I’m back!

I have taken a long break from writing posts for my blog or actually replying to comments. I apologize for the long delay for some of you on your questions/comments. As you know, even the strongest warrior moms need a break…so I took one. I’m replying to comments each day and hope to be caught up by the end of the week. Next week I hope to start writing again. Stay tuned to hear about our experience with yeast and leaky gut issues (yet again!).  I’m really into whole foods and diet changes, so look for posts about that and how to incorporate it into your child’s diet.

Cheers!

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ADHD: Prescription Drugs or Not?!

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I’ve been listening to so many stories from friends, acquaintances, and strangers that have experienced their child’s school teacher/psychologist/administrators either hint at or outright suggest their child be put on prescribed meds for their ADHD/autistic behaviors. I personally have felt the constant pressure that I should do more for my kids and the “he just doesn’t focus and that is his main problem” statements during IEP meetings or parent/teacher conferences.

Over the years I have presented my natural approach to my sons’ school and have also received tremendous support. But it seems lately with the school budget cuts, and teachers/staff stress over increased classroom sizes that the “quick fix” of ADHD drugs seems to be the popular method of controlling the kids in the classroom. I have always said that the decision to put any child on prescription medications is a personal family choice. One that should not be made without careful consideration as to the ramifications, side affects, and health and well being of the child. This is not something that others should put upon parents whether guilting them into it, or painting a scenario that “he just isn’t working at his full potential”.

One approach that helps kids with ADHD and autism (all kids for that matter) is physical exercise EVERY day. Good, aerobic, physical activity. School budget cuts have forced schools to eliminate regular P.E. classes at the elementary school level, and team sports in middle school at a time when children and adolescents need daily physical activity to help them grow and learn. Thanks to the advances in technology, kids now have more electronic devices to occupy their free time instead of going outside to run, bike, skateboard, and play. Parents seem to be at a loss for what to do for their child and prescription meds are a seemingly sensible solution.

What prompted me to write about this is an article I read today about how low-income kids are being prescribed ADHD meds to boost academic performance. I know this sound like an outrage and “how can anyone do that?!” To me it’s really no different than kids given this for ADHD or autism. Unless a family has fully tried all methods of helping their child with natural approaches like a healthy, organic diet, addressing food allergies, supplements, getting the right amount of sleep and enough daily exercise, just to name a few, then perhaps researching how prescription meds can help the child is in order. More often than not, the natural approach is not taken. Most of the time I see this because the parents don’t even know they had other options available to them besides prescription drugs. Thanks to their doctor and the pharmaceutical industry capitalizing on today’s fast-paced, quick fix mindset of overworked, overextended, stressed out families, prescription medication for ADHD is the go to solution.

http://news.yahoo.com/medication-prescribed-low-income-kids-boost-academic-performance-133319856.html

The goal of my blog is to help educate parents that turn to their computer’s search engine for answers or ways to help their child. The results I’ve seen in helping my own children merits sharing and the extensive research I’ve done can help others to know that there are alternatives to prescription drugs for their child. I am humbled each and every day by the comments of parents and individuals that I’ve helped through this blog. Please spread the word. Biomedical approach works, heals, and offers a lifetime of health!

Fluoride: Too much of a good thing?

I’m not a fan of fluoride in our toothpaste and definitely believe it should not be in our water supply. When I take my sons to the dentist for cleanings, I skip the fluoride treatment. Their toothpaste is fluoride-free. Not one cavity for both of my boys! Their only source of fluoride is our drinking water. But that’s about to change since we just purchased a reverse osmosis water filtration system for our home.

Reverse osmosis is one of the only ways to filter out fluoride in your home tap water. EWG (Environmental Working Group) recommends drinking filtered tap water. This is primarily due to manufacturers of bottled water are not listing water sources or purification methods on their labels. More to the point, tap water is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) under stricter standards than the FDA’s (Food & Drug Administration) regulation of bottled water. The FDA sends inspectors to bottling plants every 2-3 years. In 2009, almost 50% of bottled water sources came from tap water. I know that if I’m going to drink tap water, I would want to know how it’s filtered and also use a reusable bottle made from stainless steel or BPA-free plastic than buy it in a non reusable, non BPA-free plastic bottle. I digress…back to fluoride and it’s dangers of over-consumption.

Everything in moderation…but not in America. According to FAN’s (Fluoride Action Network) website:

Most developed nations, including Japan and 97% of Western Europe do not fluoridate their water supply. However, comprehensive data from the World Health Organization reveals that there is no discernible difference in tooth decay between the minority of western nations that fluoridate water, and the majority that do not. In fact, the tooth decay rates in many non-fluoridated countries are now lower than the tooth decay rates in fluoridated ones.

 The most obvious reason to end fluoridation of our water supply is that it is now known that fluoride’s main benefit comes from topical contact with the teeth, not from ingestion. Even the CDC’s Oral Health Division now acknowledges this. There is simply no need, therefore, to swallow fluoride, whether in the water, toothpaste, or any other form.

Health Problems From Fluoride

There are many health concerns other than dental fluorosis (excess levels of fluoride causing tooth enamel to mottle and discolor, then decay).  Studies by The Lancet and National Research Council indicate that fluoride is a neurotoxin that interferes with the function of the brain and body and also reduces IQ levels, indicating that fluoride intake causes cognitive damage.

Fluoride also decreases thyroid function. Women are more susceptible to this and symptoms of low thyroid function are:

  • Lack of energy
  • Low body temperature
  • Dry skin
  • Not sweating well
  • Tendency towards constipation

Fluoride exposure disrupts the synthesis of collagen and leads to the breakdown of collagen in bone, tendon, muscle, skin, cartilage, lungs, kidney and trachea. It also confuses the immune system (that can’t be good!) and causes it to attack the body’s own tissues. It will increase the tumor growth rate in cancer prone individuals and promotes development of bone cancer. Fluorides accumulate in the brain over time to reach neurologically harmful levels. And of course, fluoride causes premature aging of the human body.*

How Much is Too Much?

In 2003, the National Research Council appointed one of the most balanced and objective panels of experts that has ever objectively investigated fluoride. They spent about three years studying it and determined that the current “safe” drinking water standard of 4 ppm (parts per million) set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for fluoride is too high and should be lowered. But in the four years since, the EPA has not completed a new health-risk assessment, and thus we still live with this outdated and unsafe standard, even though the NRC study was specifically requested by the EPA.

(Dr. Joseph Mercola; The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/warning-this-daily-habit-_b_741635.html )

The contents of a family-size tube of fluoridated toothpaste is enough to kill a 25-pound child.  Even Proctor and Gamble, the makers of Crest, acknowledge that a family-sized tube “theoretically contains enough fluoride to kill a small child.”

So to answer my question, YES, we are getting too much fluoride and it’s NOT a good thing. Fluoride is toxic and you must have a prescription from a doctor to get it. But our municipal water suppliers are purchasing it and adding it to our water. Once it’s in the water, you can’t control the dose of any individual’s daily consumption. There is no oversight nor a doctor prescribing it for you and your family.

To learn more about your local water supply, log onto http://www.epa.gov/enviro/facts/sdwis/search.html .

Source * – http://www.robertgammal.com/PDFs/SciFactsFluoride.pdf

Back to School – Back to Lunch Packing

Just about a week or two before school begins, I start to look forward to my kids getting out of the house (or my hair) and into a routine again. I crave the routine too, but not all of the obligations that go with it. The one I dread the most is packing lunches everyday for both my sons. It’s not only the chore of it, but it’s the pressure to come up with a variety of lunches so they don’t get “lunch burn out” by Thanksgiving. And I won’t cave to letting them buy school lunches until Jamie Oliver is the personal chef at my son’s school, so that’s not an option.

I’d like to share with you a simple idea I came up with that my son thinks is awesome. Now if your child is GF/CF, you’d have to come up with alternatives to replace the gluten and casein in my idea. I’m sure you have seen, heard, or perhaps bought Lunchables for kids. I happen to think its a genius of an idea for kids that are sick of sandwiches, but of course the packaged food industry takes a simple idea and adds a ton of crap to it. I don’t like any product that Kraft puts on the supermarket shelf. Even Lunchables “healthy” alternatives like their ones with fruit and 100% fruit Capri Sun has a ton of sugar and sodium in it, plus artificial colors, flavors and enough preservatives to choke a horse (has several plus that nasty one BHT), high fructose corn syrup, and American Cheese. American Cheese is not cheese in my opinion and it’s pretty gross. So I put together a clean Lunchables version for my kids.

Homemade Lunchables:

  • Crackers (your kids’ healthy, favorite choice)
  • Cheddar Cheese (rBST hormone free dairy) sliced in 2″ squares
  • Canadian Bacon (try to find a brand that is nitrite free)
  • Green/red grapes
  • 2 cookies (I like Trader Joe’s brands without all the artificial stuff, or no cookies if your child is sugar-free)
  • Water

Now this is enough food for my 9-year-old but I do have to add more to the lunch for my eating machine 13-year-old. As for the cracker choice, read the ingredient labels and try to find one that is organic and GMO free. That’s a tough one to find when it comes to grains.

As for more ideas other than sandwiches, I’ve also switched out the Canadian bacon for slices of turkey. My youngest also loves hard-boiled eggs so I give him that with the crackers sometimes too. As you see here, my goal is to get healthy proteins in my kids at lunch without filling them up with a ton of carbs that will slow their brain down in the class after lunch. Protein will convert to the necessary neurotransmitters dopamine for cognition: focus and attention. Plus give them energy for the rest of their afternoon.

What healthy lunch ideas do you pack for school?

Sugar. Oh how I (heart) thee!

Lemon Shortbread Heart Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies photo by Craig Cutler

This Valentine’s Day I must confess my secret love affair. Yes, you guessed correct…it’s with sugar.  I love sugar! All foods taste yummier with sugar.  Whether it’s sugar in my coffee, sugar in my pastries, sugar in my yogurt, sugar in my, well, candy…I crave sugar! Sugar is delightful and never fails to lift my spirits. It gives me that extra energy at the end of a long day. When I’m bored it entertains me with its sweet kiss on my lips. When I’m sad it consoles me better than any therapist. When I’m PMSing it saves me and others around me! (sigh) But my love affair with sugar is coming to an end.

I have finally decided that I must give up this addiction and only taste sugar’s sweet delight occasionally. Not every day. How in the world and I am going to do this? Better yet, why?!

Well, I have always known that sugar is bad for my health. But aren’t all addictions bad for you in some way? I know that in order to get fit and healthy, I must conquer my addiction to sugar. I know it can be done. I have friends that actually don’t eat it at all. I know! Sounds insane, but apparently it can be done and you do survive. So they’ve told me.

In the process of convincing others how sugar affects our health, perhaps I’ll see the benefit in going through my (painful) sugar withdrawals and know that better health awaits me.  First let’s begin with how ubiquitous sugar is in our diet. It’s not going to be easy to give it up, unless I eat mostly freshly prepared meals and snacks. I’ll have to be strong when I bake chocolate chip cookies for my sons and not have any. (groan)

Sugar is in ketchup, yogurt, cereals, breads, brownies (seriously?! I thought it was just chocolate), instant oatmeal, pancake mix, and most conventionally package good foods/snacks. I’m talking about sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS does not exist in my diet. But the sad thing is you can’t completely avoid all sugars because they are in fruit in the form of fructose. So I will have to get my sugar high from my fruits. (I wonder if anyone ever struggles with strawberry addiction.)

And then to top it all off, your body converts carbohydrates to sugar! What’s up with that?!  Whole wheat bread, potatoes, white rice…all gets converted to glucose and stored as FAT. Not fair! All the yummy things to eat in life are bad for you…unless you eat them in MODERATION. That’s the key.

You may wonder just how is sugar addicting. Well, when you eat sugar it triggers dopamine, (a neurotransmitter and neurohoromone in the brain) which is our “pleasure” hormone. What brain wouldn’t like that feeling? So of course you crave it more. I was horrified to learn that heroine, morphine and sugar all trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain! This is when I learned I was an addict. And one of the first steps in conquering any addiction is knowledge, then acceptance. So is depression the next step because all the pleasure sensors in my brain will wither up and die without sugar giving them that instant gratification on a regular basis?!

Where do I begin? Well, I’ve already started by not putting sugar in my morning coffee (latte). I use Organic Blue Agave Nectar. It has a much lower glycemic index. And that’s the key in keeping your blood sugar level and staving off diabetes and other chronic diseases. If you’re not familiar with the glycemic indices of foods, check out http://www.glycemicindex.com and learn more. Here’s a quote directly from their website.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Next, I’m going to have to give up ice-cream…oh the horror! I know there is not one redeeming health quality of ice-cream, but it’s just so, um, delicious. Better yet, I’m going to have to replace my craving with something that will satisfy me and help my body get through “detox”. Yes, when you eliminate sugar from your diet, your body goes through detox. I’m told that I might experience feeling lightheaded, headaches, lack of energy (duh!), skin itching/rash/pimples, mood disorders (another duh!) and intense cravings. But apparently this should only last 3-4 weeks. That makes me feel better. (note sarcasm) I have to have incredible self-control for a month. Then it gets easier.

There are two major health reasons that I want to eliminate sugar from my diet. The first is that sugar feeds yeast in the gut.  When yeast takes over your gastrointestinal tract, it creates immune dysfunction and gastrointestinal distress. Yeast lives and feed off of sugar and foods that convert to sugar. Yeast is a huge biomedical factor in autism and ADHD and its related behaviors in children. The second health reason is cancer. Sugar feeds cancer cells and helps them grow and proliferate in your body. Cancer cells thrive on cell inflammation and sugar/glucose promotes inflammation. This is the one step that I’ve failed miserably at when following the recommendations of “The Anti-Cancer Diet” book by David Servan-Schreiber. I know, I’m an addict and I need to acknowledge that fact. But still.

So I’m going to keep reminding myself that I am giving up sugar for my health and my children. Next step is to stock up on healthy snacking alternatives like veggies, fruit and nuts. I’m going to package them up in my BPA-free snack bags and take them with me wherever I go. When I’m feeling low-energy, they will give me that lift I usually seek from sugar. If anyone has any tips on how to overcome sugar addiction, I welcome them! Oh, and Happy (sugar-free) Valentine’s Day.

What is Normal?

I haven’t written a post in a while and thought about which topic to start with first. But I’m thinking an update on all the good things that have happened over the past several months is deserved. Life has been pretty good, busy and somewhat “normal”. But what is normal in the life of a family overcoming autism?

Well, for starters, both my sons are growing like weeds. I can’t keep enough food in the house, let alone in their stomachs.  My preteen son eats more than both my husband and I combined. His shoe size is a men’s 10 and is already 5’6″ at age 12.  I think I’m actually spending more money on groceries and his shoes each month than vitamin supplements. And that’s a lot!

My younger son with autism went through 35 treatments (dives) of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) this past summer. It was tough to keep up the treatments at a facility that was an hour drive away from home (each way). We saw immediate gains after the first 10-15 dives. His expressive language was soaring and his eye contact rocked! We slowly saw improvements come gradually during the remaining dives. His gut was improving and bacteria died off.  Focus, attention and eagerness to have friends come over for play dates all improved. We continue to see steady improvement each month. It’s very gradual and he just seems to do better and better each week. HBOT stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and increases blood vessel diameter which improves circulation to damaged organs (his brain). This process continues for up to six months once treatment is stopped.
I am proud to announce that both of my boys are now first degree black belts in Taekwondo! It is such a huge accomplishment for them, especially for my son with autism. He had to learn to focus, stay at attention, do numerous kicks, blocks, punches and all eight Taekwondo forms. Each form has 18 steps in them which must be done in sequence. He also had to break boards with punches/kicks five times during testing. Not an easy thing for a child that started classes three years ago, with lack of attention, focus and just plain disobedience to his Taekwondo Master. He also feared board breaking, mostly due to the sound it made. He is doing awesome in class now and a lot of the parents keep telling me what a different boy he is today, verses when he began. I could tell they wanted to say that he seemed “normal” now, but held back because that would be an odd thing to say.

So what is normal in the life of a family overcoming autism? My boys argue over inane matters, are competitive with each other, vie for their parents attention, go to school, do homework, have friends and have overcome a lot in the past four years. Our normal may be a lot different from other families. Autism will forever touch our lives. We deal with it each and every day. Some days we see it more than others…sometimes not at all.

My favorite mineral: Magnesium

Everyone in our family takes a magnesium supplement in addition to the magnesium we get from our diet. Magnesium is an essential mineral, which means our body needs it to function. We get it from our diet or with supplements. 

Lack of magnesium may lead to irritability, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat. Every organ in the body — especially the heart, muscles, and kidneys — needs the mineral magnesium. It also contributes to the makeup of teeth and bones. Most important, it activates enzymes, contributes to energy production, and helps regulate calcium levels as well as copper, zinc, potassium, vitamin D, and other important nutrients in the body.

Certain medical conditions, however, can upset the body’s magnesium balance. For example, an intestinal virus that causes vomiting or diarrhea can cause temporary magnesium deficiencies. Some gastrointestinal diseases (such as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS and ulcerative colitis), diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels), kidney disease, and taking diuretics can lead to deficiencies. Too much coffee, soda, salt, or alcohol as well as heavy menstrual periods, excessive sweating, and prolonged stress can also lower magnesium levels. Children on the autism spectrum tend to be low in magnesium due to digestive issues and diet.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include:

  • agitation and anxiety
  • restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • sleep disorders
  • irritability
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure
  • confusion
  • muscle spasm and weakness
  • hyperventilation
  • insomnia
  • poor nail growth

Magnesium will:

  • relax nerve impulses and muscle contractions
  • promote relaxation; aid in restful sleep
  • help lower blood pressure
  • keep your bones strong (especially when taken with calcium)
  • keep your heart healthy by lowering cholesterol
  • relieve symptoms of menopause and PMS
  • help the body absorb calcium and potassium

Fibromyalgia – A small preliminary clinical study of 24 people with fibromyalgia suggest that a proprietary tablet containing both malic acid and magnesium may improve pain and tenderness associated with fibromyalgia when taken for at least 2 months. Other studies suggest the combination of calcium and magnesium may be helpful for some people with fibromyalgia. Magnesium has been shown to relieve muscle pain and fatigue in individuals with Fibromyalgia.

Migraine headache – A few studies suggest that taking magnesium supplements may help prevent migraine headaches. In addition, a few clinical studies suggest that magnesium supplements may shorten the duration of a migraine and reduce the amount of medication needed. People who have migraine headaches tend to have lower levels of magnesium compared to those with tension headaches or no headaches at all.  Some experts suggest combining magnesium with the herb feverfew along with vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may be helpful when you have a headache.

Type 2 Diabetes – It is estimated that up to 80 percent of those with type 2 diabetes have a magnesium deficiency. High glucose levels, in patients with Type 2 Diabetes, will cause the body to flush magnesium from its system. In a recent study, people with diabetes who took magnesium supplements had improved insulin and glucose levels.

Heart Disease – “Magnesium does a heart good”. People with heart conditions, including heart attacks, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and coronary artery disease, tend to be magnesium deficient. Studies show that people with low amounts of magnesium in the body have double the risk of developing coronary heart disease, and that magnesium supplementation can lower cholesterol by as much as 20 percent. Magnesium supplementation can increase individuals’ magnesium levels and minimize the risks associated with heart disease.

DIET: The best dietary sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, peas, beans, and cereal grains in which the germ or outer layers have not been removed.  For example, spinach (1 cup) and pumpkin seeds (1 ounce) will provide about 157 mg.; long grain brown rice (1 cup) provides 84 mg.; 1/2 fillet of wild fresh salmon contains 59 mg. For a list of foods rich in magnesium, the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements has a list: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/magnesium#h2

A diet high in fat may cause less magnesium to be absorbed. Cooking may decrease the magnesium content of food.

Diets that provide plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of potassium and magnesium, are consistently associated with lower blood pressure. The DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) suggested that high blood pressure could be significantly lowered by a diet high in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and low in sodium and fat.  Evidence suggests that magnesium may play an important role in regulating blood pressure.

The U.S. RDA of magnesium intake for children 4 – 10 yrs is between 120 – 170 mg/day; adults between 270 – 400 mg./day.

To supplement your diet with magnesium, there are various forms of magnesium to choose from.

TYPE OF MAGNESIUM: Magnesium citrate, oxide, glycinate, and sulfate. For constipation, people use magnesium citrate, but for a good supplement for bodily functions without diarrhea, we use magnesium glycinate.

The various forms of magnesium will affect the digestive tract differently. Below are some guidelines on how your body may react to types of magnesium:

  • oxide:  tends to firm stools
  • glycinate:  a very gentle form of magnesium that is easier on the system
  • citrate:  tends to loosen stools
  • sulfate:  tends to loosen stools
  • chloride:  tends to loosen stools

Magnesium sulfate – Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. Be sure to buy USP (U.S.Pharmaceutical grade). You can get them at the Dollar store, grocery.drug store and Costco. Epsom salts will:

  • ease stress and improve sleep
  • reduce inflammation and relieve muscle pain/cramps
  • flush out toxins
  • help prevent or ease migraine headaches

When given an Epsom salt bath, the magnesium and sulfate in the salts are absorbed into the body through the skin.  Sulfate is thought to circulate in the body up to about nine hours. Any Epsom salts left on the skin may continue to be absorbed as long as it is still on the skin, offering continuous ‘timed-released’ input into the bloodstream.  I put 1.5 to 2 cups of Epsom salts in hot bath water to dissolve and then add the cold water to balance the temperature. Soak for about 15 minutes before using natural soaps or shampoos. Others add baking soda and lavender oil to enhance the relaxation effects.  You can also do a foot bath of hot water and Epsom Salts for 15 minutes while watching TV/reading before bed.

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