The Easiest Produce Wash

Easy produce wash to remove dirt and little critters! #naturalliving #lifehacks #naturalkitchen

Washing fruit and veggies is something I haven’t thought out too well.  Although I’ve heard time and again to not do this, I use a tiny bit of watered down dish soap to wash produce with tough skins like apples, cucumbers, zucchini, etc.  As for things like berries with a soft, absorbent skin, I just rinse in tap water.  This bothers me for two reasons.  One, I don’t drink my unfiltered Chicago tap water for obvious reasons, so why would I wash my absorbent berries in it.  Two, I’ve become aware that parasites are all around us, including at the grocery store.  I don’t feel confident that a rinse in tap water will remove all trace of parasites from the fruit.

Recently, I came across a great way to wash berries and other veggies that does not change the taste and makes me feel a lot more secure about getting them clean.  It’s as simple as this:

  1. Fill a bowl with about 2 cups of filtered water, the kind you drink.
  2. Add a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar.
  3. Stir a bit, add your fruit or veggies and stir gently.
  4. Allow to soak a few minutes.
  5. Strain out the water.
  6. Rinse under cold water.

I’ve been doing this a lot lately with strawberries because they are in season here, and delicious.  After the soaking stage, I pull the strawberries out by hand to look in the leftover water.  Every time I find bugs.  All different kinds.  I am glad my organic fruit is clean enough to host bugs.  I am also glad that my fruit wash is effectively removing bugs I can see.

What about the bugs I can’t see?  Good news, vinegar has been shown in studies to reduce bacteria and viruses from strawberries by upwards of 90%.  (Source)

I have not tried this wash on produce other than berries, but in my research I have found that people use it for all types of produce.  A great idea I came across is to make a large batch and wash all your produce at one time, even if you’re not going to be eating it all at that time.

Regarding pesticides, I have read that vinegar (any type) will remove a portion of surface pesticides.  The problem with non-organic produce is that the pesticides are inside the produce as well as on the surface.  Rain water soaks the chemicals into the ground where it is soaked up by the roots.  It can soak into the plant when it is sprayed as well.  I firmly believe the best way to not eat toxic poison is to keep it really, really far away from your home and your food.  Buying organic is the only way to not consume toxic pesticides on your food.  I did a lot of research on organics which resulted in this post and this post if you are interested.

This is just one of the many reasons why you should keep raw apple cider vinegar in your kitchen at all times.  Happy washing!

Easy produce wash to remove dirt and little critters! #naturalliving #lifehacks #naturalkitchen

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Trust Your Mommy Brain

There was a time in my life where I thought doctors knew everything. I thought they knew my body better than I did, and worse, my children’s bodies better than I did. Do you think that way too? You shouldn’t.

I’ve told the story again and again how my oldest child was born with complications and almost died. I was young and scared. I surrendered to the doctors because they were my son’s only hope. For two years after I continued to let his several doctors make the calls for his well-being. The kidney doctor gave him a prescription. His urologist gave him a prescription. His pediatrician had him on antibiotics continually from birth until 6 months, and then every time he had a cold we got another round of antibiotics. If the 1st round didn’t work, they gave us a different antibiotic. This continued for two years of his life. The most precious and delicate two years of his life.

I remember one evening when he was around two, he walked up to me several hours after dinner and threw up whatever it was he ate. The shocking thing was that it was still whole pieces of food. The several hours since he ate, absolutely no digestion was going on. This was the instant that I started to look for answers to his health on my own. Separate from his doctor.  I found out how antibiotics destroy the bacteria needed in the gut for digestion and a strong immune system.  I gave him probiotics.  They helped.

For the past five years I have been researching holistic health and am now very comfortable on making my own decisions on taking care of my kid’s health. My youngest is now two and a half and has never had antibiotics. He has never had Tylenol. He has not even been to the doctor since his 1-year well visit, where I became tired of the pressure to vaccinate with products that have not been properly (if at all) safety tested. The thing is, most of the stuff we take our kids to the doctor or specialist for, we don’t really need to. A fever of 102 is scary, but it is the body’s way of killing off germs.  When we try to stifle the fever, we are making it harder for our child to get well.  Read my post Fevers Are Our Friends for more on that.

Know that I am not suggesting you avoid your pediatrician the way I do.  I am suggesting that you question their suggestions and prescriptions.  Especially if it doesn’t feel right for you.  In my experience, I have found that conventional doctors know very little about supporting the body through natural methods like nutrition.  They simply treat symptoms with drugs.  Have you ever wondered why they aren’t curious what is causing those symptoms!?  Symptoms are the body’s way of dealing with a problem.  The problem needs to be treated, not the symptom.  It’s absolutely ridiculous this type of medicine has persisted for the last 100 years.

This morning I was out for a walk with my toddler and we said hello to some neighbors, a father and a daughter who is turning two this week.  He asked if my son is talking yet and I said yes, quite a bit.  He told me that his daughter is not using words yet, only her made up language.  He then told me that his pediatrician suggested at when she was 18 months to take her to a speech specialist.  18 months!  Thankfully he is letting her take her time and develop.  He said that the pediatrician has deals with specialists where they get kickbacks for referring patients.  Oddly enough, the same thing happened with my oldest son.  Like him, I never went to the specialist and my son speaks just fine.  Trust your mommy brain!

I realize that I am a bit more extreme into holistic health because I have seen 1st hand the damages that too much antibiotics, over-the-counters like Tylenol or Motrin and prescription drugs caused my oldest child.  It has taken us five years of research, hard work and saying no to conventional medical treatment to get him to the spot where he is now.  His allergies are under control, his nebulizer for asthma treatments is collecting dust, and he hasn’t had an antibiotic or over-the-counter drug in at least four years.  He has not had McDonald’s or Wendy’s, we cut out Doritos and Cheetos, and I do not buy crappy lunch foods like fruit snacks or Twinkies.  But this is important for every mother, every child.  Human bodies are brilliantly constructed and we need to take really, really good care of them if we are going to operate at our full potential.  And doesn’t every mother want that for their children?  Health experts are now saying that this is the first time that our children will not live as long as we will.  The increase in GMOs, pesticide use and other toxins (like injecting aluminum and formaldehyde into them?) is now shortening the lifespan of the human race.  We have to trust our mommy instincts and take a step back.  It is worth the extra hours in the kitchen to feed our kids real food instead of packaged processed foods which are void of nutrition.  It is worth it to stand up to their doctor and say no, I don’t trust your treatment.  Our kids are worth this.

It is not hard to start going natural.  For colds and fevers, I use homeopathy and essential oils along with dietary adjustments.  You can get this cough syrup from most Walgreen’s.  I also use Hyland’s Defend Sinus, 40 Count” target=”_blank”>these sinus tablets from Vitacost.com which work amazing.  It’s really simple to step away from the beaten path of specialist after doctor after doctor.  That is the path which leads to consistently poorer health.  Make changes, one by one.  It doesn’t have to be all at once.  Don’t put the health and well-being in the hands of anyone but yourself.  Trust that you know what is best for your family.   As the popular saying goes: Mother knows best!

If you are interested in finding a new doctor for your family, the following are links to registered Integrative or Functional Medicine practitioners.

Institute for Functional Medicine

American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine

What are your thoughts on all this?  Do you disagree?  Please share in the comments below!

My First Grader Can’t Sit Still – How We Are Making it Work

I haven’t talked about my son’s health and related school issues in a long time.  I have some great updates to share.

A few weeks ago we attended a meeting at his school along with the school counselor, nurse, social worker, psychologist, his teacher, the special education teacher, and the occupational therapist.  The goal was to discuss his attention and behavior progress and whether or not he will need an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP.  The slightly arrogant psychologist began the discussion by letting us know that she had observed our son and said he was unable to pay attention longer than three seconds.  She immediately lost all credibility with me, as I found that unrealistic and slightly offensive.  My son has a great attention span when it is something he is interested in.  Thankfully the rest of the school staff was much better at assessing our son’s behavior and learning abilities.  His teacher expressed that she does not feel he has a learning disability, but definitely has trouble sitting still and focusing.  This matched what I have observed at home.  During our homework time he will fidget, rub his eyes and face repeatedly, yawn, look around the room and fall off his chair attempting to distract himself from whatever school work I am asking him to focus on.  I have been able to help him focus and complete work, and so I know wholeheartedly the “three-second” school psychologist is not correct in her assessment.

After we all agreed that my son needed a more tailored approach to his education, the school staff dropped the bomb that he will need a diagnosis to qualify for an IEP.  I have been avoiding having my son diagnosed with ADD or ADHD because I do not want any labels following him through life like a stigma.  Honestly, I feel that ADD and ADHD are over diagnosed.  I also do not feel that my son’s lack of attention on reading or writing qualifies as a disease.  Children are in a full day of school at 5 years-old and are learning to read, write and do basic math.  When I was in kindergarten 27 years ago, it was mainly focused on building social skills with some basic language and math skills worked in.  I can’t imagine how difficult it is for a 5 year-old to sit still at a desk and listen attentively for so many hours a day.  Kids should be filled with energy and imagination.  They should be dreamers and creators.  Of the other moms I talk to from my son’s school, many of their children have been diagnosed with ADHD, usually boys.  A lot of them.  It’s pretty ridiculous.  Maybe instead of trying to force these kids into a system which doesn’t work, they should instead design a system which works better for these little energetic dreamers.  Which brings me back to the IEP.

While I really do not want a “diagnosis”, I know that they can call him whatever they want, I will never tell my son he is anything but perfect.  So I begrudgingly agreed to let them all meet with him one-on-one in the coming weeks to determine his “diagnosis.”  We are now set to meet again in a few weeks to discuss their findings and what changes we can make to help him do better in school.

Even though we have not yet implemented an IEP, my son has actually been doing a lot better lately in school.  He is still behind, but we are nonetheless thrilled and relieved to see progress in his behavior and attentiveness.  I think a lot of it is him growing and maturing, but I have been doing some things at home to help him feel balanced.

#1 – Address Gut Issues / Food Intolerances

A few weeks ago, I listened to an interview with Pam Machemehl Helmly, CN, entitled “A Balanced Brain Makes for a Balanced Child.”  It was part of the Children & Teen’s Health Summit and unfortunately can no longer be accessed for free.  It was a very interesting interview regarding treatment of AD/HD in children.  Pam stated that between 70 and 80% of the individuals diagnosed with AD/HD were dealing with gastrointestinal issues.  In the interview, Pam shared that many important neurotransmitters are produced in the gut, such as serotonin and around 40 others.  Neurotransmitters are chemicals which send information throughout the brain and the body.  If a person is lacking adequate neurotransmitters due to gut dysbiosis, the brain cannot function properly.  This means that the gut is largely a cause of AD/HD in children.  If your child has food allergies or digestive issues, you will want to pay special attention to this factor.

My son has allergies to gluten and soy.  It is so easy to let him have a little gluten here and there, or go out to eat and know he’s eating soy in some form.  (It’s hidden in everything.)  I have noticed again and again that his attention and overall state declines when I get lazy with his diet restrictions.  Lately I have been making a huge effort to make sure his food is free of any ingredients which will make him feel unwell.

It is also important to give kids a real food diet with as little preservatives, artificial coloring, overly processed sugar and other franken-ingredients as possible, otherwise they will not be operating at their best.  According to the Neurogistics website:

Individuals diagnosed with AD/HD share similarities among behavioral symptoms. However, the underlying causes may be heterogeneous due to a combination of several, biological, psychological and social factors.

Additionally, research has indicated that several biochemical factors may play a role in AD/HD. This includes food allergies and sensitivity to food additives such as flavor enhancers, coloring agents, as well as preservatives. Heavy metal toxicities (aluminum, lead, mercury) and other environmental toxins from air, food and water, vitamin deficiencies (B1, B3, B6), mineral (iron, selenium, zinc, copper, calcium, magnesium) and amino acid (tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine) abnormalities, essential fatty acids (omega-3 series) and phospholipid deficiencies, thyroid disorders as well as genetic predisposition can all play a role in AD/HD.  (Source)

#2 – Vetiver Essential Oil

Dr. Terry Friedman conducted a study, which can be found here.  The study showed that inhaling Vetiver essential oil three times daily resulted in increased beta-theta brain wave ratio.  (Beta waves are in an alert state, theta waves are in a sleep or daydreaming state.)  Researchers concluded Vetiver essential oil was effective in promoting concentration.   I put this oil in my diffuser, which is a difficult task but is the only way I have been able to consistently have him inhale it three times a day.  The oil is very thick and syrupy so it takes a little time and work to get a few drops out, but I feel it is worth the effort.

If you are going to be purchasing essential oils, make sure to research your source and be certain they are 100% pure.  Contact me if you are interested!

#3 – Taking Breaks

It may sound like common sense, but taking breaks during homework time really helps.  Once the fidgeting starts, I let my son take a play break for 5 minutes.  I make sure he understands he will be coming right back to avoid a tantrum.  It gives him a little relief and he comes back a little bit fresher.

Usually when he comes back after a break, we will start working on a different homework page than the one we were working on when he left.  His homework is usually divided into multiple sections per page, and so it helps to switch it up between subjects.

#4 – Exercise

A while back, I listened to this video from Kids In The House which explains that exercise increases dopamine and epinephrine, which are neurotransmitters  which ADD medicines are designed to increase.  The expert in the video, Dr. John Ratey, has several videos explaining how exercise helps the brain learn better, pay better attention and even grow socially.  According to Dr. Ratey,

Kids and adults learn better once they’ve exercised for a multitude of reasons.  Three ways of thinking about it:

One, it makes the learner a better learner, makes them more receptive, more focused, more motivated, more interested, less worried about capturing the material;

Second, it prepares the brain to learn. It actually releases chemicals in our brain that help our brain cells, 100 billion of the, be optimized to grow. That’s the only way we learn anything, is we take in information and our cells grow.

The third reason exercise is helpful is that it stimulates something called neurogenesis or making new brain cells. Everyone wants to hear about this, but it’s probably the newest and most controversial aspect of why exercise helps.  Exercise, more than any other drug or factor that we know of, helps create new brain cells, especially in the area of the brain that is involved with learning.  (Source)

With this information in mind, my husband and I bought this mini-trampoline for our kids this past Christmas.  On some of the homework breaks I explained above, my son will jump on the trampoline.  Its a really useful thing to have on-hand for long winters or rainy days.

Incorporating all of these things has helped make homework less of a struggle and has helped my son pay attention better, at home and in school.

What methods do you use to help your kids pay attention?  Please share in the comments below!

Additional Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25078296

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22688187

https://www.neurogistics.com/TheScience/WhatareNeurotransmi09CE.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin