Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Married to our bacteria

What better way to break the Better Babies Blog drought than with a post on one of my favourite topics...the gut microbiota. Katrina Ray, Acting Chief Editor of Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology poses the question “are we more microbe than man?” then answers that while we are outnumbered 10:1 on a cellular level by microorganisms, the microbial and human cells actually work intimately together to foster optimal physical and mental health! Ray also emphasises the vital part that the mother plays in establishing a healthy gut population in her infant. She suggests this process actually begins in utero, which confirms my recommendation that the mother must ensure her own gut health well before conception. Only then can she hope to establish the healthiest possible gut population in her child, which should be healthily well-established by age 2-3 years. It also makes sense that the best probiotic for the job is one that contains multiple human strains, and that those strains are the most fragile ones, those most easily destroyed by modern diets and lifestyles. Progurt ... for the whole family, 15 billion good bacteria in one teaspoonful of a yoghurt you simply make at home.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The cycle of life

It’s been a while since my last post. It’s been a tumultuous half year. My beautiful grandson Louis arrived January 29, while at the other end of the life cycle, his great grandmother (my Mum) exited this lifetime a month short of her 90th birthday. The cycle of life prompted some thinking.
Louis is a perfect example of all that I promote and Mum went out untroubled by doctors and nurses, another theme that runs in the family. But let’s go back to the beginning of my interest in health and wellbeing. As a young emigrant from the smog of Glasgow, the Australian climate had not worked the miracle cure. My maternal grandmother was incapacitated by severe asthma, until in desperation she consulted a naturopath. It was a decision considered remarkably daring in the 30s, but one that would have a dramatic effect on my grandmother’s health, and one that would also significantly affect my own health and the course of my life. My grandmother adhered faithfully to the naturopath’s recommendations and lived out her 86 years in rude good health. 
My Mum, who was as a consequence, raised on a wholefood diet, saw no reason for her own children to eat differently. The meals that Mum served up consisted largely of loads of fresh vegetables and fruit, some wholemeal bread, fish and a little cheese. A barbecue on Sundays provided our only red meat, and with it, ironically, enough carcinogens to kill us all – my Dad never understanding any degree of ‘doneness’ other than charred. But apart from this one transgression, our diet was a daring model for its time. Mum used no salt in her cooking and a cake made with wholemeal flour and raw sugar was an infrequent treat. All our meals, including school lunches, were prepared at home from scratch. I was the only child at school who didn’t drink the milk provided and who never ate the sandwiches from the canteen – although I did long for chocolate spread on white bread. At the school Christmas party I always hoped Mum would bake cupcakes with blue icing and silver balls on top – surprisingly, it was my own plate of brown bread and red salmon that always disappeared from the party table first. 
In the weeks since Mum died, I’ve been involved in the sort out of her home and have had frequent cause to reflect on the legacy she left, which of course has nothing to do with the many “things” but everything to do with the people she touched and how she touched them. Mum was a hoarder, never throwing anything away but all of her hoardings were as nothing compared to the devoted mothering that her daughters, her grandsons and great grandsons and daughter received. Her passion for looking after her own health and wellbeing has also carried down through generations. Vale Stan.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Another reason to “go organic”

This isn’t the first time I’ve posted about the potentially disastrous health effects of Monsanto’s Roundup (e.g. blocking the body’s detoxification pathways). But now new evidence links Roundup - to male infertility. This effect and the many others which include male reproductive malformations such as undescended testes, have been found at levels of Roundup considered safe by US Environmental Protection Agency food safety levels!

Yet Roundup continues to be much used. Yes, I’ve even found it in friends’ tool sheds and garages, which mean they use it on their kitchen garden...Time for a rethink people. This stuff is toxic and even though organic may cost more initially, the savings you can expect to make long-term by avoiding spending on compromised health are not only beyond calculation but beyond price!

I’m on my personal soapbox here, but in my 66 years on the planet, I’ve been hospitalised for one night (shattered my patella) and in the last 12 years I’ve never used my Medicare card (until the patella incident). My sons (now 28 and 24) have visited a doctor a total number of six times in their combined 52 years (the same number of visits the average child makes to a GP in thir first year of life).


Organic, in season, whole, fresh, low food miles, healthy food from healthy soil, whatever descriptor you like, it all starts with what you put into your mouth and if you want to give the next generation a better health legacy, get started before conception. Right now, couples spend more time, energy and money on preparing for their wedding day than they spend on preparing for the conception of a baby! Give your baby something better - a lifetime of better physical and mental health!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Vitamin D ... under the microscope again!

I’ve blogged numerous times on the likelihood of vitamin D deficiency (sunscreen, sun-avoidance, indoor lifestyles etc.) and on the multiple benefits of ensuring vitamin D status before conception, during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. I’ve also posted the most recent dosing recommendations from researchers at GrassRootsHealth, whose work now spans more than 3 decades. So the latest report in the BMJ stating that “universal conclusions about its [vitamin D’s] benefits cannot be drawn” made me angry.

It made lots of other health professionals angry too - with assertions that this major meta-analysis was never going to show anything meaningful when “there were so many underpowered and poorly designed trials in the mix.”  The identified flaws included low doses, large differences in baseline plasma concentrations and contamination with private use of vitamin D. 

Here’s the word from GrassRootsHealth on the appropriate dosages (if you're supplementing) and for a continuing appropriate relationship between your skin and the sun:

Minimize UVA while allowing UVB
10-15 minutes exposure/day between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm
Expose 40 percent of skin area
Ensure it’s a clear day without pollution

If this isn’t possible, use oral supplements of D3 to achieve 40-60ng/ml (100-150nMols/L)

RULE OF THUMB: For every 100IU ingested, there is increase of 1ng/ml
ADULT DOSE: 2,000IU/day
PREGNANCY DOSE: 4,000IU/day
BREASTFEEDING DOSE: 6,000IU/day

I'm going for the appropriate sun exposure - something that feels so wonderful has to be good for you!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

While I'm on the subject of cows...

Just back from a quick trip to China - launching an 8-product range of Ogni Organic Milk Powders out of New Zealand. The organic message is a powerful one and particularly welcome to a lot of Chinese consumers who are understandable wary of locally produced milk products. But seeing the increasing desire for milk products in a market that has not been a traditional consumer of dairy, makes me wonder about the long term health effects. At the same time, the massive rise in the use of infant formula is certainly linked to China’s rapid development and women in the work-force but also to the population’s mysterious desire for everything perceived as Western (and thus progressive).

I can’t but wonder how long it will take public health authorities to figure out that in their population’s helter-skelter embrace of infant formula, a much healthier, clean, green and FREE resource has been discarded. How long will it be before the tide turns ... for example, UAE has just passed legislation that requires women to breastfeed for two years, in South Africa, infant formula can only be purchased with a doctor’s prescription, in the USA women who breastfeed are given food coupons ...

Are the very recent Chinese government regulations, designed to reduce the number of IF brands on the market from thousands to a handful, a sign of something stronger to come? Time will tell...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cows making methane? There's more to the story

Yep, no doubt you’ve read about the massive levels of methane that herds of cattle emit and their likely contribution to green house gas levels. But there’s more to it and it may come as a surprise. It seems that we could actually reduce the CO2 levels if we got cattle back onto the land, let them graze naturally (no more feed lots) and let their symbiotic relationship with the earth restore barren, unproductive lands to verdant pasture (and to more photosynthesis which in turn leads to lower levels of carbon dioxide)!

To make it simple, look no further than the work of Judith Schwartz, freelance writer and author of the book Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth. Judith recounts the findings of Allan Savory of the Savory Institute in Boulder Colorado:  "It occurred to him that the land needed the animals in the same way that the animals needed the land. He began to really observe how animals functioned on land, and came to understand the really intricate dynamics, the system, that had been naturally in operation.

Basically, when grazing animals graze, they're nibbling on the grasses in a way that exposes their growth points to sunlight and stimulates growth... Their trampling [of the land also] did several things: it breaks any capped earth so that the soil is aerated. It presses in seeds [giving them] a chance to germinate, so you have a greater diversity of plants. [Grazing herds] also press down dying and decaying grasses, so that they can be better acted upon by microorganisms in the soil. It keeps the decaying process going. Their waste also fertilizes the soil."

Makes perfect sense to me, and presumably those chooks that you might now have running around you back garden are doing much the same thing!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Bring on the Zinc Taste Test

I’ve been saying it for 30 years, but now it’s official - kids who prefer sweeter foods also prefer saltier foods AND the researchers say taste preferences seem to be linked to periods of increased bone growth.

But will the researchers ever connect the dots? Those kids with compromised taste sensation (i.e. zinc deficiency) will always go for the sweeter/saltier tastes, simply because the more subtle flavours of fruits and vegetables are lost on them. And no points for guessing what mineral is involved (along with calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D for bone growth) - of course it’s zinc!

Solution for those kids making the lousy food choices - get the Zinc Taste Test, confirm zinc deficiency, then supplement with a liquid zinc product. Switch to supplementing with tablets when zinc status (and optimal taste sensation) are restored. Remember to add a robust combination of other trace elements and vitamins - dose daily!


Simple, cheap and guaranteed to get kids interested in eating corn and cauliflower instead of crisps and chocolate!