children · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · health · kids

Probiotics

There is a study being carried out at the University of Washington (where I got my MA~ go Dawgs!) which is looking at probiotics in a slightly different way than the usual probiotic news. They are studying how birth by C-section vs. through birth canal effects the baby’s microbiome, and also the differences that occur in only breastfeeding, only bottle feeding, or mixing the two. As you might guess, the baby gets probiotics by actually traveling through the birth canal, kind of like the mama’s last parting gift as her little one moves into our germy world. I can’t help but think of it as a parting party bag…only the beginning of many party bags for the next 6 years at least. The baby does get some probiotics when delivered by C-section, but not anywhere near the same quality or quantity that the birth canal gives. And also as you might guess, breastfeeding offers the baby a host of probiotics that bottle feeding cannot replicate. What you might not guess, and what seems to have surprised the researchers, is that when mixing breast and bottle feeding the baby does not get the same amount of probiotics that pure breastfeeding gives. This is intended to inform only~ anyone who has a baby to feed needs to decide for themselves how best to do it. If you happen to have been a C-section, bottle-fed baby (like many of my generation) then it is yet another reason to look at taking probiotics. Or if you are a parent, then the same information can be used when making decisions for your kids. It makes me think about the rise of food intolerances and allergies of late and the part that infancy and the actual birth might play in those issues. Obviously the causes are multifaceted, but I do not doubt that our modern birthing and feeding changes play a role. A person’s microbiome is a magor player in their immune system their entire life, and it is never too late, nor too early, to start building a good defense system.

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alternative medicine · children · health · Herbs · homeopathy · kids

Homeopathy

Years ago when I worked at a natural foods store, there was confusion over that word, ‘Homeopathy’. Some used it in reference to all alternative or traditional forms of healing, when it is in fact, a very specific form of medicine. Homeo, just like homo, means same or similar to,  while pathy means disorder in the body, which is exactly the theory behind homeopathy know for action based on “like treats like”. In other words, homeopathic medicine uses substances that would create the same symptoms that one is trying to treat. Sound crazy? It should actually sound familiar, because this is the same theory behind vaccines~ small doses of a trigger element inspire the immune system to kick in and heal the body. While herbalism is best used as a daily practice to maintain balance and work to fix issues long-term, homeopathy is in its element when something is in need of immediate attention, such as when you fall and bonk your head, or come down with a cold despite the fortress of herbal walls you’ve built around yourself (like I did).

There are several homeopathic remedies I always carry with me, especially since I have two young boys who tend to collect bumps and bruises like others collect Star Wars paraphernalia. Arnica is for bumps, bruises, falls, sprains, anything that surprises your body with unwelcome force, including surgery. It works incredibly well, especially for kids who are usually surprised at putting little pellets under their tongue after falling down and they forget all about being hurt.

Arnica30C_Pillow-shadow-300

Another one that is always in my purse is Hyland’s Motion Sickness for obvious reasons. If I’m not in the driver’s seat, I’m sick, and my boys tend to get sick on long trips too, especially when they can’t keep from reading in the backseat. This stuff really works well and even though everyone says ginger or peppermint will help motion sicknesses, I’ll stick with homeopathy over herbs on this one.

hylands-motion-sickness

To ward off flu symptoms, nothing beats Boiron’s oscillococcinum. It’s a homeopathy remedy with a nearly unpronounceable name and yet during flu season it sells off the shelves like candy at Halloween which is proof this stuff packs some serious power. Oscillococcinum

When my kids get a cold I use Hyland’s Cold n’ Cough (if they are coughing) which is a liquid and works quite effectively. It is similar to over the counter brands where you give a dose every 4 hours or so but it isn’t toxic in any way and it doesn’t make kids tired or feel drugged at all.

cold-n-cough-4kids_0

I also like Hyland’s Defend Severe Cold and Flu packets that you add hot water too and drink like a tea. They work really well and don’t have that weird suppressing feeling where the cold has been temporarily buried deeper while I walk around in a lethargic daze extending the time the cold resides in my body.

defendTea with lemon and honey works great too, but the homeopathic boost is a great addition to the winter virus battlefield. After all, the more tools in your toolkit, well, medicine cabinet, the better.

alternative medicine · children · ecology · essential oils · health · Herbs · kids

Everyday Herbalism Featuring Thieves Oil

This morning I was reminded of how herbs as essential oils are just part of my family’s everyday life, making it better, healthier, sweeter smelling, and even a little sillier. Before getting out of bed, I heard my oldest son sniffle a couple of times. The boys went skiing yesterday so I wasn’t overly concerned, but I did put some Thieves oil into my little diffuser instead of my usual morning wake-me-up blend. Thieves oil has a great story to it, though whether it is more history or mythology is anyone’s guess. I like to think the story had to start somewhere, so why not in an actual event? The story has several variations, but basically they all say something along the lines of this: During the Middle Ages there were four thieves in France who used to rob the graves (or the houses) of those who had died of the Plague and managed to not get ill themselves. When they were eventually caught, they were given a lighter punishment in return for telling how they did it. The four thieves admitted they used herbs (most likely soaked in vinegar at that time) to keep themselves from getting the disease. They knew how to do this because among them were perfumers and spice traders who at the time understood the anti-biotic and anti-viral properties of their goods. Their blend has passed down to us through all these centuries, though the actual recipes vary depending on who’s making it. Usually the blends include: clove, lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon and rosemary, and then different makers add in their own special favorites. You can find it as Thieves Oil, Four Thieves Oil, Bandits Oil, and I’m sure other names as well.

The boys and I use it almost everyday. I have added Thieves Oil to almond oil (10 drops per ounce of base oil) and put it in a glass roller bottle so we can easily apply it. I like to rub my whole neck with it but the boys are pickier. Since it was at first difficult to convince them to start rubbing themselves with this perfume-like substance I resorted to telling them they had my permission to write swear words on themselves with this oil. They found that to be hilarious and even now, after months of this, my youngest still takes the oil from me with mischievous glee and waits for me to pull a face of shock and horror as he writes something spectacularly naughty on his arm. Whatever works.

You can make your own as there are plenty of recipes online, or just buy it already blended at any Whole Foods or herbal shop. I’m using Uncle Harry’s Four Bandits Anti-germ blend right now and realized after I bought it that the company is based right here in Redmond, WA, where I live! Now that’s pretty cool.

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alternative medicine · celiac disease · children · cleansing · dairy free · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten intolerant · health · Herbs · kids

Candida’s Role in Food Sensitivities and Allergies

I’ve been thinking about candida overgrowth lately because of several reasons. One of those reasons is that I’ve lately let my youngest intentionally eat gluten twice to see how he handles it. So far I haven’t seen any issues, but I’m keeping a close eye on him. The reason my kids were tested for food intolerances is because I have such a bad reaction to gluten, but as for them, their reactions were more subtle and not necessarily the gluten. My oldest used to complain about an upset tummy all the time~ almost every day it didn’t feel right. Once he was off all the things he was found to be sensitive to, including gluten and dairy, his stomach issues went away. He can now eat everything that he was once intolerant to, except we haven’t tried him on gluten b/c the naturopath thought that was his main issue. My youngest on the other hand, had less intolerances in general, but a higher sensitivity to dairy. She thought his main issue might be dairy instead of gluten, though he tested intolerant to both (and not much else.) He didn’t complain about stomach issues as much as he had cheeks that were constantly red and bumpy, and bouts of constipation. (If he ever reads this he’ll be furious I just shared that!) He now seems to handle dairy fine, which is why I thought he could try gluten. It’s all just trial and error and figuring out what’s going to best support optimal health, which is why I thought I should probably take a look again at Candida, because a candida overgrowth is bad on its own, and most people don’t even know when they have an overgrowth, but not only that, an overgrowth can actually cause food intolerances and allergies. So, if I want to cure these intolerances of my boys and mine, which I do, then I need to check and make sure our guts are able to support these troublesome foods and that has everything to do with the microbiome.

The simple way to think about it is that candida (which everyone has) can start growing in numbers that cause an imbalance in the digestive system, and when that happens, whether caused by a round of antibiotics, a diet too rich in sugars and processed foods, or any other reason then the candida population can explode. If you have ever had a yeast infection or jock itch, then you have experienced candida getting out of control, and if it made it to one of those places, you can be fairly certain you have too much in your gut, and quite possibly a systemic situation throughout your body. So how does this relate to food intolerances and allergies? Candida can cause leaky gut syndrome, where larger molecules of food can pass through the holes in the gut. These bits of food are too large for the body to recognize outside of the gut, so the immune system kicks in to fight the invader. The offending food becomes ‘labeled’ as bad, so the body reacts to it badly. In this way, food can often go from an intolerance to a full on allergy (with a full immune response). When you stop eating an offending food for a few months, or years as is our case here, then the body forgets that it needs to react badly to it, and if the digestive tract has had a chance to heal in the meantime, so much the better. Probiotics are essential. Now that my kids have had a few years to rid their body of intolerance reactions and have taken daily probiotics (always changing the brand every time we get new bottles~ that’s important too! Not a time for brand loyalty b/c the microbiome is incredibly diverse and all those brands use different probiotics so you get the most diversity by switching up what you use.) My kids seem to be doing pretty well but I do notice that my oldest son’s stomach has a tendency to still bloat very easily. I certainly know the feeling! This is indeed a candida symptom, though can also be a symptom of other things of course, but this particular kiddo used to have a bad issue with yeast and a doctor had him on Nystatin for about six months or even longer, so I know he has the tendency towards candida overgrowth. Before he tries gluten, he’ll have to do some kind of candida cleanse. And as for me, my issues have gone on for decades instead of the small amount of years my sons’ issues have, so I know it is going to take much longer for me. But I do think I’ll get there. It’ll take more work, and a lot more time, but I do think food intolerance can be beaten. It doesn’t just come out of nowhere, and if there is a path the intolerance traveled to become fully present, it makes sense that one can reverse the path.

By the way, there are tons of great articles on candida overgrowth out there, and how to fight it and how to know if you have it. Just do a quick search and you’ll be inundated. To get you started, here’s one I recently read: Candida info.

children · Education · food · health · kids · modern life

School Lunches

 

Dr.Mazes FarmThis is just a short little anecdote that happened this morning. I make my kids’ lunches everyday but my older one is in middle school now where he can also get something there if he so desires~ a mango smoothie, Doritos, or whatever he feels is missing from his lunch that day. I’m not thrilled with his options which seem to include every chip that has ever graced a grocery store shelf, but I do not tell him things are off-limits because really, he could get whatever he wanted and I’d never know. I encourage him to try things while being aware of what is actually in his food. This morning he asked, “If they want us to eat healthy, why do they provide so much junk food?” A very good question indeed. They make the kids who buy a full lunch take raw veggies from the salad bar, as if that will balance out the meal, but of course kids just throw away what they don’t want. Salad bars are great in lunch rooms, but sometimes I think they give permission to make the rest of the food nutritionally void and allow vending machines full of junk in the cafeteria. My son has a very good point, why allow that stuff at all? Why not make foods with veggies naturally in them~ soups, lasagna, enchiladas, tacos, casseroles, chilies, stir fries, etc…? Actually, I heard about a school cafeteria that has a stir fry bar which I think is better than a salad bar by far. The kids pick out meat and veggies and have them stir fried with rice or noodles while trying different sauces and flavors and most likely trying different veggies as they compare lunches with their friends. It’s eating a meal with the vegetable in it and enjoying it, not plopping some raw veggies down next to their pizza and either eating them because of a sense of duty or just pitching them. Plus everyone knows it is easier to get the nutrition out of a cooked vegetable than a raw one. It seems the school cafeterias are set up to perpetuate the notion that kids only like junk food but will possibly eat some healthy stuff if they are made to do it in small amounts, on the side. That is not giving kids enough credit. They deserve more. 

children · food · Food allergies · food sensitivities · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free lifestyle · kids · Soup

The Cooking Season

 

September, Marymoor Park

Finally it’s fall here and our kitchen is alive with soupy smells and warm light instead of the harsh heat of this past summer, and the intermittent construction that had me searching for appliances, counter space, and counters, actually. It’s been fun making French green lentils again, minestrone, polenta, and risotto, without sweating and/or swearing. A welcome change. While our little kitchen has been turning out more variety than ever, such as this great soup: Egyptian Red Lentil Soup (read the comments below the recipe and modify according to taste, but for our family I doubled the cumin as several people suggested) and this delicious Pumpkin Spice Granola from Celiac in the City, it is hitting me even harder than ever that my kids’ schools’ lunch menus are like a study in wheat. Can school cafeterias really not think outside the gluten box? Every single day the main food item has wheat~ lasagna, chicken nuggets, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, sandwiches, and on and on. Is it really that hard to mix it up a bit? No wonder so many people have reactions to gluten~ any time you saturate your body with one ingredient your body starts to react to that ingredient, and Americans love their gluten. My older son forgot his lunch one day so he ended up getting nachos with fresh carrots and steamed broccoli on the side. He said the carrots were stale and the broccoli was gross, and this is a kid who literally cheers when I make broccoli and orders it out at dinner~ he loves it, so I can’t imagine how this broccoli was ‘gross’. I’m glad he was able to find gluten-free food, but if the vegetables they offer are either raw and stale (he knows a stale carrot when he eats one. My kids eat raw carrots every single day.) then of course the kids aren’t going to choose those items. It just doesn’t make sense to me why they don’t offer soups full of veggies, roasted vegetables, or more grain and beans together like a rice and black beans, or quinoa and lentils~ these are not overly expensive and they are not hard to make. They’d give kids a break from wheat every once in a while and are nutritious, filling meals. Of course I’m all in favor of the schools having school gardens to help grow some of those herbs and vegetables too, but at the very least we could improve the lunch menus. Jamie Oliver is making real strides in England which shows the time is right~ people are starting to take school lunch nutrition seriously.  Over on our side of the Atlantic Chef Ann is tackling school nutrition through several different initiatives and proving people are willing to listen and change. Let’s keep the energy going in that direction! Maybe it’s the cool fall air, or maybe it’s the bright warm kitchen, but I’m starting to feel cautiously optimistic.

September, walk home from RHMS

children · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gf foods · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten free lifestyle · gluten free travel · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · kids

Summer

Our summer began much the same way as last year’s summer, with a trip to Louisville, KY to see family. This year we ate multiple times at Annie May’s Sweet Café and were even picked up from the airport with big pretzels from there (thanks Mom!!) which were the first we have had in years and something my youngest misses very much. They only have them on Wednesdays and if you really want a lot of them you best get there early. If you find yourself there on another day there are plenty of other delicious foods to eat though~ I recommend getting a sandwich while my oldest adores the soup there and the carrot cake cupcake. My youngest had a ‘super cookie’ which he thought more than lived up to its name and in fact all the sweets we tried did not disappoint. They have a sign that says they deliver which my son got all excited about until I explained that meant deliveries around town, not to Seattle. Talk about bursting someone’s bubble.

We also went to Holiday World again and was even more impressed with their gluten-free options than last year. (Disneyland/world take notes please!) Besides the fact you can find  allergy free food as well as just gluten-free food about anywhere in the park, they now set up a little stand that is completely gluten-free.

George's Gluten-free Stand

We flew on Delta and brought our own food which was good since the free snacks were cookies or pretzels. The boys used to be able to eat those cookies so that was sad, but they got over it while sipping ginger ale and eating from their over-stuffed food bags. I had packed enough for an all day delay like the one we experienced last year and since the flights went actually well we ended up with a lot of left-over food. Delta does have one gluten-free option for buying food, something snack-y and overpriced of course, but at least if you are starving you do have something to eat.

We came home to a ripped-up kitchen (husband is remodeling) and continually high 80s and 90 degree heat with no A/C so cooking has not exactly been my favorite pastime thus far this season. I tend to love the heat but after a few evenings of sweating through dinner prep even I am ready for a break in the high temperatures. The farmers market on Saturdays is booming with berries already though with the best blueberries in June I’ve ever had, and my friend just brought over fresh picked raspberries last night and those are the best I’ve ever tasted in any month so I guess the sun and heat are working for some things. I sure hope this means we’ll have an extra long berry season and not just an early one that is over as quickly as it popped up. After the trip to see family my sons were a little sick of photos but I had to take this of the Saturday Farmers Market. There are less gluten-free vendors there this year but my oldest still gets his favorite street tacos there and my youngest has discovered kettle corn. It’s worth the trip for those alone.

Redmond Saturday Market

children · ecology · Education · gardening · Herbs · kids · modern life · organic · parenting · picky kids

Happy Earth Day 2015

The boys were excited to plant vegetables and herbs in the garden for Earth Day. I hope they are just as excited to eat them this summer. My older one will be for sure. If you are wondering which one is older, look for the blue stripes and boss-man brow. More and more people are asking me if they are twins, much to their chagrin. One thing about my younger son, though he be picky he is still growing like a weed. Or it might be better to say, growing like a misunderstood wild herb. Little dandy lions.boys garden 2015

children · dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gf foods · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · kids · vegetarian

Schar Pizza Crusts

Schar pizza crust

Pizza is one thing nobody should be forced to live without. I tried Schar’s pizza crusts for the first time last night and the pizzas were delicious. I love the fact that there is an actual raised crust on the perimeter of the circle~ that’s the first I’ve seen that in all my gluten-free pizza trials. Does that make sense? Maybe a picture is in order:

crust before cooking

See what I mean? And it’s on a large dinner plate so that is the size of the crust~ enough for two with a side salad unless you are feeding growing boys in which case it is convenient that one box comes with two crusts inside.

Two crusts in every box

I made mine with pesto, mozzarella,  orange and yellow peppers, red onion (which I always want to call purple onion) and sun-dried tomatoes. Delicious. And the crust is not only gluten-free, it is also dairy and egg free which is another hard to find aspect in the gluten-free pizza world. Another thing that sets this crust apart is that it is actually filling in the same way gluten crusts are. You know how a lot of gluten free things feel airy and not substantial? This feels like you are eating something real.  Mmmm~ I think it’s time for leftovers…

Pizza in pieces

health · kids · modern life · parenting

January Resolutions

It’s January and I’ve not been writing or cooking much, mostly because we got a dog and I seem to spending all my spare time walking her.

Bailey

She is a working breed (why did we get a working breed?! We are not an employment agency!) who needs a lot of activity and so we walk. A lot. The good thing about this is I’m up and outside at times I normally would not be, so I’m getting to hear more birds sing their morning songs, see the early fog lift slowly uncovering a waking world, and nod acquaintance with the other slaves to leashes out, their one free hand wrapped around a doggie bag. (Not the good kind.) My favorite part of being out in the morning though is seeing the stillness slowly come alive.

When I walk my boys to school we stay where a lot of commuters are headed to work so it seems like we are jumping into a busy day, already needing to catch up with the fast-moving current. After we say our goodbyes at school and our dog goes into hysterics that we are leaving the boys and no longer all together (bark bark whine whine) then we move onto a trail where the quiet seeps in and the early stillness of morning still resides. It’s beautiful.Redmond, WA

Later hours often find us walking around town too, but morning is my favorite time to be out with her, when the air smells heavier with sweetness and damp and as we glide through it we are part of magical time before the day really starts. I actually didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions and in fact have been kind of on an anti-resolution kick if one judges by the amount of time I’ve spent at the gym. What I’ve had to do is change my routines and I’m trying to do it gracefully instead fighting every moment of it. We got this dog for the kids and they love and adore her, but of course it’s my responsibility to give her enough exercise, take her out enough, feed her enough. After all the ‘enoughs’ I’m also trying to accept the changes to my routines with grace and appreciate the pup for all her quirks and yes, adore her too. This January has not been about calorie counting, new exercise classes, or trying new food fads. For me, it’s been about accepting the fact that for the next few years at least, I’ll be spending a lot of my time just… walking. (Unless we move to a sheep farm which actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea.) For now though, if you want to find me you might check the trails in Redmond~ I’ll be the one trying to keep up with my working dog.

Old Railroad bridge