The Advice Sorting Game

by Erin Kaspar-Frett, CPM, LM, MSM

As the mother of almost three children, I have been given my share of advice. Sometimes it is difficult to know what applies to you and what simply wouldn’t work, especially in the first pregnancy. A pregnant woman can easily find herself receiving opinions of everyone from her mother to a perfect stranger at the grocery store. What care provider to use, where to birth, how to birth, how much weight to gain, how you look, what to eat, how to diaper your new baby, how to potty train, how long to breastfeed, how to discipline, where to sleep, whether to “sleep train” and anything else that happens to be involved in pregnancy and parenting might come up. And it doesn’t stop at the pregnancy; parents often spend the lifespan of their children hearing different ideas and tidbits of advice. It can create confusion and frustration in the parents-to-be, especially for new parents who may not have yet decided what their “way” of parenting will be.

From Your Care Provider
Your pregnancy care provider can provide valuable insight, backed with medical and experiential information, that may help you make decisions along your pregnancy and into the early moments of the baby’s life. As a midwife, my advice on birthing options and parenting styles is frequently solicited. I spend plenty of time with patients covering these and other pertinent topics during the months of pregnancy; this information can reassure and direct a patient toward resources and choices that fit with what’s important to her. I try to be sensitive when someone asks me for my advice, offering information that is unclouded by biases whenever possible. When I can’t, I’m clear about my bias before offering the advice. Your health care provider can be a valuable resource as you make decisions about how and when to get pregnant, choices during pregnancy, birth options, and early childhood parenting and care ideas.

From Your Family and Others
Though family, friends, and those outspoken strangers may not approach giving advice with as much care, recognize that the intent is generally to try to inform, support, and help you. Where your birth and parenting choices differ than those of your parents or the family in which you were raised, there may be feelings of rejection or offense. Remind yourself that advice from these sources may be emotionally charged and that they’re sharing because they care. Politely allow them to share their advice and then sort it in “keep” or “discard” according to what feels right to you and your partner. Even if their intent is not misguided, it can still be upsetting to hear that you’re doing something wrong or what can go wrong. Don’t worry, though! Pregnancy, birth, and parenting are as individual as a person’s looks or personality. Your child will be unique and have his/her own traits and needs. Instead of looking for the right way to parent, look for what feels right for you, your partner, and your child. It does not need to feel right to the outsider who is not part of your family!

The best advice I have ever been given about parenting is “trust yourself to know what is best for your family.” When I was young and parenting for the first time, I wasn’t sure if I could trust myself. I was a beginner and worried that I’d make mistakes. As my older children grew and matured, I instinctively knew how I wanted to parent, and realized it wasn’t necessarily right for others to follow.

Learning to listen closely to your own voice of conscience and trusting that you are the individual who was chosen to parent this child will empower you to make the “perfect” decisions for his or her wellbeing. Your confidence and united front with your partner will bring about relief from the pressure to heed all the advice.

Try It and See for Yourself
Certainly, there is much we can glean from parents and grandparents who have walked this road before. And chances are you will begin to appreciate your own parents in new ways as each stage of development passes. Take what advice you like, what seems to fit your lifestyle, and incorporate it into your family. If it doesn’t work, throw it out and try something new. Just because you begin down one path doesn’t mean you’re stuck there.

You might try new ways of parenting you have not seen anyone else try. You might use age-old, tried and true ways of parenting that you cherish from your upbringing and wouldn’t trade for anything. As your children grow and change, so may your parenting techniques. Great! There will be mistakes, regrets, or wistful hindsight, and that’s okay. Learn from these experiences and keep moving forward, empowered with the knowledge that you are your child’s best advocate and nurturer. Think of it like a plant in a rainfall, absorbing all the water needed and letting the rest run off. Parents can do the same: listen, let the advice run over you like water, and take in only what you can use for your family.

Parenting involves creativity, humility, sensitivity, and love. The next time you stand in line at the grocery store listening to that sweet woman who has raised seven children herself share all her parenting tips, listen politely, knowing that some of what she is saying will fit your family like a glove, and some of it should run off like extra water. You have the tools built into you to parent your little ones. Learn from others and then trust yourself.

Erin Kaspar-Frett is a Licensed, Certified Professional Midwife with a Master’s of Science in Midwifery from the Midwives College of Utah. She lives with her family in Ellsworth, Wisconsin and serves a geographical area within a two hour radius of her home office. For information about Erin and the safety of home birth visit www.earthmothermidwife.com.

Multivitamin Breakdown


by Dr. Danielle Fink

During the warm summer months many people think about their health and wellness. It would be ideal to get all the nutrients our bodies need to maintain us through the food we eat. But most of us don’t eat enough of the “good stuff” to obtain the proper amounts of the vitamins and minerals that medical evidence suggests aid in the prevention of disease. The solution to this problem is to supplement our diets with condensed or concentrated forms of these vitamins and minerals. The most efficient way to do this is by taking a multivitamin.

When choosing a multivitamin or a vitamin regimen it is best to know that not all vitamins and supplements are created equal. It is important to recognize that not all vitamins are manufactured the same way. Many vitamins that you can purchase over the counter are manufactured using chemical processes to create synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals, whereas those supplements that are sold by medical professionals, on the other hand, are derived from materials found in nature (from plants and/or animals). These vitamins don’t include added coloring, artificial sweeteners or preservatives often found in the synthetic vitamins. Vitamins manufactured this way are called “whole food” supplements, and are concentrated supplements created from natural raw ingredients.

Synthetic vitamins may be friendlier on the pocketbook. But, the consumer needs to be aware that the molecular structure that composes these vitamins can sometimes be slightly different than the structure found in nature. It is the slight differences in structure that allow the vitamin to be absorbed differently in the body, or completely unrecognized and eliminated as waste. To be certain that the chosen vitamin contains a digestible form of a particular nutrient, you need to read the label and know what to look for.

Research has shown that specific vitamins have a positive effect on the human immune system and protect people from common illness. Look for the following vitamins and their recommended daily intake amount in your multivitamin.

• Vitamin C – a widely known vitamin used to “boost” immune function. 500-1000 mg daily is the suggested intake because the body cannot store this vitamin.

• Vitamin A – (beta carotene)-aids in the reduction of infectious illnesses. Suggested daily intake: 10,000-25,000 International Units (IUs) daily. (Most multivitamins contain around 10,000 IUs)

• Vitamin E – look for d–alpha tocopherol the natural form of Vitamin E and avoid the synthetic form (dl-alpha tocopherol). Research has shown that those with low blood levels of vitamin E are more prone to infection than those with high levels of vitamin E. Suggested daily intake: 400-800 IUs per day.

Zinc – among its many other uses has been shown to help prevent a weakened immune system. The suggested intake: 15mg daily.

• Magnesium – in its digestible form (Magnesium Citrate), has been found to be utilized in over 300 different processes in the human body.

• Calcium – look for the digestible forms: Calcium Citrate and Calcium Lactate, but avoid the difficult to digest form: Calcium Carbonate. Calcium has been found to aid in bone health, bone formation and bone strength.

In addition to a quality multivitamin, it is important to include the following in your daily supplement regimen:

Vitamin D3 (as cholecalciferol) – 4,000-10,000 IUs daily. Vitamin D deficiency can be detected by a blood test called 25(OH) D and levels should be 50-80mg/mL all year round from a combination of diet, supplements and the sun. These levels of Vitamin D have been shown in multiple studies to aid in the prevention of cancer and heart disease and improve overall health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil in the following forms:

  • EPA –this is very important for decreasing inflammation (the reason why this supplement has been found to help protect the heart).
  • DHA – this is very important especially for nervous system development throughout life. Omega 3s have also been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and provide a protective factor against Alzheimer’s and dementia. The recommended daily dose for an adult is 1,000-3,000 mg (1-3 grams) daily.
  • CoQ10 – Research suggests, that among other uses, CoQ10 produces energy that is used to repair and maintain immune system cells, it has been found to be a powerful antioxidant, and it is important in building strong heart muscle cells. The suggested intake: 100 mg or more daily.

Each of these vitamins has beneficial effects on the immune system and has also been shown to improve heart health.

Keep in mind that the overall health and disease prevention benefits received from vitamin supplementation are enhanced through healthy eating habits and regular physical activity.

Dr. Danielle Fink uses Symptom Survey Maestro to indicate stress on a particular system in the body (ie digestive system) at McMahon Chiropractic and Physical Therapy at (715) 834-4516.

Overhaul Your Scents Sense

by Yael Grauer

Artificial scents put into most of our cleaning and beauty products these days reek havoc not only on your sense of smell, but our environment. Get smart about the perfumes in your life.

The sense of smell is arguably the strongest, with fragrances being linked to events and emotions in our deepest memories. In fact, smell is one of our earliest senses, belonging to our limbic system or olfactory brain. Scents can release some very pleasant neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin.

Sadly, our glorious sense of smell is not all roses. Commercial scents can do a great deal of harm to both ourselves and our environment.

Phthalates are often included in perfumes and other substances that have scents added. These are endocrine disruptors that affect the body’s hormone system, many of which are listed as reproductive or developmental toxins by the state of California. Some phthalates (such as dibutyl and diethylhexyl) have been banned in cosmetics by the European Union. Although the US government has recently limited the use of pthlalates in baby toys, new research indicates that prenatal exposure is linked to neurodevelopmental issues leading to disruptive and problematic behaviors (such as aggressiveness, conduct disorders, and ADHD) in children aged four to nine. Previous research has indicated a link between phthalates and lower sperm motility in adult men, and birth defects in the reproductive systems of boys. The chemicals are found in plastics, cosmetics, and perfumes and lotions — but it is the latter that are most strongly related to neurodevelopment. And although members of the perfume industry says phthalates are safe in small doses, they are stored in the fat and stay in our bodies for a long time.

Sadly, phthalates are difficult to spot, as they are often hidden in the product’s “fragrance” ingredient, due to an FDA loophole that allows manufacturers to simply use the generic term to protect proprietary secrets. This is true not only in perfumes but also in lipsticks, mascaras, moisturizers and shampoos. Even products labeled as “unscented” can contain phthalates as part of a masking fragrance. Other chemicals can also be included, as the FDA does not systematically review the safety of fragrances, but instead lets the fragrance industry’s own trade association (the International Fragrance Association) regulate itself.

In addition to phthalates, synthetic fragrances can also include parabens (hormone disruptors), sodium laureth sulfate, or PEGS, often contaminated with dioxins. And of course there are other environmental factors to consider the vast majority of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. The U.S. National Academy of Science has also identified certain fragrance ingredients as neurotoxins, though systematic research to determine the safety of these ingredients has not been funded.

Musk scents are often found in perfumes, in the form of nitromusks and polycyclic musks. Both are unregulated, although they are linked to reproductive and fertility problems in women at high levels. These synthetic musks have been found in human fatty tissues, breast milk, and the umblicial cord blood of newborn babies. Synthetic musk has been found in rivers and wastewater, and preliminary research indicates that it may be harmful to aquatic life as well. Galaxolide and Tonalid are two trade names for musks, but they are often simply hidden in the “fragrance” ingredient.

So what’s a healthy and environmentally-conscious consumer to do?

1. Find safe products. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group has compiled an online database of safe cosmetics and personal care products, which can be searched for ingredients.

Some companies have even made a committment to create safer products by signing the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, thereby pledging to meet or exceed formulation standards and deadlines set by the European Union Cosmetics Directive (eliminating their products of chemicals known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation, and birth defects). These companies are listed on the site Skin Deep: Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/) as well as The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (http://safecosmetics.org/).

2. Choose products with no added synthetic fragrances. Just look at the ingredient list and make sure “fragrance” is not listed on the label.

3. Buy products that use natural fragrances or essential oils. Or, buy your own essential oils to spruce up your new safe products. These oils are safe and green, and have the added benefit of their own medicinal properties. Just think, instead of using fragrances that cause harm, you can use fragrances that are healing!

Cautions: Because essential oils are extremely concentrated, do not apply them directly to the skin unless you’ve diluted them in a carrier oil (such as almond oil, grapeseed oil or even olive oil). Make sure to use organically produced essential oils to avoid pesticide residue. Do not ever ingest essential oils.

Some Scent Favorites

  • Lemon balm, often called balm (botanically, melissa officianalis) is a wonderful herb often made into tea to cheer the spirit. The oil, which was written about by St. Hildegard of Bingen and used as far back as the 10th century, is extremely calming and revitalizing and good for stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Cedar (cedrus sp.) essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the woodchips and sawdust of this amazing tree. Often used as a fragrance for men’s products, cedar is warming, harmonizing, and calming. It is excellent for aggression and anger masking fear or discontent.
  • Eucalyptus (eucalyptus sp.) oil is great for breathing, and can be applied (in a carrier oil) directly to the chest or used as a steam. It is incredibly effective for asthma, bronchitis, colds and flu. Mentally, eucalyptus is stimulating, increasing concentration or helping with mental sluggishness or overload.
  • Lavender (lavandula sp.) is one of the most popular essential oils, and for good reason. It has a light, sweet and flowery scent and aids with relaxation. Add just a few drops to a carrier oil and massage it into your temples for a headache, or simply let the scent waft over you for balancing and cleansing.
  • Lemongrass (cymbopogon) is widely used in its country of origin, India, oil is refreshing and tonifying. It also works well as an insect repellant.
  • Mint (mentha sp.) Add just a drop to your soap in a morning shower and you’ll definitely wake right up! Mint is as refreshing as it is stimulating, increasing concentration and memory. Be very careful, however, as many people are quite sensitive to this oil!
  • Rosemary (rosmarinus officianalis) has been used since ancient times to aid in memory, with students in Greece and Rome wearing wreaths on their head while studying. One would do well by continuing in the tradition by trying the essential oil. Uplifting and strenghtening, this plant does indeed help stimulate the brain.
  • Tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia) Although the scent is definitely an acquired one, one can’t deny tea tree oil’s immense benefit as an antiseptic. Tea tree oil has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, and can be used to treat infections such as athlete’s foot.
  • Neroli Orange (citrus aurantium or citrus sinensis) is said to be named after Anna Maria de la Tremoille, the Princess of Nerole. The oil is tranquilizing, sweet, and strengthening. It is excellent for cramps, headaches, and digestion. The fruity scent is particularly useful for those who don’t care for flowery scents (like lavender) but could still use some calming and relaxation from a place of strength.
  • Ylang ylang (canangium odoratum) means “flower of the flowers” in Malayan. The oil is derived from blossoms of the cananga tree and it is said to be used by newleywed couples in Indonesia. Flowery and exotic, ylang ylang is primarily known for its use as an aphrodisiac, though it can, of course, be used by individuals for its healing and balancing properties.

References:

Wal-Mart in Trouble Again Over Organic Marketing Practices


Home Pesticide Manufacturer Misrepresenting Products as Certified “Organic”

from The Cornucopia Institute

Cornucopia, WI—The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based public interest group that focuses on food and agriculture, today filed legal complaints with the USDA alleging that Wal-Mart, and a North Carolina-based company, HOMS LLC, are violating the USDA organic standards by using conventional agricultural oils, and other ingredients, in pest control products that bear the word organic and the green “USDA organic” seal. The pest control products in question are marketed under the Bio Block label (see front of bottle, back of bottle, and company webpage product screenshot).

A debate has been raging for years whether non-food products, such as pet food and personal care products, are included in the strict regulations that determine the use of the word “organic” on packaging. Most of those products at least had organic ingredients involved in their manufacture, whereas Bio Block pest control products contain not a single organically produced ingredient.

However, there has never been any question that the green “USDA Organic” seal can be used only by producers that follow the rigorous standards mandated by Congress and administered by the USDA’s National Organic Program.

In addition to using the word organic prominently on its label, HOMS uses the USDA seal on at least one of its Bio Block products without specifying that organic ingredients were used, and without disclosing the identity of the organic certifying agent, which is also required by federal organic regulations.

“This amounts to, allegedly, illegally usurping the value of the organic label,” says Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia. “The USDA Organic seal is meaningful to consumers and should not be used frivolously. This places ethical industry participants at a competitive disadvantage.”

The Bio Block products that appear to violate the organic standards were discovered on the shelves of Wal-Mart stores, resurfacing concerns long held by The Cornucopia Institute, and others in the organic industry, that the giant corporation has failed to take the organic standards seriously.

For years, Cornucopia has criticized Wal-Mart for inventing a “new” organic—food from corporate agribusiness, factory farms, and cheap Chinese imports of questionable authenticity.

Wal-Mart’s store brand organic milk, for example, comes from Aurora Dairy in Boulder, Colorado. In 2007, federal investigators found that Aurora had “willfully” violated 14 tenets of the organic standards, including confining their cattle to feedlots, instead of grazing, and bringing thousands of illegal conventional cows into their organic operation.

Inside Wal-Mart stores, Cornucopia researchers at the time discovered that the company was mislabeling conventional foods as organic, including yogurt, sugar, rice milk, soy milk and produce. Cornucopia notified Wal-Mart’s CEO of the problems with in-store signage, but the corporation ignored these concerns until officials of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the USDA took enforcement actions against Wal-Mart in 2007.

“These instances of mislabeling are emblematic of the company’s lack of investment in knowledgeable staff, its inexperience, and its questionable commitment to organics,” says Kastel.

While Wal-Mart vowed to solve its false and misleading in-store signage problems, Cornucopia says it has failed to ensure that its store brand organic milk, and some of its other product offerings, come from ethical family farmers following the spirit and letter of the organic law.

Now the organic industry watchdog alleges Wal-Mart is once again marketing organic products fraudulently.

Cornucopia contends that it is not only up to farmers, food processors and certifiers to ensure that foods labeled “organic” are truly organic, but that retailers play an important role as well.

Retailers can and do invest in the resources necessary to ensure organic integrity in their stores. The Wedge, a member-owned cooperative grocer in Minneapolis, handled Bio Block pesticides very differently from Wal-Mart when recently approached by one of HOMS’ distributors.

Since The Wedge has invested years in recruiting, hiring, and training qualified staff, it came as no surprise that one of their buyers questioned the legality of Bio Block’s labels.

The Wedge is one of about 275 cooperative grocers in the country, which collectively helped pioneer the growth in the organic industry. The Wedge was one of the first certified organic retailers in the country and has a full-time Organic Certification and Sustainability Coordinator, Susan Stewart.

“We take the confidence our members and shoppers have in The Wedge very seriously,” said Stewart. “Our job is to protect the integrity of the organic label and the authenticity of the food and products we offer in our store.”

Cornucopia states that this collaboration between farmers, organic processors and retailers, in partnership with the USDA, makes the organic label the gold standard in helping consumers choose safe and ethically produced food.

“As an organic industry watchdog, we make sure that stakeholders in the organic community, like The Wedge, are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by outfits like Wal-Mart that are attempting to profiteer from the trust consumers have in the organic label,” stated Cornucopia’s Kastel.

The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit farm policy research group, is dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Their Organic Integrity Project acts as a corporate and governmental watchdog assuring that no compromises to the credibility of organic farming methods and the food it produces are made in the pursuit of profit. Their web page can be viewed at www.cornucopia.org.

Breathe Green

If you’re a houseplant lover, you probably know there are many benefits to having plants in your home. They provide decorating diversity, offer a touch of nature, have a grounding and relaxing effect, and even cleanse the air we breathe. That’s right, houseplants such as ferns, palms, and lilies actually pull pollutants out of the air.

Don’t Hold Your Breath
Think the air in your house doesn’t need detoxifying? Think again. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, along with a variety of other pollutants are so pervasive in the common household that indoor air is now considerd to be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air!

What in your house could be emitting VOCs and other pollutants? Plenty. VOCs include nasty chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene, classified by the EPA as known carcinogens, and are found in common household items like plastic bags, computer ink, pressed-wood furniture, commercial household cleansers, carpeting, even cosmetics.

Plants to the Rescue
Many of these every day items have become such a part of our lives that eliminating them seems impossible. Thank goodness we have plants! Back in the 1980’s NASA discovered the fern’s ability to cleanse the air; in fact, researchers discovered 50 types of regular old houseplants can absorb VOCs and actually remove pollutants from the air.

Experts suggest planning one houseplant per 100 square feet in your home. Put one next to your printer or on top of a particleboard bookshelf. Though plants alone can’t completely detoxify your atmosphere, they can help. In addition to using houseplants, consider curbing or eliminating your use of chemical cleansers and pesticides in the home. There are several products on the market that make potting and caring for your plants easier, more organic, and prettier. For ideas on how to arrange houseplants from a renowned feng shui expert, visit naturalhealthmag.com/fengshuiplants.

For not much money at all, you can get some good green plants in your house, benefit from the added color in your home, and perhaps best of all, breathe green!

Former NASA scientist Bill Wolverton’s Top Five Pollution Fighting Plants:

  • The Peace Lily absorbs alcohols, trichloroethylene (a dry-cleaning chemical), benzene and formaldehyde. Keep this white blooming plant in a semi-sunny spot with even, moist soil.
  • The Areca Palm takes on VOCs found in paint like xylene and toluene. This green, fast-growing plant likes a semi-sunny environment with consistently moist soil.
  • The Dracaena (or Janet Craig) soaks up trichloroethylene. This dark green treelike beauty likes a semi-shady spot with soil that’s not too wet.
  • The Weeping Fig absorbs formaldehyde. This type of ficus likes a full-sun location and moist soil.
  • The Boston Fern ranks best at absorbing formaldehyde. This plant likes it semi-sunny with a daily mist, plus some extra fertilizer during winter months. Added bonus: it adds humidity.