April 29, 2013

Special Diet for Kidney Stones

Kidney stones form because of mineral deposition in the walls of the urinary tract. They are caused by the high mineral content of the urine. Most stones are so small that they may pass out on their own; however, some stones may collect deposits and become large enough to cause pain and/or obstruction of the urinary tract. 

Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stones and for people who have this type of stone, reducing the consumption of calcium and oxalate in the diet may help a great deal. In a low oxalate diet, the intake of oxalate should be limited to 40-50 mg per day.1

General dietary rules for prevention of kidney stones:

  • Intake of calcium and protein is restricted for persons who are prone to kidney stones. Foods like spinach, kale, ragi, and eggs are high in calcium and must be avoided.
  • Limit consumption of oxalate-rich foods for oxalate stones and purine-rich foods for uric acid stones.
  • Consume lots of fluids to reduce the concentration of urine and prevent formation of stones. The best fluids to consume are water, barley malt, coconut water, lime/lemon juice, and some fruit juices. Remember to reduce the salt in your beverages or avoid it completely.
  • Avoid consumption of vegetables with seeds like tomatoes, brinjal/eggplant, okra/ladiesfinger, capsicum etc.2

This list of
foods can help you plan your diet if you or someone in your family has kidney stones or is prone to getting them.

Avoid these calcium-rich foods:
  • Ragi
  • Chana dal
  • Matki beans
  • Rajma or kidney beans
  • Spinach, kale, and other green leafy vegetables
  • Coconut
  • Sesame seeds
  • All nuts and dry fruits like almond, figs, cashewnut, raisins
  • Mustard in all forms
  • All dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt etc

Avoid these high oxalate foods:
  • Chocolate and cocoa in any form
  • Instant coffee
  • Black tea
  • Soy products
  • Nuts
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Beetroot
  • Carrot
  • Potato
  • Sweet potato 


Include these foods in moderation: Limit the consumption of these foods to 2-3 servings per day, these foods have 2-10 mg of oxalate per serving.
  • Brewed coffee
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Prunes
  • Pineapples
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Corn
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes

Include these low-oxalate foods in your diet freely:
  • Buttermilk
  • Green tea
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Cherries
  • Mangoes
  • Papaya
  • Barley
  • White rice
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Lemons 
 If you have had kidney stones before, you can prevent recurrence by following these basic rules for diet. 


References:

1. Low oxalate diet - University of Pittsburgh

2. Diet for kidney stones



Image courtesy thynkyr/Flickr CC


April 26, 2013

A Tip to Relieve Seasonal Allergies

If you or anyone you know suffers from allergies at this time of the year, here's a little tip!

Increase the intake of vitamin C in your diet, or if you are not already taking a vitamin C supplement, start taking one now! Vitamin C has anti-histamine properties, and will help to relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies and hay fever. It is recommended that adults take at least 500-1000 mg vitamin C and up to 1500-2000 mg a day. You will start seeing the difference right away. Reduce the dosage after you experience relief from sneezing and itchy eyes and nose, you can increase it again if the severity of symptoms increases.

However, here's a word of warning for those who are prone to kidney stones. Vitamin C increases the tendency to form stones, so control the dosage depending on your health status.

Also do read my post on how homeopathy can help relieve hay fever and pollen allergies! What's even better is that homeopathy is safe for everyone!

Stay healthy!

 


April 22, 2013

Monday Health Tip - How to Choose a Good Yogurt or Make Your Own!

The benefits of yogurt are well-known and it is used by people of all cultures to maintain digestive health. Yogurt is traditionally prepared at home in Indian households. However, due to fast-paced life, many people are finding it convenient to buy yogurt from their local supermarkets. Supermarket yogurts are even available in a myriad of flavors so that one doesn't get bored of the same plain taste (though how anyone can get bored of good ol' yogurt is beyond me! Can you tell how much I love yogurt?). In today's health tip, let's learn how to choose a good yogurt at the supermarket, and better still, how to make yogurt at home!

How to Choose a Healthy Yogurt

  • As with anything else, read the label! The label will tell you what the yogurt really contains. Good yogurt should contain only milk or cream and bacterial cultures and nothing else.
  • Many times yogurts contain fillers like corn starch, gelatin, pectin, or inulin. These fillers are nothing but thickening agents, but that means you are not getting what you are paying for - real yogurt! 
  • Also, if you are consuming yogurt as part of a special diet, then bear in mind that these fillers add extra carbohydrates to your diet, apart from those already provided by the dairy constituents of the yogurt.
  • Additionally, flavored yogurts usually contain added flavors and colors, preservatives, as well as sugar, or some sort of sweetener. 
  • Real yogurt is not meant to be sweet, but slightly tangy or creamy. If you like sweet yogurt, buy (or make) plain yogurt and add the sugar (or fruit) at home, at least you can control the amount of added sugar and eliminate other unnecessary ingredients.
Even some kinds of Greek yogurt contain the fillers mentioned above, and that, in my opinion, is not real Greek yogurt. So what's the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt? Greek yogurt has about 9% more fat than regular yogurt, but it also has up to 3 times more protein and about half the carbohydrates of regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is made by straining the whey from the yogurt, resulting in a thick creamy product. It is high in fat because it uses 3 times more milk to produce the same amount of Greek yogurt as regular yogurt. If 1 cup milk makes 1 cup regular yogurt, it takes 4 cups milk to make the same amount of Greek yogurt.

How to Make Yogurt at Home

There are lots of websites on the internet that give instructions on making yogurt at home. I'll just describe how I do it at home, and I use home-made yogurt 99% of the time. I have always used yogurt itself as a starter. You can also buy starters online and I've heard that dry active cultures make the best yogurt, but I haven't tried any myself. Dannon All Natural plain yogurt makes  for a good starter, as well as the Desi yogurt I get from the Indian grocery store. (It seems they're both from the same source, I'm not surprised since I find their taste very similar.) The main reason I prefer these brands is because they don't contain gelatin (I'm a vegetarian).

The method: Heat milk in a stainless steel vessel on low until it is slightly warm. Remove from heat and if it is too warm, let it cool until it is lukewarm (or just warm enough for you to dip your fingers in comfortably). When you feel it is the right temperature, add 1 tablespoon starter to the milk and stir once. Cover the container and keep in a warm place. In summers, I just let this sit on the stove top or the kitchen counter at room temperature. In winter, I warm the oven at 200F for 10 minutes, turn it off, and then keep the milk in it overnight. Sometimes, I also leave the cultured milk in the microwave with the light on. If you have an oven that has a light switch, you could keep the cultured milk in the oven with the light turned on.

Let the cultured milk set for 8-12 hours. Once the yogurt is set, it will separate from the whey and you will see the whey on top. 

To make Greek yogurt, you need to strain this whey by taking the yogurt in a cheesecloth and suspending it from a height so that every drop of liquid drops away. Whey is extremely rich in nutrients, so don't throw it away! Use it to cook rice, or make smoothies. When all the whey is removed, then remove the yogurt from the cheesecloth, beat well, and store in a container inside the fridge.

Do's and don'ts

1. Do cover the vessel! This saves the warmth from escaping and also prevents other bacteria from entering your milk culture.

2. Do test the temperature of the milk before adding the culture. If it is too hot, the culture will die. If it is too cold, the culture won't multiply.

3. Don't stir or move the container while it is setting. Yogurt does not set if it is disturbed, so just let it be!

4. Do not add salt to the milk until yogurt has set. Salt prevents fermentation so the yogurt won't set. You can add sugar if you like but again, it's best to let the yogurt set and then add whatever you like.

5. Do use a metal or glass or terracotta container to set yogurt. Yogurt does not set well in plastic containers.

6. Do store yogurt in the fridge after it has set, or it will turn sour. You can make buttermilk from sour yogurt.


Tips: 

1. If the cultured milk has been sitting for more than 8 hours and has not set, then add some warm milk to the mixture (not too hot, not too cold but warmer than lukewarm). The quantity of warm milk will depend on the quantity of cultured milk that you have. As a general rule, add about 1/2 cup warm milk for every 4 cups of cultured milk. Do not stir. Just add the milk and let it set on its own. You could also keep the container in some warm water so that it absorbs the heat, but adding warm milk has worked for me every time. Do not heat the container or the milk will curdle and you'll get cheese, not yogurt!

2. You can use your own yogurt as a starter every time you make yogurt. This starter can be used forever, but I like to use a new starter every few months for freshness.

3. Use your fingers to gauge the temperature of the milk and mix in the culture. It will help you determine the correct temperature of the milk. I have experienced a difference in the way yogurt sets when I use a spoon versus using my hands. If it's too hot for your fingers, it's too hot for the culture.

4. If your yogurt has turned bitter, it can still be consumed if you can tolerate the bitter taste or mask it in smoothies, but it is not good to use as a starter. Make yogurt again with a fresh starter.

5. Whole milk makes the best yogurt. If you prefer to use skim milk and would like thick yogurt, then reduce it to half by boiling it, cool it to lukewarm and add the culture; or make the yogurt with skim milk and then strain the whey for thicker yogurt. 

6. Some people use yogurt makers to make consistently good yogurt at home. Yogurt-making involves a lot of variables like temperature of the milk, activity of the starter, weather, etc. so if you don't like to think about all the things that can go wrong with making yogurt, buy a yogurt maker! 


                                    

April 18, 2013

Homeopathy for Insect Bites

Warm weather is here and many of us are going to be busy with outdoor activities. The new buds and blooms bring along with them bees and other insects that we need to be careful about while enjoying nature outdoors. Most often, minor insect bites do not need any special attention. Application of ice or aloe vera gel soothes the bites greatly and they are relieved of their own accord in due course of time. However, sometimes symptoms are agonizing, especially for little children. If you are looking for a non-drowsy (or non-stimulating, as the case may be) alternative to conventional anti-histamines, turn to homeopathy! 

Before using any remedy, it is important to perform basic first aid by washing the wound with water and then cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide. This helps to kill most bacteria that may cause infections around the area of the bite.


We have already seen the usefulness of homeopathic remedies in first aid in a previous post. Now let's look at how homeopathy can be used to relieve the symptoms of insect bites.

When insect bite is followed by extreme fear, Aconite is useful. It is often the first remedy to be given in any kind of mental shock. Many times little children are really afraid of having been bitten and Aconite will help when this is the most prominent symptom.

Apis is nearly specific to all kinds of insect bites, especially to those that are red and swollen. Swelling develops rapidly around the bite and there is a sharp stinging type of pain. The area of the bite is worse from heat and better from cold. Remember Apis in bee stings.

Cantharis is useful when blisters develop around the bite and there is an intense burning pain. Persons needing cantharis feel better from warmth.

Carbolic acid can be of use when anaphylactic symptoms have developed and there is difficulty in breathing, with a reddish face and paleness around the mouth. The insect bite itself develops into vesicles with burning pain. Emergency medical care is usually called for before the symptoms progress to this state. However, carbolic acid can be very useful if one is ever stuck in some place where medical care is not immediately available.

Hypericum can help if you develop sharp shooting pains after an insect bite. There may be numbness and tingling after the bite, or muscle spasms in severe conditions.

Ledum pal is the most commonly used remedy for all kinds of insect bites from spiders, scorpions, mosquitoes, bees, and wasps. The area of the bite is extremely itchy and is better by cold applications. Ledum is useful to the person who always wants ice on the bite.

When the insect bite feels better by rubbing the area, Urtica urens is useful. The area turns red with large itchy welts. It is also indicated for hives and any allergic reactions as a result of the bite.

These are the major remedies used for insect bites, other remedies may also be used depending on the symptoms of the person who is bitten. Homeopathy can be immensely helpful in acute conditions, as long as the correct remedy and dosage are used. Therefore, if you prefer to use homeopathy, please consult a homeopath for recommendations on the best remedy suited to you.

Seek immediate medical attention if:

- the insect bite has a bull's eye pattern around it (brown recluse spider or tick bite)
- symptoms are not relieved and fever develops in 24-48 hours
- evidence of more than 10 bee or wasp stings
- evidence of more than 15 fire ant bites in a child
- insect bite inside the mouth (risk of tongue swelling)
- unconsciousness after the bite1


I hope you have a wonderful summer!


References

1. Homeopathy Clinic 

2. National Center for Homeopathy



Image courtesy Karen Roe/Flickr CC


April 10, 2013

You Can Change Your Genes!

DNA double helix
"It's in your genes." Everyone has heard this phrase before. Would you believe me if I told you that even though it's in your genes, you can change how your genes act? Although this concept is nothing new to mind-body medicine and holistic healing systems, it was not analyzed by evidence-based medicine until the turn of the century. When some scientific studies came to light around 2003-2004, they brought about a major transition in the scientific circles regarding genetics. The popular belief that you are born with a set of genes that is your karma is now being challenged by a new science called epigenetics. As promised in this post about the high incidence of immune system disorders, I'm here today with some basic facts about genetics, and lots more food for thought! Read on because this is important!

What is a gene? 

A gene is the basic physical and functional unit of heredity. Genes are the set of instructions for the characteristics of an organism, which are passed on from parents to the child. 

Genes contain DNA which make up the code that contains these instructions.

If you need a detailed refresher in genetics, please see this link explaining the Basics of genetics.


What is heredity? 

To acquire a set of traits from your parents is known as heredity. 

Even though a child receives the same genetic material from paternal and maternal genes, only some traits of each parent are seen in the child; that is when we say that a child looks more like the father or the mother. When a child looks more like the mother, it is because her set of genes is expressed in the child's genetic code.


What is genetic expression?2,3,4

Genes are like switches in our body. They can be turned on or off. Some genes always remain 'on', but some genes can be turned on or off. This alteration in gene activity is called gene expression.

For example, take the case of the genes that control hair color. As a man or woman ages, their hair will turn grey and then turn white. This happens because with aging, the gene for dark hair turns off and the gene for white hair is turned on. Further, premature greying of hair is also possible because of factors like stress. Now, how is that possible when all genes are coded to produce the trait of dark hair in young age? It is possible because of epigenetic changes. Normal changes of aging are also understood to be caused by epigenetics, which may explain why some people age faster than others.

 
Diagram 1 - Epigenetic mechanisms
What is epigenetics?5,6,7

It is defined as the study of changes in gene expression that do not involve alteration of the genetic code but can be passed on to the successive generation(s) through heredity. If genes are switches, epigenetic causes are the tape over that switch that can keep them turned on or off. These epigenetic causes are environmental - diet, chemicals and toxins, nature - sun rays, exercise, stress, behavior, pollution - all of these are able to alter the way our genes act.



Diagram2 - Epigenetic causes of cancer
How can epigenetic changes affect our health during our lifetime?

We now know that environmental factors8 can change our genetic activity, but exactly how that happens is still not clear. Science has always believed that genes cannot be altered, but the study of epigenetic changes has brought about a completely different outlook to the Darwinian theory of evolution and natural selection. 

With the discovery of epigenetic changes, scientists are on the way to explaining how cancer9,10 develops, the causes of developmental disorders11,12,13 in children, Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, and also depression. If you think about the many diagnoses that are attributed to 'genetic' or 'unknown' causes today, you will be able to comprehend the importance of understanding epigenetics.


What can we do to prevent epigenetic changes?

Epigenetic changes can start at the developmental stages of a fetus, and accumulate throughout one's lifetime. This has been studied by examining the changes in monozygotic twins14, who are genetically identical. 

To prevent negative epigenetic changes, do what you have always been told to do for good health. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat wholesome and nutritious food, drink chemical-free water, reduce your body's exposure to toxins in every way possible (think unnecessary medical drugs and treatments, GMOs), exercise, and stay stress free.

Can epigenetic changes be reversed?

Yes. Epigenetic changes are reversible because they do not alter the DNA.

How can we reverse epigenetic changes?15

There is a lot of research going on around this subject and we will know the definite answer to this question in the near future. However, since we know that environmental changes like stress, improper nutrition,  toxins and chemicals are all responsible for causing negative epigenetic effects on our cells at the level of the DNA, it is extremely important that we avoid these causes and practice a healthy lifestyle.

The most important lesson to learn from epigenetics is that our genes are not our destiny. Your genes can change during your lifetime, and you have the power to change them - both positively and negatively - as well as pass on these changes to your children16, so choose wisely!

I have attempted a very concise explanation of how an age-old thought is now being scientifically explained. For better understanding, please read all the information provided in the references and watch the short video (link in number 7).
 

References

1. What is a gene?

2. Gene Expression and Regulation - An explanation at Nature.com

3. The Mechanism of Gene Expression - The Human Genome by Wellcome Trust 

4. Environmental Influences on Gene Expression - Nature.com

5. Epigenetic - Definition at National Institutes of Health

6. What is the Epigenome? - The National Institutes of Health

7. A 13:25 minute PBS video on Epigenetics - Watch it!

8. Epigenetics and Environmental Diseases - An explanation of epigenetic mechanisms and environmental factors that cause epigenetic changes 

9. Epigenetics and Cancer - A study summarizing epigenetic mechanisms involved in the development of cancer, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2010. The study concludes:

"The importance of epigenetics in cancer has been recognized and interest in the field has grown dramatically over the last few years...An understanding of the link between epigenetic deregulation and cancer will help in designing better treatment strategies. Additionally, the intrinsic reversibility of epigenetic alterations represents an exciting opportunity for the development of novel strategies for cancer prevention."

10. Epigenetic Factors in Understanding Cancer - National Cancer Institute

11. Modern Views on the Genetics of Autism - Johns Hopkins McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine  

"Genes, by themselves, probably don’t cause autism, Goldstein says, and wouldn’t make good targets for therapy. Most likely, it’s a combination of genetic variants—deletions, duplications and/or insertions—spread across the genome that makes an individual susceptible to some provocateur: an epigenetic, environmental or immunological factor that tips the balance and causes a disorder on the very wide spectrum defined as autism."

12. Autism Researchers Discover Epigenetic Changes - Autism Speaks

13. Autism Spectrum Disorders and Epigenetics - A study summarizing epigenetic modifications to genes possibly involved in the causation of ASD, published in 2010 in the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The study concludes: 

"Data reviewed in this article highlight a variety of situations in which epigenetic dysregulation is associated with the development of ASD, thereby supporting a role for epigenetics in the multifactorial etiologies of ASD."

14. The Epigenetic Profiles of Monozygotic (Identical) Twins - From Epigenome.eu, supporting the communication of high calibre science in the rapidly expanding field of epigenetics across Europe

15. Nutritional changes can reverse epigenetic effects - A study published in 2010 in an international review journal - Advances in Nutrition

16. Epigenetics now explains Attachment Parenting - The ground-breaking results of a study by Dr. Michael Meaney at McGill University, Montreal.

17. An excellent article explaining genotype, phenotype, mutations, and trans-generational epigenetic influences on inherited mutations:

Burga, A. and Lehner, B. (2012), Beyond genotype to phenotype: why the phenotype of an individual cannot always be predicted from their genome sequence and the environment that they experience. FEBS Journal, 279: 3765–3775. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2012.08810.x

News articles on epigenetics:


18. Epigenetics - An article on Nature.com

19. Epigenetics - 100 reasons to change the way we think about genetics - An article on Sciencedaily.com

20. DNA is not destiny - A Nov. 2006 article in Discover Magazine

21. Why your DNA is not your destiny - The Times article that introduced me to epigenetics

22. You can change your DNA - Institute of HeartMath




DNA double helix image by ghutchis/Flickr CC

Diagram1 By National Institutes of Health (http://commonfund.nih.gov/epigenomics/figure.aspx) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Diagram2 By Bernstein0275 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0  (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons


April 8, 2013

Monday Health Tip - Homemade fruit leather

Fruit Leather
Are you looking for more ways to include fruits in your child's diet? Or maybe you want to have fruits handy for vacation trips as a to-go snack? (And no, Welch's Fruit Snacks don't cut it for me because they have gelatin, and artificial flavors and colors. It's more fun to make it yourself anyway!) Have you ever thought of introducing your child to the mango jelly that you relished as a child, and wondered where to find an authentic product that melts in your mouth and tastes sweet and tangy at the same time? You can make it in your own kitchen, and I will show you how! But first, let's learn some facts about fruit leather.

What is fruit leather? 

 

Simply put, it is dehydrated fruit puree. It is a condensed form of the whole fruit, with a longer shelf life. What is called maamiDi taanDra in Telugu or aam papaD in Hindi or aam sotto in Bengali, is called fruit leather in English. It is also known as mango jelly in India.

 

Traditionally, it was made in homes by sun-drying fruit pulp. Today, it is commercially made in India by adding preservatives and sugar to mango pulp, which is sun-dried and one layer is added on top of another to create a bar.


Nutritional value of fruit leather


Since it is made from whole fruit, fruit leather contains the same nutritional value as the fruit, with some changes depending on the other ingredients. Vitamin C may be reduced as it is oxidized easily after the fruit is cut.

This recipe is for mango leather, but you can use any fruit that you have in abundance. Apples, peaches, plums, pears, berries, bananas, pineapples, are all good for this recipe! This is by no means the complete list of fruits so just use your imagination and your favorite fruit. The only thing to take note of is that different fruits have different percentages of water content, so the dehydrating time will vary greatly from two hours up to eight hours (look at my tip about reducing baking time at the end of the post). 

You can also mix two or more fruits to create different tastes and textures. It is a very easy process that anyone can do, and this can be a great way to introduce older kids to food preservation through dehydration.

Here's the recipe!

 

What you need:

2 cups chopped mango
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon organic raw sugar (optional)

What you do:

Image jessicafm/Flickr CC
Preheat the oven to the lowest setting, 150F or 200F will work, anything below 200F is okay - it just might take a little longer to dehydrate if you use a lower temperature. Take all the ingredients in a blender and blend to a smooth puree. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and grease the paper with some oil or butter. Pour the mango puree onto the greased paper and using a spatula, knife, or the back of a spoon, smooth it out so that the puree is spread evenly across the tray. It needs to be as thin as possible, without being transparent, around 1/8th of an inch. Put this tray in the middle rack of the oven and set the timer to 2 hours. Check on it every 2 hours. It is done when the fruit peels away easily from the tray and you don't find any of it sticking to the tray. Mine took approximately 5 hours. Remove the tray from the oven and let it cool completely before you try to handle the fruit leather. Once cooled, use a scissors to cut into strips, roll them up and store in zip-loc bags for up to a week at room temperature (70F), a few months in the fridge, and as long as you want to in the freezer!  


Tips and variations:


1. You could mix different fruits to create variations -  try mixing berries, or mango-pineapple, banana-watermelon, mango-peach.

2. You could make a spicy savory fruit leather by adding Indian rock salt, or chaat masala, or cinnamon (pairs well with apple).

3. Using a sweetener is completely optional. If the fruit is sweet to begin with, you probably won't need any extra sweetener. Remember that the sugars are concentrated in the fruit after dehydrating, so it will turn out sweeter after it is done.

4. If you use organic fruits, you can include the skin of fruits like apples and pears for a slightly different texture. It is advisable to peel off the skin if it is not organic.

5. To reduce oven time, take the fruit puree and sweetener in a thick-bottomed pan and cook on low heat until it loses some of its moisture and thickens up. This way it will have to spend less time baking in the oven. Add lemon juice after you remove from heat and then pour it into the prepared baking tray.

6. Don't pour all the fruit puree at once into the baking tray. Pour some and spread it around in the tray and add some more if you think it needs some more thickness. If you pour it all at once, it might turn out too thick.

7. If you don't have an oven for dehydration, use the traditional method of sun drying. It might take 24-48 hours of sun, or more, depending on how hot it is. Cover the tray with a light cheese cloth or muslin cloth if you are concerned about contamination with dust or other particles.

8. Sometimes, the edges are done first and the center remains sticky. In that case, cut out the edges and keep the center back in the oven to dehydrate some more.


This is a great way to get kids to eat fruit, as well as enjoy it. When made at home, you will know what ingredients go into it, and you can be flexible with what you want to use. When you have an abundance of fruit in your home this summer, try making some fruit leather!

Fruit leather image by kthread/Flickr CC


April 5, 2013

Preventing Autism - A video from Youtube

Like I said in this post about the increasing incidence of immune system disorders, I'm working on a post on genetics. It needs a lot of time and research so that will take a while to come about!

Meanwhile, I wanted to share with you a Youtube video that I actually saw on Facebook first. It is a video for all parents, where 1287 parents of children with autism were surveyed and this is what they have to say about preventing autism.

                   

Medical doctors may not view this advice as scientific, but after a child regresses into autism, most often, the parent will know the co-relation between certain environmental factors and their child's regression. Who better to listen to than those parents? Please watch the video and share as much as possible.



April 3, 2013

The ABC's of Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month. A recent study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the rate of prevalence of autism to be 1 in 50 children in the USA, with the rate of incidence for boys at 1 in 31. In India, no studies have been done to provide such data for the Indian population.
 

More people today are aware about autism than they were before, and awareness is spreading due to the constant media coverage this disorder receives. It is viewed as an epidemic by some, while others feel that higher incidence is reported due to increased awareness. From personal experience, I can say that autism needs to be considered an epidemic because it is not only highly reported, but also highly prevalent.

Primary health care providers and pediatricians often miss the signs of developmental delays. In 2006, a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Children's Center and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that only 8% of pediatricians in Maryland and Delaware screened for Autism Spectrum Disorders because they were not aware of the screening methods. Since then, the American Association of Pediatrics has recommended a systematic developmental screening in primary care for children at 9, 18, 24, and/or 30 months. However, primary care physicians may not screen all children or may miss some signs since they do not spend as much time with the child as the parent does. If a parent feels the need for intervention, then they must follow up with trusted healthcare providers for the help their child needs. 

Some children are said to be born with autism but some children regress into it. Regressive autism symptoms may be noticed as a stark change in a child's development where he is normal on the developmental timeline and then slowly falls behind. This change is usually gradual and may be triggered by several environmental factors. Autism is mostly diagnosed within the first 3 years of a child's life.

Autism is considered to be irreversible. In the conventional sense, that is true, because orthodox medicine does not have a cure for autism in the form of prescription drugs. However, many different methods have helped children overcome their diagnosis of autism and function in the 'normal' world. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, art therapy, nutritional changes and detoxes, individualized homeopathic therapy, have all helped in one way or other. 

Early intervention is important in the management and reversal of developmental disorders. Because autism is a broad phrase that includes different signs and symptoms observed in children with developmental difficulties, the occurrence of symptoms and their intensity is individualistic. Therefore diagnosis and management also need to be exclusive to the individual. 
 
Individualized homeopathic therapy can help by matching the symptoms of the child with the characteristics of a remedy. Belladonna, Calcarea carbonica, Baryta carbonica, Hyoscyamus, Medorrhinum, Veratrum album are just some remedies that are useful in homeopathic management of autism spectrum disorder. There are many more remedies that can be used based on the symptoms of the child.

A Dutch homeopath, Dr. Tinus Smits, developed a homeopathic protocol for autism, called CEASE (Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression). This highly effective therapy constitutes homeopathic detoxification, dietary changes and supplementation, and constitutional homeopathic management for long term health. 

The birth of a healthy child is a miracle; keeping a child healthy is an art. - Dr. Tinus Smits, M.D.



Additional reading


1. CEASE Therapy website

2. Resources for early diagnosis of autism for parents and professionals
Help Autism Now Society

3. An article by Dr. Martha Herbert, Neurologist and Neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School - Autism is bigger than genes

4. Autism can be reversed, says Elizabeth Mumper, M. D.

5. Amy Lansky, PhD, a homeopath who cured her son's autism, wrote a book about her experience called Impossible Cure 

6. Is it autism? - A resource for autism screening tools for parents and professionals

7. Action For Autism - A non-profit organization providing support and services to persons with autism in India. This website has a wealth of information for anyone in India.

8. Dr. Jerry Kartzinel, pediatrician, explains the reversal of autism
"Let’s consider autism to be a collection of mismanaged incoming information and stimuli. The more mismanaged the information and stimuli, the more severe we consider the individual with Autism. Let me illustrate this point with a word picture. Imagine someone with too many alcoholic beverages “on board.”  We can easily recognize by how he responds to incoming information (stimuli) such as his language, how he walks (or how he drives) that he has had way too much of alcohol. Of course, the more alcohol on board, the more distorted his response to the environment and the more “severe” or “toxic” we consider the individual. If we remove the source of the alcohol, we can expect some degree of recovery. Similarly, with autistic children, if we remove the sources of the mismanagement of incoming stimuli and information, we can expect a certain amount of improvement."


April 1, 2013

Monday Health Tip - The importance of dietary fiber

Have you or anyone in your family ever been told to 'eat a high fiber diet'? Many of us have heard this recommendation at one time or another. Everyone knows that fiber is good, but do you really know why? Do you know how much fiber should be included in a 'high' fiber diet? Let's understand the how's and why's of a fiber rich diet today.



What is fiber? 

Fiber is the indigestible bulk that remains after your food has been digested.

There are two types of fiber:
  • Soluble fiber - This mixes with the liquids in your diet and forms a gel, thereby slowing the movement of the food bolus through the intestine. This makes you feel fuller for a longer time so it aids in weight loss; and it also maintains blood sugar levels.
  • Insoluble fiber - This forms the bulk of the food bolus and passes through the digestive system completely undigested. It mainly helps to prevent and relieve constipation. 
 

How much fiber do we need?


The average daily recommended value of fiber is 14 grams per 1000 calories. That means, if your daily dietary requirement is 2000 calories, then you need to consume at least 28 grams of fiber per day. Most of us consume only half the daily value or lesser.


Benefits of fiber in the diet

 

  • Maintains bowel health: Fiber provides bulk and helps to regulate the bowel movements by both increasing the weight of the stool as well as softening it. This prevents and relieves constipation and hemorrhoids.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels: A diet rich in oats, beans, flax seed, and bran may help in lowering the bad cholesterol in the blood.
  • Maintains blood sugar levels: Fiber slows down digestion so that food moves more slowly through the digestive tract, regulating the absorption of sugar.
  • Helps maintain weight: Fiber makes us feel full for a longer time due to the slower digestion, so we tend to eat less often. Fiber-rich foods also require more chewing, so we tend to eat less.
  • Fiber-rich foods are richer in nutrients and lower in calories.
   
Sources of fiber

Fiber is found only in plant foods. Most foods contain a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber in a varying percentage. Since we need both types of fiber for receiving optimum benefits, it is important to consume a variety of fiber-rich foods.

Grains: Oats, oat bran, wheat bran, brown rice, quinoa

Nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts, walnuts, flax seeds, sesame, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds

Fruits: Apples, avocado, banana, guava, citrus fruits, plums, pears, berries, figs, raisins

Vegetables: Broccoli, brussel sprouts, beetroot, carrot, peas, beans, kale, corn, pumpkin or squash

On an average, almost every fruit and vegetable has some amount of fiber. So there you have another reason to eat more fruits and veggies!

Now, it is extremely essential to understand that the best source of fiber is from whole foods. The benefits of a fiber-rich diet are well-known but not well-understood. So much so that fiber is advertised to us but it is usually not very healthy. Take this example where one serving (40 grams) of the product contains 10 grams of sugar and is advertised to provide 35% of the daily recommended value of fiber. We'll leave the big discussion about sugar to another post, but the bottomline is, get your fiber from real food.


What about fiber supplements?


Fiber supplements are fine, depending on what you use. Commercially available supplements are usually highly processed to be more palatable, and may contain added sweeteners and artificial flavors and colors. So it is not recommended to take them over a long term, but they can be taken for a short time to relieve symptoms.

If you do have to take a supplement for the long term, then I suggest you find a pure psyllium husk powder, with no flavors, colors, or sweeteners. You can use 1 tablespoon in 1 glass of water every night for adults. It expands on contact with water so you need to drink it quickly. A note of caution, do not give psyllium husk to children younger than 5 years - it may cause choking if not swallowed properly.

So now you know you fiber facts, feel full with fiber!