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holistic

Pregnancy

What is the Group B Strep Test?

If you’ve got Group B strep during pregnancy, you might not even know! Testing positive for this strain of bacteria sounds super scary – but there are ways to help keep you and baby healthy during pregnancy and delivery.

What is Group B Streptococcus?

Group B Streptococcus, or GBS, is just one of the many different types bacteria that normally live in our bodies. These bacteria live harmoniously in our bodies without us even knowing, aiding with digestion, helping to boost our immune systems and generally keeping us functioning optimally.

How will I know if I have GBS?

The GBS screening test is a vaginal and rectal swab performed at approximately 35-37 weeks of pregnancy to test for the presence of Group B Strep bacteria.

How common is it?

GBS naturally occurs in about 10-30% of healthy pregnant women and has a 1% chance of passing from mother to baby during labour.

How will Group B Strep affect my baby?

In newborns, GBS is a major cause of meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and sepsis (infection of the blood).

What’s the best way to prevent my baby from getting Group B Strep?

Sounds scary, but take a deep breath!  There is good news. Research shows that antibiotics given to pregnant women at the start of labour or from the time their membranes rupture (waters break) can prevent most GBS infections in newborn babies. If you are GBS positive, you will receive IV antibiotics when you are in active labour and /or if your water breaks.

Prevention?

Here’s even better news! Often a GBS positive result can be prevented before the screening test occurs.

Dr Sapna Flower, naturopathic doctor at Restore Integrative Health, offers these two recommendations to help decrease your chance of a positive result:

  • Take a high-dose, good quality oral Probiotic
  • Use a Tea Tree spray along the perineum (5-10 drops of tea tree in 1-2 cups of water in a squeeze bottle).  Apply spray to the perineal area after every trip to the washroom – starting at 32 weeks

If you’ve had a history of vaginal infections, seeing a naturopathic doctor can also be beneficial during pregnancy.

 

Health + Wellness

What is a Microbiome anyway?

There’s a flaming hot topic floating around the world of health these days….The MICROBIOME.

Chances are you’ve heard of it in passing – maybe at your naturopathic clinic or while scrolling through your twitter feed. Perhaps, you’ve never heard the word before and if that’s the case, don’t worry you’re not alone. The truth is, scientists themselves are only beginning to understand what a Microbiome really is and how it works in our bodies.

In order to explain this to you, let’s start at the very beginning.

What is a Microbiome?

If you think back to Biology 101, you probably learned that the human body is made up of many different kinds of cells – skin cells, muscle cells, nerve cells and blood cells. All of these are human cells – your cells – functioning according to the set of specific instructions encoded in your genes. However, your body also contains trillions of cells that are not human, but microbial. Microbes include things like bacteria, fungi, protists and viruses. These microbes have their own unique set of genes. Together, these microbes constitute the human microbiome.   Basically, it’s the ecosystem of microbes that live on you and within you.

This microbiome plays a major role in your health from helping your immune system to aiding in digestion. The collection of microbes that constitute the microbiome is not random. The human microbiome is made up of a particular set of microbes that complement each other and the human host – that’s you!  Each microbiome is unique and they play a huge part in the dynamic balance between health and disease.

How big is the Microbiome?

Your microbiome is massive and its everywhere – it’s not only on you but it comprises you. It includes approximately 100 trillion bacterial cells. Here’s the number: 100, 000, 000, 000, 000! (jeez, that’s a lot of 0’s)

The human body is made up of about 37 trillion human cells. That means at any given time, you are carrying around 3 times more bacterial cells than human ones. But the microbiome includes more than just bacteria. It also comprises plenty of viruses, fungi, archea, and single celled eukaryotes.

The microbiome is also big in terms of space and weight. The weight of the human microbiome is about 2.5 pounds. In volume, it would occupy about 3 pints!

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Where did I get my microbiome from?

Simply put, we get most of our microbiome from other humans. Newborn babies encounter microbes for the first time during birth. Babies inherit the first bits of their microbiomes from their mothers as they pass through the vaginal canal during childbirth, which is one of the reasons vaginal birth is so important when it comes to building our natural immunities. As the baby is being born, it is coated with microbes from the mother’s birth canal. Babies that are born by caesarean section first encounter microbes from the mother’s skin and from other individuals who touch the baby (reason why skin-to-skin is important!).

The next source of microbes for baby is breast milk. In addition to providing nutrients, vitamins and antibodies needed for baby’s growth and nutrition, breast milk also supplies many different kinds of bacteria to populate baby’s gut.

Why does my microbiome matter anyway?

The balance of your microbiome promotes your overall health. Think of a seesaw – when completely balanced the body functions optimally and symbiotically. When out of balance, there is chaos and disease processes take over.

Researchers reveal that a healthy gut can promote a well-functioning immune system, digestive wellness, a good mood, healthy glucose levels, balanced yeast growth, and positive sleep patterns.

Your microbiome also helps you combat aggressions from other microorganisms. Think of it as your own little army!

How do I take good care of my microbiome?

Now that you know about the trillions of little microbial friends you are carrying around and the important role they play in your health, you probably want to keep them happy!

Although there is still more research being done on what characterizes a healthy microbiome and how our behaviour affects it, we do know that diet can affect your microbiome. First, the foods you consume are also feeding your microbes. Prebiotic foods, such as those high in fiber, fruits and vegetables will help to feed the good bacteria in your gut and help them thrive.

Secondly, actually consuming microbes can change your GI microbiota. Fermented foods like yogurt, miso, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut contain microbes that are similar to those found in your GI tract.

There are also supplements that are made up of microbes, called Probiotics, designed to supplement good bacteria. Consult with a naturopathic doctor to really understand which exact microbes you need and which type of probiotic is right for you.

Broad-spectrum antibiotics can also have a profound and often long-lasting negative effect on the microbiome, especially a developing one. For more information, make sure you consult with a health care practitioner.

Your microbiome is unique, dynamic and imperative to a healthy life. Remember, you can play a hands-on role in shaping your microbiome in so many ways from dietary changes to simple lifestyle modifications. Take care of your microbiome and it will most definitely take care of you!

 

Babies + Kids

Fevers: Friend or Foe?

A few months ago, my 14 month old daughter Rose woke up in the middle of the night with a fever. She went to bed easily and a few hours later, she was awake, crying and heating up. Her temperature was 103°F and rising. Like any parents, my husband and I were both worried. However, as a chiropractor treating many infants and children, I know that fevers are a part of our body’s healthy immune response. But that didn’t stop us from being slightly panicked anyway.

Many parents misinterpret the dangers of a high fever and believe they should be suppressed immediately, at all costs. We often confuse fever with being a sign of illness instead of a sign of our normal immune response. In fact, fevers are one of the body’s natural and effective protective mechanisms. Temperatures between 100° and 104° F (37.8° – 40° C) are generally a sign of functioning immune system and are good for sick children helping their bodies fight infections.

Here are a few fever related questions I often get asked by parents:

Q.  When should I be concerned about my child’s fever?

A. Children can be warm for many reasons – they are basically giving off heat. Generally their temperatures should be back within normal ranges within 10 to 20 minutes. Normal ranges vary depending on the way the temperature was taken (eg. rectal, ear, oral, axillary).

Here are the guidelines for parents to seek medical attention when their infant or child has a fever (using the rectal or ear method of taking temperatures):

    • Infants 0-3 months with a temperature higher than 100.4°F (or 38°C); parents should seek care immediately and continue to breastfeed often while waiting for care.
    • Children 3-36 months with a temperature higher than 102.2°F (39°C), if they appear ill. Breastfeeding often while waiting for care.
    • Children older than 36 months with a temperature higher than 104.5°F (40.3°C)

For children not in the above three categroies, bed rest and fluids will support the fever and allow it to do the job that your child needs it to do.

Q. What are febrile seizures and are they harmful?

A. Febrile seizures are convulsions brought on by a fever in infants or small children. During a febrile seizure, a child often loses consciousness or shakes, moving limbs on both sides of the body. Seizures are very scary to watch but are over rather quickly and do not cause permanent harm.

An article in the medical journal, Neurology, concluded that most febrile seizures do not adversely affect global measures of intelligence, nor do they harm more specific functions such as memory in children older than 1 year of age.

Q. My child has a low grade fever. Should I give her some medication to reduce it? 

A. Most parents, myself included, want to do everything we can to help our children feel better. However in the case of a fever, the best medicine is to support the fever and let it run its course. A fever of 102°F to 103°F is considered the optimal defense against microbes.

Supporting your child’s fever means keeping him or her comfortable and resting. Offering plenty of fluids and keeping them cool by removing layers. Don’t force food. Generally children have reduced appetites when fighting infections – let her determine when and what she eats. Keep in mind, sugary foods often delay the natural immune response.

Medication is not always needed to reduce a child’s temperature. In fact, the best reason for giving your child medicine is not to reduce the fever, but to relieve any aches and pains.

Here is the American Academy of Pediatrics advice to parents as found on their website:

“Fevers generally do not need to be treated with medication unless your child is uncomfortable or has a history of febrile convulsions. The fever may be important in helping your child fight the infection”

Remember moms and dads: Fever is one of the good guys.

Suppressing a fever will only delay your child’s natural immune response to help fight the infection. Instead supporting a fever will help your child feel better, faster!

And we all want happy, healthy babies after all!

 

 

References:

Neurology (July 10 2001; 57:7-8, 37-42)

www.mercola.com (Dr. Mercola)

www.aap.org (American Academy of Pediatrics)

(graphic www.magicmum.com)

 

Babies + Kids, Health + Wellness

Top 5 Toxins to Avoid

As parents, there’s nothing we want more than to have our kids healthy and happy. We try our best to buy organic fruits and vegetables and prepare wholesome nutritious meals for our little ones to consume.   Similarly a child’s exposure to toxins can be detrimental for their growth and development. Many pollutants in our environment have been linked to abnormalities in behaviour, perception, cognition and motor ability during early childhood, even when exposure is at low or harmless levels.

Infants and children are more at risk than adults due to their immature detoxification systems. Furthermore, children play and breathe closer to the floor where contaminants often accumulate in air and dust.

Our role as parents is to minimize our child’s exposure to toxins by knowing about the harsh chemicals found in foods, furniture, toys, cleaning and grooming products.

Here are FIVE of the most harmful chemicals to avoid:

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is a component found in many plastics and the lining of food cans. There is evidence that it disrupts endocrine function in the body and has been linked to low sperm count, hyperactivity, early puberty, obesity, enlarged prostrates and small testes.

Parabens

Widely used as preservatives in cosmetics, washes and pharmaceuticals. Be weary of the contents of your everyday products such as prescriptive and non-prescriptive drugs.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is related to both contact exposure (children putting toys in the mouth) and offgassing (the relase of gas from a product over time). PVC can leach both phthalates and lead.

Phthalates

These are man-made chemicals found mostly in personal care products. They pose potential toxic effects to the developing endocrine and reproductive systems and can be ingested, absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Research has shown that infant exposure to lotions, powders and shampoos were signficiantly associated with increased urinary concentrations of phthalates. The study also shows that children with the highest concentrations of phthlates in their urine had more severe ADHD symptoms.

Dioxins

A by-product of PVC manufacture, dioxins are also found in a variety of household items such as baby diapers. They are a global health threat as they persist in the enviromnet for an extended period of time. Even at very low levels, dioxins have been linked to immune system suppression, reproductive disorders and endometriosis.

Pregnancy

Reflexology helps during pregnancy!

Recently, our clinic office manager, Aislinn completed her certification in Reflexology. In the past, I’ve often thought of Reflexology as an adjunctive technique to massage therapy. However, it’s so much more than that and is an amazing source of relaxation during pregnancy!

Thanks to Ais, here are some reflexology basics!

Q. What is reflexology?  How does it work?

Reflexology is an ancient holistic healing art that naturally stimulates every gland and organ in the body. By applying pressure to reflexes in the feet, tension is released, circulation is improved, and the body is assisted in regaining its state of harmony and balance.  It is theorized that it works because applying acupressure to the skin and peripheral nerve endings sends calming signals to the central nervous system, which in turn reduces tension in the body and engages the parasympathetic (rest and relaxation) response. When the body is relaxed, all body systems can function more optimally.

Q. What conditions can reflexology treat?

While reflexology does not claim to cure any specific illnesses or conditions, it can be used in conjunction with other health therapies as part of a holistic approach to wellness. Reflexology itself is a holistic therapy and as such all the body systems are treated in a reflexology session. Energy blockages throughout the body are addressed – areas that are tender or have significant uric acid crystal build up can be paid extra attention. Having said that, reflexology is a hugely beneficial therapy for a multitude of conditions from fibromyalgia to anxiety disorders. Studies have shown that relaxed states promote natural pain management – reflexology aids in achieving a state of relaxation and in turn this supports the body in self-healing and the release of tension and pain. Because reflexology increases blood and lymph circulation in the body it can also be useful treating acute and chronic conditions such as sinus congestion and digestion issues. It is also used frequently by women struggling with infertility.

Q. Is it safe during pregnancy?  How does it help mamas-to-be?

Yes, reflexology treatments are considered safe during pregnancy. Adjustments are made in the treatment for pregnant women. They include the use of lighter pressure and modified body positioning during the treatment, especially late in pregnancy, to promote comfort and safety. Reflexology can be a welcome experience for moms-to-be as it encourages them to relax and connect with themselves thereby inducing a feeling of overall wellness.

Q. Can babies receive reflexology treatments?  What conditions does it help treat for little ones?

Yes! Babies can receive reflexology. Reduced pressure and shorter treatment lengths are best for tiny feet. Because reflexology is a soothing treatment it can be used for a variety of situations, such as; teething, colic, and constipation, to name a few. It can also be incorporated into the nap and bedtime routines of babies and toddlers as a natural means to aid in their relaxation.

Q. What can I expect during a treatment?

Clients report feelings of deep relaxation and contentment during and after the treatment. Many drift in and out of sleep while their feet are being worked on and end the treatment feeling refreshed and renewed. I have also been told that this relaxation carries on throughout the day and that sleeping patterns are improved after receiving a treatment. Reflexology should not be painful or uncomfortable, even though there may be tender areas in the foot  – these areas are addressed with gentle pressure within the clients comfort zone. The practitioner may suggest a treatment schedule and/or may recommend other complimentary therapies based on findings from the initial treatment.

 

For specifics on what you can expect from one of Aislinn’s treatments or to book a treatment, please visit www.solesmith.ca