What You’re Saying Is…Things Can Just Start Falling Out?

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I have a wonderful job. I am privileged to interview medical professionals and share what they tell me with various audiences. It’s a great way to learn what researchers have discovered and what medical breakthroughs are on the horizon.

However a recent interview is giving me nightmares. Not because the doctor wasn’t congenial or helpful (he was an extremely intelligent and polite man). It was WHAT he told me that I can’t stop thinking about.

Hold Onto Your_________

The physician is a urogynecologist, meaning that he not only specializes in female reproductive mechanisms, but also in the urinary system. It takes a special person to want to deal with all of that nasty, so my hat’s off to anyone who chooses that field.

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If only it were that idyllic!

 

He wanted readers to know about Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP). I had a flashback to the time when my 83-year old grandmother had some sort of female surgery because something was out of place. Is that what she was dealing with 20 years ago?

Indeed it was. My grandma was losing her battle against gravity. The bones, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons that were supposed to fight this downward force and hold her organs in place were failing her. Specifically, her pelvic floor muscles were calling it quits.hammock-68010__340

The doctor told me that the pelvic floor, or the group of muscles and supporting tissues that act like a hammock over the pelvic opening in women, can become injured and weakened over time. As a result, the bladder, uterus, small bowel, and rectum can start to “prolapse” or slip down into the vagina.

WHAT??? Stuff can just start falling out? 

Evidently, a difficult birthing experience can injure supporting tissues which can further weaken as a woman ages. But other factors overstretch these muscles, ligaments and fascia–factors such as obesity, chronic coughing and pressure from chronic constipation.

I didn’t have any trouble when I gave birth to my daughter, and I don’t have these other issues, but I remained concerned. The doctor reassured me with the following stats:

  • Though more than 40% of women over 40 experience some form of prolapse, only about 3%-6% require treatment
  • Most patients who undergo a surgical procedures are in their 60s
  • The peak incidence of symptoms is when a women is in her 70s or 80s (you live long enough and things start to shift)

So I have a bit of time before I worry. But I started telling every woman I know that if she starts to feel something protruding into her vagina, she might have this condition. Interesting topic to discuss at dinner parties, but I wanted women to be prepared!

How to Keep It All In

According to my source, minimally invasive procedures can “rebuild” the pelvic floor hammock with native tissue or mesh (though some physicians stay away from mesh now with problems that women have encountered with it). But even better news is that we can do things to help prevent POP from happening by: appetite-1239056__340

  • Staying active and physically fit
  • Continuing a regular practice of pelvic floor exercises (like those suggested at http://www.voicesforpfd.org)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Addressing conditions that aggravate muscles such as chronic coughing or constipation.

We’re all in this together gals. Let’s make a daily practice of strengthening those muscles. Let’s stay active and drop the extra weight. Let’s look into natural things that help chronic coughing, (like doTERRA’s Breathe blend) and constipation (like doTERRA’s Digest Zen blend). Don’t go from bad to worse by using over-the-counter remedies when so many natural options are out there.

No more nightmares about walking down the street as organs pop out all over. I’ll be fine and so will you. Just keep doing those Kegels.

 

Essential Oils: Do They Live Up to the Hype?

oil-1205635__340I’m all for natural healing remedies. The Bible addresses them in several places as gifts from God’s creation. I love reading stories of people healing from all sorts of things, including boils by intrepid use of a “cake of figs”. (Isaiah 38:21).

For more than 30 years, I have studied everything I can get my hands on about nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management for good health. I also keep up with what is going on in the fields of “natural medicine”, or the use of food/herbs/plants for healing.

So what about essential oils? I had no clue that the liquid in those little bottles I kept reading about had any real properties for symptom relief.

That is, until I suffered a brain injury caused by a misprescribed medication. Not the doctor’s fault, he didn’t know that a drug he gave me for stomach pain in the ER would affect my brain receptors, neurotransmitters, calcium ion channels, etc.

Nevertheless, I struggled with a variety of mental and physical symptoms for two years. Unless you’ve been through a chronic illness or condition, you have no idea how awful it is to literally have no options. There is nothing you can do, nothing you can take, no one to fix it. You can’t plan out your day because you can’t think beyond the current minute.

That was my daily experience until a friend had me try some essential oils: lavender, vetiver, lime, copaiba and some others. Honestly, I couldn’t really tell that they were making a difference. Thanks, but no thanks. I thought it was all MLM hype.

Another friend sent me a different brand of lavender. Based on my last experiment, I was VERY reluctant to give it a go. But I did, and my life changed that day.

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I won’t go into brand or quality distinctions here. All that mattered to me was that inhaling some of this stuff right from the bottle took some of my symptoms away and got me off of the couch. I called my daughter at college and told her something was working and she immediately started Googling why lavender would impact a chemical brain injury.

Before anyone tells you that there is no scientific evidence for the belief that pure, high-grade essential oils can have therapeutic properties, do your research. While many more studies need to be done, several have already been conducted. I could find dozens on lavender and its chemical constituents alone, including a Frontiers in Pharmacology study published in May 2017 entitled,

Exploring Pharmacological Mechanisms of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Central Nervous System Targets

The first thing this study taught me was that each essential oil, whether lavender, tea tree, lemon, peppermint, frankincense or many others, are made up of dozens of naturally occurring chemical constituents, each having a unique impact on the body. These constituents are perfectly combined together to benefit the plant in some way. When the “essence” of that plant is extracted through steam distillation or other method, we get a concentrated “dose” of the properties of the plant.

I also learned that people have been using essential oils around the world for thousands of years for their healing abilities. Why are we behind the times in the U.S.?

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I knew what I needed an oil to do for me, so I read many more studies, some on rats/mice and some on humans. I couldn’t believe I didn’t know that extensive research about these oils was going on across the globe and these studies could be accessed on the internet.

While I don’t claim to be a chemist, physician or pharmacist, I can tell you that I am an expert on ME. Using a combination of essential oils is what allows me to get out of bed, think clearly, leave my house, do work that takes much concentration, exercise, sleep and help care for my family and household–all things I couldn’t do for two years without them. And no, I don’t believe I started to spontaneously heal because when I don’t use the oils I feel like hell.

I use essential oils topically, aromatically and a couple internally. I’ve researched many popular thought leaders on the subject of sourcing, quality, safety and have come up with my own regimen.

So in my opinion–yes, essential oils are worth the hype that you are hearing about them.

But you have to understand that no one is an expert in essential oils. Many will tell you to be overly cautious in their use, others will tell you to use them with abandon, even if you take medication. Just be careful to do your own research on which EOs may benefit you.

That’s what I did. Then I spoke with my physician and a pharmacist friend. Both listened to the studies I presented and said that they made sense, even though they didn’t have great familiarity with the subject.

Don’t let an overly enthusiastic EO salesperson turn you away from trying these products. We all have that one girlfriend or family member who joined an MLM and gives advice with very little knowledge. Not to say that all of the oils produced by these companies are bad (I’ve found quite the contrary), just do your homework.

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Study for yourself. Listen to other people’s stories. Don’t give up trying because one oil may not help you, but another oil will (for instance, I can’t stand bergamot and others swear by it for brain healing). We all have different bodies so don’t think because salesperson Suzy says that Ylang Ylang won’t work for your needs means that you should believe it.

Try one at a time. Learn how to use them. Take good notes about your body’s response to an oil. Then build a regimen.

One last thing…I am a stickler for quality. I found out the hard way that poor quality oils (that you find at many health food stores) don’t work or can make things worse. Know where your oils are coming from. Are they coming directly from the grower or from an oil broker who sells to a bunch of different companies, some who may add other ingredients to stretch it out (and make it less effective)?

So be encouraged. Know that you have options. Believe the hype that these can be very powerful and effective, but know what you’re using and why.

I wish you the best!!

 

 

 

 

Even My Eyes Are Going Through Menopause?

I’ve worn glasses since I was ten years old, so in my time I’ve seen a fair amount of optometrists.  My first was a freckled leprechaun of a man who always pinched my cheek and told me how cute I was, quite the ego boost for a chubby adolescent with glasses.  He would be my optometrist for a couple of decades until he retired and I had long outgrown the need for affirmation from a mythical creature.

The doctor I’ve been seeing for the last eight years has to be my all-time favorite.  It has little to do with the fact that I love his name, Dr. Christ (rhymes with “mist”), but more likely because I feel like I’ve graduated cum laude from optometry school each time I leave his office.

I’m confident I’ve gotten my  money’s worth at these appointments because I always learn something new that makes a difference in the way I see my eyes (pun intended).  Which in turn feeds my insatiable desire to take my new found knowledge and then impress someone who is not as learned in the field of ocular health.  So here goes…doll eyes

Did you know that a woman’s eyes change during menopause?  As if it weren’t difficult enough to navigate the raging torrent of physical, mental and emotional fluctuations, now we have to pay attention to what is going on with our eyes.

Most of us know that vision changes as we age.  Lenses harden and cause us to have difficulty seeing fine print without readers, bifocals or really long arms.  It seems like the day that I turned 40, I realized that I was having to take my glasses off, or peer through the top or bottom to read things up close.

But I had also noticed lately that my eyes were often red and felt like they had sand in them.  Though I suspected that I had developed a new allergy,  I couldn’t pinpoint the source of the problem.  Dr. Christ told me that as we enter menopause, changing levels of hormones also affect the chemical composition of the secretions of our eyes.

He went on to say that the place where our eyelashes emerge from our eyelids is a breeding ground for bacteria and under normal conditions, our tears help wash away that bacteria.  But hormonal fluctuations cause a change in the one or all of the three layers of our tears (mucus, aqueous and lipid), meaning microorganisms are not kept in check  like they are when we are younger.

He sent me home with a bottle of OCuSOFT Lid Scrub Foaming Eyelid Cleanser.  At the end of each day I pump some of the foam onto a wet washcloth at night and wipe my eyelids.    As a bonus, it also takes off eye makeup, eliminating one step in my nightly routine.  Since I’ve been using it I haven’t noticed any problems with my eyes.

I wonder if Dr. Christ has a magic formulas for hot flashes? Or cellulite?

Six Things We’ve Been Duped into Believing About What We’re Eating

basket-1375743_1920Well, THAT title sounds rather negative, something I don’t like to be on this blog.  But today it’s for a good reason.

I’m mad, and you should be too.  I’m mad that although we have more information about how to be healthier through good nutrition, more Americans are overweight or obese than ever before.

Are we not listening to what we are hearing, or are we misinterpreting what we are hearing?

My Sister’s Story

I have a 50-year old sister who has a mild developmental disability.  Last year, she was diagnosed as having diabetes and high cholesterol (she is at a healthy weight).  I had so many things going on at the time that I didn’t realize that she was subsequently given three prescription medications by her physician.  When I found out, I asked her, “Did your doctor say anything about how to heal from diabetes and high cholesterol through diet and exercise?”  “No, never,” she said.  I confirmed this with another sister who had accompanied her, and made sure that the doctor didn’t diagnose her with forms of both that could not be reversed by a healthier lifestyle.

Needless to say, I was less than pleased.  My sister makes very little money and is spending a huge portion of it to buy these medications, and now is dealing with significant side effects.  My sister may have cognitive deficits, but she is not stupid.  If her doctor had just given her some sound advice about diet and exercise, she would have followed them to the letter.  There wasn’t even a discussion of taking meds for a short time while she worked on improving her health. Sure doctors are overworked and have little time, but what would it have taken to direct my sister to some helpful resources?

It’s a moot point now because I am now working with her to make these changes, and will present these to her physician.

Who Are You Listening To?

When I took my sister to the store to read food labels in order to make better choices, I was struck by how little she knew about eating well.  Again, it was obvious that this was not because she is “slow”.  It seemed like she had bought into the misinformation that commercials and the words on the front of food packages cause.  If we are looking to these two sources to tell us the optimal way to eat, we are in trouble.

Which of these six things have you believe?

Lowfat is Healthy

OK, admit it.  You’ve bought into this one.  I have too.  Just because something is lower in fat, doesn’t make it the best choice if it doesn’t have any other redeeming value.  Case in point:  all of the low-fat chips whether baked chips, lentil chips, rice chips, pita chips, veggie chips, as well as pretzels.  Often there is little nutrition and more salt than your body wants.  If you’re like me, however, you crave crunchy and salty food, and these SEEM like a better choice than Frito’s.  But they are adding calories that will not fill you up or give you sustained energy.  Try to incorporate some low-salt or raw nuts instead, or something like apples, carrots and celery to satisfy your need to crunch.

Zero Calories is Healthy

The only things you want to ingest that have no calories are O2 and H2O–oxygen and water.  Don’t think that you are doing yourself a favor by drinking zero calorie soda.  Take Coke Zero for instance.  Here is the ingredients list:  Carbonated water, colour (caramel E150d), phosphoric acid, sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K), flavourings (including caffeine), acidity regulator (E331).  The only thing that sounds remotely nutritious is the phosphoric acid.  Yet even that has been linked to lower bone density in some epidemiological studies, including a discussion in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  Even Vitamin Water Zero contains things like sorbitol that can aggravate irritable bowel syndrome and other gastro disorders.  Try water with really natural flavoring, like fresh lemon juice or naturally flavored teas.

If It’s Labeled “Organic” It Must Be Good For You

We fell for this one in our household when we jumped on the organic bandwagon years ago.  We started buying packaged meals because they contained all organic ingredients.  The problem?  The ingredients weren’t much to brag about–cornmeal, white rice, high sodium or high fat sauces, etc.  We realized that we saved money buying unprocessed, organic foods and that their preparation didn’t take much more time than these “convenience” meals.  Also be aware that “natural”, “all-natural”, “100% natural”  and “organic” do not mean the same thing.  Natural foods are processed without preservatives or additives, but may have been grown with the use of pesticides or other conventional methods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the term ‘natural’ only as it applies to added color, synthetic substances and fragrances.

Sugar-Free is Healthy

This was a big source of misinformation for my sister, especially with her diabetes.  She thought she could ingest whatever amount of artificial sweeteners that she wanted because sugar was the devil.  But Sucralose (Splenda) and Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweeet) come with a whole host of problems themselves.  They have proven to cause headaches and intestinal distress, and have recently been linked to cancer and the increase in MS, lupus, fibromyalgia and even diabetes (ironic).  Why risk it?  Food additives are not your friend.  Did God design our bodies to be able to process artificial ingredients?  Don’t just listen to me, there is so much information available about these sweeteners.  There are fabulous natural alternatives like agave nectar and honey, so why not give them a try?

Multi-Grain is the Same as Whole Grain

According to Mayo Clinic Registered Dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, multi-grain and whole grain are not interchangeable terms.  “Whole grain means that all parts of the grain kernel–the bran, germ and endosperm–are used.  In contrast, multigrain means that a food contains more than one type of grain, although none of them may necessarily be whole grains,” she says.  The reason we want whole grain is that fiber, nutrients and other healthy parts of the plant are lost when they are milled.  So we should look for breads and pastas that are labeled “whole wheat” or “whole oats” for example.

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Wheat Flour is the Same as Whole Wheat Flour

Since whole grains keep you fuller longer due to a higher fiber content (which also helps with blood sugar and colon health), they are a better choice.  But don’t be fooled by ingredient labels that say “Wheat Flour”, because that has been refined to lose the outer bran that contains the majority of the fiber.  Choose only “Whole Wheat Flour” if you are eating wheat at all.

It took a little while for my sister to realize that just because a commercial or a label gives the impression that a food is good for you, doesn’t mean that it truly is.  I think she has become a wiser consumer and actually feels empowered with this new information.  We both look forward to seeing her “numbers” at her next doctor’s appointment.

(And yes…she has also started walking and doing a bit of strength training which will also help).

What are some things that have tripped you up in your quest for better nutrition?

Why Biking Is Better Than Running–Or Why I No Longer Feel Like a Failure for Not Running a Marathon

We are coming out of a deep freeze in our neck of the woods. It has me dreaming of the first day I will be able to hop on my bike and get down to the trail that parallels the Fox River in our part of Northern Illinois.

As I was planning for how wonderful it will feel to be one with my 1994 Giant again, I started thinking about running vs. biking.  In my opinion, there is no greater accomplishment than finishing a long run, just because it’s so incredibly physically taxing.  Just to say that you ran several miles makes you feel like a legitimate athlete.  But for me, it’s not tremendously fun.  It’s work.  I don’t get the same sense of exhilaration that I get from working together with a piece of machinery to battle trails and hills.

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I came up with a list of 10 reasons why cycling is often better than running (for me).  This will infuriate the running purists that I know, but so be it.

  1. The most obvious difference is the distance possible with bike riding.  I can only run about 5 miles before my knees get sore, but I can bike forever.  This allows me to work on endurance and calorie burning longer, and get out of the neighborhood more.
  2. The terrain does not usually impact a biking outing.  I can ride on roads, trails, paths or even off-road.  With running, I’m limited to finding softer trails in the area so that I’m not running on concrete or asphalt.  There aren’t many of these.  And for some reason, getting in the car to drive somewhere to run just seems silly.
  3. As a woman, I don’t feel terribly safe running on trails, but on my bike I feel more in control.  Sure–some goof could jump out of the woods and make me topple over my bike, but I stand a better chance of getting away, or staying away if I’m faster.  That point may be delusional, but it’s worked for me so far.
  4. My arms are much stronger and toned when I ride regularly.  Having to control the handlebars, especially when standing going uphill, requires arm and shoulder muscles that I typically don’t otherwise engage.  I like how my abs feel as I ride, though I know running works them too as they attempt to stabilize the body.
  5. Running uses the hamstrings most, while biking works hamstrings, glutes and quads (especially when standing).  In addition, I can adjust my pedal push and pull to emphasize different muscle groups if I’m tired (this is definitely not the most efficient use of muscles while riding, but will help if I’ve gone too far, I’m spent and have to get where I’m going quickly).
  6. Even if I have a flat tire, I can still make it home.  A blown Achilles tendon is another story.
  7. Speaking of injuries, my chances are less with riding.  That is, if I don’t repeat the experience I had several years ago when I hit a curb and flew over the handlebars.  Because of my helmet, I only bruised my ego thankfully.  With running, I have to either do run/walk intervals to minimize injury or limit the amount of time I’m running.  In both cases, I don’t feel like I’m getting enough out of a workout.
  8.   I’m rarely overheated while biking since I’m creating my own breeze along the way.  And my bike carries my water bottle, phone and keys for me.
  9. Most running and biking experts agree that cycling can help with running, but running does nothing for cycling.  I think that’s rather selfish of running.
  10. I suffered a brain injury years ago (and no, it had nothing to do with that flying over the handlebars incident) and couldn’t ride for the longest time.  My brain couldn’t quickly process what my eyes were seeing, so I couldn’t travel very fast either by car or bicycle.  So the freedom to once again be able to jump on my bike and go wherever I want is one of the greatest gifts of healing.

OK cyclists and runners, what do YOU think?

Popcorn Contains Antioxidants? Who Knew?

My husband came home from work the other day with a spring in his step and a piece of paper in his hand. He triumphantly placed it in front of me as I sat at the computer doing research for a freelance assignment. “I’ve always told you that popcorn was good for you, and now here’s the proof,” he beamed.

Picking up the sheet he printed off of a news site also reported by Dr Mercola here, I took a quick glance at the headline “Popcorn Contains More Antioxidants Than Fruits and Vegetables”. It summarized details of a study conducted at the University of Scranton that found that popped corn serves up twice as much antioxidants as the foods we’ve been trying to eat to stay healthy.

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I immediately knew I would be eating crow, as well as eating more popcorn. For the ten years we have been married, I’ve rejected any and all notions that my husband’s favorite food was actually good for you. Of course I knew that it offered a healthy amount of fiber, but beyond that I thought it was about as nutritious as packing styrofoam.

I looked up from the paper and saw his face glowing with a mixture of vindication and relief akin to a death row prisoner being acquitted after years behind bars. I wish I could tell you that describing it as such was cheesy hyperbole, but no. My husband is undoubtedly the world’s foremost connoisseur of all things popcorn (challengers pay heed), and for the last 50 years has shot down anyone who has told him that his nightly treat was nothing but junk food.

I read on. Apparently a Scranton professor of chemistry, Joe Vinson, Ph.D., and one of his students Michael Coco, found that compared to fruit, popcorn has a greater concentration of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant purported to defend the body against free radical damage to cells.  A number of degenerative diseases including cancer and diabetes are known to be caused by harmful free radical reactions.

By grinding up corn kernels and popped corn, the researchers found the amount of polyphenols was up to 300 mg a serving compared to 114 mg for a serving of sweet corn and 160 mg for all fruits per serving. Popcorn is about 4% water compared to most fruits which average about 90% water, which helps explain the higher concentration.  And similar to fruit, the greatest amount of antioxidants are found in the skin, or hull.

I found that I was right on the fiber issue: Vinson notes that popcorn is the only 100% whole grain food (did you know that according to the Whole Grains Council, food only has to have 51% whole grain to be labeled “whole grain”?)

However, there’s always a caveat when someone releases a pioneering study on nutrition.  Of course you know what Vinson said next:  you can benefit from the polyphenols in popcorn, but you’re defeating the purpose if you load it with butter, salt, caramel, cheese or any of the other glorious toppings that make popcorn so incredibly tasty.

My husband cooks his in organic olive oil and puts on a bit of organic butter (healthier than margarine any day) and a bit of organic sea salt.  I don’t know if Vinson would approve, but if my husband’s health history is any proof, forget the apple—a bowl of popcorn a day keeps the doctor away

Sugar: Spoiling Your Child or Ruining Your Child?

 

I couldn’t believe my eyes and could hardly contain myself.

I had stopped at a friend’s house to drop something off and saw her son, who had been kept home from school with the flu, eating a package of sugary “fruit” snacks.  Now I don’t want to be a nutrition snob, but I have mentioned so many times to anyone within ear shot that sugar suppresses the immune system.  How does she expect him to get better if her idea of helping him is letting him eat whatever tastes good?

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Photo by AdamCaudill

And then I thought, “Wait a minute.  My daughter invariably gets sick within a day of ingesting sugar, but does that mean everyone’s immune systems are sensitive to it?”  I finally decided to take a closer look to see what others were saying about this.

A Google search for the topic landed me on WebMD.com first (of course).  Their M.D. writer posted in June 2017, “Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks.”  

Nancy Appleton, Ph.D., author of Lick the Sugar Habit, contends that sugar impairs the body’s defenses against infectious disease, citing a 1997 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, entitled “Depression of Lymphocyte Transformation Following Oral Glucose Ingestion”.  

And AskDrSears.com, the “Trusted Resource for Parents” says, “The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours.”  

Many of today’s experts have Dr. Linus Pauling to thank for what we know about sugar and its effect on the immune system.  Dr. Pauling is famous for his research in the 1970s that revealed that Vitamin C helps white blood cells, our body’s infection fighters, to attack viruses and bacteria.  Therefore many of us grew up believing that popping Vitamin C when we are sick will cure us.  But the other side of the coin is this:  Dr. Pauling also discovered that when glucose levels are high from the ingestion of sugar, it competes with Vitamin C to enter white blood cells.  So sugar keeps Vitamin C out, slowing the immune system’s response and compromising its ability to recognize and fight invaders.

So why don’t more people, especially parents know this?  When I bring my daughter to a party and tell her to avoid the sugary treats, the moms and dads look at each other as if they should call Child Protective Services.  I’ve heard “just this once” more times than I can stand.  If I dare to say something about sugar and the immune system, people are aghast.

On the other hand, I don’t want to encourage people to use artificial sweeteners either.  Though the U.S. FDA claims that aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal and others) to be the most thoroughly tested and reviewed food additive, others claim that it is a neuro-toxin responsible for the uptick in cases of Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus.  Since I can’t prove who is right, I prefer to choose natural refined sugar alternatives like Stevia and Agave.  And my kid seems satisfied.

When my daughter was a toddler, my mom used to have a huge bowl of M&Ms out on the kitchen counter at her house.  She put them within reach because she knew that I didn’t give my child sugar, and she thought it was horribly mean.  I would let my daughter take one, and she would savor it for an hour because she knew she wasn’t getting any more.  Now 22, she is sugar savvy, knowing that any more than a little bit and she will rush headlong into a cold.  While many of her “no holds barred” sugar-ingesting friends have been sick with all of the viruses that are rampant this year, she hasn’t missed out on anything due to illness.  So who’s horribly mean now, Mom?