Category Archives: children

Are These Garden of LIfe Probiotics Worth the Cost?

Garden of Life LogoI recently received the opportunity to review several Garden of Life products, including their line of Doctor Formulated Probiotics. In the spirit of full disclosure, please be aware I was given these products for free. I  tried two of them myself and gave the others to clients who volunteered to try them and report their results. As you read this review, it will be obvious the fact I received free product in no way influenced my review. I am brutally honest and am fully committed to always sharing the truth. Please note that some of the links shared in this post are affiliate links for which I receive a very small sum if you make a purchase after clicking the link. These small affiliate sums help pay the costs of maintaining this website.

I reviewed a meal replacement powder, several probiotics, and several organic multivitamins. The products I reviewed and my opinion of each follow. I’m covering the probiotic line first, as it’s one that has products marketed toward the entire family. I’ll review the other products in future articles.

Dr. Formulated Probiotics

This line of probiotics was formulated by Dr. Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist who is a recognized expert on nutrition, the gut-brain connection, gluten issues, and neurodegenerative disorders. The entire line includes broad spectrum probiotics with a high number of active cultures and a large number of bacterial strains. Each product is hypoallergenic, vegetarian, and free of gluten, dairy and soy.  The probiotics in each product are specially formulated to be resistant to stomach acid and bile so they reach the digestive tract. (Many probiotics on the market are not, so they are consumed by stomach acid and bile and never reach the digestive tract.) Those are all definite “pros” related to this line. 

It is also important to note that Garden of Life is the only manufacturer of OTC probiotics that ships them in refrigerated trucks. This ensures the probiotic strains stay viable. Most other manufacturers ship in regular trucks, which means the heat during the summer may very well diminish the potency of the products. Garden of Life shipped me the Prostate+ product in a cooler filled with ice packs. I was impressed. In spite of that, the cost required to do so doesn’t seem to have impacted the cost of these probiotics. They range in price from $21 for the children’s up to around $40 for the probiotic with the highest potency. Those prices are in line with similar probiotic products, and are less expensive than some which are only sold to doctor’s offices but which have fewer strains and lower potency.

The complete line includes general formulas and specific formulas for the following:

  • Mood+:  A combination of organic Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb known ot assist with stress, combined with probiotic strains known to help support neurotransmitter balance.
  • Prostate+:  A formula that combines organic herbal remedies known to support prostate health combined with specific probiotic strains known to do the same.
  • Urinary Tract Plus:  A combination of organic cranberry extract combined with Vitamin D and strains known to boost immunity to support the body’s natural ability to resist e coli.
  • Fitbiotic:  A combination of healthy organic fiber combined with probiotic strains known to support weight loss and blood sugar levels.
  • Once Daily Ultra:  This probiotic contains a whopping 90 billion active cultures and also contains lactobacillus gasseri, a strain known to support healthy blood sugar levels. Not many probiotics on the market contain that strain.
  • Once Daily Women’s:  A nice blend specifically designed for women’s physiology. Is shelf stable, meaning it maintains its potency without being refrigerated. (However, for best results I don’t recommend storing these in hot, steamy bathrooms.)
  • Once Daily Men’s:  The counterpart to the women’s version. My male clients liked only having to take one capsule per day.
  • Children’s Plus Chewable:  A nice blend that includes 5 billion active cultures along with Vitamin C and Vitamin D in an organic, all-natural tablet that actually tastes good. I have many clients who found their kids didn’t get sick as often when they happily ate one of these each morning during the winter.

It’s a simple fact that most of us need a probiotic and would benefit from taking one every day. I like this line and especially like that it contains strains of probiotics that most OTC probiotics do not. I’ve used the 

I like this line and I especially like the products designed to support specific systems. In the midst of that, be aware that the specific support products aren’t designed to be used alone. They should always be used as part of a support program and not used as the sole product. It would be impossible to include therapeutic doses of additional support ingredients in a single dose, so the products for specific systems don’t contain a large enough quantity of additional ingredients to provide a strong amount of therapeutic support. 

My clients who used these products reported the following:

  • Several saw improvements in digestion, ranging from being more regular to having less indigestion. One saw loose stools completely disappear. She had resisted using a probiotic prior to this, even though I had recommended it repeatedly.
  • More than one reported feeling more energy throughout the day.
  • A male client who was using the Prostate+ product said everyone in his office came down with a nasty virus, but he skated through without so much as a sniffle.
  • A client who used Urinary Tract+ said, “I liked knowing this provided extra support, but really think the D-Mannose I was taking helped prevent UTIs more than this did.” 
  • One client had mild detox symptoms associated with having harmful bacteria in her gut die off. Those symptoms disappeared once we reduced her dosage from once daily to once every-other day. She was able to return to a once-daily dose two weeks later, and I recommended other steps to help improve the balance of good and bad bacteria in her digestive tract.

The only “cons” I found with this line of probiotics were related to the fact the products marketed to benefit specific systems don’t contain therapeutic doses of additional nutrients, and that this line can only be purchased online or in specialty health food stores. Those are paltry issues when compared to the other benefits of these probiotics.

Are they worth the money? In my opinion, that answer to that question is a definite YES.

Enterovirus D68: Separating Fact from Fiction

Many parents are concerned about the dangers of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) due to how the media is covering the virus.Enterovirus D68 - Sick Little Girl

Enterovirus D68 is a virus that has not been widespread in the past. This year it is spreading more rapidly. I felt compelled to share the facts about this virus because I keep seeing information shared that is not 100% factual. Let’s separate the fact from the fiction and hopefully set some parents’ minds at ease.

Important Facts About Enterovirus D68

Here are important facts about Enterovirus D68:

  • EV-D68 was originally identified in 1962. Since then, there have only been small outbreaks, most of which rarely spread across state lines. This year’s outbreak has spread rapidly, possibly because very few children have developed immunity to Entervirus D68 due to never having been exposed. Most adults are not affected, as they have developed resistance (from exposure to other viruses) that provides protection. Enteroviruses are usually most active between July – October, so the current spread is in line with normal occurrences.
  • The CDC confirmed cases of EV-D68 in 22 states as of September 19. It is important to note that the number of confirmed cases (160) is small because most children infected with EV-D68 do not need medical attention and are therefore not tested. Hospitals only recently began testing for this specific virus since the likelihood of it being the cause of breathing problems was almost nonexistent until recently.
  • No deaths have occurred from the virus so far.
  • Most children who become ill have nothing more than typical cold and flu symptoms. Few children wind up being hospitalized, and most don’t even need to see a doctor.
  • The virus is closely related to hand, foot and mouth disease. It shares some of the same symptoms, although EV-D68 may have a stronger effect on the lungs and usually does not cause a fever. Children who have had hand, foot and mouth disease seem to have less likelihood of contracting EV-D68 or from having serious symptoms.
  • Ninety percent of the children hospitalized had pre-existing asthma or other upper-respiratory diseases or conditions that weakened their immunity.
  • Enterovirus D68 is a virus. Antibiotics are ineffective against it, and there is no known cure. Mainstream treatments focus on lessening the symptoms. Those with serious symptoms are put on supplemental oxygen, given breathing treatments, or – in extreme cases – put on a respirator to aid breathing until the virus runs its course.

Typical Symptoms of Enterovirus D68

The typical indicators of Enterovirus D68 include, but may not be limited to:

  • Runny nose, cough, sneezing, etc.
  • Body aches 
  • Mouth sores or blisters (do not occur in every case, but are possible)
  • Fever (unusual in this season’s outbreak) 

Extreme cases may include the following symptoms, each of which requires immediate medical intervention:

  • Fever above 103 degrees F. 
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty in breathing:  Difficult breathing is not always easy to recognize. Look for extremely rapid, shallow breathing, with breaths occurring more frequently than one per second. Watch your child’s ribs. If you can visibly see the skin being “sucked in” between the ribs with each breath, that is an indicator medical intervention is needed immediately. 
  • Continuous coughing 
  • If you notice any of the above symptoms, please call your physician or take your child to the emergency room immediately. Call 911 if your child is unconscious, has blue lips, or other severe symptoms.

Protective Measures Against Enterovirus D68

Enteroviruses are all relatively hardy and can live for quite a while on surfaces. The virus is carried in body fluids, mucus, snot, etc. Potential ways to lessen the likelihood of the virus include:

  • You know the drill – frequent hand washing, teaching children to sneeze and cough into their elbows, etc. There is no need to use antibacterial soaps. ALL soap is antibacterial. The chemicals in antibacterial products are known to be dangerous and should be avoided.
  • Making a spray using 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of alcohol, 40 drops of tea tree oil, 40 drops of lavender essential oil and 40 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil. Blend well and keep in a glass spray bottle. Spray on counters, door knobs, faucets, etc. to help kill viral cells.
  • Give your children Vitamin D. Vitamin D is one of the most powerful immunity boosters known. Most children over age two need a minimum of 1000 IUs per day for maximum immunity. This is especially true if you live in a climate that prevents daily sun exposure. There is no need to worry about toxicity at this dose. For more information about Vitamin D, read: Twenty Surprising Facts About Vitamin D.
  • Taking Vitamin C throughout the virus and flu season is known to reduce infection rates. Follow the instructions on the bottle for dosage, but know it’s safe to double the recommended dose at the first sign of a cold or flu. I recommend continuing the double dose until symptoms abate. 
  • Use Elderberry Syrup if you suspect your child has caught a virus. Elderberry is an extremely powerful antiviral that is known to be effective against the enterovirus. It can also be taken as an immunity booster prior to illness, but I would definitely use it at the first sign of a cold or virus. It tastes great, so getting children to take it is nice and easy.
  • If your child has asthma or any other chronic illness, discuss and create a care plan with your physician prior to illness. Keep the plan handy and be ready to implement it immediately when illness occurs. 
  • If your child catches what appears to be a cold but symptoms rapidly worsen or your mother’s instinct insists something is wrong, call your physician. Take your child to the emergency room or call 911 if symptoms become severe.

The good news about the virus is that we are hopefully nearing the end of its “season.” Higher number of cases also mean we now have higher immunity throughout the country. 

Has your child dealt with Enterovirus D68? What were your experiences?

Natural Approaches to Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a viral illness that is spreading like wildfire this year. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is Baby with Hand, Foot and Mouth Diseaserarely serious, but it is extremely unpleasant and highly contagious. (HFMD is not related to Hoof and Mouth Disease, an illness that only affects animals.) Caused by the Coxsackie A virus, HFMD usually only affects children under the age of five. Many children are exposed but never have any symptoms because their body naturally vanquishes the virus. Those who become ill may experience a wide variety of different symptoms. The virus is extremely contagious, typically spread by mucus, liquid from sores and feces.

Potential Symptoms

The typical case of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease may include:

  • A fever, usually below 102 degrees F
  • Fatigue and generally feeling unwell
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea (not always)
  • Sores in the mouth and throat (usually appear two to three days after the initial symptoms.) Sores may also be visible on the tonsils.
  • Red bumps that do not itch but may be sore. The bumps usually turn into blisters that weep fluid. HFMD is often confused with Chicken Pox due to these bumps. The bumps usually appear first on the hands and feet, but can appear anywhere on the body.

Natural Options

It is important to note that Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is caused by a virus. Antibiotics will not help. The mainstream approach is to soothe the symptoms and let the virus run its course. There are natural approaches that will bring relief and which are said to shorten the duration of the virus. My favorites include:

  • Clove Tea:  Cloves have a numbing effect. A tea made from one tablespoon of cloves and one cup or more of purified water will be very soothing to sores in the mouth. An added benefit is that cloves are also mildly antibacterial and antiviral. The tea may be drunk warm or cold. Add a bit of stevia or honey to sweeten if needed. Several of my clients have said clove tea was a lifesaver while their child had HFMD.
  • Elderberry Syrup:  Elderberry syrup is one of the most potent antiviral agents known. An added benefit is that it tastes good, so getting kids to take it is not difficult. Follow the instructions on the bottle to determine how much to give your child. If you have more than one child but only one is sick, the other children can be given Elderberry Syrup as an immunity booster even if they are not visibly ill.
  • Homeopathic Mercurius Solubis:  This remedy is known to help reduce the pain of the mouth sores and to be especially good to help children sleep at night. Homeopathics are a nice option because they have no side effects and do not interact with any prescription medications. They are very potent and very easy to take. Follow the dosage recommended on the bottle. (Dosage should be cut in half for children under 1 year of age, but the tiny tablets can be dissolved in water if needed.) To maintain their effectiveness, homeopathic remedies should not be administered within 10 minutes of eating or drinking anything other than water, and should not be given within an hour of brushing the teeth if a toothpaste with mint is used. (The mint blocks the body’s ability to absorb the homeopathic remedy.) You have my permission to stop brushing teeth while the child has mouth sores, as the experience may be extremely traumatic and painful.
  • Potent Broths:  Some children are unwilling to eat and drink while they have HFMD due to the sores in their mouth. Giving them nutrient-rich broths is an easy way to boost immunity while providing nutrients and keeping the child hydrated. Since salt will sting, try to make your own salt-free broths using organic bones, organic veggies, garlic and onions, rosemary, turmeric, thyme, etc. (Each of those ingredients is known to help boost immunity.) Adding some organic coconut oil will help coat the sores and be soothing. Coconut oil is known to be mildly antiviral, so it’s a win-win.
  • Good Ol’ Vitamin C:  Vitamin is known to help the body heal tissues and is known to boost immunity. If using a liquid Vitamin C, you may need to dilute it to help the liquid not sting. If only one of your children has HFMD, it makes sense to give your other children Vitamin C while the sick child is contagious.
  • Soothing Baths:  A soothing bath that is warm but not overly hot may help children calm down before bed and is known to help the body eliminate toxins. Helpful additives during HFMD include Lavender Essential Oil (5-10 drops), 1/2-1 cup Epsom Salts, 1/2 cup coconu oil, 1 cup of Bentonite Clay, 1 cup of Baking Soda, 1 cup of Chamomile and/or Calendula petals, etc.

Stopping the Spread

Unfortunately, Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is most contagious 3-5 days before any symptoms appear. After the symptoms appear, the virus may be spread for up to two weeks. Families with multiple children obviously want to take care to avoid having the entire family wind up sick. The following options are good for helping prevent the spread of HFMD:

  • If possible, dress the sick child in long sleeves and pants to help prevent exposing others to the liquid in the sores. Try to find soft-soled flannel slippers or booties to cover the feet.
  • Blend 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of Vodka. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons Tea Tree Oil and 1/2 teaspoon Lavender Essential Oil. Place the blend in a spray bottle and spray everywhere! Spray on toys, counters, doorknobs, etc.
  • Make children wash hands frequently. (See Hand Sanitizer Alternatives for recipes to make your own toxin-free hand sanitizer.)
  • Don’t allow children to share utensils, water bottles, etc. (I know this is obvious, but figured it was worth mentioning.)
  • Wash bedding as soon as you realize your child has HFMD. Wash bedding again after HFMD has run its course.
  • Throw your child’s toothbrush away and replace it with a new one after HFMD is gone.
  • Contact your child’s school or daycare center to find out what their policy is on when the child can return.

Has your family dealt with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease? What approaches did you find to be the most effective?

Natural Solutions for Ear Infections (Otitis Media)

Otitis Media – the common ear infection – is the most common reason parents schedule doctor appointments for children. Ear infections are incredibly painful and can lead to hearing issues, yet research has proven antibiotics are ineffective. There are a Picture of baby with ear infectionvariety of alternative approaches that are known to be very effective.

When discussing ear infections, it is important to recognize they typically involve biofilms. Biofilms are a complex matrix of bacteria that may also include fungal and viral cells. The various cells in an ear infection create a strong matrix, called a “biofilm,” to protect them from antibiotics. The antibiotic resistance often develops before the child feels pain or realizes there’s a problem.

One important thing to remember about ear infections is that the human body is perfectly capable of healing them without intervention if the person’s immune system is functioning as it should. One of the primary ways of resolving ear infections is to help protect your immunity by eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, etc. However, there are times when medical intervention should definitely be sought.

If a child’s fever is extremely high (above 102F degrees), if the pain is intense or if symptoms last longer than three days, seek medical treatment immediately.

If an ear infection does develop, the following are known to help:

  • Eliminate sugar from the diet. I realize that may be tough, but sugar depresses immunity and makes it difficult for the child’s body to use its natural defenses to battle the infection.
  • Use herbal ear drops. Commercial herbal ear drops typically contain Garlic, Goldenseal and perhaps Mullein infused into oil. The oil is gently warmed and 2-5 drops are put in each ear every 2-4 hours. The oil feels good and diminishes pain, but the antibiotic/antiviral/antifungal properties of the herbs actually penetrate (soak through) the ear drum to reach the infection on the other side. I find the combination of Garlic and Goldenseal to be far more effective than garlic and mullein. I like this one:
    NEVER use ear drops if the ear drum has ruptured. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Use other naturally antibacterial ear drops. There are a wide variety of ear drops available which contain ingredients known to be naturally antibacterial and antiviral. One of my favorites contains Grapefruit Seed Extract and a tiny bit of Tea Tree Oil blended into a soothing amount of Glycerin. You can view them here: NutriBiotics Ear Drops.
  • Consider homeopathic remedies. There are a variety of homeopathic remedies for ear aches. When using homeopathics, remember that nothing should be eaten ten minutes before or after taking them orally, and that mint products should be avoided for an hour. Homeopathic ear drops can be alternated with other ear drops being used. One advantage of homeopathics is that they do not interact with prescription medications and do not cause side effects when used as directed.
  • Use colloidal silver drops. Colloidal silver drops can be placed in the ear canal every 2-4 hours. Similar to the ear drops described above, colloidal silver is known to be soothing and to stimulate the body to heal itself. For more information on colloidal silver, please read: Common Uses for Colloidal Silver.
  • Use a probiotic and/or fermented foods other than yogurt. Probiotics help the Peyers Patches in the gut boost immunity. Probiotics also help maintain a balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract. Since 70% of immunity resides in the gut, it makes sense to care for it! I recommend using a probiotic specifically designed for children, such as the ones made by Udo’s Choice, Renew Life or Garden of Life. Fermented veggies are also a great way of gaining beneficial bacteria. Serve some with every meal or serve water kefir between meals.
  • Use immune boosters.  During an active infection, the body will respond well and be able to fight infection better if immunity boosters are consumed. Eating a lot of garlic, onions and turmeric is a great place to start. Taking Vitamin C, Vitamin D or Monolaurin are also known to boost the body’s ability to fight infection.
  • Eliminate dairy. If a child has recurring ear infections, try eliminating dairy for one month. Many parents find ear infections miraculously stop occurring when dairy is eliminated. Wheat or other food allergies may also be a culprit, but dairy is the most common.
  • Use a rice bag:  Applying a bit of warmth to the affected ear is a very effective way to bring soothing relief from the pain. The simplest way to create a heating pad is to pour uncooked rice into a clean cotton sock, tie the top, and then microwave the sock in 20-second bursts until it is warm to the touch but not hot. Lay the sock over the ear, repeat as needed. (For the record, this is the only time I advocate the use of a microwave.)
  • Seek medical intervention when needed. There are times an antibiotic may be needed. If symptoms or fever remain for more than three days, if the fever is extremely high or if pain is intense, seek treatment immediately.

What’s your favorite ear ache remedy?

Photo Courtesy of Lisa Williams

Questions to Ask a Pediatrician

A dear friend recently asked me what questions she should ask when looking for a pediatrician. I expected my list of questions to ask a pediatrician to be fairly short, and was surprised when it grew to include enough to become a blog post. I’ve broken the questions into three different categories. Many of these questions would be good to ask any practitioner, regardless of whom the patient is.

The Basics

I cannot stress enough that the most important factor in choosing a pediatrician is how comfortable you are with the person. Even if you disagree on some topics (which should be expected), it is important to find a pediatrician who respects your opinions and whose way of working with patients is comfortable for you. There is nothing worse than having your parenting choices criticized, ignored or condemned. Find a doc who will support you even when your choices are different from his or hers. 

Here are a few other important points to ask about:

  • Does the doctor accept your insurance and is he or she accepting new patients?
  • Does the doctor have evening and weekend office hours? If not, who takes and responds to calls during non-office hours?
  • At which hospital(s) does the doctor have privileges?
  • Does the office offer same-day appointments for sick children? (It is important to know this because no one wants to have to wait two or three days to see a doctor when your child is ill and obviously needs to be seen.)
  • How much time does the pediatrician spend with each patient? (Asking how appointments are scheduled and how much time is allotted per appointment can also help identify this.)
  • Does the office have separate waiting rooms for sick children and children who are not currently ill?
  • What lab does the doctor use? Can blood draws and other testing be done in-office?
  • How can the doctor be contacted for general questions? Is there a charge for phone calls?

More Specific Questions to Ask a Pediatrician

After learning the basics about a prospective pediatrician and his or her practice, you can then dig a bit deeper and ask more specific questions. I recommend asking:

Pediatrician and Baby

  • What is the pediatrician’s stance on breastfeeding and when does s/he recommend starting a baby on solid food?
  • Does the pediatrician support baby-led weaning, or prefer the parents force weaning at a specific age?
  • What is the doctor’s position on vaccinations? Specifically, does s/he support delayed schedules and/or not vaccinating?
  • What parenting books does the doctor recommend? Are there books s/he specifically disagrees with? (This question can provide insight into the doctor’s philosophy. It may help to ask about specific books you like or dislike.)
  • What is the pediatrician’s philosophy on antibiotics? When does s/he feel it is appropriate to prescribe antibiotics?
  • How does the doctor feel diet impacts health?
  • What is the doctor’s position on co-sleeping?
  • What experience does the doctor have with food allergies? What testing does s/he use to identify food allergies? (I recommend avoiding any doctor who recommends skin testing for allergies, as that method is not as reliable as a simple blood test.)
  • Does the doctor support natural and holistic healing methods? What is his or her position on nutritional therapies? Does s/he support the use of herbs and supplements? (You may want to ask this first if you wish to find an integrative doctor who understands and supports therapies outside of allopathic medicine.)
  • What is the doctor’s position on circumcision?
  • What is the doctor’s opinion of growth charts. Will s/he compare your baby’s growth to that of other children, or simply check to ensure your child is growing and gaining weight at a sufficient pace?
  • What training in alternative healing methods does the doctor have?
  • What experience does the doctor have with delays in speech, hearing, fine motor skills, etc. What are his or her philosophies on supporting children with developmental delays? (We all hope to never need to know this information, but it may be helpful to find out in advance.)

Very Specific Questions to Ask a Pediatrician

The following questions are very specific. Some pertain to specific lifestyles, but most do not. Asking these questions may help you gain additional insight into the doctor’s philosophies and personal beliefs.

  • Ask if the doctor has children. If s/he does, ask how having children changed his or her medical practice.
  • Ask how long the doctor has been in practice.
  • Ask if the doctor specializes in any specific health or development issues.
  • Ask how the doctor feels about veganism, vegetarianism, paleolithic eating, or other eating styles.
  • Ask how the doctor feels about raw milk, organic foods, GMOs, etc.
  • Ask what the doctor’s views are on childhood obesity and how s/he feels it can best be avoided.
  • Ask whether the doctor encourages parents to have young girls vaccinated with the HPV vaccine.
  • Ask what the doctor’s largest concerns are for children’s health.
  • For the very brave: Ask what the doctor’s views are on healthcare reform and how s/he anticipates reform will impact his or her practice.

I highly recommend scheduling a “get to know me” visit with a potential pediatrician. During that visit, pay special attention to the office setup, office cleanliness, friendliness of the staff, condition of toys in the waiting room, etc.

That’s my list of questions to ask a pediatrician. What questions would you add to it?

Photograph Courtesy of:  Lou Bueno Photography

Modern Epidemic: Metabolic Syndrome

“Metabolic Syndrome” refers to a group of symptoms that are increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S. and other developed countries. Metabolic Syndrome is often referred to as an “epidemic” because the number of people affected by it is increasing so rapidly. Why does this matter? Because Metabolic Syndrome is a set of conditions created by lifestyle and dietary habits. Metabolic Syndrome is Metabolic Syndrome: Apple with Stethoscope and Measuring Tapeknown to increase the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hormonal imbalances, depression, stroke and more.

Although experts disagree on the specific causes of Metabolic Syndrome, they all agree that obesity, a high carbohydrate diet, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables are contributing factors. Other factors which may increase your risk include heredity, hormonal imbalances, lack of exercise, smoking and possibly toxic exposure from food, air and water.

The problem with Metabolic Syndrome is that no single definition of what it is and no specified set of diagnostic criteria have been defined. Many practitioners in the mainstream medical community do not believe Metabolic Syndrome exists and do not believe early identification can help improve health outcomes. There is also controversy about whether the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome truly represent a “syndrome” or are merely a group of related symptoms which each has its own risk factors. The concern is that we have created a “disease” which truly doesn’t exist.

The bottom line is that whether you group the symptoms together and label them or not, they each represent a very real risk to health and longevity. In my practice, I work with many people who have multiple symptoms associated with Metabolic Syndrome. Addressing the issues quickly restores health. It also often results in improved self esteem and a restored positive outlook. I find that people who address Metabolic Syndrome typically experience better overall health on a long term basis.

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

The most common symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome include:

  • Weight gain in the stomach and abdomen, often in spite of exercise and decreased food intake
  • Fatigue
  • Increased triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Fasting blood glucose levels greater than 100 mg/dL
  • Acne
  • Higher than normal blood levels of insulin (Please see The Top 3 Blood Tests Everyone Should Request for more info)
  • Mild to moderate kidney damage resulting in excess protein in the urine
  • Increased systemic inflammation which may cause joint pain, water retention and other symptoms
  • Increased liver enzymes due to insufficient detoxification and/or a condition called “fatty liver”
  • Excess growth of Candida (yeast) in the body
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in women
  • Low Testosterone in men
  • Abnormal development in children
  • Mental and psychological issues, ranging from mild to extreme

If you have three or more of those symptoms, please schedule an appointment with your practitioner. Ask him or her to order blood work including a complete metabolic panel, complete blood count, insulin level, A1C and complete thyroid panel. (If your doctor is unsure how to interpret these tests related to Metabolic Syndrome risk factors, please feel free to contact me to schedule a half-hour blood work interpretation consultation.)

Reversing Metabolic Syndrome

The good news is that Metabolic Syndrome can often be reversed using simple lifestyle changes. Supplements may also be used in some cases. The purpose of the recommended changes is to improve insulin sensitivity and restore balance to the endocrine system. Potential changes may include:

  • Improving an exercise regimen and combining it with weight training
  • Decreasing the type and quantity of carbohydrates eaten on a daily basis
  • Increasing the amount of healthy fat consumed on a daily basis
  • Identifying and addressing mineral deficiencies
  • Improving digestion to ensure foods are adequately digested and absorbed
  • Other recommendations based on the person’s specific health needs

Reversing Metabolic Syndrome is very possible, but requires the direction of a qualified practitioner. If you suspect you have Metabolic Syndrome and would like to start the process of reversing it, please contact me to schedule a consultation. 

Photo courtesy of Keith Ramsey

Top 11 Reasons I Refuse to Get a Flu Shot

I recently heard an extremely ill woman comment she couldn’t figure out why she was so sick. She went on to say she had gotten a flu shot, and obviously believed that should have protected her. My research has led me to conclude otherwise. I need to confess this article is extremely long. I felt the importance of the information warranted a longer format.

I want to state very clearly that getting vaccinated is a very personal choice. I support everyone who chooses to get the vaccination, and encourage those who are undecided to do further research. I am not “anti-vaccine,” I am simply pro-research.

I am one of the people mainstream medicine insists “must” have a flu shot. I’m considered “high risk” Flu Vaccine Syringebecause I have Type 1 Diabetes and have multiple other auto-immune conditions. I do not get flu shots and never get sick. In fact, I spent the last five years working in environments where I was exposed every day to multiple people who had active flu infections. In spite of that, I never became infected and never had so much as a sniffle. Unfortunately, mainstream media and mainstream medicine use a wide variety of scare tactics to convince people they will become sick if they are not vaccinated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Following are my top eleven reasons for not getting a flu shot:

  1. Infection is based on lifestyle, not exposure: The belief that everyone who gets exposed to the flu becomes ill is outdated and untrue. If it were true that exposure causes illness, none of us could enter a public place without becoming ill. The truth is that our lifestyle and our body’s environment are what determine whether or not we get sick. This is why my teenagers got sick in 2008 with a nasty case of the flu, but neither my husband nor I became ill while caring for them. Their lifestyle and high-sugar eating habits lowered their body’s ability to fight the flu, while ours provided natural immunity.
  2. Low probability of correct strains used in vaccine: There are close to 300 different strains of flu, yet each year the CDC chooses 3-5 strains of Influenza Type A and 1-2 of Influenza Type B to include in the flu vaccine. They use scientific methods to try and predict which strains will be the most prevalent each year, but they are often wrong. Additionally, flu strains constantly adapt and mutate. This means the likelihood of the CDC choosing the correct strains is less than 5%. The CDC admits: “In some years when vaccine and circulating strains were not well-matched, no vaccine effectiveness can be demonstrated in some studies, even in healthy adults. It is not possible in advance of the influenza season to predict how well the vaccine and circulating strains will be matched, and how that match may affect the degree of vaccine effectiveness.”
  3. Those who were vaccinated have higher infection rates than those who were not: More than seven studies proved flu shots do not reduce infection rates and may actually increase them. Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an influenza expert at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control in Canada , shared findings proving increased infection rates were consistently found for two years following vaccination in both humans and ferrets who received flu vaccines. These findings were true across seven different studies done on flu vaccines for 2008 and 2009. The findings agreed with statistical comparisons of over 30,000 people. The vaccines used in 2008 and 2009 are very similar to those being used today. (Ferrets are used in influenza studies because their physiology most closely mimics that of humans’ in influenza infections.)
    It also needs to be pointed out that pediatric deaths due to flu were dropping prior to 2003. The decrease in deaths can be attributed to improved health conditions, better nutrition programs in schools and preschools, and other lifestyle improvements. Pediatric deaths caused by flu skyrocketed after the CDC insisted that all children older than six months of age receive a flu shot. The increase in death and infection rates following the CDC’s mandate is not coincidental and is too large to be ignored.
  4. Zero science to support effectiveness of flu shots: A review of 5707 articles and 31 studies found little evidence to prove that flu vaccines actually reduce infection rates. The researchers also found that although the vaccines provided “moderate” protection some years, they provided little or no protection other years. The researchers also found that flu vaccines offer zero protection for anyone over age 65 or younger than age 7. Another group, the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group, studied 41 clinical studies and concluded the data showed flu vaccines provide zero reduction in infection or death across all age groups. The Cochrane group also studied 260,000 children between the ages of 23 months and six years and found the flu vaccine to be no more effective than a placebo at preventing illness. In 2009, many providences in Canada stopped recommending flu vaccines for anyone under 65 years of age. Their infection rates have not increased.
    Commenting on other studies proving the ineffectiveness of flu shots, Michael T. Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and Director of the Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance said, “We have overpromoted and overhyped this vaccine … It does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job: it’s all public relations.”
  5. Most illnesses called the “flu” actually are not: Researchers found that only 6-8% of illnesses called “flu” were actually caused by a true flu virus. The other illnesses were caused by other viruses or bacteria, none of which would be included in a flu vaccine. Additionally, the CDC drastically increases their statistics by making the assumption that all deaths caused by pneumonia originated with a flu infection. This is simply not true. Although having the flu can increase the likelihood of a pneumonia infection in anyone with a compromised immune system, pneumonia is a bacterial infection and flu is a viral infection. Not all cases of pneumonia are caused by the flu, which means the CDC’s statistics are grossly inflated and are designed to create fear.
  6. The “Original Antigenic Sin” Argument: This term refers to the fact that a vaccine only protects you against specific illness strains, whereas catching an illness provides immunity against that illness and against multiple others with similar chemical structures. In other words, if you get a flu shot which claims to protect you against Strains A and B, that’s all you have protection against. If you catch Strain A, you wind up with immunity against Strain A and potentially against hundreds of other flu strains which contain similar proteins. This may be why flu vaccines are virtually worthless for anyone over age 65. They have already been infected with and exposed to enough flu strains that they have naturally occurring immunity against a wide array of flu strains.
  7. Flu vaccines suppress the immune system: The ingredients in flu vaccines stimulate the immune system to combat a few strains of flu, yet suppress it against all other viral and bacterial invaders. This is why so many people get sick with colds and other illnesses shortly after receiving the flu vaccine. Based on the other evidence shared in this post, it makes little sense to lower the body’s overall ability to fight infection by receiving a flu shot.
  8. Increased risk of cardiac problems and oxidized cholesterol: A 2007 study found that flu vaccines cause an inflammatory response that increases the risk of cardiac problems and which also causes oxidation of the low density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol). The oxidation of LDL cholesterol means that the very small cholesterol molecules capable of passing through vessel walls become oxidized, or hardened, in arteries, which directly contributes to arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and other coronary disorders. This potentially deadly effect only lasts for a maximum of fourteen days, but needs to be considered by anyone having a pre-existing cardiac condition. The inflammation can also cause a condition called “Arteritis,” in which the walls of large arteries become inflamed. Depending on the body region affected, arteritis may cause visual disturbances, headaches, jaw pain, and more. A study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found that pregnant women are especially susceptible to the inflammatory effects of flu vaccines and that receiving a flu vaccine led to higher rates of pre-eclampsia, spontaneous abortion, and increased complications following birth.
  9. Toxic ingredients: Most flu vaccines contain one or all of the following –
    –  Mercury (Thimerosol): Thimerosol is a common preservative used in vaccines. Most flu vaccines contain enough mercury from Thimerosol to be deemed toxic by the EPA if they are taken by anyone weighing less than 265 pounds. Because mercury is a powerful neurotoxin, this information should be regarded with concern by anyone weighing less than 265 pounds. Note: There are a few vials of vaccines made without Thimerosol, but they are typically saved for children and pregnant women. You have the right to request them, and definitely should if you weigh less than 265 pounds, are pregnant, or are having your child vaccinated.
    –  Adjutants: Adjutants are ingredients added to vaccines which serve to stimulate the immune system. The most common adjutant used in flu vaccines is Aluminum, a heavy metal which is associated with many neurological illnesses. Primary among the neurological illnesses associated with aluminum toxicity is Alzheimer’s.
    –  Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. When combined with aluminum (as it is in the flu vaccine and many the vaccinations), formaldehyde is known to increase the likelihood of neurological damage.
    –  Eggs: Although not directly a toxin, all flu vaccines are grown on cultures from chicken eggs. This means the vaccines could be deadly to anyone having a severe allergy to eggs. Please be aware of this. The incidence of severe allergic reactions to flu vaccines is rising at an alarming rate, largely because many of the people administrating vaccines are not trained in their side effects and are not in a facility equipped to deal with anaphylactic shock. If you choose to get a flu shot, please get it in your doctor’s office and not in your local grocery store.
  10. Negative reactions: Flu vaccines are known to cause the following reactions, some of which are deadly and some of which can cause permanent disability: injection site reaction, fever, convulsions (especially in children), narcolepsy, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (a severe paralytic auto-immune neurological condition which can result in permanent disability), allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock, increased risk of heart attack, encephalitis, neurological disorders, thrombocytopenia (a blood disorder causing low platelet counts, fatigue and potential blood loss from bruising or internal hemorrhage), and more..
  11. Studies found Vitamin D more effective than flu shots: There is a good reason the flu only occurs during the winter months. Even in tropical climates, flu rates increase during the rainy season. The common factor? Sun exposure. Unprotected exposure to sunlight stimulates the body to produce Vitamin D. Studies conducted by John Cannell and associates found a direct connection between Vitamin D deficiencies and increased respiratory illnesses in adults and children. The studies also found that as little as 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 on a daily basis could prevent the flu and other respiratory illnesses 500% more effectively than flu vaccines. Another study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that Vitamin D deficiency caused higher infection rates of flu and other respiratory illnesses. Per Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, “The findings of our study support an important role for vitamin D in prevention of common respiratory infections, such as colds and the flu.” Vitamin D stimulates the body to produce over 300 different antimicrobial peptides which help the body combat viral and bacterial infection. My personal recommendation is that anyone living in a cold climate should take a minimum of 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 on a daily basis and should get their blood serum levels checked at least once each year. Ideal blood serum levels should be maintained between 50-80 nmol/L.
What are your thoughts about getting a flu shot? My next post will focus on effective ways to protect yourself from the flu. Please feel free to share your opinions below.
Does the Vaccine Matter? – The Atlantic
Flu Vaccine Effectiveness – Centers for Disease Control
On the Epidemiology of Influenza – Journal of Virology

The vitamin D-antimicrobial peptide pathway and its role in protection against infection – Linus Pauling Institute

Difference Between Lactose Intolerance and Dairy Allergy

Milk drop

Few topics inspire as much confusion as the difference between lactose intolerance and dairy allergy. The two issues can both cause digestive distress, but each has a very different cause.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when the body lacks sufficient lactase, the enzyme required to digest the sugars in dairy. The enzyme is lactase, dairy sugar is lactose. The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be as mild as a bit of gas or bloating, or may be extreme enough to cause vomiting and diarrhea. Each person will lactose intolerance will respond very differently. The symptoms result because the enzyme lactase is needed to break milk sugar (lactose) down into simpler sugars which can be absorbed and metabolized. If the lactose is not broken down, the body cannot absorb it and will experience digestive distress. Some people with lactose intolerance may also experience fatigue due to the strain caused when dairy is ingested. The amount of dairy required to cause a reaction in someone who is lactose intolerant varies from person to person. Some people must consume large amounts of dairy, while others can safely consume small amounts before experiencing symptoms.

Lactose intolerance may occur in infancy, but more commonly develops later in life. Lactose intolerance can be inherited and may run in families. It can also develop as a secondary challenge resulting from digestive disorders that damage the colon, such as Crohn’s, Celiac Disease, etc. Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed through a Hydrogen Breath Test in adults or via a Stool Acidity Test in children.

Most people can counteract the effects of lactose intolerance by limiting dairy consumption or by taking a digestive enzyme containing high amounts of lactase when they eat dairy. My favorites include: 

Lacto by Enzymedica (My favorite enzyme company)

Dairy Digest Complete by NOW Foods

Dairy (Casein or Whey) Allergy

Dairy allergies are an autoimmune reaction to one or more proteins found in dairy. Casein is the most common dairy protein that causes a dairy allergy. (A dairy allergy may also be the result of an autoimmune reaction to other chemicals in dairy, but casein and whey are the most common.) Reactions to a dairy allergy may be very mild or may be life-threatening, and can affect every body system. There are over 200 symptoms that may be caused by a dairy allergy. The symptoms may include severe or mild digestive distress, skin reactions, respiratory distress, cognitive and emotional issues, and many more.

The reactions occur when the body comes to regard chemicals in milk as “foreign invaders” that must be attacked and neutralized. To neutralize the invader, the body releases antibodies. These antibodies get carried throughout the body via the bloodstream and can therefore cause reactions in any part of the body. Dairy allergies are typically the result of one or more autoimmune genes getting turned “on.”

Dairy allergies can occur at any stage of life. Babies are sometimes born with a dairy allergy. Other people develop  a dairy allergy much later in life. Dairy allergies often appear to develop very suddenly. Causes of dairy allergies have been linked to Candida overgrowth (click link to learn more), feeds containing genetically modified produce fed to dairy cows, genetics, environmental toxins, and many unknown causes. Sadly, the incidence of dairy allergies is rising at a rate that is much higher than population growth.  

Dairy allergies require the affected person to completely avoid all foods containing dairy. This can be difficult because many processed foods contain ingredients that can set off a reaction but whose ingredient list does not contain words associated with dairy. Some people can reverse their dairy allergy by strictly avoiding dairy for six to twelve months, but others cannot. Some children outgrow a dairy allergy, while others do not. Because most allergies result when a gene is turned “on,” it can be very difficult to reverse milk allergies. Reducing or reversing a dairy allergy must include steps to also heal the digestive tract. Extreme measures are typically required to reverse the allergy, but it is possible for some people to eventually eat small amounts of dairy very occasionally without a negative reaction.

I personally had a dairy allergy so severe that I vomited multiple times per day and was extremely ill for many months. Before recognizing my allergy, I lost over 30 pounds, was extremely weak, had hair loss, was extremely grumpy and irritable, had severe acne, and had explosive diarrhea that made leaving the house difficult. To put it mildly, I was miserable. My dairy allergy was identified by a test called the ELISA Allergy Test. This is the test I recommend to my clients who have symptoms indicating a food allergy. (I’m now able to very occasionally eat small amounts of dairy without visible symptoms, although I know my digestive system remains healthiest if I refrain.)

Food allergies can be identified through blood tests, elimination diets, or muscle response testing. I do not recommend using “skin prick” testing for food allergies, as that form of testing is very inaccurate and often incorrect. Blood testing is also often inaccurate unless dairy is consumed within 72 hours of the blood draw, but there are tests which can identify the presence of dairy antibodies without recent dairy consumption.

One of the most popular ways of reversing dairy allergies is by following a diet called the GAPS diet. “GAPS” stands for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome or “Gut and Physiology Syndrome.” Click the link the view copies of the book that describes the protocol to be followed.

If you have digestive issues, constant congestion or cough, chronic fatigue, eczema or other symptoms you have been unable to remedy, you may have a food allergy or sensitivity. I have helped many people with food allergies and would love to help. Please contact me via email or by calling 317.489.0909 to schedule a consultation.

Have you dealt with lactose intolerance or dairy allergy? How did you figure it out? What tips can you share about coping on a daily basis?

Identifying the Cause Eliminated This Child’s Challenges

Shadow of Boy Flexing His Muscles

I want to send a huge shout-out and thanks to my friend Rocky Walls of 12 Stars Media. Last week, Rocky casually suggested to a group of friends that sharing case studies about successes in our business was a great way to let people know what we actually do on a daily basis. That recommendation was a light-bulb moment for me. I realized I spend a lot of time sharing health information, but rarely talk about what I actually DO to help people. Starting today, I intend to share more information about the types of challenges I work to resolve. Please note I will never use real names and all case studies are shared with permission.

I met a charming little boy – let’s call him “Chris” – about a year ago. He was happy and healthy, but his mom brought him to see me because his teachers were threatening to have him removed from their classroom. Chris was a bit rambunctious and had difficulty focusing. The same child who could sit and play video games for hours couldn’t seem to concentrate for more than 30 seconds on school work. He had poor impulse control, spoke out of turn, and could not sit still. Although he was popular with other kids, he was sometimes overly rough during play and sometimes over-reacted when conflicts occurred. His teachers and the school administrators insisted that Chris needed medication. Chris’ parents had researched their options and were firmly committed to not putting their child on any medication.

When I talked to Chris about the challenges he was having, Chris said, “I want to do what I’m told, but I just can’t! My brain doesn’t do what I want it to!” (For the record, I focus on the child and usually ask him or her more questions than I ask the mom during a consultation. Most kids, regardless of age, have amazing insight into their health and behavioral issues. Letting a child know up front that I consider him the most important part of the team helps gain his trust and increases his willingness to participate in the adjustments I recommend. I often receive additional information from the parents before, during and after consultations.)

Physically, Chris appeared to be very healthy, but did have the following:

  • He often did not sleep well
  • His nose ran and he frequently cleared his throat due to post nasal drip
  • He had dark circles under his eyes
  • He had eczema
  • He caught every cold and flu that went around and had frequent ear infections
  • He alternated between normal, very loose stools and mild constipation
  • He had occasional stomach aches
  • His mom commented that he had mild tremors in his hands, but that they weren’t consistent

When I reviewed Chris’ eating habits, I noticed wheat and dairy were part of almost every meal. When I asked Chris when his tummy last hurt, he told me it “hurt bad” the last time he ate pizza. Tiny warning bells started to go off in my head. When I asked his mom when she first noticed his eczema, she told me it started shortly after Chris stopped breastfeeding. The warning bells in my head now became screaming sirens. I asked a few more questions about diet and was thrilled to hear Chris and his family ate almost 100% organic foods. The exception to this was the days when Chris ate the school lunch. His mom and his teachers recognized that Chris’ behavior was worse on the days he ate the school food.

As I began reviewing Chris’ physical appearance, I noticed he had white spots under his fingernails, had many hangnails, had a thick yellow coating on his tongue, had puffy lips, and had inflamed gums. He also had some unusual color changes in the irises of his eyes. At this point, I asked Chris a surprising question: “Do your feet smell?” He giggled and shouted, “YES!” while his mom agreed emphatically. I also noticed Chris moved his hands in a way that seemed to indicate his joints were stiff. When I asked about it, he said his hands “worked fine.” I tested his hand strength and ability to make a fist, which made it very obvious his hands were not working the way they should. His finger joints also looked slightly inflamed. His mom commented that his handwriting was horrible.

I then gave Chris a teaspoon of a liquid Zinc supplement and asked him to swish it around in his mouth and tell me what it tasted like. He swished it around and said it tasted like water. 

Based on what I observed and the matters Chris and his parents were hoping to address, I made a variety of recommendations involving dietary changes, techniques Chris could use to stop fidgeting and pay attention, and ways nutritional deficiencies could be addressed. The main recommendations I made included:

  1. I asked Chris to stop eating wheat and dairy for one month.
  2. I recommended three supplements designed to alleviate nutritional deficiencies for which Chris had indicators. I also recommended one supplement which has been used successfully as a substitute for ADD/ADHD medications. I recommended the final supplement be used on a very short-term basis.
  3. I suggested his mom request three specific blood tests from their doctor. (They were working closely with a functional medicine MD who ran frequent tests anyway, so adding a few more was not difficult.)
  4. I recommended that Chris receive a thorough screening for food allergies. I can do food allergy screening using an EDS unit, but it takes over an hour and is not always a good option for children with short attention spans. The blood test I recommended would provide very rapid results on a wide range of potential allergens.
  5. I asked his mom to stop allowing Chris to purchase the school lunch. I made a variety of recommendations of healthy lunches she could pack. I also recommended increasing several foods in his diet to boost his nutrition and alleviate potential nutritional deficiencies.

When I saw Chris two weeks later, he was starting to see improvements in how he felt, how he slept and in his ability to concentrate in school. He told me the techniques I had shared with him were helping him do better in school. (I often teach kids to use behavioral techniques to help them focus better.) I reviewed his food allergy test results and made further recommendations. As the months continued, I met with Chris and his family several more times made additional recommendations.

Within three months, most of the issues Chris was addressing had disappeared. He no longer had eczema, he was sleeping better, the dark circles under his eyes were gone, his digestion had improved, his hands no longer trembled, his post nasal drip had vanished, and he had not had any colds or missed school due to illness. The best part was that his grades had improved and he had far fewer behavioral issues in the classroom. Chris still had occasional struggles with paying attention in class, but he was able to maintain his focus much more easily. He also had fewer conflicts with his friends and no longer had outbursts when conflicts arose. After seeing so many improvements, I made a few additional recommendations which included some therapies designed to eliminate additional imbalances that became apparent.

I’m happy to say Chris now has no behavioral issues at school and always gets high grades in Class Behavior.

I see “miracles” like this occur every day. The teachers Chris worked with commented that he “was a new boy.” I cringe when I hear statements like that. Chris was the same boy, but he was a boy who no longer suffered from food allergies and nutritional deficiencies. Addressing the cause of his physical and emotional challenges eliminated them. This approach to problem resolution is called “root cause analysis.” It simply means it is to solve a problem without identifying what caused the problem. It is a model that has sadly disappeared from mainstream medicine. It is, however, a model that is highly effective at reversing health challenges and creating lasting change. This is the model I use in my practice. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about how I helped Chris reach his goals. To discuss your health challenges or your child’s, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

Photo used with permission of Rhino Neal

Teal Pumpkin Project Candy Alternatives for Halloween

Teal Pumpkin Project LogoUPDATE, October 5, 2015:  A new effort was launched last year with the aim of protecting children who have health issues that make Halloween candy (any candy) a serious risk. This effort is called the Teal Pumpkin Project. You can learn more about it here:  Teal Pumpkin Project. That page also has a link where people can get teal pumpkin window clings in exchange for a donation to FARE (Food Allergy Resource and Education.) 

Since no single food item would be safe for every child and/or every health condition, the Teal Pumpkin Project encourages everyone to hand out non-food items. Those who choose to distribute non-food goodies are asked to place a teal pumpkin on their front porch (or a picture of one on their front door) to indicate they are not distributing food items.

This approach is one I’ve endorsed and encouraged for many years. The article that follows provides a list of non-food alternatives that are inexpensive and safe. 

Please note that the TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).

I’ve shared some of this information before. It was met with snorts of laughter and threats to toilet paper my house. I’m ok with that.

It’s that time of year when fall is in the air and kids aged 2-90 across the US are excitedly planning their costumes. Most families I know put far more thought into costumes than they put into selectively choosing treats to distribute to trick-or-treaters. This concerns me. Following are a few quick reasons why it is so important to carefully plan what we put in our Halloween treat bowls:Crossed Out Halloween Bowl

  • Every teaspoon of sugar decreases immunity for 2-4 hours. Think the weather causes kids to get sick around the holidays? Think again! I have pediatrician friends who tell me they can count on having packed offices starting the first weeks of November … immediately following Halloween. There is a connection between sugar consumption and illness.
  • Food allergies are on the rise: Some day when you have absolutely nothing better to do, wander down the candy aisle and read labels. You’ll be amazed how many candies contain more than one of the top seven allergens: dairy, wheat, corn, soy, eggs, peanuts & tree nuts. Almost all chocolate contains dairy, and wheat flour is often used as a thickener. (Twizzlers candy contains wheat. You must read labels.) I realize it is not your responsibility to protect kids who have food allergies, but why not choose a treat that presents fewer risks? For the record, most parents of kids with food allergies don’t let their kids trick-or-treat or only take their kids to homes of friends and family who have approved treats. I’m also encouraged that many allergy-support groups host allergy-free Halloween parties for kids affected by food allergies.
  • Almost all candy contains Genetically Modified ingredients: 90% of corn and sugar beets grown in the US are genetically modified. Why is this a problem? Because inserting gene particles from insects or other plant species into a plant’s existing gene structure is extremely dangerous. Additionally, when our bodies are subjected to foods having genetic structures our bodies were not designed to recognize, our bodies react by launching an allergic attack. Food allergies and digestive disorders have skyrocketed since genetically modified foods were introduced. Please visit the Institute for Responsible Technology website for in-depth education on the dangers of GMO’s and the scientific studies that prove those dangers.

So what can you give that kids will love but that won’t have the potential to cause negative health effects? My favorite alternatives follow. For safety, it may be wise to tell kids if an item is not edible:

  • Skip Halloween and hold a fundraiser for starving children instead: People in the US spend an average of $80 per person on Halloween festivities. Imagine the powerful change that could occur if we celebrated by donating that money to a worthy charity instead.
  • Nickels or Dimes: Depending on what you buy and where you shop, distributing nickels or dimes can be cheaper than buying candy.
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Coupons for kid-friendly activities
  • Tiny toys: Pick up toys sold for insertion in birthday treat bags, or check out the Oriental Trading Company for oodles of great options at a low cost. (Put together a large order with several friends to decrease shipping costs. That way you can divvy up the toys so that you have a wider variety, too.)
  • Stickers
  • Colored pencils, markers, crayons, etc.: If time allows, let the kids pick their own. Little kids actually love this and get excited about it! Older kids may not visibly show they like it, but most do.
  • Patterned shoe laces: Some stores sell these in bulk at a great price.
  • Tiny containers of glitter. (Moms hate this one.)
  • Character erasers: Please be sure to tell kids these are NOT edible for safety’s sake.
  • Glow sticks or glow jewelry (added bonus is that these increase visibility)

Wander the aisles of dollar stores and craft stores for additional ideas.

Ok … GO! What other candy-free ideas for goodies can you share? Please share in the comments!


Photo courtesy of John Puett