Category Archives: nutrition

Healing yourself with vitamins – That Vitamin Movie documentary

This summer I attended a talk given by an orthomolecular physician for parents of children with Trisomy 21 and afterwards spoke with him one on one.  It came up in discussion that a family member of his had cancer and was healed using high dosage intravenous vitamin C.

Knowing how effective this is in healing cancer since I’ve done quite a bit of reading on this topic in the past, the good results were predictable.  My big question was, how was he able to have this protocol used with his relative!

He told me that it helps being a physician.  :)  Unfortunately I’m not a physician but at least I now know someone in Israel who has used this tool!

In a new documentary titled That Vitamin Movie, the message is about the efficacy of vitamins in maintaining health and healing illness.  (It’s free to view for about another week and a half.)

The person who made this documentary began his journey of exploration of this topic when a friend of his was helped with depression by changing his diet and getting supplements.  As he researched, he found more and more stories of those recovering with help of large doses of vitamins much larger than the daily recommended amounts.

The approach of conventional medicine is to treat the symptoms, not to get to the root of what is causing the problem. I regularly ask the doctors or dentists that I take my children to why they are having the issue we are there for, and I’ve consistently been told: “That’s the way it is.  Sometimes this happens.”

The response is to prescribe medication, surgery, dental work. But the question remains, why is the problem happening?  If you don’t address the root issue that the symptoms are stemming from, you’ll continue to see health issues coming up.  And if you go the route of medication, often the side effects of one medication lead to the need for the prescription of another, and so on.

It was to explore some of these questions that this man said he set out to interview some of the world’s vitamin experts.

Dr. Andrew Saul commented in the beginning of his film that he raised his children to college without antibiotics and says very few people can say that – but I can!  I only have three children of college age, but 2 of the 3 haven’t had any antibiotics.  The third had them twice.   Ds16 was treated with antibiotics when he had a hip infection (I wished at the time I had access to high potency intravenous vitamin C because we weren’t able to give high enough doses orally of vitamin C to counter the infection), and other than ds3, the others haven’t had any.  Bli ayin hara.

By the way, this was an issue for a potential shidduch once.  The other side found out that we prefer to use natural antibiotics rather than prescription drugs to deal with illness and this was problematic for them.  I had to explain to the shadchan that we’re not dogmatic about this, and that although we have used medications at time, we’ve found this approach most effective to help our family stay healthy.

I think if people understood how much research there was on the use of vitamin C alone and read even a fraction of this, they wouldn’t see the use of it as extreme but rather as logical and self-apparent why it would be the preferred approach.

(While vitamin C is repeatedly mentioned in this film, it’s not the only supplement recommended.  However, almost six years ago I wrote a detailed post with specifics of how to dose vitamin C and if you’re interested you can read it here.)

This film is a consciousness raising of the benefits of using vitamins for the average person. Vitamins can be amazingly effective in treating a huge spectrum of issues: some of those referenced by the experts in this film include depression, cancer, heart disease and ADHD.  Though I’m familiar with all the information shared, I’m feeling prompted to mentally dust off that knowledge and be more conscientious about applying it.

Wishing you all abundant health – enjoy the film!

Avivah

Tips for supporting a child with Down syndrome

Now that Yirmiyahu is two and in my last post I shared the assessment from the professionals at the Feuerstein Institute that he’s doing unusually well, I thought I’d update on what we’re doing to be supportive of him.  Hopefully this will be of some help to someone else wondering what steps can be taken to help a child with Trisomy 21.

With a long standing passion for nutrition and alternative health, it’s my conviction that what you eat really, really matters.  It affects many more things in the body than we can imagine, and scientists are constantly discovering more and more connections.  I also believe that children with T21 need more specific support than the neurotypical child, and will continue to need more support throughout their lives.

Diet – what we do is very basic.  Yirmiyahu eats a whole food diet that includes proteins, fruits, vegetable and fats (mostly coconut oil and olive oil, some butter) and limited grains.  This is the same as everyone else in the family though we’re more careful with the fats he gets.

We use very minimal amounts of processed foods and don’t give him foods with gluten (wheat protein) or casein (milk protein), both of which are very difficult to digest and can affect the body in negative ways.  We limit these with our other kids but are more careful with Yirmiyahu.

For the first two years he didn’t get any sugar;  now he gets a Shabbos treat along with the other kids if he answers a parsha question (the question we start with for all of our kids when they are little is, “What day is today?” “Shabbos!”  Yes, he knows the sign for Shabbos.  :))  Again, this is similar to our other kids.

Nutritional supplementation – I have a strong preference for supplements that are as close to how they were created in nature but we live in an imperfect world and that’s not always possible.  Our experience has been that the symptoms associated with T21 require more targeted treatment than what food based supplements offer.

Fermented cod liver oil – okay, this stuff is awesome!  It has vitamin D, DHA,  essential fatty acids (and a host of other stuff I’m not mentioning), it strengthens bones, teeth and the immune system.  It’s a superfood that everyone could benefit from.

Probiotics – probiotics are great for everyone, but for someone with a less optimized digestive system, these are critical.  We switched from lactose base probiotics to soil based probiotics several months ago.  I now use Prescript Assist; a little bit goes a long way.  I give him about a 1/4 – 1/2 of a capsule daily.  Homemade lactofermented veggies are another  wonderful source of probiotics but Yirmiyahu isn’t yet a fan of them.

Saccharomyces boulardii – I love this stuff!  Remember Pac Man, the arcade game of the 80s? That’s what this reminds me of.  This probiotic yeast gobbles up the bad yeast and isn’t killed by antibiotics.  This isn’t something I’ve read of anyone else using in the T21 or natural foods world but it’s very valuable for us.

Blood tests when he was in the intensive care unit as an eight month old showed Yirmiyahu had candida.  Since I had researched candida extensively several years before I knew exactly what this was, but asked the doctor for his thoughts on what it was and what the consequences were.  He told  me not to worry about it, it didn’t matter.  Well, it mattered to me since this overgrowth of fungal yeast will manifest itself in many ways as it increasingly breaks down the body.

Yirmiyahu had a good diet but he constantly had loose stools that seemed to burn his skin – his bottom would be bright red and often bleeding after he had a dirty diaper no matter how quickly we changed him.  I tried different things to improve this but the best I could do was slather on a thick layer of zinc oxide cream, which didn’t do anything to improve the underlying problem.

When I added saccharomyces boulardii to his bottles, within a very short time his stools normalized and his rash disappeared.  Since I changed his probiotic to Prescript Assist at the same time, it took me a while to be sure which of the two was responsible for the improvement.  I began leaving out the probiotic and it became clear this was what was making the difference for him.  Since I began giving this to him at the beginning of the summer, he’s had only one bad rash.  What used to be a regular sight has thankfully become unusual and I hope this continues.  I love this stuff.

This is especially helpful for us since Yirmiyahu gets antibiotics twice a day and I can put it into his bottle together with the antibiotics, unlike probiotics which are neutralized by the antibiotics and have to be given at a different time for them to be beneficial.  I ‘m unhappy about these antibiotics but have some peace of mind that I can minimize some of the negative side effects by using this.

PQQ – this is a relatively new kid on the block in the scientific community and is Yirmiyahu’s newest addition.  Every person with T21 has neurons that are constantly dying – you understand this is a big concern, right?  That means you can’t assume that your child as he is now, will have the same mental capacity in twenty years.  It’s well-known that Alzheimers is a huge issue for people with Down syndrome as they age.  That’s bad, bad, bad but thankfully there are steps we can take at this young age to counteract this.

PQQ is one of them.  PQQ not only slows mitochondrial decline, it helps grow new mitochondria.  This is a big part of why I supplement – not to see immediate results, but to help Yirmiyahu maintain his cognition now and avoid the inevitable cellular damage later down the road.  He’s on a starter dose of .5 mg per kilo daily.

A very nice bonus is that within a couple of weeks of beginning PQQ, Yirmiyahu became noticeably more verbal.

Multivitamin – we used to give him a multivitamin formulated specifically for people with T21, but switched when he was about 14 months to a different multi that was recommended based on his specific bloodwork (actually it’s an autism multi – GI Pro for anyone who may be wondering).

I’m doing a thorough blood work up later this week and will likely make some changes to his current protocol based on the results that come back.  I suspect something is going on with his thyroid because the soles of his feet are dry; he had this symptom in the past (it took a long time until I learned it was a symptom of hypothyroidism) and it cleared up with supplementation.  I’m not sure what I’ve changed that his feet are dry again; I suspect it may be because I stopped the additional methylfolate, selenium and B12 I was giving but I don’t know if it’s a combination of all three or one particular supplement that is responsible for this.  (All of these are in his multi and I thought he was getting enough through this. )

His thyroid testing when he was about a year old showed elevated TSH and by the time he was eighteen months, we got into a much better range thanks to supplementation.  We also corrected his hypothyroid symptoms; he had become very weak and lethargic.  The doctor said it was normal for T21 and his blood work was normal; I sent his blood work to two people in the US for feedback and made adjustments to his supplements based on their feedback.  He wasn’t properly absorbing nutrients because of his extra chromosome and it was thanks to the addition of supplements that this was corrected and very soon he was back to his energetic and active self.

Ideally his thyroid should be tested every six months (this is a typical recommendation for someone with T21) but this time it’s been somewhat delayed since I wanted growth hormone testing done along with monitoring his blood cell count (we keep an eye on signs of leukemia because of his history), and needed to get that referral from the endocrinologist; I had to wait three months to get the appointment with the endocrinologist that I wanted.  This week when we do the blood tests, hopefully he’ll only need to get pricked one time.  I wish these tests weren’t  necessary but since they are, I try to minimize the discomfort to him by combining as much as possible at one time.

For us, supplements have been very important in helping Yirmiyahu stay healthy.

Hanging exercises – when Yirmiyahu was an infant, we began encouraging him to bear weight by putting his fists around our thumbs as we lifted him a tiny bit.  Now every time we pick him up (unless we’re in public, since people will tell us we’re doing something dangerous), we let him grasp our thumbs and pull himself up.  This little habit has brought big benefits to Yirmiyahu.

It’s strengthened the muscles in his hands, which is critical for fine motor function.  it’s also strengthened his abdominal muscles.  He climbs up ladders, slides – he’s totally independent in the playground; despite being so small he manages to climb things intended for children taller and older than him.  Recently he shocked and amazed the pediatric endocrinologist when he grasped the edge of the wall mounted sink in her office and began swinging from it.  I didn’t think anything of it, but she told me to turn around and watch what he was doing, exclaiming, “Look at him!!  Look at him!  Look what he’s doing!”  She couldn’t believe a child with T21 could have so much muscle strength at such a young age.  Ideally I would have him using the monkey bars daily to further develop this but I don’t have them available and so for now, our thumbs it remains! :)

Early literacy program – we use a computer program called Brillkids for early reading that Yirmiyahu really enjoys.  When he sees me sitting at the computer, he signs ‘words!’ and tries to climb up onto my lap!  This program includes categories of commonly used words – transportation, foods, colors, toys, actions, people, animals, etc – and it gives him regular familiarity with concepts and this translates to better understanding the world around him in addition to hopefully setting a foundation for reading.  I try to do the computer program twice a day with him and more when possible but five times a day is my max (this is at his initiation).  We’re up to lesson 70.

Signing – I’ve taught Yirmi a number of signs and this has been very helpful for him to be able to express himself since his cognition is way beyond his verbal expression, as is true of all young children.  The words I’ve taught him are those that are useful for him day to day – for example, when I noticed how frightened he became when he heard fighter jets roaring overhead, I taught him ‘airplane’, ‘loud’ and ‘scared’.  Now he has a way to tell us what he notices and what he’s feeling – when he hears them from a distance, he will tell us he hears an airplane, or that it’s loud, but only tells us it’s scary when they’re very close.  He also can tells us when something else scares him.  I need to spend some time thinking about what vocabulary would be helpful for him now, so I can look up those signs and teach them to him.  Signing is a wonderful tool.

Communication – I talk to Yirmiyahu a lot and explain what we’re doing as we go along, and have been doing this since he was young.  Most of this is intuitive.  I have one of the books by Dr. James McDonald called Play to Talk, and this helped me tweak what I was doing to be more effective.  He writes a lot about how a parent or sibling is the best play partner for a child and it’s through play that a child learns the most.  He gives clear guidelines for how to make interactions with your child a meaningful opportunity for communication and connection.

Craniosacral work – I take Yirmiyahu about once every 5  – 6 weeks to a wonderful osteopath who does craniosacral work on him.  She works on different specifics each time depending on what area of the body she sees needs the most balancing.  She almost always works on his respiratory system since this is a part of his body that has always been weaker.  This week she did a lot of improve circulation and to help flush out his system (important since people with T21 are less able to get rid of toxins on their own).   When he was an infant, one eye would periodically get goopy, but after she began working with him to release the underlying block in his facial structure, this disappeared.

I’ve asked her to work on his palate since it remains high and narrow even though it’s improved quite a bit since he was born.  This is important since the pituitary gland is above the palate and I want that to function as well as possible.  It was easier for her to work on this when he was younger since now when he bites down, he has teeth!  She does most of the facial work externally and very quickly; most of her time is spent on the rest of his body.

Siblings – my kids are crazy about Yirmiyahu and I can’t overstate how important they are in his life.  He has constant playmates and plenty of opportunities to see and model typical behavior, which is no doubt why his social skills are so good.  He doesn’t have to be taught to take a turn or throw a ball to someone – it’s part of his daily life!

**Disability Is Natural** The mindset that underlines everything I do and how I do it is based on accepting Yirmiyahu exactly as he is right now and believing in his abilities.  I was gifted with the book Disability Is Natural when Yirmiyahu was very young.  Quite some time ago I commented to my husband that over the years, my paradigm of what I assumed to be true and what I now believe had shifted in several key areas that changed my life – pregnancy/birth, education and health/nutrition.  With all of these I grew up accepting what everyone did as the norm until something prompted me to explore an alternative viewpoint, and each paradigm shift dramatically changed my life.   I commented to him rhetorically, “I wonder what the next life-changing paradigm shift will be?”

This book was it.  This prompted my next huge shift in thinking about a topic I had never given much thought to.  It is so powerful and I think it should be required reading for everyone on the planet. :)  Seriously.  This will give you so much food for thought and affect your parenting of all of your children and others you interact with in a positive way.  Fortunately, the author has a website with a free newsletter so you don’t have to spend a penny to read more – http://disabilityisnatural.com/.

When I read this book, I kept thinking, this woman thinks like me!  (I did keep wondering how with her personality she dealt with the constraints of the school system and the necessary advocacy – and then in the end she wrote about discovering homeschooling and stated that she wished she had done that from the beginning!)   This paradigm has helped me to find the inner balance of being proactive in addressing Yirmiyahu’s needs and fully accepting who he is.

Avivah

Update on Yirmiyahu’s growth – good news!

From the time Yirmiyahu was eight months until he was fifteen months, his weight and head circumference hardly budged.  He wasn’t big to start with and I, the mother who has never paid any attention to growth charts, was getting increasingly concerned that his numbers just weren’t moving up.   The nutritionist and pediatric allergist said he wasn’t growing because I didn’t feed him enough, though after his caloric intake was counted up, the nutritionist admitted that he was getting plenty of calories.  When I asked his pediatrician about it, she told me not to worry: “Kids with Downs’ are all small.”

That irritated me even though it was supposed to be reassuring and I know it was well-intended, because if a baby who didn’t have T21 came into the doctor with the symptoms I was describing, believe me, they wouldn’t be telling the parent not to worry about it. They would have been running all kinds of tests to figure out what was wrong.  But for Yirmiyahu, it was acceptable for him to be small and weak because he has T21.

So the last two months have been very empowering.  At that time, after extensive research and a lot of anxiety, I decided to begin a protocol for cerebral folate deficiency (CFD) – this is treated by taking your child off of dairy and supplementing with high doses of folate.  I took him off dairy formula when he was eight months old, and started supplementing for CFD when he was 15 months old.  Currently he’s taking 5 mg of folate daily (a mix of folinic acid and 5MTHF, see the info at the site linked for an explanation of why we’re using both if you’re wondering); when he’s eighteen months this will be increasing.  Results?

Increase in head circumference – 2 weeks after starting the protocol, Yirmiyahu’s head circumference had increased to the -3% for infants his age, a huge jump from from a percentage that was very far down off the charts, suitable for a baby many months younger than him.  This was very important for me because if the head isn’t growing the growth of the brain is limited, too.  Two months into the protocol, his head circumference now measures 2% on the typical growth chart!  That might not sound impressive but it’s a huge leap and it means he’s finally in the range of age appropriate.

Weight increase – after 7 months of no weight gain, Yirmiyahu has gained 1.1 kg in the last two months.  Within two or three weeks after we began supplementing, people consistently started commenting on how much older and bigger he seemed and this has continued until now.  That was anecdotal, but after so many months of people telling me how petite and tiny he was, it was a noticeable change.

Energy – when he was younger, we all thought of Yirmiyahu as an active baby.  As he got older, he became more passive (but supposedly ‘babies with Downs’ are slower” so this worried no one but me and my older kids).  By the time we started supplementing, he was frequently laying his head on our shoulders to rest even at times it seemed he shouldn’t be tired; he wasn’t crawling much even though he had the physical ability.  It was worrisome when we contrasted what he had been like months before to how he was at 15 months.  Now?    He’s like the Energizer bunny – he just keeps going and going!  He’s crawling all over the house, cruising holding on to things, loves to bounce when held on a lap and is so energetic!   He still loves to snuggle into the person holding him, but it feels different – you can tell it’s because it feels cozy for him, not because he’s so tired that he needs to rest.  He’s sleeping much less and is much more awake when he’s awake.  This isn’t something you can track scientifically but it’s a relief and a joy for me to see his true personality being able to be expressed again, not being held back by nutritional deficiencies that supposedly didn’t exist.

Jaw structure – when Yirmiyahu’s bottom front teeth came in, they came in vertically rather than horizontally.  Over the last month, they’ve been getting straighter.  He was born with an extremely high palate, and his osteopath last week told me it’s coming down (ie expanding).  I asked her why she thinks this is, and she said perhaps it was due to specifically this supplementing.  (She hasn’t worked on his palate in the last couple of months so she didn’t think it was connected to craniosacral work she’s done with him.)  It makes sense to me that if his head circumference is increasing it might be affecting his jaw.

I’d like to get some follow-up bloodwork done so I can track his lab values.  I don’t anticipate continuing with therapeutic doses of folate long term; this is to address his serious deficiencies and as his numbers improve, I’ll be cutting down on this.  So I need to see the lab values so I can cut down appropriately.  I also am hoping I can get more thyroid bloodwork done (this is much more easily said than done!) to see how flooding his system with folate has affected these numbers – the hypothyroid symptoms I was concerned about have dramatically improved and I’m anticipating big improvements in his lab values.

I’m so grateful for the internet and the ability to do research and connect with others who are also looking for answers.  Without this it’s painful to think that Yirmiyahu would be suffering with unaddressed medical issues, and the doctors would continue telling me- and I would believe them! – it was because he has Down syndrome instead of addressing the real issues.

Avivah

How to help your teeth remineralize

Did you know that your teeth are a vibrant, living part of your body that reflect the state of your general health?  What is exciting about this is that it means you can do something to improve the state of your dental health – and I’m not referring to brushing two or three times a day.  Teeth can heal – remineralize – when given the opportunity.

Recently I shared about ds5’s many cavities.  I also wrote about my plan to give the kids xylitol water to drink five times a day, after every time they eat, to alkalinize their mouth bacteria.  (By the way, since then ds4 and ds11 have had dental check ups – no cavities for either one.  Ds5 is our outlier!)  Too much oral acid is the cause of all cavities, regardless of any other factors – brushing really isn’t a critical factor in preventing tooth decay.  Bacteria can’t survive in an alkaline environment, so this is the first step – kill the bad bacteria.  Also, teeth can’t remineralize in an acidic mouth, so the ph needs to be changed to alkaline so that your teeth can absorb all the good nutrients you’re eating.

Next I’ll share about some other things that can be done to help teeth heal naturally.

The first thing is some information that was totally new to me!  If you’re familiar with Dr. Weston Price’s work,  Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (post with link to free online copy is here), you know that Activator X is the powerful factor that he identified as being responsible for dental health in traditional societies, and this is what we need to have for dental healing. Usually high vitamin butter oil combined with fermented cod liver oil is recommended for your Activator X fix.  But guess what I just learned?  That Activator X has been identified as Vitamin K2 – Mk4, which is available as a vitamin supplement.  Now, doing a little more research showed that although this is the best form to get in your Activator X from food, it’s not the best form to get it from supplements.  As far as supplements go, K2 – mk7 seems to be a better choice.  (There’s a disagreement on this but I prefer the position found here and you can read up on it if it interests you.)  This is something I can order online and have mailed directly to me in Israel, something I can’t do with the fermented cod liver oil and butter oil, so this is a much more doable option for me.

That doesn’t mean that your child won’t still benefit from cod liver oil and butter oil  – they will!  They both are beneficial in many ways, and if you can afford this, then go for it!  Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin D, among other things, which is important for strengthening teeth.

The next thing I’d like to do is cut down on our bread intake.  Since the kids took sandwiches to school every day, bread has become an integral part of their daily diet, and I don’t mean homemade sourdough from freshly ground organic wheat kernels!  Far, far from it. For quite some time I’ve been thinking how nice it will be nutritionally once the kids aren’t in school because they can have a higher quality diet than they do now. That begins with dramatically cutting down on bread.  The reason for this is that nutrients are absorbed directly through your teeth, so you want to cut out foods that are high in phytic acid at the same time that you increase your intake of high quality foods.  (For general guidelines on beneficial nutritional changes to make to benefit your teeth, see my post about how to improve dental health.)

Cutting down on other grains isn’t too hard, since we don’t use that many.  We occasionally have pasta, kasha and most often, rice.  But we can use more potatoes and squash in place of these starches.  My goal isn’t to totally go grain free, just to have a better ration of higher nutrient foods. Although it’s recommended to totally cut out all foods with phytic acid, that basically leaves organic vegetables, meat and eggs  and I don’t think that’s financially realistic for most people – definitely not for us at this time.

There are some good nutritional habits that I had for years that I slowly got out of the habit of.  It’s so easy to get out of good habits!  But to be very fair, not just to myself but to all you moms out there, these are things that take head space and conscious thought as well as time, and often none of those factors are in overabundance.  I’ve had way more things that I’ve wanted to do than the physical ability to do them!   Not only that, once we moved overseas everything got harder – I spent years finding sources for all the different foods I used, and suddenly was back to square one, with a different language, no car and different product availability to boot!  But some of the good habits are just as easy to integrate here as in the US, it’s just a matter of making the effort again.

One of these habits to get back to is regularly fermenting vegetables.  I stopped since I don’t have a food processor and when I make a big batch (2 – 4 gallons) of kimchi, it’s a serious time investment.  The easy ferments like pickles stopped turning out well (a couple of weeks ago week they turned out too salty, before that they were too mushy) and until recently I didn’t consider it a priority to take the time to figure out what factors had changed and experiment – the time and energy issue again! This is very important for your digestive health, since pathogenic gut bacteria will affect your mouth bacteria and probiotic foods and supplements are a critical part of building up your healthy gut bacteria.  (Edited to add: a blog reader emailed me to share that K2 is present in lactofermented sauerkraut, and that adequate K2 lessens the need for supplemental calcium – thanks, Iris!)

Another habit is making bone broth.  I stopped with that pretty recently when the weather got hot, but that’s an easy thing to reinstate.  It doesn’t take much time or effort to prepare, but it’s filled with minerals and then you can use the broth in anything you cook that calls for liquid to boost the nutritional value.

Something else I’d like to do is give ds5 specific homeopathic cell salts for dental health.  Though I purchased these while living in the US and they made the move along with us, giving it to the kids never became part of our daily routine.  (Anything that requires me to do something 3 – 5 times a day, and can’t be done at the same time as meals is very challenging to integrate into my daily routine.)  The dosage is two pellets, four times a day.  As with all homeopathics it’s important not to touch the pellets.  Just shake how many you need into the lid and pop them in your mouth.  Here are the  cell salts that are most beneficial for strengthening teeth:

Calcium Phos 6X – bone health, gives solidity to bones and assists in building strong teeth.

Calcium Fluor 6X – assists with improving enamel of teeth and strengthening bones.

Magnesium Phos 6X – bone development & quick pain relief associated with toothaches.

Silica 6X – assists in building strong connective tissue to support deficient assimilation.

For now I’m not making any appointments to have ds5’s cavities filled (I was told he’ll probably need at least six appointments to take care of them all).  It’s possible that it may eventually be necessary to have them filled – I already point blank refused to use amalgam when the dentist brought it up (why in the world are they still using toxic metals to fill cavities when we know so much about how problematic it is???) but there are other reasons that I’d like to avoid fillings if possible.  Fortunately with school over I’ll have much more control over what kind of foods everyone is eating.

My goal is to to alkalanize the saliva in ds5’s mouth so that the cavities can heal while at the same time changing the oral conditions that have previously led to cavities for him.  The main challenge isn’t knowing what to do, but being able to consistently apply what I know!  My life is always very full, but I’m hopeful that I can apply enough of these strategies frequently enough to see positive changes.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)

Avivah

Using xylitol water to change oral ph

Back in Feb. 2008, I wrote about tips for improving dental health.  Many of these were from Rami Nagiel, before he wrote his book Cure Tooth Decay and became widely known in the traditional foods camp.  My problem with Rami’s approach is that I don’t feel it’s doable on a budget and that it’s somewhat extreme.  Rami’s approach is very absolute and doesn’t leave room for sometimes having grains or sweets.  That’s very tough and not realistic for many people, even those dedicated to their children’s health.  Since it’s based on high quality organic meats and vegetables, it’s also financially very daunting.  It was thinking of this that made me feel hopeless yesterday, since I know we don’t have the funds for his protocol no matter how frugal I am and I also know that I can’t follow his guidelines 100%.   What did encourage me was remembering about Dr. Ellie Phillips approach.

Dr. Ellie is a dentist who has worked with pediatric patients and others for many years.  She’s written a book called Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye (I haven’t read it) and is now writing another book that will have information about the importance of diet to your teeth.  I’m guessing this will be along the lines of the traditional foods approach.  What is very encouraging about Dr. Ellie’s protocol for kids is that it’s so doable, and she doesn’t tell you to stop having all foods with phytic acids or anything else.  Her approach is highly effective, affordable and doable.

The main issue with her protocol is consistency.  For kids, she says that giving them xylitol five or six times a day after any food that isn’t dairy or vegetables will reset their mouth bacteria from acidic to alkaline.  She recommends giving it in the form of xylitol water to drink.  The recommended amount of daily xylitol intake for maximum dental benefits is between 6.5 – 10 grams a day; I think that’s about two teaspoons a day.  No benefits have been demonstrated by giving more than that.

We were regularly brushing their teeth with xylitol for a while and then we got inconsistent and tapered off.  In any case, it seems that drinking xylitol water is better and having it a few times a day rather than just at night before bed is much better.  It’s also best to drink it throughout the day, ideally after each snack and meal to reset the ph balance of the mouth.  Here’s a great article about mouth bacteria that is a must read to understand why people get cavities – if you’re someone who brushes and is careful about diet but you still have issues with cavities, this will explain what is going on and you’ll understand how important it is to systematically reset the ph balance and how xylitol works to benefit that.  Reading this explanantion gave me a lot of hope since I already was convinced the issue was something about his acidic mouth fluids and I’m very optimistic based on her many years of experience that this can be the answer to helping ds5 reverse his dental caries issue.

Yesterday I started giving xylitol water to the younger boys (including Yirmiyahu even though he has no teeth, because he was in my lap when I was giving them drinks and he wanted some, too!) and they were very receptive.  They loved it!  So getting them to drink it won’t be the issue; the real concern is me keeping it in mind on a daily basis and making it into a family habit.  Since there’s always so much going on this is a challenge for me but I’m going to do my best!

To make xylitol water, all you do is mix a couple of teaspoons of xylitol in hot water to dissolve the crystals, mix it and then add cooler water.  This amount will be for one child for one day.  I tripled the amount and put it all in a mason jar that I’m leaving on the counter so I could give all three younger boys some during the day .

Today I’m going to make some of the xylitol water into ice cubes for them to snack on after meals as a ‘popsicle’ dessert.  Since I don’t want to mix them up with our regular ice cubes, I’m going to save some of the cooking water from the beets I’ll be boiling this morning and will add a little bit to the mixture to give it some color.  This won’t affect the effectiveness of the xylitol.

You can also make xylitol candies by mixing it with plain gelatin and juice, a project I once bought ingredients to undertake and never got around to.

By the way, Dr. Ellie’s website and blog are packed with useful information and she consistently comes across as an incredibly knowledgeable, nice, sincere and caring person.  She has produced xylitol candies that can be eaten after meals, but never does she give the impression that you must buy her products to have good dental health.  She has developed a protocol for tweens and up for reversing decay and eliminating pockets that is a must read, so check that out after you read the article about mouth bacteria that I linked above.

Avivah

Dental woes for ds5

Today I took the kids to the dentist for the first time since we moved to Israel almost two years ago.  It’s embarrassing to me that I haven’t done this sooner but I’m so busy taking care of so many things, that everything takes longer than I want to get done.  I didn’t understand how the dental aspect of the health insurance here worked, and the person at the office I spoke to about it quite some time ago also didn’t.

Well.  Today’s news wasn’t good.  The kids I took were ds7 and ds5, and it was ds5 that I was particularly worried about.  I briefly wrote about this two years ago in the midst of our aliyah preparations, that when I took him for a routine dental check, I was shocked to find that he had a lot of cavities.  A lot.

This was very surprising to me since he wasn’t yet 4 years old, was homeschooled and therefore had very limited access to sugary treats.  We had a very good diet that included lots of healthy fats, raw milk, pastured eggs, broth, fermented vegetables, and no white sugar or white flour at all.  Of course we did have baked goods with organic sucanat and nut flours or freshly ground whole grain flour, but not the amounts you could attribute his level of cavities to.  And his cavities were totally disproportionate to all of the other kids’ state of dental health although they all have the same diet and similar toothbrushing habits.

I asked the dentist at the time what she attributed this to, and she said it’s possible he has highly acidic saliva.  I debated with myself about how to handle all of those cavities, knowing it’s possible to heal cavities, but decided to go ahead with traditional fillings since it was such a short time before we moved.  Knowing what I did about dental health, I was afraid we wouldn’t have the necessary factors in place for healing to take place, and so he had all of the cavities filled traditionally (20 – between almost all of his teeth).

Fast forward to today.  We’ve been a lot more careful with brushing with him as a result of his history, though his diet is worse than it used to be.  Firstly, our family diet isn’t nearly as good as it was for so many years due to cost and accessibility issues though most people would still call it very  healthy, and secondly, he’s at kindergarten daily and they get plenty of sugary snacks – it seems there’s always a party of some sort going on.

Ds7 was checked first, not much to be concerned about there despite all the sugary garbage he also eats regularly.  As I expected.  Before ds5 climbed into the chair, I warned the dentist he might find a very different situation.  And he did.  15 cavities, between most of his teeth.

I asked the dentist for his advice on prevention of this kind of thing, and he told me regular brushing and flossing.  I told him that we do regularly brush and that doesn’t seem to do much to help this particular child.  I told him I felt that ds5’s mouth ph was very acidic and causing this problem, and he dismissively shook his head and repeated that we need to brush and floss more.  I wasn’t hurt or surprised at this response; I’ve gotten used to very limited help from the professionals who are supposed to be experts since their learning is from an educational model that looks at the body as components rather than a holistic whole.

I felt kind of hopeless about this child’s dental health when I walked out of the office.  I absolutely don’t believe that this is an issue of inadequate brushing and know that this is going to be a constant issue with him unless we can figure out how to change his oral ph.  I know a number of things that can be done for healing cavities but just can’t afford all the traditional foods necessary.

Fortunately my discouragement was short-lived and I decided it was time for more research to see what else we could do.  I’ll share some of those things in my next post!

Avivah

Sale on fermented cod liver oil

I give Yirmiyahu fermented cod liver oil and butter oil daily, both powerful foods that work together synergistically in many ways for the body.

I’ve known about fermented cod liver oil for years but it’s so expensive that I just couldn’t afford it, and did the next best thing, use something less expensive.  Then when ds13 went to the US for a visit in October, he brought home a couple of bottles of both for Yirmiyahu.  My mom bought these for us, knowing that we have a lot of expenses and this was something that was very important for me to give to Yirmiyahu.  (One day I’ll try to get around to posting my thoughts on facial bone development and how this is an issue in T21 but in short, I feel these two supplements are very important in this area.)

Yesterday I learned that Green Pastures is having a sale on fermented cod liver oil – if you buy at the usual price at Amazon, it’s $63 per bottle, but at the Green Pasture site I think it was close to $45a bottle.  The sale price is now $29 per bottle, regardless how many bottles you buy. (Usually there’s a discount in you buy a certain amount, but even at the discount it would still be more than this sale price.)  That’s a really huge savings.

I don’t know how long the sale will last or why it’s on sale – I’m assuming it has something to do with end of the year inventory.  I stocked up and hope this will be of help to someone else!

Please don’t ask me about the kashrus of the cod liver oil or butter oil – this is one of the most common questions I get.  Neither of these products are certified kosher, and we’re comfortable using them both based on the conversations we’ve had with rabbis.  My response to others is always to ask your rabbi.

Avivah

 

Experimenting with formula replacement options – again

Finding something to feed Yirmiyahu has been an ongoing saga.  A while back I posted about needing to supplement nursing since he wasn’t gaining weight, and I made a homemade goat formula that I was very pleased with.  He was gaining weight on it, I was delighted that he was getting high quality real foods and he looked great.  Then we couldn’t get raw goat milk, so we used pasteurized goat milk instead.  Then the company that produced it had some kind of restructuring and the goat’s milk disappeared from the stores for a time.  My milk supply kept dropping and the supplemental bottles had become his mainstay.  So I had no choice but to buy formula.

Somewhere in there, Yirmiyahu got sick.  I assumed it was a cold that would pass, but it didn’t – his breathing became noticeably raspy and stayed this way beyond the time a virus should have passed.  I felt this was due to a milk allergy, though the doctors told me it’s because he has Down syndrome.  I asked them why his breathing was normal for the entire time that he exclusively had mother’s milk, and they said it was just a coincidence.  Yep.  Three different pediatricians saw him and all recommended we use a nebulizer, which we tried but it wasn’t helpful.  When I told his physical therapist my concern, she said as long as he gains weight, it’s not such a big deal – but if you’ve ever struggled to breathe, you know that it’s far from a small deal.

When the goat milk became available in the store again, I immediately went back to it.  His breathing remained noisy.  I tried the dairy formula, and I couldn’t tell if it was a coincidence that he seemed a little better or not.  I tried again a couple of weeks later, and after just one bottle of pasteurized goat milk formula, he was obviously more raspy.   I reluctantly back to the formula since I still didn’t have access to raw goat’s milk (the herd had been dried out, as was the herd of a friend who had been contacted on our behalf) – but his breathing still wasn’t good.

I took him to a naturopath for cranio sacral work several weeks ago and she right away commented on his breathing.  I told her that I felt it was caused or at least affected by a dairy allergy, and after a few minutes of observing him, that was her assessment as well.  She watched him drinking his bottle and noticed that he began squirming and showing signs of discomfort, and she showed me small red bumps on his knees and behind his ears that were signs of what she called ‘asthma of the skin’ (this is a translation of the Hebrew, I don’t know what it would be called in English; an Israeli friend told me it’s not eczema but didn’t know what it is in English).  She suggested a non dairy formula and I told her I really didn’t want to try soy, but she felt it would be better than dairy.

So off we went to buy the soy version.  You don’t know how hard it is for me to feed my baby formula, it’s just so much not the way I believe that babies should be fed.  (If you’re wondering what I mean, just look at the ingredient list – the top ingredient is some kind of sugar, skim milk powder for the dairy version and then lots of vitamins added in.)   And to give the most nutritionally vulnerable member of our family this stuff…..but his breathing really worried me.  Within three days of the soy formula, his bottom was bleeding, he had red rashy marks on the top of his head and the skin all over his face looked bumpy.  No more soy.

At this point I became determined to build up my milk supply again so that he could have my milk.   I notified my family that this would be my top priority.  I spent an entire day in bed with Yirmiyahu, just nursing, pumping, eating and drinking lots of fenugreek tea (to increase milk production).  I was trying to pump about every 1.5 hours, since I learned that what I had been doing previously (every three or four hours) wasn’t enough.  I continued doing this for the next several days to the best of my ability, working around appointments and the things I needed to do.  And there was hardly any increase in my supply.  At this point my reality and my desire to nurse Yirmiyahu collided and I had to have a very honest talk with myself about what I was capable of.  Back to the dairy formula for lack of a better choice.

Last week I had to take Yirmiyahu for blood work and his pediatrician told me his breathing was worrisome.  I agreed and told her that I planned to switch him to a different milk substitute as per the suggestion of our naturopath.  She became very annoyed and told me for these issues you don’t turn to a naturopath, you go to a doctor.  She then suggested we give Yirmiyahu two different medications daily via an inhaler- one medicine four times a day, one to be given twice a day (one is a steroid).  How long was he supposed to get this until it made a difference, I wanted to know?  She said they were to be given daily the entire winter.

We bought the medications and dh gave it to Yirmiyahu for a couple of days while I was in the hospital with ds13.  When I got home, he told me that he was concerned at the reaction to this that Yirmiyahu seemed to be having.  My strong feeling was is that we need to remove the allergen first and then see if there was still a breathing issue.

And that brings us to today – I began giving Yirmiyahu almond milk and will be observing his reaction for the next week.  I hope that this agrees with him; if I could get raw goat’s milk again I’d go back to it in a second.  Hopefully this is the point where he starts to get better!

Avivah

Homemade goat milk formula for babies

Last week after a visit to the doctor it became apparent that Yirmiyahu isn’t gaining enough weight just with nursing.  I have a  theory about why that is – I think it’s because his palate is high and narrow, and he can’t create enough suction to keep the milk in his mouth.  I see there’s a lot of spillage as he nurses and don’t think it’s a milk supply issue, and his sucking is good so I don’t think it’s caused by a weak suck.  Whatever the cause is, I needed to do something to address the lack of weight gain.

The  day after the doctor visit, I had to travel to Tzfat and hoped to buy goat’s milk from a friend, but we weren’t able to connect in time.  Fortunately, she has a neighbor who studies here in Karmiel and she was able to send it with her, and two days later I had two liters of fresh goat’s milk to use.  Until I got the milk from her, I used formula from the store.  His weight was a really big concern to me – at ten weeks old, he was only a pound more than his birth weight (7 lb) – and immediately remedying this was my top priority.

Before I tell you what I did to make my formula, I’ll share why I didn’t want to use store formula.  Firstly, just looking at the ingredient list makes it hard for me to countenance giving this to a baby.  It’s very artificial and processed, and I avoid this kind of food for my entire family; since babies with T21 frequently have digestion issues, finding a healthy alternative is especially valuable. I didn’t want to use cow’s milk (even with homemade formula) because so many kids with T21 have allergies and issues with casein and I’d rather take a proactive stance and avoid this issue rather than wait for a problem to later show up.

Soy formula has its own issues; I read a while back that soy formula isn’t supposed to be sold in Israel anymore but I don’t know if that’s accurate, and since I sent dh to the store to make the formula purchase I wasn’t able to see if it was on the shelf.  I don’t know what the formula alternatives are available for those with milk allergies, but there must be something. I tried coconut milk but it seemed to upset his stomach, and even if it had been okay for him, what I buy here has stabilizers added and I didn’t want to give him something with preservatives.  I tried the broth formula based on Nourishing Traditions and he didn’t get full – he kept drinking and drinking with no satiation.

Then I thought of goat’s milk. It’s high in fat, very digestible and low in allergens.  My adaptation of the recipe in Nourishing Traditions is below:

Homemade Goat Milk Formula

  • 2 c. raw goat’s milk
  • 1 t. cod liver oil
  • 1 t. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t. butter oil (I don’t have this yet but plan to add it once I can get it since it works synergistically with the cod liver oil – I hope to have it in about a month)
  • 1 t. organic blackstrap molasses (plan to add this to the next batch)
  • 2 t. extra virgin coconut oil
  • 2 t. powdered nutritional yeast
  • 2 c. filtered water

Mix everything together, and shake well.  Yields 36 oz.

I didn’t add nutritional yeast to the first batch, because I wanted to see how he tolerated the basic mixture.  If there would have been a reaction, it’s easier to narrow down what is causing the issue if there are fewer ingredients to start with.  The nutritional yeast is particularly important when the formula is made with goat’s milk, which is rich in fat but doesn’t have folic acid, but this is something that some children react to so it’s good to be aware of that and pay attention to how your child responds.

Now that I’ve made a batch with nutritional yeast and it’s been tolerated fine, I’ll add in the blackstrap molasses.  I’ve written about blackstrap molasses before; it’s a good source of iron and B vitamins.

I add a vitamin supplement called Nutrivene-D twice a day to his bottles.  I don’t add this in with the  formula because I can better control the amount he gets by adding it to the bottle right before I give it to him – I don’t know in advance how much he’ll drink in the course of a day of the homemade formula and I want to be sure of his dosage. This is a more than just a powdered vitamin supplement; it’s targeted nutritional intervention (TNI) and is formulated specifically with those with T21.  At his body weight he’s supposed to be get 1/2 teaspoon broken up into two different feedings.

I also add probiotics to the first bottle of the day.  Again, I find it easier to control his intake by doing this separate from the formula mixture.  I give Yirmiyahu .05 grams of the 11 strain powdered probiotic for those on the GAPS diet (I happen to have this in the house and it’s a high quality product, but you can use any decent probiotic) – this is equivalent to 13 billion cfus.  I started giving Yirmiyahu probiotics when he was four days old and in the NICU – when I pumped milk at home, I added the probiotics to it and then gave it to them at the hospital to use in his feeding tube.  I took him for cranio sacral work when he was 2.5 weeks old, and the practitioner commented that I must be giving him probiotics – I said I was but asked how she could know that, and she said that by looking at his tongue she didn’t see the signs she would have expected for a baby who had been on high dosages of antibiotics.

I’m still experimenting with how to most efficiently prepare this formula, but what I did with the last batch was to add everything but the water at one time.  When I was ready to prepare a bottle, I added an equal amount of hot water to the amount of formula I was putting in.  This made warming it up very simple, and also quickly melted the coconut and olive oils, which solidify in the fridge.

Yirmiyahu has been taking this for over five days now and is doing great.  Several of my family members are sure he looks as if he’s gained weight; I haven’t yet checked that (I will in a couple more days) but he’s having plenty of wet and dirty diapers again (which he wasn’t having when I was exclusively nursing).  I keep an eye on his stools to see how he’s reacting to what we give him, and this looks like it’s working well for him.  The color of his stools on the other things I tried weren’t right – blackish greenish on the broth, lime green on the coconut milk (sorry to be so graphic but this is how I could tell -along with the consistency – that the other things I tried weren’t being properly digested).  Now they’re yellowish curds again.

The only day that he had broth formula was when I had to travel to Jerusalem for the day.  When I got home, I immediately saw that he looked terrible – peaked. His face was blotchy and pale.  This reverted back to normal within a day of nursing, and the skin on his face is still looking good with goat’s milk.

For those who are wondering, I’m still nursing him.  I nurse him before I give him a bottle so he gets the benefits of mother’s milk as well as of nursing, and then give him homemade goat formula to boost his calories.  He’s drinking huge amounts of this formula, and it’s very gratifying knowing that I’m giving him a high quality nutritionally well-balanced food that is helping his digestive health in both the short and long term rather then harming it.

As far as the cost, I pay 15 shekels for a liter of raw goat’s milk; this works out to approximately $15 a gallon.  It’s not cheap but neither is formula – the cost is pretty similar – and this is definitely a better investment in his health!

Avivah

(This post is part of Fat Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays.)

Homemade vitamin B supplement

Recent bloodwork showed that a couple of our family members were very low in vitamin B – one was almost totally deficient, while the other was just regular low.  Seeing these lab results, I am assuming that other family members would also benefit by boosting their B vitamin intake.

Vitamin B is important for so many things, and are known as ‘the happy vitamins’.   Common symptoms of being deficient in vitamin B include low energy, being tired all the time, and being depressed.  Eating sugar, processed foods, caffeine, or experiencing stress all burn through your body’s supply of vitamin B.  And though we hardly eat any processed foods or caffeine and not much sugar, moving overseas and integrating into a new culture definitely qualifies as stressful!

A friend who is a psychologist recommended a particular vitamin B food grade supplement; she’s seen many people benefit emotionally by taking it and also said if she gets it to women right after giving birth, that there’s no postpartum depression.  I bought a bottle of it, and though her source for it was cheaper than what it would have been otherwise, it still wasn’t cheap.  When I looked at the ingredients on the bottle, I thought to myself, “I can make this!”  So that’s what I did.

Of course, I don’t know what the proportions are, but here are the ingredients as listed on the bottle: brewers yeast (vitamin B complex), molasses (iron), fruit juice concentrates,  water, assorted herbs, spices, carob, natural vitamin C or E.

Here were the proportions of the first batch of vitamin B mixture that I made: 250 grams brewers yeast, 200 grams carob syrup (I happened to have this in the house since someone bought some, didn’t like it, and asked if I could use it), 2 T. sodium absorbate (vitamin C), 3 small scoops bioflavanoids (I think each scoop is 1/4 teaspoon – the bioflavanoids balance the sodium ascorbate and should be taken together), cayenne pepper (I tasted this in the supplement I bought), and then I planned to add molasses and water.  When I started making my first batch, I didn’t have molasses but thought I’d be able to get it within a day.  But life happened and I didn’t get the molasses for a week, and so some of thick pasty mixture that I made got eaten by the spoonful.   Though it tasted pretty good, by adding the molasses afterward I can’t with any accuracy tell you how much was needed since I don’t know how much was already eaten.

When I did get the molasses, I made a second batch, being a little more creative.  What I did was mix nutritional yeast, molasses, sodium ascorbate and bioflavanoids, and spirulina powder all together.  (I was sure I’d remember the proportions to share here but of course, I didn’t.  :))  Then I added some water to thin it out until it was an easily pourable syrup.  Honestly, this doesn’t taste as good as the first batch – it’s okay but I can’t say I love it – but I think it’s probably much higher in vitamins that the first batch.  And it’s way cheaper!

Warning about using spirulina – it’s packed with vitamins but it gives everything its mixed into a dark greenish/black color that is unappealing.  The kids think this batch looks disgusting and not one of them was willing to taste it.  I don’t mind the color so much but I find the taste of molasses to be overly strong for my tastebuds, so I swallow down my tablespoon of mixture quickly and then take a drink of water.  But dh thinks the mixture tastes good, and regardless of taste, I think that this mixture is better absorbed by the body than taking a bunch of vitamins!

Avivah

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)