Thursday, June 30, 2011

Iron and Fatigue

Fatigue and motherhood go together like cookies and milk. Whether you have a newborn or a teen, it seems keeping up with our kids and sleepless nights are common fodder for mom-to-mom conversations. But fatigue can come from a wide variety of sources and one that we often overlook is iron deficiency. Just this week the Holistic Moms Network hosted a Twitter Party with one of our new Sponsors, Floradix, and the information shared bears repeating.

An estimated 26% of women or 7.8 million women between the ages of 15 and 45 are iron deficient. The symptoms sound familiar to mamas: "fatigue, decreased ability to concentrate, decreased endurance during exercise, increased frequency of infection, paleness, dark circles under the eyes, brittle hair and nails, and cold hands and feet." The demands of pregnancy and nursing exacerbate iron deficiency for many parents. According to Dr. Cathy Carlson-Rink, a licensed naturopathic physician and registered midwife, “Many women enter pregnancy with low iron stores and, in fact, it is estimated that only one in five women enter a pregnancy with adequate iron levels. And since it can take up to six months to replenish low iron stores, I recommend regular low dose iron supplementation in the childbearing years to ensure that iron levels are adequate around the time a pregnancy is planned.”

Even long before starting a family, many young women suffer from iron deficiency. Adolescents are at risk for iron deficiency due to rapid growth rates, the onset of menses, and other factors including the certain birth control options. According to a 2001 study, three-quarters of adolescent girls do not reach daily dietary requirements for iron. Building iron stores early can help alleviate some of the common symptoms of iron deficiency and may help with learning and the ability to concentrate.

Dietary iron sources include meat, fish and poultry, lentils, dried beans, grain products, vegetables, dried fruit, and molasses. Unfortunately, a number of foods can also interfere with the absorption of iron in the body, including dairy products, some cereals, and a motherhood staple - coffee. Flora also manufactures as popular natural liquid iron supplement, Floradix, that has been shown to rapidly increase ferritin levels within a short period of supplementation. For young women suffering from fatigue, a simple blood test that includes ferritin levels can be a valuable tool to identifying iron deficiency.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making the Connection: Food and Behavior

As a population, we have a glaring blind spot when it comes to food. We don't want to know what's in it, where it comes from, or how it affects us. We just want to enjoy it. Or we want convenience.

Yes, the real food movement is growing. But in places where you might expect the greatest change, the progress is slower than molasses. It has always been baffling to me why schools are not the first ones to embrace positive dietary changes. I have not personally taught young children, only college, but I have heard many teachers lament the post-lunch hyperactivity or drag of their classes. At what point do we start to open our eyes and understand that what we eat affects not only our health but how we behave? And that the foods our children eat impact how well they can learn and how their actions are judged by their teachers and peers?

Although I am an avid fan of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, every episode shocks me. It's less startling to me to learn what's in our food and our schools, and more shocking to see the lack of interest from the school systems and administrators - and sometimes even the parents. My younger son's end of the year school picnic was last week and parents joined our little ones for some fun in park. Kids brought their own lunches from home and there we were at snack time with green Jell-o, goldfish crackers, and gummies. All packed from home. And to add fuel to the fire, this was a special needs program. While the children have many diagnoses, they are developmentally delayed, on the autism spectrum, and many have ADHD. Research has shown, time and again, the links between diet and learning, behavior or health impacts for sensitive people.

The Feingold Association, founded 35 years ago, is "dedicated to helping children and adults apply proven dietary techniques for better behavior, learning and health, and to generating public awareness of the potential role of foods and synthetic additives in behavior, learning and health problems." Their success has been remarkable on many levels, simply by teaching parents how to avoid food additives that may contribute to their child's ADHD, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, asthma, and more. Taking it a step further, Time Magazine published a story in 2010 showing that even minimal exposure to pesticides in foods can increase the odds of developing ADHD. While the study is not indicative of causation, there is good reason for additional research on organophosphates, which "are known to cause damage to the nerve connections in the brain — that's how they kill agricultural pests, after all. The chemical works by disrupting a specific neurotransmitter, acetylcholinesterase, a defect that has been implicated in children diagnosed with ADHD."

But we don't want to know. Our kids "only like" X, Y, and Z. Or we trust in the powers that be who are charged with making sure our food supply is safe. Dietary changes aren't always easy. But neither is hyperactivity or ADHD. Real food makes a real difference. We need to begin with the recognition of a connection and an acknowledgement of the challenge before us. But until we take that first step and break through our blind spots, we continue to create even more difficulties for ourselves and our families.

We are also honored to have Trudy Scott as a Workshop Speaker at our 2011 Natural Living Conference, a food and mood expert focusing on women's health. We hope you can join us!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Starting Fresh - and Delicious!

Banana, pineapple, and avocado pudding. Roasted golden beets with quinoa and feta. Ginger chicken with coconut. This is definitely not your mother's baby food. But what else would you expect from chef, Food Network star, cookbook author, and Sprout Organic Baby Food co-founder Tyler Florence?

Dad Tyler has just released his new cookbook, Start Fresh: Your Child's Jump Start to Lifelong Healthy Eating. His commitment to real, healthy food for kids (his and yours) is evident through Sprout Organic Baby Food, a Sponsor of the Holistic Moms Network, whose gourmet flavors and upcycled packaging are just what green and healthy moms are looking for when you don't have time to make your own. But when you do, this fabulous new cookbook is just the ticket to a delicious and healthy food experience.

"As parents, we are bombarded by marketing intent on convincing us that we don't know how to feed our children," writes Tyler Florence in his new book. "Food producers would have us believe that the Big 5 (pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries, and burgers) are the only things kids will eat, and that chicken nuggets pressed itno the shape of a dinosaur are a healthy part of a meal. It's insulting." Amen! Real kids will eat real food and treating them to some of these delicious creations is a great way to get the ball rolling.

But Start Fresh is not just about tasty baby food. Recipes in the Toddler section include great family meals such as Roast Turkey with Sweet Potato, Brown Rice, and Cranberries and Maple Roasted Pork Chops with Butternut Squash and Beets that will satify mom or dad, while also making delicious purees or chopped meals for the kids. Stage 4 brings Everyone to the Table with Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese, Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, and an original, fun savory cupcake dish of Barbeque Turkey Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting.

Navigating the road to starting solids can be confusing. This great book will give you some inspiration. Holistic Moms can help give you support! Connect with your Local Chapter and share your story with other holistic moms and dads - discover what worked, how to keep your milk supply up, or how to deal with food allergies.

This is a cookbook you won't want to miss and Holistic Moms is giving away THREE autographed copies to some lucky winners! You can be entered into our random drawing by posting a comment on this blog. Tell us what was your child's/children's first food and his/her/their favorite food(s) now. Leave your comment and we'll pick three winners on June 15th!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

GMOs in Our Bodies

Seems I've been talking about food quite a bit lately. It's really not that unusual for me, a self-confessed "foodie". But I have not been talking about food in a good way. From high fructose corn syrup in a guest blog to the toxicity of sugar and antibiotics in meats discussed here, it seems there is much to talk about that isn't so easy to swallow (bad pun intended).

And so it continues. A new study conducted by researchers at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec reveals that insecticides built into genetically-modified foods (GMOs) are showing up in the bloodstreams of women, both pregnant and not pregnant, with some dire implications. As reported by HMN Sponsor E Magazine, "the study published last month in the peer-reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology looked at the blood of 30 pregnant and 39 non-pregnant women and found that the toxins did indeed persist in their bloodstreams—and in the bloodstreams of their fetuses."

As we know from last month's HealthE Mama News, "according to the USDA, in 2009, 93% of soy, 93% of cotton, and 86% of corn grown in the U.S. were GMO. It is estimated that over 90% of canola grown is GMO . . . it is estimated that GMOs are now present in more than 80% of packaged products in the average U.S. or Canadian grocery store." With GMOs so pervasive, it's even more disconcerting to discover the longevity the insecticides associated with these crops have. As the first study to show "that pesticides associated with genetically modified foods continue to circulate in women’s bloodstreams," we have no answers as to what impact these chemicals have on women or their children. But we can guess it won't be good.

Taking a long-term perspective with regard to our health can be a challenge. It's hard to resist today's treat for tomorrow's health. But when our children are involved, we often find the inspiration to begin the process. With so much uncertainty about the effects of GMOs on health, even a conservative, precautionary approach seems warranted. Learn more about GMOs and seek out labels such as Non-GMO Project verified when looking for healthier, safer options - for yourself and for the future.