Bringing families back to real food.
Q: Hi Hannah, it's so incredibly helpful to hear of a REAL LIVE PERSON who is doing this, and feels great! I get so inspired when I read the books...but then, living it is hard when you are so going "against the grain." And it's really reassuring to read that you gradually made changes over a year. I start thinking about cutting out sugar and flour and I get very nervous... I'm very passionately anti-dieting and I don't do well with rules. and so I worry I will just rebel. But if they are just guiding principles, I don't get so nervous. Was it hard for you to make the changes? Do you have to commit to 100% compliance at some point? I also worry a lot about feeling very restricted in terms of being able to eat out or at friends' houses.
A: I wouldn't recommend cutting out all flour and sugar (or sweeteners) cold turkey, unless the person had some really serious health issues that needed to be addressed immediately (for example, doctor wants to put them on medication for diabetes, or ongoing yeast/candida issues in a pregnant woman, which can cause major problems for the baby -- yeast in the gut and on the body is fed by anything starchy and sweet, just FYI).
I first switched to raw milk, pastured eggs, and grass-fed meats. I also added in the cod liver oil, and stopped using canola oil. A while later I added in pastured pork lard as a major cooking fat, and stopped using olive oil for cooking (I use it for dressings/toppings). I also committed 90% to whole wheat flour, and gradually learned to bake with it in ways that render it more nutritious, and same thing with other whole grains. I also switched completely to natural sweeteners (like unrefined sugar, raw honey, and locally-produce grade B maple syrup), which is really not much of a sacrifice! :)
Over time I realized I had to stop eating sugar and even large amounts of natural sweeteners. The first big wake-up call was when I came down with a really nasty cold after eating sugar over Thanksgiving when I hadn't been eating it for a while; the second time was after I got a bad flu after eating a cupcake someone brought over to the house. I really didn't want to stop eating white pasta (I LOVE homemade mac 'n cheese!) or sugar or flour...but I really had to because I was getting sick. Lots of people can eat this stuff "with impunity" (so they think) and not get sick immediately or have other issues. I realized, though, that my skin would get pretty bad (acne) when I ate sweets or white flour, French fries from restaurants, etc. Gradually I just didn't want to deal with the health issues or acne anymore and got really serious about my diet. Also I was really motivated to get off the thyroid medication, so there was that as well. I didn't go on the GAPS diet, though, until much later, and that is the more extreme diet which involves cutting out starches, grains, and everything sweet for a period of time. Fruit is allowed on GAPS (following a certain protocol), and most people eat it. I did up until this winter when it seemed my skin got extra sensitive to anything sweet in my diet; I suspect with better weather and outdoor exercise it will be a different scenario (last summer I was eating a locally-grown peach a day with cream and having no issues; I also had raw honey in my regular diet). For women who have hormonal issues, though (irregular periods, PCOS, acne, PMS, fibroids, benign breast cysts, etc.) it is important to know that sweet and starchy foods (and alcohol) even in small amounts can have a serious negative impact. (When I first went on GAPS I had the first pain-free period of my life with no cramps or moodiness--it was amazing!! There can be big improvements really fast with dietary changes.)
I am not the type to "rebel" just for the sake of rebelling, but I've had many many occasions of eating foods that I knew wouldn't work out so great for me....and then suffering the consequences. There are many foods and drinks that are simply really terrible for us -- that 99% of us are eating on a daily basis! -- and this is just a fact of our biology and culture. And so I have -- with a certain degree of sadness -- decided that I would rather be healthy, energetic, and not on medications of any kind than eat whatever I want. Even though to other people it looks like I eat a crazy diet, and am super-sensitive to what I eat (which I am). One of the things I have learned that's pretty interesting to me is that the more quickly you react to food that doesn't work for your body, the healthier you are. One example: my son had some processed chip/cracker things at a social event (which he LOVED) and had a complete meltdown 15 minutes later, sobbing and sobbing and acting completely unlike himself. A friend told me this was a sign of healthiness actually, since he reacted so quickly.
There is of course a downside to being sensitive -- it means you can't eat the bakery cake at your friend's birthday party (though you could make your own alternative cake for a family member's party)....or snack on a pastry at the coffee shop....or grab a bagel for breakfast when you're running late. Maybe you can't even tolerate alcohol anymore (because after all, alcohol becomes sugar instantly in the body, not to mention its other toxic effects). There are times when it totally stinks to eat differently than other people, I won't lie to you. But I have become convinced that most people are having reactions to food that they are simply not tracing to their diet -- for example, waking up one day and having no energy, or feeling really depressed all of a sudden. Or allergies that get worse every year. Or a yearly date with the flu. Or unexplained digestive issues. Or problems sleeping. Or nasty headaches on a weekly basis. Or -- heaven forbid -- cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other "chronic" disease. I also believe firmly, from what I have read and observed, that even if we do not manifest outwardly visible signs of our body's distress from what we're feeding it, there is a serious amount of aging and cell breakdown going on at a cellular level....which can eventually lead to the dreaded diseases we would rather not talk about (cancer, Alzheimer's, neurological disorders...the list goes on).
The most important reason for me to stick with my current healthy diet is Oliver. I need to be 100% on the ball every day to be a good mother and balance working from home and parenting responsibilities; I can't afford the time (or money!) lost while lying sick in bed. (In the past, I used to be a regular at that!) Also, I don't want Oliver to go through the illnesses and discomfort I went through, ranging from the back-to-back infections I had as a child, to the regular bouts of diarrhea, to the extreme moodiness, to the feeling I can remember of just having NO energy, to the 5 awful years of teenage orthodontics, and the painful wisdom tooth extraction and fillings for my "genetic" cavities. I am so committed to him being healthy, and I know that (according to the research of Weston A. Price) people can really truly escape these problems and develop in a completely healthy way. This involves having really good nutrition and all the important nutrients that are essential to development, optimal learning, immune function, and more. Because children don't eat a lot of food, and because their instinctive tastes for nourishing food are easily turned aside by sweet and starchy things (which give them a blood sugar "high") it is really important to start them out right from the beginning. Down the road they will eat foods in restaurants and on play dates and at birthday parties that aren't on their "normal" diet, and they will be able to cope with it because their bodies will be strong and healthy. You are in the perfect position to do this since your baby hasn't been born yet!
Re: your question--GAPS stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome. There is information at GAPSdiet.com and in the book by the same name (I highly recommend it!). There is a new edition available; it's expensive and you have to order it online, but it's a book to go back to over and over because it is so revealing about digestion and health and all the issues so many people and kids are dealing with today). The GAPSdiet.com website also has some sections on pregnancy and feeding babies that I think are very good, even for people who don't have problems on the GAPS spectrum (such as autism, depression, yeast overgrowth, etc.). I didn't have any of the GAPS issues myself, but I went on the diet because my son had undigested food in his stool and was becoming addicted to wheat and dairy...and both of us have seen amazing benefits. He is such a healthy little boy -- he has had two minor colds in his life -- and he learns like a sponge (he sings the alphabet song at age 2.5, and not because anyone drilled it into him!) and has incredible energy and pink cheeks, and irrepressible zest for life. It's so rewarding and thrilling to see him so healthy and strong and cute, when so many children are listless and prone to infections, or just not that energetic or happy. Food makes such a huge difference for kids.
I have gone on at length -- sorry you have to read a novel here! I wanted to convey that yes, it is a trade-off (though lots of people who eat this way can have occasional treats and don't seem to have the strong reactions I do -- everyone is different), but if you realize this and can make a decision based on what you want for your life and health then you are way ahead of most people.
Q: I wanted to ask you about teeth. I’ve read the holistic dentistry stuff on the Weston A Price website, but wonder what about regular checkups, specifically dental cleanings? When I go they say I have good teeth so I continue my business as usual, but I know that the cleaning does make my teeth feel extra clean. I got in touch with two holistic dentists in Brooklyn but they are gone until July 19th. Also, do you use toothpaste or simply baking soda?
A: I haven't found the WAPF website too helpful regarding dental care. In fact, I once called them and asked for a toothpaste recommendation and they didn't have one! Fortunately I discovered the book Cure Tooth Decay by Rami Nagiel. You can borrow if you like, or you can buy it (I think it's worth buying). I really like his recipe for tooth powder - I wrote all about it on my blog here: http://healthyfamilychronicles.blogspot.com/2009/12/tooth-powder.html I believe regular toothpaste is very harmful, even the kinds without fluoride. Basically they all contain glycerin because that is how they maintain their "wet" quality, and glycerin is extremely sticky -- it would require rinsing 28 times to get it off your teeth! This doesn't seem like a good thing.
I think one of the important things about having your teeth "feel" clean is really taking the time to brush for several minutes. The action of the tooth brush will do what the dentist does at the cleaning. However, I have also found that when I went on the GAPS diet with Oliver my teeth stopped feeling "fuzzy." When I started eating small amounts of grains and sweet things (like fruit) again, they started feeling fuzzy again, and I would have to be extra diligent and persistent with the brushing. That's just my personal observation. The book is extremely helpful in outlining the causes of tooth decay, which has to do with imbalances in the minerals and nutrients in the blood, which is caused by eating anything that creates a spike in blood sugar. This could be white bread, beer, honey, candy, juice, potatoes, fruit, and even whole grains or other healthy foods like kombucha to some extent. He really emphasizes the importance of whole foods that are nutrient-dense and non-starchy for healing tooth decay (which doesn't sound like your problem) and for establishing long-term health for the teeth. These are foods like pastured eggs (especially the yolk), raw cream, seafood, shellfish, pastured meats & organ meats, animal fats, bone broths, and non-starchy vegetables. Also, if you have any tooth sensitivity you may have to be careful about the kind and quantity of lacto-fermented foods you consume, especially the vegetables (like sauerkraut and similar) that can be quite sour. It's just a matter of paying attention to how your teeth feel, if sensitivity is an issue. I have found I can definitely link a bout of sensitivity to starchy foods in my diet, but also to acidic foods, so I have to practice moderation when it comes to consuming my lacto-fermented foods. Again, this is fine because those foods are potent and meant to be consumed as condiments. And of course they are extremely healthful, so their strong acidic quality is not a bad thing. The fermented cod liver oil is also imperative for good dental health.
Question from online discussion board:
Q: Does anyone have recommendations for a good brand for vitamins? I've heard the industry is not well regulated and vitamin brands vary in quality. My D level is very low, maybe resulting in the low energy I feel. It seems hard to get vit D from foods too.
A: The hands-down best way to get vitamin D is from high-vitamin cod liver oil -- an old-fashioned supplement considered a "sacred" food by many traditional cultures around the world (or fish liver oil of other kinds as well). The fermented variety is even more packed with nutrients, enzymes, etc. Order from www.GreenPasture.org -- Dave (the owner) uses cod livers from Norway that are going to be discarded, and ferments them the traditional way in large vats. He tests every batch for purity (no mercury, PCBs, etc.) but does not deodorize, water down, or otherwise process the oil in a way that renders it less beneficial. He has done a LOT of research on this and is deeply committed to providing an unusual and extremely high-quality product.
Also, contrary to popular opinion (including medical opinion), it is very important AND NOT THAT DIFFICULT to get vitamin D from your diet. Unfortunately, it will be next to impossible to get it in a vegan diet, and quite difficult to get in adequate amounts from a vegetarian diet. Of course, I have no idea what your diet is like -- most Americans eating a general American diet also don't get much D. This is because it is formed and stored in the bodies of animals who are --much like us!-- exposed to sunlight, and eating natural diets of grass, bugs, small animals, plankton, etc. (And let's face it: most of the animal products we eat now are from confinement-feeding operations, or fish farms -- NOT nutrient-dense sources.) Animals form vitamin D in their fur, feathers, and skin when exposed to natural amounts of sunlight (so a "free-range" chicken egg from the store won't cut it - the chicken must be on pasture). Vitamin D is also a fat-soluble vitamin, so we have to eat FAT to get it!
It is found in fish liver oil, fish eggs, liver & other organ meats, egg yolks (from chickens roaming on pasture), butterfat (butter & cream) from milk of cows on pasture (remember, they have to be out in the sun most of the time), small oily fish & shellfish, duck & chicken fat (including the skin!), and -last but not least- fat from pigs on pasture. One tablespoon of lard or bacon fat from a truly pastured pig will give you a whopping 1100 IUs of vitamin D. Now THAT'S not something they talk about in any doctor's office! :)
Since I began eating a diet containing these foods about 1.5 years ago I have watched every health problem I had disappear: hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, low energy, acne, PMS, joint pain, headaches, mental fogginess, irritability & moodiness...the list goes on. Oh, and I'm back to my teenage weight, about 100-105 lbs. So eating all this fat (paired with lots of vegetables and high-quality protein) has certainly not resulted in weight gain!
There are some wonderful buyers' clubs in the NYC area that provide these foods from local family farms; contact me for more information. For the sea products, I recommend adding some sardines, herrings or mackerel to your diet, and seeking out some of the great seafood from our NYC Greenmarkets.
Q: I have a question about vaccinations. I thought I heard you mention them in a conversation with another parent and I wanted to ask you what your opinion is on them for a child's body as I have not begun them yet as I am unsure if they help more than harm.
A: First, I must say that I am not a doctor, and cannot be held responsible for my recommendations. However, we have made the decision not to vaccinate Oliver and I feel like it was the right choice, especially now that I recall all the occasions surrounding my pregnancy and his birth that have led to making him more susceptible to having bad reactions to vaccinations and medications. I know that Mateo was born early, and I would say that is was EXTREMELY smart that you did not vaccinate him - I suspect there would have certainly been some health issues for him if vaccinations had taken place, and they would likely continue. I teach a lot about this issue in my classes (specifically my current series, on gut health and healing), but to put it in a nutshell, vaccinations were developed for children with very healthy immune systems. They saved millions of children in the last century, and are by and large a very good thing. However, because so many of today's children are immune-compromised the strain is just too much for their delicate immune systems. Vaccinations are a huge insult to the immune system, and the child must be in a very strong place in order to tolerate them well and fend off the viruses that are being introduced. Of course, nowadays children are bombarded with vaccine loads that are completely ridiculous - they have more than doubled the vaccine load in the past 20 years - so to begin with, it's far too much to expect a tiny body to handle. But to make things worse, almost all children are born and raised for the first few months in ways that make it much harder for them to handle vaccinations successfully. Factors like the mother's history (oral contraceptives, yeast infections, antibiotics, other meds, vaccinations), prenatal history (esp. vaccinations and antibiotics the mother took during pregnancy), birth experience (exposure to medications and antibiotics during birth, c-section birth instead of vaginal), post-partum experience (formula feeding, lack of breastfeeding, early infections & antibiotics) -- all these things strongly dispose the infant to developing gut dysbiosis, another name for an imbalance in the good & bad bugs in the gut. In order to handle vaccinations in a healthy, immune-building way, the child must not be compromised in any of the above ways.
I would recommend that vaccinations happen only after the child is much older, and only if he or she has been shown to have a strong gut, and strong immune system.
Q: This was in response to a question on an online message board about health deterioration during breastfeeding.
A: Breastfeeding is a time of immense nutritional pull on a woman's body. To top it off, you just recently carried a child and gave birth, and are still pretty much solely responsible for nourishing yourself and another human being. It's a LOT! Breastfeeding can take at least 800 calories a day, and of course it requires not just calories but actual nutrients, pulled from our own bodies. This is why so many women develop dental problems, vision problems, and health issues while breastfeeding. If our bodies need to feed another person, they will begin to leach minerals from our bones and teeth. The eyes and brain can suffer as well because of the demands for the fat-soluble vitamins.
The important thing is to finding ways to nourish yourself - I know, not the easiest thing when you're working and have two kids! - but it's really incredibly important. You will need to find nutrient-dense sustaining foods that will provide a lot more than a 1-hour energy boost at a time.
A good breakfast that worked for me was my "breastfeeder's breakfast," - oatmeal (traditional steel-cut or Scottish oats are ideal) soaked overnight with water and a little whey, yogurt or lemon juice (this helps break down the phytic acid found in all whole grains so they are more digestible and sustaining). Then cook the oats with plenty of water in the morning until nice and creamy. Add 4 tbsp. of butter (yes 4! preferably from grass-fed cows), shredded coconut, dried or fresh fruit, honey if desired (not more than a tsp though!), chopped nuts, ground flaxseed if you like, and plenty of whole milk or full-fat yogurt. Now THIS is a sustaining breakfast - and packs a nutritional wallop. Each of your 3 meals of the day needs to be like this, plus some really nutritious snacks in between, like deviled eggs w/coconut oil mayo, sardines on toast, pate, etc.
Focus on nutrient-dense foods like pastured eggs, grass-fed meats & poultry, wild-caught seafood, fish eggs, liver if you can possibly get yourself to eat it (pate maybe?), plenty of fresh or lacto-fermented veggies, yogurt (always full-fat), and plenty of fats (coconut oil, butter, and yes, even animal fats for cooking, like traditional lard - which can have up to 1100 IUs of vitamin D per tbsp, if from a pastured pig!). Having your daily cod liver oil is also an excellent idea (greenpasture.org).
Breastfeeding and pregnancy are times of immense physical demands - think of this like climbing Mount Everest, which it literally is. We have to really nourish ourselves deeply. All the foods I have mentioned are rich in minerals (especially if from natural, grass-based or wild-caught ocean sources), and also will provide the essential fat-soluble vitamins A & D in abundance. We need minerals like the building blocks to build our children's bodies and to maintain our own, and the fat-soluble vitamins allow our bodies to utilize the minerals appropriately. It is usually the fat-soluble vitamins A and D (from NATURAL sources, not supplements or food fortification) that most of us are missing.
Remember also that the second time around is rougher on the body than the first, because it takes a full 3 years to replenish your vitamin stores, and that's only if you really nourish yourself purposefully. With proper care, though, breastfeeding can be a time of good health and abundant energy!
Email me if you would like help with sourcing some of these foods, and best of luck!
Q: In response to a question on an online message board about pickiness in children.
A: 1) parents need to like the food they want their kids to eat, and demonstrate that -- often REPEATEDLY -- before a child will take to it.
2) sometimes it takes dozens of tastings to begin liking a new flavor! persistence really can pay off.
3) in our culture, we eat meals on the run, snacks and sugary beverages are offered constantly, and there isn't always a clear message sent to kids about food and mealtimes. I have a friend whose toddler will barely eat any food at all, but when I talked to her in depth about the issue it became apparent that a regular pattern of cooking, eating, and clean-up for mealtimes had never been set; furthermore the distraction of television was always offered during dinner time. Many little ones are going to bed before the parents are even eating dinner, and while I completely understand the need for an early bedtime and a leisurely dinner alone, it can make things quite confusing in terms of what foods ARE dinner foods, and what the pattern is around eating. I think it's pretty important to establish set times for meals, at least for 75-80% of the time, and to follow them, including showing our kids where the food comes from, how we prepare it, and then sitting down and eating it with them. Even if we are going to eat dinner after our partner gets home, we can still save a small portion from last night's dinner and share it together with our kids for 15 minutes at the child dinner hour.
It's become almost a cliche that food is the last thing we want to think about, or have time to think about after a busy day, but I think it's worth rethinking this to some extent and taking another look at our schedules to see if we can carve out some time to teach our kids about the importance of having real meals as a family.
Aside from practical changes in scheduling and modeling the type of eating behavior we want to see in our kids, there are truly a lot of children who are extremely picky for biological reasons, and all our efforts to model good eating habits will have no effect. This has to do with the status of bacteria and other microorganisms in their digestive systems. I know of children who will eat only a handful of items and have been living on these foods for years, though always with serious repercussions to their health. If your child suffers from learning/behavioral disorders, psychological issues (anxiety, depression, etc.), dyslexia, dyspraxia (extreme clumsiness), digestive problems, Autism, food allergies/intolerances, sleep disturbances (waking every night at least 1 or more times), cravings for starchy and sweet foods, cravings for milk (especially to the exclusion of other foods), persistent diaper rash, eczema, or candida issues, or susceptibility to frequent infections you will definitely want to read GUT AND PSYCHOLOGY SYNDROME, by Dr. Natashia Campbell-McBride. She explains beautifully how all these things are connected to unhealthy gut flora, and what you can do to get your child back on the right track, including helping them to develop a taste for a wide range of healthy foods. Even better: her system of healing has cured "incurable" conditions like Autism and food allergies. I also teach a class about this topic.
Q: I am really interested in learning more too about soy. My doc told me that soy really helps with menopause (I am heading in that direction, at 41) so I was trying to increase it. (question from someone with a thyroid condition and issues with painful periods and acne)
A: Real quick: soy and hormonal contraception are the two major reasons why so many women have thyroid issues...combine that with the fact that most women are avoiding animal fats and are addicted to sugar and refined carbs -- and you have a health disaster just waiting to happen!
In order to heal your thyroid and adrenals you will have to cut out soy completely. In terms of the plant estrogens that are supposedly "good" for us (estrogen is usually considered a protective factor), they are highly upsetting to the human hormonal balance and can actually can turn into the exact opposite in the body (testosterone-like compounds) exacerbating issues with menstrual pain/irregularity, tendency to cysts and cancer, acne, and general hormonal imbalances. Refined sugar and anything that throws your blood sugar out of whack -- including caffeine -- does the same thing. If you want to read more about soy and menopause please visit http://www.westonaprice.org/Soy-Alert-Update-Summer-2003.html
*Note: This question was posted on an online parents' discussion board, and as I ended up writing such a lengthy response I thought it would be useful to include it here for EBB readers.
Q: What do you do to keep your kids and yourself well?
A: This is such a tricky issue because many of the things we do to keep our kids well (the things everyone believes are good) are often counter-productive. For example, flu & H1N1 vaccines, antibiotics, prolific use of antimicrobial products, and zealous avoidance of "dirt," germs, and old-fashioned raw living foods are greatly damaging to the immune system.
Basically most of the immune system happens in the gut and relies on healthy intestinal flora to keep our nutrient absorption/assimilation working properly, and to keep the balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria and yeast in proper balance. Anything that affects this balance will potentially contribute to increased susceptibility to infection (not to mention potential decreased absorption of nutrients). Think of it this way: anything your son consumes that "kills" something will also kill the good stuff, too...leaving him vulnerable to the next influx of germs. This is why kids often go through repeated cycles of antibiotics.
To shore up your immune system, high-vitamin (pref. fermented) cod liver oil wins every time hands-down. I'm sure everyone is sick of hearing me talk about cod liver oil, but I swear the only times I or Oliver had been sick since I bought my first bottle was when I've run out and hadn't stocked up again yet. You can order from www.GreenPasture.org I recommend the fermented liquid (you can try it flavored or plain) or the capsules.
Incorporating bone broths and raw and living foods in your diet, and your son's diet is INCREDIBLY important. These include foods like lacto-fermented vegetables (I wrote about this in an earlier post), raw dairy (at the very least, raw milk cheese though actual raw milk would be best), and lots of raw garlic taken as "pills" (chopped garlic swallowed with water). This last would be harder for your son, but maybe you could figure out how to get some in him. It has to be raw, freshly chopped -- cooking it or dehydrating it kills the property that is so profoundly antimicrobial. Let me know if you need directions on the bone broth: basically it's leftover bones (say, from when you roast a chicken) thrown in a pot with plenty of filtered water, a couple tablespoons of vinegar (to draw the minerals from the bones), and simmered for at least 8 hours. This definitely helps speed recovery but is also important in prevention. You can read all about bone broth by clicking here.
Coconut oil incorporated liberally into the diet will also be highly beneficial as it has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties. I order from www.WildernessFamilyNaturals.com; the extra-virgin kind tastes like coconut whereas the expeller-pressed does not. I make mayo with the latter which is absolutely DELICIOUS and good for kids to eat a lot of.
Eating produce is great, but don't forget that children can't absorb all those great nutrients in fruits & veggies without accompanying fats! This goes against everything we've learned, but it's really important: they need a lot of good fats in the form of grass-fed butter, coconut oil, egg yolks (from pasture-raised chickens if possible), and animal fat (bacon fat and lard are superb sources of vitamin D which is important for immune function). Saturated fats especially work synergistically to help us absorb nutrients. The small oily fish (sardines, herring, anchovies, mackerel) are also rich in supportive nutrients, but may be harder to get into him.
I am also a big believer in eating according to the seasons for optimal health. For example, in the cold months the human body stays warmest and most protected from illness through a diet of warming foods (animal protein, lots of fats, winter vegetables). In the cooler months we stay well-hydrated and cool by eating the hydrating produce of summer and plenty of fresh local seafood.
Don't forget that the biggest suppressor of the immune system is sugar in all its forms -- to a certain extent, the human body does not differentiate between sugar, honey, maple syrup, fruit, white flour, and other refined carbs. If he is going to eat sweeteners, it's obviously best that they be natural (raw honey is good), but this should be strictly limited. Anything that causes a spike in blood sugar (and this includes fruit and fruit juice) will cause important minerals to be taken from the body in order to restore the proper balance in the blood. This is highly taxing and leaves us weakened and prone to illness.
Email me if you want recipes and sourcing recommendations.
*Note: This question was posted on an online parents' discussion board, and as I ended up writing such a lengthy response I thought it would be useful to include it here for EBB readers.
A: Can anyone recommend a good multivitamin post pregnancy and lactation?
Q: Unless you have a very specific deficiency or a serious illness you will likely not need a supplemental multi-vitamin (and if you do need support for something like this I recommend the supplements sold at www.DrRons.com). What you DO need is high-vitamin cod liver oil, preferably fermented. Because cod liver oils sold in stores are often contaminated, over-processed, and containing synthetic vitamins, it's best to buy from a very traditional source, which would be www.GreenPasture.org. The man who manufacturers this CLO has dedicated his life to studying traditional methods of fermentation for cod liver oil, and the resulting oil is off the charts nutritionally-speaking, a wonderful and balanced source of totally-natural vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, omega-3s, many other nutrients, and all the co-factors that your body needs to absorb these vitamins. This was considered a traditional food for centuries, or even millennia (written records go back to Biblical times around CLO use), and was always considered a sacred food, not a supplement. This should be taken daily, especially if you are having health struggles or need to rebuild your strength.
Pregnancy and lactation are highly depleting which is why a nutrient-dense diet will be the best thing for you at this time. Three foods that are wonderful sources of easily-absorbed nutrients (and should be consumed almost daily, the way you would a multivitamin) are 1) lacto-fermented vegetables, 2) bone broths, and 3) raw milk. Lacto-fermented veggies have been preserved using sea salt, such as traditional sauerkraut, kim chee, and pickles. A local vendor of wonderful organic LF veggies is Hawthorne Valley, at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays and Thursdays -- they also sell at the co-op. The ruby red sauerkraut is incredible, and the jalapeno sauerkraut has this amazing spicy tang that is really addictive! You can also do simple home fermenting, according to recipes in Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation. Vegetables preserved in this way receive an incredible boost in vitamin content. Traditional LF sauerkraut has way more vitamin C than an orange, just for example, and WAY more than raw cabbage does. You can also pick up traditional kim chee (make sure it has not been heat-treated, which kills the beneficial enzymes and probiotics) at many Korean restaurants; this is made using the same process, but with lots of wonderful flavors to choose from. It's a good idea to incorporate small amounts (condiment-size servings) of lacto-fermented vegetables at each meal. In addition to providing lots of natural, enhanced vitamins they also are a rich source of enzymes and beneficial bacteria.
The second food I always recommend is bone broths, which are the most easily-absorbed form of calcium (aside from raw milk), phosphorus, and in lesser amounts, magnesium and potassium. These minerals are available in electrolyte form, which means they are very easy to absorb. Bone broth, made from the bones and meat of fish, poultry, beef, pork, etc., along with a splash of vinegar and plenty of filtered water, is delicious and easy to incorporate in many dishes, from sauces, gravies, stews, and for cooking beans and whole grains. Also great as an appetizer! Bone broths contain all the elements of the bones, marrow, and cartilage that nourish the corresponding parts of our own bodies, as well as gelatin which is wonderful for digestion, assimilation of nutrients, for people who are ill, and for maintaining healthy immune function.
I have posted before about raw milk, which is pretty much like a multivitamin in a glass (only a lot better!), but it's controversial so I will not get into it right now. If you want recommendations on sourcing you can contact me offline.
To get the most nutritional value from your food (because this is where our nutrients should come from, not supplements) try to buy from small farms that are located nearby (fresher is more nutritious!) and that are using rich, fertile soil -- and be sure to have wild-caught seafood, also for optimal nutritional value (don't forget about canned options, which are budget-friendly!). Farms that integrate various animals with plant species will have great soil fertility, which makes for the best produce. Animals should be raised on grass/pasture for optimal nutritional content of the resulting products (meat, dairy, eggs). Be sure you are eating the fats from these kinds of meats and dairy (in other words, no skinless chicken breasts or skim milk!) so that you are getting the important fat-soluble vitamins you need. Pasture-raised chicken eggs are super as well.
Even "whole foods" supplements will be difficult for the body to absorb or recognize as nutrients; some are downright toxic. Best to spend your money on food rather than supplements and synthetic vitamins, or processed "fortified" foods. I highly recommend all the NYC greenmarkets, good local food options at the co-op, and other buyers' clubs. These foods cost more, but you can get by with eating much less than most Americans are used to b/c they are providing so much more nutritional bang for your buck. To read more about traditional foods and health, please see www.WestonAPrice.org. Let me know if you need more help with sourcing.
Comment re cod liver oil from online parents' board:
I'd be careful with the cod liver oil. It is relatively easy to get too much vitamin A, especially for a young child. Vitamin A overdose can cause blindness among other things. I just came across a case study on this (permanent blindness in a toddler caused by the adult dose of cod liver oil). Fish fats can also have high concentrations of lead, mercury, PCBs. There are some good algal sources of omega-3s.
A: I know that one must be very careful with the kind of cod liver oil they are taking, which is why I only recommend high-vitamin pure cod liver oil, fermented if possible, unprocessed, and tested for PCBs, mercury, and contaminants. I always direct people to www.GreenPasture.org because this CLO is made the old-fashioned way that people have used it for thousands of years: by fermenting the livers in large vats (ancient Romans and Vikings credited their strength and endurance to cod liver oil! written references to use of fermented cod liver oil go back to Biblical times). Dave, the producer of the Green Pasture CLO, tests constantly for impurities; there is no mercury, PCBs, or contaminants. The vitamin content is out of this world -- it's really an unbelievably nutrient-dense food (it was considered a "sacred" food by many many traditional cultures) and rich in nutrients that work together in the proper ratios. It is extremely important that cod liver oil have the right ratio of vitamin D to vitamin A; otherwise very high doses of A without accompanying D could be harmful. Keep in mind also that synthetic vitamin A, added to all kinds of processed foods and baby formulas, is something to be avoided. People need TRUE vitamin A and D in a proper balance, as these two vitamins work synergistically. This is why it is incredibly important to not take commercial cod liver oil or fish oils found commonly in health food stores -- the former will likely have lots of A and very little D, and the latter is commonly highly contaminated and can lead to allergies and other problems.
Historically speaking, people have not relied on algae for omega 3s, but instead of course have eaten sea creatures that had been eating the tiny green plants in the sea. I always encourage people to eat foods that have been used by healthy civilizations for many many centuries, or even thousands of years rather than supplements or modern replacements -- which is why fermented cod liver oil (or similar) makes sense to me. Until the 1950s, when Dr. Spock encouraged people to vaccinate rather than take cod liver oil, Americans were giving their children cod liver oil and enjoying health benefits that we are now lacking. If you are interested in reading more about vitamin A, and cod liver oil specifically, please take a look at www.WestonAPrice.org and do a search for the relevant material. And it's always good to remember that grass-fed meats (and other products from pastured animals, such as eggs) have an excellent balance of omega 3 fatty acids, much like wild-caught salmon! This is due to the animal eating -- again -- green, growing things from the earth.
For dosing, 1/4 tsp. for babies, 1/2 tsp. for toddlers and kids, 1/2-1 tsp. as daily "maintenance" dose for everyone, and much more (up to a couple of tablespoons a day!) for pregnant/nursing, and for people who are ill or struggling with disease. These are the guidelines that people followed historically. Again, they considered this a FOOD, not a supplement, and would adjust according to how they felt and whether their bodies were undergoing extra stress. Our bodies' stores of vitamin A are highly depleted by stress, illness, and toxins -- things that many people are battling almost daily. Vitamin A has gotten a bad rap, but it is needed to convert cholesterol into our stress & sex hormones, not to mention the following: protein and calcium assimilation, proper growth, prevention of birth defects, proper function of the glands and thyroid, immune system function, and eyes, skin, and bones.
*Note: This question was posted on an online parents' discussion board, and as I ended up writing such a lengthy response I thought it would be useful to include it here for EBB readers.
Q: My pediatrician recommended an iron supplement for my 1 year old. Any recommendations on brands/types? She mentioned something called Mykidz 10 which looks a little shady online. Or does anyone know of a good mutivitamin that has iron? Or should I stick with plain iron (my daughter eats well at this point, lots of variety).
A: This is one of those issues that obviously every parent must decide for her/himself, but I would like to put in a word for the "other" side because pediatricians (and everyone else in the world of parenting and health) are only presenting one angle on this.
While vitamins are probably not harmful (though many contain additives, sugars or sugar substitutes, artificial colorings, and flavorings -- all of which are not good) they are of very dubious benefit. People are supposed to get vitamins from food and beverages, not from supplements, except in extreme cases where supplementation must be undertaken for a time.
Our son is 19 months and extremely healthy (filled out, pink cheeks, excellent teeth, perfect health and digestion, great immunity, very happy and energetic, sleeps like a log) and he eats an intensely nutrient-dense diet with no supplementation. He has unprocessed, raw milk (about 2 cups a day, with high-vitamin cod liver oil), usually at least one pasture-raised egg per day, grass-fed meat chicken or liver, lots of butter from grass-fed cows, whole grain sourdough bread, old-fashioned slow-cooked oatmeal, yogurt, kefir or buttermilk, kombucha, homemade broth (from bones), fermented veggies (sauerkraut, pickles), sometimes seafood, and seasonal produce (apple, winter squash, sweet potato right now). He will eat homemade coconut oil mayo by the spoonful, lard or bacon fat (also by the spoonful), and sometimes extra cream (again, unprocessed).
You are probably wrinkling your nose in disgust, or are appalled at all the prep time that must go into this diet, but really he just eats the same as I do so it's minimal extra fuss. And I know we are going to save hours and hours of time in doctors' offices down the road, and hundreds and hundreds of dollars because he is going to be healthy and well, without allergies, digestive disorders, weight issues, tooth decay, vision loss, and all the other problems that are commonly affecting children today. For more about this, see www.WestonAPrice.org or www.NourishingOurChildren.org.
Kids need first and foremost FATS from healthy animals because these are unusually dense in fat-soluble vitamins. Case in point: fat from a pig raised outdoors, rooting around in the earth will contain vitamin D in the staggering amount of 400 IUs per tablespoon!! Butter from grass-fed cows is exceptionally high in true vitamin A -- these vitamins work synergistically for everything from nervous system health/brain development, eye health, and immune function, to digestive health and bone/teeth development (and remember, A, D, and K - the most important, most lacking nutrients in the modern diet - are only found in fat!). I fry oat cakes in bacon fat in the morning, top with butter, homemade yogurt from unprocessed grass-fed milk, and a little maple syrup -- and voila! An incredibly nutrient-dense breakfast that my son gobbles up. Lunch might be chicken liver pate (homemade, from pastured chickens -- LOTS of iron) on whole wheat sourdough bread with butter, along with some traditionally-made pickles for enzymes and friendly bacteria, and homemade bone broth for a wallop of health-supporting minerals. Liver (as much as we all hate to admit it) is just about the most nutrient-dense food there is that humans can easily eat. This is the form of iron you want your kids to be getting -- easily-absorbed, easy to utilize, unlike any brand of supplement on the market, no matter the claims the package is making. If they refuse to eat liver, they can have dessicated liver powder added to foods; most kids will not even notice (see www.DrRons.com).
Foods that are marketed to children are generally completely devoid of nutrients; vitamins and minerals are added back to give the impression of nutrition, but in most cases these amounts are either too high/wrong amount, not absorbed and excreted, and are synthetic and of terrible quality (therefore not even recognized as a vitamin/mineral by the body). In many cases, fat-soluble vitamins are added to foods with no fat! (as in skim milk w/added vitamin D) so you can kiss your vitamins goodbye in those cases. Most vitamin D supplementation (from the milk to the pills to the Trivosol drops) is made by exposing lanolin to ultraviolet light -- is this really what children "need" to be healthy? Is this really the best we can give them?
Kids need good FOODS first and foremost. If they are eating a varied diet that includes animal foods from grass-based farms, and wild-caught seafood, supplemented with high-vitamin cod liver oil (www.GreenPasture.org), they are getting everything they need. My philosophy is spend money on good food, not supplements, and not the doctor/dentist/orthodontist.
Email me if you want recommendations for local sources of good food. Happy eating!
Q: I'm hoping someone out there can help us. I'm nearing the end of my rope. My daughters have had a persistent yeast rash (at least the doctors we have seen have told me its a yeast rash) that has gone on now for 6 months!!! I feel like we have tried everything. We have seen our regular doctor and 2 dermatologists. We have tried changing diapers after every pee/poop (we use pampers), triple paste, nystatin, lotrimin, hydrocortisone, miuprocin, switching wipes (we are now using sensitive skin wipes), not using wipes, bathing after every pee/poop, changing soaps, allowing them to run naked for stretches, etc. I feel like there was even more that we did. I just can't remember it anymore. My girls cry and scream in pain at every diaper change. I just don't know what to do or what we are doing wrong. Can anyone help? Does anyone know what causes this and how to cure it? The rash will go away for maybe a day sometimes but it always comes back. I should add that they are now almost always constipated and that the rash gets even worse after they poop. (They are now also scared to poop). We have also tried to treat the constipation with prunes, prune juice, apples, flax oil, psyllium powder, but none of that works as well. Could this all be stemming from a food allergy?
A: This sounds really terrible; I am so sorry you and your girls are going through this.
Definitely changing immediately after every wetting is really important, and if you can do loose cloth diapers with NO cover and NO pants over that would be best. You can see immediately that the diaper is wet and change it right away, with perhaps a chance to air out very briefly in between. This always worked wonders with our son when nothing else was working. The key is to have a nice big cloth diaper attached loosely. We ordered big cloth tri-folds from www.JardineDiapers.com and we only use this solution when rash/irritation develops (get the Snappi attachment so you don't have to mess with pins). I would also highly recommend switching to a diaper brand that does not use chlorine as a whitener (we use Seventh Generation, available at Buy Buy Baby, Babies 'R Us, and Whole Foods).
Usually conditions like this (yeast/candida/skin rashes in diaper area, etc.) are caused by an imbalance in gut bacteria. I know that sounds scary, but actually most people have this issue because of our exposure to so many things that kill off the good "bugs" and that feed the bad ones -- the difference is that adults don't wear diapers so there usually isn't an opportunity for moist/wet areas to develop on the body (however, vaginal yeast infections are the equivalent).
The constipation is also a sign that something is not right in the inner "ecosystem." It would be so hard to say if this is a food allergy (and yes, it could be -- email me privately if you want to discuss further about their diet), but it almost certainly is food-related in some way, or at least related to what's going on internally. We need "good" and "bad" bacteria (and yeast!) to stay in the proper balance in our bodies, and when they get out of balance we end up with problems like candida, yeast rashes, constipation, yeast infections (vaginal), and more. I would highly recommend using coconut oil (unrefined or semi-refined, order from www.WildernessFamilyNaturals.com or check a health food store) directly on the affected areas. It has amazing anti-microbial, anti-fungal properties. The creams and lotions should probably all be stopped, along with any oral medications they are using as they would be killing off good stuff along with bad. Your girls should be eating coconut oil daily (to address what's happening in the gut) and having it applied topically. It won't sting, though I understand the areas are so painful that they probably don't like anything to be applied. Let the oil (which is semi-solid at room temp) warm slightly in your hand before applying. It will become liquid very quickly after contact with warm skin.
In order to restore the balance of internal gut bacteria it may be necessary to change the diet and address other things that are going on (and fyi, vaccinations/immunizations, pesticides, antibiotics, using antibacterial products, and anything else that has the effect of killing off our friendly "bugs" will have an effect on this whole issue and make it WORSE). So many children have imbalances in gut bacteria because of things like not being breastfed, being born by Cesarean, exposure to lots of vaccinations, pesticides in food, antibiotics for illness, etc. (none of these are your fault, I am not blaming you or anyone in any way, but it's good to be aware of why these problems develop so we can address them). Email me if you would like to discuss. Putting the coconut oil on oatmeal, in smoothies, in mayonnaise (click here for recipe) are all good, and having them get at least 2-3 tbsp. per day would be excellent. The fats are really great for them, and like I said contain wonderful benefits to help restore digestive health (and the health of the skin as well which is linked to the internal digestive health). You can start slow and gradually build up to this amount, or even more, depending on whether they like it (our 19-month-old son eats homemade coconut oil mayo by the spoonful!).
The last thing is that any sugars in the diet (from juice, fruit, sweets, grains, white flour, etc.) will directly feed the yeast. Yeast THRIVE on the sugars that we eat! You will want to completely cut out fruit, sugar, juices, and sweets for a time, along with the other instructions and watch for reactions. Use all these methods at the same time. Try to avoid white flour/white rice/white pasta etc. and even refined cereals, crackers, "puffs" snacks etc. as these have the same impact as sugar and will feed the yeast. We definitely don't want to feed the yeast anymore!
Q: If we can't get it together to obtain raw milk, do you know of any over the counter milk brands that are good? Many thanks!
A: As a health practitioner I cannot really recommend any milk that has been pasteurized or homogenized. But as a mom and someone who has struggled with this in the past, I know people need to have options. Basically the rule of thumb is to get the least processed, closest to grass-fed you can get. Depending on where you shop this could mean Milk Thistle or Natural By Nature non-homogenized milk in glass bottles (usually $4-5 a quart) -- this milk should be from cows eating grass, at least part of the time. For butter, Organic Valley pasture butter (green foil wrapper) and Kerrygold are the best I can recommend. And for yogurt, Seven Stars is pretty much the best you can get in a store. The process of making the yogurt does restore some beneficial bacteria and enzymes to the milk that were destroyed through pasteurization, so yogurt is usually a good choice for daily dairy if you can't get raw milk. Remember that the butterfat (cream) is the really nourishing thing and the most important for you to be eating if you are breastfeeding -- also a good early food for babies! Try to emphasize that over drinking lots of pasteurized milk. Whatever you do, always choose the most real option available, never soy, almond, rice, or other alternative milks, never low-fat or skim, and NEVER ultra-pasteurized.
Q: I read milk and eggs are two main food culprits in eczema flare ups. I started feeding Aleksa the egg whites last week when she turned one. I thought that was okay, no? She has been getting yolks for months, and I know you're recommending raw milk but I'm worried about this link between milk and eczema. I've started with topical meds religiously. The doctor recommended Dove soap, Eucerin as an emollient, and a corticosteroid. Really worked beautifully on dry itchy patches. Eucerin is non-irritating and fragrance free, and specifically for skin problems such as eczema.
A: My recommendation is this: cut out the formula and give her only raw milk at this point since she is now one, plus solids of course. Completely stop all medications, topical treatments, lotions, soaps, and shampoos; use only a natural soap for her skin and hair (buy at a farmers' market or pick a brand w/minimal ingredients from Whole Foods -- South of France is okay, or another kind), and use shea butter (unrefined if possible -- I like Alaffia fair-trade brand) for dryness, and coconut oil as well for any really rough patches. Remember that whatever you put ON your child also goes IN your child! I can't stand all the baby products in the drugstores that are absolutely filled with horrible chemicals and fragrances, colors, etc. Parents are led to believe they are "gentle," or "tear-free," or "relaxing" or some other baloney when it reality the chemicals are ending up in their children's blood stream, organs, and cells. It's absolute nonsense. If you can get a natural homemade soap at a farmers' market that would be best. Also, you might want to try stopping the egg whites for now -- the yolk is the part you need to concentrate on anyway and the white might be irritating (remember, it's the protein in eggs, not the fat that is a potential allergen). Raw milk is said to be great for eczema, and pasteurized dairy in particular is noted for its link to eczema so it's essential to cut it out completely. Do all that and see what happens if you can. Or do what you need to do with the topical medication, but be aware that if it works, it will only work as long as you keep using it. It doesn't get to the root of the problem which is something dietary, something coming through in your breastmilk, an environmental thing, or a reaction to chemicals. I know Eucerin is marketed to people with skin conditions (and who doesn't have a skin condition these days?!); I once went to a doctor years ago back in college who had me use it. I remember reading all the chemical names on the label and wondering how it could possibly be good for you! Doctors don't know any better. The Eucerin company markets the product as a treatment for eczema, etc. but there is nothing natural or healing about it. If you do see positive results, you will have to keep using it or the problem will come right back. It doesn't heal anything. And I assure you it is not natural and contains chemicals and petroleum. And really, what parent wants to use petroleum on her child? The last thing: be sure she is well-hydrated with breastmilk, raw milk/yogurt/kefir, and bone broths. Winter is a particularly irritating time for dryness; you could also turn on a humidifier in her room at night.
A: This may be a matter more of quality vs. quantity -- instead of thinking about how much she's getting, focus on the kinds and how much nourishment they are providing. The most nourishing part of dairy is in the fat, so emphasize things like sour cream, butter, cream, full-fat raw milk cheeses, and full-fat yogurt; a few toddler-size servings a day should be adequate, though if she wants more by all means let her eat it! Lots of kids will eat spoonfuls of butter because their bodies instinctively know they need these nutrients. She doesn't necessarily "need" to be drinking milk, but since all kids need beverages (and juice is not a good alternative) it's possible that she would like it better from a bottle. Our 18-month-old son still has his milk from a glass baby bottle, about 1-2 cups a day, and I allow this because the sippy cups were just not working for us and he isn't ready to simply drink from a cup yet. And yes I am one of those nutty parents who insists on only raw milk from local grass-based farms b/c I am paranoid about him having problems digesting pasteurized milk. I'm not trying to start a debate here, I'm
just saying what we do. :) The calcium and vitamins from raw grass-fed milk are fully utilized, unlike those from pasteurized (pasteurization destroys vitamin B6, a very essential and hard-to-obtain nutrient in our modern diet, and also B12). There is also a 65+% loss in vitamins A, D, and E. Vitamin C and other water soluble vitamins are made from 40-80% less effective. Pasteurization also destroys lipase, an enzyme for
digesting fat, which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to absorb vitamins A and D. We have all been led to believe that supermarket milk is a wonderful source of calcium, when in fact, pasteurization makes calcium much less available for our bodies to use. Complete destruction of phosphatase is one method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized; however, phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium! And of course pasteurization harms lactase, the enzyme necessary for digesting lactose properly, and lots of other beneficial enzymes and "friendly" bacteria.
Of course, the other thing to be aware of is that dairy from cows in conventional dairies (and yes this includes most organic dairies as well) are in confinement, without access to pasture. Cows are supposed to be eating grass (and hay in winter) and this is what makes their milk naturally rich in vitamin A. Cream and butter should range from pale yellow to deep gold -- this is the betacarotene coming through from the grass! Being outdoors also ensures that cows will pass along plentiful amounts of natural vitamin D in their milk as well, but again these two nutrients are fat-soluble and ONLY FOUND IN THE FAT. Natural vitamin A and D are the best you can get, and far more beneficial to a growing toddler than any supplements or fortification added to your standard dairy products.
Raw milk cheeses are available in most grocery stores, and full-fat yogurt from a good source is great -- I usually recommend Seven Stars brand which is excellent, though of course not raw. If you're interested in raw milk products, feel free to email me privately. We buy from very responsible, clean Amish farms in PA and everything is delivered to the city -- there is even a drop-off spot in Park Slope. And just for reference, a gallon of this organic, grass-fed, raw milk is about $7.
Of course, it's also good to keep in mind that other foods are rich sources of minerals, such as calcium -- especially traditionally-made bone broths (such as chicken stock, beef stock, etc.).
Q: I wanted to let you know that I have started the GAPS book by Dr. Campbell-McBride and I just bought "Primal Body, Primal Mind" which was given 2 thumbs up in the last Wise Traditions. When you are done moving/have had a chance to look at them, I would love to chat with you about them. Both recommend almost no carbs- even oats, brown rice, etc because of their effect on blood sugar. I haven't finished the books yet so I don't know if they mention soaking, but I would assume that soaking the grains first mitigates their deleterious effects. Anyway, would love to know your opinion.
A: It's great that you are reading these books!! But I must offer a word of warning: it's very easy to get sucked in and overwhelmed by a new diet that you read about, especially from books like GAPS and Primal Mind, etc. These are all well-written, great books with wonderful information, but for many people it's far too easy to get caught up in them and begin feeling like you have to do extreme things to be healthy -- and in the case of GAPS, you will probably feel like you are very unhealthy from reading this book. I would just encourage you to put some distance between yourself and what you are reading and instead glean from it some helpful information that you can incorporate easily into daily life that does not create added stress. (I know you are interested in adrenal health, and it's good to keep in mind that one of the most important things for healing adrenals is stress avoidance. This means no watching horror movies, no getting worked up over things, no over-scheduling yourself and being too busy to have time for relaxation. This is something I still have a hard time remembering. I can become "caffeinated" just by working! -- a sign of my own addiction to work and how it stimulates my adrenals too much. :( So stress and anything that causes extra stress (physical, emotional, mental) are all to be avoided.)
In terms of carbs, yes it is very true that excess carbohydrate consumption is at the root of our modern health crisis (along with mass-consumption of rancid vegetable oils and a few other things as well). And it is particularly the refined carbs and sweeteners that are doing the most damage. The USDA Food Pyramid recommends 300 grams of carbohydrates from grains a day!! This is the amount that a marathon runner would need to run the marathon -- not the amount that a sedentary person needs. So yes, everything we have been taught about cereals, bread, and pasta being the "staff of life" is completely wrong. However, before you jump on the Atkins bandwagon, it is really incredibly important to keep in mind the findings of Weston A. Price who discovered many "primitive" cultures who ate quite a lot of carbohydrates and were extremely healthy. The Scottish people living in the outer Hebrides are a perfect example: they ate as much as 1000 calories per day from oats, yet had almost no tooth decay (remember, tooth decay is the physical manifestation of recurring imbalances in blood sugar and blood mineral levels). It is my belief - based on everything I have read and observed - that certain carbohydrates work best for certain people based on their ethnic heritage and the way their ancestors evolved specifically. For example, oatmeal works great for me, and I eat it almost every morning, but it makes Hugo want to fall asleep immediately even when eaten with protein. I have Scottish/Irish and European ancestry (oats were also big in other cooler parts of Europe) and so it is my belief (based on being in tune with my body) that oats properly prepared work well for me. However, Hugo's heritage is entirely Spanish and Mexican (including Indian), and oats were never eaten by his ancestors. He is also blood type O (as are many Mexicans) which means he requires and is able to digest a lot of protein, especially meat -- but this doesn't mean that he needs to avoid carbs. Rather, he also does really well with corn and beans, both very starchy carb-rich foods. I could go on to give you other examples of this, but I'm sure you get the point. If you can look to your genetic heritage and determine roughly what your ancestors would have been eating, this may help you to at least find modern equivalents.
If you are prone to hypoglycemia and adrenal issues, as I was, you will need to completely cut out alcohol (which turns immediately to sugar in the body), white flour (also white rice and white pasta), all refined sweeteners, and all but very small servings of natural sweeteners and fruit. You will also need to be sure to have adequate animal fat and protein intake, coupled with fermented foods and/or beverages at every meal, and bone broth taken before eating meat (as you are blood type A this will help you digest the protein properly). You may also need to strictly limit carbohydrate consumption in the form of bread and flour, even whole-grain, because flour is basically very small particles of carbohydrate and therefore very easily absorbed, which can still cause something of an imbalance in blood sugar (sourdough breads and soaked-flour home-baked items are something of an exception, though they will still need to be used in moderation -- I recommend no more than 1-2 servings daily of flour items of any kind). This will all help with adrenal issues and a tendency to hypoglycemia. You may even notice a difference in your response to oats in various forms -- i.e. steel-cut oats will likely keep you going much longer than Scottish oatmeal which is in a highly crushed/milled form. This is a sign that your body is working harder to break down the more fibrous parts of the oats, thereby releasing glucose into the blood stream more slowly, which is exactly what we want. It is also worth noting that rice is uniquely starchy in comparison to most other whole grains -- it is far lower in fiber and has much more starch. It's wise to keep rice consumption to a minimum, even brown rice consumption, because the pancreas of the average Westerner is simply not adapted to produce enough insulin to digest rice on a regular basis. Asian and Japanese people actually have larger pancreases to handle rice! Again, we can take a cue from what's available locally. You can indeed grow oats in our Northeast climate, but not rice!
The key is to 1) find which healthy sources of carbs work for your body, and 2) use them in moderation or in the proper balance that works for you. Signs of blood sugar imbalances will include things like acne, PMS, reproductive disorders, adrenal stress, thyroid issues, insulin resistance (with its signature weight gain around the belly), hypoglycemia, fatigue after eating, tooth decay, unwanted hair growth, yeast infections, irritability, depression, and susceptibility to infection.
Q: I grew up eating a lot of beans and still do, and wondered if you could offer some tips on cooking beans in a healthy traditional way?
A: Here is the link to my blog article on cooking beans so you have some general guidelines for making bean dishes more nutrient-dense and traditional:
Basically the best thing you can do is buy responsibly-grown dry beans (I recommend Cayuga Pure Organics -- they offer wholesale prices and deliver anywhere in NYC for free), soak them a long time as directed in the article, cook them a long time in bone broth, and replace the oil you currently use with beans with lard. I don't know if you grew up eating lard, but lard (and pig fat in general, including bacon fat) is second only to cod liver oil for vitamin D content! One tablespoon of lard or bacon fat provides 400 IU vitamin D; it is highly recommended to get about 10 times this amount in the daily diet, if at all possible, so by all means load up on lard! (To put this in perspective, a tablespoon-worth of egg yolk would contain about 21 IUs vitamin D, and the same 1/2 oz. serving size of pickled Atlantic herring would have 97.)
Q: My one-year-old has had candida since a few days after birth. It has come and gone as a diaper rash, but now the rash is back and I can't get rid of it! What do I do? She has a variety of solid foods now, including many kinds of fruits; she still drinks formula, about 1-2 cups a day.
A: At this point she should definitely switch from formula to raw milk. There are many problems with baby formulas, but in this case any type of sweetener needs to be avoided as sugar is feeding the candida (and almost all formulas contain sugar in some form, often as corn syrup). Try using coconut oil (order from www.WildernessFamilyNaturals.com) on the diaper rash, and also give it to her orally, mixed with food and in homemade mayonnaise (see my blog for instructions). The extra-virgin cold-pressed coconut oil will taste like coconut, whereas the semi-refined expeller-pressed coconut oil will not; choose the one you will prefer based on this information. It is also imperative that she stop eating fruit entirely for now. I know we have all been taught that eating fruits and vegetables is the key to good health, but for babies and toddlers it is far more important to eat 1) healthy sources of animal fat, and 2) healthy sources of animal protein. Pureed and soft seasonal veggies (like yams) are great for her as well, but avoid all sources of refined carbohydrates and sweeteners (including juice, white flour, white rice, sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.).
*Progress report: the diaper rash cleared up and did not return after cutting out all sweets and fruits.
Q: I have gluten intolerance and am looking for help with this.A: The whole gluten intolerance issue is pretty complicated, and is tough to get around because gluten is found in so many foods -- BUT the most important thing to keep in mind is that because of the way grains are processed they are even more damaging and difficult for the digestive system than they would be if eaten in traditional ways. This is why so many people have gluten intolerance and sensitivities. Here is a link to a wonderful article that describes the history of wheat and processing and outlines specific reasons why people have gluten intolerance and poor digestion: http://www.westonaprice.org/Against-the-Grain.html It's pretty long, and quite dense, so in case you don't have time to read it I will put it in a nutshell for you:
1) you have inherited a gene that makes your body react to a certain chain of peptides in the gluten protein. Depending on your ethnic background, there will be certain grain-based foods that you are more adapted to eat, but American processed foods are probably not included in that list!
2) traditional methods of preparing wheat and its close relatives used fermentation and sprouting, as well as soaking of the grain to make it more digestible and nutritious. In fact, traditional methods of making sourdough bread have actually been shown to neutralize the "toxic" peptide that people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease are reacting to.
This means that traditional sourdough breads will likely be your ticket to enjoying wheat and its relatives (spelt and rye), though I would recommend restriction for now and moderation in the future. I have not yet begun baking bread at home; I buy all our whole grain sourdough breads at the farmers' market -- they do not sell true sourdough in grocery stores). It is also possible to bake at home using responsibly-grown whole grain flour (NOT the typical grocery store white flour everyone bakes with) to make things like muffins, biscuits, pancakes, and cornbread. To make these things, I use whole grain flour that I buy at the farmers' market, and I let the flour sit at room temp. for 24 hours after mixing it with buttermilk. This way it is digestible and healthful, both for people with gluten sensitivity and the rest of us as well (though before you begin incorporating these foods into your diet you should speak with me to discuss how to go about this and symptoms to watch for). I suspect that while not everyone has been diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, many many people do have digestive problems and have damaged the lining of their intestines by eating processed foods, taking antibiotics, etc. and would greatly benefit from eating traditional bread products rather than the stuff found in grocery stores and restaurants.
You can always see my blog (http://HealthyFamilyChronicles.blogspot.com) for recipes for muffins, pancakes, and waffles that would be easier for you to digest. And feel free to search around on www.WestonAPrice.org for additional information; it's a great resource.
Final note: If you are very sensitive, it is good to be aware that wheat gluten (starch) is found in MANY other products that wouldn't seem to have wheat at first glance. The list (excerpted from the linked article above), is here:
Bread products and baked goods of all kinds represent the usual suspects as far as gluten sources go, but gluten (wheat starch) is an ingredient in many other processed foods (for example as a thickener or extender in foods lacking honest substance) and also in a surprising array of non-food items. The following list gives an idea of how pervasive gluten is in many consumer products. Check labels, but better, check with manufacturers to be sure of ingredients. As far as food goes, homemade is always best.
These label ingredients can indicate the presence of gluten:
These non-food items may also be gluten sources:
Q: Hi Hannah! I can't wait for our next class! In the meantime, I have 2 questions for you. 1. How do you physically lug all of your compost (and Oliver!) to the Union Square farmers market once a week? What sort of containers/bags do you use? You have inspired me to start composting, but I just wanted to figure out the logistics. How do you travel with your groceries back home? 2. What does a typical week of meals look like for you? When do you plan your meals? Thank you so much! Also, I made the oat cakes and my husband loved them! Yay!
A: 1) First of all, I don't take the compost every week (though if you do, it's definitely more manageable). This is why I end up carrying several giant canvas totes, in addition to the stroller -- not good. If you can manage to go every week to the Union Square market, you can take your food scraps any day the market is open, and it will be a very manageable load. Simply save up the scraps and store them in plastic bags in the freezer (such as leftover bread bags or produce-style plastic bags from the grocery store). Then you can just take them out and carry them in a canvas tote like you would use to carry groceries. I ride the subway with Oliver like this, and since we don't have an elevator at our stop I generally leave the bags at the top of the stairs and carry Oliver's stroller down first. Then I run up quickly and get the bags. I can keep an eye on Oliver the whole time b/c of how the stairs are situated; at some stops this would be more tricky so you just have to do what works for you. At Union Square there is an elevator at the far southeast corner. In terms of getting back home, sometimes Hugo comes to meet us there after work, and sometimes I just carry Oliver and everything else. I try not to buy too much, but still usually someone helps me get up the stairs, or carries my bags while I carry the stroller. It definitely keeps me in shape doing this routine! You can see my blog posts about all this by clicking the label "composting."
2) I usually plan the next week's meals on a Thursday or Friday, though it depends a lot on when I will be going to the farmers' market or picking up one of our dairy and meat deliveries. A typical week of winter meals would include something like the following:
About 90% of what we eat is local/seasonal so the menu changes quite a bit with the seasons. For example, in the summer I eat salads for lunch a LOT. We also eat a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables then, but barely any fruit in winter. I try to eat fermented veggies a few times a day, and whatever fresh ones are seasonal about once a day (this would shock a lot of "health"-minded people, but I am not obsessed with vegetables). Really, when it comes to all kinds of foods I follow my cravings quite a lot. Sometimes I want tons of fried onions, so I will fry up an onion and eat the whole thing! Or sometimes all I want is brown rice cooked in chicken broth, maybe with a little liver, and that will be a meal.
Two things I generally make every week are bone broth and beans. The bone broth requires us to have eaten something with bones of course, which is not usually a problem. As far as the beans go, since I like to incorporate them in a lot of dishes, I generally soak 2-3 cups at the start of the week, and cook them in bone broth. Then I have them on hand to be used in everything from soups and stews to purées for dips and sandwich spreads, but we will go over this in class in a couple of weeks. :) You will also learn about baby and toddler meals that I feed Oliver.
One thing we don't eat much of right now is fish, mainly because our local farmers' market is closed during the winter months and that is where I like to buy my fresh fish; I just can't get to the USQ market early enough to have a good selection. Also Hugo doesn't like fish much at all, so it got a bit frustrating serving it when he was just going to pick at it and be hungry. I am trying to figure out how to get more fish into our diets, and try to at least serve fish eggs to Ollie, and sometimes canned seafood. In the summer I make a lot of raw marinated tuna to have on salads, and things like fresh mussels with garlic-wine sauce, or basic fish with butter and lemon. I am much more into hearty, filling foods in the colder months, and lighter more refreshing and cooling foods in the warmer months, so eating whatever is available at the farmer's market works very well. I also tend to drink more raw milk in the warm months, whereas in the winter I want more dairy in the form of cheese, butter, and sour cream. For winter snacks, I like to have lacto-fermented cucumbers (pickles), raw milk cheese, good crackers, and proscuitto, salami, or smoked ready-to-eat sausage on hand. I also sometimes make ginger ale and always have a few lacto-fermented beverages in the house, like kombucha and fermented grape juice.
Q: I just had a few questions. I'm starting to feed Becca and she is 6 months old. I bought some chicken liver from a local farm and I know that the Wise Traditions magazine recommends to freeze it for 14 days then grate it and feed it raw to 6+month old baby. I was wondering how you would do it? I'm a little leery about giving Becca raw liver and I'd like to maybe cook it, puree it and freeze it in small quantities to take out and give when needed. What do you think and what would be the best way to cook it and not lose the nutrients? I started egg yolk (cooked 3 1/2 mins); what else would you start off with? I'd like to make batches of things to freeze in serving size quantities to take out when needed. Do you think freezing things will be okay? What things are better off not frozen?
A: In terms of the liver, as long as it is from healthy, grass-fed animals and frozen for 14 days it will be perfectly safe. It's easiest to have a handy chunk in the freezer and simply grate some small shavings into the soft egg yolk, mix, season with unrefined sea salt, and serve. If this makes you too uncomfortable you can make a liver pâté according to the recipe on my blog; just keep in mind that if you cook the livers to death they really won't have the great enzymes that are present in the raw and more lightly-cooked version. A good method is to cook the livers quickly on relatively high heat so they become brown on the outside, but are still a bit pink inside. You could make pâté with one lb. of chicken livers, for example, and then freeze 3/4 of the batch, storing in 3 separate containers for easy thawing. Keep 1/4 in the refrigerator and feed her as much as she wants on a daily basis (feed only a little to start to make sure there are no adverse reactions). Of course, you might find that you want to eat some of the pâté as well, and that would be a great idea!
The egg yolk is great; focus on that and the liver for now and just let her get used to eating. If she is really eager about solids you can begin to add some yogurt (preferably made using clean raw milk from grass-fed cows). One of Oliver's favorite early foods was yogurt, and he loved it (and still does) just plain -- no sweeteners or toppings are needed. Right now her digestive system can handle mainly fats, proteins, and natural milk sugars (lactose), so as time goes by and you introduce more foods try to focus on pureed meats (especially those cooked in bone broth), pureed fish (blended with butter or sour cream-the saturated fats work synergistically with the monounsaturated fats in fish), lard, coconut oil, liver, yogurt, mushed raw milk cheese, butter, chicken fat, eggs (no whites until after 1), and broths made from all kinds of bones (beef, chicken, pork, turkey, fish, etc.). She can also drink raw milk blended with raw egg yolks and high-vitamin cod liver oil (a favorite of Oliver's!) when she is a little older (I would say 8 months), and have a simple custard made from eggs, milk, and a smidgen of maple syrup.
Another great early food is fermented sweet potato (see below), which introduces a different kind of taste, and also has lots of good enzymes and friendly bacteria. Other early vegetables to start with include carrots, winter squash, and beets (when deciding on veggies think soft and mushy texture vs. fibrous or crispy texture). All should be well-cooked, mashed or puréed, and mixed with plenty of butter to ensure absorption of all the nutrients. Keep in mind that root vegetables (those that grow underground) will absorb an extra share of whatever chemicals are used on the farm, so it's really important to buy organic or -better yet!- local root vegetables from small, responsible farms. This will also help ensure the soil is fertile and producing nutrient-rich vegetables. I should mention also that avocado is another favorite that babies seem to love; you can make a simple guacamole with a little lime juice, mashed tomato, and salt.
It's important to be aware that babies do not produce much of the enzyme amylase until later (between 1-2 years), which is needed for digesting carbohydrates. So it's best to stick primarily with fats, proteins, and natural, grass-fed dairy (especially RAW). However, since bananas contain amylase they are a good first choice when it comes to fruit, so a little bit of mashed banana now and then is fine, preferably mixed with a form of fat like cream or yogurt to slow the absorption of sugar. I tend to be wary of giving babies much by way of sweet foods (even fruits and sweet vegetables) because it encourages them to develop a taste for sweets. The main focus needs to be the natural animal fats and proteins like meat, liver, and eggs.
Your last question: what things are better off not frozen? I don't recommend making complicated meals, pureeing them, and freezing them in ice cube trays like all the parenting magazines will tell you to do; this is too much work and produces a meal that tastes (and often looks) like saw dust. Oliver never wanted to eat stuff in this condition and I couldn't blame him. Other than that, don't worry if you have to freeze stuff to make it last; generally this doesn't damage the nutritional properties. As Becca gets older and is eating a little bit at each meal, she can just have a bite of what you're having -- simply chew it first for her, place it in a little dish, and feed it to her with a spoon. This is the easiest thing ever -- no fuss, no extra work, and it means you will have to be sure you are eating a nutritious meal, too. :)
Fermented Sweet Potato (6 months +) -- change the proportions to suit your needs
Poke a few holes in 2 pounds sweet potatoes and bake at 300 degrees for about 2 hours or until soft. Peel and mash with 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt and 4 tablespoons whey. Place in a bowl, cover, and leave at room temperature for 24 hours. Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. From Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Q: Hi Hannah, thank you again for all that you are doing for me and Aleksa. You mentioned ordering bacon from the farm. We don't eat bacon but I would give to Aleksa if she was ready for it, and I'm not sure about that, even if I make it extra crunchy. She has two bottom front teeth and four top front. What do you think?
A: I think it would be hard for her to chew. Oliver is much older than Aleksa, but we still only give him the parts that are crunchy fat but which dissolve easily in the mouth. I would **highly** recommend using some lard (pig fat) in her food, though (for example, I cook beans in lard for Oliver, or you can saute anything you would use olive oil or butter for, and use lard instead). If you don't want to eat the lard yourself you can just keep it for Aleksa. Remind me and I will give you a little sample of lard next time I see you. It's so cheap, only $6 for a quart, and a quart lasts a really long time. I recently discovered Oliver likes to eat it by the spoonful! I will eat butter that way, but not lard -- Ollie is really hard-core! I have read that babies know instinctively what foods their bodies need. As lard from pasture-raised pigs is high in vitamin D it is great for babies, particularly in these winter months. The raw butter is great eaten uncooked or lightly warmed as a topping for foods, while the lard is excellent for frying and sauteeing. In terms of getting the most nutritional bang for your buck, this is what I recommend.
Of course it's also great for the rest of us, even those of us worried about aging and wrinkles! I love this little testimonial from a nutritionist:
"Lard is a traditional fat, the mention of which causes us moderns to cringe. Yet lard is a healthy, natural fat. Lard is rendered fat from pork and is mostly monounsaturated. Lard can be a wonderful source of vitamin D [when from pigs who spent their lives outside]. Traditionally, lard has been used and enjoyed for pastries and frying potatoes—until the vegetable oil industry took over. Don't be afraid to experiment with lard in your kitchen, it will add lots of flavor to your food.
On a side note, I worked with a client from Mexico who was here visiting her daughter over the summer. The mother was 85 years old, very strong and healthy, and had not one wrinkle on her beautiful face. Her skin was incredible! It was so soft and silky, not at all dry, scaly or wrinkly like the skin I'm so used to seeing with most of my clients. I just had to ask her what kind of fats she eats. Her daughter translated my question to her mother and then replied, 'She said she eats mostly lard. I can't believe it! I keep telling her that's not good for her, but she just won't listen!' Us silly Americans!" excerpt from (link) Taking the Fear out of Eating Fat
A: The cod liver oil available in stores unfortunately is not the right kind; I do not know of any stores that carry the right types, not even Whole Foods or the health food stores I have checked. I am not sure why this is exactly...except that perhaps if these stores began carrying the good kind they would have to charge quite a lot for it and either a) no one would buy it when the cheaper kinds are available, or b) everyone would wonder why they were carrying the inferior kinds once they discovered that the better kinds were so superior!
Basically the rule to keep in mind is that the ratio of vitamin A to vitamin D in pure cod liver oil must be 10-to-1. This is the ratio these two vitamins are present in totally-natural cod liver oil, and is also the ratio in which our bodies are able to best absorb them. Unfortunately most companies adulterate the CLO by adding synthetic vitamins to it in order to make it go further, which then gives them more profit -- they do not have to state this on the label! Many companies also use solvents and other dangerous chemicals in the refining process, and many do not check or guarantee freedom from contaminants, impurities, or mercury. The only three websites I recommend for CLO are www.radiantlifecatalog.com, www.greenpastures.com, and www.drrons.com. These are all responsible companies that do their best to provide only the truly natural, pure, and healthful cod liver oil that will give you the best quality for the price.
Cod liver oil is such an important supplement for babies and children (and for breastfeeding and pregnant women, and the rest of us, too!) that it is more than worth it to buy the right kind.
Q: Do you know of any foods or other natural remedies for helping cope with stress? Because I need them!
A: 1) First of all, on a daily basis try to take some time away from the source of stress -- this is harder for us marrieds-with-children when the source of stress is something like a teething child or a tired spouse, but if you can at all get some downtime just for you, be sure to make it a priority.
2) Take high-vitamin cod liver oil. See the posts on my blog about this (and the other Q&As here) and just start doing it. When we are under stress our bodies become depleted of vitamin A, and CLO is the best backup source that we can take as a daily supplement. Vitamin A is needed to convert cholesterol into our hormones, and hormones will help keep us calm and on an even keel. Also, the high levels of vitamin D in CLO will support the immune system. Vitamins A and D work synergistically and really do help keep us well even in difficult circumstances or in the face of fatigue, stress, germ exposure, and cold weather.
3) Avoid stimulants as much as you can. These include things like sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods (which contain many additives), and white flour -- easier said than done around the holidays when we are constantly eating cookies, drinking hot chocolate, and having drinks at parties! These foods put stress on the body, deplete us of important nutrients and minerals, and have the effect of jolting the adrenal glands to make them produce extra energy. This can end up making us feel even more stressed out because our adrenaline response is constantly activated. Think of it this way: each time you stimulate your adrenal glands, they continue firing for a full 24 hours. So if you have coffee every morning, guess what? your adrenal glands never get a day off. This spells big trouble when you come under additional stress, because your adrenals are likely fatigued and you will be tempted to stimulate them even more than usual to keep yourself going.
4) Fats from animals raised on grass are an important source of the cholesterol mentioned above which helps our bodies make the appropriate hormones. These fats are also great sources of the all-important vitamins A and D (also mentioned above). Focus on foods like butter, cream, egg yolks, lard, chicken fat (think chicken skin & roasting drippings!), and other meat fats. Fat from oily fish is wonderful as well. [When it comes to dairy, choose raw if you have the option, but if not always get organic, grass-fed & unhomogenized if you can, and never ever ultra-pasteurized.]
5) Treat yourself to something relaxing...like a special caffeine-free tea (try to get something that has only herbs, flowers, and fruits in it -- no natural flavors or other additives), a warm bath, or a massage. If you have a favorite way of relaxing, such as meditation, yoga, stretching, playing an instrument, or taking a walk in the woods, by all means make time for it! We all know that doing these things are important, but it's so easy to do everything else first...and then never have time for relaxation.
6) If you become run down and begin to feel you are getting sick, chop a few cloves of raw garlic into small pieces and swallow them whole with water, as if you were swallowing pills. Repeat a few times a day as long as necessary to ward off the illness. This really does work for everything from colds to mastitis! The antibiotic properties of raw garlic also aid recovery.
The main reason I suggest staying away from grains is that babies don't produce enough of the enzyme amylase needed to digest grains and get the most benefit from them, especially wheat. If foods are ingested but not digested properly, then they can cause problems in the digestive system. It's best to feed the foods that babies are most equipped to handle right away. Again, like I mentioned in my talk, think about breastmilk and what it's mainly made of: protein, fat, and natural milk sugars (lactose and galactose). Babies are well equipped to digest and absorb these things. I would suggest waiting until age 1 to start cereals, though I am waiting with Oliver until age 2 more or less because that is when babies have enough of the digestive enzyme amylase to break down the grains properly. You don't have to be a purist about this -- obviously many people in Russia grow up eating cereals from early on and are fine! I think in the context of the Russian diet (or the traditional diet of any other country) the child would be okay 99% of the time; but there is something extra-refined about our American baby food cereals that makes me very wary, and in addition the rest of the diet is not health-supportive. Just the addition of the kvass and kefir you grew up having will work wonders in preventing digestive problems (including food allergies), not to mention all of the other health-supportive foods you were eating without even realizing it! In some "primitive" cultures babies are given a thin watery cereal gruel, which is made of a whole grain like oats or quinoa soaked a long time w/something acidic (like yogurt or whey which I always recommend using to soak whole grains before cooking them -- see my article on this on my blog). It is just my general philosophy that it makes the most sense to eat (and feed our children) in the way that was used successfully for many hundreds (or thousands) of years by traditional nonindustrialized people. This is why natural whole foods properly prepared make the most sense to me as opposed to boxed and jarred over-processed "food-like substances" as I like to call them. However, you should certainly feel free to read on this subject and decide what's best for your child. I don't tend to trust information given out by the American Academy of Pediatrics or the government or groups of scientists who may be receiving funding from baby food manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies to study certain things. But that is just my personal bias.
The last thing to consider about feeding babies grains from an early age (especially the refined kinds that are fed here in the U.S. like white rice cereal) is that it can lead to a craving for starchy refined foods right from the beginning. This is already a battle that will be hard to fight a little later down the road when kids get introduced to things like pasta, bagels, Wonder bread, cookies, and more! The refined starchy cereals that most babies eat can set susceptible children up for problems like insulin resistance and diabetes down the road. This is not a good path.
A: Basically the most important thing you need to do is work on reducing the amount of sugar and concentrated sweeteners in your diet. These things are feeding the yeast like you would not believe. Part of the reason this may be proving so difficult to give up is that the yeast is so strong it is making you crave sugar and sweet foods b/c this is what feeds it the best. Crazy and frustrating fact, but true unfortunately.
It would be very good for you to read about the GAPS diet (Gut & Psychology Syndrome). Try not to get overwhelmed by the standards of the diet -- it's a slow process, and right now the most important thing for you is to work on reducing and eventually completely cutting out sugar. It may be helpful to keep in mind that the underlying problem is not actually the yeast (though it has obviously grown out of control), but the fact that your intestinal bacteria is not in balance. There is always some amount of yeast in the human digestive tract, and this is a good thing. But when it grows and proliferates and is left unchecked it will create infections in other parts of the body (thus things like vaginal yeast infections or even oral populations of yeast, as in thrush). Antibiotics are often to blame for yeast infections that grow out of control so it's best to try and avoid these.
Besides sugar, the other things to watch out for are:
1) concentrated sweeteners of all kinds (large amounts of honey, maple syrup, unrefined sugar, etc.) Please do not switch to artificial sweeteners, though - they are all dangerous and definitely not appropriate for a pregnant woman. While you are working on cutting out sugar, you can use some natural sweeteners to help you do it. For example, if you have tea with sugar, work on cutting down slowly on the amount of sweetness you expect, and substitute raw honey for now.
2) white flour products, baked goods, and things like cookies, crackers, pretzels, etc. Refined (white) flour quickly breaks down into sugar in the body as it is a pure starch. This will feed the yeast.
3) all fruits, and starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn. You can still eat things like carrots and winter squash, even though they are relatively sweet. And later berries will be okay. Right now it will be best to reduce and then cut out things like fruit and potatoes (including potato chips and French fries).
4) in the GAPS diet even things like milk and beans (but not lentils or yogurt) are off limits! But I wouldn't advise you to worry about this now. If you tend to drink milk or eat yogurt a lot, just make sure it is organic for now, and raw as soon as you can get that. Dairy is high in natural sugars, though, and will also tend to feed yeast. Down the road, adding kefir will be great, as it contains many beneficial bacteria and helps re-populate the gut with good bacteria and microorganisms that will support your overall health, and that of your little one. If this all sounds foreign to you, don't despair! I am here to help.
It is going to be really important to mainly focus on healthy fats, animal protein, and vegetables (including fermented veggies like traditionally-made sauerkraut and pickles). These are all foods discussed in my Nourishing Wisdom workshop, and include things like coconut oil, lard, butter, high-vitamin cod liver oil, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. You can buy fermented veggies at the Hawthorne Valley booth at the Union Square Farmers' market. I would encourage you to visit their website and check the other locations and times so that you know when you can buy from them. Try just adding small amounts to each meal. Various fermented veggies (including garlic which is super for yeast!) are also available through some of our buyers' club farmers (email me for recommendations).
Coconut oil will be healing for you, but start with small amounts, such as a tablespoon melted into hot water, homemade coconut oil mayonnaise, or some kind of seasonally available fish or shellfish coated in egg and coconut, and fried in coconut oil (yum!). Bone broths will also be especially healing to the gut and can be included in every meal. I will be going over this in detail during my January cooking series, but in the meantime feel free to visit my blog for information on how you can start doing this now: http://HealthyFamilyChronicles.blogspot.com
You can also try douching with BioCult, available through the GAPS website. There is also a liquid probiotic available from DrRons.com that has a yeast strain that you can douche with. Douching kits are available at pharmacies. I would recommend taking the Dr. Ron's probiotic orally as well, in the amount recommended.
During birth, babies are meant to actually ingest some of the mother's healthy vaginal bacteria (which mirrors the gut bacteria), which establishes the first colony of gut bacteria in the baby! (Breastfeeding also comes into play with this.) It's amazing how this works. Healthy gut bacteria is crucial for strong immunity, ability to digest and absorb nutrients, and proper mental development. So clearly it's really important to work on getting everything in balance as much as you can.
At some point in the next few months you will be tested for strep B b/c you are pregnant. I think something like 20-30% of women test positive, and antibiotics are routinely administered during labor and delivery in these cases, and also sometimes given to the baby. This is really something that you want to avoid. So in order to minimize your chances of testing positive for strep B it's really important to do your best to implement these changes in terms of diet, and also to really emphasize daily use of the cod liver oil, fermented foods, and bone broths. These three things will really help. If you do end up testing positive, it is your right (and highly recommended!) to avoid taking the antibiotics if you can. I don't know the details of your birthing plan (except that you mentioned a midwife), but in many cases as soon as the hospital setting is brought into play, there are lots of things happening that are hard to sort out and understand. Many women are routinely given antibiotics and various drugs without even really being told much about it. It sounds like you are an empowered user of the medical system, which is great! It's just something to be aware of when it comes to giving birth in particular. Your husband, your midwife, and your doula (or anyone else you have as support) can help advocate for you.
Q: My husband thinks organic food will taste bad. I really need him to be on board with me in our switch to a better diet but I have to be strategic about this. Any suggestions?
A: I understand your need to be strategic. I would be interested to know what your husband thinks "organic" actually means...has he ever eaten produce from a family member's or friend's garden? That's pretty much what organic produce tastes like -- exactly the same as the stuff at the supermarket, only better! :) As for grass-fed meat, raw milk, etc. it's just as if the food has more intense delicious flavor (for example, the milk is much creamier and tastes great). He should keep in mind that everything produced (produce, meat, milk, etc.) before the 1950s was what we now call "organic" -- this just means no chemicals, no antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. All food used to taste much better! And it was much better for us and the environment. The way veggies and fruit are produced now they actually have FAR fewer nutrients than they used to. In fact, some modern non-organic oranges have actually been found to have NO vitamin C. It's because if food is grown in depleted soil there will be no nutrients in the fruit. Pretty crazy. I suggest watching "Food Inc." and see if you can get him interested!
A: Many people who are supposedly on "healthy" diets believe dairy is evil and that we should have soy of all kinds (such as soy milk) instead. However, it is best to stay away from soy in all its forms (except miso or tempeh as they are fermented), ESPECIALLY the over-processed soy such as milk, "meat," "cheese," soybean oil (found in most restaurants for things like Chinese food and nearly all fried foods), and hydrolyzed soy protein (found in everything from breakfast cereals to snack bars). Here is an article on the dangers of processed soy (you may want to pass it along to your friend).
It is far more natural to drink milk from farm animals which healthy people have valued as an important source of nutrients for many centuries. Some people are allergic to milk, so they shouldn't drink it of course; however, even those who are supposedly lactose-intolerant will usually tolerate raw milk products just fine as it contains all the enzymes needed to digest the milk properly. It's definitely best to not give little ones commercial pasteurized milk (especially when it's not organic -- there truly IS a lot of horrible stuff in commercial milk, such as pus, mega-loads of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides & herbicides from the cow's feed, etc.). I really recommend that if your family eats dairy in any quantity you might consider looking into and getting some raw milk, butter, and yogurt to start. This is dairy made the way nature intended. Cows are supposed to be on grass, out in the sunlight, and grazing so they can get all the fabulous nutrients from the grass and sun and pass them along to you in the milk, as well as in their meat, organs, and fat. I suggest looking at http://www.RealMilk.com for information.
In terms of fat, our bodies really need saturated fats and for growing babies and children they are absolutely essential. For example, bone growth requires saturated fat, and though our bodies can manufacture some types of saturated fatty acids, there are others it cannot manufacture which are truly crucial in the diet. See this section on saturated fat from the longer article.
In terms of the CLO, think of it this way: 1/4 tsp. daily gives her approximately 1 gram of omega-3 fat (an essential fatty acid that our bodies cannot manufacture; this is why eating a vegan diet is dangerous because fish oil is the best most well-absorbed form of this essential fatty acid). One gram is a TEENY TINY amount. If you look on the box of butter, you will see that 1 tbsp. of butter contains some 11 grams of fat. So...she's getting only 1/11th as much fat in that serving of CLO! I would recommend upping her dosage to 1/2 tsp. daily, and adding some extra fatty things into her diet (butter, yogurt, lard, coconut oil, cream, etc.). The CLO offers omega-3 which is an unsaturated fatty acid; she also needs saturated fat. This is why breastmilk is quite high in saturated fat. HOWEVER, if you are not eating properly she will not get the correct amount of fat in your milk and will not grow as well! This is very important.
A: Babies digest fats and animal protein best at this age. They don't have the digestive enzymes required for carbohydrates except those found in milk -- banana is good, though, because bananas already contain the enzymes needed for digesting them (though I don't suggest feeding a ton of banana as it is extremely sugary). I would suggest some whole milk organic yogurt, mashed avocado, Alaskan wild salmon (canned if you like) mashed with butter, soft egg yolks with a little sea salt (organic or from the farmers market so they are safest and most nutritious -- look for the word "pastured"), and then some pre-chewed or pureed meat as I mentioned earlier (grass-fed from small local farms -- you don't want to be giving her hormones, antibiotics, and dangerous chemicals). Babies digest meat just fine, don't worry! Organic chicken liver is great, too, for iron and easily digested -- I make a smooth liver & onion pate that Oliver and I both enjoy. He eats little spoonfuls of it, and I have mine on toast. See my blog for the recipe.
Try not to think of her digestive system as being too "weak" for meat; as long as no chewing is required on her part she can digest meat, fish, and chicken really well already. At this point it's only too weak to break down chunks of food, and not equipped for carbs. So no cereals or bread or mushed pasta or beans really yet, or anything like that; really fibrous veggies are too hard right now, too -- babies can't handle lots of fiber til later. Proteins like meat, fish, chicken (all pureed or pre-chewed properly), and mushed cheese, yogurt, and soft egg yolks, etc. -- these are all great! Remember to give her some form of fat with any fruits and veggies -- a little breastmilk is fine, or butter, whole milk yogurt, organic cream (NOT ultra-pasteurized and raw if you can get it), coconut oil, etc.
Check out this article for lots of scientific backing to everything I tell you, as well as more suggestions.
A: You don't need to supplement with iron actually unless at some point she starts showing signs of anemia (extreme lethargy, paleness, listlessness, etc. - same as for adults). She should be getting some pre-chewed meat from you for iron and other important nutrients & fats. I recommend visiting the Bay Ridge farmers' market or the Union Square farmers' market and getting some grass-fed meat that you can give her. If your budget doesn't allow for much of this, you can still get a pound of the most delicious grass-fed ground beef for $5 (from Central Valley Farms at the USQ market on Mondays). The meat should be chewed or pureed thoroughly so she can swallow it without having to do much work.
Be sure you are getting plenty of fat in your diet as this is the most important right now for breastfeeding. The fats should NOT be vegetable oils, though (please avoid things like corn oil, soybean oil, and canola oil -- they are very unhealthy and not good for your breastmilk). The fats you need to focus on should be from cream, butter, unrefined coconut oil, unrefined palm oil (if this is something you eat), wild-caught fatty fish (like Alaskan wild salmon - you can eat the canned kind since fresh is so expensive), and lard (though this is not something most people eat anymore, it's FULL of vitamin D and excellent in cooking). Unfiltered extra virgin olive oil is good for when you need a liquid oil, like for salad dressing. Above all, avoid everything with the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" on the labels; all these foods contain trans fats (even if the label says no trans fats!) and will reduce the amount of good fat in your milk. They will also come through in the milk and the baby will eat them which is very bad -- these fats are quite harmful and a tiny dose for an adult is really a huge dose for a baby; they will interfere with her development on many levels and stay in the body indefinitely, stiffening cell walls and wreaking havoc.
In terms of fats, the salmon is fantastic, and the CLO of course. The saturated fats are also INCREDIBLY important (and actually needed in conjunction with the unsaturated fats so the latter are absorbed properly), so it's wonderful to include plenty of butter and any whole-milk dairy that is tolerated (usually yogurt and cheese are good choices, like you're doing, and raw milk products are always absorbed and tolerated better than pasteurized). Coconut oil is a great source of saturated fats. We also use lard in our family, which is both economical, incredibly nutritious and rich in vitamin D (b/c the pigs are outside), and full of good saturated fats. We get our lard and raw milk butter (as well as yogurt, sour cream, kefir, buttermilk, to-die-for cottage cheese, etc.) from the a local NYC buyers' club; please contact me for information.
A: Yes, you are right that whole foods cost a lot in comparison with cheap packaged foods. This is extremely frustrating and unfair, but due completely to the hold that the huge agribusiness corporations have on the government (which heavily subsidizes these cheap foods), and on the food market by way of advertising. The best way to move toward a world in which healthy local whole foods cost less and are more readily available than all the packaged fast-food crap is by voting with your food dollars! You will also find you really can buy healthy foods without spending a fortune by learning to make each food go farther and by focusing on the truly nutrient-dense foods. Our budget is about $10 per adult per day and we eat better than 99% of Americans - pretty much all organic and local/seasonal, and meat/seafood a few times a week. As we began eating more whole healthy foods of higher quality we discovered a few things:
1) these foods are more satisfying and give us more energy, so we actually need LESS of them (we don't crave snacks of desserts the way we used to)
2) our family doesn't get sick much now (so we save on health insurance and co-pays) or have as many bad moods!
3) we can be choosy with what we buy and really emphasize nutrient-dense foods to maximize our food dollars.
Think about the foods that your family gets the most mileage out of and try to focus on them: a bag of brown rice, a whole chicken, a big head of lettuce, a bag of dry beans, a carton of cottage cheese or yogurt, a dozen eggs, a loaf of farmers' market whole wheat sourdough, a big can of wild Alaskan salmon. Don't forget about the power of high-vitamin cod liver oil: this stuff works miracles and prevents illness like you would not believe. It would be fantastic for your son as he needs help healing his digestive system (to ease his allergies), but would also benefit the rest of you. Oliver takes about a half teaspoon every day in milk. Like most people (adults especially) I hate the fishy taste, so I take mine in a little milk and swallow it down quickly while holding my nose. Then, while still holding my nose, I take a bite of food, chew, and swallow. Then it's safe to let go and I promise no fishy flavor! If you want to order some it's at http://www.radiantlifecatalog.com/product/441/healthy-fats-oils You get a lot more bang for your buck by taking the liquid instead of the capsules. You can also try the fermented cod liver oil available from Radiant Life or from www.DrRons.com or www.GreenPastures.com.
A: Cholesterol is a BIG issue these days. Doctors love to tell everyone not to eat fat because of concerns about cholesterol (and they like to push cholesterol-lowering drugs which are quite dangerous). However, dietary fat (like that found in milk) has little effect on cholesterol as our bodies produce 85% of the cholesterol we need. Blood levels of cholesterol can become elevated because the body is under some kind of stress (infection, stress/anxiety, poor nutrition, too much sugar, too little quality fat, etc.); recent studies have shown that high-fructose corn syrup can raise cholesterol levels. This makes sense since cholesterol is the body's way of protecting and repairing itself. Please see this article if you want to learn more, or read The Cholesterol Myths by Uffe Ravnskov. In no circumstance is skim milk healthier; our bodies cannot absorb and utilize the protein or vitamins properly without accompanying fat. As I mentioned on Saturday, all reduced-fat milks are fortified with skim milk powder which contains the ONLY form of dangerous cholesterol: oxidized cholesterol (which is harmful to the arteries and can even be carcinogenic). This is not stuff they are teaching in medical school unfortunately!!
Q: I've had issues with joint stiffness and pain for many years. I've learned a few simple exercises lately that are supposed to help, and have also started taking glucosamine supplements; I still love to jog, though. Is there anything else I can do?
A: The following are two links from websites I trust and LOVE. The first contains a couple of lines about the Wulzen factor in butterfat and how it protects against joint stiffness. The second is geared toward people w/rheumatoid arthritis, which is not your case, but it contains a lot of helpful natural suggestions for dealing with joint pain. Read them if you're interested.
I really recommend gelatin-rich broths for joints because they contain the substances needed to build and cushion joints. The most familiar version of this would be classic chicken stock or broth. Basically you would want to roast a chicken and then make your own broth by simmering the bones and skin (everything you have left after eating) most of the day in a full pot of water w/2 tbsp. of raw vinegar. You can add veggies, beans,whole grains (like brown rice, barley) and spices if you want or just have the broth. I also recommend adding a pure sea salt (such as Celtic sea salt) during the simmering process.
Butterfat and cream (which is also butterfat :) are great because they contain something called the Wulzen factor, also known as the "anti-stiffness" factor. Unfortunately it is destroyed during pasteurization (when milk is heated to allegedly make it "safe"). As of November 2008 I have been drinking exclusively raw whole milk from local family farms (I give it to Oliver, too!), and also use the cheeses, butter, yogurt, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, ice cream, etc. from these farmers' dairy herd as well. It's absolutely delicious and makes me feel great! I usually get sick in the winter but have been completely well since starting w/the raw milk; Hugo had a horrible flu for several days last January and I thought for sure Oliver and I would get sick since we all share a bed, but we stayed perfectly healthy -- I attribute this to my drinking the raw milk - it is immensely beneficial for the immune system. In addition, my residual joint pains that I still had from snowboarding accidents are completely gone! I used to get stiff just riding the subway and would literally have to limp up the stairs when I got to my stop! I also used to use the glucosamine supplements a few years ago because the joint stiffness/pain were so bad (they didn't help me, though). I was clearly able to get around and was generally okay, but any type of sitting/lying created issues for me from the first snowboarding season on. This ended for me sometime late last year around the time I started using raw dairy (esp. LOTS of butter). If you are interested in trying this I will help you locate a good source near you, as this fabulous stuff is not sold in stores. Let me know - I am here to help! *Also, for people who are a little fat-phobic or don't want to gain weight, etc. I like to mention as well that all this "fattening" dairy will not make you fat! I am easily maintaining my healthy weight of 112 lbs. despite eating way more fat than I used to (from the butter, whole milk products, etc. as well as from more meat, coconut oil, lard, eggs, etc. than I ever had in my diet in my whole life). I even attribute my freedom from acne (which was always a problem until late last year) to this new diet! Many women who go from the standard low-fat calorie-restricting diet to a diet more like I am now enjoying report reaching a healthy weight for the first time in years and enjoying freedom from many chronic health problems.
Okay, back to the topic: Keep in mind that your joints require plenty of lubrication from synovial fluid, which is mainly water. Try to make it a priority to drink 8+ glasses of hydrating beverages each day, like filtered water and lacto-fermented beverages (see my blog for more about this), particularly if you are not getting much by way of broths, fresh fruits and veggies, and milk.
Last, I would suggest consider some other types of exercise besides jogging. Elliptical and crosstrainer machines give a good aerobic workout without joint impact. If you are prone to joint issues then taking a trot 3x a week is just an added insult to your knees. This is sad, but true. Yoga would be great for you for gentle stretching and relaxing your joints. Some stationary exercises would be good as well, like deep squats which will have the added benefit of strengthening quadriceps muscles. Strong quadriceps also help protect your knee joints.
Q: I recently learned that I am vitamin D deficient and have started taking some supplements. What else would you suggest?
A: Vitamin D is readily available in certain foods, in case you would like to try to get some of your needed D in this way instead -- this is the best way to absorb vitamins and allows for your body to fully utilize them. Supplements are generally synthetic and therefore poorly absorbed, or sometimes of doubtful benefit as they may also contain other undesirable ingredients (dyes, additives, etc.). So the foods you might want to focus on are: small fatty fish (herring, sardines), organic eggs (esp. the yolk! this is where the D is found), shellfish (choose wild-caught not farmed), organ meats (such as liver from organic chickens), butterfat (esp. raw butter from pasture-raised cows), and lard from pigs raised on grass. Vitamin D is found only in animal foods, and most especially in animal foods that we have been taught to stay away from! This is part of the reason so many Americans are vitamin D-deficient, in addition to sunlight avoidance. Contrary to what we have also been taught, eating these "traditional" foods (that have been enjoyed by very healthy populations for thousands of years) will NOT make us overweight or give us heart attacks - in fact, they can help protect against these very things. If you would like more information on this please visit the Weston Price Foundation website: www.westonaprice.org. There is a great article on vitamin D that I would highly recommend: http://www.westonaprice.org/basicnutrition/vitamindmiracle.html
Another great source of vitamin D (and vitamin A in the correct ratio - which is needed to go along with vitamin D and ensure proper absorption and assimilation), is high-vitamin cod liver oil. You may have taken this as a child when you were sick. All Americans used to take cod liver oil on a regular basis and enjoyed far superior health (for the most part) to what we have today. I order my cod liver oil from www.radiantlifecatalog.com which is a wonderful trusted source (www.GreenPastures.com and www.DrRons.com are also fantastic -- try the fermented cod liver oil they offer). You would want to take a couple of servings a day to the tune of 20,000 IU vitamin A and 2,000 IU vitamin D if pregnant, nursing, or suffering from health problems. If you want to look around in stores for CLO be sure to check the label -- you want a serving size to be around 1/2 tsp. and it should provide about 4000-5000 IU of A and 400-500 IU of D (a 10-to-1 ratio is the proper balance of A to D and an indication of higher quality cod liver oil).
In addition to the CLO it is important to eat the recommended foods as well! Vitamin D is so incredibly important because it is needed by every cell in our bodies, and is essential for mineral absorption, healthy bones, muscle tone, insulin production, reproductive health, cancer prevention, and immune system health. Vitamin D also plays an important role in regulating calcium metabolism which is essential for a healthy nervous system and cellular function.
One final note: Because animals produce D by exposure to sunlight (just as we do!) it is essential to get your vitamin D from high-quality animal sources, i.e. animals raised outdoors on grass, or fish/shellfish caught in their wild habitat where they are eating phytoplankton and other fish. Your local farmers' market would be a great place to start looking for some of these foods, even in winter! There are also many health food co-ops and buyers' clubs now available in most areas.
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We are not medical doctors; therefore we cannot give medical advice. The information presented herein is not presented with the intention of diagnosing or treating any disease or condition. This information is for educational purposes only. No responsibility is assumed by the author nor anyone connected with this website for the use of this information and no guarantees of any kind are made for the performance or effectiveness of the recommendations provided.