nutrition

Supporting Immunity in the Kitchen

By on December 1, 2020

The seasons are changing again and the cold/flu/and pandemic season is raging. When the seasons change, I like to do all the things to keep our immune system strong. Today I am going to share how we support our immunity in the kitchen.

Filling our diet with nourishing foods is one way we support our immune system. There is so much value to eating whole foods and choosing nutrient-dense items. They support gut health and immune function with necessary vitamins and minerals.

Immune Supporting Vitamins in Food

  1. Vitamin A is the #1 protection against viruses. Not just COVID-19. Foods that are vitamin A rich are egg yolks sourced from pastured hens and grass-fed butter.
  2. Vitamin D and Vitamin A work hand in hand to support immunity. Ways to receive Vitamin D nutritionally is through fatty fishes, red meats, and egg yolks. Another easy way to receive Vitamin D is to opt outside as much as possible to receive Vitamin D from the sun. Avoid sunscreens so that you are able to absorb the vitamin. 10-20 min twice a day is an adequate amount of time. The thing about vitamin D is that we do not store it or have reserves, so it is necessary to receive it each day.
  3. Vitamin C is used to prevent and address viral infections. Vitamin C has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce the severity and symptoms of colds. I always make sure to have an absorbable form of Vitamin C on hand, but a wonderful food to add to your diet is sauerkraut or other fermented veggies. Sauerkraut has 10 times more Vitamin C than fresh cabbage. Fermented veggies are also great for the gut microbiome. Increasing your green vegetables are essential. They provide Vitamin C, as well as B-vitamins, Vitamin K, and other important nutrients.
  4. Healthy Fats— Coconut oil is our best natural source of these healthy fats. Also, the lungs can not work without saturated fats, so grass-fed butter, avocado oil, olive oil, and ghee are great sources of healthy saturated fats. Just make sure to avoid all industrial fats and oils.
  5. Hydration— Staying hydrated keeps the pipes flushed, so to speak. Water is wonderful, adding an ionized mineral supplement is ideal and you can receive additional minerals in your kitchen by making herbal infusions.
  6. Bone Broth–is another one of my favorite ways to receive nourishment. Roasted bones leftover from a previous meal or picked up from your favorite butcher. I make sure to use grass-fed or pasture-raised meats. I often make it in my Instant Pot. However, I have been loving making this on the slow cooker function– I use the same proportions, just slow cook for 24 hours instead.

Sugar & Immune Support

With the holidays we start “sugar season”. It all starts with Halloween, then it seems to go until January. Sugar feeds inflammation and the “bad guys”, so being mindful of sugar consumption is a simple way to support immune function.

There are many healthier alternatives that we use in our kitchen. These sugar alternatives also prevent sugar highs and lows and the insanity that comes with sugared-up kids, lol. I use coconut sugar, monkfruit sweetener, and sometimes Swerve for baking. Maple syrup and honey are also natural alternatives.

Immunity Begins in the Belly

Since about 70% of our immune system begins in the gut, it only makes sense to start supporting it in the kitchen. Being mindful of what you are eating and drinking goes a long way in addition to the other germ-fighting techniques we have! Having essential vitamins, minerals, and a healthy gut aids in fighting illness and improving recovery.

Continue Reading

diet

Tips for Improving Gut Health with a Picky Eater

By on January 27, 2020

This entire blog was sparked when working to heal my middle son’s health issues by targeting his gut health. He is my canary in the coal mine. He is sensitive to many foods and environmental toxins. He has had a cold or virus almost every 3 weeks since August.

Something happened when Ezra turned 2. At his 2 year well-check his pediatrician said something along the lines of look out– you are entering the picky eating year. I was one of those moms who thought “that will never happen to me”– we eat a balanced diet, we only offer healthy foods and he loves his veggies.

Well… here we are, approaching year 3 and he has a very limited diet. Many times he refuses to eat rather than eating what we are serving. It is a control thing, not a palate thing. One day he loves asparagus and beans, the next day he will only eat bananas. It’s tricky.

It is “normal” for kids to catch 8-12 viruses the first year they are introduced to the public. My kid has caught them all. I do lots to help him fight them off, but how do I keep his gut in check when he won’t eat? It is a tough place to be when the nourishing foods you know will help are refused.

Something like 70-80 percent of our immune system is based in our gut. When our gut bacteria isn’t balanced correctly, our immune systems are compromised. Based solely on what my son *wants* to eat, I can see that his “bad bugs” want to be fed (fruit, crackers, etc) and no veggies. Even though fruit is “healthy” it still metabolizes as sugar. Nature’s candy, is how I like to think about it.

How do I help this kiddo out? How do I help support his healthy microbiome and immunity when what he will eat is limited?

  1. Prebiotic/Probiotic supplement. Taking a boost of prebiotics and probiotics support and balance out the microbiome. I have found a kids formula that tastes good and he enjoys taking. It is now part of our morning routine.
  2. Fiber supplement I choose one that contains fructooligosaccharides. Fructooligosaccharides are prebiotic fibers that are low-calorie, non-digestible carbohydrates which aid in immunity, bone health and the growth and balance of important bacteria in the digestive track. Simply put, it is what the good gut bacteria like to “eat”. These are found naturally in foods like asparagus, onions, chicory, etc. Since getting him to eat veggies is an issue, I have found a shake that he enjoys and I give it as a treat. The thing I noticed was that after giving him these two supplements together for about a week he started eating a better variety of foods (veggies and meats, woo-hoo). I will also add spinach, a scoop of green powder, or avocado in the shake so it is disguised.
  3. Grazing Tray another way I get him to eat a better variety is make a grazing tray and put it on our table with our art station. I put cut up veggies, proteins (like nuts), olives, cheese, dips and other things he often refuses. He will snack without thinking as much when he’s engaged in an activity.
  4. Limit Snacks Ezra eats the majority of his calories in the early part of the day. He also really enjoys snacking. After lunch, I limit snacks so that he has a healthy appetite at dinner time. This still doesn’t always work if he’s already decided that he doesn’t want our dinner.
  5. Continually offer and plate our normal meals. I cook nutritionally dense foods. He WILL often refuse, or just drop the food on the floor. However, some days he will eat it all without an issue. I also keep the fruit and crackers out of sight and only offer what is reasonable in a day.
  6. Being part of the process sometimes entices him to eat. He enjoying helping me mix or cut (soft) things and serve them on colored dishes that he chooses is an incentive. I praise him for how good his cooking is and often he will put a few bites in his “mouf”. I also let him choose between two veggies or will turn meal prep into a color, phonics or counting game. He’s very into these things right now, so it holds his attention.

These are my tricks these days for dealing with my toddler. This too shall pass, although his health is always at the forefront of my mind. Especially since he is in this phase of being a germ incubator. Feel free to comment or contact me and I will share what supplements have been working for us if you’re dealing with the pickiness and sickness phase.

Continue Reading

family wellness

Microbiome

By on March 2, 2018

Untitled design-8This is my word of the day. Here is my obligatory disclaimer– I am writing as a mom, not as a medical professional, or a scientist, or any of that jazz. I am a mom of a kid I need to understand from a functional perspective. There are a ton of articles and books out there on the gut microbiome. The way I am understanding it; being born vaginally, with a full-term healthy pregnancy and breastfed is the ideal way to go. During a vaginal birth, the microbiome exposure begins to take place as soon as mom’s water breaks. The baby is exposed to its mother’s vaginal microbes and cellular structure. These microbes enter the babies ears, eyes, and mouth. The ones that enter the mouth, make their way down the digestive tract and begin to do their work. Passing through the vaginal canal, leads to more exposure– all of which are helpful to the babe. A newborn has a very weak/immature immune system, so these microbes enter the baby’s body and begin to colonize quickly to protect the immature system. The colonization works as a security system, teaching the immune system what to let in, and what is an invader. Fast forward to step #2. Skin-to-skin contact and breast milk add to this colonization. The sugars in mama’s milk feed and allow the biome to multiply and get stronger.

For someone born like Ezra, he missed out on a lot of crucial good gut microbes. Like I said in my previous post, he was born a month early at a low birth weight of 4lb. 13oz., he was born via C-section, so did not have this exposure for his immature immune system. He did begin breastfeeding quickly, however he was missing the digestive microbes that the milk would help multiply in his gut to strengthen his immature digestive system. Also, he had to have my milk fortified in the NICU which is standard for a preemie. On top of that, he was quickly infected with enterococcus and had several rounds of heavy antibiotics to kill the infection. So, any good bacteria he had colonizing were quickly being destroyed. And the other kicker was that I was preeclamptic– which means my liver and kidneys were not functioning appropriately, so he had exposure to the waste I could not release, and I had antibiotics since he was surgically born. Whammy, whammy.

Now, that he is a little over a year old and is dealing with a severely low hemoglobin level, my research is pointing it back to problems in the gut. I shared in my last post the way I’m starting us off on the healing track, and eventually will add in some supplements and other necessary items. Another step in our wellness is that we keep our home free of toxic chemicals. This is where I had a heads up, since I have been on that path since environmental toxins first crept into my awareness when my oldest son was born 12 years ago. I am a mom that likes to have a plan, and today my mind took me into the microbiome of the gut.

Continue Reading