Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Why Digestion is Vital for Your Child to be Healthy

Why digestion is Vital for your child to be healthy.


The digestive system is perhaps the most important organ system of the body.  I would like to share with you why this system is so important and what you can do to ensure your children have a strong and robust digestive system.  A healthy functioning gut is vital to your children growing healthy and remaining healthy throughout their whole lives.  


Lets face it, being a modern day parent can be pretty tough at times especially if our children don’t seem to be thriving as they should.  A healthy child will make your job as a parent that much easier, especially if you can see how they are thriving.  Let me share with you why your child's digestive system is so important.


Key facts about your child’s digestive system
  • It contains more than 500 million nerve cells and more brain cells than the brain itself!
  • Helps regulate nervous system function and equilibrium.
  • Contains over 85% of the body’s immune cells.
  • Has the highest cellular turnover rate in the body - which means it is highly influenced.
  • Manufactures key vitamins and nutrients for the body to use

The digestive system is the central hub to the way your child's brain functions, how their immune system manages threats and their overall nutritional status.


“All Disease begins in the Gut”        -     Hippocrates (2500 years ago)


Here are a few tips that can you use to ensure this system is healthy in your child.

  1. Ensure their diet is free from synthetic, highly refined pseudo-foods.  If your grandmother wouldn’t recognise it as food then don’t feed it to your kids.
  2. Ensure there is natural diversity within the diet.  I tell children in my consulting room that they’re body needs to eat a minimum of 15 different types of food each day.  These must be all colours of the rainbow.
  3. Give your child a minimum of 3 serves of protein per day.  Use varied types including, lean meats, fish, nuts, eggs, legumes, beans & tofu.  Protein will support a robust appetite and ensure lean muscle development.
  4. Use fermented foods in the family diet. These act as pre-biotics which are fuel for your body own flora.  Examples include, Whole Yoghurt, Sauerkraut, Kim Chi, Kafir and Tempeh.
  5. Consult a qualified naturopath to help resolve any ongoing digestive complaints or concerns that may be related to the function of this system.  Naturopathic medicine has excellent tools to support optimal function of the digestive system.


So there you have it a brief outline on why your child’s digestive system is vital to your child's whole health.  Have questions? Then why not gives us a call so we can help.
Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
Paediatric Naturopath

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Food as Medicine

Navigating your way through the supermarket






As a parent I often feel overwhelmed in the supermarket.  It's a busy place that can be confusing, noisy and confronting.  Our choices are often influenced by clever marketing ploys that try to sell us products we may not need and with children this is amplified with them vying for lollies and other questionable items.  So what do we do and how can we arm ourselves with tools to make the supermarket trip as productive and trouble-free as possible?  Here are some tips to help you make healthy choices for your whole family.

Get focused  

Be clear on your objective.  If this is to buy healthy nutritious food then you need to know what to include and what to avoid.  Being clear on this will work in your favour and you'll feel great about providing good quality foods that contribute to good health.  


What Foods Does your Family Really Need?

A variety is the answer, real, living foods.  We can refer to these as "whole foods" which are foods that are as close to their natural state as possible with minimal processing.  But that doesn't quite fit the bill since many people don't know what oats or buckwheat look like.  So let's keep it simple.  If your grandmother wouldn't recognise it as food then don't buy and don't eat it.  I realize there are exceptions but for all intents and purposes I'd like to keep this article simple and straight forward. Especially if dad is doing the shopping, since he'll want to get in a out as quick as possible with maximum efficiency.  

Your family needs a wide range of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates (includes grains), protein, fermented foods and good quality water.  That's it...it's not rocket science.  Here is a little diagram to outline these groups along with a list of healthy options. 

Healthy Fats

Butter, Coconut oil, Olive oil, Flax seed oil, 

Avoid
Canola, Crisco, Vegetable oil, margarine, peanut oil and everything else that is not written above.
These oils to avoid form trans-isomers in the body which are pro-carcinogenic.  All cells in the body require a healthy fatty bi-layer to generate possitive messages in and out of the cells. Degenerative diseases and auto-immune conditions are partly a result of poor quality fats.  

Complex Carbohydrates

Fruits, vegetables, rice, oats, barley
Keep breads and pasta to a minimum.  1- 2 serves per week.  More than this can result in body acidosis and inflammation.  

Protein

Lean meats (Non-deli) Fish
Tofu, Tempeh, Lentils, Chickpeas
Beans (mung, butterbeans etc)
Nuts, Seeds, Yoghurt, Eggs, Quinoa

Avoid
Caged hens, all deli-meats which form carcinogens and are excessive in sodium and preservatives, large predatory fish (Shark, Flake, Marlin) as they have elevated levels of methyl mercury, 

Fermented Foods

Miso, Soy sauce (Organic please), Kim Chi, Sauerkraut, Apple cider vinegar, yoghurts (Plain full cream natural tub set).

Water

Spring water is ideal otherwise get yourself a quality water filter to remove unwanted heavy metals, flouride, pesticide residues and chlorine.  These things do not contribute to health.  In my practice I find that around 20% of my patients are poor absorbers of water.  For these people I suggest using herbal teas or adding a few drops of lemon juice (from a lemon) to the water.

Meal plan  

Its best not to arrive at the supermarket without knowing what you want.  And if you want your kids to eat more variey encourage them to prepare meals, get involved with cooking and express the types of things they's like to eat.  This way they feel in control, responsible and generally cool about eating. Meal planning also works well for professional parents who don't want to feed their family TV dinner.s  Pre-cooking, freezing, slow cooking and getting other family members involved can help make it easier to prepare healthy delicious meals. 

Make a list  

When you work from a list it does two things.  It saves you money because you are not buying items that you don't need and two it keeps you focused and not distracted by the advertising flashing and sounding itself around the super market.  You can stay in the zone and not be controlled by the advertising company's desire to sell you what you don't need. Simple, but effective. 

Use a chemical maze code breaker

This is one of the best apps you can use if you are a health conscious shopper.  It enables you to decipher the numbered codes on the ingredient pannels.  This is important since some number additive are safe for human health while others are linked to cancers, behavioural and neuro-developmental health concerns, allergic reactions and other serious health problems.  When you use this App you can make the decision on whether you are confortable letting your family consume certain additives.

Choose your shopping time wisely

Depending on where you live and your work schedule some times to shop may be more hectic than others.  If you can consider shopping after 8pm at night, it's quieter and more easy to get in and out, plus parking is usually better.  Alternately, early in the morning around 6:30am - 7am is similar.
Its best to avoid shopping around 5pm or when your or the kids are hungry.  This leads to tension, congestion in the shop and an increased tendency to buy poor quality snacks.

Finally

Enjoy seeing how healthy your selections are compared to other trolleys at the registers. Be discrete about this but be proud to know that 100% of everything in your trolley is healthy to eat.  Once you master the art of shopping this way it will become second nature and more importantly your are influencing your children by positive reinforcement.  

All the very best and happy eating.

Dr Tim



Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What to Do When your Children Don't Heal

Isn't it frustrating that no matter what you do your kids can't seem to shift that cold, sniffle or digestive complaint.  Do you get fed up with being told "they'll grow out of it" or, "now they're at daycare you have to expect them to get sick frequently".  Its hardly reassuring is it.

I'd like to challenge this notion and go against the grain for a minute.  I'd like to suggest that it doesn't have to be this way and that it is "un-natural" for your kids to pick up every little sniffle that's going around.  The time to take control of your child's health is now and I'd like to offer up some humble tips that can really help your family enjoy the well-spring of health and wellness.

Stop taking antibiotics and using paracetamol for every minor infection or rise in temperature!  I did say I was going against the grain but there is some merit in my suggestion.  The CDC in the USA have undergone a study that suggests that 30-50% of prescribed antibiotics are not indicated http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/healthcare/  Certainly there is a time and place for judicious use of strong medication but this should be only used when it meets the correct criteria.  Make no mistake in antibiotic overuse which is been reported quite openly now contributes toward unwanted side effects that weakens your child's immune response.  These medications destroy beneficial gut flora, contribute to germ overgrowth in the small bowel and inhibit nutrient uptake from the diet.  They have been linked to developing chronic and systemic inflammatory diseases and in the case of tetracycline's have been discovered to increase the chances of developing Chrohn's disease in later life. This is serious stuff folks and if you want your kids to be healthy I strongly advice using other safer alternatives first and  medications judiciously with caution. 

Ask your doctor tough questions, after all, you are a paying customer and should get your monies worth.  Here are some examples.

  1. Do we really need these medications? ie. antibiotics don't work for viral infections and the majority of ear infections in children are viral.
  2. Is there an alternative we can use, is there something more natural or through the diet I can do to help my child become well?
  3. Why isn't my child getting better?
  4. What is likely to happen if I do nothing and instead encourage my child to rest?
I understand it can be fearful to break a well trodden path but I want to encourage you to take another perspective. After all the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different outcomes.  If what you're doing isn't allowing your children to thrive with vitality then its time to try something else.   

Use food as Medicine and let your medicine be your food.
We already know from my previous piece that the human microbiome (HMB) can change for the worse in as little as 24 hours after a diet that is laden with salt, sugar, refined carbs and god knows what other toxic additives.  

It can take up to 3 years for your child's digestive system to function like that of an adult.  Up until that time they are incredibly sensitive when it comes to food and it's interaction in the gut.  This is why it's vital to provide your child with a diet that is predominantly whole foods.  "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" - Michael Pollan.  Remembering that up to 80% of immune function is related to gut function may also inspire you to choose foods instead of synthethics in the diet.  If your Grandmother wouldn't recognise it, don't eat it.

Your Child's ability to thrive and grow is directly related to their digestive system.  Their ability to fight infection, maintain ideal weight and run on a full tank of nutrients is directly related to how their body is able to digest food, extract nutrient and remove excess waste.  A good diet rich in seasonal fruits and vegetables, varied protein sources and quality oils and fats will give your child the best start.  Diet has the power to swich on or off genes that code for diseases like cancer.  A healthy wholefood diet helps regulate mood, improves concentration, contributes to good quality sleep and support a healthy immune system.  

Consider Alternative Medicines.  
Herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years and has a rich tradition of countering illness while supporting vitality at the same time.  When professionally prescribed and matched to meet the individuals needs, herbal formulas can help your child resolve an array of health complaints without compromising other facets of their health.  Good quality products are unadulterated and tested to ensure quality and purity as well as been prepared without toxic or questionable additives.  Now think about that notion for a second and ask yourself, how many pharmaceutical medications can say the same for?  

Check for nutrient deficiencies. 
Lastly and briefly I would like to point out that your bodies physiology is inherently dependant on nutrients to keep it working smoothly.  An illness that is slow to respond is almost always a sign of poor nutrient status which should be professionally assessed. A body with nutrient deficiencies cannot function optimally and will begin to show signs and symptoms of disease or illness.  For example, your body is unable to repair itself without enough zinc.  Without B12 you are like to develop a mental health condition that is that turns you into a psychotic nightmare and a deficiency of essential fatty acids will result in dry skin conditions.  Be picky with whom you choose to check your nutrient status.  You want them to understand the biochemistry of your body as well as the form and nutrient combinations that should be used to correct deficiencies.   The devil is in the detail and it's the detail that has the answers.


Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Human Microbiome




The Human Microbiome (HMB) comprises all the microbes that live in and on our bodies.  A healthy microbiome will help your child resolve their eczema and contribute to overall health and wellbeing. The Microbiome comprises of Bacteria, Viruses, Funghi and Protozoa and outnumbers human cells 10:1 That makes us more microbe than human!

Some of you may find these facts a little uncomfortable knowing that we have trillions of microbes crawling in, out and all around us but in actual fact this microbe population is vital for human health and wellness.

Our vitality and wellness is intimately connected to a healthy functioning Microbiome


The Human Microbiome plays a vital role in your boby's ability to self regulate and stay healthy.  It's significance is so great that some researchers refer to as a new human organ.  Regardless of this the Microbiome is a truly impressive entity whose role in human health is only just beginning to be understood.

Endocrine signalling, nutrient production, detoxification, immune response and weight regulation are influenced by this wonderous ecosystem. For example, early studies sugges that the Microbiome associated with the gastrointestinal tract can determine whether we are lean or overweight.

Mouse studies have demonstrated that taking the gut flora from obese mice and placing it into sterile counterparts results in the newly transplanted mice becoming overweight.  And guess what happens when gut flora from lean mice is placed into sterile counterparts?  They develop leanness.  Bear in mind that both groups of mice are fed the same diets and yet the same studies show that obese rodents tend to extract more calories from their diet while the lean counterparts extract more nutrients.  This would suggest that it is the Microbiome that is responsible for either nutrient absorption or energy extraction. What we are seeing is that the lean mice get more bang for their buck without putting on additional weight.  The studies reveal that the change in Microflora iresults in either leanness or obesity.

All disease begins in the gut - Hippocrates


The HMB also appears to play a significant role in immune function and maturation. The body's immune function depends on healthy functioning metabolic and physiological pathways such as blood protein levels, T-Cell numbers and vitamin status.  But more than that the overall environment or body eco-system is fundamental in our ability to resolve infections and bounce back from illness. We have seen that antibiotic resistance is on the rise because of overuse which results in damage to the body's gut flora population which weakens gut-based immune function. Similarly obsessing about keeping ourselves and our home clean to the point of sterility reduces beneficial populations of microbiota living in, on and around us.  The rates of atopic illness is much less in populations who live around animals and livestock.  The take home message: we seem to develop more disease resistance with the more exposure to naturally occurring microbiota species.

The disease is nothing and the environment everythingLouis pasteur  


Encouraging a healthy microbiome will make you more resistance to illness and the prey of superbugs. It will also help you regulate your weight better and reduce inflammation.  Here are a five easy tips on how to promote a healthy microbiome.

5 easy tips to promote a healthy microbiome

  1. Natural Birth
  2. Eat Clean
  3. Live Dirty
  4. Use Medications Judiciously
  5. Look after your Digestion
A Natural Birth is one of the most important events in a child's life.  Coming through the birth canal exposure the child to a plethora of beneficial microbiota which it swallows.  These beneficial bacterial, viruses, funghi and protozoa will initiate immune defences priming the baby against attack and promoting the colonisation of beneficial bacterial such as lactobacillus species.  Unfortunately up to 40% of some populations in the developed world are encouraged to elect or are prematurely given a c-section birth.  This bypasses the all important vaginal canal which is not ideal and these babies develop not surprisingly high numbers of hospital bugs such as strep and staph. 

Eating clean with a diet of organic foods is essential for being healthy.  The modern western diet is energy rich and high in calories and refined carbohydrates.  These contribute to an acid-rich body prone to pain, inflammation and imbalance of the HMB.  Many foods are highly processed with a range of questionable additives some of which are known carcinogens. Much of the food in the west is then packed in plastics that are high in endocrine disrupting chemicals.  I like what Michael Pollan has to say, "Eat food. Not too much.  Mostly plants."  Choosing whole foods that are seasonal and fresh is equally important and avoiding foods that act as posions in the body is also ideal.  A whole food is one that has minimal processing and resembles its natural form. So, potato crisps, confectionary packaged breads and cakes, margarines and soft drinks are not whole foods.  Stick with foods that your great grandmother would recognise and you can't go too wrong.  You'll also find that eating wholefoods is cheaper that buy processed counterparts.  Oh and if buying 100% organic stretches the budget choose conventional foods from the"Clean 15 list" and avoid or buy organic foods from the"Dirty Dozen". 

Live dirty Our daily habits see us spending more time indoors performing activities that render us inactive which leads to blood stagnation, poor circulation low Vitamin D status and poor eyesight.  Our circadian rhythms (24 hour organ body clock) are disturbed by the constancy of 24hr life, hi impact electro-magnetic fields and social media dependancy. These habits leads to fatigue and mood altering conditions such as depression and anxiety.  We are also less exposed to being in contact with nature and therefore have literally become out of touch.  A healthy Micro biome thrives on contact with dirt, soil, fresh air and clean water.  So get out side, feel the sun on your skin, swim in a lake, make that veggie garden and buy the dog you've always wanted.  These things feel good to do because they are good to do and they contribute to a health microbiome.  

Stop unnecessary medications.  Studies are now showing that up to 50% of prescribed medications do not meet the indicated criteria.  Most ear infections in children are viral and yet physicians still administer antibiotics that will be ineffective.  NSAID's are being sold to parents at alarming rates and are given to children who cannot sleep or have a tiny shift in their body temperature.  And proton pump inhibitors like nexium are being given unnecessarily to babies with minor reflux.  This is troubling news for parents who wonder why their kids seem to get sick all the time, have chronic cough, rash and develop sensitivities to otherwise natural foods.  Not only do these medications alter the microbiome for the worse they are implicated in the development of auto-immune conditions, leaky gut syndrome and can predispose to Inflammatory Bowel disease later in life.  Become the parent who asks the doctor, "is this really necessary", "can I wait", "How about resting", "what alternatives can you suggest".  If you fail to get an engaging answer then find yourself another health provider, because if your family physician truly has your best interest at heart then then will happily engage in such a conversation.  

Relaxation allows the body to change the tone of the autonomic nervous system. It will switch your physiology into Parasympathetic Mode which allows your blood to flow more freely improving circulation, nutrient delivery and waste removal.  Relaxing will improve your digestion and allow you to absorb more nutrients from the food you eat.  It slows down heart rate and reduces build up of unhealthy plaque on your artery walls and will make your eyes sparkly.  You will think more clearly and sleep much better making your immune system more vigilant at removing foreign invaders.  Deep relaxation also gives you insight into yourself at a deeper level.  Taking the time to learn and cultivate practices like Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong will allow you to become more aware of your inter-connectedness to everything around you.  Practice long enough and you can develop self-mastery.  In addition it will make you more attractive not only to others but also in the eyes of yourself which means your glass will be half full not half empty.  In the words of John Lennon - Love is all you need".


In my clinic I have noticed that the patients who recover the fastest and with the best long-term results have a health microbiome.  They recognise the importance of treating their whole body with care and respect and can appreciate the sacred balanced of internal and external health.  They embody the 5 principals above and take responsibility for their own health recognising a connection between themselves and the outside world.  These are the patients that get to the maintenance phase the fastest. And the one's that want a magic pill struggle to regain their health, require ongoing supplements and medication with varying degrees of success.