Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Flu shot or not?

It is the time of the year where some of us have to decide, flu shot or no flu shot.  There are those that know without a doubt, “yes” while others opt out.  There are still those, however, that try to weigh the pros and cons of receiving the flu shot.  I am not writing this blog to decide that option for you, but instead, give you some of the reasons I use in making my decision.
Last year our family (4 out of 6) did get the actual flu, not the intestinal kind, but high fever and body aches.  We were all out for 24 hours and then took another 24 hours to regain our energy.  We did survive and were “no worse for wear” after the episode.  I know the fact that we keep our health as a priority; exercise, diet, and vitamins, got us through the illness without complications.
Originally, the flu vaccine was intended for the elderly, infants, immune compromised and healthcare professionals.  As the popularity grew, so did the demand for the vaccine and soon “everybody” was doing it.  Getting the flu vaccine does not guarantee you will not get the flu.  The vaccine is designed for the most popular flu virus the year before, plus 2 other strains, but it does not mean that will be the “bug” for this year.  I have a family member that gets the flu vaccine every year and happens to get the flu “every year”.  Now she does believe her symptoms are reduced by having the vaccine.
One of the biggest reasons we choose not to receive the flu vaccine is because of the ingredients.  If you go to the CDC website you can see the list of ingredients for yourself. 
There are some natural supplements and remedies on the market that are supposed to decrease your chances in getting the flu.  I have not tried them myself, so I do not know how effective they are.  One thing I do know is that I am going to be a lot more diligent on washing my hands and purifying the air in our office (we use essential oil purification) this year.  Like I discussed in two previous blogs, “Boosting the immune system can fend off back-to-school viruses” and “Vitamins and Supplements I recommend”, can help your body’s defense system.

In the end, I think it is important for you to make the decision you are comfortable with.  Whether you get the vaccine or not, nothing is 100% guaranteed.  The internet can be a great resource of information but be discerning with the information you are reading.   Always consider your current health status and don’t be afraid to do a little investigating on your own!

Shopping with My Son

When the weather got cold a few weeks ago we decided it was time to take out the winter clothes and pack away the summer clothes.  Because of the abundance of girls in our family we rarely need to buy clothes for them except for our oldest.  Sophia and Zach seem to grow very little - or at a slower rate than most kids - or I choose to ignore they are growing! 
When we got out Zachary’s winter jacket I noticed it was a size 6/7 and the sleeves went halfway up his arms.  The jeans were not much better.  Since the children wear uniforms at school, I seem to forget about the need for weekend and play clothes.  Actually, unless they complain or whine about clothes not fitting, I forget about it altogether.
So we ventured out to get Zach new clothes and now I remember why he has so little clothes.  Zach has very little patience for the entire shopping experience.  Unlike his father, who could spend hours looking at shoes, ties and shirt for himself, Zachary would grab the item closest to him and call it good enough.  Going into the changing room to actually try on the clothes is even worse!
I am not a fan of shopping myself so I see where Zachary gets his indifference for the shopping experience.  It actually drives me crazy when the girls need to go around the entire store to see every item and touch everything.  When I go shopping, I tell the sales associate what I am looking for along with the size and try on what they choose for me.  Of course, if the first few items don’t fit (meaning I need a bigger size) I call it quits for the day and don’t buy anything.
It only took 2 stores and less than 30 minutes (counting walking between the stores) for us to complete his wardrobe.  This included a winter coat, 2 pairs of jeans (which he thought was completely unnecessary), 2 shirts and a pair of pajamas.  Now compare that to his sister where we went to 5 stores just to get one outfit for pictures.

If Zachary continues to grow at a slow rate he may be lucky enough to only go shopping every two years.  Unfortunately, I think he may start growing at a greater rate.  Since I have 3 girls, 2 of whom are very particular in their clothes, I am going to rejoice that, right now, Zach requires a small wardrobe.

Security - what is your perspective?

My seven-year-old daughter came up to me the other day to share her beautiful Lego creation.  She went on to explain it to me, “Mom I built a church.  Here are all the people inside the church praying and outside are the security guards.”  The comment made me smile, but also brought to mind a reality that I had not even considered.  My daughter saw the security guards as a normal piece of the church.  We fear for our children’s future and what the world will become, but when you think about it, didn’t our parents have that same sense of fear for us as we grew up, and likely their parents before that?
When I was growing up, our biggest fear walking to school was getting caught by the old man as we crossed through his yard.  We rarely locked the house or car doors.    At the same time, drugs were becoming a little more common and we were being taught to “Just Say No” and to recognize “Stranger Danger”.  I understand that I grew up in a small town, so this may not be typical for others in my generation, but the general idea is that I felt safe while I am sure my mom was thinking, “What has this world come to?”
I don’t allow my children to play in the front yard when I am not home.  My 12-year-old daughter is only able to walk the six blocks home from school when she is with friends and she must call me before she leaves.  Even then, I worry that she will not arrive safely.  As I sit and worry about all of this, my children remain unfazed.

I know that as children we are definitely care-free and when we become parents, our children’s safety is at the forefront of our mind.  Have you ever thought that maybe it is also in the perspective?  Our children don’t know anything different than to keep the doors locked at all times, not to play in the front yard without adult supervision and definitely not to walk across town to a friend’s house.  They see security personnel at church, school, events and the malls as providing safety and not as the possibility of a threat.   I think we can all agree that times are changing and seem very scary, but each generation grows up in the world as it is and has no reference point for the way it used to be.  When our kids grow up, they will likely encounter the same fears we – and generations of parents before us – have.

The Challenges of Changing the Family Diet

My husband decided the family needed to go on a wheat-free diet.  We don’t have any health issues nor do we have a lot of extra weight to lose, but after reading the book Wheat Belly, Erik decided we should give it a try. I admit I am always trying new ways of eating, but I have never put the children through the same ordeal.  I completely understand the health benefits of eliminating wheat, but all I could think of was the added work in packing school lunches and dinner.  The ideal time, in my thinking, to have started this new way of eating would have been best during the summer, but he decided we would start the same week as school was beginning.  This meant no more hot lunches and saying goodbye to sandwiches.
Before we started, I was concerned about the kids maintaining their weight.  They are all pretty small, so they don’t have a lot of weight to spare.  The first week I was so worried about it that I supplemented their days with milkshakes after school!  I know replacing wheat with sugar is not wise either.
Emma announced to her friends at lunch the first day, “My dad has put me on a diet.”  Their response, “You don’t have any weight to lose.”  After that, I explained to my children that they may not want to use the word “diet” but a “new eating plan”.  I didn’t want their teachers or friends thinking we were starving them to lose weight.  Sophia came home one day and told me, “My friends think we eat weird things.” 
This new way of eating has been challenging at times, but I have become a little more creative with meal planning.  I made black bean brownies and skinny monkey cookies which the children had for breakfast one week.  We have tried kale chips, gazpacho, lettuce wraps (which the children really like) Italian chicken sausage vegetable pasta and banana avocado smoothies.  Last week Emma came home and said, “I just want to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!”  So this week I made buttermilk corncakes so the children could have PB&J sandwiches.

I am sure the less I grumble about the extra work this is causing me, the more the kids will begin to accept these new meal plans.  We have been staying wheat-free 80% of the time for a month now and no one has “died” - as Hannah was positive she would “die without macaroni and cheese”.

Vitamins and Supplements, I recommend

If you are anything like me, you can get overwhelmed when you listen to the list of supplements and vitamins you should take daily.  Pretty soon you have a pill box like your grandparents but filled with vitamins.  When parents ask me what supplements they should be giving their children, I recommend the same ones I give to my children.
The first supplement I recommend is the one I think can be the most important, especially during the winter, Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is a powerful antioxidant and is produced in the body through the sunlight we absorb.  Even though we live in the sunny state of Colorado, we generally limit our time outside because it is too cold, and when we are outside our skin is pretty well covered up!  Vitamin D is an immune system regulator that helps arm the immune system against the common cold and possibly reduce your chances of developing the flu, according to 2010 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
I generally forget about vitamin D during the summer but the week before school starts, I have the kids back on a daily dose.  I know that once they return to school the germs will fly and the chance of illness will increase.  This is the one vitamin that I am religious about taking myself and giving the kids.  The daily recommended amount is 600 IU, although we give our kids 2000 IU/day.
The next supplement I recommend is fish oil.  I know - all you think of is cod liver oil, Yuck!  Fish oil is an essential fat which is important in supporting brain and nervous system development, along with the immune system.  Our brain is composed of 60% fat, so it would make sense that by taking a fish oil supplement, our brain would thrive allowing for better focus, balanced mood and increased learning!  There are a lot of different types of fish oil so I know that choosing can be difficult!  Just make sure it is high quality fish oil as you do need to watch out for mercury and other environmental toxins in the fish.  The brands we recommend are third party tested.
Of course a multivitamin is always a good idea.  Most of us do not get in our daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.  Again, make sure you are getting a high quality vitamin.  Our rule of thumb is you get what you pay for!  We have some wonderful x-rays in our office that show undigested vitamins all the way through the intestinal system.  A whole food vitamin breaks down better allowing the body to absorb the nutrients.
A probiotic is also another supplement to consider if the child has issues with digestion or illness.  Probiotics strengthen the immune system by introducing good flora into the intestinal system – 60% of your immune system is in your gut.

There are so many other supplements that you can consider and it varies depending upon the child’s health.  Make sure if your children due have any health issues you consult their doctor before starting them on any supplements.  To be honest, I am not very good about taking vitamins so the simpler I can keep it the better!