Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

Easy Tricks To Teach Kids How To Deal With Stress Through Mindfulness

But experts say if you want to teach your children to be mindful, you have to be mindful, too.

The back-to-school season brings its own unique stressors to just about everyone: young children starting school for the first time, older kids dealing with longer days and social pressures, teenagers who have to make decisions about their futures, and of course to parents who might also feel overwhelmed. But researchers at Vancouver’s Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre have suggested strategies to deal with back-to-school stress.

“Mindfulness” has become a bit of a buzzword recently, along the lines of “radical wellness” and “living your best life.” But beyond the context of GOOP, there’s a lot of value in the idea that we could all focus more on the present moment.

The basic tenet of mindfulness is the idea that stress and pain is often the result of thinking about past regrets or worrying about the future, and that can be combated by coming up with strategies that focus on remaining in the present moment. HuffPost Canada spoke to Dr. Dzung Vo, an adolescent medicine specialist and pediatrician at British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital, about how kids can implement those strategies.

“I define mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and with unconditional love,” Dr. Vo says. “It’s not meant to be something that you succeed or fail at, it’s more of an intention and an attitude that we orient ourselves to when we practice being in the present moment.”

Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduces stress and anxiety, improve attention and memory, and encourage empathy and monitor your emotions. It’s also been shown to be beneficial physically by lowering blood pressure and heart rate. And new research is currently underway to determine whether it can be a helpful tool to fight against depression.

Vo’s pediatric practice focuses primarily on teenagers, but he says there are effective strategies that can help just about every age group understand their feelings, process their reactions, and live a healthier emotional life.

Babies and toddlers
By far the most important factor in teaching very young children to be mindful is to have a parent or caregiver who is mindful themselves.

“What we know from neuroscience is that the parent’s own mental and neurologic state has a profound influence on regulating the child,” Vo told HuffPost Canada. “If the parent or caregiver can be mindful, present, attentive, and attuned with unconditional love and presence, then that will affect the child in very deep and healthy ways.”

One of the principles of mindfulness is approaching a subject with “beginner’s mind” — a sense of curiosity and presence you might use if you were trying something for the first time. This is something young children generally do anyways. “Kids are actually pretty naturally in the moment, so it’s not too hard to do,” Vo says.

Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduces stress and anxiety

School-age kids
Vo suggests adding brief mindfulness exercises into the routine of slightly older children, maybe at bedtime or when they get home from school. One idea is to get them to lie with a teddy bear on top of their belly and ask them to slowly breathe in and out, he says. Watching the teddy bear go up and down with their breath will put them in tune with their bodies, and put them in a state of calm.

Another useful activity can be to sing songs with lyrics that remind kids to think about where they are and how they feel — he suggests “Planting Seeds” by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. “As kids go through their day, when they need a mindful moment, they just sing the song,” he says. “Singing it actually is a practice, because it cultivates that mindful attitude.”

Crafts and artwork, approached with the “beginner’s mind,” are another helpful way to practice mindfulness. Vo suggests gently guiding children to be curious and really focus on their surroundings and what they might be engaging in.

“Maybe they’re drawing a flower in front of them,” he says. “Encourage the child to really pay attention to it by asking them: What are you seeing there? What are you noticing? What are the colours? What are the shapes?”

It isn’t particularly important that children understand the idea of mindfulness, he says.

“It’s more important to have experiences than to talk too much about the concepts.” And again, he stresses that the most important way to teach mindfulness to kids is the mindful presence of the parent or caregiver.

Teenagers
In his sessions with teens, Vo will often get them to try out their “beginner’s mind” by slowly eating one single raisin. “That might seem very simple and boring, but when you bring curious attention to it, you find experiences that seem tedious or boring may be quite interesting, or quite relaxing, or quite enjoyable in ways that we hadn’t considered when we go through them in autopilot mode.”

Many teenagers will bring what Vo calls “informal meditation” to a wide variety of day-to-day activities: breathing deeply and considering their senses while walking the dog, or waiting for the bus, or washing dishes. It can particularly help before a stressful situation at school — right before writing an exam, for instance.

There isn’t a lot of research on the benefits of mindfulness for teens, but Vo says that he believes that’s the time of life when those practices would be most beneficial.

Studies of adults have demonstrated that mindful practices can actually change the parts of the brain linked to memory, self-image, and emotional regulation. Because adolescent brains are changing quickly and profoundly, Vo says he thinks the effects would be even more significant. One of the biggest adolescent brain changes involves the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and executive functioning, which develops throughout the teenage years up until the early 20s. It develops through focused attention and concentration, he says, which suggests that the more that they use these neurologic pathways to help regulate their brains, the stronger those connections will get.

By Maija Kappler                 08/22/2018
Advertisements


Leave a comment

Prenatal And Early Childhood Fructose Tied to Asthma in Kids

Grade school kids may be more likely to develop asthma if they consumed lots of drinks sweetened with sugar and high fructose corn syrup or if their mothers drank these beverages often during pregnancy, a recent study suggests.

To assess the connection between childhood asthma, sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages, researchers examined data about eating habits from about 1,000 mother-child pairs as well as information on kids’ health, including whether they had an asthma diagnosis by ages 7 to 9.

After accounting for maternal obesity and other factors that can also influence kids’ odds of developing asthma, researchers found that women who consumed the most soda and sugary beverages during pregnancy were 70 percent more likely to have a child diagnosed with asthma by mid-childhood than mothers who never or rarely had sodas during pregnancy.

Women who had the most total fructose during pregnancy were 58 percent more likely to have kids with asthma than women who had little to no fructose.

“Previous studies have linked intake of sugary beverages with obesity, and obesity with asthma,” said study co-author Sheryl Rifas-Shiman, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in Boston.

“In addition to influencing asthma through increasing the risk of obesity, we found that sugary beverages and high fructose may influence the risk of asthma not entirely through obesity,” Rifas-Shiman said by email. “This finding suggests that there are additional mechanisms by which sugary beverages and fructose influence asthma risk beyond their effects on obesity.”

What kids ate and drank also mattered. Even after accounting for prenatal exposure to sodas, kids who had the most total fructose in their diets earlier in childhood were 79 percent more likely to develop asthma than children who rarely or never had fructose.

Once researchers also factored in whether children were overweight or obese, kids with the highest fructose consumption were still 77 percent more likely to have asthma.

Mothers who consumed more sugary beverages tended to be heavier and have less income and education than women who generally avoided sodas and sweet drinks. But the connection between sodas, sugary drinks and childhood asthma persisted even after accounting for these factors.

“We don’t know for certain the exact pathways by which sugary beverages and fructose lead to asthma,” Rifas-Shiman said. “We believe at least in part they act by increasing inflammation, which may influence the child’s lung development.”

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how sodas or sugary drinks might cause asthma.

Another limitation is that researchers relied on women to accurately recall and report on soda consumption for themselves and their young children, which may not always be accurate, researchers note in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Even so, the findings add to the evidence that women should avoid sodas and sugary foods and drinks during pregnancy and also limit these things for their young kids, said Dr. Leda Chatzi, a researcher at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Pregnant women should stay away from sugar sweetened drinks and foods with added sugars,” Chatzi said by email.

“Healthy eating during pregnancy is critical to their baby’s growth and development of chronic diseases such as asthma later in life,” Chatzi added. “A healthy dietary pattern during pregnancy contains a variety of food groups, including fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, protein sources and dairy products.”

 Lisa Rapaport   DECEMBER 18, 2017
SOURCE: bit.ly/2BaEVOI Annals of the American Thoracic Society, online December 8, 2017.    www.reuters.com


Leave a comment

Experts Now Recommend Introducing Peanuts To Babies At High Risk Of Allergies

Withholding the nuts may actually contribute 
to the deadly allergy, a national panel concludes.

For millions of children who have peanut allergies, mealtimes can be deadly. And for years, doctors have advised parents to keep peanut products away from children thought to be at high risk.

But new guidelines issued Thursday state that infants should be introduced to peanut products as early as 4 months old if they appear to be at high risk of developing food allergies.

A panel of experts convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says that introducing peanuts early in life can actually help prevent the development of peanut allergies.

The new recommendations encourage parents to prevent food allergies by following a schedule of early introduction of certain allergenic foods, explained Dr. Hugh Sampson, director of the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and a member of the NIAID panel. The NIAID’s 2010 guidelines had stated only that that there was no sufficient data to support the withholding of allergenic foods in order to prevent allergies.

“The big difference with these guidelines is that they’re not saying there is no reason not to give it. It’s now saying give it,” said Sampson. “So this is a proactive statement, as opposed to a more passive [approach].”

Severe peanut allergies can cause anaphylaxis, in which the throat swells, constricting breathing. People with less severe peanut allergies can experience wheezing, shortness of breath, digestive problems, skin rashes or hives in the mouth and throat.

How to introduce peanut products to babies

If a baby has severe eczema, an egg allergy or both, these conditions increase the risk of a peanut allergy. For these high-risk infants, peanut product introduction should take place from 4 to 6 months of age — not with whole peanuts, which can be a choking hazard, but perhaps with diluted peanut butter.

Babies with mild to moderate eczema but no egg allergy should start being introduced to peanut products at 6 months if this fits in with the family’s normal diet. In other words, parents shouldn’t feel compelled to introduce peanuts at this age.

The guidelines state that for both of these high-risk scenarios, parents should see if babies are developmentally ready to eat solid foods by introducing something else first. Then, when babies show confidence in eating solid foods, parents should check with the pediatrician first before introducing a peanut food. A pediatrician may suggest testing for peanut allergies before the first introduction or may have specific instructions for the introduction. A baby’s first taste of peanut can even take place at the doctor’s office.

If the baby shows no sign of eczema or egg allergy and thus appears to be at no heightened risk of developing a peanut allergy, peanut products should be incorporated into their diet in keeping with the family’s normal dietary preferences, in an age-appropriate way.

baby
Introducing babies as young as 4 months to peanut products
could prevent development of peanut allergies.

Compelling data prompted the change

The recommendations are based on an NIAID-funded, five-year clinical trial called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy, or LEAP. The trial randomly divided more than 600 infants into two groups: a control group that avoided eating peanut products until they were 5 years old and an experimental group that was introduced to peanut foods early in life on a regular basis. Scientists found that eating peanuts early in life was safe and reduced the risk of developing a peanut allergy by 81 percent compared with the control group.

“The data was so compelling on the preventive effect of early introduction that it was felt that the guidelines needed to be revised,” said Sampson of the LEAP study results.

Childhood peanut allergies in the U.S. have increased dramatically over the last decade: In 1997, 0.4 percent of children reported an allergy to peanuts, and by 2008 that number was 1.4 percent, or more than 3 million people.

To reduce the number of people with peanut allergies, Dr. Sujan Patel, an allergist immunologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, has been advising parents to introduce allergenic foods early to their children for several years now. He says he is glad that the guidelines have caught up with the practice, common among immunologists.

Allergies to peanuts and other foods could have risen because parents were introducing certain foods to their children later, because of official guidance or perhaps out of fear of triggering a life-threatening allergic reaction, Patel explained. But the results of the LEAP study, published in 2015, show that this approach may actually be setting the stage for severe food allergies in the future.

“We’re trying to combat the development of peanut allergy with early introduction, based on these studies,” said Patel, who was not involved in the creation of the new guidelines. “With the overall increase of prevalence of food allergies, I feel that a lot of parents are now nervous to introduce highly allergenic foods at a young age because they feel like the child might be in danger.”

Other factors that may have contributed to the rise in food allergies include outdated advice from family doctors and pediatricians, or perhaps a reluctance to introduce any solid food at all before 6 months, in favor of exclusive breastfeeding.

Patel and Sampson hope that the new recommendations will stem the increase of peanut allergies in children.

“We’re looking to reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy among the population,” said Patel.

For instructions on how to introduce peanut products to your child, check out this video produced by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

 01/05/2017       Anna Almendrala        Senior Healthy Living Editor, The Huffington Post


Leave a comment

Bigger Baby Bottles Linked to Weight Gain

BY LISA RAPAPORT   Tue Jun 7, 2016 

(Reuters Health) – Babies who drink from large bottles early in life may be experience more weight gain by six months of age than infants who drink from smaller bottles, a study suggests.

Starting when the babies were two months old, researchers tracked their weight based on the size of their bottles, which ranged from 2 ounces to 10 ounces. About 45 percent were being fed from bottles that held at least six ounces of baby formula.

Compared with babies fed from smaller bottles, infants with at least six-ounce bottles had about a half-pound (0.21 kilograms) more weight gain by six months, the study found.

“Every baby is different, but we know that a two-month-old infant will generally take four ounces per feed,” said lead study author Dr. Charles Wood, a pediatrics researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Larger bottles may mean parents are more likely to overfeed their infants, contributing to more weight gain,” Wood added by email.

To assess how bottle size influences infant weight gain, Wood and colleagues focused on 386 babies whose parents fed them only formula.

About 41 percent were black, 35 percent were Hispanic, and 23 percent were white.

Almost two-thirds were from households earning less than $20,000 a year, with parents with no more than a high school education.

Only 298 infants had complete information on weight and length at their six-month checkup, and these infants were included in the analysis.

On average, babies weighed about 7.1 pounds (3.2 kg) at birth, 11.7 pounds (5.3 kg) at two months, and 17.6 pounds (8 kg) at six months, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

baby bottle

But babies who used smaller bottles weighed less at two and at six months, 11.2 pounds (5.1 kg) and 17.2 pounds (7.8 kg), respectively.

That compares 11.9 pounds (5.4 kg) at two months and 18.1 pounds (8.2 kg) at six months for infants who had larger bottles.

One limitation of the study is that researchers didn’t directly measure how much babies drank, the authors note.

They also didn’t look at how bottle size changed over time or the range of bottle sizes parents used during the study period. It’s possible that families used different sizes of bottles or used smaller bottles but gave babies multiple bottles at each feeding, the authors point out.

One challenge for bottle-fed babies is that they may have a harder time than breast-fed infants learning to sense when they’re full, said Karen Bonuck, a pediatrics researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York who wasn’t involved in the study.

With bottle feeding, parents may take a “clean your plate approach because they can visualize any remaining milk in a bottle in a way that they cannot when an infant is being fed at the breast,” Bonuck said by email.

“Parents who purchase larger bottles may be doing so out of a desire to express nurturance through feeding,” Bonuck added.

The problem with this parental impulse is that those first few months are a crucial time for babies to figure out when they’re full, said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital who wasn’t involved in the study.

“It’s known that rapid weight gain is a risk for obesity and it’s also thought that the first few months of life help develop our satiety responsiveness – how our cravings and sense of fullness while eating feel – and therefore if fed excess amounts during that time we may set children up for a bigger challenge with overweight later in life,” Swanson said by email.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1TTzRwa      www.reuters.com    Pediatrics, online June 7, 2016.


1 Comment

Gut Bacteria Tied to Asthma Risk in Kids

Study suggests that antibiotics in infancy might also play a role

WebMD News from HealthDay      By Steven Reinberg      HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) – The presence of four types of gut bacteria in infancy may reduce a child’s risk for asthma, Canadian researchers report.

Most infants get these bacteria naturally from the environment. But some babies are given antibiotics that kill these bacteria, and some are not exposed to them for various reasons, the researchers said.

“We now have particular markers that seem to predict asthma later in life,” lead researcher Brett Finlay, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said during a news conference Tuesday.

“These findings indicate that bacteria that live in and on us may have a role in asthma,” he said. This seems to happen by 3 months of age in ways that still aren’t clear.

Coming into contact with environmental bacteria, such as by living on a farm or having pets, appears to decrease asthma risk, Finlay said.

Asthma, which has increased dramatically since the 1950s, affects up to 20 percent of children in western countries, according to the researchers. “Ironically, it has not increased in developing countries,” Finlay said.

It’s possible that people in these less-developed countries are exposed to more helpful bacteria and other microbes, he said. This is the so-called “hygiene hypothesis,” which says environments that are too clean may actually impede development of the immune system.

The new report was published Sept. 30 online in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

For the study, Finlay and colleagues looked for four types of bacteria in stool samples of 319 infants at 3 months of age. The bacteria are called FLVR (Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella and Rothia).

The researchers found that 22 children with low levels of these bacteria at age 3 months also had low levels at age 1 year.

These 22 children are at the highest risk of developing asthma, and eight have been diagnosed with the respiratory disease so far, the researchers said.

baby

Study co-author Dr. Stuart Turvey, professor of pediatric immunology at the University of British Columbia, said at the news conference that it’s “not surprising how important early life is.”

In the first 100 days of life, gut makeup influences the immune response that causes or protects kids from asthma, he said.

Testing for these bacteria in infants might help identify children who have a high risk of developing asthma, Turvey said. “These children could be followed and treated more quickly if they end up with asthma,” he said.

While the study found a connection between gut bacteria and asthma risk in children, it did not prove cause and effect.

Whether giving kids probiotics — good bacteria — might reduce asthma risk isn’t known, the researchers said. Turvey said the probiotics available in over-the-counter forms do not include the four bacteria identified in this study.

“Studies like ours are identifying specific bacteria combinations that seem to be missing in the children at the highest risk of asthma,” he said. “The long-term goal is to see if we could offer these bacteria back, not the general nonspecific probiotics.”

Finlay said these findings need to be replicated in larger groups and in different populations. He said the researchers also want to know if all four bacteria are protective, or just one or two.

“There could be other microbes that have a similar function, but we don’t know that yet,” Finlay said.

Turvey cautioned that treatment with bacteria is a long way off. “We are not ready for that yet,” he said. “We know very little about these bacteria, but we are working to see if that might be a safe option to prevent this disease.”

Dr. Maria Franco, a pediatric pulmonologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, had this to say: “The finding shows how our immune system in the first three months actually changes things in life for the long term.”

It’s still not known how these bacteria get into the gut, Franco said. “But it shows how something so natural can make a big difference in a child’s life,” she said.

SOURCES: Maria Franco, M.D., pediatric pulmonologist, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Miami, Fla.; Sept. 29, 2015, news conference with: Brett Finlay, Ph.D., professor, microbiology and immunology and biochemistry and molecular biology; Stuart Turvey, M.D., professor, pediatric immunology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Sept. 30, 2015, Science Translational Medicine, online

source: WebMD HealthDay 


Leave a comment

Cat Parasite May Be Tied to Human Mental Disorders

WebMD News from HealthDay

June 8, 2015 – Could a common cat parasite put people with a weakened immune system at risk for schizophrenia and other types of mental illness?

CBS News reports that new research suggests such a possible link, but doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect connection.

More than 60 million people in the United States have the Toxoplasma gondiiparasite, but most never experience any symptoms. But in people with a weakened immune system, T. gondii can cause an illness called toxoplasmosis and potentially lead to miscarriages and fetal problems in pregnant women, long-lasting flu-like illness, blindness and even death, CBS News reported.

Previous research had linked T. gondii with schiziophrenia and bipolar disorder, and two recent studies provide further possible evidence of a connection between the parasite and mental illness, the news network said.

In a paper published in the journal Schizophrenia Research, investigators analyzed three previous studies and found that exposure to cats during childhood may be a risk factor for mental disorders late in life, CBS News reported.

“Cat ownership in childhood has now been reported in three studies to be significantly more common in families in which the child is later diagnosed with schizophrenia or another serious mental illness,” E. Fuller Torrey, of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, and Dr. Robert Yolken, of Stanley Laboratory of Developmental Neurovirology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a news release.

child & cat

In a second paper, researchers analyzed 50 published studies and found a potential link between T. gondii and mental disorders. They saw that people infected with the parasite had a nearly two times increased risk of developing schizophrenia. The researchers also found a possible association between T. gondii and addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorders, CBS News reported.

“In schizophrenia, the evidence of an association with T. gondii is overwhelming,” A.L. Sutterland, who’s with the Department of Psychiatry at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, Holland, and colleagues said in a press release, CBS News reported. “These findings may give further clues about how T. gondii infection can possibly [alter] the risk of specific psychiatric disorders.”

Their study was published in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.

“Children can be protected by keeping their cat exclusively indoors and always covering the sandbox when not in use,” Torrey told CBS News in an email.

Change your cat’s litter box daily and avoid feeding cats raw or undercooked meat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises. When changing the litter box, it’s best to wear disposable gloves and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards. Pregnant women should not clean litter boxes.

source: WebMD