Friday, February 27, 2009

update on ear infection treatments...

Alex has had a high fever on and off for the last week--last night it was 103.5. We went to the doctor's office first thing this morning and he had an ear infection. Not a surprise, since he was screaming about his ear hurting five days ago. Although studies show that many ear infections go away on their own, a fever over 101.5 can mean a bacterial infection and a really high fever over several days suggests the body is trying to fight an illness and it isn't succeeding. I didn't mention the roasted onion "cure" to the pediatrician when he discovered the ear infection, instead I sort of played dumb. When we walked out of the office, my husband asked if I would remove the natural treatments for ear infection post I wrote. "No, but I will update it" I said. I was disappointed at having to resort to antibiotics, but I was also happy that I was only dealing with an ear infection and not something more serious. And although I tried to turn back the clock and fight his illness naturally, it's kind of the best of both worlds to have access to an antibiotic when the natural treatments failed. I still think the unnatural pink color of the bubblegum flavored amoxicillan sums up everything that is wrong with our world. Why does medicine need to be dyed pink??? I don't know why I love and believe in sponge baths, vitamin D, cod liver oil and a roasted onion so much more than antibiotics. I guess I want to think of my self as the healer and not the pink bubblegum syrup in my fridge.

The good news is when my husband asked about the fever, the doctor said we could give him Motrin. And I said "I am impressed that you didn't say Tylenol." And he said " Sometimes I get it right." It's nice to see we are all learning from our mistakes.

Related posts:
Natural Ear Infection Treatments

Thursday, February 26, 2009

FUN FRIDAYS: A Fruit Plate

"This fruit plate tastes so good!"
"Taste the blueberries...they are SO sweet."
"So good."
"Taste another one."
"You've got to try's so sweet."

When I worked in pastry at Le Bernardin, a lot of my job was plating--arranging food on a plate perfectly. One thing I learned from the pastry chef was how to make a fruit plate. The owner, Maguy Le Cose, would get a cut grapefruit every night for dinner and health conscious customers would order fruit plates for dessert. Well, my kids certainly thought it was fun to be served a fruit plate. And they certainly thought the fruit tasted better. I can tell you--it wasn't that the fruit was so good. I had to throw half the mango out and the pineapple seemed a little overripe to me. I did pick out only the best blueberries, though. Anyway, I had to record the banter between my daughter and her friend, Sophie. For a mom who spends so much time cooking for her kids, it really was nice to hear how much they enjoyed their snack. If you aren't inspired to do a fruit plate, another easy way to make fruit more fun can be making a snack tray, which is my usual way to serve fruit on a playdate.

Related posts:
Snack Trays
My List of All Fruits--and Vegetables
Fresh Raw Food--An Important Source of Glutathione

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Natural Ear Infection Treatments

My son had an earache after a week of being sick with a cough. I decided to try a homemade remedy recommended for an ear infection since it was late at night, and I really didn't feel like going down the whole antibiotic route the next morning. There were three popular at home ear infections treatments that parents reported using: holding a cooked onion against your ear for 20-30 minutes, a few drops of garlic oil, or a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. I tried the few drops of oil in his ear first because that seemed the most reasonable treatment. Garlic has antibacterial properties and it seemed easy enough, but it didn't work. Or, I should say, it didn't work fast enough--my son was screaming in pain several minutes later. So I moved on to the roasted onion--which seemed kind of wacky, but appealed to me because it was new and different--like taking a trip to a foreign country. Basically, you are suffocating the bacteria in a haze of onion steam or it's just the heat of the onion. Either way it worked well and A. was asking for me to hold it next to his ear when I would remove the onion. I held it on his ear for 30 minutes twice over two hours and he seemed to be better the next day. I have also heard that Mullein Oil, which you can find in any health food store, is supposed to work well.

UPDATE: My son went on antibiotics several days later for this ear infection. According to a New York Times article the study done at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati only allowed children to participate in a study which delayed antibiotic treatment of ear infections when the temperature is below 101.5. The participants were told to use pain medication and fill a prescription only if the ear infection hadn't resolved in 48 hours or symptoms increased.
update on ear infection treatments...

Friday, February 20, 2009

FUN FRIDAY: Pad Thai Recipe

Pad Thai
Thai Fried Noodles

4 T. oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 shallots
1 egg
4 oz/120 g dry flat rice noodles soaked in water for 20 minutes until soft and drained
2 T. lime juice
1&1/2 T fish sauce
1/2 t. sugar
2 T. chopped roasted peanuts
1/8 tsp dried red chilli powder (or cayenne)
1 oz. bean sprouts
2 spring onions/scallions, chopped into 1 in.
sprig of coriander leaf, coarsely chopped
1 lime cut into 4 pieces for garnish

In a wok or frying pan, heat the oil, add the garlic and fry until golden brown. Break the egg into the wok, stir quickly and cook for a couple of seconds. Add the noodles and stir well, scraping down the sides of the pan to ensure they mix with the garlic and egg. One by one, add the lemon juice, fish sauce, sugar, half the peanuts, the chili powder, 1 T. of the beansprouts, and the spring onions, stirring quickly all the time. Test the noodles for tenderness. When done, turn onto a serving plate and arrange the remaining peanuts, dried shrimp and beansprouts around the dish. Garnish with the coriander and lime wedges.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Really Green Cleaning Products

Cleaning products are really scary for the health and development of young children. According to a 2005 Body Burden study, children are exposed to toxic chemicals even in utero and "Chemical exposures in the womb or during infancy can be dramatically more harmful than exposures later in life." Indoor air is often more toxic than outdoor air because of the chemicals used in cleaning and the modern materials used in furniture and building materials. 

Replacing the cleaning products under your sink with less toxic ones can be an inexpensive way to green your home. But sometimes going green doesn't mean buying the latest and greatest product--it means turning back the clock to a pre-Ajax era. Baking soda is a terrific cleanser for the sink, stove, and bathroom. It is not only safe to clean with but it is also used as a detoxifying bath. It takes a little more elbow grease, but its so healthy you can bathe in it and you can even have your kids clean the bathroom with you! Adding a little vinegar to the baking soda makes a great paste to clean your stove. Putting a little vinegar in a spray bottle with some water works very well instead of windex or fantastic. And although your kitchen might smell like a salad, at least you can give the bottle to your kids to help you clean the cabinets without worrying about them getting poisoned.

Here is a link to some cleaning product recipes that will allow you to replace some of the toxic products in your home with green, homemade versions:

I truly believe less is more when it comes to cleaning products for the home. This is not one problem you can easily shop your way out of because green cleaning products are sometimes environmentally more conscious but not safe. But, Mountain Rose Herbs sells Baking Soda for use in organic products that you can buy in bulk. They also sell Epsom Salt. And you can buy the book Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living to get more information about homemade cleaning products. Amazon even has the recipe for a homemade silver polish !

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Never a Dull Moment

"It's the little things." My brother-in-law said to me when I told him my son was lying in bed with a wet wash cloth on his head. The wet, cold wash cloth brought his fever down from 104.4 to 101 in about 10 minutes, which must be some kind of record. We are visiting my sister in Burlington, Vermont and as a fever descended on him the snow started magically falling, which made my daughter really happy and made our "never a dull moment" vacation even more movie like. Now he is sleeping soundly with bright red cheeks, this time flush from a fever--I think. He has croup and woke up last night struggling to breath. It sounded like asthma, but it turned out to be croup.It wasn't the hallmark barky cough that my daughter had when she had croup, but a dry gasping version. He breathing got better when I took him in a hot, steamy shower and he seemed completely recovered this morning until he got a high fever in the afternoon.

So, that puts us at five illnesses in two months. Strep. Strep again. Flu. Virus. Croup. But, it's all put in perspective by the fact that no one has had to go to the hospital, my kids are both sleeping soundly and my son is breathing normally.

Caring for my sick kids and being on vacation has left me very little time and almost no energy to blog or do research. But, I imagine all of you are busy with your own "never a dull moment" lives, and that you will be able to live without a few of my posts as I try to get everyone on the road to wellville.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Spaghetti Sauce

This is a recipe based on Martha Stewart's Cooking School Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook Marinara Sauce. The sauce was so good I made it twice in one week. I served it on top of breaded veal cutlets and used it as a sauce for pizza. I used my matzah recipe as a crust, this sauce and small diced pepperoni for plate sized personal pizzas. They were a really delicious and satisfying cheeseless "pizza." Our gourmet club got a picture with Martha Stewart when we went to see her show which was a huge treat for everyone.

7 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled or 2-28 ounce cans of tomatoes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1-1.5 teaspoons salt
two pinches red pepper flakes

Peel tomatoes by cutting an x in the bottom and plunging in boiling water for 10 seconds to remove peel. Heat oil, garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant and sizzling, but not brown. Add tomatoes and season with salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a rapid simmer and cook until tomatoes are falling apart and juices are reduced slightly, about 15 minutes. Puree in food processor.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Ice Cream

This is my new favorite product: Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Ice Cream. It is gluten free, dairy free, soy free and sugar free. There are only about five ingredients in the vanilla flavor and it is delicious, creamy and satisfying. I love that it is sweetened with agave and it flies out of Food Liberation, our local health food store. They also have a cookie dough flavor that my daughter loves, but that contains traces of soy and a lot more ingredients. I use it for dessert, ice cream sundaes, ice cream sandwiches and as an easy way to get my kids to take probiotics. I spent months fighting with daughter trying to get her to take probiotics until I discovered that I could make my own version of gfcf yogurt by adding probiotics to "ice cream."

Is Sickness the New Health???

When it rains, it pours. The day after my daughter finished her second round of antibiotics she woke up with a sore throat, neck pain and ANOTHER fever. For a while she was never sick and now she has been sick this entire month. The alternative practitioners we have been seeing warned me that she would start getting sick as she got better. They said she never caught the family cold or family flu because her immune system was too weak to amount an attack on anything. So when my daughter first had a fever, I was happy. But now after seeing her feverish for the third time this month and feeling like I live in the doctors office, I am wondering if this is truly her getting better--or worse. What I do know is I can no longer be so proud that I have the
healthiest kids on the block because of all the gluten free homemade food I feed her.

Today, the doctor asked me if she had a flu shot and I I told him she hadn't gotten one. And he said "That's okay, I had four people with the flu yesterday who had gotten the flu shot." Then he said something about Tamiflu and when I explained why we were not interested he said "They think it doesn't work anyway." He said it half jokingly and I have no idea if he was serious or kidding, but I did appreciate his honesty and skepticism.

After a bunch of testing the doctor relaxed and said it was a virus-- not the flu or a scary bacterial infection--and that she should just rest. We are lying in bed now and she is on my laptop on Every once in a while she asks me for a cold washcloth. I did give her some infant Motrin for her terrible back pain, despite my being vehemently against all medicine. And although she is sick, it all feels very normal and somehow okay from the vantage point of my comfortable bed. And it reminds me again, of how parenting turns all my ideas and theories upside down and inside out.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Gluten Free Product: Chestnut Flour

I don't know where I found this gluten free chestnut flour. It sat in my cupboard for months and recently I decided to try it when my son became intolerant of rice, corn and potatoes. It has a delicious , creamy flavor and  is my new favorite gluten free flour. Everyone thought the pancakes, crepes and cookies I made with it  were yummy. I honestly don't even know what whole chestnuts taste like, but the flour is wonderful. After not finding it in several stores nearby where I might have purchased it, I ordered three bags from Gluten Free Mall today.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Easy Chicken Stock Recipe

Thanks to Cathy who made a comment about broth with a link to Weston Price article Broth is Beautiful which describes some to the health benefits of chicken broth:

"Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain."
I have wanted to post about broth for a long time, but I never got around to it. We make homemade stock regularly at our house. Once a week our house smells like chicken soup, but it is worth it because I have nutritious broth that I can use for cooking or make into chicken noodle soup. Most commercial chicken stock doesn't contain the nutritious gelatin which makes it congeal when cold which has a long healing tradition. This is because most chicken stock is really salt and MSG and often "flavoring" manufactured by a chemist. Making it yourself is also a great way to get some of the vitamins and minerals from vegetables into kids who are picky eaters. This is our easy recipe for chicken stock.

Easy Chicken Stock Recipe

First, I roast a chicken, then I cut off the meat to serve for dinner.
Then in a crockpot, I put:

carcass/bones from roast chicken
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 onion
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
1 tsp black pepper

Leave this to sit for one hour before turning the crock pot on (or bring to a simmer if you are making it in a pot.) After it comes to a boil, remove the scum that floats to the top and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 8-24 hours--this is easier to do in a crock pot than on the stove. Skimming the soup is very important as the scum contains the impurities and proteins which can make it taste off. The longer you simmer that more minerals are extracted. (Optional: put in one bunch parsley in 10 minutes before you turn off.) Strain the liquid and refrigerate. Remove fat from the top when it is cool. Season with salt.

Related Posts:

The Dangers of Processed Food and MSG

Processed Food Versus Homemade Food

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Calcium Supplementation for Children

Q: Do you have any suggestions, or ideas on where to go, for a calcium supplement for a 1-year-old child? It has to be totally dairy and soy free (not even traces of soy). He needs a bit more than he's getting due to his switch to almond milk and we are at a loss, especially since it needs to either go in his milk or be tasty enough to get him to swallow it. So, no pills or chewables will work. Ideas?

A: I have struggled with the same issue for my son, who is gluten free and can't tolerate most kids vitamins that are sweetened with sugar. Right now we use a product by Thorne Research that was recommended for my seven year old by a nutritionist. It is called Cal-Mag Citrate (Effervescent Powder) but it is very, very sour because of the high vitamin C content and I WOULD NOT recommend it for a one year old. But, what I would recommend is the combination of calcium and magnesium in the evening. Both these minerals are down regulators and taken together they help kids to sleep and be calm. I was actually in a store today looking to replace the Cal-Mag powder with something similar which didn't contain the vitamin C--so this was on my mind before I received your question.

Doing some research, it looks like TACA recommends a calcium powder by Kirkman. They have several available, but the Calcium with Vitamin D Powder-Unflavored-Hypoallergenic looked the most similar to the Thorne Research product, which my son seems to do well on. 1/4 tsp of this product would provide 500 mg. of calcium. You can order small samples from Kirkman, to see how well your child does with the supplement before you order. And the sales people at Kirkman are very knowledgeable and can give you more information.

My son has reacted poorly to several calcium supplements. I thought it was the calcium but really it turned out to be the sucrose (in the gummy calcium) and the preservatives and stevia (in the liquid New Beginnings Product.) So while the liquid vitamins might seem easier to use, very sensitive kids sometimes can't tolerate them because of the preservatives and what they put in the products so they don't separate . In addition, there are some kids who don't do well on calcium at all and there are some kids who do better with one form of a vitamin and can't tolerate another form, so observing how your child does on a new supplement is really important.

Here are the recommendations for calcium intake according to the Surgeon General I found in an article in the Seattle Times called Calcium is Critical--Especially for Kids:

Children 0-6 months: 210 mg
Children: 6-12 months: 270 mg
Children: 1-3 years: 500 mg
Children: 4-8 years: 800 mg
Children: 9-18 years: 1,300 mg
Adults 19-50 years: 1,000 mg
Adults 51-plus 1,200 mg

Because the ratio of calcium to magnesium is important for the absorption of calcium, it is also critical to make sure you have enough magnesium when you are taking calcium. This is of special concern for kids who have signs of being deficient in this mineral. Sensory issues, constipation, hyperactivity and allergies can all indicate low levels of magnesium. Kirkman has a Magnesium Citrate Soluble Powder which is also hypoallergenic. There is also a Kid's Calm product for ages 4-8 although it is very sour and also contains stevia and flavoring.

Related Posts:

Epsom Salts, Magnesium Deficiency and Sensory Integration Disorder

Whole Grains and Calcium

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gluten Free Recipes


Quote of the Day: Lisa Rudley

"What a roller coaster to keep our children well and to think our parents kept us relatively well on twinkies..."
--Lisa Rudley, HHP
  Parent Activist and Homotoxicology Practitioner

An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away: Strep, The Flu and How White Blood Cell Count Can Indicate Viral or Bacterial Infection

This has been a tough month for our family health wise because both my kids were sick. My son had the flu and a high fever for six days. It was at the point where the doctor was calling us to make sure he was okay. My daughter had strep in January which was resistant to the antibiotics so she is now on a second round of them. My kids hadn't had any kind of medicine in almost two years and I am not a fan of antibiotics after my son got so sick from them at 18 months so it was quite a shock to have to put my daughter on a powerful antibiotic.

It was interesting to learn they can test whether they are sick from a virus or bacteria by taking a finger prick and looking at the white blood count. If it is low they are probably fighting a virus. If it is high, it is more likely a bacterial infection. Our doctor took this test on day 3 of the fever just to confirm it was probably a virus. On day six of the fever the doctor did the test again and said if the white blood cell count had gone up then it meant it was bacterial. But it hadn't gone down, which suggested a virus again. Then he did a swab test using the mucous from his nose to confirm it was the flu. Both the doctor and I were both ecstatic that it was the flu because it was nice to know what we were dealing with and that it wasn't something that was scary or something scary that needed antibiotics. The doctor said if his fever continued he would need to know about it because he wanted to make sure it didn't become some sort of super infection.

At this point I started doing research on the flu and came up with Vitamin D as a factor and possibly a treatment for the influenza virus and we started a multivitamin and vitamin D and he got better. Sometimes mainstream testing can suggest an alternative treatment and that a child doesn't need medicine, as in my son's case. Other times, mainstream testing can suggest that medicine might be indicated, as in my daughters case. I am told that strep is one case where you really need the antibiotics. But I have also heard of people using homeopathic and alternative treatments and taking titers to check if the strep had gone away. Despite my long list of doctors and holistic practitioners, we don't have an alternative support system to do this
kind of treatment. The people I know who have success fighting strep using alternative methods are actually practitioners and homeopathic doctors and I have to say that this is one area where I am not an expert and have to defer to others.

It was interesting for me to get to a point where nutrition wasn't the answer and I had to face not really having enough information to be the expert. It was humbling to admit, to myself and the doctor "I know what I know and what I don't know--and this is beyond me. Both kids are better now and I am happy January is over and I am not dealing with a feverish child who is waking up all night.

But back to son became intolerant of apples (and oranges and egg yolks) in December and they were a mainstay of our diet--which I think kept our family healthy. So although he is healthier without these foods in many ways, the saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" might actually be true. Of course, his whole preschool and everyone I know was sick so perhaps it was inevitable. The one thing that I have learned this month is that I really don't know painful as that is to admit.