Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring Cleaning Tip #2: Green Your Cleaning Supplies

"Better Living Through Chemistry" was a variation on a DuPont advertising slogan. But when you are spring cleaning this year, instead of buying more chemicals, throw products out that contain dangerous chemicals. Our kids are saturated with chemicals--don't add to their body burden by buying more chemicals this spring. If you want to buy a product to clean your house with, buy some baking soda. We buy our baking soda from Mountain Rose Herbs, which sells organic products in bulk. Baking soda is so safe for your kids not only can you eat it but they can also bathe in it. Because of the many healthy properties of baking soda your kids can help you clean your bathroom with you! Baking soda is a great replacement for ajax and soft scrub which both have too many chemicals. We just use the baking soda directly on a sponge or washcloth or even an old toothbrush. But you can see my Karen Logan's book Clean House, Clean Planet or my post on her soft scrub recipe if you want to make your own soft scrub.

Homemade Soft Scrub from Clean House, Clean Planet

Karen Logan's book "Clean House, Clean Planet" has this recipe for a homemade soft scrub:
1 &2/3 c. baking soda
1/2 c. liquid soap
1/2 c. water
2 tablespoons white vinegar

•stir liquid soap into baking soda
•add water and stir to be as smooth as possible
•add vinegar and stir again
•pour into squeeze bottle (you can use an old ketchup bottle or old cleaning bottle for this.

Tourettes Syndrome--Treatment and Dietary Intervention Resources

While researching Tourette Syndrome (TS) and dietary intervention for a friend, I came across these websites that might be of interest to parents who are dealing with either tics or Tourette's Syndrome. Tourette's is another neurological problem which was once considered rare and now is common--pointing to a environmental trigger.

Finding TS Triggers
TS Parent Reports
Tourettes Syndrome and Candida
Tourette Syndrome Supplement List
More TS Supplement Info
Tourette Syndrome "Plus"
Tourette Syndrome Conference
Journal article

The book Natural Treatment for Tics and Tourettes's: A Patient and Family Guide by Sheila Rogers is a comprehensive overview of the resources available for parents.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring Cleaning Tip #1: Read The Label

Read the label of EVERYTHING you eat, drink or put on your body. Instead of buying products that have a ton of chemicals in them, choose brands that are more transparent and have less chemicals. Chemicals are more dangerous in combination than alone so the more chemicals you can eliminate the healthier everyone in your family will be. Watch out for these statements which can be deceptive:
• 100% NATURAL

These statements aren't really saying anything specific about what the product contains. They aren't a guarantee that there aren't harmful ingredients. They are marketing statements which are trying to make you think they are healthy. The rule of thumb is the longer the ingredient list is the more likely that there are harmful chemicals in the product. Kids food is filled with chemicals but if you religiously read the labels you will notice that some products are better than

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What To Feed Your Kids Event Tonight

I am speaking tonight on the Upper East Side. If you are in New York City and you want to attend, you can call email me to RSVP and get the address.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vitamin A in Cod Liver Oil

Recently, we have been able to cut back on vitamins since we began cod liver oil. It contains natural Vitamin A, that your body doesn't need to convert to use. I found this explanation for how Vitamin A promotes a healthy intestinal surface in rats on a document from a yahoo group about improving thyroid function. It might not mean anything to some readers. But basically restoring vitamin A levels regenerates the villi in rats, which allows them to absorb more nutrients. In addition, Vitamin A supplemenation tightens up the gaps between the villi which allow the proteins to get through. It you look at the BEFORE PICTURE (labelled VAD--Vitamin A deficient) you can see the villi are flat and the gaps are large. If you look at the AFTER PICTURE (labelled VASUP--Vitamin A supplemented) you can see how the gaps are smaller and the villi are regrown. For anyone with celiac, gluten intolerance or allergies the implications for this treatment are worth looking into.

"The intestinal villi in the upper left picture (VAD) are from Vitamin A deficient rats. The villi in the lower left (VAS) are from Vitamin A sufficient rats. The villi in the lower right (VASUP) are from rats given extra supplemental Vitamin A. The villi become short and thick when the rat is deficient in Vitamin A, impairing nutrient absorption. (Source: Zaiger G, Nur T, Barshak I, Berkovich Z, Goldberg I, Reifen R. Vitamin A exerts its activity at the transcription level in the small intestine. Eur J Nutr (2004) 43:259-266.)"
Related posts:
Cod Liver Oil
Omega 3's in Fish Oil
The Importance of Fat in Brain Development and Function

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Flavoring Fish Oil for Children

When the homeopathic doctor--an NYU trained neurologist-- first recommended fish oil for my daughter I tried every brand on the market until I discovered Omega 3 fish oil by Nordic Natural had the mildest flavor. The doctor arranged for me to bring it to Cherry's Pharmacy to have it flavored. Eventually I figured out I could buy the flavoring myself over the internet and save myself a trip to Cherry's. At first, I would ask my daughter "bubblegum or watermelon" so the focus would be on the flavor not the oil. For a month or two she chose bubblegum. Then she switched to watermelon. She liked the flavored oil so much once she kept it in her mouth for several blocks on her way to school. One month I didn't bother getting it flavored and discovered she preferred the straight up "lemon" flavor--which made things a lot easier.

I have recommended the Nordic Natural Omega 3 fish oil and Carlson's Cod Liver Oil to a number of friends who have kids . One friend had two sets of twins and she was desperate for one of them to take the fish oil. When she switched to the Nordic Natural brand she suddenly had all of them taking it. If you buy it from the internet, where the stock is fresh every two weeks, and then you keep it in the refrigerator, it should smell like lemony oil. If it has been sitting on the shelf at a health food store, it might be rancid. My kids take 1/2 to 1 tsp either Omega 3 fish oil or Carlson Cod Liver Oil. The Carlson Cod Liver Oil contains some natural Vitamin A and D. It is great in the winter or if someone is fighting an illness.

Here are some links to the flavor concentrates--the company that makes the bubblegum is nowhere to be found but I found another company that has a bunch of organic flavor concentrates that would appeal to kids:

Organic Watermelon Flavor
Organic Apple Flavor Concentrate
Organic Cherry Flavor Concentrate

Fish oil & Cod Liver Oil Sources:

Carlson's Cod Liver Oil
Carlson for Kids Cod Liver Oil
Nordic Natural Omega 3 Fish Oil:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Quote: from The Crazy Makers

Many of us think of people who lobby for pure water and pure food as food faddists or food nuts. We call a section in our local supermarket the "Health Food Section." What is the rest of the store called, the "Death and Disease Section"?

--Carol Simontacchi in The Crazy Makers

Monday, April 13, 2009

Are Boar's Head cold cuts gluten free/casein free (GFCF)?

We are on vacation on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida. I called Boar's Head to check if their pre-sliced pepperoni was gluten free casein free (GFCF.) Pepperoni is one of the unhealthy products we still eat. Mostly we used it with a little sauce to make pizza. It is so indulgent, you don't even notice there is no cheese. The Boar's Head nutrition line contact number is: 1-800-352-6277 if you want to call and double check. According to the woman I spoke to ALL BOAR'S HEAD MEAT'S, CHEESES AND CONDIMENTS ARE GLUTEN FREE and there are four products which contain casein:

Boar's Head Pickle and Pepper Loaf
Boar's Head Mortadella
Boar's Head Pesto Parmesan Ham
Boar's Head LaRosa D'Oro Stuffed Peppers

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Website: Nutrition Data

Nutrition Data is an interesting website that lets you input a recipe to see the nutrition facts on homemade food. It is really a great tool if you have a child who has a health condition such as diabetes where it is important to calculate the carbs in a serving. I love the Protein Quality graph which visually depicts how complete a protein a food is. You can also click "Find foods with complementary protein" underneath the Protein Quality graph to find other proteins which would have complementary amino acids. An amino acid score of 100 means that the food is a complete protein.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hard Boiled Eggs--Not Just For Easter and Passover

My friend Stephanie has three kids and a hectic city schedule of pick
up and drop offs--all with out a car. She always keeps a bowl full of
hard boiled eggs in the fridge so that there is a quick healthy snack
for anyone who is hungry. Nutrition Data information on eggs shows
that eggs are a complete protein and they have a low glycemic load--
which means they can balance out all the carbs that kids gravitate
toward. Plus, they contain many vitamins and minerals necessary for
growth. I like to think "an egg a day can keep the doctor away"
because it certainly seemed that way for us when my kids were eating
eggs regularly.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gluten Free Almond Milk Recipe (GFCF)

If someone in your family isn't tolerating milk, I suggest investing in a vitamix blender and making homemade "milk" yourself. I spent so much time trying to find a ready made creamy gluten and dairy free milk for my son and finally settled for Westsoy Rice Milk, which is gluten free. When I got my vitamix, I started to make my own gluten free casein free milk and realized that homemade nut and rice milk are nothing like their watery storebought nut and rice milk. This almond milk is creamy and delicious and it would be perfect on cereal or made into egg nog. It is really important to soak the almonds, so that you can absorb all of the nutrition from the almond milk. I soak almonds overnight and then store them in the freezer in 1 cup baggies until I need to use them. That way I always have them on hand to make fresh milk or almond crackers.

1 cup raw almonds- soaked overnight in water
3 cups water
4 dates

Combine ingredients in Vitamix blender on variable speed. Begin at speed one for ten seconds. Increase to higher speed every ten seconds. (If you watch the Vitamix video you will see how they do this.) Then turn it to high speed for a minute or two. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or use a cheesecloth over a regular strainer. You can gather the ends of the cheesecloth and squeeze the milk out of the cheesecloth to extract all the milk.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gluten Free Dessert Recipe: Lemon Squares

I adapted a recipe for lemon squares by Tamar Ansh for a passover sedar I am making. Half way through the recipe I switched from agave to sugar, because my son went to a party today and had a ton of sugar and did fine. I can't tell you how huge it is that he doesn't get sick from sugar now. I like our sugar free life, but I was worried about substituting agave for the sugar in a custard. I am sure I could figure it out--but not tonight. I am too tired. For the dinner, I also made chicken soup, vegetable soup, a few dozen matzahs and roast vegetables. I can't make one more thing. So I decided after starburst jelly beans and a donut, he would be fine with a lemon square that was made with sugar on a holiday. But Another One Bites The Crust has an egg free custard made with agave that looks interesting if you prefer a sugar free custard. Note: These were such a hit the first night of Passover I made them again for the second night. This recipe is the new and improved version. They are also delicious cut in squares and frozen.

1 cup almonds (I soaked them overnight) or use almond flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour (or potato flour)
1/2 cup agave (or sugar)
1/8 tsps salt
2 T. coconut oil

Lemon Filling:
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 T. coconut oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons tapioca flour (or potato starch)
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest
powdered sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil. Lightly grease this lining.

To make pastry dough, place almonds in a cuisinart and process until almonds are finely ground. Add potato starch, agave, salt and coconut oil. Process until a smooth dough. Spoon the batter into the pan and spread evenly so it covers the bottom of the pan. If you use sugar, the pastry dough will be like sand. In that case, press the sand mixture into the bottom of a pan. When it melts it will form a pie crust. (This also makes a great tart crust.) Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cake is golden.

Beat eggs in cuisinart until they become thick and light colored and increase in volume. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the powdered sugar. Pour over the crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until set. Remove from oven.

Cut into bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve. These bars freeze well.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Healing Benefits of Epsom Salt

An epsom salt bath is a simple way to draw toxins out of the body--and
increase magnesium. I purchase epsom salts from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Epsom salt is not available as a certified organic product as it is a
natural mineral, magnesium sulfate, taken from the earth. But since
Mountain Rose Herbs sells so many organic products, they are a
reliable place to buy the epsom salts in bulk quantities. Epsom salt
baths contain sulfate which the body needs for sulfation--a key
detoxification pathway that processes toxins and phenols. Epsom salt
baths are great for hyper kids but anyone who is stressed out can
benefit from some magnesium sulfate.


related posts:
Epsom Salts, Magnesium Deficiency and Sensory Integration Disorder

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Collard Greens with Caramelized Onions from Greens Glorious Greens

This collard greens and carmelized onions is from the cookbook Greens Glorious Greens by Johnna Albi & Catherine Walthers, which my friend, Tia, gave me. It is a fabulous cookbook that has really inspired me to incorporated more greens into my diet. The sweet taste of caramelized onions is delicious with the collard greens. My three year old ate it over rice for dinner--which was huge.

1 bunch collard greens (3/4 pound or 6/7 cups)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 onions, cut in half and then sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste

1. wash collard greens in the sink or large bowl. Let them soak so all the grit can fall to the bottom of the water. Remove the inner white stalks and stack or roll several collard greens together. Cut into 1/4 inch strips.
2.In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat, add onions and saute for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and sweet. Take care not to burn. Add garlic and saute for another 3 minutes until golden.
3. While the onions are cooking, bring 2-3 cups of water to boil in a 10-12 inch skillet. Cook the collard greens over high heat for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. The greens are cooked when they are tender, but still bright green. Drain in a colander and set aside.
4. Add greens to onions and garlic. Season with salt to taste and cook for another 2 minutes to heat through. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tasty Easy Chili Recipe

I adapted a recipe from Bette Hagman's Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods to make this easy chili. For added nutrition and flavor, I threw in two liver/kale burgers from the freezer. My kids often prefer the simple homemade McDonald's hamburgers I make to chili, but sometimes my three year old surprises us and eats more complicated fare.

1.5 pounds ground beef
2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/4 cup chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
One 32 ounce can tomatoes-chopped or crushed
One 16 or 32 ounce can tomatoes-chopped (I used half a 32 ounce can)
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
One 28 can kidney beans-drained
1-2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

optional: 1/3 cup maple syrup (recipe called for brown sugar)

Garnish with: chopped green onions, cilantro and guacamole.

In a large pot with a thick bottom cook the meat, onions, garlic, chili powder and cumin over medium heat. When the meat is cooked and the onion is translucent, stir in the tomatoes, maple syrup, mustard, and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for a half hour stirring occasionally. Add the can of beans. Cover and simmer for 30 more minutes, stirring occassionally.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cod Liver Oil

A friend who has celiac was visiting the other day and we were joking about how basically to eat healthy in america you need to go back to 1815--if your great great grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, then don't eat it. Although many people need supplements and medicines, returning to 1815 in terms of supplementation can also be a good idea.

In the past, parents used cod liver oil regularly to keep children healthy. In the 1890s it was a popular cure for rickets, which is caused by low vitamin D levels. As more over the counter medicines were available to treat symptoms and more prescription medicines were available and our milk became supplemented with vitamin D, cod liver oil became less popular. But cod liver oil has many benefits for kids today. It contains essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA,) vitamin D and natural vitamin A. DHA and EPA are critical for both brain development and function. Vitamin D is important for growth and vision and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently recommended 400 IU of vitamin D for all babies, children and adolescents. Cod liver oil is a natural source of this important vitamin. Vitamin A and vitamin D allow your body to fight viruses. So if your child is low on either of these vitamins, then you might not be able to fight off a virus you encounter--either in the world or in a vaccine. Taking cod liver oil is insurance that your body has enough of these important vitamins. While some multivitamins contain vitamin A--sometimes your body cannot use the forms that they use because they might need to be converted. In our case, my daughter was unable to convert beta carotene into vitamin A. So although she was taking a compounded vitamin with vitamin A, her body was unable to use it. It is also used as a painkiller and for arthritis and has anti inflammatory properties.

In the Weston Price article Cod Liver Oil: The Number One Superfood there is a great quote on how it helps kid's brains:

"If you want to prevent learning disabilities in your children," said David Horrobin, distinguished medical and biochemical researcher, "feed them cod liver oil.
I have recommended fish oil to many In the forties and fifties everyone used to take a teaspoon of cod liver oil daily. We use 1/2-1 tsp cod liver oil daily now, but especially if my kids are fighting a virus or have a fever. Carlson for Kids Cod Liver Oil comes in either lemon or orange flavor. But Carlson's Lemon Flavor Cod Liver Oil is a little easier to find and works just as well. Carlson replaces the air inside the bottle with nitrogen to keep the oil fresh. After you open the bottle, you should keep it in the fridge so it doesn't get fishy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Homemade Gluten Free Matzah Recipe

I asked my daughter when I dropped her off today if she wanted Matzah as a snack at her playdate. She said "yes" and started to head into the school with her class. A minute later she came running back to say "FRESH BAKED." The original recipe has sugar and salt which make them taste like saltines but the almonds and potatoes make them more like a meal. You can substitute agave for the sugar if you prefer. I never thought of making homemade crackers before I went gluten freeand found myself needing to make matzah for passover, but now we make them all year long--and everyone loves them.

Here is the link to my Homemade Gluten Free Matzah Recipe

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thyroid Problems, Vitamin A and Cod Liver Oil

I have never been able to find a multi vitamin that worked for my daughter. In fact, she was sickest when she was on compounded vitamins through a nutritionist. On the compounded vitamins she had strep (twice) and a virus and looked horrible. I begged our pediatrician to do further testing and told him there was something wrong. He was nice, but he really didn't know what tests to run and to him she was just another sick kid. Another doctor in the practice said it was because she had celiac she wasn't growing and was constantly sick. But, my instincts told me there was something else going on.

Further testing with a doctor who specializes in thyroid problems revealed that my daughter had high beta carotene levels and low vitamin A--her body wasn't converting the beta carotene into vitamin A. Not converting beta carotene into vitamin A is a sign of a thyroid problem or a subclinical thyroid problem. High beta carotene and low vitamin A are not the only signs of an underactive thyroid--her thin hair, mood problems, puffy face and puffy eyes and poor growth were all are suggestive of a thyroid problem. Interestingly, when my daughter was sick with a fever she complained of he eyes hurting, which is sign of low vitamin A levels.

It turns out viruses--including the measles virus--can lower your vitamin A levels and low vitamin A levels to begin with can make it hard to fight the virus. According to the World Health Organization on Measles: "Vitamin A supplements have been shown to reduce the number of deaths from measles by 50%." Theoretically, most people are not deficient in Vitamin A--because if you can convert beta carotene into vitamin A--then a half a carrot a day will be enough vitamin A, but if you are not making the conversion because of a thyroid problem, you can become low in vitamin A. Environmental toxins such as pesticides can cause hypothyroidism so low thyroid levels might be a bigger problem today than they were in the past.

I suspected a thyroid problem a year ago and took her to an endocrinologist, who determined that her thyroid level of 3.75 was normal because it was in the normal range. But in January 2003 the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists decided the range should actually be 0.3 to 3 and based on her high TSH and many symptoms she should have been treated for a thyroid problem last year. One doctor that I spoke to said anyone with a TSH over 2.25 with a severe mood problems should suspect a low thyroid and consider treatment.

It is interesting that now that my daughter is on thyroid medication several doctors have looked at her previous test and wondered why she was left untreated for the last year. In addition to the thyroid medication we have her on cod liver oil--which is a natural form of vitamin A. She looks better and is healthier. I wouldn't say she is the picture of health--but she is so much better than she was and her puffy face and eyes have lessened. Thyroid medicine doesn't work for everyone. Oprah felt horrible on thyroid medication and I felt horrible on a compounded thyroid hormone and completely well on a mainstream thyroid hormone. So supplementation can be tricky--you really need exactly the right hormone level to feel well--and this is more of an art than a science.