Posts Tagged ‘Natural Living’

Update on Not Using Soap or Shampoo

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Following up on an earlier post, (You Don’t Need to Shampoo Your Hair (Or use Soap) – Lost Wanderer) Boing Boing has just blogged (Body washing with water alone) about a report by Free the Animal (Paleo I Don’t Care: I Like No Soap; No Shampoo) in which he talks about his very good experience with going soap and shampoo free for the last six months.  Both the Boing Boing and Free the Animal posts are followed up with numerous comments by readers.

We Need Our Symbiotes

Monday, December 14th, 2009

My next post will be on avoiding food poisoning, but before I post on that issue I need to point out that there obviously exists a balance between living in disease causing filth and being obsessively hygienic.  A lot of research suggests that we need various probiotics in order to be healthy, and that a large number of health problems occur because we have cleaned up our environment so thoroughly that we don’t have the necessary symbiotes in our bodies any more. 

The hygiene hypothesis seems to be gradually being refined into what has been called the Old Friends Hypothesis.  The shift is from one of believing that we benefit from infections with various organisms in general sort of way, to saying that bad organisms are bad for us, and good organisms (symbiotes) are good for us.  So, obviously we should try to avoid the bad ones and seek out the good ones.  Here are two previous blog posts of mine that touch on this issue The Umami Hypothesis – Lost Wanderer and Apitherapy & Biotherapy – Lost Wanderer

Here is a general survey of some of this material by Gut Buddies: ‘Friendly’ bacteria: side-lined healers - Gut Buddies (Some of the friendly bacteria (and products) referred to by Gut Buddies in this post are: segmented filamentous bacterium, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, Puritan’s Pride, Lactobacillus reuteriB. infantis 35624, Lactobacillus F19, L. acidophilus NCFB 1748 and B. lactis Bb12, Advanced Oral Hygiene with S. salivarius and B. coagulans, PerioBalance with Lactobacillus reuteri Prodentis, Halofuginone, and Bacillus polyfermenticus). 

Helminths (hookworms and whipworms, etc.) have been apparently very effective in helping with numerous allergic and autoimmune conditions, including allergies, asthma, autism, Crohn’s Disease, Eczema, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis, Sjögren’s Syndrome, and Ulcerative Colitis. (AutoimmuneTherapies) (Hookworms are our Little Friends - Lost Wanderer)

Similar immune-modifying symbiote-based therapies might help with many other diseases and conditions: 

Alzheimer’s (Alzheimer’s Inflammation May Trigger Alzheimer’s Disease via Autoimmune & biotherapy news 2009/7/9 – Gut Buddies) (See also: Alzheimer’s – Lost Wanderer)

Aortic dissection (Inflammation Critical in Aortic Dissection, Researchers Find via The worm’s next success? – Gut Buddies)

Autism (Autism May Be Linked to Mom’s Autoimmune Disease (type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease) via Autoimmune & biotherapy news 2009/7/9 – Gut Buddies) (See also: The Vitamin D Theory of Autism – Lost Wanderer)

Dental Issues (Probiotic lozenges promote oral health - Gut Buddies (GUM PerioBalance (Lactobacillus reuteri Prodentis) and Advanced Oral Hygiene lozenges (S. salivarius and B. coagulans)

Depression (Is Dirt the New Prozac? by Josie Glausiusz (concerning the common soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae)

Diabetes (Diabetes- Lost Wanderer)

Diarrhea (Kefir benefits the sickest young children on antibiotics - Gut Buddies)

Flatulence Odor (You Can be a God/Goddess – Lost Wanderer (Odafree/Whiff withYucca Shidgera from desert Yucca, Fructo-oligosacharides from Jerusalem artichokes, and Copper Chlorophyllin from alfalfa. Local inventor clearing the air on pill that helps you breathe)

Gastric reflux (Reflux Esophagitis Due to Immune Reaction, Not Acute Acid Burn via The worm’s next success? – Gut Buddies)

Migraine Headaches (Migraine Headaches - Lost Wanderer)

Narcolepsy (Narcolepsy Is An Autoimmune Disorder, Stanford Researcher Says via Autoimmune & biotherapy news 2009/7/9 – Gut Buddies)

Obesity (Study Confirms: Your Hidden Food Allergies Are Making You Fat via Give microbes to mum for less-allergic young - Gut Buddies)

(Probiotics may reduce belly fat in women (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) via Obesity As An Immune Disorder – Matt Metzgar)

(Early differences in fecal microbiota composition in children may predict overweight (Staphylococcus aureus) via Obesity As An Immune Disorder II – Matt Metzgar)

(Childhood: Food Allergies May Be Linked to Obesity by Nicholas Bakalar and The Effect of The ALCAT Test Diet Therapy for Food Sensitivity in Patient’s With Obesity via Obesity As An Immune Disorder III – Matt Metzgar)

(Obesity – extending the hygiene hypothesis via Microflora - Matt Metzgar)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (Link Discovered Between Antibodies To Strep Throat Bacteria And Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (and Tourette syndrome) In Mice (Group A beta-hemolytic streptoccoccus (GABHS)) via The worm’s next success? – Gut Buddies

Schizophrenia (Schizophrenia - Lost Wanderer) (Immune System Activated in Schizophrenia via The worm’s next success? – Gut Buddies)

Vaginosis (Bacterial vaginosis treatments: Probiotics can increase effectiveness of some antibiotic therapies via Autoimmune & biotherapy news 2009/7/9 - Gut Buddies)

Recently, Matt Metzgar has been posting a lot on the topics of probiotics (1) and prebiotics.  Matt began by pointing out the site Paleobiotics, which discusses how the ancient diet influenced people’s gut flora.  The diets of hunter gatherers would have had a lot of indigestible fibers in them, which were instead consumed by our gut bacteria.  Since we no long eat this sort of diet we harbor somewhat different colonies of bacteria, to the likely detriment of our health.  Matt points out that in one study (Can vegetables help you resist infection?) that men who took prebiotics massively increased their good gut bacteria, but the group only taking a probiotic didn’t benefit very much. (See also: Eat Bugs. Not Too Much. Mainly With Plants via Prebiotics versus Probiotics - Matt Metzgar) 

Conditions that Matt talks about that might be influenced by the types of bacteria we harbor include:

Allergies  (The role of Probiotics in allergic diseases, Maternal breast-milk and intestinal bifidobacteria guide the compositional development of the Bifidobacterium microbiota in infants at risk of allergic disease, (bifidobacteria) Babies, Bacteria and Breast Milk: Genome Sequence Reveals Evolutionary Alliance (Bifidobacterium longum supsp. infantis) via Balancing Bacteria - Matt Metzgar and Babies and Bacteria – Matt Metzgar)

Anxiety, in patients with chronic fatigue (A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of a probiotic in emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria) via Probiotics and Mood – Matt Metzgar)

Chronic diarrhea (Don’t poo-poo technique: Fecal transplant can cure superbug, doctors say via Transplanting Good Bacteria - Matt Metzgar)

Cold and flu symptoms in children (Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children, (Lactobacillus acidophilus or L acidophilus NCFM in combination with Bifidobacterium animalis) and HOWARU  (Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli) via Probiotics for Children – Matt Metzgar)

Dental Issues (EvoraPlus via Probiotics and Oral Health - Matt Metzgar)

(The effects of manuka honey on plaque and gingivitis: a pilot study, Streptococcus mutans in saliva of normal subjects and neck and head irradiated cancer subjects after consumption of honey via Honey and Oral Health - Matt Metzgar)

(Peelu, Comparative effect of chewing sticks and toothbrushing on plaque removal and gingival health, Subgingival plaque microbiota in Saudi Arabians after use of miswak chewing stick and toothbrush, Chewing sticks versus toothbrushes via Chewing on Fiber II - Matt Metzgar)

(Toothbrushing with vegetable oil: a clinical and laboratorial analysis via Brushing with Vegetables - Matt Metzgar)

(Dietary fiber intake and dental health status in urban-marginal, and rural communities in central Mexico  and A longitudinal study of the relationship between diet intake and dental caries and periodontal disease in elderly Japanese subjects via Chewing on Fiber - Matt Metzgar)

(See also: Dental Related Information – Lost Wanderer)

Hypertension (The Improvement of Hypertension by Probiotics: Effects on Cholesterol, Diabetes, Renin, and Phytoestrogens via Hypertension and Probiotics – Matt Metzgar)

(1) In addition to the conditions mentioned in this post, probiotics might also help with such things as lactose intolerance, colon cancer, cholesterol, improving immune function and preventing infections, improving mineral absorption, preventing harmful bacterial growth under stress, and managing urogenital health.  (Probiotic – Wikipedia)

Safe and Green Cleaning

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

In one of my earlier blog posts I discussed the miracle cleaner electrolyzed water, but for now we will have to get by with other products.  Matt Metzgar has discussed using Green Works and Ecover products.  (Green Works – Matt Metzgar and Going Green – Matt Metzgar)  (Although, for a critical review of Green Works products you can read, “The Four Biggest Enviro-Scams:  Green claims that make us see red” By Amy Tennery, who recommends Seventh Generation products as superior. (But be sure to also read the rebuttal to this.))  Another such product line is EnviroRite‘s.  And online, sells a number of such products.

For those who want to go a step further, and live as safe and green as possible, you can make your own products.  I won’t try to reproduce the vast lists of specific formulas people recommend for doing home chores, but only try to hit a few of the highlights.  If you wish to pursue this, the links provided below should more than get you going.  (Also, for a whimsical perspective on replacing products with substitutes – which aren’t necessarily green – you can take a look at Joey Green’s Wacky’s Uses for Brand Name Products site.)

There are a few ingredients common to many of the recommendations people make. (From Non-Toxic Home Cleaning - Eartheasy): 

Baking Soda – cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.

Soap – will clean most things. (unscented, phosphate free, and doesn’t contain petroleum distillates) 

Lemon (juice) – a strong acid that is effective against most bacteria.

White Vinegar – cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.

Washing Soda – is sodium carbonate decahydrate.  It will cut grease, remove stains, soften water, clean walls, tiles, sinks and tubs.  Do not use on aluminum.

Ethanol Alcohol – is an excellent disinfectant.

Corn Starch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, and shampoo carpets and rugs.

Hydrogen Peroxide - used as a disinfectant.    

You can find suggestions for just about every conceivable purpose: air fresheners and deodorizers, fabric softeners, furniture polish, stain removers, pesticides (ants, fleas, flies, mice, mites, mosquitoes, moths, roaches, wasps, etc. ), windshield washer fluid, shoe polish, rust removers, disinfectants, cleaners for glass, your hands, the oven, vinyl, wood, drains, mildew, toilets, paintbrushes, floors, tub and tile, aluminum, copper, brass, silver, porcelain, etc.   

On a related issue, there are sites online that focus on cosmetics safety.  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.  Here is an article that discusses this issue: Safe Cosmetics by Christina Hartje-Dunn,  

Here is a somewhat random selection of books on safe and green cleaning:  Clean Your House Safely and Effectively without Harmful Chemicals by Randy Dunford, Green Clean: The Environmentally Sound Guide to Cleaning Your Home (Paperback) by Linda Mason Hunter, Green Clean by Linda Mason Hunter, Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living (Paperback) by Annie Berthold-Bond, and Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home (Paperback) by Renee Loux.

Here are a number of online articles dealing with green living and safe cleaning:  Safer Alternatives To Common Household Products - Barlow Scientific, Hazardous products and healthy alternatives – King County, A Consumer Guide To Safer Alternatives To Hazardous Household Products, Part 2; The only 18 things you need for a clean house by Valerie Rains, Shine staffCleaning the House Safely by Elizabeth Hughes, Alternative Cleaners - Howare County Recycling DistrictNatural Insect Pest Control – Eartheasy, Non-Toxic Home Cleaning – Eartheasy, Alternative Cleaning Recipes – Ecology Center,  Non-Toxic Household Cleaners by Kendra Cecil, Less Toxic Alternatives – Clean Community SystemHazardous Household Substances: Alternatives That Are Relatively Free of Toxic Effects by Marie HammerTips on finding the safest household products – King County, Safer Alternatives to Hazardous Household Products – State of Nevada Bureau of Water Pollution Control, Home and Garden Tips – Natural Resources Conservation Service: U.S. Department of AgricultureSafe Alternatives to Household Hazardous Products – Sierra Club of Canada, Safe Alternatives to Hazardous Household Products – King County Kid’s Page, Household Hazardous Products - Univ. of Missouri ExtensionGreen-Clean Your Home By Amy Roffman New, From Natural Health, September/October, 1994; and How to Make a Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit by Annie B. Bond,   


Child Rearing Information, etc.

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Following up on my earlier post, Pregnancy & Child Related Information, here are a few additional bits of information, along with many citations you can follow up if you wish:

A friend pointed out the book, The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears, in which they advocate attachment parenting. (See also: Attachment parenting – Wikipedia)  In addition to what I posted earlier, they emphasize bonding with the baby early, with no separation from the mother unless it is absolutely necessary, and reading and responding to the baby’s cues.  They argue a baby isn’t spoiled by this, and actually will cling more later if their needs aren’t met in this way. 

From Wikipedia,  attachment parenting tends to be associated with such things as natural childbirth, home birth, stay-at-home parenting, home schooling, co-sleeping, breastfeeding,  babywearing,  unschooling, the anti-circumcision movement, natural health, cooperative movements, naturalism, organic foods, and local foods. 

(See also: Alternative education – Wikipedia, School-at-home – Wikipedia, Autodidactism – Wikipedia, Radical Unschooling – Wikipedia, The Natural Child Project, Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative – Wikipedia, Baby-led Weaning – Wikipedia, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg, Orthomolecular medicine – Wikipedia, Health Freedom Movement – Wikipedia, Evidence-based medicine – Wikipedia, and Wild farming – Wikipedia)

Stressed Fruit, Nuts, and Vegetables are Better for You

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

The more stress a plant has been under the more flavornoids it tends to produce.  These differences are not insignificant, since researchers have found that the amount of flavornoids, within the same variety of different samples of sweet cherries, can vary by a factor of at least 3.  So fruits, nuts, and vegetables that have been attacked by insects and subject to bad weather conditions are very likely healthier for us.  In the end, farming methods that mimic natural conditions are probably the best.  This is, of course, just another example of one of the benefits a hunter-gatherer lifestyle once gave us.

(Stressed fruit may be better for you by Jennifer Viegas)

Pregnancy & Child Related Information

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

I’ve previously blogged about how geophagy (eating clay) has been practiced for thousands of years to prevent morning sickness.  Pregnant women become hyper-sensitive to environmental toxins, and morning sickness helps protect the developing fetus from deformities.  It now turns out that all that misery could pay off for yet another reason, because women who have a greater degree of morning sickness might have more intelligent babies.  (Morning Sickness may be Sign of a Bright Baby)  The researchers involved theorize that the hormones which cause it might also protect a baby’s brain.  

S. Boyde Eaton, et al., have written (Dietary Intake of Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids during the Paleolithic, p. 20) that our brains are somewhat smaller than our Paleolithic ancestor’s brains, and that one reason might be our modern dietary deficiency in DHA omega-3 fats.  Along with DHA, it seems that, for rats, enriching the environment of the mother long before she becomes pregnant can affect the learning of her offspring.  Researchers theorize that the mother’s learning affects the nature of the hormones she will release during her later pregnancies.  This will affect epigenetic chemical markers on her offspring’s genes, which will in turn affect these genes’ expression during brain development, finally causing changes in the brains of the pups.  (Can Experiences be Passed on to Offspring? and A Mother’s Experience can Alter her Offspring’s Memory Performance)  Meanwhile, stress during pregnancy very likely harms a baby’s brain, and might increase the risk of schizophrenia.  Researchers think the mechanism is likely related to the stress hormone cortisol crossing the placenta.  (Stress Harms Baby’s Brain While in Womb)  Another possible factor that could increase the risk of schizophrenia is having the flue during pregnancy. (Flue During Pregnancy may Increase Risk of Schizophrenia in Certain Offspring

There are some indications that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for preeclampsia.  (Vitamin D for the Prevention of Preeclampsia?  A Hypothesis.)  This is a condition that occurs in pregnancy, which causes the patient to develop hypertension, along with protein in their urine.  It’s widespread, affecting about 10% of pregnancies, and is currently only treatable through termination.  It is most common in first pregnancies, and some researchers think that it’s the result of the mother’s immune system inappropriately attacking fetal cells.  The theory is that they are being triggered by the foreign antigens that were introduced by the father.  So, besides vitamin D supplementation, another recommendation is to delay pregnancy for a while after beginning sexual relations, on the theory that this allows the mother’s immune system to become acquainted with the father’s sperm’s antigens.  (Introduction and Overview of Evolutionary Medicine (p.24) by Wenda R. Trevathan, et al.) 

Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with chronic pain and muscle weakness, which suggests this might be a possible factor in a painful difficult birth. (Lack of Vitamin D Linked to Pain, and Recent Developments in Vitamin D Deficiency and Muscle Weakness Among Elderly People)  Stephan Guyenet, of Whole Health Source, reports that pelvic inlet depth index was larger in our hunter-gatherer ancestors (97.7% versus 92.1% today), and that this might be still another reason why childbirth is difficult for modern people.  (Longevity & Health in Ancient Paleolithic vs. Neolithic peoples)  Because vitamin K2 deficiency narrows the bone structure of the face, it seems natural to speculate that this could also be part of the reason for our lower pelvic inlet depth index today. 

Difficult births lead to caesareans, and, using MRIs, researchers have been able to show that women who have had c-sections had lower response levels to their baby’s cries.  This might indicate weaker bonding with their infants.  Researchers suggested that this possibly occurred because these women missed out on the hormonal priming from oxytosin that takes place during a vaginal delivery.  (C-sections may Weaken Bonding with Baby)  

Home birthing is as safe as in the hospital.  Two studies, one from the Netherlands and the other from Canada, found no evidence of greater death rates among home births, for low risk pregnancies, in either the mothers or their babies.  In the Netherlands study nearly 1/3 of those who started at home did end up being transferred to the hospital, but the risk was no greater than those mothers who had started out in the hospital.  Researchers said that a good midwife was the key. (Home Births “as Safe as Hospital,” and Home Birth with Midwife as Safe as Hospital Birth, Study) (See also: The Natural Family Site, and Why Have Natural Childbirth?) 

Also, as I previously blogged, some people claim that placenta eating can prevent postpartum depression.  (Placenta

The natural childrearing people argue against circumcision on a number of grounds, including that they believe there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for it.  (Put Down that Knife!  11 Reasons not to Circumcise, Circumcision – Wikipedia, and Circumcision Rates)

Pacifiers reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by about 90%.  (Pacifier Greatly Reduces Risk of Sudden Infant Death)  They reduce the risk regardless whether or not the infant sleeps on his/her stomach, in soft bedding, or his/her mother smoked.  Problems such as thumb sucking, tooth development, and difficulties breast feeding can be avoided by waiting a few weeks before using one, and stopping when they become toddlers.  (However, there apparently is a trade-off, because, according to Gabe Mirkin, studies from Finland found that children who use pacifiers are more likely to have recurrent ear infections.)  Other people also recommend co-sleeping as protective.  (See below)  One more way of lowering the risk of SIDS is by using a fan to circulate the air in the room.  This reduces the risk by 72%. (Fan Use Linked to Lower Rate of Sudden Infant Death)  (See also: Sudden infant death syndrome – Wikipedia)

Coming to very similar conclusions as The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, here is an article on Evolutionary Psychology: Natural Parenting - Back to Basics in Infant Care by Regine A. Schon.     Matt Metzgar wrote up this outline.  (I inserted some additional materials and links):  

Evolutionary Function of Crying (For a second opinion see: Should Infants be Allowed to Cry Themselves to Sleep?)

  • Crying signals genuine needs of the infant
  • Crying should be immediately attended to by the mother or caregiver
  • Crying takes significant physical effort on the part of the infant
  • The immediate response to crying should be to restore physical contact between the caregiver and the infant

Infants as Carried Young

  • Hunter-gatherer women carried their infants in slings close to the body
  • This increased beneficial skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the infant
  • The common leg positions of babies suggest they are adapted for carrying

Cosleeping  (Regarding co-sleeping: Mr. Metzgar cites this article (which argues in favor of it), Why Babies Should Never Sleep Alone: A Review of the Co-sleeping Controversy in Relation to SIDS, Bedsharing, and Breastfeeding, and this site, Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory.  See also: The Benefits of Co-Sleeping)       

  • Cosleeping for the infant and mother has been the universal norm throughout most of human history
  • Bedsharing is the environment to which the vulnerable newborn is best adapted
  • Cosleeping may reduce some forms of SIDS

Breastfeeding (See also: Breastfeeding Linked to Smarter Babies (Again)  This article points out that, as well as being correlated with 5.9 points of higher IQ, breastfeeding also apparently reduces the chances of a mother later developing rheumatoid arthritis, and lessons the child’s odds of later developing cardiovascular disease.  This article, Big Bad Cavities: Breastfeeding is not the Cause, states that more than three dozen studies have shown no link between breastfeeding and the disease of Early Childhood Carries (ECC).  Medical News Today reports that the concentration of volatile organic compound toxins in breast milk are much lower than indoor air, and also much lower than the safe levels for drinking water. (Concentrations of Certain Toxins in Breast Milk are Low, Study Finds))

  • No alternative to breast milk existed before the transition to a farming economy
  • Therefore, infants have been breastfed for 99% of all human existence
  • Artificial substitutes have been unable to replicate the complex structure of breast milk
  • There is mounting evidence about the many benefits of breastfeeding on child development


  • Human infants are born in an exceptionally immature state
  • The conditions for the early part of infant life should attempt to mimic that of the womb
  • This includes close contact with the mother’s body in a tight, warm embrace
  • Heartbeat sounds are comforting to an infant; women tend to hold infants on the left side of their body, close to their hearts
  • Rocking an infant provides a calming effect since it mimics the movement stimulation the infant received from the mother’s normal daily movements
  • Swaddling replicates the feeling of the womb and has been proven effective in calming infants

Toilet Training  (What is Infant Potty Training, Benefits of Infant Potty Training, Infant Potty Training, The Controversy over Infant Potty Training, Shaping self-initiated toileting in infants)  (There are also major health benefits of squatting instead of sitting for defecation.  (The Squat Toilet)  The repeated refrain is to do things the way nature intended.)

  • Infants were historically toilet trained much earlier than in modern times
  • Natural toilet training depends on reading an infant’s signals and responding appropriately
  • Children trained in this way complete toilet training anywhere from 6 months to 2 years

Matt also reviewed this book, The 90-Minute Sleep Baby Program.  As he says, the basic idea behind the book is that humans have a 90 minute cycle of activity and rest.  This means that when a baby wakes up their next nap should be 90 minutes later.  (Older children might string several of these together.)  22 out of 27 reviews on Amazon gave the book 5 stars.  Matt speculates that many children today are sleep deprived, which is obviously troublesome.  It turns out that sleep deprived children have twice the risk of becoming obese.  (Sleep Deprivation Doubles the Risk of Obesity in Both Children and Adults

Matt also very favorably reviewed, The Happiest Baby on the Block.  The author argues that babies need a uterus like environment, and he suggests a number of tactics for mimicking it.  These include swaddling, shh sounds, side/stomach position, swinging, and sucking.  He claims that his program will calm almost all babies.  

Matt also pointed out Baby Sign Language, which allows the infant to communicate his/her needs at a much younger age.  I think it’s very surprising that this wasn’t stumbled upon thousands of years ago, yet it is a remarkably simple and wonderful advancement.  It apparently isn’t some sort of silly fad, but brings real benefits, which I think all parents would appreciate, including greatly reduced frustration on everyone’s part, and increased language skills. 

Matt has blogged about Baby Led Weaning, which takes the position that children shouldn’t be fed pureed foods (Pureed Food “isn’t Natural for Babies’), but instead weaned directly onto solid foods.  The argument behind the idea is that this is much closer to the way our ancestors would have done it.  (It should be said that hunter-gatherers often did pre-chew the child’s food to help him/her along.)   

I have blogged before about going barefoot, and children who go barefoot as long as possible have about half the rate of flat footedness later on.  Having said that, being flat footed doesn’t appear to be as big a problem as people once thought.  There appears to be no relationship between the height of children’s arches and their ability to perform athletically, and it very well also might not affect their injury rates. (Flat Feet don’t Impair Kid’s Motor Skills)  

A study from Sweden concluded that risk factors for snoring as an adult include respiratory and ear infections as a child, being raised in a large family, and being exposed to a dog at home as a newborn. (Have A Dog? Your Child is More Likely to Snore as an Adult) 

Children who suffer from cyclic vomiting might actually be suffering from migraines. (Gabe Mirkin: Cyclic Vomiting

Low levels of carbon monoxide, 25 parts per million, might cause oxidative stress on the cochlear nerve, and permanently damage the hearing of children.  Such carbon monoxide can come from tobacco, cooking, and heating appliances.  (How Chronic Exposure to Tiny Levels of Carbon Monoxide Damages Hearing in Young Ears)  However, the main cause of hearing loss in modern world is loud noise.  The blast from a single gunshot, or the loud prolonged noise of a rock concert, can result in permanent hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Many cases of bed-wetting might be caused by breathing problems.  63% of bed-wetting children stopped when they had surgery to remove their adenoids or tonsils, and the use of a plate to widen the palate of bed-wetters with narrow palates ended the condition in 70% of cases. (Breathing Troubles the Cause of Bed-wetting?)   Gabe Mirkin discusses another theory, that it’s the lack of antidiuretic hormone that causes the problem.  This hormone causes the kidneys to shut down at night.  (Bedwetting

The BBC reports that a 10 minute test for dyslexia has been developed that can be used starting at age 3 & 1/2.  (Early Warning Test for Dyslexia)  The test has children repeat sentences and re-tell a story while looking at how the child builds sounds up into words.  For parents of children who seem a little different there is the book, Quirky Kids: Understanding and Your Child Who Doesn’t Fit In- When To Worry And When Not To Worry.  One reviewer thought the book would be most helpful to parents who are just beginning to suspect something is unusual, but don’t know what might be the problem.  It also debunks a number of folk myths out there, and reportedly has a good section on the pros and cons of various medications.  Science Daily has this article, Specific Behaviors Seen in Infants Can Predict Autism, New Research Shows, which reports that Canadian researchers have discovered that there are behavioral signs that can accurately predict autism in children as young as one year old.  (See also: The Vitamin D Theory of Autism)

According to a study by the University of Rochester Medical Center, there is no detectable risk to children from the mercury in the seafood their mother’s ate, up to 12 servings a week.  The study period was before birth to age 9, and the children were tested for 21 different cognitive, neurological and behavioral functions.  These abilities included concentration, attention, problem-solving, and motor skills. (No Detectable Risk From Mercury in Seafood, Study Shows

Tonsils serve to trap germs and train the white blood cells when children are young, but as they grow older their importance lessons.  Doctors generally seem to say that their removal can be justified if they obstruct the throat, or the child suffers from frequent throat infections.  (Dr. Alan Green on Tonsil Removal)    

Not surprisingly, mother’s who talk about people’s mental states, such as beliefs, wants, and intentions, have children with a greater understanding of social interactions.  (This obviously does not establish causation, because mothers with greater social skills might pass on genes that also dispose their children to have those same skills.)  Researchers note that these greater social skills do not necessarily imply that these children will be better behaved. (The Secret to Building Children’s Social Skills)   The Incredible Years is an organization which hosts a variety of programs for teaching parents, teachers, and children social skills.  It turns out the ability of a mother to read her child’s emotions is more important than her social status for the child’s development. (Why Mind-Reading Mums are Best

Not surprisingly, children are happier who have a sense of spirituality, that is meaning in life, and they think that their lives have value.  Good interpersonal relationships also helped, and accounted for 27% of the happiness variation between children.  Being more sociable was also a happiness predictor.  (Spirituality is key to kids’ happiness

Researchers want to know why some children are resilient in spite of bad upbringings.  They have found that resilient children tend to share a number of characteristics:  They have at least one supportive person in their life, have a positive outlook, a pleasant altruistic personality, they are eager to learn, and have problem-solving skills.  They take responsibility for their mistakes, and move on.  They also have an interest or friend they can turn to when they need to.  (This description to me sounds somewhat like the characteristics of lucky people.)  (Raising Resilient Children Foundation, their book, Psychosocial Characteristics of Resilient Children, and The Resilient Child)

Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, in The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting our Children and What We Can Do About It, argue that there’s almost no evidence that homework helps kid’s academic success.  They point out that the amount of homework has skyrocketed in recent years, which is contributing to an epidemic of obesity, and robs kids of the time they need to be kids.  They also give advice on how to separate useful assignments from the time wasters.  Richard Louv, author of, Last Child in the Woods, argues that children suffer from a nature-deficit disorder. 

For preventing myopia, besides a low glycemic diet/ Paleolithic Diet, it seems that playing outside is also protective.  Researchers in Australia have found that kids who spend a lot of time outside have lower myopia rates. (Kid’s eyes need the great outdoors)   

I have previously blogged about The Freedom to Learn site.  Peter Gray has a series of articles which argue that play is essential for healthy human life, and maintaining a band’s existence.  John Holt takes a similar approach in his books, How Children Learn and How Children Fail, that children are natural learners, and the process of forcing them to learn in school changes their personalities for the worse.  David Elkind’s book, The Power of Play: How Spontaneous Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier Healthier Children, argues that play is changing from teaching children social roles, vocations, and academic skills to teaching them brand loyalty, fashion consciousness, and group think.  Matt Metzgar reviewed Susan Linn’s book, The Case for Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, which argues that many of today’s toys are scripted, and that they don’t foster the development of social and critical skills.  Matt also discussed this article, Sucker-Me Elmo, which questions the merits of electronic toys.  Meanwhile, New York City is developing the next generation playground, which is designed to foster the imagination of kids. (New York developing a next-generation playground)  Here is a site that features educational products for children We Make Stories, which allows the child to write and print their own stories.

It turns out that pedophiles don’t randomly search through MySpace sites searching for kids.  Instead they go for those kids in chat rooms who are presenting themselves in sexually suggestive ways. (Welcome to Crimes Against Children Research Center, and Salon – Stop Worrying about your Children)  This information is from the same woman who runs Free Range Kids, which I have written about before.  Boing Boing favorably reviewed this book, If Your Kid Eats this Book Everything will Still be Okay: How to Know if Your Child’s Injury or Illness is Really an Emergency by Lara Zibners.  Zibners is an emergency room pediatrician who says that 75% of late night emergency room visits are unnecessary, and this book is a guide to all the things you don’t have to worry about.

On the other hand, there are real risks out there, and Dreambaby makes safety products to help reduce these.  Science Daily has a story, Homes Need More Protection Against Falls, which points out that falls are the second leading cause of death among children, and that this is because many homes have inadequate protection against them.  Such homes are lacking such commonsense things as banisters, grab bars, anti-slip bathtub strips, and child safety gates.  Eco Child’s Play has a similar outlook, and advocates “Green Parenting for Non-Toxic Healthy Homes.”  This site focuses on alternative medicine, and sources of toxins from such things as plastics, medicines, and cleaners.  (See, for example: 12 Warnings for Parents and Kids in 2008, 10 Ways to Avoid Toxic Plastic - BPA (Bisphenol A), Synthetic Estrogens and Your Child, Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child, 9 Best Articles for Natural and Home Remedies on Echo Child’s Play in 2008, Another Reason We Can’t Trust the FDA, Melamine…, New Study Suggests Link Between Hairspray Exposure and Genital Birth Defect, How Safe is Your Child’s Playground?, Balloons Cause More Deaths than Marbles, and Finding Safer Products for our Children)  They also discuss products to make parent’s lives easier. (Postpartum Bamboo Belly Wrap Helps Shrink Your Belly and Prevent Stretch Marks, and Why Tilty is a Better Sippy

In recent years people have been taking bullying far more seriously, and researchers have found that, at least with rats, bullying might scar the brain for life.  When rats were bullied new brain nerve cells would form, but then die, and they acted depressed.  (Bullying May Scar Brain for Life

Psychologist Randall Flanery has this advice for being a great dad:  Run a benevolent dictatorship.  Be friendly, but not a friend.  Admit when you’re wrong.  Remain firmly flexible.  Stick around even when they don’t want you to.  Ask questions.  Don’t take it personally if they express unhappiness.  Know that parenting is 24/7, and then some.  Keep in mind that who you are is more important than what you buy them.  Laugh.  Of course, there is also the book, Supernanny: How to Get the Best from your Children by Jo Frost.  For the sport parent, there is Who’s Game is it Anyway: A Guide to Helping Your Child Get the Most From Sports, Organized by Age and Stage by Amy Baltzell.

Sleeping Like a Hunter-Gatherer

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

I have previously blogged about sleep related topics.  Here is a question I sent to one of the leading experts on the bedding used by hunter-gatherers. (I think it was Carol Worthman):

As far as I can tell from online sources, ancient hunter gatherers slept on thin woven blankets, sticks, skins, leaves, and/or straw (or some combination of them).  Also, as far as I
have been able to determine, there is no good guidance at present from the medical community regarding the best sleeping mattresses and health.  Do you, or anyone else you could refer me to, have a
guess as to which of the modern mattress arrangements would be a close approximation to the rough average our ancestors (and their lower backs) evolved with?

“You ask an interesting and unusual question. My expertise extends just to what “traditional” peoples slept on, not to current bedding options. Definitely, today’s mattress that is
kept for years, filled pillows, and lots of (frequently washed) bedclothes were not the pattern in human paleohistory. Nomadic foraging peoples did/do not have permanent homes and
beds; rather, they usually sleep on the ground, with skins and/or leaves/boughs for some padding depending on how hard the substrate was/is. I would say that, on the whole, a firm,
only slightly yielding substrate was very common, whether on the ground or a mat/low platform. Pillows, as I noted in the paper, apparently were virtually non-existent, except the ones
in wood and, later, clay. All that said, I should also say that many traditional peoples suffer considerably with joint/muscle pain with aging. Did the sleeping substrates help prevent back problems to which humans are prone, or did daily activity and chronic load-bearing take care of that? As usual, as many questions as answers.”

Our Hyper-visual World

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The Exuberant Animal author Frank Forencich argues that we live in a hyper-visual world in which our other senses are deprived, especially touch.  When young children don’t have physical contact with caretakers they wither and die.  Although the effects for adults are less severe, by wearing clothes and shoes, and being inside in a comfortable plastic world all day, our health suffers.  We simply don’t feel the sand, brush, and stones anymore.  He argues that touch maintains a sense of direct contact with the physical world around us, and positive and negative tactile sensations stimulate movement, and are health promoting.  His advice is that we should engage in tactile intensive activities, such as backpacking, gardening, and home remodeling.  He also thinks that experiencing the smells and tastes of nature improve our health.   

We certainly don’t use our other senses to the extent we’re capable.  I previously blogged about safe-cracking, and here’s an example of a man who has developed a remarkable sense of touch for opening safes. (How to Crack a Safe: World Safecracking Champion Takes Down Bank Vault in 5 Minutes 19 Seconds (video)) 

Blind people can use echolocation to navigate.  This is when people use sound as sonar to interpret the nature and distance of objects around them.  Ben Underwood was a blind 14 year old who could use echolocation to play basketball, run, and skateboard.  Dr. Lawrence Scadden could use it to ride a bicycle in traffic.

Besides sound and touch, it turns out that people can follow sent trails across a field like a dog.  (Unleash your inner bloodhound – start sniffing)

Wound Licking and Zoopharmacognosy

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Wound licking is instinctively practiced by many animals and humans.  It seems likely that saliva retards infection and promotes healing, since it contains antibacterials, antivirals, and growth factors.  Also such an evolved behavioral trait would have long ago been selected out if it were overall highly unhealthful.  A number of societies have even institutionalized the practice, for example in ancient Greece at the shrine of Aesculapius dogs were trained to lick patient’s wounds.  

Wound licking is an example of natural self doctoring by animals, a practice which is called Zoopharmacognosy.  Probable examples of this include placenta eating, eating clay and charcoal, applying honey to wounds, and eating toxic plants.  (See Really Wild Remedies)  Another example was discovered when Capuchin monkeys in Venezuela were observed rubbing millipedes over their fur.  It turned out that they were using the arthropod’s defensive secretions as an insect repellent.     


The Paleolithic Diet II

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I’ve blogged before about the Paleolithic Diet. (Lost Wanderer – The Paleolithic Diet)  If a person is eating this diet (The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Diet – Published Research) they are eating as humanity generally ate up until about 10,000 years ago, when we made the transition to horticulture.  The general idea is that for 99% of human history humans evolved to consume meat from wild grass fed animals, fish, fruits and vegetables, and seeds and nuts; while we didn’t evolve to consume such recently introduced foods as grains, dairy products as an adult, and large amounts of fructose year round.  Not coincidentally many aspects of this diet dovetail with specific diet characteristics often regarded as part of a healthy diet.

The fatty acid composition, the types of fats, as well as the omega 6/omega 3 ratio, is healthier than most modern diets, and so is likely to reduce high LDL cholesterol, as well as small dense low-density cholesterol, while at the same time increasing high-density cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.  The glycemic load is low, reducing the risks of the diseases of insulin resistance which include: obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.  Some researchers also suspect that other insulin resistance related diseases which could be helped, or even largely prevented, are male balding, skin tags, breast, colon and prostate cancers; gout, acne, myopia, and polycystic ovary syndrome.  The sodium potassium ratio is healthier, and so might reduce the incidence of such diseases as asthma, insomnia, airsickness, osteoporosis, kidney stones, hypertension, stroke, and Meniere’s disease.  The fiber content is naturally high, which could very well help prevent such diseases as varicose veins, diverticulitis, appendicitis, bowel cancer, hemorrhoids, and constipation.  The acid-base balance is net alkaline, instead of net acidic as in modern diets.  This possibly would help prevent such conditions as hypertension, renal insufficiency, kidney stones, and osteoporosis.  Also, both the micronutrient availability and macronutrient balance seem to be more in line with their optimal values.  (What is the Paleolithic Diet? – For some reason, to be able to read this I have to left click and sweep my cursor over the – strangely invisible – text on this page., Food for thought)

In addition, most if not all plants have defensive chemicals which evolved to help protect them from predation.  While humans evolved to handle the defenses of old-world fruits and vegetables, the suspicion is that we haven’t had enough time to evolve to fully cope with the defensive chemicals found in grains. (The Paleo Diet – Cereal grains: humanity’s double edged sword)  Some of these seem to punch micro-holes in our intestines, while other such chemicals leak into our bloodstream, and it has been suggested that they can create a cross immune reaction that leads to arthritis.  Even some non-Paleolithic foods that might appear to be safe could very well present risks.  For example, while cow’s milk has a low glycemic index ultimately what you are concerned about from a health point of view is the insulin response a food generates, and for unknown reasons cow’s milk generates a disproportionately large insulin response relative to its glycemic index.  (The Paleo Diet – Dissociation of the glycaemic and insulinaemic responses to whole and skimmed milk)  Almost all nightshades are derived from new-world plants.  Even though they are fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and so might normally be assumed to be safe to consume, since humans evolved in the old-world we haven’t had much time to adapt to their defensive chemicals, and so many people find that they have worse arthritis symptoms when they eat them.  (Thrifty Mom – Eating like our Ancestors – Notes on Fruits and VegetablesDo Nightshades Promote Inflammation?, Dr Garrett Smith, N.P., and Karon White-Gibson Interviewed on the Holistic Health Show, Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation, Nightshade Pain Free by Michael Fowler, Calalyst Athletics – Oct. 2007 Issue 33, Dec. 2007 Issue 35, Jan. 2008 Issue 36, Feb. 2008, Issue 37,   May 2008 Issue 40 ; The Paleo Diet – Consumption of Nightshade Plants, Human Health and Autoimmune Disease Implications, Nightshade Foods, What are nightshades…) The nightshade family includes such plants as tomatoes, potatoes, sweet and hot peppers, tomatillos, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne, and Tabasco sauce.  (Other examples of suspect non-nightshade new-world plants are avocados, cucumbers, squash, and zucchini.)  Even the modern versions of some old-world fruits often have been selectively bred to have lots of fructose in them, since we like the taste, so some people don’t count them as truly Paleolithic foods, and the only fruits they will eat are berries, such as blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blueberries. (Thrifty Mom – Eating like our Ancestors – Notes on Fruits and Vegetables) The main concern with fructose is that it possibly is a major driver of obesity.  The idea is that back in the Paleolithic you would have wanted to gain a lot of weight in the fall of the year, right before winter when food would be scarce.  The one time a year that a lot of fructose was available was during the fall, when all the fruit was ready to eat.  So we evolved a mechanism that shuts down our leptin system, which controls hunger, and thereby causes us to put on weight.  Today many modern fruits and processed foods (and of course table sugar) are all laced with fructose, so we have created in effect a permanent fall, with perhaps the chronic obesity we now find in modern society as a result. (Ancestral Health Symposium – “The Trouble with Fructose: a Darwinian Perspective” by Robert Lustig, MD, Craving Sugar – Dr Lustig’s Evolutionary Concept on Fructose and Fattening)