Author Archives: Shaniqua

Rethinking Juice as a Snack Item for Children

Kids-Drinking-Fruit

It’s not like I don’t ever drink juice, or don’t ever have it in my home, but nowadays I mostly have it for guests, for whom I’d like to be an accommodating host. For our everyday life, I acknowledge, that juice is not a healthy replacement, for fruit or food. It’s about as healthy, as staving off hunger with a candy bar. “Juice as food” you say?

I am completely guilty of feeling “thirsty”, or even “hungry” and going for a glass of something to drink, instead of eating a meal or a snack. Lack of self control is the main reason that I keep juice out of my home. Saying no once per month at the store, is easier than saying no every time I open my fridge. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between hunger, thirst and plain old sugar craving, when you have the sugar monster on your back. A glass of juice is easier to prepare than a meal.

Eight ounces of orange juice and half a bottle of cola both have 22 grams of sugar, and 8 ounces of your average cola (92 calories), and cola actually has slightly less calories than the same amount of orange juice (117 calories)! That isn’t even taking into account, that 8 ounces of juice, are those tiny glasses of OJ, that they give you in a diner, that everyone complains are too small. If you have a typical “small” serving of juice (16 ounces), you could have just gone and eaten a hamburger!

Even if you make the effort to buy “real fruit juice”, what does “100 percent orange juice, ” “fresh, ” and “pure” mean, anyway? According to the law, not much. Juice that has been processed to the point of loosing it’s “natural” flavor, and needs to have “natural flavor”, aromas and sugars (in the form of adding sugar, fruit juice or concentrating it by taking out water) added back into it, can legally be labeled “fresh” and “pure”. The law is not on the side of the consumer, so trust labels at your own risk.

These drinks, will “only” ruin your and your child’s appetite if you are lucky. If you are unlucky the sugars will give them enough calories to avoid real food. Calories from sugar also replaces in the diet what would typically be found in a meal. Excess calories in the form of sugar, are one of many reasons that I believe, that many children (and adults) become picky eaters. When you are hungry, even beets taste go down easy.

People often say that sugar ruins your teeth.  This is true. If your teeth are a representation of your bones, and sugar ruins your teeth, what havoc do you think sugar is having on your bones?

One of the reasons that sugar is so bad for your health, is that your body requires minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron to digest the sugars. In nature, these minerals would be in the foods you eat in the exact ratio we need to digest them, but sugar (especially white sugar) is an extract of sweet from the plant without all that other stuff that makes it less sweet. If the minerals are devoid from the sugar you consume, the sugar will borrow the necessary minerals, from your bones and organs causing mineral deficiencies, organ malfunction and failure.

Diabetes is organ failure. Failure of the pancreas to produce enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar. Osteoporosis is organ failure. Failure of your bones to properly  “remodel” themselves every 7 – 10 years, leading to thin brittle bones. What organ are you willing to sacrifice for your sugar habit?

Sugar is also the main diet of many pathenogenic bacteria. It is the main diet of candida a fungus that is known to causing various health problems. Are you wanting the sugar or the pathogens in you the one that is directing the craving?

I know, I know sugar is sweet. Sugar is good, but considering the damage to my health and that of my children, it might be a closer call if it were free but I have to pay money to get sick?

Since store bought juice has all the sugar and few if any building blocks for health, I have made a conscious choice to live without it.

A five dollar per week juice habit will cost you $250 annually; Six months of no juice will yield you $125. Not to mention At $2.50 and up for a half gallon of packaged processed juice; juice and drinks can quickly eat up a food budget.

Even real fruit and vegetable juice purchased in a package are no bargain. With all the enzymes cooked out of them via pasteurization and the flavor enhancers of unknown origin, what you end up with is even more expensive “sugar-water”.

Do I get the sugar-water drink or get some milk or an extra pound of beef, or a carton of eggs for my family? Can I now splurge on the organic apples? No juice for a year and I can I afford to go in on a split half of beef with a neighbor?

Often the cost of packaged, processed sugar water is the same or higher than food.

To me the choice is crystal clear.

Ladies, am I the only one who gives store bought juice two thumbs down (in a circle)? What are your thoughts on juice? What alternative beverages do you offer your children?

Shaniqua is a stay-at-home mom living in a small Northern California town with her husband and three-year-old son. She is the chapter leader of the Morgan Hill Chapter of the Holistic Moms Network, through which she hosts playdates and holistic cook-ins.

In her “kitchen-turned-laboratory”, Shaniqua explores the benefits of raw butter, raw cow milk and goat milk products, gluten-free and grain-free cooking, pastured meats, organ meats, and home-fermented foods. You may find her on her blog Natural Crossing.

Why Every Mom Should Have Both a Medical and a Naturopathic Doctor

naturalmedicine

In 2006, I was at my wit’s end.

Six years prior, I had discovered an itchy, pinky-nail-sized bump on the back of my left calf.

Little did I know at the time, that bump would begin to rule my life. It determined the clothing I wore, the material it was made of, the lotions, soaps and shampoos I would or could not use, when, what and where I ate.

I did not know that it would grow to be an amorphous painful, itchy blob larger than the size of the palm of my hand; nor did I know that it would shoot off half sized minions onto my torso, legs and arms. It often felt like I was being eaten alive from the inside out.

During the first 3 years of my condition, I went to all the best medical doctors (MDs) that I could afford all over New York City. I saw dermatologists, gynecologists, gastroenterologists, urologists, you name it.

The actual names given to me for these symptoms were diverse, and varied including but not limited to eczema, psoriasis, interstitial cystitis, hypothyroidism, chronic UTI’s, yeast infections, pre-diabetes and intestinal disorders.

They examined me, took samples and prescribed me some topical cream, that would reduce most of the symptoms most of the time, but inevitably, created new symptoms. The rest of the time, I needed an opposing treatment. The creams did remove the rashes at the places I applied it, but then I would get 2 more spots someplace else.

I eventually nicknamed the ailments symptoms A and symptoms B.

When I was treated for symptom A with drug A, symptoms B came on with a vengeance.

When I was treated for symptom B with drug B, symptoms A came on with a vengeance.

When I tried to bring this pattern to the attention of my MDs, my observations were dismissed. When I mentioned that certain foods seemed to make things better or worse, I was always told that the food could not affect said condition. So I let it go.

I trusted them, and why not?

They had the white coats. They have spent at least 8 years of their lives, learning how to keep people healthy, right?

I began to greatly resent this cycle and I started to pushback. If, after examination, I was prescribed the incorrect medicine I corrected them, and explained why I should have the other stuff.

Eventually, because of their complete inability to help me in any way, but mostly because of their inability to admit that they had no idea what they were working with, I began to lose my faith in MDs. And I stopped going to them except for antibiotic prescriptions. And even that was infrequent, because it was $50 for 2 pills and I had no insurance.

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At the time,  the medical world was just beginning to discover that psoriasis (and many of the other diseases mentioned above) were neither purely dermatological, nor gynecological conditions. It was slowly being redefined as an auto-immune disease. When the yeast and bacterial infections, that found their home in the open sores of psoriatic lesions were killed, the wounds still didn’t heal.

There was some underlying cause that created the sores. This new theory was that the person’s own immune system, (the one that is supposed to protect it from outside invaders) somehow went haywire and began to attack it’s own cells. How does that happen? Why does that happen?

But more importantly, how do you go about fixing a broken immune system?

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Desperate for an alternative, I began to look into home remedies, root tinctures, colonics and acupuncture. While some of the alternative health practitioners I met with had good intentions, they had no better results than the MDs; but I did notice that they never made anything worse. Eventually some of them even admitted they were stumped. I appreciated their honesty.

I scoured the internet and, finally, encountered two women who changed my life for the better, forever.

Lets call them lady A and lady B.

Lady B said that she cured her long list of symptoms, (pretty much identical to mine) by contacting a doctor in a midwestern city. She also gave a detailed outline of what she did to recover, down to the details of the diet, and the supplements she took. She said, that after suffering for 15 years, that she has been completely symptom free that for the past 5 years. The diet she recommended, could easily be classified as a stricter cousin of Paleo, with probiotics and some yeast killers made from castor oil beans.

But I was skeptical. All of my drama ended, with an elimination diet, and some castor oil? It could’t be that simple!

Lady A had a very similar symptom profile and went the 100% medical route. She said that her various medical doctors never could find the cause of her bladder pain, but were convinced that if she did not have a bladder, then it could not hurt, so they recommended a Cystectomy (removal of her bladder) to alleviate her bladder pain.

The sad truth is that even with no bladder, she still had pain.  Only now, she has to walk around with a bag to collect her own urine outside of her body at all times. She couldn’t work. She could not have children and after 5 year of this her fiance left her. She didn’t know what was going to happen to her or how much longer she would live. Her advice was, “do what ever you do, but DON’T do this. Don’t let them start taking your organs out willy-nilly”. She posted her story online because she wanted to save other women from going through what she went through.

Wow.

So of course, I was on the phone calling that doctor that Lady B recommended, ASAP!

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Lady B did say that she tried to do it on her own but was unable to get lasting results until she went to the doctor in person, lived there for a month and was able to have the support of this doctor.

That was good for her, but I was a “tough woman”. Also in my 20’s I could not afford to take off my job for a month to live in the middle of nowhere to have this royal treatment.

I got a sliding scale phone consult for $50, and he told me the same things her post said. He said to “let food be my medicine, and that with the right tools and ingredients, the body heals itself”.

It was so revolutionary, but it resonated with me. The truth that had eluded me for all of these years. Healing. Not suppression, not fighting biological warfare in my own body. I wanted peace, and for my immune system to be on MY side again fighting the right battle, not fighting me.

I bought the supplements (another $50). I had the list of foods, and I was off and running.

But while the protocol may have been simple, it was not easy!

With all the will in the world, I could not get past 3 days of this 60 day thing!

I felt better on the days I was able to stick to it, but I always caved on the 3 day mark.

I wished that I was able to have more doctors like this man, but close to home. Why couldn’t there be more doctors like him everywhere?

I did the best I could for the next few years, until I got a better job with lots of paid time off and I married a man with great health insurance.

~~~~~~~

For a while I went to see a highly rated dermatologist. But stopped when I discovered the medication she gave me was not FDA approved.

Then I remembered the Midwestern doctor again. In a few months, I would have enough time saved up to go see him for a week or two of my vacation, and take care of this cross once and for all.

When I dug out the invoice for the phone consultation that I did with him, I noticed something that I had missed years before. At the end of his name instead of having the initials M.D. his said N.D. So I Googled ND and I found:

Naturopathic physicians combine the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, naturopathic physicians help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the naturopathic physician’s role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment.

It turns out that:
A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD, but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician also studies clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling. A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician.

Bingo. A Naturopathic Doctor was exactly what I needed and wanted all of this time. No wonder his whole way of operating was so different!  There was a whole special profession of physicians who dedicate themselves to removing health barriers and helping your body heal itself.

So I looked for an naturopathic doctor in my area and turns out there was an ND/LAc (Acupuncturist) fifteen blocks from my job!

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I went in we talked. A lot. The first time we met we spoke for almost 2 hours! After she listened thoroughly she examined me and she took some blood tests. A week later she had a bag of supplements, a list of foods to avoid, and another list of foods to eat, and some cream that she said does nothing for the healing, but to use it in case the itching became unbearable.  This list was many times easier than the other diet, but still very difficult to do. In about two weeks of this easier diet, most of my plaques stopped itching, and half of my more minor plaques faded away. By the third week, my original huge plaque started to shrink.

The only way I stayed motivated enough to keep up the food restrictions was that I saw the plaques fading. Most of them ceased to itch – unless I ate something that was not allowed – talk about motivation!

I felt other symptoms subside, but I had never gotten far enough on the other diet to see my skin begin to clear up. I went to her every week for acupuncture and sometimes I needed additional supplements.

Six months into my new regimen, my original plaque (the hand sized one that I had on my left calf for 6 years) was completely gone. It had never completely disappeared, no matter what any medical doctor had ever given me.

I went to her for weekly treatment for twelve months and I continued with bi-weekly treatments for another six months.

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I still eat 80% of the food I learned to eat during my cleansing diets.

Most of all I go months without taking supplements. Honestly, I feel better with them but it’s not like the drugs where I *need* them to live.

I’m always looking for new foods to get the same nutrients as I get from supplements so I quit taking certain supplements and add new foods to see if I feel the same.
I eat wheat and dairy whenever I want (which isn’t very often), and I don’t itch. Occasionally I get a whisp of flaky skin here or there, but it’s usually after several weeks in a row of being stressed or eating especially poorly.

The biggest gift of all, is that I use most of the techniques that I learned with her with my family and friends to help them with the minor illnesses that life brings.

While I often thank God for my ND for “bringing me back the quality of my life”, I know that if someone were to need stitches, a broken bone reset, or a diastasis recti repaired an MD or a board certified surgeon is the way to go.

So my family has dedicated medical and naturopathic doctors!

We’ve since moved a couple of times, so I have gotten to work with a few naturopathic doctors all over the country. Obviously, in any profession some doctors are better than others, but what I can say is, even if a particular naturopathic physician doesn’t help you get all the way better, unlike with MDs I’ve never heard of one of them making you worse.

It’s hard to get worse eating healthier food for you, and prescribing you specific vitamins based on your own blood test results.

They take the hippocratic oath “First do no harm” very seriously.

Of course wouldn’t you know it, in some states like Florida and New York naturopathy is not licensed. In states like, Connecticut, Washington and Arizona, you can elect to have a naturopath as your primary physician and your insurance company will pay for it. You can see if your state has licensing laws for naturopathic physicians.

Despite the fact that true naturopaths go to fully accredited institutions, and go through all of that schooling, it is the individual states that grant licenses. So if you live in a state where they don’t grant licenses, they would be practicing without a license. Some do practice anyway hoping the law keeps up with them, like it did with Acupunture and Chiropractic. Some ND’s understandably avoid states that are especially hostile.

Sadly enough in the states without a license anyone can say they practice “natural medicine”, so this is where checking out their credentials (as with all doctors) is key. There are 8 naturopathic medical universities in the US and Canada.

Each discipline has its strengths and weaknesses but its up to us to use our discernment to use the right tool for the job at hand.

How can we even begin to know the right profession for our health concern, if we don’t even know that they exist?

Is it time for you to find a naturopathic doctor near you for your family?

Shaniqua is a stay-at-home mom living in a small Northern California town with her husband and three-year-old son. She is the chapter leader of the Morgan Hill Chapter of the Holistic Moms Network, through which she hosts playdates and holistic cook-ins.
In her “kitchen-turned-laboratory”, Shaniqua explores the benefits of raw butter, raw cow milk and goat milk products, gluten-free and grain-free cooking, pastured meats, organ meats, and home-fermented foods. You may find her on her blog Kinky Grass Roots.

How I Potty Trained My 14-Month-Old Using Elimination Communication

The first time that I heard of EC — i.e., Elimination Communication, or Infant Potty Training — I was at a health seminar for parents at my chiropractor’s office in San Francisco. My son was in arms and three weeks old at the time, so I exchanged tired, knowing smiles with a woman behind me who was nursing her infant.

The baby she held was wearing a hand-crocheted dress, but she kept referring to the baby as a “he”. If that was not strange enough he had no diaper attached to his bottom. He had on socks, tights and what looked like a dress. She kept him bare bottom on what I came to learn was a pre-folded diaper, sitting on her hand and every few minutes she kept peeking at his boy parts and she would feel the diaper. Curiosity got the best of me so during the break I kindly asked her what she was doing.

The woman said, “Oh, I’m working on EC with my son.” She saw me eyeing the dress and she volunteered, “This makes it easier to access his bottom so I can know what is going on down there. We are in the first stages so I’m also learning to time it.”

I said, “Wow, I’ve never heard of anything like that before, that’s… cool. So, um does it really work?”

She replied, “Women in Africa and Asia have been doing it for millennia. Babies are born knowing how to control their elimination. We train them to go in diapers and to be comfortable feeling soiled. Then we wonder why we have so much trouble with potty training later on. Also, once you both get used to it, it’s pretty convenient.”

The set up that she was using looked anything but convenient. I have a pretty expressive face so she must have seen what I was thinking, and she continued: “I catch two or three pees per day and usually poop too. At home it’s easy, but since we are at this talk and we were making such good progress, I didn’t want him to get accustomed to a wet diaper. This way I know the moment he is wet and I can change him right away.” Then the announcer ended the break and the woman excused herself saying that she was taking him to the toilet to poop. I sat down to listen to the rest of the seminar.

At the end of the seminar I asked her how the poop worked out. She looked like a proud mama and said the words that stuck with me: “Great! We’ve been using this same diaper all day!” I looked and indeed the diaper was so clean it looked like it had never been used.

I asked her how she knew that her son had to poop. She said that the baby gives signs, and that she could tell by looking in his face. She also told me how she prompted her son with a pee sound: she would lock eyes with him and made a “psst” sound like she was calling a cat. For poop she would squint her eyes and make a grunting sound. But she also said that every baby is different, and in the beginning the easiest way to do it is by “timing”.

Speaking of timing, it was time to go. She asked me about a possible playdate and I let her know that we no longer lived in the area, and that I was just there to attend the talk since I signed up for it before we moved two hours away. She told me that there were websites and books on the subject of EC and that I should Google it if I wanted to learn more. I thanked her, and was on my way.

Hmm. I was intrigued.

I did Google it later on and read about the basics. It was so out of this world that I asked my mom if she had ever heard of EC. She said she hadn’t. When I explained what it was, she said, “Oh… I guess I did that with you when you were a baby.” So I asked her to explain. She said, ”You would always poop twenty minutes or so after you ate and you would cry with a dirty diaper as soon as I went to bathe. I started waiting for you go before I would take my bath. I used to wash your diapers by hand so after a few days I thought ‘Why dirty a diaper?’ and I put you on the toilet, and you went. After that I would just put you on twenty minutes or so after you ate and drank, and you would go.” I asked her how old I was when she started doing this. She didn’t remember, but she said that I was completely diaperless, day and night, at eighteen months old.

Now I was even more intrigued.

I thought the process sounded neat but looked cumbersome. I also thought that poop and diapers was the only area of infant care I felt I had “under control” as a new mother, and I didn’t want to make any changes.

Of course my son had other plans.

I had started cloth diapers a week or two after we got home from the hospital. My reasons were economic and environmental. At two months old, my son was sleeping eleven hours at night and nursed exclusively, so when he woke up in the morning he nursed a lot. I fed him three times before his first nap, and I changed a wet or poopy diaper three times before I put him down again.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I did notice that he was beginning to skip pees on his own sometimes. Also, somewhere around two months he stopped pooping in the middle of the night and instead he would wait to poop until I came to get him in the morning. But every single morning, when I went to get him from his first nap, he would be covered head to toe in pee. It was a lot more fluid than he expelled overnight! I didn’t know what was going on, but I started using the overnight inserts for naps (and ordered the toddler inserts, since I was concerned that my two-month-old was already a heavy-wetter).

That worked for about three weeks, but at three and a half months he began to overflow those too. I thought of that woman from the seminar who had her son in a dress, and I decided to find out “what is going on down there”. Instead of putting my son in a diaper during his last feeding, I held him as usual, but this time I had his bottom in a foot basin, and I left the snap undone on his onesie… it  looked kind of like a dress…

I don’t know about you, but I thought that infants had a semi-constant flow of pee going on in those diapers. Not so! It actually took my son 45 minutes to pee after feeding. He stopped what he was doing, and got a certain look in his eyes like he was thinking of something far away… and there it was: ⅓ cup of pee in the basin and a big smile from the little guy!

Wouldn’t you know it, he did not overflow his nap diaper that day!

After a few days, he started to pee sooner after eating, about 15 minutes. I was impressed with the amount of awareness and control he had (but since then I’ve learned that this control is very common in young cloth-diapered babies, although I have read that some babies always pee during a feeding). I began nursing him with a prefold so I didn’t have to put on and take off a diaper. Also I invested in a biodegradable infant potty that I kept on his changing table.

Instead of changing him *after* he soiled his diaper, I would put him on the potty and he would eventually go! While we waited I would read him books or he would play with toys until he pooped. Here is a picture of him doing exactly this at six months old:

After he went potty I would let him sit bare-butt on a mattress protector on the carpet. He liked that, and so did I! In less than a week of experimenting with EC, I had become “that” (strange, sweet) lady from the seminar!

In retrospect, I have a good guess about why my son was skipping pees and overflowing those naptime diapers. I think that he was experimenting with holding it as long as he could, since cloth diapers allow the baby to feel wetness (which he didn’t like).  By giving him an opportunity to eliminate before I put him down he could begin his holding again during his nap and the diaper still had enough room to hold the pee from when he woke up.

One of the coolest things about doing EC so young is that you have a captive audience! The very young babies stay put when you put them down; they don’t know how to say “no”; they don’t have to unlearn (much) “diaper training”; they usually think it’s fun; and they are mostly in your arms already. So it is about as low mess and low pressure as it gets!

Cleaning his bottom after a poop was also easier since the poop wasn’t smeared all over. I would pour the poop in the toilet and simply wash the potty with hand soap. This way I was able to go three days before I had to wash diapers, instead of every day…

Doing EC doesn’t necessarily mean giving up diapers altogether. When my son and I went out, I would have him in a diaper — but I was able to leave the house with only one extra insert and a collapsible potty seat. Many days he would come home hours later in the same diaper he left the house in. I would take him to the toilet when I thought he had to go, and put the same clean diaper back on him. Wherever we went, I never had to hand the host a poopy diaper to dispose of.

I got another potty seat that I kept in my trunk, and I would potty my son before putting him in his car seat. If he peed, I could simply empty the potty by a tree and clean it out with a spray bottle I kept in my car. I kept a couple of flat diapers and a wet bag in case I needed to deal with a poop, but this didn’t happen much, because he preferred to poop at home.

I even took the collapsible seat on airplanes. One time he used the same (disposable) diaper all the way from SFO to ATL, even with layovers! During his diapered life I think we bought a total of five packs of disposable diapers to use while traveling.

EC is totally possible, and counterintuitively enough it is not at all complicated once you get the hang of it. It will work even if you only do it “imperfectly”. For example, according to the books I’ve read, the best times to catch a pee is are in the morning and as soon as baby wakes up from a nap; but sad to say I *always* missed those… and EC still worked with my son. (This is referred to as being a “part-time EC’er”.)

In my opinion, the hardest part about doing EC is believing it works! In my case I was fortunate to run into that woman at the seminar so I could see EC in action, and I was very happy to have a potty trained baby!

People looking for a good book on EC (instead of hoping to run into a nice woman at a seminar) could start with this one: Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living by Laurie Boucke. I found it the best because it discussed everything from how to begin EC in the first days (which I would do if I have another child) to regressions (which my son experienced as he learned to crawl and walk). But do be aware that if your child is 12-15 months old before beginning any kind of potty training, traditional methods are likely to be more effective than EC.

Have any of you tried EC or Infant Potty Training? Why or why not?

Shaniqua is a stay-at-home mom living in a small Northern California town with her husband and three-year-old son. She is the chapter leader of the Morgan Hill Chapter of the Holistic Moms Network, through which she hosts playdates and holistic cook-ins. In her “kitchen-turned-laboratory”, Shaniqua explores the benefits of raw butter, raw cow milk and goat milk products, gluten-free and grain-free cooking, pastured meats, organ meats, and home-fermented foods. You may find her on her blog Kinky Grass Roots.