Jan 31, 2013

Fighting Depression

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There has been a lot in the press of late about depression and whether the best way to tackle such a difficult problem is to reach for the anti-depressants. They are not aways as effective as we would like them to be. In What Doctors Don't Tell You, a magazine published by Lynne McTaggart and Brian Hubbard, they have itemised a list of alternative ways to treating depression. In the November issue, they highlight the fact that the serotonin theory was never actually proven. This feels alarming but, sadly, not all that surprising. What I like about this article is how they have mentioned other ways  to think about treating depression. In their research, they uncovered these things:  One in five sufferers of chronic depression were also found to have and under active thyroid. This is easy to check. Take your armpit temperature for 10 minutes first thing on waking. If it is consistently below the norm (36.6-37C), go and have your thryoid checked. Low blood sugar can happen if you eat alot of processed and sugary foods. Your blood sugar will yo-yo up and down as your body tries to regulate the sugar levels with insulin. Reducing sweet and starchy foods and replacing them with whole foods and natural unprocessed foods may help in lifting your depression. Low levels of vitamin D has been linked to depression; a relatively easy thing to remedy by visiting your local nutritionist. Mouldy, damp environments appear to be linked to depression, as well as allergies either to certain foods or allergies like hayfever. They also mention Coeliac Disease, irritable bowel disease and belly fat (the tendency to put weight on around the middle) can all be triggers for depression.  To me, these are all diseases that can be reduced in severity by a good nutritional turn around.  We need to start listening to our bodies.  We would never dream of putting diesel in our petrol run car, but we expect no complaints from our body when we put the wrong fuel in!

www.wddty.com  What Doctors Don't Tell You, November issue, page 29

Aug 25, 2012

Natural Cough Medicine

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For years, I used a teaspoon or two of honey as a natural cough medicine for my children. It aways seemed to soothe them enough to allow them to fall to sleep and it prevented me from having to use a synthetically formulated over-the-counter cough suppressant.  Well, now I feel vindicated for my madness. A double-blind randomised placebo controlled study was published in Pediatrics, 6 August 2012 showing a significant improvement in symptoms using honey as a cough suppressant over dextromethorphan or nothing at all.

There are, however, warnings published about using honey for the under ones for fear of Infantile Botulism which is a rare but real threat if the honey is contaminated.

So here is what I used to do when the children were small. I cannot remember where I even read about this but it always appeared to do the trick. I would soak half an onion in a bowl of local honey overnight. In the morning, I would strain the onion out and then, the onion-tainted honey would be used as a natural cough medicine. It tasted horrible but reduced the cough!

Jun 22, 2012

Love Your Bacteria!

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According to an article in Scientific American this month (June 2012), the bacteria that live in and on us are actually vital components to our complex  human ecosystem. They are involved in many of our basic physiological processes, from synthesizing enzymes in order to make vitamins to being a crucial player in keeping the immune system in balance.

Far from being horrible invaders that we need to keep at bay, there are ten times more bacterial cells in our body than there are human cells! And we need our bacteria!! There is a delicate choreography between our physiology and its interaction with bacteria and overuse of antibiotics can disturb this. This article uses H. pylori as an example. H pylori is a bacteria in the gut thought to be the cause of gastric ulcers.  Treated with strong antibiotics over weeks, H. pylori would be eradicated from the gut and the ulcers would heal. However, new research suggests that H. pylori plays a key role in helping the body regulate appetite and, once it is reduced to negligent quantities in the gut, the hormone cascade that is supposed to tell you when you have had enough to eat is disrupted.  This paper suggests that this could be one of the causes of the dramatic rise in obesity. Several generations ago, eighty percent of Americans happily harboured H. pylori but now, the number of American children who test positive for it is less than six percent! So, there are no more little gremlin bacteria shouting, "Stop eating! You have had enough!" Adding to this picture, is the multiple rounds of antibiotics children get as they are growing up. The scientists think that this may be upsetting the delicate balance of bacteria needed in the gut to help cells differentiate into different kinds.  If there is an imbalance in the bacteria of the gut, this may be interfering with normal cellular signalling and leading to the overproduction of fat cells.

This is only one example of how upsetting the proverbial bacterial apple-cart can wreak havoc in the gut! I'm betting they will find this scenario in all body systems  - from the skin to the cardio-vascular system.

So, love your bacteria! They are keeping you healthy!!

(photo from EPA). To read the full article: Ackerman J. (June 2012) The Ultimate Social Network. Scientific American. vol 306-6 pp. 22-27.

 

Jun 10, 2012

Plagiocephaly or 'My baby's head is wonky!'

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This is a topic about which I am so passionate, I thought, " it has to be my first posting." So, I spent days researching different aspects of it and its association to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) so I could present a well rounded and argued perspective.  Then I realised that most parents interested in this topic are just going to want practical ways to avoid it or, if already apparent in their baby/child, what to do next.

Most parents now lay their babies flat on their backs to go to sleep. Since the Back To Sleep campaign, there has been a sharp increase in the number of babies appearing with 'wonky head shapes' or plagiocephaly. (PEDIATRICS Vol. 97 No. 6 pp. 877 -885.) This can sometimes be avoided and here are the things to do to minimize it occurring in your baby.

 

  • Tummy time : Because babies are now spending a reduced amount of time prone (on their tummy), it is prudent to, now, think about allowing for tummy time in your day. Many babies don't like to be in this position anymore but I think that is only because it is a new experience for them. I tell my parents to give baby a few moments of tummy time with EVERY nappy change. Baby will usually only tolerate it for a few moments anyway so it won't take too much more of your time. It also helps you to remember to do it.  It is also very exciting to see a newborn start lifting his/her head and the reflex to crawl will also kick in as they try to pull their knees up underneath their body. As the days go by, you will see them trying to lift their head. This is also an important aspect of tummy time which will help symmetrical development of the neck muscles. They will try to turn their head from one side to the other.

 

  • Car Seats : What a grand thing to have! These car seats are so versatile that you can shift baby from the car to the pushchair frame to the house without ever waking baby!! That's great! EXCEPT that you need to be mindful about just how long baby is spending in ONE position in this seat. If you feel you must leave baby in, check which side they favour and gently persuade baby to adjust their head to face the less favoured side.  Another option is to leave the car seat  in the car and remove baby. They love being held most of all. You won't spoil them and it keeps their lovely growing cranium free from pressure to grow round and symmetrical! Those car seats are heavy!! You might just find the added benefit of saving your own back by just carrying baby rather than the heavy seat plus baby.

 

  • Feeding Time : If you are bottle feeding, swap sides. I know it feels so weird! But try it anyway. That way you are not holding baby in the same position for every feed. The perfect combo is one parent who is left-handed and one who is right-handed and then they can share feeding! But I know! For most of you, it will feel odd at first. You will get used to it.

 

  • Playtime : If baby is left underneath a playgym, move the brightly coloured toys and objects to baby's least favoured side. When you play with baby, play and attract his/her attention also to the side that baby least likes to turn. They are amazing at adapting to situations and you will find that it won't take them long.

 

  • Nappy Change : Along with tummy time during nappy changes, if you always change baby from one side, swap sides or change baby by positioning yourself at baby's feet.

 

  • Cot :Orient baby in his cot/crib so that he will move his head to the less favoured side in order to see toys or the room etc.

 

  • Also, mothers frequently ask me about whether to use a pillow or not as it seems to be against SIDS guidelines. It appears the guidelines were addressing the use of soft pillows, duvets and furnishings that may interfere with baby's breathing should they fall across the face, or be so soft that baby cannot move his/her head away. Infant pillows today appear to be more sophisticated, singly addressing the prevention of plagiocephaly. Several on the market  are uniquely designed to maintain a supine position whilst minimising unilateral pressure to baby's head.

If there is a dramatic sweeping to one side of your baby's head, despite all your preventive measures - you can view this best by looking at your baby's head from above - and you are worried, please seek advice. There are a few clinics around that will assess your baby's head free of charge and explain to you the use of orthotic helmets to encourage the bones to adopt a more natural shape.

I have had, over the years, many mothers come in to say that they had been told that plagiocephaly is simply a cosmetic problem and not to worry. This may be the case although there is recent research that may link plagiocephaly with temporary developmental delay.   Collett BR et al., Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2011 Jul; 165:653.

However, just take a little time out to ponder the cosmetic problem: if a unilateral headshape persists, sometimes it involves the displacement of one ear so that they are out of alignment.  This also means that the jaw is probably misaligned as well as the orbits that contain the eyes.  This becomes problematic, just on a purely cosmetic point of view, if you wear glasses or sunglasses, if your teeth don't align because your jaw doesn't fit in your head squarely and, as for sport, finding a cycling helmet or any other sort of head gear might end up being a real headache!!

Probiotics

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I was reading the December 2014 issue of 'What Doctors Don't Tell You' and came across this little Health Fact on page 12 that I thought was worth sharing as I am a passionate believer in the right balance of organisms in the gut. The magazine says " Giving a baby probiotics during the first three months of ife can help prevent gastrointestinal problems like infant colic, acid reflux and constipation. Babies given probiotics cried about half as much, and seemed less distressed compared with infants not given probiotics, a study found."  - WDDTY, Dec. 2014

There are some interesting studies on the flora of newborns. Babies delivered via C-section have different gut flora from those born vaginally and breastfed babies have different gut flora from bottlefed babies.  It seems the science of the gastrointestional tract is finally getting the attention it deserves. Bacteria are vital to our system but they need to be in the right place in the right amounts.

If you decide to try infant probiotics, might I recommend purchasing a good quality make. They are more expensive but it might be worth it.

Interesting Stuff

Here are some services that you may find helpful:

Acupuncture                             David Reynolds  www.southviewclinic.co.uk

Allergy/Food Sensitivity
Christine Wilson
www.lovemyhealth.co.uk

Aromatherapy/Massage
Cheryl Brickell
www.relaxintohealth.co.uk

Meli Paramio
01628 625313

Hypnobirthing                            Harriet Hancock   www.stressfreebirth.co.uk

Hypnotherapy
Ros Mandeville
www.highersolutions.co.uk

Homeopathy
Anita Happy and Sheila Carter Homeopathy for Children in Henley   01344 867 411

Catie Sharples 01628 530302 http://www.catiesharples.com

Manual Lymph Drainage
Marilyn Homer
01628 671406

Rolfing (Massage)
Fiona Millward 07824 397313  www.fionamillward.com

NLP/Reflexology
Jeanette Wallis
www.wallishealth.co.uk

Nutritional Therapy
Helen Bradbury
http://www.nutritionalwellness.co.uk

Physiotherapy
Alex Reynolds
www.southviewclinic.co.uk

 

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