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Why Does My Child Have Eczema? Simple Tips For Natural Eczema Relief

Eczema is one of the most common childhood conditions, with one in five infants being diagnosed. Although it might seem like a simple skin irritation, eczema is a sign that there is something going on below the surface.

The good news? There are simple ways you can address your child’s eczema naturally.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition that causes a red and itchy rash on the skin. There are several types of eczema, but children commonly experience atopic (allergic) eczema.

Although the symptoms occur on the skin, eczema is not a surface condition. It is an indication that there are internal issues leading to allergic symptoms on the skin.

If you seek advice from your GP, they will usually offer a topical steroid cream to relieve the symptoms. But this does not address the underlying issues – in some cases, it could even make symptoms worse in the long term.

Risk factors for eczema

There are several factors that can increase your child’s risk of eczema, including:

  • Allergic conditions such as a food allergy
  • A family history of eczema
  • A family history of other allergic conditions such as allergies, asthma, and hayfever
  • Living in a colder climate
  • Exposure to pollution, allergens and tobacco smoke

Studies suggest that boys are more likely to experience eczema in infancy, but girls are more likely to have eczema in adolescence.

There is a strong genetic link to eczema. But genes alone won’t cause eczema – there also needs to be an immune system that is triggered by something your child is exposed to.

The link between gut health and eczema

There are two major components of eczema – an immune system that is prone to overreacting and a trigger that causes that reaction.

The trigger varies from child to child – it could be dietary, environmental or a combination of different factors. But when it comes to a sensitive immune system, the first place we always look to is the gut. This is because the gut and immune system are closely linked. In fact, most of the ‘immune system’ is located in the gut!

Research confirms that gut health plays an important role in eczema. People with eczema have a different balance of gut microbes compared to those without eczema. There is also evidence that increased intestinal permeability (commonly known as leaky gut) occurs in children with eczema.

Another gut-related issue that contributes to eczema is food allergies and intolerances. Research suggests that 1/3rd of children with eczema have one or more food allergies – and this could be even higher once you include intolerances.

How can I manage my child’s eczema?

Looking for ways to alleviate your child’s eczema naturally? There are a few key steps you can take.

Address gut health

If we want to take a holistic approach and tackle the underlying causes of eczema, we have to work on gut health.

My #1 tip for supporting a healthy gut is to feed your child a diet rich in wholefoods, including 5 serves of veggies every day. The fibre in vegetables feeds the good bacteria in the gut, leading to a healthier happier tummy.

Navigating gut health can be confusing, as so many factors influence it. This is where working with a nutritionist can help you to develop a realistic plan tailored to your child’s needs.

Identify food intolerances

Food intolerances and eczema go hand in hand. As food intolerances can cause inflammation and affect the balance of microbes in the gut, they are a common trigger for eczema flares. That’s why I always look for potential food intolerances when I see clients with eczema.

Depending on the client and their symptoms, I may recommend IgG testing or an elimination diet removing the main dietary suspects. Elimination diets can be tough to tackle with kids, so it’s best to work with a practitioner.

Consider dust mites as a trigger

In my experience, dust mites can be a huge trigger for eczema symptoms. You can go to your GP to get testing for a dust mite allergy.

In the meantime, to reduce dust mites, you can:

  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • If your child sleeps with soft toys, add those to the weekly wash with the bedding
  • Vacuum regularly, including any upholstered furniture
  • Dust using a wet or electrostatic cloth to prevent the allergens from becoming airborne

Use natural topical options for symptom relief

Steroid creams might alleviate the itch, but they come with side effects. That’s why I recommend opting for natural topical relief instead.

Adding a handful of oats into a muslin bag and popping it in the bath is a simple and affordable option for relieving itching. You can also blend the oats into a fine powder and add it directly to the bath. Although it might seem simple, research has shown that oat baths can alleviate symptoms of eczema.

Another good option is chickweed. You can add it into a bath, or make a salve and apply it to the affected area.

What about probiotics for eczema?

Probiotics can be beneficial for eczema. But it’s not just picking up a probiotic from the supermarket or pharmacy. You want to make sure you’re using the right strains and in the right dosage for your child’s needs.

There are several specific strains that have evidence for alleviating eczema symptoms. L. plantarum CJLP133, L. paracaseiL. fermentum, and L. sakei are some of the strains that have been shown to help with eczema. But these strains are not available in the supplements you can buy over the counter.

This is where working with a practitioner can be useful. Get in touch today to start the journey to health with your child.

A Holistic Approach To Managing Your Child’s Asthma

Does your child have asthma? Asthma is a common condition in Australian children, affecting over 11% of the population.

Doctors typically prescribe medicine to relieve the symptoms. But by taking a more holistic approach to your child’s asthma, you can start to address the underlying causes.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs. The larger branches of the lungs become obstructed due to inflammation of the airway lining and constriction of the muscles around the airways. This leads to symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

The condition is immune in origin – it is caused by an immune system that is confused about how to respond to a trigger. Your doctor may prescribe medications to manage the symptoms, but these do not address the immune aspect of the issue.

What triggers asthma?

There are many factors that can trigger asthma symptoms. Your child may react to only one or two, or they may have issues with all of them.

  • Cold, dry air – this is why many will flare over the winter time
  • Intense exercise
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Environmental allergens such as pollen, dust and dust mites
  • Pollutants such as tobacco smoke, perfume and chemicals in cleaning products
  • Acute illness or infection
  • Stress – you may find that your child gets wheezy or breathless after a tantrum, for example

There is a strong genetic component to asthma. Kids are much more likely to develop asthma if there is a family history of asthma and related conditions such as eczema and hayfever. But this predisposition isn’t a guarantee.

The link between asthma and gut health

Gut health is often overlooked when it comes to asthma. But it is one of the most important components to address.

Asthma is a condition of immune dysregulation. Because your child’s immune system is still learning how to react appropriately, they are more likely to experience allergic conditions such as asthma.

But why is your child’s immune system out of balance in the first place? There are a few reasons that link back to the gut, including:

Each of these can prime the immune system to overreact to something that is not a true danger.

How can I address my child’s asthma?

If you’re looking to do more for your child’s asthma than using preventer medications, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s look at some ways you can take a more holistic approach to asthma.

Work on gut health

As gut health is a pillar for building immune tolerance, this is the best place to start. There are many ways to support a healthy gut, but some simple changes include:

  • Increasing their intake of wholefoods, particularly veggies
  • Reducing their intake of processed carbohydrates and sugars
  • Encouraging outdoor play – the more microbes they are exposed to, the more the immune system learns about what is safe and what is not
  • Only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary

Uncover hidden food intolerances

It’s common for food to be a trigger for asthma symptoms, and food allergies often coexist with asthma. But an underlying food intolerance could also be contributing to the gut health and immune imbalance leading to asthma.

Dairy is the most common food intolerance I see in children with asthma. Issues with dairy can also lead to more mucus production, which can further trigger symptoms.

It’s important to identify any foods that could be causing issues. Working with a qualified nutritionist can help you to narrow down the suspects, get testing done and do a trial elimination diet.

Reduce dust mites and other allergens in the home

Most children with asthma will be sensitive to environmental allergens. The most common issue I see in asthma is dust mites. You can get testing to confirm whether your child has a dust mite allergy. But there are also simple ways to reduce dust mites, such as:

  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • If your child sleeps with soft toys, add those to the weekly wash with the bedding
  • Vacuum regularly, including any upholstered furniture
  • Dust using a wet or electrostatic cloth to prevent the allergens from becoming airborne

Other potential triggers found in the home include mould, pet dander/hair, chemicals and perfumes.

Manage their exposure to other triggers

Unfortunately, we can’t avoid all of the triggers of asthma. But you can look at ways to manage exposure to some of the triggers. Depending on your child’s triggers, this might mean:

  • Sticking to moderate intensity exercise
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke and outdoor pollution
  • Switching to natural cleaning options at home

Consider nutritional supplements

There are a few nutrients that may be beneficial for children with asthma. They include:

Vitamin D – helps to balance the immune system

Probiotics some specific strains have been found to benefit children with asthma

Omega-3 fatty acids – alleviates inflammation throughout the body and could reduce asthmatic symptoms

As with any supplementation, the right nutrients and dosage depends on your child’s specific case.

What next?

Looking for some professional support with your child’s asthma?

Get in touch with me today!

7 foods to calm your anxious child

Making a few small tweaks to your child’s diet can be enough to reduce their anxiety to more manageable levels.

I’ve compiled my 7 favourite foods to incorporate into your anxious child’s diet.

Oily fish

These contain omega 3 fatty acids, which are great for all things brain and nervous system related, including anxiety. Omega 3 fatty acids contain 2 essential fatty acids called EPA and DHA. These help balance neurotransmitters and reduce inflammation in the brain. Try to get your child to eat oily fish 3 times a week. If they will eat sardines for breakfast, then you aren’t going to have any issues doing this!  Try to have salmon or trout during the week, as well as mackerel, herring or sardines.  Stay away from tuna, both canned and fresh as it can contain high levels of mercury.  Organic, or wild caught salmon or trout is preferable to farmed for many reasons.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile is a very relaxing, calming herb.  It is easy to buy and easy to drink.  Kids like it with a bit of honey.  When you’re making the tea, it is best to use loose leaf so you know how much you are getting. Some tea bags (especially the cheaper ones) will have very little chamomile in them.  Brew the tea nice and strong in a small cup to get the maximum benefit.

Sauerkraut

There is lots of research about the gut brain axis and the bidirectional flow of information (gut to brain, and brain to gut).  What happens in the gut does not stay in the gut!  Eating sauerkraut is a great way to use this to your advantage. Sauerkraut is a fermented (or probiotic) food, so it contains lots of beneficial bacteria.  Research shows that eating fermented foods like sauerkraut helps socially anxious people feel calmer and function better.  You can make your own sauerkraut or buy a good quality one from the fridge in the health food shop.

Leafy greens

These have many benefits, one of them being the magnesium content.  Magnesium is a very calming nutrient, which most children are deficient in.  For very anxious children, you may need to start with a magnesium supplement to get their anxiety under control, and at the same time, start to bump up the green leafy vegetables in their diet.  Don’t assume your child won’t like green veggies. Instead, think positive and find a way to teach them to love their veggies.  People tell me their kids love this green smoothie.

Egg yolks

The yolk is a very nutrient dense food, containing good levels of tryptophan.  This is converted to serotonin in the body, the happy neurotransmitter. Anything that boosts serotonin will reduce anxiety.  Egg yolks also contain choline which is also essential for a healthy nervous system as it is used to make acetylcholine.  Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter which impacts mood, memory and intelligence. A large study showed that people with lower levels of choline in their blood had higher levels of anxiety.  Another reason to go to school on an egg!

Berries

My favourite brain health fruit are berries.  They are low in sugar, so won’t cause massive ups and downs in blood sugar, yet they are full of antioxidants.  Most kids also love them! Anxiety states are associated with diets lower in antioxidants, so it stands to reason that anything that boosts antioxidants will reduce anxiety.  Any berries are fine, so rotate through which ever ones you can find organically grown.

Oats

Oats are used in herbal medicine as they are anti-anxiety and calming.  They are also a source of the amino acid tryptophan, used to make serotonin.  Not only that, if you buy whole, rolled oats rather than quick oats, they will stabilise blood sugar.  A blood sugar that dips as soon as your child gets to school will contribute towards anxiety

Where to next?

Making changes to your diet if difficult.

Making changes to a child’s diet is ever more difficult.

I can help with the overhwhelm.

If you would like help implementing changes in your child’s diet to help them be happier, get in touch for a free 20 minute chat with me.

5 kid friendly food swaps to supercharge your child’s diet

You don’t need to revolutionise your child’s diet over night to see results. 

Instead you can make subtle, fun, food swaps to ease your child into to a more whole foods way of eating. 

These small changes will help feed the good gut bacteria living inside your child’s gut. 

Once the good gut bacteria are making decisions (instead of the not so good bacteria), your child’s cravings will change too.

Here are 5 fairly straight forward food swaps to make straight away.

1.Weetbix & Milk → Home-made muesli and real yoghurt

Sit down with a group of pre-schoolers or primary school age kids and ask them what they had for breakfast. 

About 80% of them will say weetbix with milk. 

On the plus side, if they don’t add sugar (or honey or maple syrup), they aren’t having any added sugar. 

Realistically, this is not what is happening. 

They are more likely adding enough sugar to their breakfast to make it just as bad as any presweetened cereal.  Not only that, but the gluten (in the weetbix) and the dairy are highly inflammatory foods, which is bad for kid’s brains. 

If they go on to have a sandwich at lunch and pasta at dinner, that is 3 times in the day that they are eating wheat. 

Gut bacteria love diversity, not the same food, three times a day.  Instead, get into the habit of making muesli with your kids. 

Any way you can involve your kids in the kitchen is good.  It teaches them life skills about food preparation, it gets them away from their devices, and if you can easily turn it into a maths lesson.

To make a homemade muesli, you don’t need a “recipe”.  You can make it up as you go along.

You can use some grains like rolled oats, or grain puffs like puffed amaranth, puffed quinoa, puffed brown rice etc.  Food coops or bulk health food stores are great places to pick up these ingredients.

Then add some seeds.  You can get really creative here: chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds etc.  Seeds are full of essential fatty acids and contain protein, so great for healthy brains and happy kids.

Next add some nuts.  Again, you can go crazy with combinations.  Just make sure the nuts are raw, not salted or roasted.  The problem with these isn’t so much the salt as the type of oils that are used in the process.  These are usually highly inflammatory oils like canola or sunflower.

Lastly, add some fruit.  This is where you may need to rein in your child’s creativity. 

Most kids will gravitate to adding lots of dried fruit, but you want to have the least amount possible. 

Sultanas are a good choice as they are cheap, readily available organically and do not contain sulphites. 

Sulphites are added to lots of dried fruit to maintain the colour, but there is no need to do this with sultanas as they are already dark.  Dates and figs will usually be sulphite free too. 

Choose diced fruit, not whole, so you can get a more even distribution of sweetness and not add too much. 

If you want to include apricots or apples, make sure they are sulphite free.  This may put you off adding them, as they will be quite brown. 

Make sure any dried fruit you use is real fruit which has just been dried, rather than mixed with flavours, colours and oils.

Make a big batch, enough to last for a few weeks.  Write down what you put in, and next time you can tweak it according to what you have in your cupboard, and what you liked or didn’t like about it.

Watch a video here to see how easy it is!

Serve with coconut yoghurt or real yoghurt.  If you need help choosing a ‘real’ yoghurt, this article might help

2.Rice crackers → seed crackers.

Open a packet of rice crackers and see them disappear in seconds.

And is your child full? 

Has your child eaten a single nutrient? 

Instead, make some rice crackers like these.  Sure, there is a bit of work involved in making them, and yes, they are more expensive.  But your child’s skin, gut and brain will thank you.  Expense is the reason I am suggesting you make them, not buy them, as they do work out expensive to buy them premade.

Rice crackers are extremely easily digested. 

This has 2 major knock on effects:

It means that they get a quick burst of energy, which quickly slumps again.  This is because rice crackers are very high glycemic index foods.   

It also means that by the time food reaches the large intestine, there is no food left for the gut bacteria.  The good gut bacteria die off over time, allowing the not so good guys to flourish.  This has a direct effect on mood, digestion and immunity.

Again, make the seed cracker making a family activity.  By the time they are teenagers, they will have the skills to do all this themselves.

3.Soft drinks → water kefir

There is literally no need for any child to ever have a soft drink. 

They rot teeth, send their brains into a head-spin and set them up for habits they will need to work hard to break when they grow up. 

There are so many healthy alternatives on the market. 

Kombucha is popular, and easy to find, however it is made from tea, so it contains caffeine. 

If you want to make it at home, you can use rooibos tea, and make it caffeine free.

I prefer water kefir instead.  This is not as easy to buy as kombucha, but it’s getting more popular. 

Of course, you can also make it your-self. 

You buy water kefir grains (which are entirely different to milk kefir grains, and also not an actual grain). It is a straight forward ferment, which you can experiment with as you go.  Not only will you ditch the sugar and chemicals which are in soft drinks, your child will be consuming lots of good gut bacteria (and will not be any the wiser!).

4.Fruit yoghurt → real yoghurt

One of my golden rules is never buy a food with a Disney princess on the front, and this applies especially to yoghurt. 

Yoghurt started out as the ultimate health food, which has now been ruined by the food industry.  Read any fruit yoghurt ingredient list and see how much sugar, gums and thickeners have been added. 

A child will get a big chunk of their daily maximum sugar intake in one yoghurt.  But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. 

Real yoghurt is a great source of protein, a low GI snack and full of good gut bacteria. 

If your child doesn’t do well with dairy, you need to stick to non-dairy yoghurts, like coconut yoghurt.  I have pulled together a guide to how to choose a yoghurt , or make your own..

5.Wheat Pasta → Black bean pasta

This last swap is the easiest swap to make. 

You can now buy so many pasta alternatives like black bean pasta, lentil pasta or chickpea pasta. 

My favourite is probably the black bean pasta, as this is full of polyphenols (the dark colour of the pasta) which are super for gut health. 

This swap requires no home-cooking.

Just choose the black bean pasta off the shelf, instead of the normal wheat pasta. 

Make up some story for your kids to explain the colour, like it’s ‘Harry Potter’ pasta and you’re done.

Start making these swaps, and gradually your child’s tastes will change (as will yours!).  If you want more help to change your child’s diet, feel free to make an appointment with me and I can help!

Why is my child so anxious?

Everybody is different.

Some people (and children) tend towards being a bit anxious.

Others seem totally carefree.

This purpose of this article is not to “pathologize” your child’s unique personality.  The purpose of this article is to give you tips and tricks to help your child feel more comfortable doing day to day activities, and not be ruled by their own internal voices and fears.

The first intervention people think of then their child is anxious is a psychologist.

There is no doubt that a good child psychologist is worth their weight in gold.

But there are other ‘organic’ or physiological causes of anxiety which can be addressed too.  Combining a nutritional approach with psychological intervention is a perfect combo, as the child learns skills to deal with their emotions at the same time that the intensity of these emotions is dialled down.

Blood sugar regulation

The first place to start is blood sugar regulation.

When a child is eating high glycemic carbohydrates, their blood sugar will be going up and down all day.  This can cause anxiety when their blood sugar is too low (hypoglycemia).

This is reasonably easily addressed by making sure your child’s diet is low glycemic index (read all about that here).

Make sure your child has small, frequent meals or snacks (however not grazing, you still want to have distinct meal and snack times), and make sure meals and snacks contain some protein and fat every time.  If you wanted to take it further, you could do a hair analysis and check for your child’s chromium levels.  Chromium is a very important nutrient for blood sugar regulation, and some people will need a supplement to keep their blood sugar balanced.

Caffeine

If your child is consuming caffeine and experiencing anxiety, they should cut out the caffeine and see how they feel.  Caffeine isn’t just found in coffee.  It is also in chocolate, some soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and tea.  So if your child consumes any of those, try cutting them out.  There is a huge variation in how people metabolise caffeine.  We all know that person who can have an espresso at 10.30pm and go straight to bed.  But we also know people who can’t have coffee after 11am, or they won’t sleep.  One of your kids might be able to drink coke every day and have no anxiety issues, and in your other child it can cause massive issues.  Of course, even if it isn’t causing anxiety issues, it is still causing a myriad of other issues!

Histamine

How about histamines?  Does your anxious child also have itchy eyes and a runny nose?  Histamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and when it’s too high it can lead to anxiety.  If this seems to be the issue, a low histamine diet can help, as can taking supplements which reduce the load of histamine in the body.  It is also helpful to avoid triggers like food allergens or environmental allergens.

Glutamate

Is your child a vegemite lover?  Do you have takeaways or processed food in the house?  Have you moved to diet coke to avoid sugar?  Too much glutamate can be lead to feelings of anxiety, along with speech delay and irritability. You may need to reduce foods high in glutamate like MSG, vegemite, parmesan cheese, artificial sweeteners and soy sauce.

Essential fatty acids

If there isn’t enough fish in your diet, your child might be low in essential fatty acids, which are important for brain and mental health.  Children without enough essential fatty acids in their diet might also have dandruff or rough skin.  Include fish once or twice per week to ensure good essential fatty acid levels, and keep packaged food to a minimum.

Serotonin

Some children (and adults) might not make enough serotonin.  This might be because they are stressed, for genetic reasons or because they don’t have the building block nutrients in their diet to make the serotonin.  You can figure out if low serotonin is the problem by doing an organic acids test which looks at all the neurotransmitters, and also works out if there is an underlying infection which might be blocking the production of serotonin.  An easy way to boost serotonin is to introduce some mindfulness practice for your child.  It is also important to ensure optimal gut health and make sure all the nutrients are in the diet to produce serotonin.  A starchy snack at bedtime might be helpful too.

Magnesium

Many Australian kids are low in magnesium.  Partly because children are generally not consuming enough high magnesium foods, but also because foods don’t contain as many minerals as they did 50 years ago.  A hair tissue mineral analysis is a handy way to check magnesium levels, or you could just make a big effort to increase magnesium rich foods in the diet like leafy greens, nuts and seeds.  Hint – if your child is really sensitive to noise or sound, this could be the issue!

Food allergy

Food intolerance or allergy can cause enough irritation to the nervous system that they lead to symptoms of anxiety.  An elimination diet or allergy test will enlighten you as to which foods might be causing an issue for your child.

Pyroluria

And finally, there is a condition called pyroluria (or pyrolles) which can lead to anxiety in kids.  People with this condition have low vitamin B6 and zinc levels.  This can lead to anxiety, irritability and depression.  When children are low in zinc, they may also have poor immunity and growth, and might be slow to reach puberty.  If you suspect this might be an issue, you can do a urine test to find out, and then work on rebuilding gut health and give appropriate supplementation.

Summary

I hope this has given you some insight into how you can get to the root cause of your child’s anxiety, and how you can use food and nutrients to help children have a happier, more contented childhood.  If you would like to discuss your child personally, please make an appointment using this link.

How do bad gut bacteria impact kid’s behaviour?

Our gut health impacts all aspects of our health, including our mental health.  I have explained how this works in my article on the gut brain connection.

Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut will produce harmful compounds.  For example the bacterial family Clostridia produce a harmful compound called HPHPA.  This compound changes the neurotransmitter balance in the body, which leads to hyperactivity and aggression.

Why would your child have high levels of this bad bacteria?

Lots of kids have too much Clostridia, and the main reason for this is having had too many courses of antibiotics.  The over-prescription of antibiotics, especially for recurrent ear infections leads to overgrowth of harmful bacteria, as well as lots of other issues including childhood obesity.

What does HPHPA do?

This harmful compound enters the blood stream via the gut.  Here, it affects the enzymes responsible for maintaining the balance between two neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine.  If these two neurotransmitters are out of balance, emotional and mental wellbeing is affected.

Dopamine controls things like satisfaction and pleasure.  It also helps the communication between brain and muscles (which is why people with Parkinson’s disease have a tremor, because they don’t have enough dopamine).

Norepinephrine’s job is to regulate learning, emotions, attentiveness and sleep.

Normal levels of dopamine are good, but too high levels are not good.  Too much dopamine causes over stimulation, agitation and anxiety.  It also causes oxidation in the brain, which then uses up the body’s store of antioxidants.  It will make the child burn through the body’s stores of zinc, magnesium and B vitamins which are essential to brain health.

How do I know if my child has high HPHPA?

There is a urine test called an organic acid test (OAT)  which looks for HPHPA levels.  It is estimated that between 10 and 20% of children with ADHD will have high levels of HPHPA.  Whilst these numbers aren’t huge, it is still a good idea to test, as treating this root cause will improve your child’s mood and behaviour in a matter of months.

Are there any clues before I spend money on testing?

Yes.  You can have a guess at whether this is an issue for your child.

If you tried medication and your child got worse, then this might be because their dopamine was already too high, and the medication pushed it higher.

If your child has hyperactivity, agitation and aggression, they may already have high dopamine because of the HPHPA.

If your child has gut issues such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea.  That may mean they have an overgrowth of Clostridia.

What next?

Treatment of the clostridia would involve improving gut health and taking a high dose probiotic, which is best to do in conjunction with a practitioner like me, who specialises in this area.  Click on this link to make a Skype appointment with me.

7 small steps to take to boost your child’s mood through food this New Year
  1. Add more vegetables to their diet.

95% of Australian children are not getting enough vegetables, so I am going to assume that your child is in the 95%!  Don’t try to squeeze their five serves of vegetables into dinner.  It just won’t fit!  Spread them through the day.  If you have a serve at breakfast, a serve at sip and crunch, a serve at lunch, that only leaves 2 serves for dinner.  That is so achievable.  Lots of the recipes in my online program sneak in veggies, like blueberry and zucchini cookies or sweet potato pancakes for breakfast.  You’ll be easily hitting 5 serves per day.  Diversity is really important in your veggies.  Different vegetables give different benefits.  Download my rainbow chart and stick it on the fridge so the kids can get involved.

 

  1. Cut down the sugar.

This is a hard one, not just for the kids, but for the parents.  Sugar is bad for children’s behaviour, bad for their teeth, and bad for their metabolism.  Type 2 diabetes is being increasingly seen in children in the last decade, because of poor diets.  Set your child up for future health by cutting sugar out of their diet.  Parents often tell me they are worried their child won’t have enough energy without sugar in their diet, but this is nothing to worry about.  They will be getting lots of carbohydrates from their fruit and vegetables.  The other worry parents have is about depriving their child of treats.  Children won’t look back on their childhood and think their parents deprived them by not giving them enough sugar.  Children value quality time with their parents, so make that a priority, not sugar!

 

  1. Include some fermented foods in your child’s diet.

Fermented foods are full of good bacteria, so by consuming them, you are giving your child’s gut health an immediate boost.  And remember from my article on the gut-brain connection that brain health is absolutely influenced by gut health.  If your child hasn’t had fermented foods before, introduce them very slowly, or your child could get a belly ache.  If your child tolerates dairy, milk kefir or real yoghurt is a good place to start.  If they are dairy free, go for water kefir, sauerkraut juice or sauerkraut.  I steer away from kombucha for kids as it is made with tea, therefore contains caffeine.  If you make it yourself you can use rooibos tea and make it caffeine free, but make sure you don’t ferment it so much that it becomes alcoholic!

 

  1. Cut down refined carbohydrates.

A lot of kids exist on a diet that is predominantly refined carbohydrate.  Think of the child that has cornflakes with sugar for breakfast, rice crackers for morning tea, a Vegemite sandwich for lunch, a muesli bar for afternoon tea and pasta for dinner.  Eating so many refined carbohydrates is bad for your gut bacteria, as they get starved.  All the refined carbohydrates are digested high up in their digestive system, and there is nothing left for the gut bacteria in the large intestine to eat.  Increase fat and protein in their diet, and replace the refined carbohydrate with fruit and vegetables. My online program has new recipes every week to help you easily make this transition.

 

  1. Consider reducing or removing gluten.

Lots of people are sensitive to gluten, but they may not realise it!  The best way to test is to strictly remove gluten for a month, then reintroduce it and see what happens.  When you cut out gluten, you might find that the headaches you had grown accustomed to magically disappear.  Or that lingering gym injury is suddenly better.  Most people eat so much gluten, they don’t realise that they have inflammation from eating it.  Think of it like a windscreen – when the windscreen is dirty, you never notice a bug landing on it.  When you clean the windscreen (remove the gluten), you suddenly notice every little bug that lands.  ADHD and other health issues are directly related to inflammation.

Cut out the gluten – reduce the inflammation – improve behaviour. 

It’s hard to say why we are getting sensitive to gluten, but I have a few theories.

  • We eat gluten-containing foods 4-5 times a day, so we have overdosed, and now we are sensitive.
  • Grains are heavily sprayed with chemicals, so perhaps it isn’t the gluten we are reacting to, but the agricultural chemicals
  • Our gut health has deteriorated so much due to processed food and too much medicine that we don’t have the right gut bacteria to digest it any more
  • Grains used to be fermented for 24 hours to make a sourdough bread. Now, for economic reasons, we have sped up the baking process, and there is no fermentation and no pre-digestion of the gluten.
  • We also add gluten to lots of foods where it doesn’t belong, just so we can say it contains protein, or to improve the texture.

 

  1. Cut out additives

Food additives are harmful to human health in general and our kids are particularly sensitive.  There is lots of research going back decades about the effect additives have on kids health, particularly behaviour.  Some countries are more proactive than Australia and already insist that warnings go on foods containing some colours, to let parents know that their child’s behaviour will be adversely affected if they eat this food.  Unfortunately, Australia hasn’t prioritised this, and we consumers are still largely in the dark about the harmful effects of additives.  You can learn to scrutinise ingredient lists and ingredient numbers, but I don’t recommend it.  Even the additives we think might be ok, may not be ok in the amount we consume them, or when they are combined with other chemicals.  The much easier thing to do is to move away from processed food and towards real, whole foods.  Then you don’t need to learn about food additives!

 

  1. Be an advocate for your child.

As a parent, you want to do what is best for your child, but there are barriers such as time and money.  I highly recommend my online program “Create cool, calm and cooperative kids” for parents who want to make a positive change to their child’s diet but don’t know where to start.  It is very affordable, as you just pay 2 instalments of $99.  The modules are delivered to your inbox weekly and contain coaching videos, recipes and handouts. There is even a closed Facebook group where you can ask me questions as you go along.  Follow this link to jump onboard…

Milk kefir

Milk kefir is one of the easier ferments to make, great for beginners!

Start with 1 tablespoon of milk kefir grains.  These are not grains like wheat or rice, they are a colony of bacteria and yeasts.  You can buy these on Gumtree, or get from a friend..

Put them in a sieve (preferably plastic), and drain off the milk they are stored in

Now put 250 ml milk in a big jar.  The milk should be full fat organic milk.  UHT milk or ultra-pasteurised milk won’t work.  You can use sheep or goat’s milk if you have it available.

Add the kefir grains, and give a stir.

Screw the lid back on.

Put in a cupboard or on a bench at about 20c. Leave for 24 hours.

At the end of 24 hours, sieve the mixture, or use a plastic fork to scoop out the grains.

Put the liquid in a jar, and refrigerate for 12 hours. It can then be drunk.

The grains can be added to another 250ml milk, and process repeated.

The grains will grow over time, and then you can give your excess to friends!

Once you have made your kefir, you can make delicious smoothies out of it, you can use it instead of yoghurt or buttermilk in recipes or you can strain it to make cheese!

Gut busting soup

This soup not only tastes great, warms and nourishes but is also full of ingredients to keep your gut health in check and to keep the bad bugs at bay!

Spices have been valued through the ages, partly because they taste great, and partly because their medicinal properties were valued.

This soup contains cloves and star anise as the main spices.

  • Cloves contain a compound called Eugenol, which has many properties including anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and good for eliminating intestinal worms.
  • Star anise is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and can be helpful in fighting the flu.
  • By boiling the whole chicken, you are getting all the gut building, immune boosting nutrients from the chicken.
  • The onions and garlic are full of prebiotic fibre, which feed the good bacteria in your gut.
  • Carrots have traditionally been used to get rid of intestinal worms by killing the eggs!

So this soup is really using food as medicine!

Ingredients

1 whole organic chicken

3 star anise

6 cloves

2 onions – finely shredded

2cm piece of fresh garlic, sliced

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

3 zucchini – spiralised

4 carrots – julienned

1 celery (leaves removed) finely chopped

Method

Put chicken in slow cooker and fill with water.

Add the star anise, cloves, garlic, onion and ginger.

Cook on HIGH for 3.5 hours

Carefully remove the chicken into a pyrex dish

Add the celery, carrots and zucchini into the slow cooker and put the lid on.

Cook on HIGH for 20-30 min.

Served the veggies and broth, topped with some of the shredded chicken.

What to do when your child has worms

If your child is irritable, has sleeping issues or a sore tummy….do they have worms?

I see a lot of kids with worms in clinic.  It might not be something that we routinely discuss in the school playground, but it is an issue that is lurking in many families.  Sometimes, it can be a simple case of taking the over the counter worming treatment, and the issue goes away.  Other times the situation can be a lot trickier and more in depth measures are needed.

Getting worms is a bit like catching a cold.  If it is just a one off, no need to worry.  You should be able to get rid of them, get back to normal after treatment, and forget the whole thing.  However, some people, both children and adults, can’t seem to shake them off.  This is because the overall terrain of their gut is allowing this cheeky little invader to set up shop.  For cases of repeated worm infections, you need to have a three pronged approach.

You need to:

  1. Get rid of the worms, using either pharmaceutical or herbal preparations.
  2. Implement some new cleaning rituals until the problem is resolved.
  3. Improve the terrain of the gut so worms can’t take over again.

What are thread worms?

If your child has ‘worms’, it usually means threadworms, also known as pin worms.  The technical name is Enterobius vermicularis. They are very common and look like a bit of thread or floss, about a centimetre long.  They live in the large intestines and come out to play at night time, laying their eggs.  The egg are stuck to the skin with a special glue, and it is the glue that causes the itch.  If your child itches them in the night, and then puts their fingers in their mouth, they will eat them and continue the life cycle of the worm

How do I know if my child has worms?

The most well-known symptom of worms is the itchy bum.  However, in about half the people infected, there is no itchy bottom!  Especially in adults this symptom can be missing.  If your child has an itchy bum, it isn’t necessarily worms – it could be thrush, nutrient deficiencies, allergy to soaps or a new toilet paper.

Other symptoms of worms include irritability, lack of appetite, tummy pain, grinding teeth, restless sleep and nightmares, and symptoms of urinary tract infections in little girls.  In girls, all the genital anatomy is very close together, and these little guys like to take strolls in the night….If you notice your kid’s behaviour is particularly bad around the time of a full moon, consider worms, as the life cycle of the worm will sometimes line up with the lunar cycle.

If you’re really lucky, you will see the little critters wriggling around in the poo, either in the nappy or toilet bowl.  My kids are notoriously bad at flushing the toilet, giving me ample opportunity to inspect their poo.

If you’re still not sure, let me introduce you to the sticky tape test.  For six consecutive nights, place a piece of stick tape over your child’s anus.  It needs to be touching the skin.  First thing in the morning, take off the tape and inspect it for eggs or worms.  If you do it for the full six nights, this test is pretty conclusive.

Another test which gives an indication is a stool test, which your GP can organise for you.  Whilst it doesn’t look for threadworms specifically, it does look for another parasite called Dientamoeba fragilis.  These two parasites are great friends, where one goes the other is sure to follow.  D. fragilis gets transmitted to humans using the eggs or larvae of Enterobius vermicularis as a taxi.  So if you do a stool test and you find out you or your child has D. fragilis, they likely have threadworms too.

Prong one: Treat the worms

It is best to treat the whole family at the same time, as even the people without symptoms may well have them.  You can use over the counter medication (the chocolate squares) or herbal treatment.  If you have been using the over the counter medication for a while, the worms might have built up some resistance and you might need to switch to herbal.  Try to coordinate treatment with the full moon, as eggs hatch with the lunar cycle.  For best results repeat treatment every two weeks for four cycles, to catch the full life cycle of the worm.  Add in probiotics for better results, and foods which discourage parasites such as garlic, cloves, oregano, stewed rhubarb and carrots.  My gut busting soup contains lots of foods helpful for banishing worms.

Prong two: Cleaning Rituals

For a week, each member of the household should shower morning and night.  No baths.  People who can’t be trusted not to itch their bottoms in the night should wear undies and a onesie.  It can also be useful to put Vaseline over the anus to prevent itchiness and prevent the worms coming out to play.

All sheets, pillow cases, towels and undies should be washed in hot water as often as possible and dried in the sun.  If you have a tumble drier, put them in there for ten minutes as well to make sure you kill everything.  The bathrooms should be thoroughly cleaned with hot water, especially under the toilet seat.  The eggs can become airborne, so when you take the sheets off the bed, carefully bundle them, instead of shaking them out.  Vacuum bedroom floors, and hot mop them if you can.  Cut everyone’s finger nails short, and get them to wash their hands a lot.  Pets can’t be blamed for threadworms, so leave them alone!  And finally, don’t eat food that has fallen on the floor.

Prong three: Improve the terrain of the gut

If digestion is strong, the worms will pass through without setting up shop.

Everyone, especially children should eat a healthy and varied diet.  That means lots of whole foods, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, little or no processed food and adequate good quality protein.

To stimulate digestion, try to start the day with a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon (don’t do this straight after, or just before you brush your teeth as it can damage your enamel).

Drink lots of lots of filtered water.  This is critical!

Don’t go to bed with a full stomach.

Don’t drink with a meal, only between meals.  Drinking during a meal dilutes the stomach acid and limits digestion.

Spend lots of time outdoors – gardening, playing, bushwalks etc.

Kids don’t need processed foods.  No white flour products (muffins, bread, cake), no added sugar (lollies, fruit yoghurts, juice), no soft drinks.

What they do need is high quality probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kefir.

Foods which are good for digestion include papaya, lemons, apples, figs, pears, pineapple, nutmeg (just a pinch), oregano, parsley and turmeric.

If you have been struggling with repeated infestations of worms, get in touch with me for an individualised treatment plan to get rid of them once and for all.  Don’t wait, in the belief your child to grow out of it – adults can also have repeated infestations.

If your child has behaviour or sleeping issues, do the sticky tape test, and then get in touch if you find evidence of worms.