Busy Mom Recipe of the Week

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but how many of us actually eat it? Given the choice between 15 minutes extra sleep and eating something, I know which I would choose right now! But being a mom of four, being back at work and breastfeeding fulltime means that I have to be careful with my nutrition. I have hit on a winner though: my superfood protein smoothie!

Mix the following in a blender:

200ml whole milk

1 or 2 bananas

4 brazil nuts

4 walnuts

1 teaspoon raw cacao powder

1 scoop raw protein powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil

a few ice blocks (if you like a chilled smoothie)

Whole milk:

Yes, I mean FULL cream, FULL fat milk. None of this 2% or skimmed milk please. Our bodies cannot digest the protein or absorb the calcium from milk without the fat. Vitamins A and D are also fat-soluble. So you can’t absorb them from milk when all the fat has been skimmed off. Milk fat contains glycosphingolipids, which are fats linked to immune system health and cell metabolism. Studies show that eating saturated fat raises good cholesterol — the kind of cholesterol you want and need in your body. The nutrients in whole foods have a natural synergy with one another, meaning they work best in and are most beneficial to the body when they are taken together, not when they are isolated. So when you take some or all of the fat out of milk, you throw its nutritional profile out of whack. Basically, you discard all of the health benefits when you discard the fat.

Bananas:

Bananas sometimes get a bad name because of their relatively high glycemic index, meaning they get converted to sugar in the blood very quickly. BUT the average banana contains only 30g of carbohydrates along with 3g of fibre. They also contain Vitamins C and B6, magnesium and potassium. The  potassium in bananas helps you hang on to any calcium that you absorb by minimising the amount lost in urine and sweat. Bananas contain tryptophan  which helps the body to produce serotonin which in turn helps in creating a stable mood by acting on the brain. It makes you feel happier and improves your mood. (And what mom couldn’t do with a bit of mood stabilising?!)

Brazil nuts and walnuts:

All nuts are generally full of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. Recent studies suggest that eating a small handful of nuts four times a week can help reduce heart disease and satisfy food cravings. Brazil nuts are one of the few good sources of selenium that may help protect against cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.  Walnuts have the highest antioxidant activity of all nuts, which means they provide good protection against cancer. They are brimming with vitamin E, which is excellent for heart health. Studies have shown that eating them can reduce the risk of a heart attack from between 15 and 51 per cent. Rich in cholesterol-lowering plant serums and omega 3 oils, walnuts have similar benefits to oily fish in terms of reducing cholesterol levels, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition last year. Regular consumption can also guard against diabetes.

Raw Cacao Powder:

Cocao powder, in particular raw organic unsweetened cocao powder is a true superfood in every sense of the word. Cocao is full of heart healthy antioxidants. Cocao powder provides a whopping 6.5 grams of fibre per serving, almost as much as a bowl of raisin bran. Cocao powder provides 5 grams of protein per serving, almost as much as an egg  AND cocao is full of mood-boosting compounds.

Raw Protein Powder:

Protein is made up of amino acids, which are essential for a countless number of metabolic functions in the human body.  Amino acids are needed for optimal immune function, tissue growth and repair, and to catalyse important enzymatic reactions in the body.

Coconut Oil:

I am so in love with coconut oil right now! It can improve your heart health, boost your thyroid, increase your metabolism, promote a lean body and weight loss and support your immune system. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid which our bodies convert to monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoa properties.

So whip up a superfoods smoothie tomorrow morning. It takes 5 minutes or less, tastes delicious and you’ll feel the benefits all day. I even made this for my kids and called it a chocolate milkshake and they slurped it down for pudding…altogether very yummy!

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The Wonders of Waterbirth

It was a sticky December Durban evening and the air conditioner hummed noisily in the background. My eldest son gave me sips of water and maintained his firm grip on the torch while my husband, doula and midwife leaned on the edge of the pool chatting about this and that and reassuring my Daschund that I was alright. My younger son wandered in and out of the room as the whim took him and the general feeling was very relaxed and jovial. Were it not for the fact that my third son was about to be born, it could have been any other normal night. Tarquin made his way gently into the water shortly after 8pm and mine were the hands that lifted him onto my chest. He didn’t cry, but having had two other children at home, I knew that this was the norm. Babies who have a gentle birth generally do not scream in protest. Even though he weighed 4.3kg, his birth was easy and beautiful.

Igor Tjarkovsy introduced the concept of water births to the Western world in the sixties, but the idea was by no means new. There are legends of South Pacific islanders who gave birth in shallow sea water, and of Egyptian pharaohs born in water. Women in Mongolia, Hawaii, Samoa, Greece and Guyana have taken to the water to birth their babies. In the 1970’s, Frederick Leboyer encourages parents to bath their babies in warm water as soon as possible after birth to allow them a gentle entry into the world. But it was Michel Odent, a French obstetrician, who began to encourage women to use birth pools to ease the pain of labour at his maternity unit in Pithiviers, France. Odent noticed that many women are attracted to water during their labours, whether it was the use of a shower or a bath. After one of his patients accidentally gave birth while still in water, he began to research the use of water for birthing and not just for labour.

I have heard every objection under the sun to water births, from the idea that if babies were meant too be born in water, they would be born with a snorkel (this from an obstetrician) to the idea that the baby would drown. The truth is that our babies are floating in liquid for nine months, and it is the feeling of air on the skin that stimulates the baby’s reflex to take that first breath. Babies who are born into water can be given the chance to unfurl in the water and slowly adjust to the idea of being out of their watery womb before being brought to the surface. The umbilical cord remains attached and continues to feed the baby oxygen and nutrients, so there is no pressure to get the baby breathing immediately. Although studies have been done, there have been no findings of an increase in risk factors for women or babies who are birthed in water.

Beautiful Benefit of Water

Aside from wanting to give the baby a natural and gentle birth process, the main reason women choose to have a water birth or to use water in their labour is to reduce pain. Water provides an optimal environment for the mother to manage her labour. Water helps the birthing mother to relax – just think of lying in a hot bath after a tiring day at work and you get the idea. As she relaxes, so too does her pelvic floor and her cervix is able to open. The muscles of the uterus contract more effectively, require less oxygen to do so and recover better between contractions. Relaxation allows for the endorphins (happy-hormones) to rise appropriately in response to pain. Endorphins produce a sense of well-being and elation, so that even though the pain is still felt, it is more diffuse and the mother feels more detached from it. There is a corresponding rise in oxytocinThe mother experiences less pain and less fear, and on average, a faster labour. Because of its pain-relieving properties, the use of water during birth reduces the need for analgesics and epidurals. A reduction in the use of pain relieving drugs not only benefits the mother, who is more alert and responsive after the birth, but also the baby. levels (which causes the uterus to contract) and a drop in stress hormones which can slow down labour.

The ability to move around during labour is vital to the progress of the labour. Labour in water becomes more manageable as the mother is able to move around more freely because her body is completely supported by the water. The buoyancy of the water counteracts the effects of gravity and the mother is able to adopt positions that may have been difficult out of the water. By moving naturally and instinctively she is better able to move the baby through the pelvis.

A birth pool creates a kind of privacy that is often lacking in other kinds of births. The pool becomes the mother’s sanctuary, her sacred space, and permission must be asked before anyone can enter. It seems to create an entirely different environment and atmosphere for a woman giving birth, and also for the midwife caring for her. Sensory input and distractions are low, which makes it easier for her to relax deeply. Birth takes place in a quiet room, with personal care from a midwife who is concerned to support the normal physiological process of birth. Women find that they are more able to let go and follow their instinctual nature when they are in this kind of environment.

Another pro of water birth is that it decreases the chance of an episiotomy or perineal tear. The warm water softens and relaxes the perineal tissue, which becomes more elastic and stretches to allow the baby’s head to crown. Counter pressure form the water makes the crowning of the head more controlled and gentle, and allows the mother to push more steadily. Even if the woman labours in water but gets out of the pool to give birth, there will be beneficial effects on the perineum.

Safety First

There are some safety precautions that should be observed to ensure a water birth that is free of complications. The water should be at body temperature – 37◦C – so that it is neither too hot nor too cold for the baby, and so that the mother does not overheat. Care should be taken during the birth to maintain this temperature and this job should be given to someone specifically. The mother should get into the pool only when she is in active labour (after 4-5cm dilation). At this point, the relaxing effect of the water speeds up the labour, but if she gets in before this point, the labour may slow down. Both mother and baby should be monitored throughout the labour (using a hand-held Doppler for the baby) and if there are any signs of foetal distress, the baby should be born out of the water. Your midwife or obstetrician should be experienced and competent in caring for women giving birth in water.

Water birth is associated with a non-intervention approach to labour and delivery. Instead, water encourages you to find your own strength and your instinctive knowledge of how best to birth your baby, so your birth is much more likely to be a natural one. Births where the mother is conscious and aware put her in control of her birthing process and allow her to bond quicker and more deeply with her baby. Women who experience this kind of conscious birth feel empowered and awed by the amazing strength and wisdom of their bodies and carry this newfound strength into the rest of their lives.

 

Stay well this winter

Well here we are, once again, with winter looming and the threat of flu in the air. It seems that everyone is coming down with it, so it’s time to start looking at your health and taking precautions to boost your immune system.

First take care of the basics

Even though schools, daycare centers, and business offices can be less than ideal environments for maintaining upper respiratory health, the following suggestions help you stay proactive:

  • Exercise boosts the immune system. Moderation is key, however, as overly strenuous activity like running a marathon can actually compromise immunity.
  • Sleep – Aim for a full eight hours each and every night.The body uses this critical downtime to make all kinds of immune system chemicals.
  • Cleanliness – Wash your hands often. Carry a mini travel-size hand sanitizer with you in your car or bag
  • Hydration – Water keeps your mucous membranes moist and healthy. Drink plenty of bottled water and use a vaporizer in your bedroom if the air is dry.
  • Stress – Quickly depresses the immune system. Learn to manage stress in personally effective ways. Some people meditate, others take long walks, while still others soak in a hot tub sprinkled with essential oil of lavender. Find the activity that helps you cope with the ups and downs of daily living.
  • Fresh Air – Try to get some fresh air and sunshine each day far from any pollution like car exhaust. It goes without saying to avoid tobacco and second hand smoke as much as humanly possible.
  • Diet – Simply stated, stay away from sugar! A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but you might not even need it if you refrain from sugar, a sure immunity buster. Instead load up on lots of fresh, juicy fruits and vegetables.

 Immune Boosters

With the basics out of the way, we can focus on the immune system. My all-time favourites for increasing immune activity are Echinacea and Vitamin C. Get yourself a really good quality Echinacea tincture or tablets. If you’re taking the tincture, take 30 drops twice times a day to prevent flu and increase this dose to up to 50 drops 4 times a day if you start showing signs of flu. After you have taken the tincture, the back of your tongue should feel numb or tingly. This feeling will soon pass, but you know you are using a good quality product. If taking the tablets, follow the directions on the bottle. Good quality Vitamin C supplements are excellent antioxidants and fight viruses directly so daily intake of 1000mg will ward off the flu. If you get diarrhoea, change to a different brand or decrease the dose. I will often increase the dose to 1000mg several times a day at the start of flu.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Homoeopaths can give you remedies to prevent flu. Most of these contain Influenzinum, the homoeopathically potentised form of the current flu vaccine (remember these change every year with the different strains, so last year’s remedy won’t work as well as the current one). The theory here is that the very diluted vaccine will stimulate the vital force, or immune system, to recognize and react swiftly to one of these viruses entering the body, thus conferring specific immunity. Influenzinum may be given on its own or combined with immune strengthening remedies. One of the most common is Anas Barbarie or Oscillococcinum. This remedy confers general immunity to flu-like illnesses and can also be given at the onset of flu symptoms in order to help avert a full-blown illness. Unless otherwise directed, take the prevention remedies once or twice a week. As with all homeopathic remedies, take 15 minutes before or after food, and away from strong tastes such as toothpaste.

Treatment

If you do get the flu, try to select the homoeopathic remedy that most closely resembles your symptoms. Remember that homoeopathy is specific to your symptoms, so different people need different remedies. Here is a list of the most common flu remedies:

· Aconite (monkshood): This remedy is primarily useful during the first 24 hours of flu. It is helpful when a fever begins after exposure to cold or cold, dry winds. Chilliness and a cold sweat may also be experienced. A barking cough develops, with a burning sore throat, and a bitter taste that lingers in the mouth

· Gelsemium (yellow jasmine): When fatigue and a generalized heavy, weak feeling pervades the person, even leading to trembling of individual parts and to having heavy, half-open eyelids, this remedy should be considered. These people tend to have little or no thirst, can experience chills up and down their spine, and have a headache in the back part of their head.

· Bryonia (white bryony): People who have marked body aches during the flu that are aggravated by anyGenerally, these people also have a headache in the front part of their head which is also aggravated by motion. They have dry, even chapped lips, a dry cough, and a great thirst for cold water. They are warm, and are averse to warm rooms. People with the flu who are very irritable and insist upon being left alone tend to benefit from this remedy. type of motion suggest the need for this remedy.

· Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset): People with the flu who experience aches in the muscles and pains in the bones and/or in their eyes often benefit from this remedy. Another characteristic symptom of people who need this remedy is chills that occur in the morning, especially 7-9am. These people desire cold drinks, even during a chill and even though it may elicit a chill response. They feel better lying on whatever part of their body is aching.

· Arsenicum album (arsenic): This is an important medicine for people with the stomach flu who experience nausea and vomiting along with a fever. These people are sensitive to and worse for exposure to cold. They experience a great thirst, but only for sips of water at a time. They feel restless and anxious, usually worrying if they might actually be sicker than they are, and they may seek several professionals’ opinion on their condition. They feel better with company around, and they feel the worse at or near midnight.

I suggest taking the indicated remedy every two hours whilst symptoms are acute and decrease the frequency as you get better. Generally, if you are buying remedies over the counter, buy them in the 30CH potency, as these are appropriate for most conditions.

Meet Dr Mom

imag0029I have always had an interest in natural medicine, and after seeing wonderful results that family members were getting from a homoeopath, I decided that this was what I wanted to study. I had already studied aromatherapy and reflexology but when I started studying homoeopathy, it was a truly enlightening experience. I began to understand and respect the innate wisdom of the body and our own inborn healing capacity. I graduated from the Durban University of Technology with a masters degree in Homoeopathy. In my practice, I have always had a natural affinity for my women and children patients (not that I don’t treat men!). I love treating children because they are so responsive to the medicine and often  results can be seen in a matter of hours. Parents always comment that it is so easy for them to administer the medicines because most of them taste like sugar.

In 2007, a friend of mine had a very traumatic birth experience at a government hospital, and I was there to support her through it. I was appalled by her experience – I have had 3 home births, and each birth was beautiful and empowering. At each birth, I had the assistance of a doula, and after each birth I felt such gratitude for her support that I wanted to do the doula training myself; but starting a course when you have a newborn baby is just not the right time, so I had put it off. My friend’s experience was the push I needed to get going and finally do the course. I completed ten training births before I began practicing on my own and have now attended many, many births. Each one, however, is a unique and beautiful experience. I feel greatly honoured to witness the miracle of birth and to support this process on such a regular basis.

I am very passionate about my work and attend regular workshops and conferences to improve my knowledge and learn new tricks to help my patients. I am blessed to do something that I truly love, and to make a difference in peoples’ lives.