Category Archives: Children’s Health

It’s Croup Season

Well, I got bit by the croup bug. Actually, my oldest child developed croup 2 weeks ago. Up until then, he had never had a respiratory infection except for a mild runny nose. At first I didn’t realize it was croup until he was 2 days into it. Need less to say, the whole croup episode lasted for 4 days and I am now dealing with symptoms of the common cold in both him and his 9 month old brother.

What is Croup?

Croup is an inflammation of the upper airways – vocal cords, wind pipe and bronchial tubes. It is mostly caused by a virus –  parainfluenza, respiratory syncital virus or adenovirus. On occasion it could be caused by a bacteria. Children between the ages of 3 months and 3 years are the most vulnerable. That is not to say that children older than 3 years cannot catch croup. Fall/winter is the most common time of the year for croup to rear its ugly head.

Signs and symptoms

Croup usually start with a runny/stuffy nose and fever followed by a hoarse voice as the upper airways become inflamed. The hallmark of the disease is a harsh barking cough that sounds like a seal. Symptoms are worse at night and when the child is upset or crying. Croup is highly contagious. Please keep your children at home if you suspect they have croup.

Things to look out for and be concerned about:

High pitched/squeaking noise with breathing in –  this is known as stridor

Retraction around the ribs during breathing

Fast breathing/difficulty breathing

Pale/bluish colour around the mouth

If child is less than 6 months and having difficulties breathing, go right to emergency.

If your child exhibits any of these symptoms and they are not playing or can’t sleep or they seem to be struggling with breathing, get medical attention immediately.

Treatment.

There are actually lots of natural remedies that work great for croup. If started at the first sign of symptoms, it’s the difference between your child going to emergency and getting pumped full of steroids or hanging out at home watching Toy Story on repeat.

1. Don’t panic. It can be very scary for both parents and kids when breathing becomes laboured or the cough starts. The calmer the child, the less likely for the coughing to progress.

2.  Most parents are told to bundle up the child and put them outside in fresh cool air. This does not work for all children. Running a cool air humidifier also works. My son definitely did worse in the cold air and he preferred moist warm heat. Run the shower and place a few drops of essential oil (eucalyptus, thyme, lavender) in the shower to steam and have child inhale deeply. Opening the window at night for some fresh cool air was helpful.

3.  An aromatic chest rub works well especially at night and allows everyone to sleep a little better. Rub the front and back of the chest with the aromatic rub. If possible have your child sleep with you so you can monitor their breathing.

4. The following are herbs that are immune modulating, and antiviral: elderberries, andrographis, licorice root, peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, catnip, echinacea, thyme, cinnamon and reishi mushroom. I only prescribe and use glycerites in young children. Please consult a naturopathic doctor or trained herbalist for a custom formulation. I recently formulated a natural fever reducer that works as well as acetaminophen.

5. Give lemon and honey as a soothing warm drink.

6.  Eliminate all sugar and processed foods from the diet. If at all possible make your own bone broth and give several cups per day. Make sure the bones are organic. Don’t be surprised if your child is not interested in eating during this time period. Keep them hydrated. Try to stay away from fruit juice they offer no nutritional value and are loaded with sugar.

Are there other natural remedies that have proven effective for you?

Is your nursery toxic?

Source: Fantastic4design.com

There is nothing more exciting than waiting for the arrival of a new baby. Most parents spend a significant amount of time and money getting the nursery ready for the baby once it makes it arrival. Did you know that the average nursery harbours over 300 harmful chemicals floating in the air? That’s a lot for a little body to deal with.

Ways to have a healthier nursery.

  1. If you decide to redecorate and paint, choose non VOC, solvent-free paint. Conventional paints can off gas for years after the paint has dried and they contain toxic volatile substances that are known carcinogens. Look into other options to decorate the nursery that doesn’t require painting such as wall decals.
  2. Choose a solid wood crib with non toxic finish. If you do purchase or accept a second-hand crib, make sure to ask about the finish and avoid composite wood. Remember that in a few months, your baby is going to be chomping on the crib while they teeth.
  3. Avoid carpet in the nursery. Hard wood flooring with a carpet that is washable is much better.
  4. Purchase an organic/Greenguard certified mattress. Yes, it is more expensive but so are hospital bills and a lifetime of neurological and behavioural problems. Conventional mattresses contain flame retardants, anti microbial and water proofing finishes. These are all substances that are detrimental to a developing brain and respiratory system.
  5. If you must purchase a changing pad, make sure if it does not contain foam or PVC material. Wool and cotton filled pads will do the job. Foam changing pads are most likely loaded with flame retardants.
  6. Beware of phthalates, BPA, PVC, lead and cadmium in toys, diaper bags and teething products. Wooden teethers and PVC free teethers are available. Be cautious of old toys passed down since the paint finish may be questionable and it may be loaded with lead.
  7. Purchase organic baby care products or better yet make your own. If the product does not say certified organic, then it most likely isn’t. Beware of companies trying to green wash their toxic products by calling it natural. Read labels to check ingredients or visit the EWG website to see if the product you are using is safe.
  8. Opt for chlorine free diapers or better yet purchase cloth diapers and use reuseable cloth wipes.
  9. Ask yourself if it is absolutely necessary to purchase all this furniture and toys for your new-born.

Gluten free diet. Not just for Celiacs. Part 1

Gluten free diet is one of the buzz words in nutrition these days. There are shows, blogs, restaurants, magazine articles dedicated to helping people achieve  gluten-free diet nirvana. This is great news for those diagnosed with celiac disease but what about the non celiac person?  Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body mounts an immune response to the ingestion of gluten/gliadin containing foods. This results in the destruction of the lining of the small intestines.  However there are people who do not have celiac disease but instead have a condition called non celiac gluten sensitivity.

In my clinical practice, I am coming across an alarming number of people with non celiac gluten sensitivity. This condition is being picked up indirectly with a specialized blood test and an elimination diet protocol. People with non celiac gluten sensitivity can exhibit signs and symptoms that range from gas, bloating, fatigue, depression to migraines and joint pain.

Top 6 reasons to switch to a gluten-free diet

1. Autoimmune condition: Any person with an autoimmune/inflammatory condition can benefit from a gluten-free diet. Whether you have rheumatoid arthritis , fibromyalgia, lupus, or just generalized aches and pains,  a gluten-free diet may help alleviate your symptoms. Gluten is believed to be one of the major contributors to “leaky gut syndrome“. By eliminating gluten from your diet, you are giving your immune system a break.

2. Children: if you are a parent of a child suffering from hyperactivity, colic, headache, eczema, asthma, insomnia, diarrhea, then your child may have food intolerance/sensitivity. Wheat is one of the major food allergens for young children but unfortunately it is in everything which increases your child’s exposure to it. Even exclusively breastfed babies get food intolerance/sensitivities from their mother. If you eliminate gluten containing foods from your diet and your child’s health improves, then your child most likely has a difficult time digesting gluten containing foods.

3.  Weight loss: adopting a gluten-free diet is helpful when trying to lose weight for several reasons. A gluten-free diet ensures that you are eating more fruits and vegetables while decreasing consumption of foods that are higher on the glycemic index. Most people are able to reduce their caloric intake and eat more nutrient dense foods instead of low nutritional status foods such as whole wheat bagels, crackers, bread and pasta.

4.  Bladder conditions: I have seen patients with bladder/fecal incontinence, overactive bladder, interstitial cystitis improve significantly by eliminating gluten and other food intolerance from their diet. The reason is that for some people their allergic reaction to food occurs in the bladder not the respiratory or GI system. Some individuals who are allergic/sensitive to gluten may experience urinary frequency, urgency and bloating in addition to painful bladder syndrome.

6. Fertility: if your goal is to get pregnant, then you might want to go gluten-free before conception. Celiac’s disease has been linked to infertility, miscarriage, fetal growth problems and stillbirth. If you are suffering from any of these conditions, you may have undiagnosed celiac’s disease or non celiac gluten sensitivity.

The average person who is non celiac or gluten sensitive can benefit from adopting a gluten-free diet most of the time. By adopting a gluten-free diet, it enables you to replace your diet with more nutrient dense foods that will benefit your body. I usually advise patients to adopt the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the diet is gluten-free while twenty percent of the diet is the occasional ingestion of gluten containing foods. Of course this rule does not apply to individuals with celiac disease who must abstain from gluten containing foods permanently.

There is however a caveat to all of this. The gluten-free industry is now a multi billion dollar machine. There are a lot of packaged products on the market that are just as nutritionally devoid as gluten filled ones. Most manufacturers utilize cheap starches that will not only ensure that you are carrying an extra spare tire or two around your midsection but can eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies and ill-health.

As always it is best to consult with a licensed naturopathic physician if you have any of the conditions mentioned above for specialized testing/assistance.

What is preventing you from trying a gluten-free diet?

Top 5 supplements for a healthy pregnancy and baby

As a mother of two boys, maternal and child health are very dear to my heart. Pregnant women in my practice often ask me which supplements they should be taking during their pregnancy. These five supplements are what I recommend to every woman of child-bearing age who might one day get pregnant.  Why you ask? Because these are the supplements that keep on giving. Even after a mother has had her baby, these supplements continue to benefit both the mother and baby.

1. Iron:  is an important vitamin for both maternal and fetal health. It is involved in the transport and storage of oxygen. It is required for energy and it supports the growth and development of the fetus and placenta. It is also involved in brain development and cognition.  Anemia in pregnancy may result in a baby with a low birth weight.

Interestingly enough, iron in breast milk is small but much more absorbable and the amount of iron is more dependent on maternal stored iron. A recent research study found that mother’s that were supplemented with iron during pregnancy had higher iron levels in their breast milk.  Meaning that it is important for pregnant and soon to be pregnant women to have a healthy iron level before they give birth. An anemic mother will lead to an anemic baby once born. Most women at some point or another in their pregnancy become anemic. It is always a good idea to start out with a reservoir of iron instead of a deficiency.

It is important to get a good digestible source of iron that will not cause constipation. My preference is chelated iron bisglycinate. It is relatively inexpensive and it works well. According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, pregnant women need 27mg of iron daily. Even if a woman is mildly anemic, I still treat them with supplemental iron due to an increase risk of post partum bleeding.  As always please consult a licensed care provider before taking any supplement.

2. Probiotics: these are microorganisms that live in our entire digestive tract.  Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the major microorganisms and they play an important role in digestive and immune health. There is research to suggest that maternal levels of bifidobacterium affect infant levels as early as 3 days. Bifidobacterium  readily passes from the breast milk to the nursing baby. Probiotics enhance our immune system, enhance the assimilation and absorption of vital nutrients, promote healthy skin, decrease atopic disease (asthma, allergies, eczema) and act as Group B Strep prophylaxis. While you can get probiotics in supplement form, I always encourage people to get additional probiotics through foods such as sauerkraut, kim chee, yogurt, miso or anything fermented.

3. Omega 3 fatty acids: the 3 main types of essential fatty acids are EPA, DHA and ALA. They are called essential fatty acids because they must be obtained from the diet. EPA and DHA are readily found in seafood such as fish, squid and algae. ALA is mainly found in flaxseeds, soybean oil, canola oil.  I will discuss the problems with soybean and canola oil in a later blog. ALA is not readily converted to DHA by the body so I usually just supplement patients with DHA and EPA. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the mother is the primary source of essential fatty acids. DHA in the developing infant is needed for visual and neurological development, cognition and hand/eye coordination. For pregnant and nursing mothers, essential fatty acids can help with mood stabilization and to banish baby brain.

4.  Vitamin D: with the war against sun exposure in full bloom, Vitamin D deficiency is becoming rampant. I have my issues with the whole everyone must wear sunscreen year round campaign but this is not the place for that discussion. Being a physician in the Pacific Northwest, I see and treat a lot of Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is now becoming a significant public health concern especially the further  away  you are from the equator. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to gestational diabetes, pre eclampsia, infection, Cesarian section and fetal growth restriction. Vitamin D in addition to calcium is also required for proper bone development. A recent paper published in February of this year suggested that supplementation may be a simple way to reverse adverse risk factors associated with low Vitamin D status. A licensed health care practitioner can check your Vitamin D status for you and suggest an appropriate Vitamin D dosage based on your lab results.

5. Prenatal Vitamin: research is just now starting to focus on the role of micronutrients in pregnancy outcomes. According to recent research,  reduction in  essential micronutrients may contribute to recurrent spontaneous abortions.   A good quality prenatal will provide you with all the important micronutrients such as magnesium, selenium, zinc, copper, chromium, manganese among others. In addition, these vitamins and minerals will be in a form that is easily absorbed by the body. Not all supplements are created equally. For example, most supplement companies sell magnesium in oxide form. This form is not readily absorbed by the body whereas the malate or citrate form is much better absorbed. I always advise women to start taking their prenatal vitamins well before they are thinking of getting pregnant. The worse thing that can happen is your hair grows thicker and faster. I also tell women that they need to think of their  womb as a garden. The egg and sperm represent the seed. In order to get a good yield of produce, you have to prepare your garden and fertilize it preferable with organic manure. When you have good soil and good seed, you have a good harvest. Pregnancy is no different.

Are there any supplements you find helpful for pregnancy and post partum?

Tips for a Chemical free summer (part 2)

I would hope that after reading my first blog, some of you would have rushed out to replace your Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen with something that is a little bit better for your health.

Pesticides are a significant source of toxicity. People are exposed to pesticides via food and the environment in particular lawn care. While research is usually focused on massive pesticide exposure, low dose long-term pesticide exposure is difficult to capture. Not to mention the fact that pesticide residue has been linked to everything from hypospadias to decreased intelligence, learning and memory in children. Children are particularly vulnerable because of their immature organs, rapidly dividing and migrating cells, higher metabolic rate and smaller size.

Ways to decrease pesticide exposure.

1. Eat locally and organically. Summer is the perfect season to do this. Farmer’s markets are filled with everything from organic produce to baked goods and plants. Summer is also a good time to  plant an organic garden and decrease your grocery bill while nourishing your body.

2. Avoid the herbicide atrazine. According to Health Canada, atrazine is used extensively in Canada as weed control for corn and rapeseed. It is also used on lawns, sugarcane fields and golf courses. According to healthy child healthy world, atrazine is an endocrine disruptor that has been linked to cancer, miscarriages, developmental and birth defects, miscarriages, weakened immune system, reproductive abnormalities and sexual changes. Visit the Health Canada site for ways to maintain a beautiful lawn without nasty pesticides.

3. Remove your shoes when you come in from outdoors. People who know me are aware that this is a big issue with me. There is a lot of environmental residue that gets attached to the bottom of our shoes. It is important to have a no shoes in the house policy for guests and family members.

4. Invest in a water filtration system that will get rid of organic pollutants. Atrazine has  shown up in drinking water. Water can be a significant source of environmental contamination and toxicity.

5. Keep your floors clean by vacuuming and moping regularly. This is especially important if you have small children that are crawling.

6. Petition the government in your city to make sure parks and areas that children play at is free of harmful pesticides and chemicals.

7. Make your own bug repellent by using essential oils instead of DEET and permethrin. Oil of lemon eucalyptus has been shown to be just as effective as DEET. DEET has been shown to be a neurotoxin. Just remember that you have to reapply often with essential oils. Avoid scented products and cover up when outdoors. Wellnessmama is a wonderful website with information on how to make your own natural insect repellent that works.

What are you doing to decrease your exposure to environmental toxins?