Monthly Archives: February 2015

Why Do Kids Get Sick So Much?

This is the million dollar question for every new mom because kids get sick all the time. I mean ALL the time.  Here’s the thing – they’re designed to get sick all the time and the best news of all is that getting sick is actually the healthiest thing a growing immune system can do. Getting sick is how your kiddos immune system learns about the threats that are in the world as well as learns how to strengthen their own defenses. The human immune system is truly remarkable and the more opportunity it has to learn (which is getting sick), especially in the early years – the healthier it will be in the later years.

Kids Get Sick Because Kids Are Designed to Get Everything

Did you ever wonder why kids put EVERYTHING into their mouths?  Part of it is a deliberate system that is designed to get as much bacteria into them as possible.  Literally they are designed to pick up more bacteria to help them strengthen the flora in their gut, which is the protective bacteria, and also to help them gain exposure to pathogens so that their immune system can learn from them. Instinctive behaviors, like this one, always have an evolutionary advantage or they would have faded away with the generations. Clearly that isn’t happening because your kiddos put just as much stuff in their mouths as your great-grandparents kiddos did.  A great article by the NY Times said:

Since all instinctive behaviors have an evolutionary advantage or they would not have been retained for millions of years, chances are that this one too has helped us survive as a species. And, indeed, accumulating evidence strongly suggests that eating dirt is good for you.

“What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment,” Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, wrote in her new book, “Why Dirt Is Good” (Kaplan). “Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”

Kids get sick - that's not usually a bad thing. Thanks to Badobadop at wikimedia commons for the image.

Kids get sick – that’s not usually a bad thing. Thanks to Badobadop at wikimedia commons for the image.

So How Much Sickness is Normal?

The average for kiddos who are in school or daycare is six to eight upper respiratory tract infections and two or three gastrointestinal upsets. As a parent, that is likely to feel like your kid is sick near-constantly and clearly that must be abnormal.  The reality is that they are doing exactly what they’re designed to do.

How Does This Help Their Immune System?

You have two different types of immunity. One is called innate immunity – this is the type that you’re born with. It doesn’t really need to learn from the outside world, it gives you protection from day one. This comes largely from your genetics and has the blanket program of attacking pretty much anything foreign but it isn’t good at mounting a quick response against particular invaders – that is up to the other system.  The other type of immunity is acquired immunity. This is what your kiddo (and you) are strengthening every time you get sick.  These are your specific defenses and this is the reason why vaccines or previous illness usually protect you from getting sick with that same thing again.  So, acquired immunity means if you get the chicken pox as a child, you won’t also get it as an adult unless something goes wrong somewhere because you have acquired immunity to it.  So essentially every time your kiddo gets a virus or bacteria they are protecting themselves from that virus or bacteria in the future and strengthening their defenses.

A University of Arizona study published in 2002 showed that children between 6-11 years old who had previously been in daycare or preschool were less likely to get sick than those who were cared for exclusively at home.  Of course, the trade off was that they probably got sick more while they were in daycare. Also there is strong evidence that having some natural childhood illnesses like measles and mumps protects from diseases later in life, including cancer.

Well-managed natural infectious diseases are beneficial for children.

When infectious diseases of childhood are not mismanaged by the administration of antibiotics, or by suppressing fever, the diseases prime and mature the immune system and also represent developmental milestones.

Having measles not only results in life-long specific immunity to measles, but also in life-long non-specific immunity to degenerative diseases of bone and cartilage, sebaceous skin diseases, immunoreactive diseases and certain tumours as demonstrated by Ronne (1985). Having mumps protects against ovarian cancer (West 1969).

The bottom line is that kids get sick because they’re supposed to get sick. They really are supposed to put everything in their mouths. They’re supposed to have exposure to all kinds of germs and bacteria and viruses.  Kids who get sick more as toddlers are less likely to get sick down the road and we’re just learning that the protection extends to diseases unrelated to the initial exposure. So if your kiddo is home sick again? Good for them.

The best dose of methylfolate for MTHFR mutants

MTHFR mutation is a huge factor in physical and mental health but we’re still learning the basics because it’s all very new research so the best dose of methylfolate for MTHFR mutants isn’t really a straight answer.  The good news is there are lots of ways to read your body and to learn the best dose of methylfolate for YOU. If you’re a little fuzzy on this whole MTHFR thing, then check out this post on the MTHFR basics.  This will give you a good framework for the whole conversation – also if you suspect you have the mutation, read more about how to know you’re a mutant here. If you, like me, already know that you’re a mutant then let’s tackle the hard problem of finding the best way to compensate for your body.  Finding the right dose of methylfolate can help to reduce anxiety and depression, stabilize mood, boost fertility, protect your heart and cardiovascular system and generally keep your body at peak performance so it’s important to take some time and do this the right way.

Finding the Best Dose of Methylfolate is a Process of Trial and Error

I wish there was just one answer – this is the right dose, but sadly it all comes down to what is the right dose for your body.  First off, I never suggest taking methylfolate by itself without any other B vitamins.  The B vitamins all have overlapping functions and so it’s important to have decent doses of all of them.  Typically though I start clients with a B complex that has a reasonably low dose of methylfolate – like maybe 400 mcg.  I really like the one from Pure Encapsulations called B Complex Plus. It’s basic, simple, and most people – even hard core mutants – tolerate it pretty well, but I’m not married to it. Any good multi-B with a low-dose methylfolate will do or you can look for a multivitamin that has methylfolate in it like Thorne Research Basic Nutrients.  Occasionally even this low dose creates a bad reaction – if that happens then we’ll have to start with a low dose MTHF by itself and split the capsule apart but this is the option of last resort. First, let’s try the low dose B complex or multivitamin and see what happens.

Keep in mind the first three days of any MTHF might be difficult and there may be some adjustments. You may  notice that you’re a little agitated, or anxious, or depressed or just feel a little spacy or off. With any luck that should pass pretty quickly and we’ll wait for things to stabilize before increasing the dose.

If the Low- MTHF  B Complex or Multi Works for You

Great! We’re on the right track.  Even if this is the right dose for you there might be a few odd adjustment days in the beginning – that is totally normal.  Just wait until everything settles down and see how you’re feeling.  Typically with this low dose people may notice a small spike in energy or a little boost to mood, but often it isn’t enough methylfolate to start to touch the issues – that’s okay because it’s enough to get the ball rolling.  The next step would be to add a 1 mg (1000 mcg) MTHF by itself to the B complex you’re already taking. We’re looking to make forward progress without rocking the boat too much.  Each time you increase the dose there may be another adjustment reaction as your body gets used to things, so try to stick it out for 3 days before you make a final judgement about it.

If the Low-MTHF B Complex or Multi DOESN’T Work for You

Then we switch to plan B.  Plan B is a little messier and more tedious, but it could make all the difference for how you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis.  Start with a 1mg MTHF – I prefer a capsule so that you can just open it and portion out the powder (instead of trying to cut or crush a tablet). In this situation start with 1/4 of the capsule – easiest is mixing it with some peanut butter, applesauce or yogurt and taking it that way.  It tastes pretty gross, but hopefully you can hide it in something. Again count on about 3 days of adjustment, but we’re starting with very low doses here so hopefully that will be fine and if it’s still too much then you can cut it down even further. Once you get to the dose you can tolerate, keep it there for a couple of weeks and try to slowly increase.  By now your body has started to process some of the back-log of work so it might be easier to tolerate a bigger dose. Now would be a great time to try going to the B complex with MTHF or multi with MTHF because you do still need all those other B vitamins.

What to Do If You Can’t Tolerate ANY MTHF?

Yup – I’ve seen clients like this. They take the tiniest amount and spiral into depression or anxiety attacks or start to feel itchy. Not fun at all!  In this situation it’s tiny-dose niacin to the rescue.  For whatever reason taking about 10-50 mg of niacin  – this is usually 1/10th or even less of a 500 mg niacin tablet.  It’s a tiny dose, but for many people it really helps to ease the transition into MTHF.  Start again with a small dose from the opened MTHF capsule (maybe 1/4) and add a tiny shaving off the niacin capsule and see how you do.  The niacin seems to buffer things a big so that the MTHF is a little bit easier to tolerate – again it’s about helping your body to do some of the work that has piled up in the absence of activated B vitamins. If niacin doesn’t help then sometimes hydroxycobalamin will.  This is a little bit mysterious because you’d think it would be methylcobalamin (the methylated form of B12 which MTHFR mutants also have a hard time making).  Oddly, the hydroxycobalamin form seems to be the most helpful when you’re starting MTHF dosing and when niacin doesn’t take the edge off, a lot of times hydroxycobalamin will.  Do you see what I mean about trial and error?

Methylation, it's complicated. The best dose of methylfolate is out there for you - you just have to find it. Thanks to flickr user Franklin Park Library for the image.

Methylation, it’s complicated. The best dose of methylfolate is out there for you – you just have to find it. Thanks to flickr user Franklin Park Library for the image.

How Do I Know I Found The BEST Dose of Methylfolate?

We are doing all of this to help you feel better as a whole human.  Methylating your B vitamins or taking methylfolate is supposed to help boost your energy, stabilize and elevate your mood, help your body with detox reactions and reduce a wide variety of symptoms over time.  So how do you know you’re’ at the perfect dose for you?  Well – you should feel better.  Keep in mind the prescription methylfolate comes in 7 mg and 15 mg doses (deplan).  Those are a whole lot bigger than the doses we’re starting with above so when you find a good starting dose for yourself then stay there for a couple of weeks.  If you’re feeling fine and stable but not a lot of improvement then try a higher dose and see how you feel with that. For everyone there is a sweet spot where they feel better and more energetic, but not anxious or wound up.  Keep in mind every time you increase dose those first 2-3 days may be a little bit odd.  Don’t judge by those days.

Things to Remember:

  • You need all the B vitamins, not just methylfolate so don’t leave those out of the mix. A good methylated multi or methylated B complex is a great foundation to start with.
  • Methylation affects neurotransmitter formation, inflammation and detoxification so lots of random symptoms can pop up when you increase the dose. Give it a few days before you make judgements.
  • Increasing doses slowly is easier for your body to tolerate than just dumping a high dose in all at once.
  • Tiny doses of niacin can help smooth out the transition.
  • Hydroxycobalamine, a form of B12, can also help to make taking MTHF a little easier.
  • Every body is different so the best dose of methylfolate for you could be completely different from the perfect dose for someone else.
  • Every MTHFR mutant has mutations in different spots and combinations plus a whole host of other genetics to deal with. Don’t get discouraged – there is always a perfect solution, you just have to find it. Generally though the more mutations you have the longer it might take to find the right balance.
  • Methyl donors like Trimethylglycine (TMG)  which is also called betaine anhydrous can also support this process by donating methyl groups for your newly-functioning methylation pathways to use.
  • Riboflavin-5-phosphate also supports methylation and homocysteine metabolism (which tends to build up if you’re not a great methylator) so sometimes a small dose of this will help things out as well. It should be in a good B complex.
  • It’s important to avoid sources of folic acid (which there are many – think all of the “enriched” grain products like cereals, breads, pasta) including multivitamins with folic acid or vitamin-enhanced foods. Plain old folic acid will compete with the methylfolate you’re taking and make it harder for those pathways to work.

Specialty Methylation Products

There are a few great methylation products out there that have a combo of supportive ingredients.  One of my favorite is Methyl-Guard Plus by Thorne Research, which combines a reasonably high dose methylfolate with methyl-B12, TMG and riboflavin-5-phosphate.  It can be a high dose to start with though, so especially if you have a few mutant genes it’s a good idea to start with the lower dose products and work your way up. There is no sense shocking your body. Too high a dose can cause as many problems as too low a dose so it’s important to find your sweet spot.

The bottom line is that this is no different from any other aspect of health. You need to find the right thing for YOUR body and there is no one size fits all.  The best dose of methylfolate for you is out there – you can find it.  I feel like the biggest thing is to ease your way into it and not over-flood your body. Start slow and work your way up – better to get there slowly than to give up because you felt so bad when you tried the high dose.

Response to the Attorney General – How To Find Good Quality Supplements

I am writing in response to the scandalous NY Attorney General’s investigation of herbal supplements sold at major retailers including GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreens because clearly these are not good quality supplements.  The gist of the investigation is that when the house brands (meaning Target brand or Walmart brand) of different herbal products were tested, the majority of them didn’t contain any of the herb listed on the label. Instead they contained food or filler ingredients designed to mimic that herb like mustard, powdered rice, wheat or radish or powdered house plants. Obviously some of these fillers could be dangerous to those with allergies or sensitivities and they did not appear anywhere on the label. The New York Attorney General’s office issued a cease and desist order to these retailers, demanding that they fix the problem. The quote below was taken from the cease and desist letters reprinted in the NY Times.

“Contamination, substitution and falsely labeling herbal products constitute deceptive business practices and, more importantly, present considerable health risks for consumers,”

There is some question as to the methods the Attorney General’s office used to test the supplements, as it is not a well-established way of testing herbal products.  The American Botanical Council issued a response to this test stating:

“The action by the New York Attorney General is highly problematic,” added Blumenthal. “We here at ABC are sympathetic with the AG’s obvious concern about the reported problems associated with adulteration of herbal ingredients in dietary supplements. After all, ABC is the international leader in educating the industry, researchers, and health professionals about the problems associated with adulterated botanical ingredients through our leadership of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program. However, everything we are doing in our Program is based on scientific research, including evaluation of appropriate testing methods, and full peer review. We respectfully must question whether an appropriate level of scientific rigor has been applied in this case.”

As this particular case unfolds we will learn the truth – which I believe is a mix of both sides of the story.  It could be that there is some of the active ingredient in the products that the DNA testing failed to detect, but if DNA testing detected ingredients that aren’t on the label, then that’s an equally big problem.  The supplement industry is full of sad cases like this in which customers are buying products in good faith to help themselves based on their own research and investigation, but not getting what they pay for, and in some cases getting dangerous substitutes.

Finding Good Quality Supplements:

It is important to buy supplements from trusted sources, most frequently from health care practitioners themselves, or from a retailer who can carry professional grade products like Peoples Rx . The problems within the industry are readily apparent. Complex regulations that are hugely expensive to follow, with nobody to actually enforce those regulations leads to a lot of companies bending the rules. Especially herbal and supplement companies that are trying to be the cheapest product out there – which is mostly what large retailers carry.

Don’t look for the cheapest supplements. Higher price doesn’t always mean better quality, but lower price always means that the company has cut some corners somewhere to deliver a cheaper product.  There are several things to look for when choosing good quality supplements – and some of it comes down to brand knowledge. Research the products you buy before you buy them, or better yet take them under the advisement of a well trained professional. If you’re looking for products on your own look for:

  • GMP certified – All supplement companies should meet the Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines set out by the FDA and should be inspected regularly to make sure they are still in compliance. Products should state that they are GMP certified on the label.

    GMP certified should always be displayed on a good quality supplements (although the image may not look exactly like this)

    GMP certified should always be displayed on a good quality supplements (although the seal may not look exactly like this)

  • Professional-only – Most supplement companies sell to anyone, anywhere. But those typically don’t go through the level of testing and verification that professional-only lines do.  These are companies that only sell through health professionals because their products are strong and effective enough that it is important for customer safety that they be used correctly. Some retail outfits, like Peoples Rx are able to stock products like this because their wellness staff is composed of trained health professionals. For the most part these products will be found in your practitioner’s office.
  • Independently tested – Professional lines are all independently tested to verify that the ingredients listed on the label are actually in the bottle, and that there isn’t anything extra in there that shouldn’t be. This is a big deal because the products tested by the Attorney General’s office largely didn’t have any of the herb they claimed to have – meaning those capsules were filled with something else. Don’t risk your health on “something else.”
  • 800 Number – Companies who stand by their product quality will make it easy for you to contact them to ask them about the products, the verification that they go through, and the quality standards that are in place.  Look for an 800 number on the product label and feel free to call them to ask all of your questions.

Companies Who Manufacture Good Quality Supplements:

The supplement industry is both under-regulated and easy to mis-use. In spite of that there are still companies that are out there doing it right. They are spending their own money to make sure that their products are batch-tested and that everything that’s on the label is in the bottle.  The companies that I trust and have personally looked into include:

  • Pure Encapsulations
  • Thorne Research
  • Integrative Therapeutics Inc (ITI)
  • Standard Process
  • NuMedica
  • Xymogen

This is not a complete list, but these are companies that I use most frequently and have researched extensively. I would urge you to always look for good quality supplements and skip the bargain bin – there are some things you don’t want to compromise.  Also, by buying high quality supplements and skipping the bargain bin, you are reinforcing the message to the makers of these supplements that we want the real thing. As consumers we don’t want to be deceived, we are willing to do the research to find the best products.

Natural Remedy for Measles – Stop the Freakout.

Measles is really one of the big baddies, so measles at Disneyland has put everyone into a tailspin so lets get some good information and learn a bit about a natural remedy for measles (or two).

What Is Measles?

Measles, or Rubella virus, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that lives in the nose and throat of the infected person. It can be spread through coughing and sneezing and can live on surfaces and in air spaces for up to 2 hours after the infected person has coughed or sneezed. Measles is so contagious that 90% of the people close to an infected person who do not have previous immunity from a vaccination or former infection will get the virus. Infected people are contagious from 4 days before the onset of rash to 4 days after the start of the rash.  There are no reported cases in Texas yet this year, but there have been outbreaks in neighboring States.

Natural remedy for measles. Classic day 4 measles rash. Eek! Thanks to the CDC public health image library.

Classic day 4 measles rash. Eek! Thanks to the CDC public health image library.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • The incubation period between contracting the virus and having symptoms is between 7 and 14  days and people become infectious 4 days before the rash appears (which is inconvenient because they’re spreading the virus before anyone has figured out they have it).
  • First symptoms are mild to moderate fever, dry cough, runny nose and red, sore, watery eyes.
  • 2-3 days after symptoms first appear, tiny white or blue-white spots called Koplik spots may appear inside the mouth and they are usually surrounded by red patches.
  • 3-5 days after symptoms begin the rash breaks out.  This usually starts on face and hairline and spreads downward to the trunk, arms and legs. The rash is flat red patches that get larger and may develop small red bumps on top.
  • When the rash appears it is common for the person’s fever to spike to 104* or higher (eek!)

Who Usually Gets the Virus?

Measles is highly contagious and anyone who is not vaccinated or hasn’t had a previous infection is at risk.  Also 5-7% of people who have only had one vaccine are still susceptible and up to 3% of people who have had the recommended 2 shots are still at risk. This virus can create an infection even in very healthy people with strong immune systems, so this one really is kind of a bad one. It’s just hard to avoid. Research has shown that people with a vitamin A deficiency are more susceptible, so vitamin A is a good natural remedy for measles and can help give you a preventative edge. This means that anyone (even if you have been vaccinated) still has some risk of getting measles.

Natural remedy for measles - vitamin A, immunoglobulins.

Natural remedies for measles exist, but I’m not so sure about natural remedies for love.


How Can You Prevent Measles?

Measles is a tough virus, but there are some things that you can do to improve your chances.

  • Globally, the MMR vaccination is preventative for the measles virus and provides life-long immunity if the full vaccination series is followed. There is only a 3% failure rate, which is pretty good for a vaccine.
  • If you have a known exposure and haven’t yet been vaccinated you can have a post-exposure vaccine within 72 hours.  The illness may still develop, but will be less severe and of shorter duration.
  • Pregnant women, infants and people with weakened immune systems who have an exposure can be given immune serum globulin to help their body fight the infection and to reduce severity of symptoms and complications.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds (or as long as it takes you to say the alphabet). Or use alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  • Make sure you eat foods high in vitamin A such as carrots, squash, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin and cod liver oil.  If you suspect a vitamin A deficiency then take a supplement short term to boost your body levels because deficiency makes you more susceptible to measles virus. Make sure this is actually a vitamin A supplement and not beta carotene because many people don’t convert beta carotene very well into the active form. Vitamin A is a great natural remedy for measles virus.
  • Try to avoid contact with infected persons or their bodily fluids. If you have had contact then monitor your symptoms carefully for at least 14 days and go to the doctor if necessary.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth or any broken skin with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid going to places where there have been known cases such as schools, hospitals or day cares.
  • If you suspect that you or a loved one has measles then avoid contact with others as much as possible and certainly do not attend school, daycare or other facilities with large numbers of people.
  • Taking a natural alternative to gamma globulin (which is an injected  medical treatment) may help to boost your body’s ability to fight the virus.  This means natural substances that contain gamma globulins such as colostrum, IgG and PRP spray or powder could boost your immune system enough to be a natural remedy for measles.
  • Measles is contagious enough to transmit even to extremely healthy people so general immune boosters may help to some degree, but are not preventative.

Natural Remedy for Measles Once You’ve Got It:

Measles is a virus, so once you’ve got it all you can do is help your body to fight it.  Vitamin A in reasonably high dose short-term may help your body to fight along with the immunoglobulins mentioned earlier – colostrum is one of my favorite general immune boosters and since gamma globulins have shown medical success with measles, the gamma globulins from colostrum should help too. One of the biggest concerns is reducing the fever because measles can produce a dangerously high fever that can cause seizures and even brain damage, so taking appropriate steps to prevent that is helpful.  Tepid baths are one of the most effective ways to bring a fever down or damp towels over a kiddo’s chest or back can help to lower their body temperature.  Also eating ice chips can help to soothe the sore throat as well as bring down the fever. Of course tylenol or ibuprophen are good back-up plans as well. The rash itself resolves on it’s own, but can be itchy.  Oatmeal baths can be soothing to the rash along with vitamin A and D ointment that is normally used on diaper rash.

What Are The Complications of the Measles Virus?

  • Measles is serious in all age groups, but children less than 5 years old and adults over 20 are most at risk for complications.
  • Common complications include ear infections and diarrhea – both of which happen in approximately 1/10 cases.
  • Ear infections from measles can result in permanent hearing loss
  • Severe complications from measles include pneumonia (infection in the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain) as well as febrile seizures from the high fevers.
  • As many as 1/20 children who get measles will develop pneumonia and this is the most common cause of death from measles.
  • 1/1000 children who get measles will develop encephalitis which can lead to convulsions, deafness or mental retardation.
  • 1-2 children per 1000 cases die from measles.
  • Pregnant women who contract measles are more likely to have pregnancy loss, preterm labor or low birthweight babies.

Measles is a big virus, no doubt but even if you or someone in your family comes down with the virus it isn’t the end of the world.  Make good use of natural remedy for measles like vitamin A and colostrum and manage symptoms until it passes. In most people it passes without serious complications,but if you suspect complications then go to the hospital immediately.


CDC measles information page
Mayo Clinic measles update
Measles vaccine information
Gamma Globulin for Measles