Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Allergic Red Cheeks

After eating or drinking. my son's cheeks would turn bright red and he would get a runny nose. Before we knew that his red cheeks, runny nose, perpetual diaper rash and not sleeping were a sign of his allergies to wheat, dairy and soy, we thought he had a constant cold. I had a vague sense his cheeks were red all the time, but it was only when he got better and his perfect complexion came back, that I realized the red cheeks were a visable sign that his system was reacting to food he was eating. The most allergic foods are cow's milk, wheat and soy. When parents realize their child can not tolerate milk, they often switch to soy formula. This is a big mistake for several reasons.

First, the dairy and the soy molecule are similar so many people who can't tolerate milk can't tolerate soy either.

Second soy is a legume and similar to the peanut molecule. People with peanut allergies can even have a severe reaction to soy. In addition, there is some suspicion that the increase of soy in our food supply may have contributed to the rising peanut allergies of children.

But, the third MOST IMPORTANT reason to not give soy milk is that it is an incredibly processed food which acts as a phytoestrogen and there is a lot of research which suggests it is unsafe for newborns and children. European countries have banned soy formulas. Weston Price has a great overview of the health implications of soy infant formula.

The most serious problem with soy
formula is the presence of phytoestrogens or isoflavones. While many claims have been made about the health benefits of these estrogen-like compounds, animal studies indicate that they are powerful endocrine disrupters that alter growth patterns and cause sterility. Toxicologists estimate that an infant exclusively fed soy formula receives the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day. By contrast, almost no phytoestrogens have been detected in dairy-based infant formula or in human milk, even when the mother consumes soy products.

I tried soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk and oatmeal milk. What I discovered, was for an allergic child, rice milk is the safest thing for them to drink because if the consume anything else day after day, they are likely to become intolerant of it. Adults can add 1 Tablespoon of coconut milk for a creamier more milk like substitute. Here are four pictures of my son with his allergic red cheeks as well a picture of his perfect complexion after we stopped giving him the things he reacted to (Milk, Gluten, Soy, Oranges , Corn and BROCOLLI!)

More Milk Info

If I can give up milk, anyone can.

I drank two to four cups a day for years. It was my favorite food. When testing revealed my son had an intolerance to many foods, I blamed my husband who had a sensitive stomach. I had an iron stomach and could eat anything without a problem. But several food challenges and testing revealed that many chronic problems (moodiness, fatigue, and spaciness) I had lived with for many years were actually food intolerances and responded dramatically to dietary intervention.A my Lanou, PhD, director of nutrition for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in Washington, D.C. says:

"I don't think cow's milk is a necessary food for kids," she says. Lanou reports the biggest perceived benefit—building strong bones—doesn't hold up in studies.

"In recent years, review articles in Pediatrics and the British Medical Journal show calcium in milk and other dairy products has no appreciable effect on children's bone health." She believes milk has no place in a human diet: "The negative effects outweigh the benefits. One in four children in the U.S. doesn’t digest milk well."

A growing chorus of supporters agree with Lanou: While few dispute that milk is rich in nutrients, many believe the risks outweigh the benefits. Studies have linked milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products to higher incidences of osteoporosis, ear infection, gastrointestinal distress, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, even cancer.

Now my favorite non-milk drink is 1 cup of rice milk with 1-2 Tablespoons coconut milk.

This is an interesting YouTube video about how the industrialization of milk and the problems it causes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mimi The Sardine Lunch Bags

I found these new Mimi The Sardine lunch bags at Giggle this week and they are my new favorite thing. I bought a small blue doggie lunch bag for my daughter to take on our trip to Vermont. I don't see it available online, but they have a lot of cute patterns. The fabric is made in Sweden and tested for harmful chemicals using the Oeko-Tex Standard 100.

I am going to order the shopping bags because they look cute and I am constantly bringing food with me everywhere I go.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Down Syndrome and Vitamins

Many conditions such as celiac, ADD, autism and allergies can be treated through nutrition and diet and I was wondering if there was research on Down Syndrome benefiting from nutritional intervention. Down Syndrome children have a genetic disorder that I was especially curious about, because a close friend has a daughter born with Down Syndrome. Also, celiac disease is more common in children with DS. In addition, my daughter's low muscle tone, growth issues, and low zinc levels all resolved on a gluten free diet. These problems are also problems commonly seen in children with DS. Obviously, a serious genetic problem is not going to be cured through diet and vitamins. A child with DS will always have to navigate life with an extra chromosome. Still the range of the severity of presentation of this disorder suggests that there are some ways to improve the lives of those born with DS.

A website called Nutritional Healing by a nutritionist in Australia has compiled research on the history of zinc supplementation in children with Down Syndrome. There were 11 studies done on zinc and Down Syndrome. All were done outside the United States in Italy, Canada and Slovakia. In other countries, where the medical field is not so driven by the pharmaceutical industry, doctors do research on vitamins as possible treatment for genetic disorders. Many of these results were eventually published in American Journals. The Nutritional Healing website with links to published research provides an overview and history of the use of vitamins and nutritional supplementation in children born with Down Syndrome.

Books that have been written on the subject of nutrition, vitamins and Down Syndrome are: The Down Syndrome Nutrition Handbook by Joan Guthrie Medlen and Down Syndrome and Vitamin Therapy by Kent MacLeod.

About Nutritional Intervention

Nutritional supplementation can seem overwhelming to parents when they begin. They wisely don't want to give their children unnecessary vitamins. But since doctors are given minimal information on nutrition in medical school, parents are left to their own devices when it comes to nutritional supplementation. Integrative doctors who consider the importance of nutrition and diet on health seem to be the best bet for parents to consult with. But doctors who prescribe supplements often have a conflict of interest when it comes to supplementation if they are making money from the supplements. So it is critical to find a doctor with an awareness of your child's particular issue who has some understanding of the benefits of nutrition and vitamin therapy. Word of mouth--other parents--and books have helped us in our search for doctors and nutritional help for our family.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sleeping and Allergies

When my son was an infant he was extremely colicky and my husband kept on saying to me "He is allergic to something. There is something wrong." But the pediatrician always dismissed my concerns and kept on saying "allergies to milk are extremely rare" and it is his "undeveloped digestive system." I was breastfeeding and if I drank milk he would be miserable. So I switched to soy milk and it got a little better. Still, he never slept through the night until 18 months old when I put him on a gluten free/dairy free/soy free diet. It turns out there is a connection between allergies and insomnia in babies. In a study on Insomnia and Cow's Milk Allergy in Infants, The Official Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics concluded:
"when no evident cause for sleeplessness can be found in an infant, the possibility of milk allergy should be given serious consideration."

My son has slept through the night ever since we changed his diet. What a difference in my life to go from having a terrible sleeper to a terrific sleeper. This change happened overnight. Now that I know what I know about nutrition, I would have tried giving him rice milk with a little coconut milk at 12 months when I was trying to wean him and he was clearly intolerant of milk. Coconut milk has the healthy saturated fat that is needed for brain development. If you make sure they are getting enough protein in food then you don't need the cow's milk.

Cow's milk is a convenient way to get all the protein and fat you need for development, but it is a convenience not a necessity. And if you are intolerant to cow's milk, you might be drinking it, but you might not be absorbing the nutrients.

I would advise ANY non sleeper after 12 months old to give up wheat/dairy and soy for a few days to see if they have a part in the terrible sleeping situation. Especially if crying it out doesn't work. Rice milk with a little coconut milk in it is a great dairy free, creamy treat to try. And coconut milk is full of lauric acid which is only found in coconut and breastmilk. With enough protein at meals*** your child will thrive. One year olds don't need cow's milk, they need lauric acid, healthy saturated fats for brain development and some protein, vitamin D and calcium for growth which you can get in rice milk or fortified orange juice.

Also, Dr. Morton Teich, New York Environmental Allergist from Mt. Sinai hospital in NYC told me, you often crave the things you are most allergic to. So a child who is a picky eater who will only eat wheat (pasta, bread and goldfish) might have a wheat or gluten intolerance. Or a child who guzzles lots of milk might be intolerant of dairy.

The industrialization of our food supply has made milk even more allergenic--the fascinating video "The Whole Truth About Milk" explains this process. All types of allergies are becoming more common now--but often they go unrecognized until they cause severe problems and are impossible to dismiss. Intolerances are often completely unrecognized because they are difficult to test for and doctors don't like what they can't test. But if you have tried everything and your child still doesn't sleep, try eliminating the common allergens and see if it helps.

***1 ounce protein per 2 pounds of weight for 12 month olds. So a 20 pound baby will need an average of 10 ounces of protein per day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Genetically Modified Soy

There was an article this week in the New York Times about a "Mom on a Mission" to reform the food industry and to fund independent research on food allergies. Her website,, has a ton of information on allergies and how dangerous the industrialization of our food supply is for our children. On, Robyn O'Brien's exposure of the pervasiveness of genetically modified food in our food supply is a real wake up for all parents. Since the United States does not require food companies to disclose whether food is genetically modified or not, anything that contains soy or corn can be made with genetically modified ingredients. But genetically modified soy is particularly scary because the molecule is similar to the peanut molecule and in a genetically modified form.

A study done in Russia in 2005, revealed that offspring of rats fed genetically modified soy were much more likely to have abnormally low weights and die. The picture of the difference in the two rats is startling and should alarm every parent who looks forward to one day having grandchildren. In many other countries, genetically modified food is banned, but in the United States it isn't even required to be labeled. For information on how to avoid GMO Foods, go to

I consider soy an unhealthy processed food and haven't fed soy to my kids since we went gluten free, but I did use some soy milk in my coffee--until today. Now I am going to drink it black or have rice milk with a little coconut milk if I desperately need a non dairy creamy treat.

Our New Rule

Many parents I speak to about feeding their kids say they are really confused about what is healthy and what is not. It is certainly confusing and hard to sort out. Making homemade food out of organic ingredients is probably the best way to go whenever possible.

It doesn't always go smoothly. I am a parent with two small children who are often picky eaters. Sometimes everyone complains. Sometimes I spend my afternoon shopping and cooking and I am the only one who eats whatever I have made and I am kind of annoyed I made the effort. Sometimes I make their favorite dish only to find out they are tired of it. But sometimes they actually end up eating what I make.

Yesterday we instituted the "Rainbow Rule." You need to have three colors of food on your plate. My six year old happily told her friend we had over for dinner about it and they all had a piece of asparagus, roast chicken and rice pasta on their plate. My two year old ate the asparagus and rice pasta. My six year old at the rice pasta and chicken. We counted the carrots they ate before dinner as part of the "rainbow" and everyone had two small homemade gluten and dairy free chocolate chip cookies afterward. It was blissfully old fashioned and satisfying.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Omega 3's in Fish Oil

EFA DHA EPA GLA... most people know Essential Fatty Acids are important but they don't know why. EFA's (Essential Fatty Acids) are fatty acids that our body needs to function that we need to get in our diet.

(Docosahexaenoic acid) is one type of Omega 3 fatty acid that is crucial for BRAIN DEVELOPMENT. It is found in breastmilk and is now added to formula.

Eicosapentaenoic acid) is another type of Omega 3 fatty acid that is crucial for BRAIN FUNCTION it is found in breastmilk, fatty fish and algae.

The most important thing to know about EPA and DHA is you need to get them in your diet--your body can't produce and they are essential. You can get them in your diet through fish or fish oil. There are some food sources for Omega 3's-- flax, walnuts, but these contain ALA
(alpa-linolenic acid) which doesn't have the same health benefits as EPA . The problem is in order to get EPA and DHA through flax seeds, walnuts and soybean your body needs to convert these foods to EPA and DHA. Many people are deficient in the enzyme needed for the conversion, so you might be getting flax, but still end up deficient in EFAs. Also, a lot of processed food, age and stress can interfere with the fragile D6D enzyme needed for conversion of non fish food to DHA and EPA. If you eat fish or take fish oil, then you will be sure to get the fatty acids needed for brain function.

Every fish oil supplement has a ratio of EPA to DHA. The research indicates that fish oil which contains more EPA is more important for neuropsychiatric disorders (depression, ADD, autism etc.) According to Dr. Stoll at Harvard Medical School presented at a lecture on Omega-3 Fatty Acids*** in 2005. "Omega-3s, in controlled studies, have been shown to be helpful in EVERY neuropsychiatric disorder tested to date." And a study in Australia suggests patients at risk for
schizophrenia may benefit from fish oil in the early stages of the disease than in the later stages. This information suggests that treatment with fish oil might be most beneficial and preventative at the early stages of other neuropsychiatric diseases such as ADD, depression and autism.

Interestingly, the largest trial of fish oil was launched in the United Kingdom in 2006 when 5,000 schoolchildren were offered fish oil supplements after the preliminary trials results showed staggering benefits in learning for the children. In one school even the football team benefited from the supplements.

What is important for people to understand, is that fish oil isn't magic. It is that the modern, processed diet is deficient in crucial Omega 3's and fish oil corrects these deficiencies. The real problem is the modern convenient grain based diet is too high in Omega 6's. And a balance between Omega 3's and Omega 6's is critical for our bodies to function.

The meat and milk of pasture fed animals are high in Omega 3's (EPA and DHA) but modern agriculture methods mean that cows and chickens are no longer eating grass, instead, they are eating grain so their meat and milk becomes high in Omega 6's. So unless you are eating a lot of organic pasture fed meat, you need a to consider fish oil supplements. And at this point, even the farmed fish are being fed grain (not algae) so they don't contain the Omega 3's they used to contain and research continues to suggest high quality fish oil is safer than fish.

So until we fix our food supply, a high quality fish oil like Nordic Natural is something to consider. See my vitamin blog for more info on which fish oil we use.

(you need to cut and paste this to get a pdf of lecture presented by Andrew Stoll, M.D. from the Harvard Medical School--link doesn't work because it is a pdf)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Resolutions--Doing Better

In December, I decided that my New Year's resolution was going to be getting rid of all my plastic dishes and cups. I was inspired by a friend of mine who is also on a mission to help her child through nutrition, vitamins and lessening the environmental toxins in the household. Over coffee in December my friend told me: "I threw out all my plastic. No more plastic." We had a conversation about sippy cups and how it is a modern convenience that is really unneccessary. She has a six year old and said "We are using glass now...If we break a glass we will clean it up." Her clarity and vision were contagious. I loved being inspired by someone else to do better and to be more thoughtful.

That night at bed time I poured my two year old a glass of rice milk and abandoned the straw sippy cups we had been using at night. And with excitement and delight I said to him "YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW! You get a BIG BOY CUP!" as I carefully put the glass of milk in his two hands for him to take a few sips while we read books. He hasn't used a sippy cup at night since and hasn't complained. Every night for a few weeks I repeated the "You're a big boy now--here is your big boy cup" when I handed him his glass of milk. It was a pretty easy transition away from sippy cups--my two year old is a flexible child who is pretty easy to redirect--especially now that he is healthy.

I was planning to phase in my NO PLASTIC life and my New Year's resolution was going to be to completely abandon plastic. So I started stocking up on pyrex storage containers so I could abandon the plastic storage containers and using glass whenever possible. I love seeing the transparency and the retro look of the food in the glass containers when I open the fridge and the weight of a real glass of water in my hand.

But, after three glasses broke and my daughter got glass in her foot, I realized my NO PLASTIC phase in was going to take longer than a month and my NO PLASTIC New Year's resolution was going to have to be changed to GLASS whenever possible and BETTER plastic glasses when chaos is unfolding at my house. I still give the kids glass cups at the kids table and at bedtime because it works fine with a table low to the wood floor and a carpet, but in the kitchen with a hard tile floor and chaos unfolding I will have to choose plastic sometimes. It is ironic that my first purchase of the New Year was some 10 ounce and 14 ounce Sur La Table glasses from New Zealand that are made of plastic. (Then I rethought my decision and cancelled it and decided I would order a few wood bowls and cups that for sure won't be recalled.)

Although I have fallen short of my NO PLASTIC goal the changes I have made in my life in this area are significant. I choose glass whenever it is possible and realistic--which is quite often. I purchased some high quality plastic drinking glasses from New Zealand, which I have been told by a well traveled journalist friend "is basically an organic country." (and then I cancelled the order.)I tossed all the cheap convenient sippy cups and I found a Scooby Doo thermos for my daughter to take in her lunch box instead of a water bottle. I also found a metal thermos for her to take chicken soup in.

In my house, my son had to go gluten free overnight because his health was so compromised. My daughter and I went gluten free over a few months and we did a gluten challenge to confirm our gluten intolerance. But I know a mother who has made significant changes in the immunity and development of her daughter by making protein and vegetables a more significant part of her diet and getting rid of the white flour and replacing it with whole wheat bread and pasta.

There is an excitement and hope in the feeling of making changes. But sometimes goals are unrealistic and or need to happen more slowly than we expected and might not happen on January 1st. But I think an awareness and being inspired to make better choices when we can is moving in the right direction. We can make small choices to feed our kids better in whatever way works. Choosing organic food when possible. More homemade and less processed food. Replacing a staple convenience food with a healthier one.

WE CAN ALL DO BETTER than we did last year--at least we can try!

Happy New Year!