This article can also be found on Naturopathic Pediatrics.
The first part of this series talked about WHY EATING BREAKFAST IS SO IMPORTANT FOR KIDS. Eating the most important meal not only improves concentration and academic performance, it reduces the risk of weight gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. If you have a child struggling with ADHD you may also want to check out Healing your child from ADHD
What to Eat: Ditch the Carbs and go for Protein!
In America, we tend to reach for breakfast foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as cereal, toast, bagels, pancakes, pastries, etc. While carbs raise one’s blood sugar quickly, this increase is only temporary and will be followed by a crash in blood sugar shortly after eating. Are your kids cranky and ready for lunch by 10am? They may not be getting enough protein at breakfast.
A high protein breakfast helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which prevents hunger and binge eating, thus reducing calorie intake and weight gain (1). The optimal breakfast will contain enough protein – 20-35 grams depending on their age – to keep your child feeling full and energetic for several hours. Be sure to include some form of protein with every meal and snack, but breakfast especially. Protein sources include meat, eggs, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and dairy. (Sorry – bacon is not a healthy protein!) For the picky eater who will only eat cereal for breakfast, try to make it a low sugar, high fiber, whole grain cereal like granola, kashi, or oatmeal. Add some nut or seed butter, whole nuts and seeds, and fresh fruit as much as your kiddo will allow. Check out the PB&J Overnight Oats recipe below for a higher protein take on oatmeal.
Fiber is an important component of breakfast as well, not only for regularity, but also for keeping your child feeling full longer. The recipes here include a good amount of protein and fiber, as well as good fat, which is necessary for kids’ growing brains.
Skip the Coffee and Juice
The last 20 years has seen a significant increase in caffeine intake in adolescents and teens, mainly in the form of soda, coffee, and energy drinks. While coffee is a better choice than soda or an energy drink, caffeine and kids don’t mix! Even in low amounts, caffeine can negatively impact kids’ energy level, ability to sleep, and sleep quality. In higher amounts it can worsen conditions like anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues (2-3). And caffeine consumption in kids may lead to an increased risk of developing hypertension and anxiety later in life (4-5). If your teen insists on having caffeine in the morning, encourage her to drink green tea, white tea, black tea, or yerba mate, all of which contain a fraction of the caffeine that coffee and energy drinks contain.
As for juice, most fruit juice is very high in sugar, even higher than soda or candy. Eating high-sugar foods in the morning contributes to a mid-morning blood sugar crash and the crankiness and hunger that come with it. If your kiddos want something sweet in the morning, encourage them to eat fresh or frozen fruit instead of juice. Fruit gives the sweetness and refreshing quality of juice, while providing fiber to balance out the sugar content. If you make your own juice at home, include lots of veggies and just a little fruit, as even homemade juice can be high in sugar if there’s more than a serving or two of fruit. Add some of the pulp back into the juice for fiber to counteract the sugar a bit.
Here they are! Healthy Breakfast Ideas:
Mmm, eggs are just the best for breakfast. Full of protein and beneficial fat, eggs are an American favorite. This dish combines eggs with sweet potatoes, beans, and veggies for high-protein, savory goodness. It’s one my family’s favorites, and you can customize it to your family’s taste or switch up the ingredients each time.
Time-saving Tip: Cook a large batch in advance and eat for several days, except for the eggs and toppings – make fresh each morning.
Directions: Sauté sweet potatoes, greens, and beans in olive or coconut oil, adding salt and pepper. Top with eggs prepared to your child’s liking, sprinkle with grated cheese, salsa, avocado, and cilantro if desired. Serves 2-4 people. Enjoy!
PB&J Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are great for the child who likes cereal in the morning, but needs more protein than cereal can provide. This recipe infuses oats with several types of protein (peanut butter, yogurt, and seeds) and provides a good amount of fat and fiber, making it very filling. Jam is added for some sweetness and to give it the familiar taste of PB&J. Overnight oats can be eaten hot or cold and can easily be taken on-the-go. The Environmental Working Group recently reported that oats can contain glyphosate from the pesticide Roundup, so buy organic oats if you can. You can search the safety rating of your oats here.
Time-saving Tip: Prepare several mason jars for the week and add the liquid ingredients the night before. Or, make a large batch and it will keep in the fridge for 2-4 days. This dish can also be made the same morning by adding hot liquid instead of cold and letting it soak covered for a few minutes.
Optional: Add in a greens powder like this one to sneak in some fruit and veggies. Very low in sugar and it tastes like berries!
Directions: Place all ingredients in 16oz/pint mason jar the night before, mix well. Refrigerate overnight. Add more liquid in the morning, if needed. Top with cinnamon, fresh fruit, additional jam, and nuts, as desired. Serves 1-3 people.
Dinner for Breakfast
Breakfast for Dinner is a favorite in many homes, so why not Dinner for Breakfast? Breakfast doesn’t have to be sweet, after all. Since we’re a bit dehydrated in the morning after not drinking all night, salty foods can be very tasty and satisfying first thing in the morning. The ideal dinner will contain protein and veggies, and maybe a small amount of grains, and makes for an ideal breakfast as well.
Veggies for breakfast, you say? Absolutely! Vegetables provide an incredible array of nutrients that make us feel good and give us energy. And since they’re full of fiber, veggies are very filling and help balance blood sugar. I recommend 3-7 servings of veggies per day for kids (which I realize is a lot of veggies!), and including them at breakfast makes it much easier to achieve this goal. Give them the veggies they like, even if it means celery and carrots with ranch for breakfast! Young kids don’t know that dinner isn’t usually eaten for breakfast, and they don’t know yet that eating veggies isn’t cool among older kids. And they really don’t care, as long as it tastes good! Start ‘em young and let dinner for breakfast become a favorite in your house!
This article can also be found on Naturopathic Pediatrics.
For a lot of my patients, eating breakfast can be a real challenge. Many people say they aren’t hungry until later in the day. Others say they don’t have time to fit in breakfast on top of getting ready, packing lunches, feeding pets, and getting out the door. Kids – teens especially – are also swept up in the crazy-hectic pace of the morning. Some families can’t afford breakfast for their kids, adding an extra challenge. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 8-12% of school-aged kids and 20-30% of adolescents and teens skip breakfast (1). But this is a meal kids shouldn’t skip for so many reasons.
When they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it’s true! Kids who skip breakfast are more likely to complain of stomach ache, backache, difficulty falling asleep, nervousness, and irritability (2). Kids who do eat breakfast feel more energetic, in a better mood, and have improved concentration and test scores. And eating breakfast, especially a high protein one, has been shown to lower the risk of being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (3-6). Even eating breakfast twice is beneficial (7-8)! Eating breakfast can make a huge difference in how your child feels now and in the long run, and is a great habit to form while still young.
Breakfast, Blood Sugar, and Metabolism
Breakfast is the meal where we break-the-fast after going all night without eating. Our blood sugar is lowest first thing in the morning and our bodies desperately crave food to boost it. Low blood sugar can make us feel tired, dizzy, hungry, weak, and nauseous. Eating breakfast increases blood sugar and makes us feel full, which decreases hunger and binge eating later in the day. When kids binge eat, they increase their daily intake of calories, which puts them at higher risk of being overweight or obese. And being overweight increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (4-8).
Breakfast is so important for metabolism and blood sugar balancing that even eating it twice can reduce weight gain in comparison to skipping breakfast. One study showed that kids who ate breakfast twice (at home and at school) showed no more or less weight gain than those who ate just one breakfast, whereas the kids who skipped breakfast or ate it irregularly were twice as likely to be overweight or obese than the double-breakfast eaters (7-8).
Kids who eat high carbohydrate meals also have a tendency to have behavioral issues. For more information see our article: How to improve your child’s behavior with blood sugar control
Eating Protein vs. Carbs
The type of food that’s eaten is also important for maintaining a healthy weight, energy level, and mood. In our society, we tend to eat carbohydrates for breakfast – things like cereal, toast, bagels, and pastries. Carbs raise blood sugar quickly, but result in a crash shortly thereafter. A quick drop in blood sugar will cause a person to crave more carbs to quickly raise the blood sugar again…and then they’ll crash…again. Many people live in a cycle of eating carbs and crashing, on repeat. Thankfully, this cycle can be broken by eating more protein, which balances blood sugar and reduces hunger and binge eating. Studies show that when adolescents eat a high protein breakfast (35 grams) versus a breakfast of cereal (13 grams), they are less hungry and take in fewer total calories per day, and so are less likely to gain weight (9-10). And since protein helps balance blood sugar, they’ll feel more energetic and in a better mood for longer.
More Brain Power!
The body is very smart and has built-in mechanisms to make sure the brain has enough fuel to function, even when we haven’t eaten in a while. But when we have eaten, the brain is able to function with much less effort. Not only do stable blood sugar levels improve energy and mood, but they also improve concentration and academic performance in kids. One study showed that kids who eat breakfast are twice as likely to score better on tests and assessments (3). Wow!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, HEALTHY BREAKFAST IDEAS FOR KIDS, which will talk about protein sources, avoiding coffee and juice, and healthy breakfast recipes.
This article can also be found on Naturopathic Pediatrics
Before becoming a mother, I thought people exaggerated just how much babies can cry. Ha! I know now that a minute of infant crying feels like an hour, especially when you’re a new parent. When my son was an infant, babywearing was the only thing that would calm him during what felt like never-ending crying spells. Just as his Dad was getting home from a long day, he would often cry inconsolably unless we held and rocked him continuously. He was well-fed with a clean diaper and wasn’t in any pain, he just wanted desperately to be held and cuddled. It became a nightly ritual for his Dad to wrap him on his chest and gently dance around to music. Within seconds his crying stopped, and within minutes he was dozing peacefully. It was such a special time for them to bond and be close to each other, and it was nice to get a little break for myself.
What’s so great about babywearing?
Just like it sounds, babywearing entails carrying a baby or toddler around in a sling, wrap, or other carrier. Physiologically, babywearing provides an increase in the bonding hormone Oxytocin for both you and baby, which increases your love for one another. As you face each other, chest-to-chest, your heart rate drops and hers normalizes. Your blood pressure decreases, along with your stress hormone, and respiratory rate. The heat of your body keeps her warm, she is swayed from side-to-side, and it’s as if she’s floating on your chest. Babywearing is truly as close to the womb as it gets, and babies love anything that reminds them of their first home inside Mom. It’s the ideal setting to embrace the symbiotic relationship between baby and parent, where you can respond quickly to her every need, envelop her in loving touch, and easily breastfeed (or hand her off to Mom) when it’s time (1-3).
Babywearing has been a part of most cultures for many centuries. When I think of a woman in a hunting and gathering society, I imagine her with a baby in a sling on her back or side. Just like us, she wanted to be physically close to her baby to know he was safe and happy. And he wanted to be close to her, too. He needed to know milk was available, that she would be responsive to his every need, and he wanted to be snuggled in a way that was very familiar.
Like us, those women lived the reality that as much as we want to hold our babies all day, sometimes we just need to get other things done. Babywearing provides a wonderful, hands-free way to do other things while simultaneously holding, rocking, and snuggling your baby. These days, we see more and more parents and grandparents babywearing as they do their groceries or walk around the park. Strollers are great for some things, but babywearing frees up your hands to do laundry, work at your computer, and play with your other kids. You can breastfeed while doing it, which sure is convenient. And best of all, babywearing decreases fussing and crying. Who doesn’t love that?
Why Do Babies Cry?
Compared to other animals, human babies are born on the early side. Other mammals gestate until their neurological systems are fully developed, which is why some animals can walk and get their own food within hours of being born. If our brains fully developed in utero, our heads would get too large to pass through the birth canal. This means that human babies are born with immature brains and have to learn how to walk, talk, and feed themselves as their neurological systems develop. This makes babies SUPER reliant on their parents for, well, everything. Human babies evolved to communicate when they need something in a way that their parents couldn’t ignore: a piercing scream and gasp for air, combined with an unpleasant facial expression. As a baby’s only way of communicating, crying acts as a protective mechanism to get her what she needs, ideally as quickly as possible (4-5).
Sometimes crying is an indication that a baby needs to be fed, changed, or has some sort of discomfort, but it’s often a request to be held and snuggled. Babies like to be held A LOT – and who can blame them? Adults love being snuggled, too! At some point you may notice your baby has different sounding cries for different things, which allows you to figure out what she needs more easily. Read about 7 Types of Baby Cries here.
Why Western Babies Cry More
All babies cry, and sometimes they cry a whole lot. You may have heard that African babies don’t cry, which isn’t exactly true, but when they do, it’s for a fraction of the time and intensity of Western babies. In many non-Western cultures, Colic isn’t even a medical diagnosis because babies cry so little. In these same cultures, they don’t have peak crying times, toddlers don’t have the “terrible twos,” and the concept of a “difficult” child doesn’t exist because children aren’t typically difficult. Sounds like some weird utopia, right (4-5)?
In North America and Europe, we’re told it’s normal for a baby to cry for more than 2 hours per day during the first few weeks of life, followed by a decrease in crying, then an increase again at 6-8 weeks. We’re also told it’s normal for babies to cry a lot in the late afternoon and evening. Your parents and grandparents were probably encouraged to let their babies cry themselves to sleep in an effort to teach them to “self-soothe” and develop independence. They may still think this is the best approach and may encourage you to use it. In addition to a more hands-off approach, the 1950s and 1960s also brought about a push for more bottle feeding, leaving babies to sleep alone, and creating strict sleep and feeding schedules. The goal was to get babies to conform to our busy, modern lifestyle while instilling self-reliance, something our society highly values. However, these practices are counter to our evolution as a synergistic pair, where we follow our baby’s natural rhythm and respond to his needs as they arise (4-6).
As we know, babies and toddlers are not at all independent. They rely on us for basic survival and nurturing for several years. As a result of the practices described above, we now see less holding and touching of babies, lower breastfeeding rates, and less co-sleeping, all of which are less than ideal for healthy attachment and happy kids. Since Western babies aren’t getting their basic needs met as well, they have to ask for more help in the only way they know how – through crying (4-5,7).
Ignoring a crying baby goes against our deepest instincts as parents. A recent study showed that new and experienced mothers all over the world respond to their crying babies in exactly the same way – by promptly picking them up, holding, and talking to them. What this tells us is that we are universally hard-wired to respond quickly to our babies, and to hold and reassure them, not to ignore their cries (8).
Excessive crying puts immense stress on the delicate and immature neurological system of an infant. What we know from recent studies is that early stress on the developing brain can be detrimental to attachment and bonding, which can cause emotional, cognitive, memory, social, and behavioral problems down the line. Babywearing is an opportunity to decrease crying and improve attachment, which benefits both parents and babies (4-5, 7, 9-10).
What traditional cultures can teach us: Babywearing rocks!
In many cultures, and for most of human history, babies spend the majority of their time being carried in a sling attached to a parent, sibling, or community member. Babies are integrated into traditional cultures from the earliest point and raised with the help of the larger community. Parents from those societies can’t fathom putting their children down for even a brief time, much less sleeping away from them or bottle feeding them. When a mother in a hunting and gathering society goes out to gather food, her baby goes with her. A baby on a hip can continuously breastfeed without having to cry out for food. Instead of diapers, the sling is padded with straw and switched out as needed, so baby never even has to be taken out the sling to be changed (that is obviously not the case for us). A baby who is getting her need for closeness met doesn’t have to cry out to be picked up and held. These babies get everything they need in the babywearing setting, which makes for less crying and overall happier babies (4-5).
In the industrialized world, most of us have to work outside of the home and can’t take our babies with us. But even a few hours of babywearing per day can make a big difference in crying and healthy attachment. One study showed that young infants who were carried just 3 hours per day cried and fussed 43% less overall, and 51% less during the evening hours. The babies were found to be generally happier during the hours they were awake, and they didn’t experience a peak in crying at 6 weeks. What an incredible parenting tool! Less crying in your baby means you’ll be happier, too. And we know that happy parents make for happy babies, so everyone wins (4-5, 11).
Alright, I’m sold. Where can I learn more about babywearing?
Most baby carriers have instructional videos online, or you may want to ask a seasoned babywearer to help you learn how to use it. Babywearing International has chapters all over the US that can help you figure out which carrier is best for your family. Your local chapter may have a lending library where you can check out carriers for a small fee. You can usually try them on at the meetings and it’s a great opportunity to meet other families and babywearers. The Babywearer is an online forum dedicated to answering all your babywearing questions and there are several books about babywearing and attachment parenting you can check out.
So what are these ABC’s of Babywearing? And why are they important?
It is incredibly important to select the right baby carrier and to make sure your baby is positioned appropriately. Incorrect baby carrying can lead to hip dysplasia (read more about that here). Even worse, selecting the wrong carrier or not paying attention to the the ABC’s can lead to death by suffocation. (See this article about the now-recalled Infanto Baby Sling or SlingRider.)
A = Airway
Make sure your baby’s airway is open by keeping the chin off the chest and allowing fresh air to circulate around the face. Her head should be visible at all times and close enough to kiss. Snoring is not cute! Snoring is a sign that your baby’s airway is not fully open. Adjust your baby so you hear minimal snores and noises. Newborn babies can have their head flop over very easily and compress their airways – check frequently to make sure your baby is breathing and has a nice pink color.
B = Body positioning
If she’s too young to hold up her own head, make sure it’s supported and her body is not slumped. In young babies, legs should be in an M shape with the knees higher than the bum, and in older babies, the thighs should be supported by the carrier. (See more in our article Baby wearing safely (and why I don’t like the Baby Bjorn).
C = Comfort
Make sure you and baby are comfortable and that you feel confident once the carrier is on. It may take you a few tries to get it right. You will probably get hot from all that snuggling, so you may want to take your shirt off before putting on the carrier (assuming you’re in a private place). Babies love skin-to-skin contact and when you need to breastfeed, it will make things easier.
For more information check out Baby Wearing International and their post on baby wearing safety. (It has lots of great pictures showing examples of how to baby wear safely!)
What to do if your baby is still crying. (When to See A Doctor and When to Ask for Help.)
Babies only cry when they have a reason to, so if your baby is crying inconsolably and you’ve tried everything under the sun to comfort her, it’s worth a visit to the doctor to make sure there’s nothing physically wrong.
Excessive crying can be very stressful for parents. If you feel like you might do something to harm yourself or your baby, it’s okay to put the baby down and walk away. Please, please walk away if you need to! Call a friend to come over and relieve you or hand the baby over to your partner, and consider having a visit with your doctor to assess for postpartum depression and anxiety.
This article can also be found on Naturopathic Pediatrics.
Oh, is there anything better than summer? Gardens flourish, lakes and rivers warm up for swimming, days are long, and vacation awaits. It's as if winter never was!
The summer solstice always reminds me to soak up the light - while we have it - and embrace the hope and newness of the season. One of my favorite herbs for Depression, St. John's Wort, is traditionally harvested at the summer solstice. Ancient cultures believed many herbs hit their peak medicinal value at the solstice. St. John's Wort is thought to also harness the energetic properties of the year's longest - and lightest - day. I always think of this when prescribing St. John's Wort to patients, especially when they're struggling with low mood in the dead of winter. I like to think of St. John's Wort as gracing someone with the light of summer during what can feel like such a dark time.
May you embrace the light of summer and enjoy all that it brings your way. Wishing you and your family much health and wellness!
This article can also be found on Naturopathic Pediatrics.
Exposure to poison ivy, oak, and sumac causes an estimated 10 – 50 million cases of contact dermatitis per year. This itchy, blistering, hot rash can be especially unpleasant for children. Kids may not be able to stop themselves from scratching the rash, and may not understand the idea that it’s only temporary and will pass. Reassure them that while it feels like the rash is lasting forever, it will probably be gone within a week or so.
This post talks about some ways you can protect your kids from poison ivy before it occurs, including a homeopathic remedy that can be given for long-term prevention. Topical treatments can be helpful for cooling the area and decreasing itchiness, and there are lots of options – most of which are common household items.
Prevention: Avoidance and Washing
Preventing exposure to poison ivy can be tricky with kids, because they may not be old enough to know that they shouldn’t dash into a weedy patch without checking for it first. When your children are old enough, teach them what it looks like and encourage them to avoid it. If you know you’ll be in an area with poison ivy, dress your child in light-weight long pants, socks, and close-toed shoes (boots ideally). I know it’s summer time, but covering up helps prevent exposure to both poison ivy and ticks, and neither are things you want to mess with.
The rash is caused by an oil in poison ivy, oak, and sumac called Urushiol. If your child is exposed, put vinyl gloves on and wash the area with lukewarm soapy water, ideally within 20-30 minutes of contact. If possible, give your child a full shower just in case some of the oil was transferred from the exposed area to a different body part, and be sure to scrub under the finger nails.
The plant Jewelweed has been used topically by Native Americans for hundreds of years to both prevent and treat poison ivy. Jewelweed contains something called saponins, which act as a soapy substance to break down poison ivy oil. Using Jewelweed soap after exposure has been shown to reduce poison ivy rash. If you are hiking or in a remote area where you don’t have access to water, spraying an exposed area with Topical Jewelweed Spray can help remove Urushiol. You can continue using the soap and spray until the rash is gone, as Jewelweed is also a great treatment for poison ivy.
Buy Jewelweed Soap here
Buy Jewelweed Topical Spray here
The oil from poison ivy can remain on clothes and shoes for up to five years! Toss clothing and washable shoes in the washer and do two cycles for good measure. If the shoes aren’t washable, wear vinyl gloves and thoroughly clean them with rubbing alcohol. If you didn’t know your child was exposed until a rash appeared, wash all their bedding and clothing that may have been exposed to the oil. Animals can bring the oil in on their fur and claws (pets don’t get the rash), so if your animals get into poison ivy, put on some vinyl gloves and give them a good washing.
Natural Topical Treatments
The first time your child is exposed, they may not develop a rash. The rash usually appears 12-72 hours after exposure, but can take up to a week to appear if it’s their first rash. It typically lasts 1 week, but can last up to 3 weeks. You may have heard that scratching the rash can spread it, but what looks like spreading is actually a delayed reaction to the oil. Scratching, however, can cause an infection, so put socks on your child’s hands at night if they are likely to scratch a lot in their sleep (same for adults). Poison ivy is not contagious, even if someone else touches the rash or the fluid from a blister. A person has to have been exposed directly to the oil from the plant in order to get the rash.
Topical treatments will likely need to be done 3-6 times per day during the height of the rash. Most of the treatments are done with items you probably already have at home. These topical treatments cool the rash, decrease itching, and also work to heal the rash. Baths should be done with cool water, since heat will make the rash worse. Since young kids may want to touch topical applications and put them in their mouth, I’ve selected things that aren’t harmful if ingested in small amounts, but don’t let them make a meal of it .
Here’s a video demo of how to make a compress by one of our affiliates, Mountain Rose Herbs.
Prevention and Treatment with Homeopathic Rhus Toxicodendron
Rhus Toxicodendron (aka Rhus Tox) is a homeopathic preparation of poison ivy. Homeopathy uses very small doses of substances to stimulate healing in the body. Here’s a great explanation of how homeopathy works.
Some kids are especially susceptible to poison ivy, either because they spend a lot of time outside or because they aren’t very aware of their surroundings (they are kids after all!). The rash can be really hard to tolerate as a child and can keep them out of commission when they’d rather be having fun. Oh, and the sleep deprivation that can come with it! Rhus Tox has long been used as a preventive remedy for poison ivy with good success. One study looked at giving homeopathic Rhus Tox to people who worked outside and couldn’t avoid being exposed to poison ivy. They took the remedy for the duration of poison ivy season. Nearly 77% of patients either had no poison ivy that season, or had milder attacks. Homeopathy is really easy to take and it tastes great. The preventive dose is just one pellet per month during poison ivy season. So easy!
Preventive Dose of Homeopathic Rhus Tox 30c: Let 1 pellet dissolve under the tongue once per month from March to November.
Rhus Tox is also a great treatment for acute poison ivy. I love using homeopathy in kids because it’s so easy to take, and when you find the right remedy, it works really well. Rhus tox is a great remedy for the rash that feels worse when scratched (usually scratching provides relief), and stings and burns, especially at night. It is great for a restless child who never keeps still, even while sleeping (constant tossing and turning) and who tends to be on the chilly side. Dosing of Rhus Tox for acute poison ivy differs from person to person, so check with your Naturopathic Doctor about what dose is right for your child.
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When to See a Doctor
Most cases of poison ivy can be safely treated at home, but if any of the following are the case, see your doctor:
This article can also be found on Naturopathic Pediatrics.
Our modern life is so stressful, isn’t it? It’s no wonder that our sweet and sensitive kids can become overwhelmed by the world’s many pressures and expectations. Our blog has several great articles about the naturopathic approach to treating anxiety in children that I encourage you to check out. Today I’ll talk about 3 herbs that are known all over the world to help soothe anxiety, improve sleep, reduce stress, and restore a frazzled nervous system. They are 3 of my favorite herbs – Chamomile, Passionflower, and Ashwagandha – and I can’t wait to tell you more about them.
Do you need some help with stress and anxiety, too? Let’s face it – parenting is hard and parenting an anxious child can add an extra layer of stress. The good news is, these herbs are gentle and safe for the whole family – breastfeeding moms included (1-2). That said, since everyone has a different health history, you’ll want to check with your Naturopathic Doctor or Clinical Herbalist about whether or not these herbs are appropriate for you. Your practitioner can also determine the best dose for you and your child, as dosing is determined by weight, medical history, and other supplements or medications you might be taking.
Giving herbs to kids: taste matters
Herbal medicine can be incredible at reducing stress and anxiety and improving quality of life. I prefer to give herbs to kids in the form of a tea or a glycerite tincture, as they taste good and are easy to take. Most children will drink tea with a little bit of lemon and honey or maple syrup. You can also add some Stevia leaf tea to give the herbal tea some natural sweetness. Many kids grow to love the ritual of a cup of tea before bed or sipping on tea throughout the day and find it very comforting.
Glycerite tinctures are another great way to give herbs to kids and they taste fantastic. Tinctures are liquid extractions of herbs that are given through a dropper – as drops or as droppers-ful of liquid. Traditionally, herbs are extracted in alcohol, but for use in kids we use vegetable glycerin, as it tastes sweet and is safer for children. Tinctures can be taken alone or in a bit of water, tea, or unsweetened coconut water and work best if taken away from meals.
Okay, let’s meet these lovely herbs for calming.
1. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Most people have tried Chamomile as a tea and enjoy its sweet and floral smell and relaxing effects. A favorite herb around the world, Chamomile is especially known to be gentle and safe for very young children, even babies. On the Greek Isle of Crete, right after a baby is born, Mom’s breasts are washed with Chamomile before the baby first nurses. When visitors come, they ask if the baby has drunk the Chamomile yet, as it’s a sign that she is healthy and ready to be a part of the community. In Central and South America, Chamomile is traditionally given to babies for a range of ailments, including colic, teething, and sleep concerns – all of which tend to show up as irritation and restlessness (ie anxiety). I usually recommend breastmilk only for a baby under 6 months old, but a breastfeeding mom looking to soothe a fussy baby can take Chamomile and the baby will get some benefit along with mom. In older kids, Chamomile is great for an upset stomach or diarrhea from nervousness, stress headaches, and trouble calming down for bedtime (1-5).
Uses of Chamomile:
Tea: Most kids like the taste of Chamomile tea alone, but feel free to add honey if you need to (remember, no honey for babies under age 1). Brew 1-4 cups in the morning and sip throughout the day (I love to sip on iced Chamomile, myself). If bedtime is the hardest time of day, you might just give a cup before bed. If mealtime is the hardest time because of tummy upset with anxiety, give a cup before meals.
Chamomile tincture: Can be dosed 1-3 times per day or as needed. Give before bed or meals if anxiety is worse at those times.
Buy Chamomile Tea (loose leaf)
Buy Chamomile Glycerite Tincture
Never tried loose leaf tea? Check out this video about How to Make Tea with Loose Herbs from our affiliate, Mountain Rose Herbs.
2. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Passionflower is commonly used to treat anxiety and mild-moderate sleep concerns, as well as depression. It is especially useful for sleeplessness associated with stress where circular thinking prevents the brain from shutting off (1). It can be used in kids who have restlessness or hyperactivity, stress headaches, and a racing heart. It is commonly used in teenagers with these concerns.
Uses of Passionflower:
Tea: Brew 1-4 cups in the morning and sip throughout the day. Mix with other nervine herbs, such as Chamomile, Lemon Balm, and Milky Oats, adding a natural sweetener if needed. Drink before bedtime for a sedative benefit, also for stress-related headaches and restlessness.
Passionflower tincture: Can be dosed 1-3 times per day or as needed. Give before bed if your child has difficulty falling asleep due to racing thoughts and worry. Can give in the middle of the night for insomnia. Recently, my toddler was wide awake in the middle of the night, flip-flopping around for what felt like an hour before I remembered the Passionflower glycerite in the medicine cabinet. I gave him some and he was back to sleep within minutes. Phew!
Buy Passionflower Tea (loose leaf)
Buy Passionflower Glycerite Tincture
3. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha has been used in the Ayurvedic tradition in India for over 4,000 years. This calming adaptogen has long been used in children and adults as a restorative tonic for the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. This herb is especially useful in kids who are exhausted from stress, complain of body aches, get sick easily, and have trouble sleeping. Adaptogenic herbs work to improve the body’s ability to adapt to and resist stress. It is great for improving memory and mental clarity, increasing energy, and providing deep sleep (1-4).
Uses of Ashwagandha:
Ashwagandha doesn’t taste so great as a tea, so I’ve included a link to capsules in case your child prefers taking a capsule instead of a tincture.
Ashwagandha tincture: Can be dosed 1-3 times per day or as needed. Give before bed if sleep concerns.
Ashwagandha Capsules: Check with your ND or herbalist about appropriate dosing for your child. Can be taken 1-2 times/day or right before bed to improve sleep.
Buy Ashwagandha Glycerite Tincture
Buy Ashwagandha Capsules
Some of the world’s finest discoveries have been made by accident when something went “wrong” with the original plan. This recipe is no different. 😉
One night while making sushi, I unintentionally ripped off the corner of a stack of Nori, and it wasn’t possible to create sushi rolls. My husband suggested that we just throw all of the components together to make a bowl, so that's what we did. Yum! What a great way to get protein, veggies, whole grain, and beneficial fats all in one place. I've seen sushi bowls on the menu of restaurants, but admit I'd never tried one until we made it at home. It has added some variety to dinner. It’s also less work than making rolls, which is kind of nice. My favorite part is the ginger and wasabi dispersed throughout the dish, with bites of Nori in between. The raw veggies add such a wonderful lightness to the dish and cut the spiciness of the wasabi. We’ve made it several times since, and it’s fun to switch up the veggies and protein a little bit each time. Enjoy!
Makes 3-4 Servings.
Concerned about too much Arsenic in rice? Soaking it overnight and cooking it with extra water can reduce the Arsenic content by up to 82%. Here’s more about that.
Instructions: Layer bowl with rice, protein, raw veggies, and fats. Top with small pieces of Nori, pickled ginger, wasabi, and tamari or liquid aminos, as desired. Stir together and enjoy!
This article can also be found on Naturopathic Pediatrics.
My baby is exclusively breastfed and has never eaten solids, but seems to react to my milk. What could be causing it?
Proteins from the foods you eat are passed to your baby through your breastmilk and may be causing an allergic or hypersensitivity reaction. The foods that most commonly cause these reactions in young children are cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, gluten, soy, tree nuts, corn, fish, and shellfish. The allergies show up as digestive issues, skin rashes, and respiratory concerns, and often with multiple symptoms at once.1,2 If you or close family members have food allergies, your baby is more likely to have them as well.2
This post will provide you with resources to eliminate allergenic foods from your diet to find out if they’re causing your little one discomfort. Later you will test the foods to see if your baby has outgrown the reaction. Most babies outgrow these early food reactions somewhere between the ages of 1-3.1,2 We recommend doing the Elimination / Challenge Diet under the supervision of a Naturopathic Doctor, as we are extensively trained and experienced in the areas of diet and nutrition.
There are different types of immune reactions your baby might be having when reacting to allergenic foods. The rarest, but most serious, is a true allergy (IgE-mediated), which happens within 2 hours of eating and can result in anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition. More commonly, it is a delayed sensitivity reaction that causes Gastrointestinal symptoms like loose stools, diarrhea, bloody stools, constipation, abdominal pain (colic), vomiting, and reflux.2 Sensitivity reactions occur within a couple of hours to a couple of days of exposure to an allergenic food. While they are not life-threatening, sensitivity reactions can increase inflammation in the gut, alter the immune cells of babies, and increase Immunogloblin G (IgG) for the specific foods.2,3,4 Read our great article about the different types of allergic and sensitivity reactions for more details.
Symptoms of food allergies and sensitivities:
Why does everyone think the problem is dairy?
When you talk about your baby’s Colic, Eczema, or Ear Infections to friends and family, they might suggest that dairy is causing the issue. The reason for this is that Cow’s Milk Allergy (CMA) is the most common food allergy in young children, and has been studied more than any other food allergy. Approximately 2-8% of formula-fed babies and 0.5% of breastfed babies experience Cow’s Milk Allergy.5,6,7 Since food allergies are on the rise and are believed to be under-reported and under-diagnosed, these numbers may actually be higher.1,8 In breastfed babies, the most common symptoms of a milk allergy are eczema and bloody stools.2,6,10 Removing dairy from your diet is the best way to find out if it’s causing your baby’s problem and will provide the quickest relief if it is. But more on that in a bit.
Most formulas on the market are made with dairy. Cow’s Milk Allergy is less common and less severe in breastfed babies than formula-fed babies, because they encounter fewer milk proteins in Mom’s milk than babies who drink actual cow’s milk in formula.2 Breastmilk remains the perfect and preferred food for your baby, so keep it up! Maintaining breastfeeding is the best way to prevent an allergy to cow’s milk. It also decreases the risk of developing other allergies and sensitivities by providing beneficial immune complexes and diverse gut flora.2,4
Dairy Foods: Milk, cream, ice cream, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, butter, casein or caseinate, and whey. Lactaid contains casein and whey, the allergenic proteins in milk, and should be avoided. Goat and sheep’s milk should also be avoided by a breastfeeding Mom during the elimination period.
FUN FACTOID: Cow’s Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance in young children are often confused, but Lactose Intolerance is extremely rare in kids under the age of 2. Young children have plenty of Lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the sugar Lactose, so that they can process all that yummy breastmilk.
What other foods could be causing it?
Other than dairy, the most common allergenic foods are eggs, peanuts, gluten, soy, tree nuts, corn, fish, and shellfish.5,6 At least 50% of kids with a milk sensitivity will react to one or more other foods in addition.9 Other foods known to aggravate babies’ sensitive tummies are onions, spicy foods, brassica vegetables, nightshades, citrus, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
What do I do now? The Elimination / Challenge Diet.
Removing potentially allergenic foods from your diet is the only way to know for sure if your baby is reacting to the foods you’re eating. It is also the quickest way to get your baby feeling well if she is indeed reacting adversely to foods. Breastfeeding Mama, I know you have lot going on right now! It pains me to think this process might add to the stress of caring for an infant. That said, it is so very important to remove all the allergenic foods at once in order to get your baby feeling better as quickly as possible. Remember that this is a temporary process that lasts about 5-8 weeks. One benefit is that once you’re done with the diet, you will know if you’re also reacting to these allergenic foods. This process might make you feel better, in addition to your baby!
If you have known food reactions but fell off the wagon with avoiding them during pregnancy, (GUILTY!) be sure to remove them from your diet even if they aren’t included on the elimination list. Since babies are exposed to Mom’s immune cells during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it’s possible your baby is reacting to the same foods as you.4,8
So, what is the Elimination / Challenge Diet? Our very handy e-book about the diet can be purchased here. It is meant to be used along with the guidance of a Naturopathic Doctor. The Elimination portion entails removing the most allergenic foods from your diet for at least a 2 week period. Most baby’s symptoms improve within 2 weeks, but sometimes it takes longer. If you don’t see improvement within 2-3 weeks, return to your Naturopathic Doctor to further work-up the issue and rule out causes other than a food reaction. Be VERY careful to continue to consume enough calories to maintain good breastmilk supply.
Foods to remove:
As you need sufficient fat and calories as a breastfeeding Mom, a restrictive diet like this can feel challenging. But it is doable! Check out this great article about a similar diet, which provides links to helpful recipes and pointers on getting through it. This article with Gluten Free, Dairy Free Snack Ideas is also a great resource.
Reintroducing the foods: The Challenge portion.
The Challenge part of the diet helps you figure out which food or foods are causing your baby’s symptoms and takes 3-4 weeks to complete. Look out for changes in your own body as well, as you might benefit from avoiding certain foods even when your baby outgrows his sensitivities. If your baby’s symptoms resolved within 2 weeks, you can start testing each of the allergenic foods individually. If her symptoms have improved but not resolved entirely, stick with the elimination portion for another 2 weeks.2,5 You will test one food at a time every other day until you’ve tested all of them. You will eat the allergenic food in its purest form (not mixed with any other ingredients) at all 3 meals on the day you test the food. Watch for symptoms in your baby similar to the ones you saw when she first reacted – most commonly GI, skin, and respiratory issues. If your baby reacts at the first or second meal on test day, do not eat the food again that day and remove it from your diet entirely. If your baby doesn’t react that day or the next day, add the food back into your diet. It’s helpful to keep a log about what you tested, when, and associated symptoms, as it can be a lot to keep track of.
If your baby still reacts to a food, strictly remove it from your diet for 6 months, at which point you’ll test it again.2,6 When the time comes, check with your doctor about if and when it’s appropriate to introduce an allergenic food as a solid to your child, as this varies from case to case.
Do not reintroduce foods to which your baby has a suspected or confirmed IgE allergy, as this can be dangerous. Consult with your doctor about the timing of reintroducing these foods, and if it should be done in a clinical setting.
What about Food Sensitivity Testing?
Testing for IgG sensitivities is not recommended in kids under 2.5-3 years old, as their immune systems are just too immature to produce accurate results.3 The good news is that Mom can undergo sensitivity testing, which can be very helpful in a situation like this. While it has some drawbacks, I do a lot of Food Sensitivity Testing in my practice and find it helpful in detecting reactions to foods not included in the elimination diet. The complete Elimination / Challenge diet combined with Food Sensitivity Testing provides the most information about which foods to avoid and is the ideal approach, when possible.
When will it go away?
Hang tight! Most kids outgrow their sensitivities by 3 years of age. If your child has a true allergy to a substance, it may take longer to outgrow it, but most do by age 16.2 Food allergies and sensitivities can be complicated to navigate. Find a practitioner – ideally a Naturopathic Doctor – who you trust to guide you through it. And don’t forget to check out our Elimination / Challenge guide, which includes step-by-step instructions for the diet.
It's that time of year when my patients come in STRESSED to the max. During the holidays, we're expected to be cheery and bright, but instead find ourselves frazzled, broke, and tired. In my practice, I see an increase in immune concerns, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and plenty of GI complaints from all those cookies. Winter is already the perfect storm for feeling blue and getting sick - we exercise less, get less sun, less fresh air, eat poorly - and the stress of the holidays can be a tipping point for many people.
How to Buffer Yourself:
Depression & Anxiety: If you are feeling blue, please know that you're not alone. And you're not a Scrooge if you don't enjoy December - you are reacting normally to societal expectations that are not normal. Thankfully, most people do not overeat, overspend, and overplan year - round, so remember that this chaotic time of year is only temporary. If you're having a hard time with lack of daylight, consider using a sunlamp, which studies have shown help not only with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but also with routine Depression. Recognize when your Depression or Anxiety is too much to handle alone. Psychology Today has a great search tool for finding a therapist near you and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 / 7: 1-800-273-8255.
Diet: Eat 3 meals per day during this time to aid in balancing your blood sugar. Blood sugar spikes and crashes, such as what our bodies go through when we eat too many carbs, can contribute greatly to fatigue and mood issues. Make a game of balancing out the sweets: for every cookie, eat a handful of nuts, veggies, or protein to help prevent a blood sugar spike and subsequent crash. Drinking plenty of water can help flush out the toxins of bad food and too much eggnog and helps in preventing colds and flus.
Exercise: Don't forget to move a bit. Walking around the mall counts! Can't afford a gym membership? Work out at home with videos on YouTube or other free sites. I love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube for short relaxing yoga videos.
Acupuncture: People who get it regularly come to crave Acupuncture for the deep relaxation it can provide. Acupuncture reduces stress and helps regulate mood and sleep. We offer Acupuncture at our office and talk more about its benefits in this article.
Finances: Consider making home-made gifts, limiting your gift-exchange to just the most important members of your family (partner, parents, kids), or bartering.
Supplements: This section could go on infinitely, but I've included just a few supplements for managing stress and mood:
Self-care is a must in this hectic whirlwind world of ours. Before our recent move, I had self-care scheduled into my days regularly. Wild that it's come to that, isn't it? We must schedule relaxation and self-care, because if we don't, it probably won't happen. But I'm okay with scheduled relaxation, because I NEED it. We all do.
I'm still on the lookout for a new Chiropractor and Acupuncturist and other supportive practitioners, and since outdoor exercise has gone to Florida with the snowbirds, I've been doing short yoga videos to break up the day and get some exercise. I'm at home with my toddler part-time right now, which is an enormous blessing, but starting up a new business, still kinda wrapping up an old one, settling into a new place, and taking care of a toddler is...er...challenging.
Most days, the practice is abandoned halfway through when my 14-month-old son leaves the room or otherwise needs my attention. Some days, he gets very excited that I'm hanging out on the floor with him doing fun stretches and he takes it as an opportunity to crawl on me or nurse or just snuggle, which is therapeutic in itself. Occasionally, I get to do the entire practice uninterrupted while he plays by himself or with the cat or his Dad. But no matter the outcome, I take comfort in the video playing in the background in the chaos of life, reminding me to breathe, sit with my body, and take a little break. Even if I only get in a few minutes, I always feel better like a better version of myself afterward.
What Do you Do for Self-Care?
PS Found this great article and picture looking for the perfect image for this post
We offer an array of Vitamin Shots to address a variety of conditions. The shots are minimally painful and are given in the gluteus or deltoid muscle. Since the nutrients are absorbed through blood vessels in your muscles, malabsorption issues in the gut can be bypassed and higher quantities of nutrients absorbed than when you take a similar product orally. This method of vitamin delivery is especially useful for people with chronic gastrointestinal conditions, people with known absorption issues, and for those with lower dietary intake of B vitamins, such as vegans and vegetarians.
Most of our shots contain vitamin B12, a nutrient that is utilized by almost every biochemical process in the body. Try a basic B12 shot or a B Ready Plus Shot, which includes B12, B Complex, and Folate. Have a Methylation issue? Don't worry, we use only the active forms of B12 (Methylcobalamin) and Folate (Methyl Folate) in our injections.
We have shots for weight loss and hormone balancing and also offer combination homeopathic formulas to enhance the immune system, aid with muscle pain, and reduce joint pain. Injections are $25 each and these appointments last just a few minutes.
Vitamin Shots Treat:
Genetic testing can be useful for identifying the root cause of certain conditions and guiding treatment choices. MTHFR Mutation is a condition where the enzyme MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase) functions at a much lower rate than normal. Without adequate functioning of this enzyme, a biochemical process called Methylation is limited and effected individuals can't make the active forms of Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid very well. Without proper forms of these vitamins in adequate doses, a vast array of conditions can manifest, including Cardiovascular Disease, Fatigue, Infertility, Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, ADHD, and more. Treating the mutation is relatively straightforward. It simply requires taking the active forms of the vitamins, either through a Multivitamin or a Methyl B Complex. Conventional B complex formulas such as those found at pharmacies and health food stores do not contain the proper form of these vitamins and may worsen some conditions.
Once the nutritional deficiency is corrected, most people feel better within a few weeks and some even experience complete resolution of their symptoms. It is estimated that 40-50% of people have MTHFR and the vast majority doesn't know they have it. Testing for this condition can be ordered by your physician and is usually covered by insurance. This genetic testing is especially important for people who are at increased risk of having lower levels of B vitamins, such as vegans and vegetarians, and people taking pharmaceuticals. In the event that you haven't been tested, all the Multivitamins we carry contain the active forms of B12 (Methylcobalamin, Adenosylcobalamin, or Hydroxycobalamin) and Folate (5-MTHF). Additionally, all of our Intramuscular Vitamin Shots are made with Methylcobalamin.
I recently came upon my Grandparents' engagement announcement and noticed this paragraph below it referencing a very potent insecticide. The year was 1946 and they were likely talking about DDT
(dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), which had been released for agricultural use in 1945. DDT was first studied by the American Military in 1942 and was used during World War II to combat malaria, typhus, and other insect-borne diseases. It was first touted as a miracle chemical for its supposed public health benefits. Little did they know how long this insecticide would persist in both the environment and in human tissue and how it would later be linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, immune dysfunction, neurological conditions, and cancer. DDT was later classified by the EPA as a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) and was banned for use in the U.S. in 1972, although we continue to produce and sell DDT to other countries.
DDT is only one example of the hundreds of toxic chemicals we're exposed to by simply living (and living simply?) on our planet. From pesticides and antibiotics in our food, fluoride in our water, pollutants in our air to chemicals in plastics and on our furniture, the knowledge that we are literally surrounded by toxins can be very overwhelming. And scary.
So, here are a few basics for every day detoxing and living as clean a lifestyle as possible:
Not only is exercise good for your mood and physique, but sweating eliminates toxins. Saunas are amazingly effective for sweating, as well.
With every exhale you are removing toxins that have accumulated in your lungs. Whether through meditation, yoga, exercise, or daily breathing exercises, breathing it out is a good thing.
Our kidneys, liver, and intestines are the filters for toxins, so flushing them out is incredibly important. This means drinking a sufficient amount of water (1/2 of your bodyweight in ounces per day) and having as many bowel movements per day as you do meals (yes, really!).
If you can eat all organic, please do so, but at the very least, avoid the dirty dozen - the produce that is exposed to the highest levels of pesticides. The complete list can be found on the Environmental Working Group's website.
Ditch the chemicals
All of them - including cleaning products, shampoo, cosmetics, soaps, and detergents. If they're not natural, they're bombarding your home and body with toxins which confuse your endocrine system, contribute to allergies, and suppress your immune system.
Detoxing is tough work and the body can use a boost to eliminate effectively and efficiently. Many of our Naturopathic modalities can help, such as botanicals, homeopathy, and acupuncture. Since everyone is different, talk to your doctor about the right herbs or remedy for your situation.
The art and science of Acupuncture has been perfected over the last 2,000 years. Ancient Chinese texts indicate they were carving needles out of stone and placing them in very specific points on the body for therapeutic benefit, just as is done today. Thankfully, modern-day needles are made out of stainless steel and are only about as thick as a strand of hair. These fine needles are placed in points along meridians that run through our bodies. To determine what points to use, the practitioner takes the pulse and looks at the tongue to make a Chinese Medicine diagnosis and then creates a treatment protocol based on each patient's individual presentation.
What can Acupuncture treat?
Does it hurt?
Needle-phobes can rest assured that being stuck with an Acupuncture needle is far less painful than having one's blood drawn or getting an IV. In phlebotomy and IV therapy, hallow needles are used so that a specimen may be collected or administered, whereas Acupuncture needles are solid and far thinner in size. When the needle is inserted you may feel a small pinch or nothing at all. Sometimes people feel movement of energy or blood through the meridians during treatment, which is normal.
What can I expect during the treatment?
On your first visit we will conduct an intake to review your health concerns and brief medical history. Then, needles will be placed on points that run along meridians, found throughout the body. Most of the needles will be placed on your hands, arms, lower legs, and feet, so it's important to wear loose, comfortable clothes to access these areas. Some needles may also be placed in your ears and head. Once the needles are in, you may move around slightly to scratch an itch or get into a more comfortable position, but it's best to stay still and use the session as an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate. This will allow the needles to have the optimal effect. Some people sleep during their treatment, while others simply relax. Treatments last anywhere from 30-60 minutes.
Dr. Michelle Haff is a Naturopathic Doctor at Lilac Natural Medicine in Manchester, New Hampshire. Her practice focuses on Pediatrics, Infertility, GI Health, and Women’s Medicine. She is a Primary Care Provider for the whole family and loves treating kids from pre-conception into their teens, as well as adults of all ages.
Schedule with Dr. Haff at Lilac Natural Medicine.