The Vaccination Issue: Doctors Who Speak a Truth

There are doctors who administer vaccinations, and then there are doctors who weigh the decision to vaccinate by considering the health risks for the person, who is often a child. I have watched several online videos of doctors and scientists speaking out about the risk that vaccinations with mercury and aluminum adjuvants pose. The vaccination issue is a topic that we as parents need to understand by doing our own research and by making decisions that are best for our children and family. Unfortunately many states are changing laws to further restrict a parent’s right to decide, but we must continue to educate others as long as it takes to turn the tide. Otherwise, corporate interests (a.k.a. greed) control the health of the individual, something we should not accept as free human beings.

In the fall of 2014 I attended a lecture by Dr. Susan Humphries sponsored by the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice. She could be considered one of our country’s most articulate speakers on this issue. It makes common sense that when Dr. Humphries talks about the chicken pox vaccination, she explains that it reduces the availability of the chicken pox virus in the general population, which older people  periodically need to be exposed to in order to not develop shingles. Furthermore, her research of the infant’s immune system has to be understood by everyone: whenever we take a healthy breast fed baby who is developing an immunity to infection via that process, and then we think that “modern science” and vaccines can do better than what nature has developed, we are severely interrupting a process and playing Russian roulette.    

Neuroscientist Chris Shaw  from Canada speaks about aluminum adjuvants: “when you accumulate aluminum in your body from food, industrial practices, or any other source, our bodies (kidneys) usually do a good job flushing it out. …when it’s in a vaccine the body does not do this, it stays in the body and this is why vaccines that contain aluminum (and other harmful toxins)  should be a cause for concern.” Another prominent speaker is MIT researcher Dr. Stephanie Seneff. Do not be fooled by people trying to discredit her work; her study of aluminum and mercury adjuvants as well as her study of Monsanto’s glyphosate found in their herbicide, Roundup, offer alarming information we should all know about.

Many excellent resources abound on the internet. There are some very good brief videos I have seen on Larry Cook’s www.stopmandatoryvaccination.com. One is by a former Merck sales representative who did not have his own son vaccinated, believing (as I do) that the best defense against illness is to raise a healthy child with wholesome food, exercise and a common sense lifestyle. Another video is a story told by a “vaccine free mom” whose alarm was raised when she noticed asthma symptoms in her first two children who had the most vaccinations.

Like the mother in the video, I too recall being aware of childhood diseases in the 1960’s. Among my friends and cousins, we all heard about chicken pox, mumps, measles, and German measles. Before I was 6, I clearly remember my parents putting me in the bathtub with my brother to catch the German measles from him. I do not recall anything about the disease although it gave me lifelong immunity. My brother and I were always aware that we never got the mumps although we knew several children who did. We both had chicken pox and I remember picking at the scabs. When I was 9, I came down with scarlet fever. I fainted in the nurse’s office at school and remember dreaming I was in a car crash as I “crashed” into someone’s arms. The only other thing I recall about scarlet fever was that when I convalesced at home, my teddy bear was also ill; this was my way of making sense of an illness. (We both recovered.)

I give much credit to Jeff Hays and his film Bought, which can be viewed online. It points to the profit motive/greed among the powerful corporations who manufacture vaccines (and also to companies like Monsanto who are trying to alter our food supply for their own gain). Many clips not included in the movie are also extremely informative. Other excellent speakers on the vaccine topic are Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, Dr. Toni Bark and Dr. Terry Wahls.

Dr. Philip Incao is an Anthroposophical physician who has been writing on this issue for decades. Many of his articles are posted on his site but I still have a paper copy of an article he published 15 years ago in LILIPOH Summer/Fall 2001 titled “The Reason for Childhood Diseases”. He talks about the transformative powers of childhood illnesses, something that was commonplace in decades past, where illness gave the individual the space and freedom to transform by shedding old cells and habits in order to “clean house” and become a new self. Childhood illnesses help us to “step out of our parents’ shoes” and become our own individual. I have seen children emerge from chicken pox with new confidence and new initiative, such as standing up for themselves and no longer following the crowd just to fit in. The important point is to know when a childhood illness takes a severe turn for the worse, just like any cold or flu. But with a strong immune system to begin with that is not compromised by early and excessive vaccinations, too much antibiotic use, and toxins from our food and the environment, an average child has the fortitude to journey through an illness with us at her side, as we witness her transformative work.

Sense of Touch Issues Especially for Caesarian, Fast Birth or Low Weight Babies

Robin:Galen at play

Sense of Touch Issues                                                                                                   

Strengthening the Foundational Senses Series                 

When a child is born, he or she has quite a job to do. Over time we have lost sight of this task, but we must work to develop respect for it again: the job of growing into the physical body. Though not often recognized by experts in education and medical fields not familiar with scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s view of human life, it takes roughly seven years for a child to attain a physical body that is well developed and ready for learning in school. Early academic learning can often be a detriment to success in school, because something else has been bypassed: the neuro-developmental stages of the first seven years.

Consider house building: to commence building a house, we do not start with the wiring, wallpaper, kitchen or chimney. We start with the foundation because that is what everything else must rest upon in order for the house to stand, and so it is with our children. We must ensure that the foundation is there for all later learning to stand upon. If the foundation is not strong, then in grade school, high school, or beyond, unforeseen learning issues, including executive function problems, may arise.

A paradigm many Waldorf educators work with, given by Rudolf Steiner, is the framework of twelve senses. The senses of touch, taste, smell sight and hearing are of course in this grouping, but there are more. The first four form a group known as the Foundational Senses for obvious reasons. Upon the strength or weakness of these four senses that are hands down critical in the early years, the human being will meet the world with certainty and trust, or hesitation and fear. These foundational senses are: TOUCH, LIFE, SELF-MOVEMENT and BALANCE.

The Foundational Senses build three capacities in a child: Body Geography (knowing where the parts of your body are), Spatial Orientation (knowing where you are in space) and Dominance (having an established preference for one side of the body to do some tasks). These three capacities are basic in order for children to perform many practical activities from brushing teeth to writing words on a page and using machines both simple and complex.

THE SENSE OF TOUCH

The sense of touch is already at work in utero-the growing fetus is able to sense contact with the placenta wall, plus her hands brush against her face as another touch experience. The onset of labor brings a strong impression of squeezing, pushing and meeting a boundary. If a vaginal birth follows at least several hours of labor, chances are that the newborn will have had a substantial experience of touch in the hours and moments before birth, due to the contraction of muscles in the mother’s uterus. If a child has experienced a fast birth (under 3 hours labor) or a caesarian birth, then it is very possible that the sense of touch was not so strongly experienced. Also, a vaginal birth of a low birth weight baby will have less of a strong tactile experience due to being smaller.

Fortunately, very firm swaddling is a time honored tradition known by midwives and hospital nurses the world over to give the child the touch boundary she needs, whether she is being held or not. Many cultures promote this practice for the first three months or more and for good reason-the firm pressure gives the infant a sense of safety because there is something firm pressing back against her, just as she felt in utero.

NICU babies are often wearing only a little plastic diaper, and there’s no firm swaddling. If they receive kangaroo care (skin to skin), the parents must hold the fragile baby extremely carefully as the skin is so delicate. But once these NICU babies are home, having some fat tissue and firmer skin, they especially need months of very firm swaddling and baby massage as their skin layers grows stronger.

Pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp from California calls the first three months of life “the 4th trimester” for very good reasons and advocates firm swaddling as seen in his video and book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, www.happiestbaby.com. He adeptly demonstrates an infant being wrapped extremely tightly in a blanket, with the head free, and the baby calms. Otherwise a baby may feel at a loss and crying ensues. A deep touch experience via swaddling helps babies feel more physically at home in their bodies whether or not they missed a firm pressure experience from the birth process.

A baby is essentially merged with adult caretakers for several months. In a certain sense this extends for years; over time a child individuates and develops a stronger sense of self. It is not until around age 8 or 9 that the child feels truly separate from the world; this is a common age when loneliness is expressed. Firm loving touch that begins in infancy and extends for years is an important component in raising healthy children. Using the deep and also superficial layers of our skin, we learn where we end, and where something else in the world begins-a person, a blanket, a toy. We learn that we are separate from the world but through touch we also can connect to others. With firm loving touch, a child is comforted, sheltered and contained. Yet touch also enables us to experience boundaries that help us to feel separate from the things we encounter. Through having a strongly established sense of touch, a child is better poised to learn about boundaries both physical, verbal and social.

 Tactile Defensiveness

Various issues may arise when the sense of touch has not received enough stimulation in infancy and in the early years. Also, some children with a standard vaginal birth and plenty of loving touch may still have sense of touch vulnerability for various reasons. Known as tactile defensiveness, this is a challenge for many children and has nothing to do with children being aggressive or irritable on purpose. These issues may not even show up until age ten or more. Some considerations are:

1. Although there are many reasons why a child may be anxious, including significant traumatic events, one possible symptom of tactile defensiveness is anxietyChildren who have a delicate touch sense may appear anxious; this feeling may physically reside more in the upper torso across the chest and shoulder blades. Adults can protect these vulnerable areas  with hugs,  firm shoulder squeezes, and clothing that covers shoulders and the upper chest.

2. A child may experience a light brush against the arm as a strong push, causing an overreaction. The adults are puzzled because they saw a light touch, yet to the child a great offence has occurred. Such a child may punch others in retaliation. Hitting is one way to protect oneself from a perceived threat, yet how often is it interpreted as an aggressive or inappropriate behavior?

3. A child may unconsciously refuse to stand in a line of children where the risk of getting bumped by others is likely, yet a teacher may see this as defiance instead. Likewise, a child may resist sitting with his back against the back of a chair, especially if it’s hard plastic. Conversely, a child may be too much “in someone’s face”, lacking a healthy sense of boundaries. When adults begin to observe a child’s situation with respect to the birth story and an understanding of tactile issues, a revelation may take place about why the child exhibits resistance to certain activities or may push too far.

4. A child may resist wearing layers of natural fibers, which are heavier than synthetic fibers, or  resist wearing snug clothing, preferring a loose style without anything touching at the neck, waist, ankles and wrists, etc. Or a child may prefer to have a hooded sweatshirt on at all times, to give a boundary layer of protection from the world. A very sensitive child will hide under a hood as well, but it is worth knowing the birth history.

Mothers of twelve year old boys have told me their son will not wear underpants, socks, long sleeved shirts or anything close fitting. They wear the large baggy synthetic basketball shorts and a T-shirt, even in Vermont’s cold winters. Sometimes in these situations the sense of touch is so compromised that the child does not fully feel the effects of the cold. They are, literally and figuratively, “out of touch.”

5. Some children with tactile sensitivity seek out firm touch by crashing into people or objects, stomping around, or jumping off furniture or steps. All of these behaviors help a child to get the proprioceptive feedback he needs-feeling where his body, muscles and joints are in relation to the world around him. They seek what they need; they are not trying to destroy furniture.

6. Often these children crawl into bed with mom or dad in the night. They may wake up in their own beds and become anxious when they do not feel a boundary: “Where am I? Where do I end and where does the world begin?” So snuggling next to an adult provides that missing boundary. Sometimes the child truly does have emotional anxiety issues, but in this case there is a real physical anxiety. Putting the child to sleep with a firm bodied dog on the bed, firm body pillows or even in a sleeping bag for a cocoon experience are some strategies to help a child sleep better.

7. Other indicators of tactile defensiveness include not liking hugs from certain people (if the pressure is not right), a strong dislike of crowds and a dislike of haircuts (because it touches the head and face lightly, which is irritating). A colleague of mine told a story about a baby who cried all day when awake at home with the mother; as soon as the father came home and held the baby, he stopped crying. This naturally deflated the new mother’s self-esteem around parenting her child. Happily, this resolved when they realized the father was a football player who firmly squeezed his baby in contrast to the mother’s too gentle approach.

8. Last but not least, an insensitivity to other’s feelings. Equate a healthy tactile (touch) sense with a good sense of tact (respect and sensitivity for the other). Solid physical boundaries align with the development of healthier social boundaries, helping us be “in touch” with situations.

A Helpful Protocol:

A daily diet of firm pressure via strong hugs, cushion or futon squeezes and firm pressure massages can ameliorate the situation. Especially helpful is a morning, afternoon and bedtime routine that enables the child to feel more present in his skin, as illustrated below:

Here is a story of 4 year old boy, an only child, who was pushing others. The parents called and described their son’s hitting behavior at home and nursery school. Right away I thought that this may be a referral to a counselor but I said I was willing to observe. I arranged a time to come to their house for an hour, explaining that I would be a person coming for a cup of tea. After meeting the family and having a brief house tour, I asked the boy if he would show me his room and his toys.  Eager to oblige, off we went to his room. His wooden and plastic toys were in baskets and the books on a shelf. His room was calm, without clutter, and the bed was made. As we went back downstairs, I had a clear sense that this was a nice family but that perhaps I was not the person who could help them.

Then I sat at the kitchen counter while the mother prepared my tea. When she went to the refrigerator to retrieve the milk, her back was turned to me. Her son went right up behind her, placed both hands on her bottom, and gave her a shove forward. This was what I needed to see ! We had our tea and then I left, looking forward to seeing the parents a few days later in my office.

When I asked them if their son was born by caesarian, they said he was. I explained to them what the repercussions of this were and they went home with my advice to play squeezing games in cushions, etc. A week later the mother returned a book I had loaned with a note saying, “In six days of doing the firm hugging and the squeezing games, the hitting behavior has significantly decreased.”

What can a parent do when the sense of touch is compromised ?

Children with a compromised sense of touch need firm pressure activities that can become part of a daily diet for several months. Children do outgrow this issue for the most part, and the best way to help them is to play games and do massage at home. Henning Kohler states in his book Working with Anxious, Nervous and Depressed Children: “Anxious children need gentle firmness and protection.” I add here that they also need to experience joy and fun in healthy touch experiences, as in the photo above of my twin boys. Ideas include:

Massage as tolerated, firm is best, especially to the whole back and shoulders
Shoulder rubs, strong and long bear hugs. Hold gently but firmly

Rough house play with siblings and parents (not too close to bedtime).

Flying angels (parent on floor w/ legs raised up, child’s tummy on parent’s feet)

Snow angels on floor or outside.

Wrapping in blankets/quilts-cocoon or burrito, firm pressure applied (head out).
Sandwich the child between pillows/cushions and lean your weight on them –
just not on the head.
Roll the child in a futon (head safely out)

Sandbox play
Being buried up to the neck in sand at beach if child can tolerate it, or just the legs                  

Millet box “magic millet” –it’s wonderful to scoop hands in to find hidden gems
Millet also has a high silica content


Being allowed to run and crash into a stack of cushions or a padded wall                                   

Hand clap games

Rolling on the floor or grass

Playing guessing games writing number or letters on the back.

For sleeping, put long pillows on either side of the child, or put the dog on the bed-
Labs are great. A child might like to be in a sleeping bag on the bed.

Connect the activity with firm boundary, safety and security, and have fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Simple as ABC: Achieve Better Compliance by Avoiding This Approach

With the very best of intentions to be kind and respectful and to model these same qualities, many parents are unwittingly making a significant error in their approach to guiding their children through the day. The scenario proceeds as follows: it is time to do something such as take a bath, or come to the table or put on one’s coat. With considerable graciousness, the parent will say: “Would you like to take a bath now? Would you like to put your coat on? Would you like to zip it up now?” The theme should be obvious: asking the child if he or she wants to do something, instead of making a declarative statement.

Marcy Axness, speaker and author of Parenting for Peace, http://marcyaxness.com refers to these words as the “friendly four word disaster in the making phrase”, “Do you want to …?”. Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting (book and blog) also refers to this extreme politeness in a brief, lighthearted video on Suggestion versus Direction: https://tparenting.leadpages.net/simplicity-discipline-q-a-preview/  

To cut to the chase, there are two main points for parents to understand:

1. The first is that when a statement that should be declarative is posed as a question, it signals that the adult is unsure of the whole situation. Plain and simple, this makes a child anxious; it is really not their domain to make a decision about whether it’s time for bed, because the adult should be in charge. When an adult habitually poses statements as questions, this repetitive cycle may breed an undercurrent of anxiety for years, making a child who would otherwise feel secure, end up with an unnecessary sense of discomfort. Anxiety created by this type of situation is fully avoidable.

Young children have an inherent respect for authority; while it is developmentally appropriate that they push up against our authority after age ten or twelve, they want the security of our firm answers and guidance as they begin to navigate childhood. We are the wheel steering their ship until by degrees, we let go of the wheel and they take it on themselves. Who doesn’t want a travel guide when charting into unknown territory? It brings a sense of calm, to know that someone else is in charge and that one can relax under strong but respectful leadership. This does not mean that the young child has no choices but the choices given should be simple yet still directive, as in “Today you may wear this shirt or that shirt” or “You can put the toys away by yourself or we can do it together.”

When children are being guided by parents, a solid declaration provides a great sense of relief that the adult is in charge. The voice of authority, especially for younger children, is reassuring because it implies order, security and a plan. There is predictability in the flow of events and an intrinsic knowledge that the parent or caretaker is making the decisions. What a relief this is for a young child, to not have to make unnecessary decisions which can place too much burden on him or her. The child’s task is to develop autonomy in stages through play, exploration and modeling adults doing chores but not to plan the events or decide on self care. Bedtime is non-negotiable, as is zipping the jacket or wearing a hat when it is cold outside.

2. The second point is that when a child is given a statement posed as a question, it gives a child a lot of freedom to give any answer, including “no”, the favorite word of many a toddler as her consciousness of self begins to unfold. Older children should have some choices, including opportunities to practice saying “No” and then paying the consequences, but young children need a voice of authority. Remember that the young child primarily learns through imitation, so it is good when adults model authority; the child senses the surety and will store that archetype of authority in her repertoire of how to be in charge, as in the child’s game “King of the Mountain”.

Back in the 1990’s in preparation for Waldorf teacher training, one of my teachers was Craig Giddens, a speech artist and master teacher. In a discussion about intention in our speech, he described to us that parents of young children were making a mistake when they asked what their young child wanted for breakfast, giving them an array of choices of boxed cereals, etc. He then modeled what a parent should say: “Sit down and eat your oatmeal.”

The long term ramifications of this approach were evident in Craig’s next scenario. Fast forward fifteen years later and imagine your teenager wanting the keys to the car for an evening. You say, “We’d like you home at 11 p.m.” Your teen, pushing the boundaries as adolescents are apt to do, responds with “Midnight”. “Okay, you say, 11:30 p.m.” and your teen, sighing, accepts it. You have both achieved something reasonable.

The above scenario works because as a young child, he or she was told what to do. Life was clear and predictable because thankfully, the adults were in charge. When I think of the security this brings, I am reminded of the scene in the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve. He flies off for the first time holding Lois Lane who exclaims, “You’ve got me, but who’s got you?” Although she questions his back-up support, she has enough confidence in him to keep her safe and that’s all she needs.

As a child matures, choices become available dependent on the age and task. Young children might be given a choice between which book to read: Goodnight Moon or Tikki Tikki Tembo. Grade school children can be offered more yet still limited choices: Set and clear the table this week at dinners or, take out the trash and recycling and feed the pets. Or, a Sunday picnic at the lake or a bike ride?  Older children and teens need to make choices that may cause them to stumble and pay the consequences, but valuable lessons are learned.

The sense of competency and self reliance in children is a growing capacity built upon a foundation of trust. “My parent or caretaker thinks I am ready to handle this task, so I’ll show him or her that I can.” The adult must be prepared for the beverage to spill from the pitcher, so that spilled juice can be easily cleaned in a matter of fact way without the child feeling shamed. However, the expectation should not be put on a child who is not ready to maneuver the pitcher near grandma’s best white tablecloth. That would be a set-up for the child to make an error she would feel very badly about, when really the adult lacked appropriate discretion in assigning the task and foreseeing the possible negative consequences.

Every Month with an “R”: Dressing Children Warmly

toddler in hat & wagon

Every Month that has an “R” – old folk wisdom for dressing children warmly

A comment I shall never forget is from a Waldorf class teacher who told me about the ten year old boy who came to Vermont from Germany. He exclaimed to his mother, “Mutti, the boys here wear only one T shirt!” He did not say this with envy but rather apparent astonishment that in America the boys did not have a white T shirt underlayer. This boy was always healthy and appeared well grounded in his body. No doubt his mother had followed the northern European wisdom: Dress the child in an underlayer of wool in every month that has an “r”. This rule works in German, French, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Spanish and English—try it ! An underlayer to the northern Europeans means wool leggings and a wool shirt (with sleeves) to fit closely around the chest. This wool layer acts as a second skin to offer protection and warmth so that the body can grow and the organs stay healthy.

In the northern hemisphere, October or November mark the true boundary of colder weather. Frequently in my part of the country, one sees fewer children who are appropriately dressed for the colder temperatures, including very young children. It’s all I can do to hold back my words when I see parents with their children in stores, the post office and outside spaces. Babies and toddlers often have bare heads, even when the adult may be wearing a cap or hat. Occasionally I am bold, going right up to a parent carrying a toddler or to a stroller holding an infant who looks to be no more than 3 months old; I keep a respectful distance but say something like this: “You are so adorable… and where is your hat? It’s cold outside today.” I know that it oversteps the bounds a bit, but how I wish more parents could understand the present and future health ramifications of keeping children warmly dressed in layers that can easily be shed as the need arises.

Warmth is an overlooked issue in modern culture, but it also is extremely critical in developing a healthy life sense. I once attended a lecture by an Anthroposophical doctor from Germany. He stated that for a newborn, the most critical factor is warmth, not food (mother’s milk). The newborn needs warmth immediately and for several months must be kept appropriately layered. Warmth for children ages 0-7 is a protection for the organs that will support them throughout life, including the kidneys which are given great importance in Asian medicine. Here in Vermont, it is not uncommon to see children from all social strata on a cold, damp winter day wearing no jacket, no hat and sometimes even shorts. The parents give in to their children or the children sneak away shedding layers. If only they knew the ramifications of this behavior-kidneys unprotected from the cold, more susceptibility to illness, and a child who is not well grounded in the physical body, and therefore not really ready for school learning and healthy social interactions.

Up until the recent decades, it was common sense and intuitive knowledge that hats protected a child’s head not only from sun, wind and cold, but also from the hustle and bustle of life. A hat or hood gives a layer of protection from noise, light, and movements that could potentially be overwhelming. If you’ve ever worn a cloak with a hood as clothing or even as a costume, one can feel the protective sheath this provides from the environment. It’s interesting to ponder whether the hood on a “hoodie” sweatshirt worn by youth in the US is actually a positive layer for some individuals. I have known children who wear their sweatshirt hood as another layer of skin because they are “thin-skinned” themselves and therefore find comfort in the protective layer around the face where many sensory organs are located: eyes, ears, nose and even the mouth. When they build more layers of self-assurance and are better able to meet the world, the hood comes off. The hood is a trusted friend whose close proximity is a comfort to many children and youth.

When I had barely turned six, my mother died of an illness. My only sibling was a brother two years older. In my home I had no direct experience of babies although I saw them in our neighborhood in carriages. However, I remember taking care of my dolls and can see in an old family movie from the 1950’s that feeding and clothing a doll was my “nurturing work” as I played. I must have learned from my mother before she died and via imitation of my friends and cousins who cared for their dolls. I vaguely recall a baby doll known as “Tiny Tears”. It came with an outfit that opened easily for changing diapers, plus a few extra flannel diapers, an undershirt, socks and booties, and a bonnet. From this experience, an imprint formed in my awareness about children that babies’ heads needed protection in the form of hats. As a girl, I dressed and undressed my doll, but there was always a sense of completion when “she” was fully dressed in all her clothes, from her bonnet to her booties.

Many parents today, unless their common sense rules, seem to be concerned with the child being cute in the fashion sense, with barely a ribbon on a girl’s head and nothing on a boy’s head. This supports a fashion industry out of touch with what babies and young children need. One only has to look online at pictures of children from Tibet and other indigenous Asian cultures to see the archetypal ways that parents dress children in hats and layers for protection from the weather and from the busyness of everyday life. Many parents do not realize that the torso must be protected with warmth for years in order for healthy organs to form: heart, kidney, lungs, liver, stomach and also the sexual organs. Although many female teens and tweens have followed the fashion trend of showing their bare belly and lower back in the past decade, there is no consideration about the health of the kidneys which are exposed when the lower back is bare.

Recently on a plane from Detroit to Vermont, I observed a devoted young mother with her probably 8 month old in her lap. While I was dressed in layers for the cool October weather, this mother had dressed her baby girl in a short sleeved dress. At the beginning of the flight the girl had bare legs too, perhaps they were not put back on after a diaper change. With relief I watched her put leotards on her baby but was still amazed to see no sweater or protective layer around the chest, her head and on those bare arms. How I wanted to dress her in warm layers as many cultures do.

To offset this observation of a child who most likely needed more clothing, I have a wonderful story of a family who had just arrived at the Detroit airport. The day was sunny and the temperature was about 55 degrees. While waiting with my companions at the car rental office, my inner radar was attracted to a family with three young children, all speaking French. The mother held the baby in her arms and two sisters, looking to be ages 3 and 4, stayed close to the father. The girls were dressed in adorable similar jackets, hats and leggings. The baby had on a homemade knitted wool sweater with a hood. When we all went out to get our cars, I commented to the parents on how nice it was to see the children warmly dressed because in America, many children do not have these wool layers and hats. The parents were surprised at this revelation and then the mother lifted up the baby’s thick sweater to show me another layer of wool underneath, which was still not even the base layer. These children, who just came off of a transatlantic flight, all looked healthy, confident and contained. Their sense of life was well tended to by the warmth of their layers and the consciousness of their parents-that children are to be protected while safely experiencing the wonders around them.

This is the way I remember most children being in the 1950’s and 60’s as I was growing up: the boys all wore white cotton T shirts under their short or long sleeved shirts and the girls all wore white cotton camisoles called an “undershirt” until it was time to start wearing a bra. My recollection is that our generation of children (baby boomers) wore the appropriate layers of clothing and as a result, had a fairly healthy sense of physical and social boundaries.

To contrast this, a five year old girl came to my office several months ago for her session. It was May and although the sun was out, the air still had a chill. After she took off her sweatshirt by habit, I noticed that she wore one layer on her torso and that her hands were cool. Already I was concerned. When I work with younger children, I have a planned activity list yet I also see where their interests take them. Do they gravitate to the yoga balls, the balance equipment or do they keep crashing to the soft rug on the floor? Their activity usually tells me what they need. On this day, the kindergarten girl spent the first ten minutes running around like a wild pony. She was very excited about the kittens at home and she began to resemble a whirling dervish. I looked to her mother and suggested we have her daughter put a layer back on. Within five minutes of putting a layer on her torso her hands were warm and her behavior changed: she became calmer and more contained, seeming to be more in her body. It will serve us well as parents, teachers, caregivers and doctors when we are vigilant about understanding the need to keep children dressed warmly. Layers may be shed when overheating is an issue, otherwise the child is best served and most grounded when warmth prevails. Warmth via nourishment and healthy human relationships is important but let’s observe how mother animals keep their babies close by for the physical warmth they pass on to their young.

Why Slowing Down Works

“I guess the point is not to rush.”
This was a statement recently made by an eleven year old child I have been working with for a few years. Thrilled that this pronouncement came out of his mouth, I validated back to him that going slowly in our tasks produces a pleasing outcome.

This boy was referring to an activity where we must toss a bean bag under a leg: while maintaining an upright posture, we pass the bag held in our right hand under our bent right leg and toss it high enough to catch it with the left hand, then the pattern repeats on the left side. Ironically, that day he was the one to remind me that we hadn’t done this exercise in a month, and then he groaned humorously when my reply was, “Great idea, let’s practice.” His previous attempts had not brought much success as he haphazardly flung the bean bag under his leg and it flew sideways. “Tell your hand to toss it to the ceiling” I’d say to reinforce his intention, but this did not always translate into the desired outcome.

On this day, however, I could see his motivation was high, that he wanted to master the movement of a simple bean bag that challenged him. Like the little engine that could, he tried again and again and suddenly found some degree of success, at which point he declared, “I guess the point is not to rush.” In the act of practicing repeatedly, either he was getting tired, which made him slow down, or he consciously tried a new tactic, observing that my own success was accomplished through careful rhythmic movements without rushing. My guess is that it was a combination of both. When golden moments like this occur, it’s always an opportunity for me to bring out the word perseverance. Hopefully this challenging but fun kinesthetic activity would become a pleasant memory connected to a vocabulary word that names an important virtue.

Another scenario with this child, commonly seen with others, is reflected in his approach to a geometric and spatial drawing task. A few months ago we began an activity that requires one to draw a very large circle on a chalkboard or else on a large paper attached to the wall. Then the circle must be divided into sections along the perimeter before lines are drawn connecting the points, in order to form a star. Over time, the number of points increases with complexity. Typical of the way some children approach this task, he did everything in a hurry, just slapping the forms onto the surface without careful spatial and motor planning. Being quite intelligent, he usually knows conceptually what I am asking him to do. However, his results often looked like a misshapen egg or potato with random lines and curves crossing the inner space of the “circle” like a jumble of spaghetti instead of revealing a harmonious star formation. Poor motor planning in the children I work with can only improve with dedicated practice and conscious attention to what we are doing, starting from large motor movements to smaller refined gestures.

Over the months, upon stepping back as requested and observing the results in each stage of the drawing process, his comments afterwards would often be generic: “It’s okay.” This comment did not serve his learning, however, as he was not using his powers of judgment and intelligence to his full potential. Just as a master chef in cooking school would not let a chef in training taste a sauce and proclaim that it was “okay” without discerning tastes of salt, sweet, fat, richness, etc., I could not let any of my students give a generic answer, without encouraging them to observe, assess and articulate the positive and not so positive features of their actions that they put their will and effort into. And so I would ask, “How is your circle today? Does it look like a circle, or is it a beautiful egg shape…or a lumpy potato? Are the points evenly spaced from each other? How do the lines look today-which lines are curvy and which are straight?”

These comments are purposely encouraging, instructive, maybe humorous and hopefully helpful. Every week I took this boy through the same procedure, helping him to discern and articulate how his curves and lines looked instead of just saying, “Okay, good, we’ll work on it again next week.” I did not let him forget that it just took his hands, eyes and motor planning some time and effort to draw the form. Lo and behold, the circles, spacing and lines began to look quite impressive; anyone walking in the room and seeing the results would be wowed. As this process has imprinted in him so many times, he not only has added improved spatial orientation and motor skills to his capacities but he has been made to call upon his own powers of discernment via observation, reflection, refinement and intention to create a pleasing outcome.

Much of my work is based on principles from the Austrian scientist, philosopher and writer, Rudolf Steiner. In a lecture given on August 25, 1919 to teachers beginning their work in the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany, he stated, “The child should not just know that he has hands but he should be conscious of the fact that he has hands…it is different if he knows he has hands with which to work or if this thought has never crossed his mind.” Dr. Steiner further spoke about the need to have the children do something skillful with their hands and as slowly as possible, to let the process be digested.

This concept of doing something with the hands slowly and carefully must be cultivated in our work with children in order to erase old habits that do not serve and to replace them with good habits, in this case to form a pleasing geometric form or toss a bean bag under the leg and know that it was accomplished through practice, perseverance and discernment.

If you’ve ever taken classes in ballroom, swing, or hip hop dance, golf, swimming, tennis, or calligraphy, basically anything requiring one to learn new movements for optimum skill development, then you know that careful repetition of the movements, with time off in between lessons and practice, builds the motor memory of how the new movements actually go. Consider when first learning to drive a car, one has to focus so much on what one’s hands and feet are doing as well as learn to use the visual and auditory cues coming from all sides. Recently I had an experience of having to relearn step by step how to use a bike with foot brakes. My hands wanted to stop the bike but this wasn’t working at all. I had to focus most of my attention on my feet in order to safely navigate the bike. This instantly brought a chuckle to mind as I remembered being fifteen years old and a live-in babysitter on the Delaware shore. One day, I rode the mother’s bike to town, and was met with the unfamiliarity of hand brakes. At one point I was on a thin dirt path when a boy perhaps aged ten was approaching from the opposite direction. I knew I had to slow down but I couldn’t do it fast enough, putting the ineffective motor memory of my feet into braking mode while forgetting that my hands were needed for the task. The boy and I crashed into one another, then an adult standing nearby (maybe it was a police officer) reproached the boy for not being more careful. I may have mumbled something to the effect of it being my fault too; in my mind I knew it was entirely my fault because I couldn’t brake in time.

If we approach learning with patience and careful attention, we allow the brain and motor pathways to incorporate the learning. Incorporate has the Latin root corpus meaning body; one meaning of incorporate is to “blend into a body already in existence”. When one possesses the mindset “I’m working with intention to learn a new skill, to try with my will forces to acquire it” then the body is ready to learn new movements, integrate them into the body schema and continue to refine the outcome. Then children experience the thrill that months of practice actually result in something beautiful that brings pride and a sense of accomplishment over what they can do with their hands. Sometimes I even joke with the children by saying, “Put your brain into your hands right now—all your focus has to be on what your hands are doing.” Without that consciousness sometimes, they are drawn to things in the periphery around them or in their thoughts. Being in the present moment is an experience that adults must model and guide children to have, without labels of “ADHD” or inattentiveness”.

Math and Blueberries

IMG_2746                                                                                 Yesterday I picked blueberries, having  missed the opportunity to pick berries at our local farms in July, when I was preparing for two weeks of co-directing a Waldorf Extra Lesson training in Michigan and preparing for a workshop at a Waldorf charter school. Now it’s the middle of August and the time presented itself to partake in this annual ritual. For years I’ve been doing it with a bittersweet tinge, as my children have grown; the hours we spent picking berries are still so memorable. When I go friends, we often have this shared nostalgia.

So there I was at the berry farm, filling my buckets with plump, plentiful berries, when along came a mother with her two sons. They looked to be about 5 and 7 and were full of talk and anticipation as they settled in a row near me. Not long after their picking began, the younger one said to his mother, “Babies don’t know what one plus one is.” He said this with such pride and self-assurance and I chuckled to myself for a mere second until his mother’s reply came along: “Yes, babies don’t have to worry about math.” I felt deflated for her son, while at the same time realizing that I could have said something similar back in the day of young motherhood.
Why did I feel let down? Through study, observation, and conversation with colleagues across the globe over the past twenty years, it’s clear that a new impulse is here in the emotional development of children, at least those in developed countries. These children want to be validated for who they are as individuals, as opposed to being recognized as one member of a homogenous group where there is an expectation of similar patterns. Today they are asking us to see them for who they are, and though they want to be a part of the group, they also need to be seen for their own ideas and talents.
I went over in my mind how I would have liked this situation to replay. What if the mother said, “Yes, babies don’t know what one plus one is, but you know what one plus one is.” It need not be exclaimed with gushing pride, leading a child towards egotism, but in a matter of fact voice. This would have provided total validation, that he as a kindergarten age child could identify himself as no longer being a baby but as a child who is on the path to learning the important things that his big brother already knows. Had his mother responded differently, he might have continued talking, yet her reply seemed to end his expression of thoughts on this topic.

Then there were the underlying messages. Is math is something we need to “worry about”? Where did that come from? Is there an implication that once we are out of diapers there are so many things we will worry about? This is a teaching moment to reflect on the messages we give children when we respond to them using our adult mindset instead of recognizing where they are in their own thoughts. Had the mother not given this response, I’m imagining that he might have continued to explore math and blueberries in a playful way, full of visual imagery that will imprint as a positive memory. He may have recalled the classic children’s book Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, where the blueberries are dropped into the bucket one by one, with a kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk sound (and there is math in that story). Or he might have explored his own discovery of one to one association, an important math concept that is a foundation for all other math. How high could he count his berries before a butterfly or bee flew near the bush and gave him another impression to soak in, experiencing the present moment, to be stored as rich imagery of sounds, smells, colors, shapes, landscapes, family togetherness and a tale to tell others at the dinner table that night.
I am reminded of the time our daughter was two. She and my husband walked a hill in the cemetery behind our field. Being drawn to a life in New England because of the majestic White Mountains of New Hampshire, my husband looked in the far distance and pointed out to her the view of the big mountains. Being a toddler, the mountains far away held no interest for her; what she saw were the tiny wild strawberries at her feet as they walked the hill. She was focused on the nearby space around her; luckily my husband saw this contrast in interests and had to laugh-she was right there in the moment relating to what was most noticeable to a young child in size and immediacy.
Later at the farm I observed another mother walking with her middle school age sons as they returned from the raspberry patch; at first glance I saw each of them holding a quart container but in a second glance, the mother was walking along, focused on her phone. Just in that moment, there was a disconnect of the trio taking in the Vermont beauty that this place presented and the hard work it takes to build a successful, diverse farm. Hopefully the attention to that device was brief, and another meaningful memory of berry picking with mom was forming for these boys.
Parenting is balancing the ubiquitous demands placed on us as we try to raise human beings. Are we drawn into the web of digital communications coming at us and do we surrender to the societal fears that want to nudge their way into our psyche – if we let them? Or can we set  boundaries: “For this hour I am going to be focused here, picking berries, appreciating the human web with farm workers and children, taking in the wonder of nature, from the tiny bees to the distant purple mountains.

Epidemic Answers’ webinar: peanut allergy & vaccines

Recently I listened to a replay of an excellent webinar sponsored by Epidemic Answers, http://www.epidemicanswers.org/ This website is a terrific resource with information from professionals and parents who are looking for answers to questions about children’s overwhelming physical and behavioral needs in our times, including those with the autism spectrum labels. Fortunately we live in a country where we have access to an array of scientific as well as intuitive information and we can choose what is the right path for us. If we want pure science it’s there, yet if we want to question some aspects of medical recommendations, we can follow that path as well. If we can respect all opinions and filter out the essence, although maybe not agreeing with the other’s view–then we come to a place of understanding and we are tolerant human beings.

Some of the webinars and recent information I have gleaned from Epidemic Answers include Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Autism, How Not to Have a Child with Autism and the one from this week called What’s Causing the Peanut Allergy Epidemic? I learned so much about the history of these newer childhood epidemics from hearing Heather Fraser’s research in her book, The Peanut Allergy Epidemic. Specifically, she cites that in the 1990’s, several countries around the globe saw a spike in the level of peanut allergies, specifically among children, that has proliferated. It’s unlikely that all these children on different continents ate and continue be exposed to peanuts from the same source, organic or not. It turns out that these newer generations of children received a new vaccine schedule including the 5-in-1 vaccine, also known as the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine, at 2 months of age, and that one of the stabilizers in some of those vaccines was peanut oil. Who is not scratching their head on this one?

An online review of this book states:“I’ve heard that a worried mom with a sick kid does better research than the FBI, and this book proves that point.” Another review concerning the author says, “She (Heather Fraser) finds it difficult to accept … that “hundreds of thousands of children had become allergic to this one food in the space of just twenty years by ingestion alone.” Point well taken, as one of my own clients never had peanuts yet was allergic to them by age three when autistic behaviors appeared after another multiple vaccination. I can happily report he is now not autistic due to a stringent but very tasty diet with loads of organic saturated fats (Sally Fallon’s) and many Extra Lesson sessions over a three year period to help him be integrated in his body.

If a new mother asked me what to do about vaccinations, I would advise she do her research online, with books, with health care providers and parents. As Barbara Loe Fisher, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) says, “Educate before you vaccinate, then one can make an informed decision.”

For example, although I tend to favor as few vaccinations as possible, I would advise that a mother of a newborn who may be placed in a daycare or may be highly exposed to others in an urban/suburban environment in the first 3 months of life to consider the pertussis vaccine as pertussis (whooping cough) is known to be fatal in 40% of newborns. California has already had at least three infant deaths from pertussis in 2014. The precautions can extend to adults who are going to be around infants-again by choice and the parent’s wishes . However, the vaccine is only available in a mix with diptheria and tetanus.

In the early 1990’s, after intuitively questioning the multiple vaccines my first child received, (DPT, MMR and oral polio administered all in five minutes) I delayed the vaccines for my next children until they were eight months of age and I would not allow more than one vaccine at a visit. By this time I had read Barbara Loe Fisher’s book, A Shot in the Dark, and saw my son experience a three day fever a few weeks after his 18 month MMR. My intuition told me to really put the brakes on, as a certified nurse midwife told me there was a higher correlation of negative affects from the pertussis vaccine if there was a seizure history, which my family had.

I found a mainstream pediatrician who was willing to administer plain Tetanus toxoid booster to my children, who played in Vermont soil once they could sit and crawl. Even though she had to order and pay for a box of ten vials, knowing she would probably not use the other seven vials before they expired, she met my request with respect.

Another example of vaccine choice is when I urged my one of my own teenagers to consider the meningitis vaccine after learning that the college she would attend had experienced a sudden fatality the year before. One day a young man was on the ski slope, then two days later he was dead, leading my daughter to choose the vaccine. My son, attending a different college, decided not to be immunized for meningitis after we discussed it at length with information from both sides. There has got to be a huge difference between an older child, teen or adult receiving a vaccine compared to a baby, whose size, weight and sensitive nervous system may not easily assimilate all the chemical stabilizers and preservatives in vaccines. It’s especially relevant in today’s environments where our health is compromised by toxins in food, water, soil, plastics and more.

Thank you once again to brave individuals who are speaking out with their opinions on vaccinations and other potential components that have likely compromised untold numbers of children’s lives based on observations, intuition and research, regardless of what the “science” says. It cannot be stated enough that the pharmaceutical and corporate food industries’ greed for profit has a powerful influence in Western societies as well as in developing countries. Another very informative website with some revealing information from segments of the US and UK medical communities is: http://www.vaccineriskawareness.com/Midwives-And-Health-Professionals-Against-Vaccination. As stated before, thankfully we can make our own decisions if well -informed on both sides of the vaccine debate.

 

Bringing change inside & out with diet

Beyond Labels – Bringing change inside & out with diet

What the autism spectrum labels are not telling us about our children

In a previous post, I referenced two very relevant online articles. The first is by Rebecca Jacobson entitled, “Can We Save Our Body’s Ecosystem from Extinction?and the article by Robb Wolf entitled, “Your Child’s Health Starts in the Gut”. The latter article references Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBrides’s book and health program called the GAPS diet. (www.gapsdiet.com) The Gut and Psychology Syndrome is a thorough dietary approach to treating health issues for children with labels on the spectrum. In Robb Wolf’s article we see before and after photos of a child who was unwell as a toddler and looks immensely better after success with the GAPS approach. Any child who is not absorbing the proper nutrients for growth and maintenance will have a strange look in her face that says, “I am not fully present”. I wish more pediatricians saw this absent look in a child’s face as a sign of malabsorption, not as a genetic disorder/unchangeable autistic demeanor.

For parents wishing to turn a very discouraging and heartbreaking situation around, I recommend discussing the GAPS diet with a medical professional or a certified nutrition consultant. Dr. Campbell-McBride has a clear protocol of meats, fats, bone broth, fruits, and vegetables, including fermented foods. While she recommends about two years to fully heal the gut, it is well worth the work. Many testimonials pay tribute to the efficacy of the program. It is extremely important to follow the Introduction Diet in the GAPS protocol as it prepares the body for the work ahead by mending the gut wall. A carrot juice in the morning, for example, will stimulate bile production. Bile is necessary for digestion of fats, so if the fats cannot be absorbed, it creates havoc in the system and the brain does not receive the nourishment that fats provide. Parents are the first to notice physical changes from the GAPS diet, as their child may sleep through the night, stop having diarrhea or constipation, and become interested in more social contact.

Having an understanding of the functioning of our cells is paramount. Early in 2014, I watched a webinar online at www.epidemicanswers.org. Featured was a very clear power point presentation “Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Autism” by Dr. Suzanne Goh. Through her team’s research, she has identified the major nutrients that are missing from the cells of children who are on the autism spectrum. Her team at Johns Hopkins has developed a “mitochondrial cocktail” in powder or capsule form. Changes seen after about three months include improvements in muscle tone, coordination, attention, social interactions and energy levels.

A less intensive program than the GAPS diet is found on Sally Fallon Morell’s website and in her book Nourishing Traditions. In essence, she teaches that we are feeding our bodies well when we avoid packaged and processed foods in favor of eating what we can find in its natural state: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meats, fish and healthy fats. When we eliminate dairy and grains for a significant time and re-introduce them slowly as tolerated, our bodies are better able to assimilate all nutrients after “cleaning house” in the digestive tract. She also discusses the enzyme inhibitors in some foods and explains why soaking nuts and grains is key for digestion.

One of my clients came to me as a seven year old. His history included exposure to toxins in vaccine additives and chemical fertilizers in an urban environment. His eye contact was poor, as was his ability to focus without distraction from things in the room. He would enter my space and gravitate to anything on the periphery but not to me, standing in the center. His gross and fine motor skills were well below average. Also of significance was his pale complexion and cool hands. His mother, who has explored almost every type of alternative treatment for children on the spectrum, put the whole family on a dietary program based on Sally Fallon’s work. Most significantly, she eliminated grains and dairy from the already healthy family meals.

A couple of organic chickens roasting in the oven became the cornerstone of many meals in their home. By simmering the bones and skin overnight, as has been done in many cultures, she utilized the minerals in the bones along with the good fats from the chicken skin. Once when I called her, she described how her son’s health, attention and behavior improved before her eyes every week. The previous night’s dinner had included greens sautéed in bacon grease from Amish bacon she had mail ordered.

She writes: “After all those years of no dairy at all, we ADDED in lots of raw dairy (initially goat, then cow – all organic) a couple of years ago when we made the dietary changes and we feel this is huge part of his progress!  We still use them a lot:  raw cream, cheeses, cultured butter (a LOT), yogurts daily, and even raw milk – all incredible for healing and cognitive health too.  We eliminated grains, sugars and basically anything that comes in a BOX. Fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, yogurts, sauerkraut, pickles we use a lot at meals too. Soaking nuts in salt water, then dehydrating… “

An observation I made after several months into the dietary changes at home was that her son’s complexion became instantly rosy upon a minimum of physical activity and his hands were warm to the touch. This told me that the furnace in his belly was now working efficiently; it was able to stoke the fire and provide ample warmth and energy to the extremities. (Anytime a baby or child has cold hands or feet, it is an indicator of either not enough layers of natural fabric clothing, or not enough warmth in the belly, or both.)

It is with great joy that I still work with her son, now ten, on a weekly basis to improve his coordination and motor skills. He is amazed at how jumping rope by himself, doing handclapping games, and bouncing and catching two small balls at a time are now skills he has mastered. In our first year together, he was miles away from these tasks. In addition, his eye contact and interpersonal skills are within normal range now. His awareness of the world around him is greatly increased, as opposed to his former self where he hyper-focused on one thing to the exclusion of everything else.

Granted, it takes time for a parent to soak the nuts, make the bone broth, shop for or make the cultured products. Everyone needs to find the right amount of changes they can make in their family without losing sight of their sanity, but the long term goal is optimum health, cognitive and social functioning. It can be helpful to think of one’s cultural heritage and eat the fermented foods, protein, fats, bone broths and vegetable dishes our ancestors ate before the advent of processed foods.

 

 

 

Necessary Fats for the Brain

Beyond the ADHD Label: Necessary Fats for the Brain

What the “ADHD” label is not telling us about our children

IMG_2644 Thank you to parents who question the ADHD label, part of the “Autism Spectrum Disorders”, a widely used term which attempts to explain the many reasons children, teens and adults are challenged to function in conventionally expected ways at home, in school, in social and work situations. Fortunately the perceived or diagnosed labels guide people to services, which may result in effective treatments. It is worth exploring with a holistic lens to rule out or to help determine causal factors, and I highly recommend watching a ten minute video by Dr. Mark Hyman titled, “Why current thinking about Autism is completely wrong.” He succinctly encapsulates what many, myself included, have been thinking over the past 25 years.

Some fundamental but often overlooked areas that influence behavior and cognitive functioning are diet, early motor development, environmental influences, sleep life, daytime activities, expectations set by self and others, adequate clothing on the body and heredity. In the realm of diet, many books have been written to address the correlations between what we eat and how we behave and feel.

For all ages, I feel it’s important to question any advice warning one to stay away from fats. Proponents of low fat milk for children are missing an important piece. What is needed is an understanding of the good fats versus the bad fats –good fats are very necessary for brain development while bad fats are harmful to the heart, brain and other organs. Good fats also help us feel satiated, which lessens our craving to fill up on carbs and sweets.

A critical reason we, and especially children, need fats is that fats provide the coating of myelin on our nerve fibers. In turn, this impacts the ability of our central nervous system to send messages throughout the body. The process of myelination begins in utero, is generally completed in puberty, and continues to be maintained throughout life. If we lack the proper fats in utero and in our daily diet, this fatty sheath (a white waxy coating) becomes weaker, slowing down the electrical transmission of neural impulses. A slower transmission affects our sensing, perceiving, thinking and reacting. Think of an electric cord with sufficient insulation – the myelin insulation is what coats our nerve fibers. In times of imminent danger, speedy transmission of neural impulses is what we would want to help us to react quickly.

The myelin sheath itself is primarily composed of fats and cholesterol with a minimum of protein. All these nutrients must come from the prenatal and postnatal diet. To maximize the myelination process postpartem, breast milk is ideal as it promotes more rapid myelination in the brain as compared to non-breastfed babies. Yes, breastmilk contains fats and cholesterol-nature’s plan for babies’ healthy brains.

Deterioration of myelin may cause multiple sclerosis. A fascinating account of recovery from this disease is found in Dr. Terry Wahl’s book, The Wahls Protocol. www.terrywahls.com. An Iowa physician and researcher, she chronicles her journey back to health with foods that repaired her myelin sheaths and fed the mitochondria in her cells. Her condition had deteriorated under conventional medical care then ceased to deteriorate when she added supplements. But it was not until she ate huge amounts of vegetables, plus grass fed meats, good fats and some fruits, that she improved. Within months she went from an adaptive wheelchair to standing, then ultimately to walking and biking. She’s now passionate about educating others. Not modern medicine but a nutrition program complete with fats, grass fed meats and vegetables brought about her full recovery from multiple sclerosis.

My favorite source for understanding fats and the controversy surrounding them is the section in Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions. She devotes many pages to explaining the misleading fear around fats and the critical information we need to know. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature: animal fats, butter, tropical oils like coconut and palm. They do not easily go rancid and can be used in cooking. Monounsaturated fats also have a stable shelf life and include olive oil, avocadoes, almonds, pecans and cashews. (If using olive oil for cooking, use low heat and always extra virgin olive oil.) While we need a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids known as EFA’s from food sources such as cold water fish, nuts, seeds, egg yolks and dark leafy greens, it is entirely different to consume them in the form of commercial vegetable oils.

Hydrogenated oils result when cheap polyunsaturated oils such as canola, soy and corn oils are heated with metal additives, subjected to high pressure, infused with hydrogen atoms, bleached and dyed. These oils have been “transformed,” hence “transfats” arrive on store shelves as margarine or shortening and appear in many processed food items. Although a small amount of transfats occur naturally in breast milk, beef, lamb and whole milk dairy products, transfats that are manufactured industrially are the offending ones – they lower our good cholesterol and raise bad cholesterol partly because our body cannot process them. These are listed as “partially hydrogenated oils” in products such as Oreo cookies. In a nutshell, they’re bad news. Margarine is not even a food-it is a manufactured product in disguise. We do ourselves a favor by using butter, and for pie crusts we can use palm oil shortening, butter or lard. See Dr. Mercola’s online article, “Why is Butter Better ?”.

By replacing the commercial transfats with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, avocadoes, nuts, and butter, we are satisfying our body’s need for fat that builds cells and provides fuel. Real foods must take precedence over packaged products that offer no substantial nutrition.

Do your own research on the health benefits of butter made from the cream of grass fed cows, extra virgin coconut oil, coconut butter, olive oil, palm oil, egg yolks (pasture raised poultry) and meat with the fat not removed. One can read about the two types of polyunsaturated fats in books and online: omega 3s and omega 6s. The ones getting most of the hype in the past few years are the omega 3s, which are found in fatty fish (but wild caught) such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, in fish oils, in grass fed meats, walnuts and flax seeds. It is important that the ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s is correct so that we reap the benefits. An excellent source of information is Omega-Research.com.

The Weston A. Price website has very good presentations on the importance of the nutrient vitamin K2 which is found in good quality (not commercial) butter and many other animal products, although the highest concentration is found in natto, fermented Japanese soybeans. A healthy brain contains a high concentration of vitamin K; this substance helps to produce the myelin coating on the nerves and it plays a critical role in the synergistic health effects of Vitamins A and D in the formation and maintenance of bone and tooth health. When we include good fats that supply vitamin K in our diet, we are feeding our brains. Also on the website is a chart of the Vitamin K2 contents of food, with natto and goose liver at the top. Except in natto, Vitamin K is produced when animals eat green plants (naturally high in Vitamin K1) and their bodies convert it into K2. It’s wonderful when parents provide their children whole milk and milk products for the fat content; the chart reveals that 2% milk has half the Vitamin K2 amount as whole milk and skim milk has none. My own three children were raised on whole milk, (often raw milk from a local farm) Vermont cheese, whole milk yogurt and butter. Though slender, all have the appearance of good health. Whenever one of my children tasted low fat milk outside home, they discerned a missing factor when they complained these products tasted like water. Their own experience instinctively told them that healthy fats were missing.

Explore about healthy fats through books such as Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell and websites:

www.newtrendspublishing.com

www.westonaprice.org

www.wellnessmama.com

 

Beyond an ADHD Label –more NIMH info

IMG_2219 rosa in Maine

What the “ADHD” label is not telling us about our children

“My son is five years old and the teachers at his preschool think he is ADHD.”

In continuing to review the NIMH website’s list of ADHD causes following the previous post, it is disappointing that the NIMH website’s definition of ADHD only mentions sugar and food additives as opposed to more concern over the health of a child’s gastrointestinal system. The NIMH lags behind in posting the current ubiquitous information on the importance of healthy microbial bacteria in our gastrointestinal system, especially in our guts. Hopefully this major omission by the NIMH will be remedied soon, but parents can easily search the internet for topics such as gut health and gut flora. In the last post I referenced the book by Martin Blaser, MD called Missing Microbes.  It cites the overuse of antibiotics as a major contributor to the ill health of our intestinal or gut flora. Two relevant online articles are “Can We Save Our Body’s Ecosystem from Extinction?by Rebecca Jacobson and “Your Child’s Health Starts in the Gut” by Robb Wolf.

One study the NIMH cited on sugar actually caused my jaw to drop in disbelief. It references two groups of children, where one was given sugar and the other aspartame. What scientists would give aspartame, a chemical poison, to children as part of a controlled experiment on sugar and hyperactivity? Had the scientists been thinking clearly, they would have found a natural sugar substitute such as stevia, not a toxic chemical.

In his article Aspartame: By Far the Most Dangerous Substance Added to Most Foods Today, Dr. Mercola writes, “Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA.” For me, the irony is that NIMH discusses food additives in this vein:  “Recent British research indicates a possible link between consumption of certain food additives like artificial colors or preservatives, and an increase in activity. Research is under way to confirm the findings and to learn more about how food additives may affect hyperactivity.” Yet in the referenced study, aspartame was given as a sugar substitute and not as an ingredient to test for hyperactivity or adverse reactions. Thankfully newsbreaking studies abound from the last ten years concerning the connection between the health of the gut and children’s behavior. Prior to babies ingesting solid food, the health of their gut is even influenced by the healthy bacteria in the mother’s vaginal secretions, assuming a birth has been vaginal, and by microbes in breast milk.

Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website (www.mercola.com) has been a resource for me on many health issues over the past decade. Despite his critics on the internet, one can spend time criticizing his ideas or else choose to do one’s own investigation about the link between eating healthy foods and feeling better. The unfortunate problem is that children often do not have the insight nor vocabulary to tell us that something they have ingested is making them unwell and that the cumulative effect is possibly taking a toll on their liver, kidneys and other intestinal organs. This inability to digest foods or process what the body perceives as a foreign invader prevents the brain from accessing nutrients from food, then behavior declines. Parents often watch behavior deteriorate and think that the child has a condition that needs medication to control it, as advised by a medical doctor. While medication may be very helpful and may be the ultimate answer, I urge parents to work with health care professionals and certified nutrition consultants to ferret out what could be burdening the child’s digestive system.

I believe that by eating locally made fermented foods and/or taking good quality probiotics, we can repopulate our guts with the healthy bacteria needed for optimum health, as long as we also eliminate processed foods and sugar, consume the right fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables and discern which grains and carbohydrates give us the fuel our bodies can utilize efficiently. Often, nature leads us to some answers.

For working parents who are looking for a relatively easy program to implement to help their child’s gut chemistry improve within 3 to 6 months, I recommend Dianne Craft’s CD set called The Biology of Behavior, which can be ordered online. (Please review this protocol with your naturopathic physician or allopathic M.D.) It does not require a huge change in the family’s immediate eating choices, and she wisely advises adding the supplemental nutrients before taking away the sugars.

Several parents I know who followed Dianne Craft’s program had observations that their child made almost immediate positive changes in behavior such as “She’s calmer” and “He’s more focused”; subsequently parental worry over labels decreased as the children began to function better in many realms.

Another post will describe the more intense dietary changes that can be extremely helpful for children with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorders. These are best suited to a family where a parent has the time to plan and prepare optimum meals for long lasting changes.