Thursday, September 15, 2011

Health Plan: Flu and Ear Infection Season

Ear infections, bloody noses, and the flu have become a seasonal issue for us. When my son was younger, he ate all kinds of wonderful foods and sickness was not a huge issue for him. But now he's at this picky stage and its hard to get him to eat a single sensible meal. He wants sugar, dairy and Standard American Diet type recipes (think pizza, spaghetti, tacos, etc). His pattern seems to be a 2-3 day flu followed by an ear infection. As soon as he's better, another flu comes around. Last Winter it seemed that he was constantly sick and sure enough, the cold weather barely touched down and here he is, sick again.

This year we're getting organized and fighting back! I don't believe in using antibiotics as a first line of defense against infection. This promotes antibiotic resistance. There are plenty of alternatives to utilize. Here's my plan:

Throughout the Flu Season
Dietary: Reduce dairy and sugar
Herbal: Echinacea treatment (10 days on, 14 days off) with a kid-friendly product like these gummies.

Cold Onset
Eliminate dairy, minimize sugar, increase garlic and ginger, at least one glass of fresh juice per day. Supplement with Zinc and Vitamin C.

Ear Infection Onset
Begin the drop regime, below, and pay a visit to the Chiropractor.

Drop Regime
Once in the morning and once before bed.

  1. Flush with warm saline solution (1/2 cup distilled water + 1 tsp non-iodized salt).
  2. Flush with 50/50 mix of warmed distilled water and Hydrogen Peroxide and let sit for 2 minutes before draining ear.
  3. Add homeopathic drops (like these NOVA Ear Complex drops purchased at Country Nutrition in Waldorf) and let sit for at least 5 minutes or overnight if possible.
My son likes me to sing "I'm a Little Tea Pot" during Step #2. He holds his head to the side and I add the mixture to his ear while singing and at "tip me over and pour me out" he tips his head the opposite direction and let's his ear drain while we sing again and flush the other ear.

I'll let you know how it goes!

UPDATE: 7/17/2012
We went through the winter using the above plan and it worked! At no point did he need antibiotics to alleviate an infection. We went through this about 3 times throughout the winter and it worked great. It helped with the pain and, when deployed swiftly, headed off long, drawn out ear infections. There were long pauses between infections, which was a pleasant change from last winter. I attribute this to the dairy reduction.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Check out the sweet ass nursing gear!

Four years ago I bought a Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump ($280) and used the hell out of it. I'm using it again with my second baby and it is still going strong. My current job is merely a mile away but when I first bought this pump I took it on the metro with me every day. Let's just say it's been around. Alas, it was my only breastfeeding-related gadget. I'm convinced that all of this awesome gear wasn't around then. I'd like to think that I was just as tenacious as I am now, but who knows. Either way, I seriously missed out. So let me spread the wealth so that my fellow nursing mums can take advantage!

#1: LilyPadz Silicone Nursing Pads
Spending money on single-use merchandise is not my cup of tea. So disposable pads never entered my house. Instead, I use cotton pads that are washable. I bought them from SweetJane, an store. These are contoured and waterproof. But, I go through them quickly and every drop that soaks these pads is a drop wasted.

LilyPadz PREVENT leakage. Say what?? That's right, the idea is that you don't leak at all. Refreshing indeed. I bought a pair. They are small, thin, flexible silicone disks. You press them into your nipple and then smooth them onto the areola. They aren't perfect but its wonderful to ditch the bra at bedtime. The downside is that it takes some skill to get them on right. If you aren't successful, milk will pool around the nipple and possibly end in waterfall-esque theatrics. Learn more on the LilyPadz site or buy them on Amazon for $20.

Freemie - Hands Free, Concealable Breast Pump Collection System
These are so hot of the press that they still smack of prototype. That doesn't make it any less cool! Here's the thing about nursing - working mom's have to pump. We have to play cow on a daily basis. Which is fine. It's for the good of the baby. But it still makes me feel absurd and vulnerable. That's probably more a problem of perspective than anything else, though. The Freemie storage system tosses out the idea of a "horn" and instead, goes the route of a breast shell. Your bra keeps it in place and you can pump with clothes on, hands free. How sweet is that? It's wicked expensive though, considering that traditional horns run about $20 for a set. They retail for $70 but can be found for $50 on Amazon.

Mom's have expressed concerns about suction and the amount of "fiddling" that you need to get these right. They just came out last year so we can expect new and improved versions. They still present a situational advantage for mom's pumping at work. I love this review on Babble. The author writes,
But where this type of innovation is huge for women – even huger than the first hands-free systems – is the fact that it takes pumping out of the dank supply closet and puts it into the boardroom, cubicle or front desk.
Learn more on the Freemie site or buy them at Amazon for $50.

#3: Milkies Milk Saver
As if the name wasn't awesome enough, this gadget actually allows milk to collect into a storage space under your clothing instead of absorbing into a nursing pad. You've got baby nursing on one side and a Milk Saver on the other. Baby triggers the let down and you get to store the milk from the other breast that lets down. No more waste! These require that you sit up while nursing and have the ability to remove the device before you stand up. But its easier then breaking out the pump and it's discrete! Learn more on the Milkies site (don't miss the ridiculously tacky promotional video) or buy one at Amazon for just under $24.

#4: Simple Wishes Hands Free Breast Pump Bustier
I'm giving this some limelight because its the best rated of its kind. I know these have been around, but their coolness factor must be mentioned for moms who are unaware. When I pumped for my first babe I had to hold both horns for 15-20 minutes while staring off into space. Not fun. I didn't get to pump in my cubicle (where was Freemie then?!) so each 20 minute pumping session was time lost at work. I had to make up that time every day, which is more time at work, less time at home with the baby! With this, I can pump and do other stationary things - like work or read or make elaborate hand gestures. Learn more on the Simple Wishes site or snag one now on Amazon for $28.

If you've got another sweet piece of breastfeeding gear, please share!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Overdue" and doing just fine, thanks.

Sometimes it's tough to keep my lifestyle in perspective. Caring for the earth, prioritizing wellness, questioning our socialized patterns. There are so many reasons why people buy into the system so easily. We are marketed! Everywhere we turn we are told what to think and why to think it. We are made to fear natural processes. Where is the room for your own thoughts? If I weren't so persistent with researching, reading, questioning, looking for answers, where would I find the strength to resist the status quo? Shear stubbornness? Stubbornness without reason is stupidity. So there's that.

This morning I laid in bed thinking about this cesarean thing and I've decided that, unless there is an emergency, I am not having a cesarean. I have been under tons of pressure to have a planned cesarean because "that's what we do". Everyone wants to manage my pregnancy. They want to plan it out and avoid all risk. I have been made to feel like my child and I will most likely die horrible deaths if I don't have a planned cesarean. If I wait too long to have the baby removed it could suffocate! It finally clicked that the risk of uterine rupture associated with VBACs is a general risk during labor and does not change as time progresses. My doctors and midwives have been blending that risk with the risk of degraded placental performance after 42 weeks which is associated with normal pregnancies. The two aren't related and aren't enough to dissuade me from waiting it out. The baby will come when she is ready and I'll get myself to the hospital in a reasonable amount of time so that we can be monitored in case the worst happens (which it won't, but Chris will feel much better).

Then, I started getting angry with the last doctor I spoke with and the nurses and everyone. They keep saying "all that matters is a healthy baby and a healthy mom." Ya think? What they mean is "If you don't follow our guidance, you don't love yourself or your baby or your family." The audacity of the assumption hit me like a brick. It's my body and my baby! Of course I want us both to be healthy! But, I want to give birth, not have a tumor removed. What is so wrong with that?? In what other aspect of our lives do we walk around cringing at 1.5% risks? No where! We see the 98.5% chance of success and take those odds with confidence. Doctors give out prescriptions like candy knowing that there are risks of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, etc. and believing that those risks are acceptable. I guess I don't get it. They want me to believe that there is something wrong with my body and I just can't. I am in better health than most people I know. If they can do it, I can do it. Our grandmothers did it and so did theirs. So F em. Our bodies were designed to do this. I don't need to be induced or sliced open just because a timetable hasn't been met. My pregnancy does not need to be "managed". Surgically removing my child from my body because it is better for doctors is insanity. No thanks.

If it happens that I end up with an emergency cesarean, at least I will have undergone major surgery because of a tangible, immediate condition. I'll know it wasn't avoidable, protocol, or for the sake of convenience or paranoia.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thinking Outside the Box with the Gesundheit! Institute

The Gesundheit! Institute is a not-for-profit health care organization practicing holistic medicine with focused attention on individuals and their connections to family, community, world, and the health care system. They offer innovative learning experiences and create sister organizations. From their page:

Gesundheit’s model is designed to protect care as the core of the medical interaction. Our model is organized around these principles:

  • Care is free.
  • Patients are treated as friends.
  • Ample time is given to the care interaction (e.g. initial interviews with patients are 3 hours long).
  • All complementary medicine is welcomed.
  • The health of the staff is as important as the health of the patients.
  • Care is infused with fun and play.

Members of the Institute are health practitioners and health educators. Gesundheit’s intention is to model creative problem solving and to spark each medical facility to design their own ideal - to deliver health care in a context that is our ideal design and educate other health care practitioners to design their ideal models for care.

In its 37-year history, Gesundheit has offered care to tens of thousands, given workshops and lectures in over 65 countries, built and supported clinics, schools, and orphanages from El Salvador to Cambodia, and brought the joy of clowning to parts of the world damaged by violence and injustice.

It's really amazing stuff. As everyone discusses/debates/fumes over health care reform, I've been thinking about this place. I don't know if its the right model for every community but it serves a higher purpose for me. It represents a way of thinking that is deeply compassionate and hopeful. Susan Parenti characterizes the Gesundheit! approach as:

"Do it local, do it now, do it small, link with all. "

She calls this "whole system design" - think universally, design locally - and argues that it pairs well with the single-payer/universal coverage efforts. I have to agree with her when she says that the laws we're enacting right now are not perfect, not even close, but they are a step in the right direction. A single payer system levels the playing field and takes power from big business. What I love about the Gesundheit! model is its focus on locality. What I can't stand about health care reform is the top-down approach that assumes that what's right for all is right for one. America is huge and a blanket approach will ultimately disappoint.

Humanizing health care is another aspect of the Gesundheit! Institute that I love. It values patients, providers, and families equally. It's hospitals must be creative, comfortable, and communal. It embraces innovation and actively invites people to support it in their own capacities (e.g. provides beds for service-oriented vacations, like plumbers!). It's tools are sterile but its attitude is not.

So when it comes to health care reform, I'm not super happy but I'm not complaining much either. I'm taking it for what it is - an step in the right direction. I recognize the need for change but know we are a long way from something satisfactory. So be it.

If I were closer to Washington state or had 3 weeks to dedicate to passionate learning, I'd be at these:

Thinking Outside the Box: Re-Design our Health Care System
May 27-30, 2010 at the Olympia Community Center in Olympia, WA

Okay, we've got health insurance legislation. On to health care system reform! Patch Adams MD and the School for Designing a Society invite you to a 3-day conference on health care system design, "Thinking from Inside Out of the Box: Re-Design our Health Care System!" The aim of this working conference is to seed designs of a variety of local projects that move the health care system away from the corporate-business context into models of compassion and service. Speaker's presentations, breakout groups, design groups, informational tutorials on 'What's Goin' On??", skit-and-song-writing---all will focus on a DIY approach (Do It Yourself!) to changing health care system contexts on the local level. All stakeholders in health care systems are welcome: doctors and nurses, med and nursing students, health care support staff, patients and families, dreamers and organizers. We are offering an earlybird discount for applications accepted before April 15th. Learn more now.

Composing Community
June 23-July 16, 2010 at the Gesundheit! Institute (Hillsboro, West Virginia)

When is community? What makes an intentional community intended? What would your ideal community look like? Composing Community, a three-week design intensive and living lab at the Gesundheit! Institute, is an opportunity to explore alternative models of cooperation, leadership, decision making, labor distribution, and organizational structure. Gesundheit's philosophy will be a starting point; in the course of eating, working, studying together, participants will reflect upon their experiences and collaboratively design a new community model. In the second half, we will try out our designs as supporting hosts for the 10-day "Composing Music, Composing Activism" session. Students receive a tuition waiver to Music and Activism classes. Within their community design, students face the challenge of determining a desired way of participating in Music and Activism classes that does not conflict with completing work tasks. For more information and to apply, send an email to

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reduce Blood Pressure, Normalize Blood Sugar with Cinnamon

I know several people who struggle with hypertension and diabetes. This might be one way to reduce your reliance on pharmaceuticals.

"Finally, in 2003, Anderson and coworkers published their results from a double-blind controlled trial using cinnamon and placebo with 60 adult type 2 diabetic patients.

Ten patients received one gram cinnamon daily for 40 days; 10 received three grams daily; and 10 received six grams daily after meals. Thirty placebo patients received capsules of one, three, or six grams of placebo after meals for 40 days.

Blood measurements were taken at 0, 20, 40 and 60 days (20 days after last capsules). There was no significant change in blood glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol among the placebo patients over the 60 days. The cinnamon patients had blood-glucose decreases of 18 to 29 percent and triglyceride decreases of 23 to 30 percent. Total cholesterol went down 13 to 26 percent, while LDL cholesterol dropped 10 to 24 percent. There was overall no significant change in HDL cholesterol levels. Ironically, some parameters were lower at day 60 than day 40, showing a deep-seated improvement in metabolic status. None of the measurements at day 60 went back up to the high levels at day 0. No side effects were observed. Thus, cinnamon has now shown excellent activity to normalize blood insulin/glucose/ lipid metabolism in people where it was impaired."

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I'd recommend New Chapter Cinnamon Force if you want to try it out. Give it a try for two months to see if its helpful (per study results in the more technical article). New Chapter has a really good reputation for quality. I'm a big fan.