Fine and Dandy!

We all know about BPA in babies’ bottles but it seems to be in just about everything, including the bowls and spoons we use for feeding. I was so excited to find a range that is not only BPA-free and organic but actually made from corn! Dandelion feeding utensils are made from a unique corn bioplastic (PLA) formula which is naturally BPA free, Phthalate free and PVC free. Corn is also a renewable and sustainable resource making this product earth-friendly as well as people-friendly.

Dandelion feeding bowls are a lovely size and perfect right from first foods through to slightly bigger meals (I had my yoghurt out of one the other day). They are fairly deep which reduces spills and have little handles on the sides so they are easy to hold. Their spoons are great – small enough to fit into baby’s mouth easily with long handles to reach into deep jars. They also come in a pack of 8 so you can keep one in the nappy bag, one in the car and one in the handbag for all those out and about meal emergencies, and still have spare at home.

You must remember that this range cannot go in the microwave or dishwasher, but they are pretty easy to clean so that’s not really an issue.

*I was not reimbursed for this review. I received Dandelion feeding utensils from Green Beginnings

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New Light on Allergies

Whilst putting together a newsletter for the cat charity I run, I came across the following article which got me thinking.

“PETS: GOOD OR BAD FOR ALLERGIES AND ASTHMA?

Much to the surprise of doctors running a study following hundreds of children from birth to age seven, their findings revealed that children who grow up with dogs and cats in their homes have a 50% reduced risk of developing common allergies.

“For generations, allergists have been trained to believe that dogs and cats in the house were bad because they increased the risk of people becoming allergic to them,” said lead investigator, Dr. Dennis Ownby of the Medical College of Georgia in the U.S. Not so, according to the study. Doctors followed a group of 474 healthy babies in Detroit from birth to age seven, comparing the children exposed to two or more indoor dogs and cats during infancy with those who were not exposed to pets.

They found that the children exposed to pets were half as likely to develop common allergies. “This is exactly the opposite of what we would have predicted,” admitted Dr. Ownby.

Cats or dogs provided benefit even for outdoor allergens. “They were protective against allergies to things such as ragweed, timothy grass, and Alternaria, as well as to pets,” noted Christine Cole Johnson, PhD, senior research epidemiologist with Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and one of the study’s coauthors. And the more pets, the better: “It really took two to make the drop in allergy and atopy [rates],” she added.”

This study is significant because everywhere you turn these days, somebody is allergic to something. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people suffer from allergies in one form or another.

So what are allergies?

An allergy is an overaggressive immune response triggered by ingesting certain foods, touching certain substances, or inhaling an irritant such as pollen or animal dander. These triggers are called allergens. The symptoms of allergies vary according to your body’s sensitivity and can range from runny nose, sneezing, itching and redness of the eyes, asthma or skin rash to anaphylaxis and even death in extreme cases.

Diagnosis of allergies is usually made by skin testing – where certain allergens are applied to the skin and you are monitored for a reaction – or by blood tests. Skin testing is favoured because it is easier, cheaper, and in most cases, more sensitive. Traditionally, management of allergies involved simply avoiding the allergen in question or otherwise reducing exposure. For instance, people with cat allergies were encouraged to avoid them. While avoidance may help to reduce symptoms and avoid life-threatening anaphylaxis, it is difficult to achieve for those with pollen or similar air-borne allergies. This new study, however, throws this traditional approach out the window!

Conventional allopathic medicine will tell you that there is no cure for allergies. The allergic reaction is managed with antihistamines, decongestants, steroids, topical creams and antibiotics to treat complications – in other words, medicines that switch off the body’s response. People with allergies know that these treatments don’t work; at best, they provide temporary relief of symptoms, and at worst, they create side effects which can be worse than the allergies themselves. This reductionist approach works well with machines, but is clearly inadequate for addressing living organisms like ourselves.

A different approach

According to renowned homoeopath Dana Ullman, the greatest misunderstanding about allergies is the assumption that the allergen (the cat dander, the pollen, the house dust mite, or whatever) is the problem. Actually, the allergen is simply the trigger, while the allergic person’s body is the loaded gun. Rather than just treating symptoms or avoiding the allergen, the best course is to take action to strengthen the body’s own immune and defense system. Natural therapies which do this help empty the loaded gun or simply make it shoot blanks.

Solid research has proven the effectiveness of homeopathic medicines in hayfever. Dr. David Taylor-Reilly, a professor and homeopath at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, published an important study in the Lancet (October 18, 1986) which showed that homeopathically prepared doses of 12 common flowers were very effective in reducing hayfever symptoms when compared with patients given a placebo.

This same researcher published in the Lancet (October 12, 1994) another high caliber study on the homeopathic treatment of asthma. This double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial performed conventional allergy testing to determine what substance asthma sufferers were most allergic. Then, half of the subjects were given a homeopathic preparation of this substance, while the other half were given a placebo. Those people given the homeopathic medicine experienced a very significant improvement in their symptoms of asthma.

The natural way

From a naturopathic viewpoint, allergies are often associated with weak adrenal, immune, and digestive functions. Natural treatments are used to support and improve those functions and to alleviate symptoms of allergies.

Eat a moderately low-fat, high-complex-carbohydrate diet. Drink one glass of water for every 10kg body weight daily (e.g., a 60kg person would drink 6 glasses of water).

Include a lot of the following foods in the diet:

  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Deep yellow and orange vegetables
  • Nettles, bamboo shoots, cabbage, beetroot tops, beetroots, carrots, yams
  • Onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne, horseradish

Eliminate the following from the diet:

  • Alcohol, caffeine, and dairy products
  • Bananas and citrus fruit
  • Chocolate
  • Food colorings (tartrazine)
  • Peanuts
  • Red meat
  • Sugar
  • Wheat

Supplements

Bioflavonoids (e.g., quercetin, catechin, and hesperidin) – Take 2-3 grams daily. When symptoms are severe, take up to 6 grams. Bioflavonoids are natural antihistamines and strongly anti-allergenic. Bromelain and vitamin C can enhance the action of bioflavonoids.

Flaxseed oil – Take 1 tbsp daily.

Probiotics (e.g., lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus) – Take one in the morning and one in the evening. Probiotics are bowel microflora – the bacteria that normally inhabit the intestines. Buy a quality product that has 3 million organisms per capsule.

Vitamin A – Take 25,000 IUs daily.

Vitamin C – Take 1-3 grams daily or to bowel tolerance. (Bowel tolerance is the amount of vitamin C that can be taken without causing diarrhea. This amount is different for each person and can change if the need increases because the body is stressed, injured, or ill.).

Vitamin E – Take 400 IUs daily.

Zinc – Take 30 mg daily.

Herbs

Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) – Used as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) – Reduces congestion and secretions. It is good for itchy eyes, sneezing, and excess mucus.

Gingko (Gingko biloba) – Contains bioflavonoids and is used as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) – Helps reduce allergic, inflammatory, and histaminic reactions and supports liver function.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) – Helps build the body’s resistance to allergies.Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)—Used as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Reduces congestion and secretions

Homoeopathic Remedies

Allium cepa – Indicated for bland, nonirritating discharge from eyes; copious, watery, acrid discharge from nose; hoarseness; and feeling better in cool air and open room.

Euphrasia – Indicated for symptoms such as copious, watery, acrid discharge from eyes; nonirritating discharge from nose; dry, hard cough; much sneezing; diarrhea; and feeling worse in open air.

Natrum muriaticum – Indicated for watery or egg white-like discharges; cold sores; no sense of taste or smell; headaches; and feeling better outside.

Nux vomica – Indicated for runny nose in daytime, then dry nose at night; violent sneezing; nose feels blocked but there is watery nasal discharge through one nostril; and feeling worse outside.

Wyethia – Indicated for extreme itching in the nose and throat; throat feels swollen; back of throat is dry and burning; and sensation as if something were in nasal passages.

“Pro’s” for Skincare

Probiotics seem to be the buzzword on everyone’s lips at the moment.  Most of us are familiar with the use of probiotics for gastrointestinal health, but research is being conducted on their use for allergies, immunity, cancer prevention, surgical infections and women’s health. Probiotics have also been found to maintain skin health and even assist in slowing down the effects of aging. Topical probiotics help maintain healthy skin flora thus keeping the skin well hydrated. I have long been telling my patients to add probiotics to their nappy cream because nappy rash is often caused by fungal infections and probiotics help prevent fungal overgrowth.

So when I came across the Babaderm range, I was very excited! The products are specifically designed for babies and contain none of the nasties we want to keep way from baby’s skin (parabens, Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate (ALS) Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), petrochemicals, synthetic colours and fragrances). All their products contain Probiton™, a probiotic ‘essence’ and none of the products are tested on animals. The range is designed by a Cape Town based dad and a GP. The products can be used to treat and prevent nappy rash and cradle cap, and to prevent eczema flare ups.

I use it in my practice now for nappy changes and the moms all love it.

*I was not reimbursed for this review. I received Babaderm products to test

Avent Weaning Products

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Meet my new favourite gadget: the Philips Avent Combined Steamer and Blender. Never one to follow strict rules about anything, we do a combination of baby led weaning and purées. The steamer-blender is great for that. I buy my organic veg from work on a Friday. I then wash and peel them and cut them into finger shaped pieces (makes holding them easier for baby) and pop them in the steamer. The water measuring container is graded in minutes, so I fill up to 10 or 15 min and pour it into the reservoir. The machine automatically switches off and beeps when ready – which is great because I am invariably busy with homework or something else and forget that I’ve put the steamer on. When everything is steamed, I take out a few bits for baby to chew on and then turn the jug over and blend up the rest. I store the purées in my Via cups.

I love that it is relatively small and steams things very quickly. So when she’s eating more, we can steam her portions every day. The whole unit is very easy to use and easy to clean. It comes with a lovely little recipe book with some interesting combinations if you need some inspiration.

We also got some utensils and bowls from Avent to try out. I love the travel feeding set which is basically a nice size lunch box consisting of a feeding bowl and two lidded containers. The lid has a built in compartment for a feeding spoon (included in the set) and there is a suction mat that prevents the bowl from being flung around. We put purées in the two little containers and chunks of food in the bigger part. Avent also does a range of bowls and spoons with gorgeous designs on them. The pictures are designed by a child psychologist with an educational storytelling design on them. All of them are BPA-free, the bowls have non-slip bottoms and are very robust.

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 Travel feeding set

*I was not reimbursed for this review. I received Avent products to test

Busy Mom Recipe: Easy Pasta Sauce

I’m having a rare stay-at-home-mom-day today and taking the opportunity to do some cooking with the kids. One of the things we made today was my easy-peasy pasta sauce. There are few things I like more than fresh pasta with fresh napoletana sauce. It is always a big hit with the children and there are never any arguments about eating dinner when this is on the menu. While I quite often do a big batch in my slow cooker, taking the time to peel and de-seed the tomatoes, sometimes one simply doesn’t have the time. This is a really nice recipe to involve the kids in because it is so easy, and I have this romantic notion that it is so simple that they will remember it and be able to make it for themselves when they are grown (or to impress my future daughters-in-law!).

You need:

  • Tomatoes (of any kind: roma, jam, plum, rosa, cherry or plain old english tomatoes. Today I used a mix of store-bought long life tomatoes and cherry tomatoes from my garden)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Basil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar

Quarter your tomatoes, or halve them if they are small. Cut off the bit where the stalk attaches. Toss them into a roasting pan or oven dish. Add some garlic (crushed or whole cloves) and shredded basil, season with salt and pepper and glug some olive oil over the whole lot. Pop it in the oven at 200*C until roasted or starting to brown but not stick to the bottom of the pan. Allow it to cool and then pop it into a blender and whizz until you get the consistency you like – I like it a bit chunky so I pulse it. Add balsamic vinegar to taste – it adds sweetness so you don’t have to add sugar. Serve over fresh pasta with lashings of Parmesan cheese. Yum!

It freezes really well too, so make a big batch and then store some for an even quicker meal. I have not included quantities because it’s one of those things that works so well with what you have in the fridge (and I almost never measure when I cook). You can make it with 8 tomatoes or 18!