like to mix at least a tablespoon of turmeric powder with a heaping tablespoon of cumin and another of curry powder, plus some red pepper flakes or powder.
Ginger Root – More fibrous and tough than turmeric root, ginger root works in a lot of places in your healing kitchen! Peel fresh root and mince into vegetable sautés: Carrot sticks seared to tenderness with fresh minced ginger and a dash of curry powder, cooked in a blend of toasted sesame oil, coconut oil, and a small dab of local raw honey, makes for a more nutritious, healthful, and interesting version than plain old steamed, without much more effort. Mince ginger into curries, simmer slices of it into chicken soup stock (remove before eating), or pour boiling water over sliced root for a tea to open sinuses and soothe an inflamed throat. Ginger’s benefits are legend, and recent work in mice showed that it reduced inflammation in ulcerative colitis. Another showed ginger’s components to be neuro-protective by lowering inflammation and inhibiting memory loss.
Winter comfort food: Meatloaf with bacon, mashed parsnip, Brussels sprouts
Brussels Sprouts – Finally! My favorite vegetable has dropped to a lower price for organic at my local grocer. February is when prices really drop on these and I have been waiting all fall. You knew these were good for you, but did you know how good? Check into these benefits: Brussels sprouts contain compounds that are protective against cancer, calcium loss and bone fractures, diabetes, and more. They also contain sulforaphane, a compound that created significant improvement when supplemented in young men with autism in this initial clinical trial.
Your kids hate these? Don’t give up. They may be won over with roasted rather than steamed Brussels sprouts. This brings out some of the sweetness while minimizing the strong bitter flavor. Rinse the sprouts and cut into halves or quarters. Toss with melted ghee, sea salt, or garlic salt. Add fresh minced garlic if that suits you, and some toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts. Roast at 400 degrees til fork-soft, 18-20 minutes. Go longer for a crispy-chip texture on the leaves. Or, make salty chips by chopping the sprouts into leaves and roast until brown and crisp, with ample salt, ghee, olive oil, or coconut oil.
Pink Grapefruit – Sounds summery, but winter is grapefruit season. At this time of year, grapefruit is tastier, cheaper, and more available. Obvious bennies are lots of vitamin C, lycopene, potassium, antioxidants, and bioflavonoids. All of these nutrients are helpful for immune function in one way or another. Even cholesterol levels appear to be directly improved just by eating pink grapefruit. The ultimate convenience food – peel and eat. Put peeled cut sections in your kids’ lunches if they’re too busy during the school day to pull these apart themselves.
Cod liver oil – One of the best sources going for natural vitamin D3, the biologically active form, is cod liver oil. I suggest children under 40 or 50 lbs use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon daily; more is okay for bigger kids under usual circumstances but check with your doctor if you aren’t sure. Fish oils vary for vitamin D content, and for processing, which can have negative impacts on the delicate fatty acids in these oils. Since CLO also contains healthy fatty acids plus some vitamin A, I prefer it over drops that only give vitamin D3 (though drops are useful in some cases too). I skip supplements entirely that only give vitamin D2. Foods that offer it are a bit scant: Fatty fish, egg yolks, beef liver, and cheeses. Debate about the vitamin D content of certain mushrooms leaves me inclined to suggest supplementation for vegans.
Our understanding of the many and diverse things that vitamin D does is far from complete. More hormone than nutrient, virtually every tissue in our bodies has receptors for vitamin D. It regulates genes that control immune response, blood sugar, cell growth, and many other functions. It’s not just about bones! In late winter, many of us lose vitamin D stores as we have less sun exposure. This may be a factor in depression. Increasing vitamin D level by just 10 points improved depression in young men in this study.
Fermented or not? This is a big debate. The Weston Price and GAPS communities won’t have it any other way but fermented cod liver oil. Some families I work with won’t go there. My next best pick is Pharmax, which processes fish oils more gently than other manufacturers, and has liquids that are palatable for most kids I’ve worked with.
Garlic – Eating fresh garlic daily (2 cloves or more) appears to reduce susceptibility to colds and flu. There are many ways to do this. You can:
• Mince and add to sautéed or roasted vegetables and stews.
• Place peeled whole cloves in 1/4 inch of olive oil, and heat gently for 10-15 minutes (until soft but not browned). Eat these whole. You can add salt if you like, and save the olive oil to drizzle on salad, veggies or bread or drink it down.
• Place raw peeled cloves in a blender with 2 cups water, a whole lemon, and 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Blend until smooth; strain, and drink. This pungent drink taken daily will encourage liver to expel toxins and will keep colds and flu at bay. For an extra liver purgative and to make it taste a little easier, add a teaspoon of pure inositol powder.
• Try high potency allicin capsules when eating the cloves is not your thing. My top pick is AlliMax Pro, which gives 450 mg of allicin powder per capsule. Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic that has been shown to have antimicrobial and immune protective activity.
When eating fresh garlic, do so quickly to get the most from the active allicin component, which has a short half life once you crush the garlic.
2 sweet potatoes made 15 hefty pancakes
Sweet Potatoes – Here’s a food most kids like, and it’s easy to prepare: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put in potatoes. Bake 60 minutes. Done! Of course there are other yummy ways to eat sweet potatoes, but start there if you have too much to juggle at dinner time. Place them in your oven in the morning and program to turn on and bake later if you’re not home to do it. It’s worth it to buy organic sweet potatoes or yams – they taste sweeter, less bitter, just better. Whip these with butter, ghee, cinnamon, and a little maple syrup then dust with ground cashews or macadamia nuts, to incentivize for picky eaters.
Seriously though, sweet potatoes give vitamin A as beta-carotene, which is another crucial immune helper. In fact, the recent mania about measles should be talking more about vitamin A than vaccines: Even the World Health Organization and UNICEF have protocols that engage high dose vitamin A for children exposed to measles. Vitamin A has both therapeutic and preventive actions against this virus, and dramatically reduces mortality from complications of measles (diarrhea and pneumonia). For detail on the many ways in which vitamin A supports our immune systems, click here.
If baked sweet potatoes are too boring, you have a lot of options, depending on how ambitious you are. Sweet potato pancakes from scratch are delicious if you have time to make them. Quick breads, pies, and cookies are too, when made with leftover sweet potato. You can drop left over bakers in a smoothie (remove the skin first) to give a sweet and creamy texture. Or, just serve them mashed, with some orange zest or even orange juice added.
A food processor makes this recipe much easier
You may feel like hibernating, but if you do, enjoy these foods that are in season in cold months – just in time to carry you through the colds, flu, and winter blues.
The media’s obsession with pitting us against each other continues in full swing with ongoing news about the measles outbreak, now up to some ninety cases. Are you buying in? Are you mad at your neighbor? Did you blame that kid down the street, and her crazy parents? Are you a pediatrician who has vowed to break your vow of doing no harm and treating the sick, by booting a kid with measles infection out of your office? Good for you. You’re a hater.
Just like anything else where hate is involved (terrorism, racism, xenophobia, religious zealotry), ignorance and fear are the drivers. Our media loves those. It makes for great ratings.
Measles vaccine was introduced in 1963. That means that not one of these kids had been vaccinated against measles, when Disneyland opened its doors to eager throngs in July 1955:
Thousands of kids. None of them vaccinated for measles.
There were no outbreaks.
It also means that most if not all of these kids had likely experienced natural measles infection. This was back in the day when your doctor worried if you didn’t get measles by the time you were ten – not the other way around. Measles was regarded as a beneficial childhood infection, for good reason: It conferred protection against some cancers later in life, and may lower odds for chronic inflammatory conditions like asthma, allergies, or eczema later on.
We know this: Natural infection works. It creates longer lasting immunity, by years. It creates community protection, or herd immunity. Vaccines, not so much. They wear off. And they don’t seem to confer strong herd immunity. Many argue they don’t confer herd immunity at all.
Even if we don’t introduce the A word (autism), MMR vaccine has a checkered past. Since it came on the scene, one fail after another has been reported in the medical literature, including reports from the CDC itself. In 48 years (since 1967), PubMed lists 360 articles citing measles vaccine failures and outbreaks in vaccinated persons. Measles outbreaks among highly vaccinated populations have been happening for decades. In one not so unique case from 1983, all children at this school were fully vaccinated against MMR (100% uptake) and there was still a measles outbreak. Can’t blame that one on those unvaccinating parents. But you can blame it on the vaccine being too weak to work. Now that so few of us have strong immunity from natural measles infection, and so many have weak or no immunity thanks to vaccination, outbreaks are going to continue. So, get a vaccine every single year? No thanks.
You might even blame that 1983 outbreak on the vaccine itself: Measles vaccination does, on occasion, actually cause measles infection. Which, of course, can spread. Here is one example, and another here. These are not terribly unique either.
Is this how the recent Disneyland outbreak began? The CDC is vague on its story. They concluded, without presenting clear data, that a visitor from “overseas” arrived with measles and started the outbreak. Where was this person from? Where is the outbreak overseas? Shouldn’t we know, to control more outbreak? Is the CDC so incompetent that it can’t identify the actual start of this small, contained outbreak any further? I doubt it. But I do know this: If this outbreak began with a vaccine-acquired infection, such as in the two examples above, the CDC would never tell the public. It is, um, quite a bit off message for them.
It strikes me as implausible that a person could arrive in a country with 95% vaccine compliance (which is what the US has for MMR) and start an outbreak – unless (a) the vaccine doesn’t really work in the first place (which it often does not, see PubMed citations above) or (b) the persons who got infected were not vaccinated.
If (b) is true, then in this outbreak, the vaccine was more protective than not. So, vaccinating parents, why are you yelling? Your kid is vaccinated, and you can be at peace. Stop hating already. An unvaccinated person is not going to hurt you.
Me and my sibs, 1962: A buncha unvaccinated grubs. Measles vaccine did not exist at the time
If (a) is true, we have a problem. Whether kids are vaccinated or not, we have kids getting measles. Some data show that vaccinated kids in measles outbreaks get more sick than the unvaccinated ones. Nutrition status, especially for vitamin A, iron, and protein, are potent predictors of how sick a kid gets and whether complications may take his life.
MMR vaccination has not eradicated measles, obviously. And it probably never will. In fact, no vaccine has ever eradicated any disease. We still have all of ’em, from pertussis to chickenpox to polio. And it is not because some people don’t vaccinate. It’s because some vaccines work for some people some of the time, and don’t work at all for others – that is, they trigger clinical infection.
No vaccine works all the time. Some work quite badly. All of them have injured and killed innocent children.
Whose lives matter more, the unvaccinated or the vaccinated? Who do you hate more? Who deserves more care, kindness, and attention? The kid who got natural measles infection, or the kid who got it from a vaccine? The kid with polio from India who got vaccinated, or the kid without polio who got vaccinated? The twelve year old who is permanently disabled from an MMR reaction, or the kid who is disabled from a head injury sustained in a car accident? Pediatricians, which kid should you boot out of your practice?
Every kid matters. Peace out.
Me and just some of my cousins and siblings, 1963. All of us had natural measles infection or herd immunity by this time
Even though I became a mom a long while ago (1996), and so much has changed since then, I still remember how it felt to go from independent young woman to faceless market niche. Not what I expected!
I was thirty five years old and pretty comfortable in my own skin. I had graduate and undergraduate degrees in my profession, enjoyed working, and was healthy, fit, and strong. But all of a sudden, it was as if I was no longer any of those things.
Now, I was a “pregnant woman”. And, I noticed, that meant that I no longer belonged to me. I belonged to the obstetrician/midwife, to that dreadful book “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” (at the time this featured a sad, lonely woman sitting in a rocking chair on its cover), to Graco (baby stuff maker de rigeur), to Hanna Andersson, to the pediatrician, and to any stranger, friend, or foe who felt it necessary to give me advice.
I felt palpable expectations for my behavior all around me, and everyone seemed to be quite uninhibited in letting me know how “pregnant women” behave or what they are supposed to do. The only word I can conjure here is “obedient”. Pregnant women are supposed to be obedient. Obey what society would like you to do, buy, wear, and say, regarding your pregnancy and children. I didn’t see that coming. I was taken aback by it, and tried to shake it off. But it lingered.
From the get go, I was not encouraged to cultivate my intuition as a mother, or listen to my own body. The idea that perhaps I might like to tap some innate wisdom deep in myself was an embarrassment at best. I was definitely supposed to listen to everybody else. Going inward toward my own knowing was regarded as quaint but unnecessary, or, just plain selfish, dumb, or stubborn. Don’t you know? The doctor will tell you everything you need to know. Besides, aren’t you exhausted from this birth business, breastfeeding, laundry, the sleep deprivation (yes)? Let the experts drive the bus.
Some harsh events at my son’s birth and infancy made me quickly understand how deeply rooted in our own knowing women must be, as we meet this moment in our lives. It’s crucial for your well being. It’s also crucial for your baby’s safety and health, from the moment you first cradle them to the moment you launch your young adult child toward their own lives. We women need that quiet, still, reassuring connection to our intuition. How else do you communicate with your baby, before or after they arrive in our world? No one else is more equipped than you to do this!
You’re the mom, you’re the vessel nurturing this new life, from conception into the first couple of years of your child’s life. Even after that, intuition doesn’t go away. And adoptive moms will know this too, in their own fashion. Honoring and cultivating that connection will help you be a happier mom and will help your child be healthier.
In my pediatric nutrition practice, I hear time and again about struggles mothers have with medical resources that they are tapping to help their children get better. I usually meet the infants, toddlers, kids and teens who have been failed by conventional medicine, who have been through the medical ringer. Their moms are at wits’ end, they are sad, they have tried everything, done everything their doctors told them to do. They have submitted their children for procedure after procedure, surgeries, all the recommended inoculations, exams, blood draws, endoscopies, barium swallows, rounds of strong drugs, and more. But their kids are still so sick, not able, not well. Life is a blur of specialist appointments, medications, pumps for feeding tubes, and so on.
At this point, I often discover that although these moms do everything they can for their children, the one thing they didn’t do is put their intuition in charge. They have let others decide what’s best for their babies. They weighed expert opinions carefully but left out their own heart. And by the time I meet them, they realize this oversight and express regret. They were trying hard to be rational, safe, obedient. They gave away their intuitive power, and question if keeping it would have meant their children would have suffered less.
Mine would have. I deeply regret allowing his vaccinations at age two and four months, after he had already been hospitalized for an adverse reaction from his newborn hepatitis B shot. The follow up shots nearly killed my son just as he began to settle down. They triggered violent seizures, tremors, and neuromotor problems that lasted for years. He has struggled with learning, vision, and sensory processing challenges as a result. I let the pediatrician bully me. My urge to swaddle up my son and just bolt from the office before the nurse arrived with her tray of needles? I squelched it. I stood stock still – obedient. I then watched my infant son’s face contort in pain as needles sunk into his thighs and I knew I had betrayed his trust, and betrayed myself as a knowing and intuitive mother.
Honor that direct line, that hot line, straight to your own intuition. It lets you call your highest knowingest self, any time day or night, and listen in. No interference. No self doubt. Just an accepting, neutral, no-judgment you on the other end of the line, with a sureness for your next steps, as a mom. What would that be like? What would it mean for your child? What would it mean for you, to unapologetically claim your own prowess and tap your own wisdom?
You have that voice. The more you pick up the line and listen, the more you’ll feel it. The harder it will be to ignore.
Finding our feet, cozy at home
Here’s to your intuition as a mom, and to all the times you honored it. Read these amazing accounts of moms who did. Your intuition is not just for emergencies. It will guide you to know your child better than anyone, and listen to their needs when they aren’t able to communicate them to you. No doctor in the land has that ability, but that voice will connect you to providers and helpers who are here to lift your child up on their journey to good health.