Monday, October 25, 2010

Staying Healthy - The Holistic Advantage

Our bodies have the innate capacity to heal themselves - remember this the next time you get a cold or the flu.  
Applying this principle is what makes the holistic approach an advantage for ultimate healing and maintaining optimal health and wellness.  It is my professional belief that we NEED to experience symptoms on occasion in order for the body to heal and stay well.  I believe that wellness is restored and maintained when we stop suppressing the symptoms the body expresses during acute and chronic illness. 

Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!

Children need to be sick in order to be healthy.  Illness is what develops a strong immune system.  Acute symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, cough, runny nose, mucus production and wheezing, are all important ways in which children discharge stored accumulations of wastes or toxins from their bodies.  In fact, this is the only way little people know how to eliminate toxins, at least until their immune system matures.  These toxins enter and are stored in their bodies from repeated exposures to in utero, air, food, water, skin, nervous system stress, and injected materials, that for whatever reason, don’t easily exit their bodies through the normal means of detoxification. These toxins are too irritating to children’s bodies and must be removed. Eventually, a critical level of the toxins is reached, and children get sick with symptoms to purge them.  

Children must be allowed to be sick, in order for them to get well

The immune system of children under the age of 7 relies primarily on NON SPECIFIC IMMUNITY.  Non specific immunity is the first line of defense.  It works through fever, barriers like the skin, bowels and lungs, and elimination like sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, runny nose.  It is important to support these eliminations appropriately.  SPECIFIC IMMUNITY becomes functional between 5 and 7 years of age.  This is a learned immune response.  The immune system needs to learn the best ways to attack a foreign invader.  A healthy specific immunity depends upon the proper formation of natural immunity. Immune system maturation relates to the development of knowing self from non self:  tolerance vs auto immunity.  Proper elimination ensures the body is able to effectively eliminate non self such as bacteria, foods, viruses, parasites, allergens, fungus, mold, dust, pollen.  
Fever is a child's greatest defense mechanism.  Without the ability to develop a fever, a child may have difficulty to develop their natural immunity which in turn will prevent the specific immunity from maturing.  Do not suppress this response!  A fever below 104F is not dangerous.  Treat the child who has a fever, not the number on the thermometer. 3-4 good fevers prior to the age of 5 years old is necessary for the maturation of the immune system.  

Recurrent infections indicate that the body has become overloaded in its normal capacity to eliminate. If you are the type of person who gets sick ALOT, more than 2-3 times per year, its time to take a deeper look into your stress, diet and and lifestyle.  Work with a health care professional to get your immune system balanced.  Likewise, if you NEVER get sick, not even a sniffle, this also isn't good.  Your immune system needs to 'work' to stay healthy and on alert!

I encourage parents to allow children to express their symptoms when they’re sick. No one wants children to “feel” sick. Parents can learn to use remedies, however, that help children feel better and heal more effectively, without altering the important physiology which is helping them cleanse their systems. Letting children have their symptoms, without suppressing them, can be a challenging process both for parents and health care practitioners. We often come face-to-face with our own discomfort when children experience discomfort from their illnesses. It’s hard for us to watch them “suffer”, so we reflexively give them something to bring immediate relief. This reflexive response to suppress their symptoms, however, weakens them and delays their healing process.  Healing is a process and it takes time.

When you do get a cold or the flu do the following to help support the elimination of the body.  You can do this by: 
Drinking teas from ginger root, yarrow, elderflower and catnip.  

Eat soups made with homemade bone broth.  
Make your own or buy elderberry extract (Sambuguard).  
Hydrotherapy like a Warming Socks Treatment or a tepid bath.
Homeopathic remedies that are specific for symptoms - they don't suppress the symptoms but assist in shifting the body away from the illness, and provide drainage to a particular area of the body.  
Bundle up and go to bed to allow the body to sweat.
Rest more, do less.

So its 3am and your child is ill.  First, take a deep breath.  Then, take some measures to make your child as comfortable as possible and help him or her move through their acute symptoms.  

I like this Pediatric Checklist - The answer to these questions will tell you if you need to seek medical attention right away.  An infant 3 months or younger who gets a fever should always be seen by a medical doctor.  
Is he/she:
Alert? Active? Awake? Arousable?
Consolable? Interactive?
Good Head/Muscle Tone?
Tolerating Food and fluids? Urinating? Talkative?

Symptoms are information - not good, not bad- they just are.  Remove the obstacles to cure - the known, and as-yet-to-be identified interferences, which are stopping children and adults from harnessing their innate natural healing abilities. Opportunities to advance our health may include changes in nutrition, lifestyle, parenting and education; the use of supplements, essential oils or herbs; a reduction in their stress levels (children AND adults are over schedule); and referrals, acupuncturists, chiropractors, osteopaths and/ or other health professionals. 

How do I prevent illness?  I do this all year long by eating a diet of REAL food.  I exercise, I drink water and get adequate sleep.  Stress is well managed for the most part.  If it is a particularly bad year for colds and flu I will take a homeopathic flu prevention called Muccococcinum (, but generally I do nothing different that my day to day healthy lifestyle. 

When we understand this core principle, we can then take the appropriate dietary and lifestyle modifications to stay well all year round, get to the root of our chronic imbalances that are preventing us from fully thriving and aspire for a deeper level of health.  This will better serve you and your kids.  

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fermented Vegetables and Fruit

The art of lacto-fermentation is a lost tradition with ultra nutritional impact.  

Last week I tried lacto-fermented dilly carrots.  Super easy.  I only had enough carrots to make two jars, but I just wanted to try it out as a test.  
One jar turned out beautifully - these carrots are so delicious. They tasted exactly like dill pickles, only they are carrots!  The other jar was a little scary looking.  I determined the problem was an ill fitting lid.  I can't wait for next week's farmers market so I can get some more organic carrots!

Recipe for Lacto-Fermented Dilly Carrot Sticks

  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whey
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 cloves of garlic, quartered (optional)
  • Filtered water
Place the carrot sticks into a quart mason jar (or other quart sized container with a lid that fits snugly) and add the rest of the ingredients, shaking gently to settle the carrots if needed.  Fill to within one inch of the top with filtered water.
Cover tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for 4-7 days; you can try them at 4 days and see if you want them to be more sour or not, to get them more sour/soft leave them out at room temperature longer. Because the carrots are more dense, they take longer to ferment than other lactoferments like sauerkraut or pickles. After fermenting at room temperature, keep in your fridge- they last for months!
In earlier times, people did this as a method of survival - they knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods of time without using freezers, canning machines, or vinegar.  The process of lacto fermentation did all the preserving for them!  Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits bacteria.  Starches and sugars in the vegetables and fruit are converted into lactic acid by many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria called lactobacilli.  These tiny organisms are present on the surface of all living things, especially on plants and roots growing close to the ground.  The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances digestion and increases vitamin levels.  They have anti biotic and anti cancer effects.  And my favorite benefit is that the lactic acid in these foods promote the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. 

The practice of lacto fermentation is universal around the world.  In Europe the principle lacto-fermented food is sauerkraut.  In Russia and Poland you'll find pickled green tomatoes, peppers and lettuces.  In Asia, kimchi is the primary example, a pickled preparation of cabbage and other vegetables eaten on a daily basis.  

The whole pickling process became industrialized to produce predictable results.  The final product was more uniform and more saleable but definitely not more nutritious.  Using vinegar for brine results in a more acidic product which is not beneficial when eaten in large quantities.  And the final product is pasteurized, effectively killing all the lactic acid producing bacteria, taking away all of the benefit on digestion.  

So, why eat fermented foods? 
Lacto-fermented foods promote the growth of healthy intestinal flora.  A common way to get that beneficial gut flora is to supplement with probiotics.  Most people have some degree of imbalance, what we refer to as dysbiosis, in the gastrointestinal flora. Especially because of the widespread use of antibiotics, which kill the beneficial bacteria along with the bad bacteria, probiotics are more necessary than ever. 
Research has shown that people who have had multiple rounds of antibiotics are prone to an overgrowth of "bad" bacteria that can cause diarrhea and other imbalances in the intestinal tract.  Research has been done with allergies, eczema and colon health suggesting that supplementing with probiotics is beneficial.  Those who have trouble digesting milk and other dairy products have also been benefited by use of probiotics. 

Why are these good bacteria so important for my health?
When a person's intestinal tract is lacking the good bacteria, the intestines have a hard time digesting and absorbing essential nutrients.  In addition, it puts more stress on the liver, gallbladder and other organs in doing their jobs.
Probiotics act as a first line of defense in protecting the body from pathogens that enter through the intestinal tract.  There has been evidence that certain species, such as bifidobacteria actually help stimulate the immune system when detecting these pathogens.  Animal studies have indicated that probiotics may also help reduce or prevent cancer by breaking down cancer-causing chemicals.  There is also research that evaluates the effect of proper gut flora on hormonal health.
Clearly, the health of the intestinal tract has important effects on overall health.  It is essential that we maintain a proper balance of bacteria.  

I think we all need a healthy dose of fermented foods!  Tap into the plethora of health benefits, save money on probiotic supplements and start fermenting!

The Nourishing Gourmet
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Probiotics:  Nature's Internal Healers by Natasha Trenev