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5 Easy Immune Boosters for Children

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A couple of posts ago I wrote about the lost art of convalescence. My little kids are going through their developmental time of catching viruses and building their immune systems. At Mira’s 6 month well-check her pediatrician told us to expect about 1 new virus per month and expect fevers of 103 as “normal”. I am a mom who loves home remedies and tries to avoid antibiotics unless we are in a situation where they can not be avoided, so I spend a lot of time learning and trying new things.

As my kids develop their immune systems I have several things I am passionate about and have found great success with. My new favorite thing is cod liver oil. My grandparents always swore by it, I watched my oldest son’s Norwegian family administer it to the kids, and for me, I never quite caught on until reading some incredible information in Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care. This book has several informative chapters on caring for babies and young children through illnesses.

I laugh at myself because I get excited about fat-soluble vitamins and remedies, lol. My five favorites for this season are:

1. Cod liver oil Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K are tremendous for building a healthy immune system. Vitamin A and Vitamin D in adequate doses (so it is truly important to look for a good brand, some commercial brands contain very little Vitamin D) can help to stave off colds, flus, and asthma. Fat-soluble vitamins help with mineral metabolism, cognitive development, intellectual development, and vision. 

When a child runs a fever, the heat and inflammation in the body quickly deplete vitamin A. It is said that a Vitamin A deficiency is why some children have febrile seizures or end up with febrile blindness.

2.Hydration– Staying hydrated is also important, and in the time of a high fever, it is difficult to stay hydrated. Pedialyte and those types of beverages are loaded with crap. I have been mixing up my favorite mineral supplement and having my toddler drink it to stay hydrated. It provides excellent sources of minerals and electrolytes and tastes so yummy. I usually make a glass for myself and just fill his sippy. Babies only need breastmilk or formula.

3. Elderberry Elixir is another super immune booster. I have been interested in elderberry syrups and have researched a lot about elderberry immune-boosting properties. I wasn’t too keen on giving the honey or maple syrups to the little kids and not being able to find where the berries were sourced from was another one of my mind-bogglers, so I was happy to come across this elixir that is farmed in Maine (hubby’s home state), on a biodynamic farm, with a very controlled process.

4. Probiotics— I have blogged and blogged about gut health and probiotics. A healthy gut contains 5-7 pounds of healthy gut bacteria, which secretes vitamins that we absorb, creates anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral substances that fight pathogens and helps us detox and keeps our feel-good chemicals in balance. If our balance gets disrupted then our whole immune system is compromised. A good quality probiotic is vital so that the necessary strains of bacteria survive the digestive tract and juices and can reach the gut to populate and do their job.

5. Outdoor time– Fresh air and sunshine are amazing. 10-30 min per day can work wonders. It supports healthy vitamin d levels. I luckily live in Florida, so our outdoor weather is usually pleasant. However, if you’re in a different climate, appropriate clothing still makes outdoor time possible.

Generally, if it seems like your child is always catching a cold, don’t panic. The advice my pediatrician gave me was that the kids’ immune systems are still developing, and because of that, they are more susceptible to colds and infections. Over time, as long as health is supported with a healthy diet and physical activity their immune systems will catch up and this too shall pass.

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Gut Health: The Delicate Balance to Ultimate Health

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Gut health and the human microbiome have been recurring themes in my blogging. On Monday, I received my 25 week pregnancy update and in the article it stated that during these next few weeks of pregnancy, the baby is establishing and developing her immune system. I started thinking, and researching what to do to make sure her immunity will be the best it can be.

Maternal Microbiome

All of the research pointed back to gut health, and the microbiome. Ah-ha! Something I am familiar with. Why is gut health so important? Our guts are literally our second brain, there are over 100 million neurons that line our digestive tract. Our guts house more neurons than our spinal cords! That is pretty incredible! These neurons, along with over 100 trillion bacteria need to stay in perfect balance to help maintain our health.

When the “bad” bacteria is abundant, we see many problems. Compromised immunity, skin issues, trouble achieving and maintaining our ideal weight, brain-fog, lack of focus, and even our emotional/mental health are linked back to this delicate balance of gut bacteria. Craving sugar, wheat, starches and gluten is a warning sign that the bad bacteria is “louder” than the good bacteria in our gut. When this happens, it is possible to starve out the bad bacteria and nourish the good to begin to find that balance. Removing grains and sugar from the diet will starve the bad guys. Foods that nourish the good bacterias are fermented foods, such as keifer or sauerkraut, and fibers from dark, leafy green veggies.

Knowing what your “second brain” is telling you by listening to your food cravings is a great way to build your own immunity, which in turn will give baby a heads up as she develops in-utero, and if mom’s microbiome is functioning well, baby will receive what she needs during the birth process and the “good-guys” will colonize quite quickly. When our microbiome is uninterrupted, that is when we are in “good” health.

The Antibiotic Conundrum

When our immunity is compromised it is easier to pick up viruses and bacteria and suffer their ill-effects. We see our doctor and are often prescribed an antibiotic. An antibiotic may kill the bacteria that is making you ill. However, it also wipes out the delicate ecology in the gut. Have you ever been sick after a round of antibiotics? Maybe started having digestive or skin issues? Possibly a yeast infection? All of your “good” guys have been destroyed and now need nourished and fed.

In the medical community, it is often suggested to take a probiotic immediately after taking an antibiotic. This is good advice, although restoring the microbiome to its original homeostasis can take up to 18 months after 1 round of antibiotic. And, no. I am not saying do not take an antibiotic if you are truly ill with a bacterial infection! The moral of this information is to get your microbiome and immunity in tip-top condition by taking care of your gut health to prevent the need for an antibiotic.

The Body’s Biggest Job

All day, every day our bodies are working on ingesting food, digesting food, assimilating the nutrients from the food, and eliminating the remainder. This is another piece of the puzzle that will boost immunity and microbiome for mom and baby. In our gastrointestinal tract, having an appropriate balance of digestive enzymes supports the digestion and assimilation process.

We need support breaking down proteins, carbs, and fats from the foods we eat. The Standard American Diet, along with commercial farming practices and cooking methods do not allow us to receive adequate enzymes from our food alone. One of the benefits of adding additional digestive enzymes to the body is increased energy. This is because our body is adequately breaking down and assimilating food without increased energy output going to the GI tract just for digestion.

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Postpartum & Beyond

Knowing that gut health is linked to so many disorders of the human body really is great information when it comes to postpartum health and beyond. No matter who you are, pregnant or not, male or female, young or old, gut health is the place to start when wanting to achieve wellness.

For me, learning that certain strains of gut bacteria are responsible for emotional and mental health was quite enlightening. After delivering my second son I suffered from postpartum anxiety. Luckily, I was able to change my diet and add a few good supplements and I received relief from my symptoms very quickly. Knowing this information, I can prepare myself for what’s to come postpartum with this birth by adequately nourishing and supplementing during my pregnancy. So, my supportive methods are supplementing my diet with fiber, digestive enzymes, and probiotics. The benefits for me are increased immunity, better skin and slower aging.

If any of these issues spark your interest, or you know your gut is something you are needing to rebalance and restore. Feel free to email me and I am happy to help you with get started choosing food, supplements, or even just to point you in a direction to do your own research.

 

 

 

 

 

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B Vitamins for a Healthy Mama

As soon as women enter childbearing age, we hear about the importance of folic acid. Folic acid is vitamin B9 and is extremely important to the development of a fetus. Although folic acid is important, there are a whole plethora of b-vitamins and adequate amounts account for many of our metabolic processes.

There is more published research on the importance of all of the B vitamins for women’s health. Scientists have uncovered a link to vitamin-b deficiencies and postpartum depression.

Recently, I had a few days where I felt depression creep in. I was recovering from a cold and could not quite get my mind back in gear. After one night of adding an additional b-complex vitamin, I felt back to normal.

The B’s

    B1, Thiamine is the B that helps convert carbs to energy. B1 supports our nervous, cardiovascular, and muscular system as well as brain development. B vitamins are easily depleted when a diet is high in carbs and sugar. 1.4 mg is suggested for adequate levels.
    B2, Riboflavin is essential for proper eye health and skin repair. It also is required to absorb iron, so proper levels can prevent anemia. The body will not store B2 because it is water soluble. For a pregnant mama, adequate levels of B2 can reduce the risk of preeclampsia and supports proper development of baby’s bones, muscles, and nerves. 1.4 mg is required during pregnancy.
    B3 is important for the health of our adrenal glands. Our adrenals control cortisol production– the stress hormone. B3 also helps remove inflammation and chronic inflammation is the root of many health issues.
    B5 is required for wound healing. This is important during pregnancy, birth and postpartum recovery.
    B6, Pyridoxine is important for support the of brain and nervous system as well as the metabolism of protein and carbs. B6 deficiency is being studied as a possible root of anxiety and panic disorders. It is a vitamin responsible for regulating sleep and supporting adequate production of seratonin and dopamine. B6 is synthesized in the hemoglobin. B6 is often suggested to prevent or help with morning sickness. It is known to reduce nausea and vomiting due to its role in protein/carb metabolism. 1.9 mg during pregnancy and 2.0 for breastfeeding mamas.
    B9, folic acid assists in cell reproduction and helps prevent neural tube defects. Folate is also water soluble and we do not store any additional reserves in our bodies. That is why it is so important to supplement this vitamin preconception and during pregnancy.
    B12 is important in preventing neural tube defects. This vitamin is essential for making DNA, our genetic material. It is responsible for the growth of new nerve cells and helps us have adequate energy levels and feelings of happiness! 2.5 mcg is the suggested dose.

Many foods provide us with b-vitamins. Dark leafy greens, nuts/seeds, asparagus, etc. It is difficult to receive all we require through diet alone. Cooking processes, the way our food is grown, fertilized, and processed plays a role in whether or not we will receive enough nutrients from the food alone.

Fortified foods and synthetic folic acid needs to be converted to 5-MTHF (aka methylfolate) to be metabolized in our body. The way the body metabolizes synthetic supplements is a strange chemical reaction that can actually cause toxicity. This is especially common in folks with the MTHFR gene mutation.

This is why high-quality whole food supplements are vital so that we can get the job done and our bodies can utilize the vitamins the way nature intended. My favorite supplements are these or these.

Having proper levels of b-vitamins can change our genetic predispositions and help reduce deficiencies we inherit from our maternal lineage, such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and other metabolic disorders. Repairing our DNA is quite profound. Just because we are predisposed does not mean we are doomed, and we can prevent issues for future generations!

 

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Instant Pot Bone Broth

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I recently posted my Instant Pot bone broth on Instagram and had a few folks wanting to know the how to’s. I am becoming happier with my Instant Pot, now that I have found a few staples and am happy with the time and effort it takes to use it.

Bone broth is one of our staples. I like to make a few batches and freeze so that we have it for soup bases. I am also going to make a few batches to have for postpartum. Soups and bone broths are warming and healing for the postpartum period. I recently purchased the book The First Forty Days, and although I was not wowed by the book and recipes, the philosophy of nourishing the mother with warmth, vital nutrients and  minerals is a concept I can grasp.

So, how do I make Bone Broth in my Instant Pot?

I make a whole pasture-raised chicken about once a week. We save the bones for broth. Sometimes just in the fridge, but sometimes I will freeze for a later time.

 

Bones from 1 chicken (can also use beef, fish, or lamb)

3 stalks of celery

3 carrots

3 bay leaves

an onion

a couple of tablespoons of peppercorns

2 Tbs. Apple Cider Vinegar

2 tsp. grey sea salt (I buy French Grey)

  1. Put all ingredients in the Instant Pot.
  2. Fill Instant Pot 2/3 full with filtered water.
  3. If you have time, allow to sit for 30 min. before cooking (I rarely do this), but it will allow the ACV to break down the marrow in the bones a bit before cooking.
  4. Set the soup/broth setting, low pressure 120 min.
  5. Allow the pot to do its thing, allow to natural pressure release.
  6. Strain the veggies/herbs and bones from the broth.
  7. Store in glass containers in fridge or freezer.

When we clean and cut veggies for other recipes, I will often save the ends of carrots, celery and onions in a freezer bag and just use all of the scraps in my broth making.

 

 

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From Boobs to Books

I mentioned in a previous post that I was in the process of weaning my toddler. I am happy to report that we have had success! The weaning process took a bit longer than I anticipated, however our second goal date was achieved!

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It’s All About Distraction

This has been a gentle process, and I am so happy that the toddler mind is maleable. With our son, changing his routine and keeping him busy has been the key. Daddy has taken over many roles, this worked out well with our timing and the Christmas holiday. Now that daddy is back to work, I am working to keep him distracted.

Our morning routine is pretty strict. Ezra naps between 10:30 and 11 each day, so I schedule our morning chores in that early morning window. We are home by naptime and he is so sleepy, he just tells me bye and falls right to sleep in his crib without nursing.

Bedtime has even been an easy transition, although the last to go. It has been a similar process. Dinner, bath, and then we move away from our typical nursing spot (my bed) and on to the sofa. We pick several books and have storytime before bed. I will read one and daddy reads another. Then we say our goodnights to one another and to random objects in the house. He goes to his bed, rolls over and falls asleep without a fuss.

 

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Read to Me, Mama

I have placed piles of books in our typical nursing spots. Ezra loves board books with silly rhymes or recognizable pictures. For several days, each time I would sit down, he would collapse in my lap and sign milk.

Instead of obliging, I would pick up one of his favorite books and start reading.  After a few sentences he would quickly forget about the milk and become absorbed in the book. After 3 days of this, asking for milk is no more. Now he brings the book to me and will cuddle on my lap for reading time.

Nurturing our Emotions

The nursing relationship is a special one. It is bittersweet to move on from this phase of parenting, and both Ezra and I still need to have moments of bonding that would resemble our nursing moments.

I wake up ready to nurse him in the mornings, even though I know it is over.  Ezra is not cuddly for long stretches of time, however I savor those moments when he nestles his head into my shoulder for some extra mama reassurance.

It has taken diligence and discipline on my part. Breaking my habit of giving in each time he asked or whined for milk and being firm has helped define the boundary. Toddlers need boundaries and guidance to what is allowed and what is not. Once the boundary was defined, the whining stopped.

My deepest fear was losing the connection that Ezra and I shared. Breastfeeding is more than just nutrition. It is a hormonal bond, the release of oxytocin– the “love” hormone. I did have to grieve for a brief moment.

Parenting is a series of phases, and accepting that this phase needed to be over for my comfort and sanity before the birth of our next baby was crucial. After accepting it, and allowing my little bird to grow his wings so he can move on to his next phase has been quite a journey. For Ezra, he is using this time to develop his language skills and show us what he has been trying to say!