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!

What do you think the ramifications will be? I wonder.

http://news.yahoo.com/experts-weigh-changes-definition-autism-170206958.html

So mental health experts are messing with the definition of autism and the diagnostic criteria. My mind boggles with what that will mean to the future children being diagnosed, and the children already diagnosed today. How will we be able to accurately track the rise in autism rates and apply research on a potential environmental contributing factor if we throw this monkey wrench into the mix?! And down the road in a few years,  the news reports will  say that autism is on the decline and some government agency will take credit for it. Not because of changes made to our environment or perhaps improved treatment options…but because the diagnostic criteria has changed.

What will this mean to children already diagnosed and receiving services that no longer qualify based on the new criteria? Does it mean they no longer need services because on paper, they don’t have autism, just Aspergers.  What would have happened if this new criteria was around when my son was diagnosed? His diagnosis was high-functioning autism. Would he have received a diagnosis of autism and qualified for the much-needed services he has received over the years? I credit biomedical intervention AND behavioral therapy for his huge gains since his diagnosis.

I’m sure there is some good news in all of this somewhere.  Maybe for the insurance companies that would have to provide services in the states that have adopted insurance reform. I don’t know about this one. I’d love to hear from you and what your take on it is.

Cuckoo for Coconut Kefir

I have heard parent’s success stories about helping their child with autism recover with diet and the healing benefits of coconut kefir. So I researched it and found that it is a rockin’ probiotic drink and offers much more than good gut health. Here is the dish on this hard to find, expensive drink.

True coconut kefir is derived from young, green, coconuts from Thailand. (1st obstacle in making this drink) The coconut water is combined with kefir starter to create a nutritionally dense, probiotic rich, non-dairy, drink.

What is Kefir?

Kefir is a starter culture made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called “grains”. The grains ferment the milk incorporating their beneficial yeast as well as friendly “probiotic” bacteria, to create the “cultured” product. The grains are then removed (by straining) before consumption and can be used again.

The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine symbiotically (I love that word!) to provide excellent health benefits when consumed regularly.

Kefir can be made from any type of milk, cow, goat, coconut, soy, or rice. For the lactose intolerant population that cannot digest cow or goat milk, kefir provides lactase, an enzyme that consumes the left over lactose after the culturing process. Therefore, lactose intolerance should not stop anyone from consuming kefir dairy products.

What is the Difference Between Coconut Water and Coconut Milk?

This one had me so confused. From what I’ve researched, coconut water is the liquid that comes from the young, green, coconuts. Coconut milk is derived from extracting the meat of the mature coconut which contains a lot of fat and calories. This fat is not as bad as it sounds though. Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat. Don’t freak out yet! It’s approximately 65% (two-thirds) medium chain fatty acids (MFCA). Most all other fats and oils (saturated and unsaturated, plant or animal based) are mostly long chained fatty acids (LCFA). LCFAs are the fats that accumulate in your fat cells, and clogs your arteries. Your body needs pancreatic digestive enzymes and bile to digest LCFAs and they circulate in your entire body. MCFA rich coconut oil/milk does not need these enzymes or bile to digest. They are readily digested and go straight to your liver, boosting your metabolism.

Benefits of Coconut Water Kefir

  • It increases energy and provides a feeling of good overall health
  • Aids in digestion, heals the gut with high levels of probiotics
  • Reduces sugar cravings
  • Contains high levels of minerals like potassium
  • It cleanses the liver
  • Eases aches and joint pain
  • Improves skin tone and complexion. Will help with acne, age spots, skin tags, moles & warts
  • Strengthens hair, skin and nails
  • Beneficial effects on the endocrine system (thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries)

Where to Purchase Coconut Kefir

So now you want to know where to get coconut water kefir, right? Well, there are not a lot of companies out there that sell it already in its cultured state. You can purchase young, green, coconuts and use a kefir starter culture to make your own. Or pay a lot of money having it shipped to you from the handful of companies out there that make it.

I found two sources of true coconut water kefir on the internet that I would trust. Body Ecology sells their brand of CocoBiotic beverage for $28.98 for a 44 oz. bottle and $14.95 for an 8 oz. travel size bottle. They also sell their starter culture packets if you want to buy young, green, coconuts and make your own coconut water kefir. A box of 6 packets cost $26.95 and each packet can be used an average of 7 times each. Their website is http://www.bodyecology.com.

The other source that was brought to my attention is CocoKefir. This company was founded by Michael and Holly Larsen whose daughter was diagnosed with autism.They credit her recovery in part to the implementation of a biomedical approach to healing her gut first, which in turn helped heal her mind. They sell their 16 oz. CocoKefir bottle for $9.99. That’s $0.62 per ounce vs. Body Ecology’s 44 oz. bottle at $0.66 per ounce, and their 8 oz. bottle cost $1.87 per ounce. Their website is http://www.cocokefir.com.

There is a third option out there. It’s not coconut water kefir, it’s cultured coconut milk. Remember the difference, water comes from young, green, coconuts and the milk is derived from the meat of mature coconuts. But the milk has the MCFAs, of which the water does not. So Delicious makes Cultured Coconut Milk with prebiotics and probiotics, made from organic coconuts. They have original (unflavored), chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. The original one is best since it does not contain any added sugars that only feed the bad bacteria and yeast in our gut. A 32 oz. bottle sells for less than $4.00 and can be found at Whole Foods. You may find it in your local grocery store, but I’m not sure the cost.  We have tried it and we have noticed benefits from drinking it. Digestion has improved, the obvious benefits from the prebiotics and probiotics, plus it gives us more energy. I like it mixed with a little orange juice, but my sons will only drink it in a smoothie. I know I’m adding fructose from the fruits I mix into it, but it still has helped them tremendously.

I am purchasing a bottle of the Cocobiotic coconut water kefir and plan on seeing if we experience a true difference from drinking the So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk. I’ll keep you posted on the results. If anyone has experience with these products or has other information to share, please comment below.

To watch Michael Larsen of CocoKefir interviewed on Fox & Friends click below:

http://youtu.be/cfmNhA_D3mQ

World Autism Awareness Day 04.02.11

Five years ago I was unaware of how autism affects families. It wasn’t talked about in the mainstream media like it is today. There wasn’t a World Autism Awareness Day until four years ago. When I think about how autism has changed our family’s life over the years, I am grateful for a lot of the adjustments, and others, not so much. In keeping with the positive, on this day I’d like to share the good that has come from my son’s diagnosis.

  • Awareness. I have learned to stop what I’m doing when my son talks to me, get down to his level and look him in the eyes. This gesture helps him in developing his conversation skills, and helps me to slow down and give him my full attention, which he deserves. I’ve also become a much more aware parent of my kids…where they are, what they are doing and how they feel.
  • Patience, patience, and did I mention patience? Any parent of a child with autism understands the importance of practicing this virtue. I work on it every day and will have fully acquired it by the time I’m 90. (I hope)
  • Knowledge. If it weren’t for autism, I wouldn’t have researched diets, artificial food additives, organic foods, and the importance of eating healthy, whole foods for our body’s fuel. Prepared foods are minimal now, and they are free of all the junk that most commercially available “food in a box” contain.
  • Friendships. Not only have I cherished every friendship my son with autism has gained over the years, but I have benefited in this department as well. If it weren’t for autism, I wouldn’t have met some wonderful people who have become true friends that I cherish each day.
  • Courage. This one is a biggie for my son and me. My son shows his courageous spirit every time he overcomes the fear of trying something new that may seem overwhelming to him. I have found the courage to fight for what he needs in every aspect of life, and have learned from my son to face my fears as well.
  • Volunteering. Helping others understand how they can help their child through this blog. I am so blessed to be able to reach parents, caregivers, and family of children with autism and help them along their journey.
  • Understanding. Autism has taught me how to teach my son an understanding of his world. By doing this, I have gained a tremendous amount of understanding for other people and their “issues”.
  • Gratitude. I’m grateful for the little things in life. Like my son’s first “why” question, whenever he asks another child to play with him, his hugs and kisses, when he looks me in the eyes, and when others tell me how much they adore him.

Autism has changed my life and the lives of many families around the world. Take a look around you and you’ll find someone who is affected by autism. Either they have a child, sibling, relative, friend, co-worker, or neighbor affected by it. Or perhaps that person you watch and wonder about has it too. Please keep in mind the positives and learn from it.

HBOT Isn’t Just for Michael Jackson

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been around for decades and the healing properties of it have been utilized by many doctors, researchers, athletes, and yes, even Michael Jackson. My first impression of HBOT was when I learned how it helped scuba divers with the “bends”, or decompression sickness, which occurs when the diver surfaces to quickly and nitrogen builds up in their body. It’s very painful and can even cause death. The treatment is to quickly get them to a pressurized chamber and have them breathe 100% oxygen.

In the 1980’s Michael Jackson started napping in a HBOT chamber to reap the health benefits and to preserve his youth. Seemed sort of creepy and strange to most everyone, and made you believe that HBOT was only for the wealthy. Star athletes, like Lance Armstrong, and major sport franchises have their own chamber to aid athletes in recovery from injury quicker.

What is HBOT?

Hyperbarics is a technology in which the air pressure in the environment is increased.

Hyper means increased and baric relates to pressure. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) thus refers to intermittent treatment of the entire body with 100-percent oxygen at greater than normal atmospheric pressures.

HBOT involves inhaling 100% oxygen at greater than one atmosphere absolute (ATA) in a pressurized chamber.  The air we breathe at sea level is defined at 1 ATA. Low pressure/mild hyperbarics uses 1.5 ATA or less. When a person’s body is placed in a more pressure environment, it absorbs more oxygen molecules per volume of compressed air. The body normally transports oxygen via the hemoglobin of the red blood cells. By increasing the air pressure, oxygen is then driven into the body’s fluids, allowing a super-saturation of the tissues and organs with oxygen.  The increased pressure infuses the body with oxygen, even reaching injuries with damaged circulation. An example of this is a blood clot in the brain (stroke).

What are the benefits of HBOT?

  • It greatly increases oxygen concentration in all body tissues, even with reduced or blocked blood flow.
  • Stimulates the growth of new blood vessels to locations with reduced circulation which aids the body in its own healing process.
  • Increased oxygen greatly enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria.
  • Reduces inflammation in the gut and brain
  • Increases blood vessel diameter greater than when therapy began, improving blood flow to compromised organs.
  • Reduces oxidative stress
  • Reduces swelling at injury site
  • Removes toxins such as heavy metals from the body

Why HBOT for autism?

Multiple studies have shown that autism is a neurodegenerative (a loss of nerve cells/death of neurons) disease that features cerebral hypoperfusion, brain and GI inflammation, and increased oxidative stress. Hypoperfusion refers to decrease blood flow. Numerous studies on children with autism have shown decreased blood flow to the brain, especially in the temporal regions.  The temporal lobes are responsible for speech, memory, emotional responses, auditory and visual processing, and olfactory (sense of smell)).  This hypoperfusion is associated with many core symptoms of children with autism.

Decreased blood flow to the temporal lobes has also been correlated with an “obsessive desire for sameness”, “impairments in communication and social interaction”, and also with decreased IQ. Decreased blood flow to the temporal lobes and amygdala has been correlated with impairments in processing facial expressions and emotions and trouble recognizing familiar faces. Decreased blood flow to the thalamus has been correlated with repetitive, self-stimulatory, and unusual behaviors including resistance to changes in routine and environment.

Cerebral hypoperfusion causes hypoxia (or decreased oxygen), which triggers electrical failure in brain cells. Worsening hypoxia then eventually results in ion pump failure, which ultimately leads to cell death. Studies have shown that the oxygen delivered by HBOT can reverse hypoxia in brain tissues caused by hypoperfusion.

Inflammation is a known cause of decreased bloood flow.  Research has shown us that when the GI tract is inflamed, so is the brain and immune system. It’s the triad of the gut, brain and immune system that are susceptible to inflammation if one of the three is damaged. HBOT improves gut inflammation by killing off the bad bacteria. Bacteria thrives on an oxygen deprived environment. When infused with oxygen, it dies off.  Therefore, having a good probiotic on board, anti-oxidants like vitamin E, selenium, glutathione, and melatonin are recommended during HBOT treatments.

HBOT has improved symptoms in children with autism including enhancements in socialization, language, and repetitive behaviors. The GI tract improves, inflammation is reduced/eliminated, better sleep and improvements will continue months after treatment is concluded.

Hard Chamber or Soft Chamber?

This question is dependent on the child and doctor’s assessment of need. The hard chamber provides 100% oxygen at 1.5 ATA.  The soft chamber uses room air and an oxygen concentrator that delivers 28% oxygen at 1.3 ATA.  Less pressure, less oxygen concentration. Both chambers have shown effectiveness in eliminating symptoms of autism through studies.

The advantage to the soft chamber is parents can purchase or rent them for their home. This becomes more feasible for families that don’t have HBOT providers close to home. And all members of the family can be treated in the comfort of your own home. Plus you can take electronics into a soft chamber, so a game system like my son’s Nintendo DS will help occupy his time.

The number of treatments range from 40 dives to 80 dives. Each treatment is one hour. Most clinicians recommend at least 40 dives. Improvements may be seen as early as 10 dives, depending on the child. The recommendation is to have 40 treatments over 8 weeks. That’s 5 days/week with weekends off.

Cost of HBOT session range from $100-$150 per session. It is not for the faint of heart when committing to this financial investment in your child. I’m still investigating the cost of renting a soft chamber, so that will also factor into our decision on which chamber we’ll use.

Why HBOT for our son?

Well, the above information I provided is one reason. The main reason I am pursuing this therapy is that my son with autism suffered from obstructive sleep apnea from the age of 9 months to 2 yrs 10 mos. His sleep study indicated hypoxia, which means he is a perfect candidate for benefiting from HBOT. I believe he has brain cells that are “idling” right now and will get turned back on with the oxygen infusion. He also battles gut bacteria, low glutathione levels, and heavy metal toxicity, which will be reduced/eliminated with HBOT.

We have not determined which chamber we will pursue. A hard chamber is available to us, but is a one hour drive from our home. It takes approximately 15 minutes in the chamber to get to the pressure level and then each session is one hour. 15 more minutes to come back to normal pressure, resulting in a total of 1.5 hrs inside the chamber. Add to it the 1 hr drive to and from and our HBOT treatments now will take approximately 4 hours out of our day. We anticipate to start in the summer, with the break of school. The soft chamber rental is still an option that we are investigating. Both options appeal to us and we need to determine what is best for our child and family.

If you’re thinking about HBOT for your child, there is a ton of information on the internet and the research with children on the autism spectrum. We’ve been wanting to do this treatment for 2 years now, and 2011 is the year we will achieve this goal.

Do You Get Enough Vitamin C In Your Diet?

Is it possible to get too much vitamin C? Yes, but it’s also possible that you may not be getting enough to support important immune functions in your body. I happen to love this vitamin. It does so much for our health and is readily available in so many fruits and vegetables.  The RDA of vitamin C is 75 – 90 mg/day for adults, but as in most RDA for vitamins and minerals, it is not enough to keep your blood levels high.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are not stored in the body.  They are eliminated in our urine, so excess amounts are excreted, thus overdose is not a concern. But it’s still important not to exceed the safe upper limit of 2,000 milligrams a day to avoid stomach upset and diarrhea.

Our bodies cannot make vitamin C. In order to reap the health benefits of vitamin C, you must have a continual supply in your diet, or take a dietary supplement.

Eating vitamin C-rich foods is the best method to ensure an adequate intake of this vitamin. While many common foods contain vitamin C, the best food sources are citrus fruits. One orange, a kiwi fruit, 6 oz. of grapefruit juice or 1/3 cup of chopped sweet red pepper each supply enough vitamin C for one day.

Still, American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Dee Sandquist, RD, suggests doing your best to work more fruits and vegetables into your diet before taking supplements.

“Strive to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, because you will get a healthy dose of vitamin C along with an abundance of other vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are good for disease prevention and overall health,” she says.

Here are all the foods and beverages you’d need to consume in a day to reach 500 milligrams (mg):

  • Cantaloupe, 1 cup: 59 mg Vitamin C
  • Orange juice, 1 cup: 97 mg
  • Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup: 74 mg
  • Red cabbage, 1/2 cup: 40 mg
  • Green pepper, 1/2 cup, 60 mg
  • Red pepper, 1/2 cup, 95 mg
  • Kiwi, 1 medium: 70 mg
  • Tomato juice, 1 cup: 45 mg

I know what you are thinking. Most Americans eat on the go, fast food, or simple don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables a day to get 50 mg of vitamin C, let alone 500 mg. Especially parents of special needs kids and their picky eating habits. I know only one friend that has her son eat this many vegetables a day, and he is also on the gf/cf diet.  She is one smart cookie and started him out at a young age eating fruits and vegetables. I wish I’d done that with my sons at an early age. I am now struggling with getting my son with autism to try new fruits and vegetables. My older son’s palate is much more daring and he likes to try a variety of new recipes; even if they include vegetables. But since vitamin C is water-soluble, veggies lose its vitamin C when cooked. Raw veggies are best, but sometimes just not a reality for most families.

Why do we need vitamin C?

The body needs this vitamin to keep it in good working order. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C helps hold body cells together, aids in wound healing, assists in bone and tooth formation, strengthens the blood vessel walls, is vital for the function of the immune system, and improves absorption and utilization of iron. It is also a natural anti-histamine.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and it works with vitamin E as a free-radical scavenger. Studies suggest that vitamin C reduces the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, and cataracts.

Stress reduces our bodies vitamin C supply. Vitamin C can benefit individuals whose immune system is weakened by stress. Because it is one of the nutrients sensitive to stress, it is the first nutrient to be depleted in alcoholics, smokers and obese individuals.

Vitamin C is heavily concentrated in the brain and crucial to brain function. The earliest signs of deficiency is confusion and depression. Studies have shown vitamin C to improve cognition and alertness.

Vitamin C supplements are plentiful on the market. Something you should consider is the source of the vitamin. Most vitamin C supplements are derived from corn. This created a problem for my oldest son since he showed an allergy to corn. I found a corn and citrus-free version by Twinlabs called Allergy C. It’s made from sago palm. Keep in mind that sago palm contains salicylates if your child reacts to them. I give it with the morning digestive enzyme TriEnza that contains No Phenol digestive enzyme.

I give my son with autism a vitamin C supplement. He gets 250 mg in the morning and another 250 mg after school. This helps maintain a more even blood level than taking all 500 mg at once. When he is sick with a cold I up the dose to 750-1,000 mg/day. He takes a corn-based supplement since he has phenol sensitivity and no allergy to corn.

Colostrum Isn’t Just for Babies

Nature’s first milk. Golden, life-sustaining. Gut healing. Immune boosting. Colostrum is not just for babies, anymore.  It is for any child or adult that may benefit from its wonderful healing properties.

What is Colostrum?

It is the first milk from humans and animals, produced by the mammary glands in late pregnancy and in the days after giving birth. During the first few days after birth, colostrum provides the necessary immune and growth factors (IgG and IgF), to stimulate growth of muscle, skin, cartilage, nerve and bone tissue.

What are the benefits?

Colostrum has been shown to aid in a variety of  disorders such as:

  • allergies and asthma
  • sinus problems, colds & flu
  • irritable bowel syndrome/leaky gut syndrome/ulcers
  • auto-immune disorders
  • diabetes
  • chronic fatigue
  • arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis

The health benefits of colostrum can be attributed to the fact that it contains 97 immune factors, 87 growth factors and a variety of different probiotics along with prebiotics that help grow and feed the beneficial flora in the colostrum and in your gut. The prebiotics in colostrum act as a food source for the ‘good bacteria’, enhancing the health of the gut and therefore immune system. Prebiotics can also improve bowel function as healthy levels of good bacteria can assist with constipation.

The high levels of IgG (immunoglobulin) provide exceptional immune boosting properties to prevent disease.  Immunoglobulins (IgG) are protein molecules that function as antibodies and play a major role in intestinal immune defense.

In 1980, a British researcher showed that a large proportion of the antibodies and immunoglobulins in colostrum are not absorbed by the body but remain in the digestive tract. Clinical studies have demonstrated that colostrum is effective in preventing intestinal infections by first keeping the bacteria from attaching themselves to the intestinal wall, and secondly by killing the bacteria themselves. Colostrum has proven capable of killing Campylobacter, Helicobacter pylori, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigellosis, and five types of streptococci.

A high level of IGF (insulin-like growth hormone) in colostrum stimulates tissue building and repair in adults.  It is highly beneficial in combating the effects of aging  joints, leaky digestive systems and assisting athletes build lean muscle.

The antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties of colostrum enable it to kill such pathogens as E. coli, Candida albicans, rotaviruses, and Cryptosporidium.

The proline-rich polypeptides (PRP) in colostrum has been demonstrated to reduce or eliminate the pain, swelling, and inflammation associated with allergies and autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus). Many children with autism test positive for autoimmune disorders, and colostrum can help to regulate this dysfunction. These effects are related to PRP’s ability to inhibit the overproduction of lymphocytes (white blood cells) and T-cells.

What we experienced with Colostrum:

When you begin taking colostrum, you’ll need to start with a low dose for a week or two and then increase it. Our sons took 1/4 tsp. in the morning and night before increasing the dose to 1/2 tsp. in the AM/PM.  The first thing I noticed was emotion regulation was affected. Increased tears, anger and easy frustration levels may have been a result from the initial die-off reaction of bacteria in the gut. Once the body adjusted, these behaviors disappeared.  Then we saw allergy symptoms lessen, improved bowel function and overall health in skin tone and hair.

For families on the GF/CF diet, Kirkman Labs sells Colostrum Gold that is a liquid (flavored or unflavored). They claim that it is casein free and does not contain any synthetic hormones, pesticides or antibiotics. It does not contain sugar, soy, wheat, casein, gluten, preservatives, yeast, gelatin, artificial flavorings or colorings. But it does contain milk. We use Kirkman’s Colostrum Gold flavored version mixed in a little bit of juice. The unflavored has a pretty foul taste, so make your choice wisely based on your child’s tolerance of nasty tasting things.

For the science geek in you, read further to discover the properties of colostrum:

Growth hormones – TGF, IGF-I, IGF-II

Immunoglobulins – IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD, IgE

Lactoferrin iron binding protein – for resisting intestinal bacteria and free radical damage

Retinoic Acid – destroys viruses, stimulates healing

Proline-rich Polypeptides (PRP) – for calming overactive immune system; stimulating under-active immune system

Glycoproteins – help immune and growth factors survive the highly acidic digestive system

Lactobacillus Bifidus Acidophilus – helps promote healthy bacteria to combat Candida albicans and irritable bowel syndrome

Interferon – inhibits viral activity

Interleukin-2 – a cytokine that stimulates cell growth in the immune system

Lysoenzyme protein – attacks bacteria

Oligosaccharides – block attachment of bacteria especially S.pheumponococci to mucous membranes, thereby aiding in the prevention of respiratory inflammation

Cartilage Inducing Factor A, as well as vitamins and minerals

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