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How To Create The Best Digestive Health For Your Baby

Naturally, you want to give your baby every feasible chance of the best possible life and health.

Ideally, you should resolve your own health issues – including gut health – before getting pregnant. This gives your baby many advantages, some of which last a lifetime. 

But some things are difficult, or even impossible, to control. Others are fairly simple and straightforward.

During pregnancy, it’s important to eat healthy, nutritious food. Most people are aware of this.

What to Eat

Go for organic, when possible, and avoid GMOs. We don’t yet know the long-term effects of these engineered organisms, but the short-term effects don’t look great.

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables of different colors, particularly low starch vegetables, for optimal vitamin and mineral levels.

Pregnancy is a well-known cause of constipation, and the natural fiber should help keep things moving along as they ought to.

This fiber is also the food that keeps the beneficial flora in your own digestive tract happy and productive.

It has long been believed that the womb is a sterile place, and that baby isn’t exposed to any microbes until after birth. But that view is now being challenged. It appears that beneficial bacteria can cross the placenta, and begin colonizing baby’s own gut even before birth.

If possible, eat a small amount of fermented food every day. Not food that has been fermented in alcohol, but products like sauerkraut, kimchee, fermented seed pates, and live yogurt, kefir, and kombucha.

With all the body changes that pregnancy brings, having a steady supply of beneficial inner organisms can improve your health on many fronts.

Supplements

Also, consider taking quality digestive enzyme and probiotic supplements. Many of those weird pregnancy cravings are the result of nutritional deficiencies, and these special supplements will help your body wring as many nutrients as possible from the food you eat.

Plus, keeping your own microflora in balance means you can also manufacture many important nutrients yourself.

Antibiotics

Sometimes antibiotics are necessary, but if they aren’t, try to avoid them before and after the birth. You may want to talk to your doctor or midwife about this early on because antibiotics are often given to mother and baby prophylactically as part of the birthing process. These drugs kill off your baby’s delicate protective microbial community.

Besides this, antibiotics administered in infancy and childhood have been definitively linked to allergies, asthma, more frequent infections, and even obesity, later on. This would appear to indicate that a healthy balance of microbes is more than desirable—it’s essential for optimum health.

C-Section and Gut Flora

And this brings up another issue: C-section. Again, sometimes absolutely necessary and life-saving. But many times, they are elective, scheduling birth around vacation times or other conveniences. These days in the US, as many as 1 in 3 births are by Caesarian; the numbers are even higher in some countries.

A natural vaginal birth, however, will inoculate baby with a heavy duty dose of mother’s microflora to give him a healthy boost as he comes into the world.

This is beginning to be better understood, and forward-thinking doctors are bathing the new babe with liquids produced within a mother’s vagina after a C-section when surgery is unavoidable, to give the baby the same head start they would get with a non-surgical birth. The microflora found in the liquids help the child build strong defenses, gut health and may play additional roles in their health we don’t understand yet.

Breastfeeding

Assuming mom is healthy, breastfeeding is usually best for most babies. It’s pretty much impossible to duplicate mother’s milk in a formula.

A baby’s system relies on the delicate balance of nutrients created especially for them in mom’s body. Even the specific sugars found in breast milk appear to be there to encourage the evolution of a healthy microbial community in baby’s digestive tract.

Playing in a Natural Environment

Going forward, allow your child to get dirty, within reason. They put everything into their mouths because they are exploring and learning. But they are also expanding their microbial repertoire… training their little immune systems to learn to handle new situations.

Avoid Killing Good Bacteria

When it’s wash time, forego the antibacterial soap and sanitizer, and just use regular soap and water. It works just as well without the risk of destroying your child’s immune system.

It’s probably impossible to make your child’s life and health perfect in every way. But I say, do the best you can, considering your circumstances, and go from there.

Tweak when needed, stay flexible, and enjoy your child. They grow up so fast!

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Modern Agriculture And Its Effect On Gut Health

If you’ve done much research on gut health, you already know that antibiotics, even when prescribed and used correctly, can really do a number on your digestive health. While they’re killing off the pathogens they were meant to eliminate, antibiotics also rid your body of helpful bacteria and other friendly microbes.

This microbial community that lives inside us, our microbiome, is incredibly important to our health as humans. It helps or even actually does the work of dozens of body processes.

Ideally, we start life with a healthy, balanced microbiome. It evolves with us over time and helps to keep our nutrition cycles and immune system working smoothly.

So if your doctor prescribed antibiotics for you, you may want to ask him or her if they are really necessary. Sometimes they may be. But in many cases, antibiotics don’t speed up healing. You can get well just as quickly without them.

At least if you’re taking antibiotics, you’re aware of it and can make an attempt at getting your body back into balance afterwards. Many pharmacists will recommend that you add a probiotic supplement, such as acidophilus, after you finish your prescription. And this usually helps, at least a little bit.

But there’s a bigger problem that’s not always obvious. If you’re eating commercially raised meat, eggs, or dairy products, you are consuming low doses of antibiotics every day.

You see, factory farming is not a healthy environment for these animals. The horrendous overcrowding these creatures must endure creates perfect circumstances for the spread of sickness and disease.

So to prevent illness in the flock or herd, antibiotics are added to the livestock’s food. Makes sense, right?

Well, this a strategy that simply covers up a problem that should have been solved by now. And this consistent low dose of antibiotics is creating superbugs that are very difficult to control.

At some point, the factory farmers discovered that low dose antibiotics help livestock to gain weight more quickly than they would otherwise. And since meat is usually sold by the pound, cheap pharmaceuticals can add a lot to profit margins.

More than 80% of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used in the agriculture industry. Millions of pounds of drugs are added to our food supply every year. And these drugs never appear on ingredients labels, so we don’t know they’re there.

But it’s not just livestock production practices that mess with human gut health. The development of hybridized wheat has also added to the problem.

It is often said that bread is an essential stable for humankind. We have been eating it for thousands of years.

Bread is usually made from wheat because wheat contains lots of gluten proteins. The gluten is what allows the bubbles produced while baking the bread to become part of the loaf’s structure, rather than collapsing it into a dense brick.

But science has helped create wheat strains with even more gluten than ever before. It makes bread softer, lighter, and presumably more fun.

Yet it turns out that gluten is very hard for humans to digest. And incompletely digested proteins, including glutens, are very hard on your gut lining.

In addition to loosening the tight junctions between the cells making up your intestinal wall, glutens have a tendency to stir up your immune system. An inflammatory cascade can begin to occur within you, which can lead to health issues anywhere in your body: usually in an organ or gland that has already been weakened somehow.

Grain fields offer yet another gut health obstacle.

Weeds are a farmer’s nightmare, adding to their fuel and equipment costs and to their workload. So herbicides were invented to take care of the weeds.

But to be effective, the seed companies needed to get the crop plants to survive being sprayed with weed killer. Enter genetically modified seeds, resistant to glyphosate, commercially known as Roundup®.

Having Roundup-Ready crops in the field meant that more and more glyphosate is being used on our food. Glyphosate doesn’t just kill weeds. When we eat food that has been treated with this herbicide, it acts very similarly to antibiotics in our digestive tract.

And we already know that is a problem.

So, even though on the surface it may seem expensive to buy organically raised and produced groceries, the long-term savings in our health and medical budget are more than worth it.

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Child-Appropriate Alternatives For Gut-Destroying Antibiotics

By the age of seven, practically all children will have suffered an ear infection. It’s the second most common childhood illness, colds are number one. Definitely a painful experience, and risky, too, if it isn’t taken care of.

This usually means a visit to the family doctor and a prescription for amoxicillin. Problem solved?

Not necessarily.

You see, ear infections tend to start with an upper respiratory infection. So your child may have had one round of antibiotics already.

But now there is pain added to the equation, which gets everyone’s attention, and leads to an additional course of antibiotics: no one wants to risk damage to their child’s hearing, or more serious infections either.

So the prescription is followed, and the symptoms go away within a few days. But there are several problems with this story.

The earache may not have been caused by an infection. It could have actually been caused by teething, allergies or even an object stuck in the ear itself.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are thousands of misdiagnosed ear infections every year. But even with a correct diagnosis, antibiotics don’t help most cases of acute otitis media (AOM).

The good news is that ear infections will nearly always get well on their own within a couple of days. There have been numerous studies showing that the wait-and-see approach works very well in children, especially those over two years old, notes Dr. Allan Lieberthal, Pediatrician and lead author of the AAP’s new guidelines for diagnosing ear infections. So it is very reasonable to watch the child, treat the symptoms and wait.

Some ear infections really do require treatment with antibiotics. But even then, there are unintended consequences.

Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, which is a very good thing when you have an infection. But these drugs don’t discriminate, and the beneficial microbes that your child’s immune system depends on are also victims in this killing spree.

Physical damage is inflicted on the gut lining, literally leaving holes in immune protection. So the next time your child is exposed to infection or some other immune assault, they are much more likely to succumb.

Antibiotics are strong medicine and often cause stomach aches, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and sometimes allergic reactions or more serious issues.

Plus there’s the problem of increasing antibiotic resistance, which basically builds stronger germs that can then do us all damage, especially our children.

Given these facts, clinical studies, and observations, the AAP begin recommending in 2004 that more laid-back approach mentioned earlier.

For this reason, it’s important to know that there are two main types of ear infections. Infection of the middle ear and eardrum (otitis media) is the more serious of the two and is what is usually meant when your healthcare practitioner diagnoses an ear infection.

An infection of the outer ear or the ear canal (otitis externa) is actually a skin infection, but it can cause a lot of ear pain and yucky discharge.

If you’re dealing with an earache, provide rest, fluids, and comfort.†Some children will want to be cuddled, others are cranky because of the pain.†Watch closely for 2-3 days before resorting to antibiotics.

For external infections,†gently clean out the discharge by soaking a piece of cotton in 1:1 vinegar and water solution, and placing it†in the ear canal (make sure you can easily pull out the cotton later).†Leave it in the ear for eight to twelve hours. Then,†using a bulb syringe, rinse the ear with warm water and let it drain. Put a drop or two of the vinegar solution into the ear every eight hours or so.

There are many time-tested remedies for infections of the middle ear. Some are for comfort, while others help the immune system to do its job more quickly.

Try placing a warm, moist towel over your childís ear for about 10 to 15 minutes to help reduce pain.

If there doesn’t appear to be a ruptured eardrum, and there is no fluid draining from the ear, you might put a few soothing drops of slightly warmed olive or sesame oil into the ear. Herbally infused oil containing extracts of garlic, mullein, lavender, calendula, and St. Johnís wort may provide even more comfort.†

It has been shown in clinical studies that an herbal oil treatment can do a better job of reducing the duration, pain, and inflammation of AOM than the antibiotics that are generally prescribed.

Melaleuca (Tea Tree) essential oil applied to the skin behind the ear (not inside the ear itself) can act as a natural antibiotic.

Homeopathy can be much more efficient†than antibiotics in treating illness.

Depending on specific symptoms, a trained homeopath will generally recommend a combination of remedies including Aconite,†Belladonna, Ferrum phos, Hepar sulph, Pulsatilla, Chamomilla, Mercurius, Calc carb, Silica, or Kali bich for an ear infection.

There are also commercial homeopathic drops designed to relieve an earache, usually containing some combination of the above remedies. These are usually very quick to give real relief, for children or adults.

Some pediatricians recommend a drop or two of breastmilk in each ear to relieve the discomfort of infection.

The Chinese medicine formula Yin Chao, given by mouth, is said to improve immune, respiratory, and digestive functions. Your acupuncturist can get a children’s version for you. It’s also available online, no prescription needed.

Offer your child clear fluids. Swallowing can help open the Eustachian tubes and allow trapped fluid to drain into the throat.

Chicken broth is a well-known remedy for respiratory illness. Preferably homemade with a whole organic chicken, vegetables, herbs, and garlic.

Of course, preventing your child from getting sick in the first place is always the most desirable scenario, if it can be managed.

Breastfeeding is generally considered to be helpful for overall immune protection.
Keep your baby semi-upright when nursing or bottle feeding, to keep liquids from backing up into their Eustachian tubes.

Probiotic supplements, especially for children delivered by C-section, or those who have taken antibiotics in the past, are helpful for immunity.

Since an earache usually starts with an upper respiratory viral infection, use elderberry syrup if your child catches a cold or daily as a preventative during cold and flu season. Elderberries contain a natural chemical that disables viral infections.

If your child’s earache is accompanied by severe weakness, loss of alertness, severe headache, or stiffness of the neck, you should get medical care immediately. Otherwise, plenty of TLC is just what the doctor ordered.

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Everything You Need To Know To Get Started With Kefir

You may have heard about kefir and even seen it in the supermarket, but have you been wondering what this food is and how it might benefit you?

You may be surprised to find how beneficial this fermented food is.

Kefir is similar to yogurt in that it’s a fermented dairy product. However, it does have some differences that cause it to stand out from yogurt. First, kefir is actually a drink and has a much thinner consistency than yogurt. Kefir also contains three times as many healthy bacteria as yogurt.

Kefir is made using a kefir starter that contains both bacteria and yeast. This combination helps the milk to ferment producing this delicious drink. It has a mild flavor and is tangy and perhaps a little sweet, depending on how long it is fermented for.

Kefir can strengthen your teeth and bones because of its high calcium content. The fermentation process also makes it easier for your body to absorb the calcium in it. Kefir also contains a chemical called tryptophan which helps you to be more relaxed and get a better night’s sleep.

Kefir is a high protein drink that can help you to add protein without adding a lot of fat or extra calories. Kefir is also a great source of vitamin B and phosphorous.

When you eat kefir, you’re working to support healthy digestion. You’ll find that it can keep your bowels running smoothly and can keep you from feeling the symptoms of lactose intolerance often related to dairy products.

You can purchase commercially-produced kefir or you can make it at home using kefir grains or a kefir starter. It only takes as long as 48 hours to make kefir once you get started. Some people also make kefir using water instead of dairy because they’re very sensitive to dairy or allergic to it.

When buying kefir, make sure that you get the plain product. Many kefir products have added sugars, flavorings, and other chemicals that reduce its healthy effect. If you don’t like the flavor of plain kefir, try adding it to a fruit smoothie.

You can also sweeten it yourself using natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup. Stevia can also be a good sweetener, as long as you look for a form that doesn’t have added artificial ingredients.

If you want to add flavor, adding vanilla or another type of natural extract can also be delicious without putting unnecessary chemicals in your body. Kefir is a delicious and nutritious fermented food to add to your diet.