What Is Elderberry?
Elderberry is the purple berry that grows on the Elder tree in North America and Europe. The edible fruit of the Elderberry shrub or Sambucus Nigra is used to make many things. The most well-known use is for boosting the Immune system. The elderberry is very nutritious; with just 105 calories and 10g of fiber, and 58% of the recommended daily amount of daily vitamin C! On top of all of that, they are full of flavonoids that provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits.
An Israeli researcher found that elderberry contains complex sugars that support the immune system in fighting a cold and the flu. According to Isreal21c, Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Israel completed multiple test studies during the Southern Israel flu epidemic. What she found not only did the sambucol have dramatic improvements in symptoms like fever, cough, & muscle aches, and pains but also a higher percentage of her patients felt better than the untreated group. Within 24 hours 20% of the patients reported significant improvement, 73% improvement by day two and 90% feel better in three days vs the untreated group only had 16% feel better after two days. The subjects that received the placebo required six days to recover. She also found that elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses used to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. When taken before infection, elderberry prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents the spread of the virus through the respiratory tract.
As mentioned above the most commonly known use of Elderberry is for the common cold and flu. But it is said to offer many benefits. According to RxList Elderberry is also beneficial and have been used for the following:
+ Sinus Pain
+ Back & Neck Pain
+ Swine Flu
+ Gum Inflammation
+ Nerve Pain
+ Hay Fever
+ Weight Loss
+ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
+ High Cholesterol
+ Heart Disease
Keep in mind that the benefits lie in the extract, which can be taken in many different ways. According to Eating Well, it is important to remember that the concentration varies with each product and recipe resulting in different outcomes. Some may work better than others. It is not recommended to use Elderberry syrup that contains honey in children under 1 year of age. Ask for a syrup without honey if you wish to give to younger children.
Wellness Mama’s Elderberry Syrup Recipe
A simple elderberry syrup recipe made with dried elderberries, honey, and herbs for an immune-boosting and delicious syrup. Can be used medicinally or on homemade pancakes or waffles.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Author: Katie Wells
- 3½ cups water
- 2/3 cup dried elderberries (or 1 1/3 cups fresh or frozen)
- 2 TBSP ginger (grated)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 1 cup raw honey
- Pour the water into a medium saucepan and add the elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
- Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half.
- Remove from heat and let cool until it is cool enough to be handled.
- Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil.
- Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
- Discard the elderberries and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.
- When it is no longer hot, add the honey and stir well.
- When the honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a mason jar or 16-ounce glass bottle of some kind.
- Ta-da! You just made homemade elderberry syrup! Store in the fridge and take daily for its immune-boosting properties. Some sources recommend taking only during the week and not on the weekends to boost immunity.
Instant Pot option: Put all ingredients except honey in pot, seal lid, and set manually for 9 minutes on high pressure. Vent pressure and strain. When cooled to room temperature, stir in the honey.
The standard dose is ½ – 1 teaspoon for kids and ½ – 1 tablespoon for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.
Serving: 1tsp | Calories: 6kcal | Carbohydrates: 1.7g | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 1.5g
Alongside of the backpack, lunchbox, and new shoes should also be a reminder list of how to keep the school germs at bay this year. We saw a nationwide increase in illnesses this time last year, no doubt related to the back-to-school rush and ‘unhealthy’ environment our kids are sitting in day after day.
While most classrooms look spotless to the naked eye, there is so much happening that you just aren’t seeing. Generally speaking, classrooms are sprayed and wiped with chemical-filled and artificially-scented cleaners. There can be hidden mold and other growing issues not even known about. Bleach is a janitor’s best friend. I’m not judging because schools are huge cesspools of snot and sickness, so go ahead and get them as clean as possible; however, a completely bleached space does not mean germs are stopped from spreading.
What it means is that all bacteria, both good and bad are eliminated daily. When you add to this foundation a squirt of hand sanitizer a few times each day, you have a recipe for disaster.
Most classrooms have a carpet or rug area, even a couch and/or pillows. These items are rarely cleaned more than a quick vacuum (for the rug). This is what I call the sick-pot. If there are community crayons, pencils, scissors, or other supplies, you can bet they too are holding the sick germs. You see, when your child is void of the healthy bacteria to fight these germs, they get sick easier, and spread the sick germs easier. It is a vicious cycle that most parents and teachers think is par for the course. The biggest myth, though, is when parents state, “It’s just building their immune systems.” When you are preventing your child from being able to fight the illnesses, you aren’t building anything.
So what can you do to help prevent your child from becoming sick this school year?
Preparing for School Sicknesses
Eat Whole Foods
The foods you feed your child are the fuel that power his gut. The link between the brain and the gut continues to raise the importance of eating well.
If the gut bacteria balance is off, there will be stomach aches, headaches, focus issues, and behavior problems. Study after study provides the information needed to support creating a healthy gut environment. To do so, you will need to adjust the diet and introduce high quality supplements. If you have questions on what ‘high quality’ means, head over to this post.
Probiotics – Help balance the gut bacteria with probiotics.
Multi-Vitamin – While most are filled with junk, you want to look for folate (methyl-folate is best) instead of folic acid.
Immune Boosting Tincture – Tinctures are becoming more well-known, and with great reason. Highly concentrated versions of immune boosting herbs are dropped into your child’s water cup each day. They can be found at almost any natural grocery store or ordered online.
Vitamin D3 – Unfortunately, the return to school brings with it less time outside in the sun. As most kids are naturally deficient in Vitamin D, being inside most of the day makes it worse. Liquid or chewable versions works, but drops are the easiest way to get the highest amount in your child.
Vitamin C – A liquid version can be a little fizzy for most kids to tolerate, but there are decent chewable versions out there.
Elderberry – I recommend tinctures over liquid so you skip the extra sugars and get a more concentrated dose.
Echinacea – Again, a tincture form is great. (An immune-boosting tincture will have this in it, but if sickness occurs, you may want to add this in.)
Vitamin A – Read over my Vitamin A research to ensure you have the right amount on hand if a virus is picked up at school!.
Provide Personal Supplies
Send a note if needed, but encourage your child to use his own pencil and other supplies.
Encourage Hand Washing
Hand sanitizer isn’t on my favorite list. Instead, have your child use soap and water regularly.
Get Good Sleep
Sleep is imperative for good health, especially when a body is still growing. Your child’s body and brain need to be on a regular sleep schedule.
If all diseases begin in the gut, then why aren’t more people concerned with their poop? Our bathroom time may be something we typically avoid talking about, but it’s something that needs to be addressed. If we all understood what was ‘normal’ and wasn’t when it comes to poop, we may be one step closer to becoming a healthier society. (One can hope, anyway.)
The truth is that our stool holds information that we need to know. The consistency, smell, shape, and texture all give us clues to what is going on inside our bodies, more specifically, within our guts. To understand your own stool, you compare it with the Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSF Scale). The scale was developed to make talking about poop with a medical professional easier. It breaks stool into seven categories and allows you to visually compare your own sample.
When analyzing your stool, you will want to note three main items:
The frequency in which you are having a bowel movement. Having at least one complete bowel movement every 24-hours is ideal, with up to three being normal. Depending on your metabolism, quantity (and quality) of food eaten, and the health of your gut bacteria, pooping 1-3 times per day is considered healthy. Eliminating your bowels more frequently than this is considered diarrhea, and less frequently is considered constipation. Even though many people believe having a bowel movement once every 2-3 days is ok, I strongly disagree. Our body is removing toxins and cleaning itself out with each bathroom trip, and storing feces for longer periods of time is not doing the body good.
Did you know that your poop is 50-80% bacteria and not just the digested food being eliminated from your body? This is why I am a firm believer in eliminating the waste daily. The food passes through the digestive tract and collects bacteria as the body absorbs the nutrients needed. When it is expelled, it is the body’s natural way of detoxing from itself.
This is where you utilize the BSF Scale. The formation of your poop is very important, as it tells you if your body is properly digesting foods, absorbing nutrients and combining the acids and toxins properly to be eliminated. There are seven forms of stool within the BSF Scale model ranging from separate lumps to smooth, soft, snake-like poop to watery diarrhea. Below you can see each type. Ideally, you want to fall in the 4th category.
The brown color of your stool comes from the dead red blood cells and bile that is secreted to digest fats. Think of melted milk chocolate, that would be the color of perfectly balanced poop. Stool that is gray-white in color signals a lack of bile and typically means liver problems or clogged bile ducts. Yellow stool can be a sign of parasites present (or cancer in some cases); red or black stool can mean bleeding in the upper GI tract; green stool can mean there is an infection. However, simply eating foods with colorings or dyes can affect your stool coloring, too. The same can be said if you consume a significant amount of naturally colored foods (beets, for example). The key is to note your stool on more than one occurrence. You’ll want to note the color over weeks, not just a day. This way you learn if a food is affecting the color, or if your body is telling you something more.
After digging up the courage to look at your poop, you’ll realize that it’s a whole lot more interesting than you thought! Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor (or chiropractor!) about your bathroom habits.
To change your stool, consider adapting a healthier diet, increasing water intake, exercising, and removing trigger items from your daily menu (caffeine, dairy, gluten, etc are all common foods that cause problems).
Did you know?
Chiropractic care can help infants, toddlers, children, teens, and adults become more regular with their bowel movements. Multiple studies show that regular care aids the digestive system in properly eliminating toxins from the body, leading to an all-around happier lifestyle.
An Elimination Diet For Breastfeeding Moms?
I’ve discussed the importance of seeing through an elimination diet for yourself and your children, but I have not mentioned new moms yet. When speaking with pregnant clients, I tend to discuss their nutritional habits, which leads into the rabbit hole of gut health conversations. We know that gut health is linked to just about everything in the body, and that holds true for the developing fetus and soon-to-be newborn. The mother’s gut health effects the baby’s gut health, which impacts a newborn’s skin, sleep, moods, poop, and so much more.
Breastmilk is superior to formula. This is not an opinion, but a fact. A breastfeeding mother has the power to manipulate and heal her infant’s gut and eliminate or improve issues that arise all by eliminating or adding foods into or out of her own diet.
Within those first few months of infancy, many parents assume the ‘witching hours’ of crying are normal. They assume that butt rashes are to be expected. They think that spitting up is why bibs were created. They believe that their baby just doesn’t sleep, but that there’s nothing to do but survive this stage. Many turn to medications, ointments, sleep training, formula, baby cereal, or other non-natural band-aids that truly cause damage to a baby. It is lack of education, and the lack of support from a pediatrician that sends parents running for these alternatives.
These issues are not normal and are a sign that something is off. More often than not, the answer lies in learning what foods (through the mother’s milk) are causing these issues. This can be discovered through an elimination diet. Food sensitivities are typical with infants, as their digestive systems are still maturing and are not ready to handle specific proteins (or other nutrients) just yet. Every baby is different, but there are many similarities that have been discovered.
I highly recommend to pregnant women in my practice the elimination of dairy beginning around 36 weeks gestation. This gives the body a few weeks to process and detoxify from the food group. Dairy is milk products derived from cow’s milk. They are over processed and stripped of all natural nutritional value anyway, so eliminating them should make your body feel better overall. However, cow’s milk is meant to be processed by baby cows, who have 4 separate compartments to their stomachs. They are also meant to weigh a ton (a literal ton). Our newborns are not meant for this. Their tiny bodies ache when trying to process dairy. Eliminating it before baby arrives should help keep those first few weeks peaceful.
There is no research to share on food preservatives being passed from a mom and found in breastmilk, but elimination diets speak for themselves. While you can choose to eliminate dairy alone, your baby may need more or other items removed as well. Dairy is typically the best place to start, as the newborn period can be overwhelming. If your baby is already in your arms, and you are experiencing troubles, you may choose to consider a full elimination diet that includes processed items, gluten, dairy, and other common triggers.
Things to Note with a Breastfeeding Elimination Diet:
There are two guts working, not just one. This takes more time. It can take 2-4 weeks before seeing improvements. However, many mothers testify that results can begin to be noticed within days.
Just as typical elimination diets go, breastfeeding diets aren’t forever. Once baseline is established, (meaning the issues have leveled off and life is calm and happy) you can continue for several weeks and then start adding in one eliminated item at a time to see if the issues arise again. Baby’s digestive systems tend to mature between 4-6 months of age, so what bothered them as a newborn may be better tolerated later.
A baby’s sleep should improve, but the goal is not to train the baby to sleep through the night. Research links dairy and wheat consumption to poorer sleep patterns. This isn’t surprising because it’s hard to sleep when your stomach hurts. Finding the trigger foods will help your baby find better sleep, but infants are supposed to wake to nurse throughout the night. An elimination diet may help them sleep longer, but no baby is meant to sleep 12 hours without waking.
Colic is a term used to label all crying with no known reason, and while an elimination diet should help most colicky infants, there may be other issues to look at.
The main food allergens (dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts, etc) are the most common foods to eliminate, but consider citrus foods, processed items, dyes, and grains, as they are becoming more well-known for causing issues today.
(The American Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s clinical protocol for infant allergies offers a plan for an elimination diet.)
Whether you have read Part 1 to this series or not, perhaps you aren’t needing to know about children’s elimination diets, I want to share with you the overall reasons to seek out an elimination diet for yourself.
We live in a world full of chronic illness, excess weight, sleep troubles, anger issues, focus problems, and so many other ailments that seem to affect most to all of the adult population. While so many adults choose to berate the younger generation, or even friends and family over choices to lead healthier lifestyles by stating, “We turned out fine! You are being absurd,” there is so much these adults don’t consider when saying this. The truth is that most adults battle known or unknown autoimmune issues, are on medications, struggle with ailments that they fail to include when they tell everyone how “fine” they turned out.
Our bodies are not meant to consume the processed food items that have become our daily indulgences. We are exposed to toxins through the air and water. We don’t sleep enough. We are over-worked, over-stressed, and under-exercised. Our bodies are inflamed, and inflammation is the trigger to a list of ailments to long to completely list. However, the following problems are a few of the most commonly experienced:
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Bowel Disorders
- Skin Problems
- Brain Fog
- Joint Pain
- Heart Disease
- Bone Health
Recent research has revealed that most, if not all, age-related diseases are linked to inflammation. This is a huge red flag. This means that we can aid our own bodies in battling against the ailments that most struggle with as they enter and live through retirement. No, an elimination diet will not prevent you from being diagnosed with cancer in the future; however, properly completing a thorough elimination diet will open your eyes to what impacts your body. This gives you the power to reduce inflammation and lead a healthier lifestyle with fewer chronic problems.
What is an Elimination Diet?
A diet that takes out foods from your typical diet. Generally, all chosen foods are eliminated together and left out until the person begins to feel/act/achieve a ‘normal’ state for a period of time. Once this occurs, foods are very slowly reintroduced, taking extreme note on behaviors, sleep, moods, skin appearance, and overall health. Through the reintroduction stage, you will discover what foods ‘trigger’ or intensify your ailments, symptoms, and disorders.
An elimination diet is not a diet to be followed forever. It lasts as long as needed to establish a baseline, and after reintroduction, an adaption then becomes the new lifestyle. For example, if dairy is a trigger, you may choose to remove it permanently from your life, or you may strictly limit it. The elimination diet is hard to complete, but the information is beyond valuable, and your health is worth improving.
What Else Will I Experience?
During an elimination diet you will not only help lessen the inflammation within your gut and body as a whole, but you can expect the following:
Begin the Journey of Healing the Gut.
There is no ‘quick fix’ to healing the gut. This is a great start, and with further research, you will be able to continue feeling the benefits.
Find Food Intolerances
Everyone has food intolerances. Not everyone has the same intolerances. You will learn what foods bother you, trigger ailments, or stir up issues you didn’t even know that you had.
Learn Boosting Foods
After noticing what foods bother you, you will notice that some actually give you more energy, help you sleep easier, and boost your mood.
Increase Your Energy
Without foods that inflame your gut, the body works easier and more comfortably. This impacts your energy level positively.
Motivation to Balance your Lifestyle
Good habits generally trigger more good habits. When you start feeling better, you should be drawn toward including more exercise, less alcohol, and more sleep in your life!
Inflammation of the gut is linked to chronic problems throughout the entire body, including neurological and autoimmune disorders. While we continue to wait for the science to catch up to what so many of us have already concluded, we can begin to take charge of our lives, and almost more importantly, our children’s lives.
I’m creating a three-part series on the topic of elimination diets because there are generally three types of individuals who are looking to learn more about them. Adults who are tired of band-aid solutions that cover symptoms, mothers who are exhausted and frustrated with colicky, cranky, diaper-rash-butt babies, and parents who want to figure out what is happening with their children. All three of these people have walked through my office doors. Some find it amazing that something as simply difficult as an elimination diet can change all of their lives.
I’m starting the series with elimination diets for kids because this generation is struggling with gut-inflammation like no generation before them.
Look around and you can see the ever-growing number of children suffering from ADHD, ADD, Autism, Type 1 Diabetes, IBS, Obesity, Cancer, Depression, Anxiety, Sensory and Mood Disorders. While some of these disorders cannot be fully recovered from, they are all linked to a leaky or inflamed gut. As the gut is truly the ‘brain’ of the body, it feeds the real brain and cannot do as intended when it is inflamed and not functioning properly.
One (not so) small example: Researchers have found that putting ADDHD children on a restrictive diet to eliminate possible, previously unknown food sensitivities decreased hyperactivity for 64% of kids.
Children have age on their side, but their young guts may not even know how to be healthy or function correctly. If your child struggles with food allergies/sensitivities, rashes/skin issues, extreme emotions, tantrums, sleep troubles, lack of control, or any of the above mentioned issues, I highly recommend beginning an elimination diet to heal the gut and learn what specifically effects your child.
I am a huge proponent for daily probiotics and utilizing digestive enzymes, but you should get to the root of the issues. We cannot eliminate the environmental toxins from our children’s lives, but we can work to restore gut health and possibly ease their chronic ailments.
What is an Elimination Diet?
It is exactly as it sounds. A diet that takes out foods from the typical diet. Generally all chosen foods are eliminated together and left out until the person begins to feel/act/achieve a ‘normal’ state for a period of time. Once this occurs, foods are very slowly reintroduced, taking extreme note on behaviors, sleep, moods, skin appearance, and overall health. Through the reintroduction stage, you will discover what foods ‘trigger’ or intensify your child’s ailments, symptoms, and disorders.
What Elimination Diet is Right for My Child?
This is where things get hard. There are several diets you can choose from, but there is not a one-size-fits-all magic trick diet. Well, there might be, but many parents opt to go for an easier introduction to the food-eliminating world. The GAPS diet will bring you back to the very root of foods and keep you there until the gut is healed. It then slowly reintroduces foods as you record the body’s reactions. It is a wonderful option, especially if things do not change after eliminating the basic foods.
There are three basic types of elimination diets:
The strict, limited foods “oligoantigenic diet” which eliminates nearly all foods except a limited number that generally cause no problems.
The multiple-food elimination diet removes foods that most commonly cause food sensitivities. Dairy, gluten, wheat, corn, soy, eggs, nuts, citrus, processed foods and artificial colors and flavors top the list of what should be first eliminated.
The single-food elimination diet removes only one or two foods at a time. It is most helpful if you are highly suspicious of one or two items your child is eating. However, this diet typically leads parents into a multiple elimination diet, as it is not as accurate.
You can learn more about diets geared specifically toward ADHD, Autism, and other ailments like the Feingold Diet. You can try a month of Whole30 and see if it leads you to any easy solutions. You can create your own diet if you feel comfortable doing so. However, a diet is not an overnight miracle. It takes 2 weeks or so for the body to detox from the foods it is used to. This detox period can be emotional and extreme, especially when a child is use to consuming food dyes, sugars, and processed items on the regular. Stay strong and committed, keeping other foods out of reach and sight. Once your child reaches ‘baseline’ or what you would consider ‘typical’ for a 3-week timeframe, you can add back in one thing at a time. Reactions (emotional, mental, or physical) can occur up to two days after eating something.
This article can be summed up by the following:
Yes, your body produces the digestive enzymes needed to break food down. That being said, you must ask yourself, “Am I actually eating real food?”
Let me back up for a moment and give you a bit more background information.
Our intestines receive bile and enzymes that work together to break food down to be passed from the body. These enzymes also aid in feeding the body the nutrients from the foods consumed. When everything works as it should, there is no bloating or gas, and bowel movements are regular, easy, and normal. This is typical within the few humans who truly eat a whole foods diet and lead lives unexposed to toxins and stress. As you can understand, that is a very slim margin of people, if any.
Sadly, most children and adults in our society consume processed foods, foods containing pesticides and carcinogens, toxins like dyes that are not even food, and more sugar – in too many forms to name – than could be imagined. It’s easy to find the research that links these bad habits, along side of the environmental toxins known to affect the gut, to the decrease seen in bile and pancreatic enzymes within the intestines. The body cannot properly break them down because they are not meant to be there. The bile is blocked from the intestines, preventing the enzymes to reach and aid in pushing these items from the body – or releasing the nutrients properly throughout the body. This is when constipation and mushy poop start occurring; stomach aches, bloating, gas, heartburn, nausea, discomfort, low energy, and allergy-like reactions, as well. It’s no wonder kids are mean, unfocused, and pretty cranky today. (As are most adults when you really pay attention.) Their guts need mending.
While the true answer is to heal the gut and consume 100% organic whole foods, while also leading a stress-free life outside of toxins, it might be easier said than done. I do truly encourage you to eliminate wheat (all gluten) and dairy, and consider a full elimination diet – even with your children. While doing so, digestive enzymes can still be used to aid in healing the gut.
Digestive enzyme supplementation is all the rage right now, and I am completely in favor of it being added to your vitamin shelf (It can’t go without mentioning that it needs to be a high-quality version). However, it is not a cure all, and should not be depended upon with every meal, every day. It doesn’t make eating fast food okay. The gut should be healthy, and digestive enzymes should be used when foods such as gluten and dairy are consumed to help the body digest them without triggering inflammation.
Irritation to the gut from stress, pollution, pesticides, and processed foods can cause the tiny hair-like structures along the sides of the intestines to become clogged, throwing off the balance of bacteria, stomach acid, and forcing the toxins back through the liver for detoxing. The liver can become congested and trigger a slower and thicker bile and enzyme production. With less of bile and enzymes, it becomes harder and harder for the intestines to do their job well. Taking a digestive enzyme supplies the body with the needed enzymes to break these items down.
Not only do digestive enzymes aid in the digestion process, but they also allow the body to absorb more nutrients. They break food into amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol (the good kind), simple sugars, and nucleic acids. They also may aid in easing or eliminating chronic symptoms from digestive disorders, which are of course commonly linked to diagnoses such as Gluten Intolerance, IBS, Lactose Intolerance, ADHD, Autism, and even schizophrenia.
In a world where food is more fillers and less nutrients, and a society with sky-rocketing chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases, a little help through enzyme supplementation provides ample benefits. Digestive enzymes will take the stress off of the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and small intestine when hard-to-digest foods are consumed, so why not add them to your health arsenal?
While you can find over 40 enzymes currently available; you want to look for a high-quality, broad-spectrum enzyme supplement. This covers the bases and works well with those wanting help in basic digestion and nutrient absorption.
Every human being is walking around with a plethora of bacteria on them – in them. I struggle on where to start on this topic, as most of you may already understand the importance of the gut microbiome, but I do not want to type above where others may be. If you are just beginning your journey into the knowledge of all things natural, then you are probably just diving into the pool of bacteria information. The gut, or digestive system includes the following organs: the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon, and rectum. Within this system lies the true brain on the body. Every single aspect of our physical (and mental, respectively) being is linked to the gut, and the bacteria within it. You read that right, the gut is the true brain of the body.
In all reality, it may soon be realized that the gut and brain are one system and not two because of how interlaced they truly are.
Here is the beautiful and crazy thing, everyone has a completely different microbiome. Did you know that there are more bacteria than cells within our bodies? With more than three trillion bacteria in our bodies, most of them reside with our gut. These bacteria have been found to be responsible to inflammation and immunities. They are a pertinent part of our genetic makeup, but yet, most people despise the thought of them.
I want to clear the record; bacteria is not a bad word. A healthy person will have quite the diverse microbiome within their gut. This great diversity is what typically keeps us healthy. It hasn’t been until recently that researchers have discovered the link to abnormal gut bacteria and illness, and it has opened Pandora’s Box.
There is no more denying that our gut bacteria isn’t the key to (almost everything). Research shows that a mother’s gut bacteria effects a growing fetus’ brain development. It plays a vital role in our physical and psychological health through its own neural network: the enteric nervous system (ENS), a complex system of about 100 million nerves within in the lining of the gut. It has connections to everything from autism to Alzheimer’s disease. But yet, no one is truly paying attention.
The microbiome within our bodies is extremely sensitive, and this is why I stress the importance of taking high-quality probiotics. Keeping that balance of bacteria is so detrimental to our health.
The latest publication of Scientific American included an article that touched on a recent research project from MIT, Harvard, and University of California. These scientists verified what other research had suggested: antibiotics wreak havoc on your gut health. Antibiotics:
- Deplete central metabolism intermediates in the peritoneum
- Elicit microbiome-independent changes in host metabolites
- Alter bacteria during an infection and inhibit drug efficacy
- Impair phagocytic killing by inhibiting respiratory activity
For better understanding, antibiotics are causing the body’s naturally good bacteria to be affected negatively, but at the same time, the harmful bacteria are not being eliminated. This presents a huge imbalance, and while symptoms may be lessened, the underlying issue becomes a much deeper problem.
Yes, medicine has its place, but this should be a wake-up call for everyone to understand that antibiotics are not equivalent to vitamins. They should not be given or taken for every ailment. Antibiotics will always affect the balance of the microbiome, which will of course affect the illness-fighting capabilities of your immune cells. This then leads to further illness, a weakened and more susceptible immune system, inflammation, or a plethora of chronic issues.
While researchers continue to peel back the layers, I hope that you understand that prioritizing your gut health will better equip you for a lifetime of health and happiness.
C-sections occur in more than 1/3rd of births in the US now. It is more than just a trend, and seems to only be rising.
Research shows us that babies born by cesarean have increased chances of obesity, asthma, celiac disease, autism, chronic illnesses, and type 1 diabetes later in their lives. This research suggests that it is the differences in the gut flora that plays a part in the rise in these diseases.
Allowing the body to labor on its own, without intervention, provides many benefits for posi both mom and baby, but allowing baby to pass through the birth canal takes the cake, folks. Apparently, our bodies are so amazing that we not only grow humans, but our own gut flora is passed to those humans as they grow (through the placenta).
It gets even better! Our gut flora travels from our gut into the birth canal during labor. These bacteria then are absorbed through baby’s skin, eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals as he passes through the birth canal and is welcomed to the world.
By having these bacteria absorbed into their bodies, babies have a decreased risk of the above mentioned illnesses, as well as many more.
I know that 1 (or 2) out of every 3 of pregnant women reading this will end up electing or requiring a c-section for birth, but YOU are who I am writing this for. Science has found a way for you to grace your baby with your ‘seed.’
If you are HIV negative, and having a C-Section, I highly recommend you read on. If you are GBS positive, talk to your doctor about vaginal seeding.
What is Seeding?
Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, an associate professor in the Human Microbiome Program at the NYU School of Medicine, presented the process to do what is called an inoculum or “seeding” for the infant.
- Take a piece of gauze soaked in sterile normal saline
- Fold it up like a tampon with lots of surface area and insert into the mother’s vagina
- Leave for 1 hour, remove just prior to surgery and keep in a sterile container
- Immediately after birth apply the swab to the baby’s mouth, face, then the rest of the body
Yes, it is recommended to take vaginal swabs from the mother and putting them over the body and in the mouth of the baby to help restore the delicate balance for babies who were born by cesarean. This new research was recently shared at a conference of the American Society for Microbiology by a group of other physicians. It is now being practiced across the country by doctors who are up to date on their research.
Vaginal Birth vs. C-Section Birth
“Vaginal birth triggers the expression of mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) in mice, which is important for improving brain development and function in adulthood. The expression of this protein was impaired in mice born via caesarean section. The communication between our guts and brains appears to rely, in part, on the vagus nerve, and is bidirectional in nature as reported in this 12-year prospective study that looked at relationships between gut problems like irritable bowel disease, anxiety, and depression.”
There is a large difference between the microbiome of a baby born vaginally compared to a baby born by c-section. During a vaginal birth the baby is seeded by the mother’s vaginal and faecal bacteria, as well as bacteria from her gut. A baby born by c-section is seeded by the bacteria in the hospital environment and his mother’s skin. These bacteria are incredibly different, and these differences may be the reason for the long-term increased risk of some diseases for babies born by c-section.
With interventions like Pitocin, antibiotics, C-section and formula feeding, the gut flora transfer from the mother to baby is interfered with or missed completely, leaving the baby’s microbiome “incomplete”. This means that the baby’s immune system may never develop to its full potential.
Most Beneficial Bacteria
The most beneficial gut flora are found in babies who are born at full term (39 weeks or further), vaginally (unmedicated) at home, and are breastfed exclusively. This is because these babies come in contact with ONLY the bacteria of their family during the prime ‘seeding’ the period.
The following are ways you can increase the chances of positively seeding your baby:
- Have a vaginal birth at home.
- Avoid vaginal contact: cervical checks, etc.
- Avoid unnecessary antibiotics during labor. If antibiotics are required, consider probiotics for mother and baby following birth.
- If the baby is born by c-section, follow the procedure of vaginal swabs to ‘seed’ the babies. The preliminary results are that the microbiome of swabbed babies are more similar to vaginally born babies.
How to Help After Birth
After birth, the baby continues to receive gut flora through contact with the environment and breastfeeding. The differences in the gut of breastfed babies compared to formula fed babies is immense. The beneficial bacteria are transported to the baby’s gut by breastmilk. The gut health of a formula fed baby plays into the health risks and chronic illnesses linked to formula. http://www.cmaj.ca/content/185/5/385 and http://www.livescience.com/26312-gut-bacteria-infant-colic.html
Ways to help increase positive gut flora:
- Skin-to-Skin: Immediately following birth, and in the first days, baby should spend a lot of time naked on his/her mother’s chest skin-to-skin.
- Avoid bathing baby for at least 24 hours after birth, and then only use plain water for at least 4 weeks. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2315785/
- Minimize the handling of baby by non-family members during the first weeks.
- Exclusively breastfeed.
- Avoid giving baby unnecessary antibiotics. http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v35/n4/full/ijo201127a.html
- Probiotics may also be beneficial for babies suffering from colic.
The commonly accepted belief that the baby inside the uterus is sterile, while the membranes are still intact, is being challenged recently. Research shows that the gut bacteria from the mother may be able to reach the baby (Through the placenta via the blood stream). Why is this a concern? Our modern lifestyle is not very microbiome friendly, and many of us have dysbiosis (an imbalance in gut bacteria). Dysbiosis and too much of the ‘wrong’ bacteria have been linked to premature rupture of membranes and premature birth, not to mention the links of gut health to chronic illnesses.
Gut health contributes to proper immune function because 80% of the immune system is in the gut. The gut, which houses at least 10 times as many human cells as there are in our bodies, and 150 times as many genes as are in our genome, controls many vital operations and is responsible for synthesis of neuroactive and nutritional compounds, for immune modulation, and for inflammatory signaling. Poor gut health can predispose us to everything from autoimmune disease, allergies, asthma, skin problems like eczema and psoriasis, cognitive difficulties, depression, anxiety and metabolic problems like obesity and fatty liver.
During pregnancy, your microbiome (also known as gut flora) is not only crucial for your health, but for your baby’s health as well.
The mother’s intestinal bacteria is also found in her breastmilk and is continually passed to baby.
An unhealthy, unbalanced gut flora in the mother can cause problems such as preterm labor, and once baby is born, issues like colic, cradle cap, asthma, food sensitivities, ear infections, reflux, GERD, etc. Healing the gut when pregnant should be a high priority for the mother so the baby can have a healthy start to life.
A study obtained stool samples from women during each trimester of pregnancy and analyzed the bacteria present. They found that bacteria typically linked with good health decreased over the course of pregnancy, while bacteria associated with diseases generally increased. In addition, signs of inflammation in the gut increased. These changes in gut bacteria may play a role in changing a pregnant woman’s metabolism. Two changes that happen during pregnancy are an increase in the amount of body fat, and reduced sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar.
“The findings suggest that our bodies have coevolved with the microbiota and may actually be using them as a tool — to help alter the mother’s metabolism to support the growth of the fetus.” http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=160986
Research also shows, during pregnancy, the microbes actually become less diverse and the number of beneficial bacteria decline while disease-related bacteria increase. Under normal circumstances, such changes could lead to weight gain and inflammation, but in pregnancy, they induce metabolic changes that promote energy storage in fat tissue so the fetus can grow. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22863002
No matter how you look at the research, women’s gut bacteria changes during pregnancy. Ideally, women should try to head into pregnancy with a healthy microbiome and then maintain it, so that as the flora is altered during each trimester, it has a strong base in which it began.
If antibiotics are needed before or during pregnancy, repopulating the gut with friendly bacteria and eating a diet containing minimal toxins will help counter-act the harmful effect on the gut the antibiotics cause.
Toxicity flows from the gut throughout the body and into the brain. This continually challenges the nervous system, preventing it from performing its normal functions and processing sensory information. Virtually any toxic exposure can be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and cause a chronic illness, allergies, even symptoms of autism, and/or any number of other neurological problems.
As noted by Scientific American: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/12/27/seeding-baby-microbiome.aspx#_edn7
“Scientists have long wondered whether the composition of bacteria in the intestines, known as the gut microbiome, might be abnormal in people with autism and drive some of these symptoms. Now a spate of new studies supports this notion and suggests that restoring proper microbial balance could alleviate some of the disorder’s behavioral symptoms.”
In recent years, it has been discovered just how important the mother’s bacteria is for the baby throughout pregnancy and birth. The way the child enters the world sets the stage for his own gut flora. The process of “seeding” a baby at birth is when the bacteria is passed from mother to baby.
Keeping healthy levels of bacteria throughout pregnancy, seeding your baby’s microbiome, and optimizing your vitamin D level (make sure you have this checked while pregnant) will provide a strong foundation for creating a strong and healthy gut in your baby. However, the hazards of chemical exposures during pregnancy to endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates, and pesticides from the environment and foods can have wide-ranging and long-term health effects.
While you may not be able to avoid all toxic exposures, it’s important to take whatever proactive measures you can to reduce your toxic burden, especially before and during pregnancy. For example, avoiding any and all unnecessary drugs and vaccinations is one aspect you have a large degree of control over. Below are several more.
It is not the time for a full on detox, but you should remove as many toxins from your diet and environment as you can. Use non-toxic cleaners and eat a whole foods diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics, with as much organic as possible. This helps the body to detoxify at a rate that supports your ability to get pregnant while creating a healthy environment for your little one.
- As much as you’re able, buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic foods to reduce your exposure to agricultural chemicals like glyphosate. Steer clear of processed, prepackaged foods of all kinds. This way you automatically avoid pesticides, artificial food additives, dangerous artificial sweeteners, food coloring, MSG, and unlabeled genetically engineered ingredients.
- Maintain optimal gut flora by eating raw food grown in healthy, organic soil and ‘reseeding’ your gut with fermented foods. (This is absolutely essential when you’re taking an antibiotic). If you aren’t eating fermented foods, you most likely need to supplement with a probiotic on a regular basis, especially if you’re eating processed foods.
- Optimize your vitamin D level.
- Exercise regularly throughout your pregnancy. Previous studies have shown that, in general, women who exercise throughout their pregnancies have larger placentas than their more sedentary peers. The volume of your placenta is a general marker of its ability to transport oxygen and nutrients to your fetus, so it stands to reason that having a large, healthy placenta will lead to a healthier baby.
- Once your baby is born, try to breast feed for as long as you’re able—ideally at least six months. Breastfeeding helps ensure that your child’s gut flora develops properly right from the start, as breast milk is loaded both with beneficial bacteria and nutrient growth factors that will support their continued growth.
- Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality purified krill oil, or eat fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity.
- Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap and canned foods (which are often lined with BPA-containing liners).
- Have your tap water tested and, if contaminants are found, install an appropriate water filter on all your faucets (even those in your shower or bath).
- Only use natural cleaning products in your home.
- Switch over to natural brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics.
- Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances, as they often contain phthalates, which have been linked to reductions in IQ and other chronic health problems.
- Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
- When redoing your home, look for “green,” toxin-free alternatives in lieu of regular paint and vinyl floor coverings.
- Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric, or install a glass shower door. Most all flexible plastics, like shower curtains, contain dangerous plasticizers like phthalates.
- Avoid spraying pesticides around your home or insect repellants that contain DEET on your body. There are safe, effective and natural alternatives out there.
- Minimize stress. Stress messes with your gut microbiota.
- Avoid antimicrobial skin products (eg. handsoaps), and house cleaning products
- Avoid unnecessary medications
- Stop smoking