A 3-step plan to optimize your Child’s health

A 3-step plan to optimize your Child’s health

This is how you can support symptoms of Autism, Focus issues, Hyperactivity or Behavior.

If you are reading this, you are likely a parent or a practitioner working in deep muddy waters to heal and support your child’s autism related symptoms, cure her eczema, heal his digestive issues, address her aggression, or modulate his hyperactivity.

Regardless of your journey, perhaps you are frustrated with different approaches, diametrically opposite schools of thought, and simply of the relentless work it seems to take to achieve just normal health.

I have something to say to you, something that is a learning that I have assimilated over years.

Healing is multi-modal and takes approaching from many directions.

Healing is NOT linear. We don’t go step by step to a path to health.

We converge upon it from many directions, and find our equilibrium.

This process of Healing that leads to Optimal Performance is in my mental model, a pyramid (I am wondering if it should be a cone since I said circular, but we will address geometry later).

The 3 layers of this pyramid are:

  1. Functional Health [Nutrition and optimal System Function]
  2. Movement
  3. Respect
3-Step Pyramid for Optimal Health

STEP 1. FUNCTIONAL NUTRITION AND HEALTH

  1. Functional Health means that you have organ systems functioning optimally and in cohesion. It means that your immune system is not attacking itself (most childhood epidemics including eczema [1], autism related neurological symptoms [2], allergies are either autoimmune in nature or include immune dysfunction).
  2. Functional Health is dependent on a fully competent digestive system. This means that:
    • Your child can digest and fully breakdown everything they eat
    • They can absorb these nutrients
    • They can metabolize these nutrients for different processes including energy generation.
  3. This means that you have corrected nutrient deficiencies. For example, a lack in the group of B-Vitamins can cause your neurotransmitters to be off-balance, liver detox pathways to be sluggish, fatigue, lack of focus, impaired fat and carbohydrate metabolism and your sleep to be disrupted!
  4. It means a diverse but balanced microbiome, which is one of the most complex challenges in helping an Autistic child. [3]
  5. It means mitochondria (energy producing organelles) that are not in emergency mode or fatigued. [4]
  6. It means both a brain and a gut without inflammation. [5]

STEP 2. MOVEMENT

Movement based interventions such as Feldenkrais, Anat Baniel Method, Reflex Integration, Rhythmic Movement and Yoga all use small or large precise movements to effect changes in neural pathways.

There is anecdotal and published information that these small changes can result in children developing skills from depth perception to vision, from a more regulated behavior to a better coordination between brain and body. [6]

Movement therapies are unique in that they have a direct line to the brain in forming different ways of moving and thinking. Nutrition/biomedical interventions help heal the gut, reduce inflammation, balance hormones and neurotransmitters, thus reducing neuroinflammation and helping focus/anxiety/seizures/allergies etc.

What Movement does is provide rich information to the healing brain.


To heal without providing new information to affect change is often not enough.

 

 

 


3. RESPECT / EQUAL EDUCATION

All the nutrition and movement in the world is useless if the child isn’t treated with respect.

What is Respect?

  • Acknowledging that behavior is most often communication
  • Equal opportunities of education
  • Enabling the child to have a complete communication system
  • RESPECTING THE INTERESTS OF THE CHILD
  • Remembering that Not Speaking is NOT the same as Not Thinking!
  • ASSUMING COMPETENCE regardless of external manifestation.

This is often not an intuitive context, and for those who would like a little nudge, I would refer you to my TEDx talk. [7]

For the non-speaking Autistic child (or a child with other disabilities), some techniques that I have found to be both respectful and deeply impactful are RPM, S2C and some AAC. Remember that a child’s access to alternative communication often depends on 3 factors (at least):

  1. Vision
  2. Motor Skills
  3. Regulation of the Body

If your child is deficient in any of the above 3, do not let any practitioner tell you that your child is not ready for AAC. It may be that AAC is not ready for your child.

If your child has impaired motor skills, it is the role of the AAC device to be able to be adapted to your child, not the other way around.

That is the equilateral triangle for children. This is the triangular (3-faced) pyramid. The 3-step model for Optimal Health.

Do remember that Optimal does not mean Neurotypical.

  • Functional Health without Movement is a beautiful classroom without a teacher.
  • Movement without Assuming Competence and Respect is inhumane.
  • Respect without Nutritional intervention (Functional Health) is setting the child up for failure. An inflamed brain or body is often not in the optimal state to receive and implement.

REFERENCES:

  1. The Multimodal Immune Pathogenesis of Atopic Eczema: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1471490615002513
  2. The Role of Immune Dysfunction in the pathophysiology of Autism: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159111004922
  3. Autism and the Microbiome
  4. https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2018-09-07-chronic-diseases-driven-by-metabolic-dysfunction.aspx
  5. Inflammation in Children
  6. The Autism Revolution by Martha Herbert
  7. TEDx talk
Anxiety in children: A Functional Nutrition Approach

Anxiety in children: A Functional Nutrition Approach

We live in a world where an anxious mind is no longer an outlier. It is not that weird anymore to say “My child is anxious” or even “I suffer from anxiety”. It is expected or understood at least.

There are, of course needless to say, NUMEROUS benefits to acceptance and non-judgement, and it would really be my DREAM to see a society free from prejudice without narrow restrictions of behavioral parameters.

But sometimes, acceptance can result in a lack of inquiry. In fact, passive acceptance is the very antithesis of a scientific mind. The value of asking a question is beyond words! It is the very gateway to understanding your child’s body. This is what Functional Medicine does.

Why is my child anxious (or aggressive)?

If you asked this question, with wonder, without blame, then Welcome to the world of Functional Medicine.

While we aren’t doing the whole Scientific Inquiry process here, mostly because it has already been done for you, Let us look at the 5-basic checkpoints.

  1. What does she eat? This can be your clue to understanding and examining the following:
    • Allergies
    • Sensitivities (different from Allergies)
    • Chemical Intolerances
    • Picky Eating
  2. Is he deficient in Vitamins/Minerals/Omega-3s, also known as micronutrients?
  3. Is he getting enough GOOD FAT in his diet?
    • Good Fat looks like Virgin Coconut Oil, Ghee, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Cold Pressed Nut/Seed Oils, etc.
    • Bad fat (to be entirely avoided) is any refined vegetable or nut/seed oil (Canola, Corn Oil, “Vegetable” Oil, etc.)
  4. How is her immune function?
    • Consider Autoimmunity
    • Consider low Immunity
    • Consider Inflammation.
  5. Finally, how is his Microbiome?
    • Different tests including Stool and Urine OAT can tell you some information about the presence of pathogenic (bad) organisms in your child’s gut.
    • They can also tell you about the diversity of good beneficial bacteria in the same gut.

We know that all issues relating to brain or mental health (including aggression and anxiety) tie back to inflammation, which is an immune dysfunction.

And while diet-based interventions can be complex, they should always start with the questions listed here. You do want to visit a functional nutrition practitioner, but these questions will give you a framework of where to start.

Superfood challenge for anxiety (Lions Mane)

Have you heard of medicinal mushrooms? There are now numerous studies that talk about the benefit of mushrooms, particularly my favorite, Lions Mane, with respect to Anxiety and Depression, for example, this one.

It is even known to help with Nerve Regeneration and with Amyloid Plaque. My son has Down Syndrome, and has high risk of developing Alzheimer’s with age. Lions Mane is my go to on a very regular basis.

We drink it straight up in 6 oz of water. Try it and let me know.

Quick Fixes

When you need something to work in the next 10 minutes, and getting to the root cause of anxiety isn’t high on your list, here are my favorite go-tos:

  1. Rescue Remedy : A flower essence
  2. Herb Pharm’s Relaxing Sleep : A western herbal tincture

Part 2 of Anxiety in Children is coming up this month: More detail and other ways to handle anxiety.

Magical Hot Cocoa Recipe (2 versions)

Magical Hot Cocoa Recipe (2 versions)

With a lot of iterations and failures and eventual success (with my kids as judges of course), I present to you two recipes to easily ramp up the anti-inflammatory quotient in your child.

In my previous blog, we talked about chronic inflammation being the root cause of widespread disease and dysfunction in our children, including conditions like ADHD, Eczema, and Asthma. IF you haven’t read that, do take a quick detour here.

Among the simplest interventions I have tried, in my quest to amp down inflammation is a superfood-filled night time drink. It is tasty, kids love it, and I usually dose just 2 superfoods at a time.

Recipe 1: Skin and Gut friendly Hot Cocoa

This recipe is great for healing your child’s skin and gut. It uses cacao (which is the raw unprocessed form of cocoa, and very rich in antioxidants). Cacao, a rich source of tryptophan is also great to help your child’s anxiety and sleep.

The other two superfoods are 1) Rice Tocotrienols, a great natural food source of vitamins, minerals and the skin-healing Vitamin E; and 2) Marine Collagen Protein: an excellent source of amino acids that help heal the gut lining (and skin lining).

Marine Collagen is an animal food, sourced from fish, but tasteless and odorless. Feel free to drop it if you are strictly vegetarian.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond or macadamia milk
  • (Note: I soak 5 -6 almonds the previous night of morning and make my own almond milk with 1 cup of water)
  • 1 date
  • 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder, now available in Costco!
  • 1/2 tbsp rice bran tocotrienols
  • 1/2 tbsp Marine Collagen
  • Challenge: Try introducing 1″ Cinnamon / 1″ piece off Star Anise
  • Pinch Sea Salt

Heat the Almond Milk to your desired temperature. Blend in a high-speed blender preferably, but really any blender will be fine (you may need to soak the dates with a weaker blender).

Recipe 2: Calming and Anxiety Reducing Hot Cocoa

We continue to use anxiety-lowering and kid-favorite raw cacao here. But the super foods are different: Maca, an ancient Peruvian superfood used for energy and stamina (both mental and physical), and Ashwagandha, a similar adaptogen, used for thousands of years in the Ayurvedic Tradition.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond or macadamia milk
  • (Note: I soak 5 -6 almonds the previous night of morning and make my own almond milk with 1 cup of water)
  • 1-2 tsp Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp Maca Powder
  • 1 Capsule Ashwagandha, opened up

Heat the Almond Milk to your desired temperature. Blend and serve.

Alright! Good luck in your cocoa, sorry cacao travels! Did your kids like it? Let me know.

Inflammation in children: 4 power tactics to calm and heal!

Inflammation in children: 4 power tactics to calm and heal!

What is Inflammation and why is it important for your child?

You have heard about it, everybody is talking of it, it is almost a catch-all, one of those words that enters the mind and dissolves into meaningless fluff. Years ago, I caught myself wondering if people that said “inflammation” actually were hiding behind this word to say that they didn’t really know.

Well, this blog is to tell you that Inflammation is now considered the root cause of ALL CHRONIC ILLNESS: by this, we mean – from Eczema to Crohn’s to Asthma to your child’s volatile behavior.

What does this word bring your your mind? If you said swelling or redness or pain, you would be absolutely right! Pain, swelling, redness and heat are the classical definition of inflammation (in Latin, they are called Dolor, Tumor, Rubor and Calor).

Now, Inflammation, for all its bad press is a completely natural and essential process. It is the result of your body trying to repair some real or perceived attack or damage. It is how your body fights off bacteria and viruses, which are real insults to your body.

Almost ALL chronic inflammation 
is thought to begin in the gut.

But when the insult isn’t real, and when your immune system is confused, inflammation becomes chronic or unending, and that’s when you experience arthritis, or eczema, or autoimmune issues, or behavioral symptoms like aggression, or brain fog etc.

If you consider the number of children around us who have Type 1 
diabetes, or Allergies or Eczema or Asthma, it becomes clear that an 
overwhelming majority of kids are chronically inflamed!

What low-effort/high-impact steps can you take to reduce inflammation in your child?

A beautiful golden anti-inflammatory cup of turmeric “milk”
  1. Turmeric: You know it, everyone knows it. Get into the habit of daily dosing. Try 1/2 tsp with black pepper and ginger in non-dairy milk like almond or macadamia or coconut. Add raw honey to taste. .
  2. Fish Oil: Our next anti-inflammatory comes naturally in fish, of course, but supplements can give you a therepeutic dose when dealing with a disorder. Therepeutic doses are at least 1000 mg per day and often higher.
  3. Probiotics: If you are still new to the world of ferments and probiotics, I would strongly recommend you check out my earlier blog first. Start what I call the Kimchi Project (get your child to enjoy Kimchi). Dose consistently, daily, and vary the foods that you ferment.
  4. Avoid or minimize the top 3 inflammatory foods: Sugar, Wheat and Dairy.

Note: This is a maintenance regimen (but a powerful one).
It is entirely possible that you need more intensive support, or one of these ingredients don’t work for you. In that case, be sure to work with your functional medicine practitioner.

If you suspect that Inflammation is at the root of your child’s discomfort, do 
drop a note to let us know what you have tried, and what has helped.

Dairy-free (Vegan) Chai Recipe

Dairy-free (Vegan) Chai Recipe

Vegan Chai (with Nut milk)

I have scoured the world of vegan “milks” to try and make a chai that I could tolerate. I didn’t even dare hope for a chai that I would LOVE! There are two “milks” that have brought me hope again: Macadamia nut milk and Almond Milk (but only from Thrive Market, and only the Thrive Market brand, likely because it doesn’t have fillers or gums or added vitamins).

  • ½ tsp grated ginger
  • ½ of a cardamom (crushed in a mortar and pestle or anywhere)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup macadamia nut milk (Thrive Market Almond Milk works in this too)
  • Organic CTC Assam tea (I always use Organic CTC tea)
    • -Don’t use whole leaf tea, that is not for chai.
    • -Tea is one of the plants that is cultivated with tons of pesticides, so organic is a good idea.

Method:

Boil the water with the ginger and cardamom.

Add 1.5 tsp of the CTC Assam tea and lower to a simmer for 2-3 minutes.

*Real Chai drinkers don’t add cinnamon. Cloves: mayyyy be, not cinnamon. Don’t get me wrong, I love cinnamon, it is pretty close to a super spice! But just not in chai.*

Are Gluten-Free diets Fads or Fact-based?

Are Gluten-Free diets Fads or Fact-based?

How important is it to got Gluten-Free?

Avoiding or eliminating Gluten is the elephant in the room in all conversations about using food to heal. People (practitioners and patients alike) dance about this topic, talk about how it would be a nice thing to try, or dismiss it as new agey woo-woo.

In the context of going Gluten Free, you might have heard the words

  • “fad”,
  • “unscientific”,
  • “trend” associated with it.

You may have also heard the terms

  • “celiac”,
  • “gluten sensitivity”,
  • “leaky gut”.

The current mainstream OPINION (and that, most likely, of your doctor) is that there is no conclusive evidence that a gluten free diet helps unless you have celiac disease. 

 

This is in fact not true! Actually, there is plenty of evidence that the ingestion of gluten HURTS or DAMAGES the intestinal barrier.

A gluten-free WHOLE FOODS diet transformed my son from laughing maniacally for hours every day to a more regulated and a calmer child.

If you search a research database for the impact of gluten on eczema, psoriasis, asthma or autism, you will find:

  1. a number of papers that claim that a gluten-free diet DOES NOT HELP and
  2. a number of studies that demonstrate the benefits of eating a gluten-free diet.

Who is right? We live in the age of conflicting information from coffee to low-carb to gluten. How are you supposed to know what is right?

I knew by trying it out.

Can going gluten-free really heal your child (eczema or autism symptoms)?

I have seen it and heard of it with dozens of families that have tried it out. I have seen the effect on reintroducing gluten and seeing dysregulation come back in less than a week. This is my favorite piece of evidence: empirical and practical evidence.

What about the papers? The conflicting information?

My way to parse through information like this is:

  1. critical analysis of the publication (check for controls, confounding factors, bias),
  2. search for empirical evidence, and
  3. compare with traditional food habits.

In the words of Sid Baker, renowned Autism doctor and researcher: (to paraphrase): “If you are sitting on two thorns, removing one thorn isn’t going to make you feel better.”

Have you heard the story of the elephant and the 5 blind men?

Every study you see is one part of that elephant, partly true, and significantly misleading. When the conditions of viewing that elephant change, the story also shifts.

The most common flaw in papers that diss gluten as a factor in anything is that the gluten-free diets they study are often so based in junk and devoid of nutrition (i.e., they have not controlled for replacing the gluten with a whole food diet), that observing any change becomes hard.

In this blog, we are talking about one path-breaking paper, which gives a bigger (and almost complete view) of the effect of American wheat on a subset of the American population.

“Effect of Gliadin on Permeability of Intestinal Biopsy Explants from Celiac Disease Patients and Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.” Hollon et al.

Gliadin is the protein we usually mean when we say GLUTEN. This paper tested the response to gliadin exposure on 4 types of subjects: a) those with active celiac, b) celiac in remission, c) those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and d) healthy controls.

Part of their conclusion states that :

“gliadin exposure induces an increase in intestinal permeability in all individuals regardless of whether they have celiac disease.”

Given the fact that intestinal permeability is strongly suspected to be increased in children with Autism,  people with eczema, asthma and other inflammatory diseases, this is HUGE revelation. It would follow that trialing a period of no gluten would be good sense. [Check references below].

  • Try a reintroduction after this period of staying off gluten. Assess your symptoms, remember effects can be, and are often delayed.

 

How do I trial this for my child?

  • A 4-6 month trial of a gluten-free whole foods diet followed by a reintroduction is usually a great idea when dealing with chronic disease or dysfunction.
  • Remember that a gluten-free diet that is processed and refined may offer no great improvement over a gluten based diet.
  • Casein protein (from dairy) often cross reacts with dairy. If you don’t see improvements, think about the number of thorns you may be sitting on (it often takes a removal of gluten, dairy and sugar to see a significant effect, though sometimes just gluten may do the trick).
  • The best improvements that I have seen have typically been found with a gluten, casein and sugar free whole foods diet.
  • Remember that in order to assess the impact of being gluten-free, you need to be COMPLETELY gluten-free. 95% gluten-free is like 0% gluten-free in this context.  

There are a 100 other questions about gluten and the gluten-free movement that must pop up.

Why is gluten inflammatory? How could our ancestors so easily eat it? And so on … My colleague Deepa and I have brought answers to you in our very first podcast titled:  “gluten free living: myth, fad, or science?”

 

REFERENCES:

1. “Effect of Gliadin on Permeability of Intestinal Biopsy Explants from Celiac Disease Patients and Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.” Hollon et al. 2014

2. "Alterations of the intestinal barrier in patients with autism spectrum disorders and in their first-degree relatives." de Magistris et al.  2010

3. "Increased intestinal permeability in atopic eczema." Pike et al. 1986

4. "Intestinal permeability is increased in bronchial asthma." Hijazi et al. 2004.

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