Thursday, February 28, 2008

I HATE the flu

Nicky and I are both down with the flu today. Oh Lord Almighty do I feel terrible~ I was worshipping the porceline god all night and Nicky threw up 3 times as well. You know its bad when you are using the toilet and sink at the same time. Yuck! I am so miserable. I have kept down water and Gatorade and ginger ale since this morning, thank goodness, but don't even want to think about food. It seems like we have had a very bad winter in our household for illnesses. While I have heard that its been a bad winter in general for that kind of stuff, I still have to wonder what has our immune systems compromised to the point that we seem to keep picking up all these bugs.

I just realized that before this flu, Nicky and I were partaking in way too much dairy again. This sucks - I really had hoped that if I cut out the liquid milk, I could keep the yogart and cheese and occasional ice cream in our diets. But our allergy issues are making themselves known loud and clear. Dairy will really need to be a "sometimes food" (or an almost never food) for us.

All this thought about nutrition has me realizing that maybe a bunch of soda and sugary sports drinks, although hydrating and helpful due to the electrolytes and calming effect of the fizzies on one's tummy, might not be the healthies thing to feed my body when it really needs good nutrition to get back up and running. A friend in my parenting group mentioned how coconut milk or juice is really high in electrolytes and is a whole food, of course, so that would be a better choice. I will bank that knowledge for next time (hopefully a long, long time from now) we get sick. Beyond dairy, I think that our diet, in general, in our family just needs to get back in balance. The emphasis needs to be on good old fruits and vegetables close to their natural state and much less on meat and grains and dairy.

I don't know what happened after I gave birth to Nicky to throw my system into such upheaval, especially after I thought I had such a great and healthy pregnancy, but I want my health back. I am planning a trip to the doctor to evaluate for hyperthyroidism (due to all my weight loss), iron deficiency, and whatever else my doc thinks is prudent. I so hope that I get answers but that the news won't be bad. I might have to dig into the allergy thing, or at least treating it, more with a naturopathic doctor since most allergists only or mainly deal with more severe allergies, especially when you're talking about food allergies, and don't really address the nutrition side that much like I would like. Anyway, health is too precious a thing to let stubborness or ignorance sabatoge it. People may think that cutting dairy is just too weird or out there, but if it helps me feel better, than that is what I need to do.

I just found a webpage that does a great job explaining the whole milk allergy thing way better than I ever could. Since education is a great thing, I will pass it on. Maybe a few more people will be able to connect their stomach pain or acid reflux or constant ear infections back to dairy allergies and can make positive health changes. I hope so. Enjoy:

Food Allergy Solutions Review
News, Ideas & Strategies to Improve Your Health
July 2003

Milk Allergies and Lactose Intolerance

Milk allergy or dairy allergy are the most common food allergies seen in my practice and cause a multitude of health problems.
Dairy may be the most misunderstood food of our culture. It is often assumed to be of high nutritional value and even mandatory for good health, although it can create serious health problems.

Lactose intolerance is frequently confused with milk allergy, but the two conditions are not the same. We'll discuss these two dairy food disorders below.What's a Dairy Allergy?
An allergy is an immune response that results in inflammation and tissue damage. Such a response to food can be exhibited in any part of the body, therefore it can cause a wide range of problems. Food allergies also interfere with nutrient absorption, resulting in conditions such as iron deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, and fatigue.

What Are the Possible Milk Allergy Symptoms?

A dairy allergy, like any food allergy, is capable of triggering a wide array of milk allergy symptoms. Some of the most common complaints include ear infections in children, sinusitis, heartburn/reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. A more complete list includes:

Abdominal Pain
Canker sores
Ear Infections
Iron deficient anemia
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Joint Pain
Lactose Intolerance
Poor Growth
Poor immune function (frequent illness)
What Is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is an enzyme deficiency, not an allergy. However, lactose intolerance can be the result of a dairy allergy and the two are frequently confused.

What Causes a Milk Allergy?

Most likely it is a genetic condition. In the big picture, humans have only recently introduced cow’s milk into the diet, so it’s not surprising that the immune system doesn’t always recognize it as a friendly substance.

This is a significant problem because of the difficulty in connecting your symptoms with your eating habits. Your symptoms probably vary in intensity or come and go. The trick is that allergy symptoms may show up hours or even a day later, after a food is well absorbed into your system. And if you stop to think about it, you probably eat dairy every day.

Even if you only eat something 2 or 3 times per week you can still have a significant allergic reaction to it.

Dairy includes all types of milk from a cow, all cheese, butter, half and half, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream and other obvious milk products. It also includes the proteins casein, whey, and lactalbumin, which are found in many processed foods. Low-fat and nonfat milk are just as allergenic as whole milk. And eggs don’t come from cows, so they’re not considered a dairy product.
How Do I Determine if I Have a Dairy Allergy?

The only sure way to determine if you have a milk allergy is to have your blood tested for antibodies to dairy. This is done with an
ELISA Food Allergy Panel.
If you suspect that you may have a dairy allergy, or you experience any of the symptoms listed earlier, be sure to call the office at 206-264-1111 to schedule an appointment.

Milk Allergies - Case Studies

Case #1: 48 year old female with severe abdominal pain. Occasional gas and bloating. Five months prior to her office visit she started experiencing pain so severe that she was prescribed Vicodin. Pain interfered with her sleep. When younger she was diagnosed with colitis. Blood food allergy testing demonstrated allergies to dairy, beef, and brewer’s yeast. Elimination of allergenic foods, especially dairy, resulted in the complete resolution of her symptoms and she was able to discontinue her pain medication.

Along with the resolution of my pain was the enlightenment of how food allergies affect so many things in my general health. [Dr. Wangen’s] enthusiasm for maintaining overall health made me much more aware of caring for myself. Kim N.

Case #2: 41 year old female with a lifetime history of acid reflux, vomiting, and constipation alternating with loose stools. As a baby she was colicky and spit up constantly. History of ear infections as a child, including tubes in ears. Then sinus infections in high school. Always thought anxiety was a primary cause of her problems. Blood food allergy testing demonstrated strong allergy to dairy and eggs. Removal of dairy and eggs resulted in a dramatic improvement in reflux and vomiting.

… the gastroenterologist finally said, “I can’t do anything more for you. This is just what you have to live with.” …[When I saw] Dr. Wangen he immediately suggested food allergy testing… Within 2 weeks I stopped being nauseated! ...I was poisoning my body every day without realizing it! Terri C.

Ear Infections and Dairy Allergies

Do you ever wonder why some kids get lots of ear infections, often resulting in multiple doses of antibiotics and eventually tubes in their ears? Why don't the antibiotics ever completely solve the problem?

Ears require drainage by the eustachian tube, which opens into the back of the throat. In young children this tube is not fully developed and is very susceptible to being blocked by inflammation. Anything that causes inflammation can block the eustachian tube, resulting in a warm moist breeding ground for bacteria in the inner ear.

Antibiotics kill the bacteria, temporarily, but they don't change the inflammation of the eustachian tube or the breeding ground. This is when placing a tube through the tympanic membrane is recommended. These don't solve the inflammatory problem either, but they do get the drainage going.

The real cause of the problem is the inflammation of the eustachian tube. Usually this inflammation is caused by a food allergy, most often dairy. Children generally drink and eat a lot of dairy. Invariably it's the very first food introduced into the diet.

A milk allergy is by far the most common cause of ear infections. Removing dairy from the diet will usually result in complete resolution of this problem. However, occasionally further food allergy testing is required to determine the source of the inflammation.

Is Lactose Intolerance More than a Digestive Problem?

Lactose intolerance is a deficiency in the enzyme lactase. Lactase is the enzyme that digests the milk sugar lactose. People with a lactose intolerance typically experience an upset stomach, bloating, gas, and loose stools. These are also common symptoms of a dairy allergy.

Many patients complain of a lactose intolerance. They usually say that taking Lactaid or a digestive product designed for lactose intolerance will resolve their digestive problems. However, they obviously didn’t schedule an appointment just to tell me this and they are usually experiencing one of the other symptoms associated with a dairy allergy. (See page 1.)

Not surprisingly, the lactose intolerance usually turns out to be a dairy allergy, which is an actual immune response to dairy. The dairy allergy has apparently damaged the digestive tract to the extent that it has caused a deficiency in the enzyme lactase, which is produced by the cells lining the digestive tract.

Many people mistakenly believe that they can continue to eat dairy products as long as they take a digestive aid, or they avoid milk but still eat cheese, etc. Unfortunately, most continue to suffer from their milk allergy even though their digestive symptoms have diminished. If you have a lactose intolerance and experience any of the symptoms listed on page one then you should be tested for a dairy allergy via an ELISA blood test.
A True Dairy Substitute that Tastes Like Milk!

Finally, a milk substitute that actually tastes like milk. DariFree is a potato-based milk product by Vances Foods. I recently tasted DariFree and was amazed by the similarity to cow's milk. I'm not sure that it's even possible to taste the difference.

However, a word of nutritional caution. DariFree only contains carbohydrates/sugars and has no protein. Ideally this product might be used as an early substitute for those recently diagnosed with a dairy allergy. In children it should not be relied upon as a milk substitute, but primarily as a transition food while introducing soy or rice milks, which have much more nutritional value.
DariFree is not yet widely available, but you can track it down at

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Video Demo of Happiest Toddler

Here is a video explaining the techniques for dealing with a tantruming toddler I mentioned in my last post:

Practicing Caveman-Speak

Like most 15 month-olds, Nicky is entering the land of temper tantrums because he is becoming quite aware of what he wants yet lacks the communication skills to express such and this leads to emotional melt-downs since he becomes quite frustrated. Normal toddler stuff but man are they something to watch! It must be so hard to be a toddler! Scott, upon my request, bought me the book "Happiest Toddler on the Block" by Dr. Harvey Karp for Christmas and I love it. He does a great job of explaining toddler development, especially their brain development and then translating how to use that knowledge to understand and communicate with your tot. Instead of explaining it myself, check out the article below on it from the New York Times. So if you see me acting like a Cave-Mom with Nicky when he's upset, you'll know why. I'm telling you, this stuff works!

Coping With the Caveman in the Crib

February 5, 2008

If there is such a person as a “baby whisperer,” it is the pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp, whose uncanny ability to quiet crying babies became the best-selling book “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”

Dr. Karp’s method, endorsed by child advocates and demonstrated in television appearances and a DVD version of his book, shows fussy babies who are quickly, almost eerily soothed by a combination of tight swaddling, loud shushing and swinging, which he says mimics the sensations of the womb.

Now Dr. Karp, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, has turned his attention to the toddler years, that explosive period of development when children learn language, motor skills and problem solving, among other things. The rapid pace at which all these changes occur is nothing short of astonishing, but it can also be overwhelming to little brains. A wailing baby is nothing compared with the defiant behavior and tantrums common among toddlers.

In his latest book, “The Happiest Toddler on the Block,” Dr. Karp tries to teach parents the skills to communicate with and soothe tantrum-prone children. In doing so, however, he redefines what being a toddler means. In his view, toddlers are not just small people. In fact, for all practical purposes, they’re not even small Homo sapiens.

Dr. Karp notes that in terms of brain development, a toddler is primitive, an emotion-driven, instinctive creature that has yet to develop the thinking skills that define modern humans. Logic and persuasion, common tools of modern parenting, “are meaningless to a Neanderthal,” Dr. Karp says.

The challenge for parents is learning how to communicate with the caveman in the crib. “All of us get more primitive when we get upset, that’s why they call it ‘going ape,’ ” Dr. Karp says. “But toddlers start out primitive, so when they get upset, they go Jurassic on you.”

Improving the ways parents cope with crying and tantrums isn’t just a matter of convenience. “The No. 1 precipitant to child abuse is the kid who cries and gets upset and doesn’t settle down and whines and whines,” says Robert Fox, professor of psychology at Marquette University and director of the behavior clinic at Penfield Children’s Center in Milwaukee. “It’s a real vulnerable situation for abuse.”

Dr. Karp’s baby program has been endorsed by several government health agencies, leaders of Prevent Child Abuse America and others. Dr. Karp will discuss his toddler program in an address to the Early Head Start program, which provides early childhood services to low-income families.

But Dr. Karp’s method of toddler communication is not for the self-conscious. It involves bringing yourself, both mentally and physically, down to a child’s level when he or she is upset. The goal is not to give in to a child’s demands, but to communicate in a child’s own language of “toddler-ese.”

This means using short phrases with lots of repetition, and reflecting the child’s emotions in your tone and facial expressions. And, most awkward, it means repeating the very words the child is using, over and over again.

For instance, a toddler throwing a tantrum over a cookie might wail, “I want it. I want it. I want cookie now.”

Often, a parent will adopt a soothing tone saying, “No, honey, you have to wait until after dinner for a cookie.”

Such a response will, almost certainly, make matters worse. “It’s loving, logical and reasonable,” notes Dr. Karp. “And it’s infuriating to a toddler. Now they have to say it over harder and louder to get you to understand.”

Dr. Karp adopts a soothing, childlike voice to demonstrate how to respond to the toddler’s cookie demands.

“You want. You want. You want cookie. You say, ‘Cookie, now. Cookie now.’ ”

It’s hard to imagine an adult talking like this in a public place. But Dr. Karp notes that this same form of “active listening” is a method adults use all the time. The goal is not simply to repeat words but to make it clear that you hear someone’s complaint. “If you were upset and fuming mad, I might say, ‘I know. I know. I know. I get it. I’m really really sorry. I’m sorry.’ That sounds like gibberish out of context,” he says.

On his DVD, Dr. Karp demonstrates the method. Within seconds, teary-eyed toddlers calm and look at him quizzically as he repeats their concerns back at them. Once the child has calmed, a parent can explain the reason for saying no, offer the child comfort and a happy alternative to the original demand.

Dr. Karp also offers methods for teaching children patience, and he suggests regularly giving children small victories — like winning at a game of wrestling. “If you give them these little victories all day long, when you want them to do something for you, they’re much more likely to do it.”

Sometimes, excessive tantrums can signal an underlying health problem, so parents with a difficult child should consult with a pediatrician.

“The thing about toddlers is that they are uncivilized,” Dr. Karp says. “Our job is to civilize them, to teach them to say please and thank you, don’t spit and scratch and don’t pee anywhere you want. These are the jobs you have with a toddler.”


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stone Soup Comics on Breastfeeding

1. Thanks Stone Soup for depicting breastfeeding in a normal, everday light since that's what it is, normal and everyday.
2. Most states have laws that protect breastfeeding in public and private places (anywhere a mom can be, she can breastfeed) to protect moms from breastfeeding discrimination (see here). Note, North Dakota is not one of these states (Grrrr), so if I ever move back, guess what I'll be lobbying for :)
3. If the baby bites, time to delatch quick-like and tell the baby "That hurts Mama." You gotta detach every time they bite so they get the picture - I bite and milk goes away. They learn quick and biting ceases to be a major issue. Every now and then it will pop up again, like when a new tooth pops through, but you simply repeat the procedure. One mom I know who only lasted a month breastfeeding before switching to formula commented that a friend of ours was "taking her life in her hands" by nursing her 2 year old because of the teeth. I almost laughed out loud at her. I simply told her the above and said it was no big deal. My life is safe:) Maybe things will go more smoothly for her with her next child and breastfeeding and she'll remember what I said.

Could You Be Forced To Have A C-Section?

Some scary stuff. Thanks, Heather, for pointing out the article below:
Could You Be Forced To Have A C-Section?

Baby Talk
May, 2005
By Lisa Collier Cool

Amber Marlowe anticipated an easy delivery when she went into labor on January 14, 2004. But after a routine ultrasound, doctors at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, in Pennsylvania, decided that the baby--at what looked like 13 pounds--was too big to deliver vaginally and told her that she needed to have a cesarean. The mom-to-be, however, wasn't convinced: After all, she'd given birth to her six previous kids the natural way, including other large babies. And monitoring showed that the fetus was in no apparent distress.

After she said no to surgery, doctors spent hours trying to change her mind. When that didn't work, the hospital went to court, seeking an order to become her unborn baby's legal guardian. A judge ruled that the doctors could perform a "medically necessary" c-section against the mom's will, if she returned to that hospital. Meanwhile, she and her husband checked out against the doctors' advice and went to another hospital, where she later gave birth vaginally to a healthy 11-pound girl. "When I found out about the court order, I couldn't believe the hospital would do something like that. It was scary and very shocking," says Marlowe. "All this just because I didn't want a c-section."

She and her husband, John, turned to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), in New York City, for help in contesting the judge's ruling--the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. The couple is also considering legal action against the hospital. "It's not about us," says John Marlowe. "What's going to happen to the next lady who goes there? We want everyone to know what's going on. What they did was wrong, and our goal is to put a stop to it so that other women don't end up with c-sections they don't need."

Coercive Medicine
Increasingly in the United States, pregnant women are encountering legal or more subtle pressures to have c-sections. Currently, more than a million expectant women have the operation annually, as America's rate of surgical deliveries has hit an all-time high. In 2003, cesareans accounted for nearly 28 percent of births in this country, compared with just 5 percent in 1970. Many factors contributed to this rise--increasing numbers of repeat c-sections, doctors' fears of malpractice lawsuits, and women waiting longer to have kids (which is related to higher rates of complications), to name a few. But while the procedure is usually quite safe and can be potentially lifesaving for mother and baby, it also poses a number of potential risks, including severe bleeding, infection, injury to the fetus, blood clots, and even the mother's death in extremely rare cases.

Yet hospitals in at least a dozen states have obtained court orders to compel unwilling women to undergo this major abdominal surgery. And while Marlowe was able to escape the scalpel, other patients were operated on-- despite their verbal or even physical resistance. In a tragic 1984 case, staff at a Chicago hospital forcibly tied a pregnant Nigerian woman who had declined a c-section to her hospital bed with leather wrist and ankle restraints. The woman objected to the surgery because she planned to return to Nigeria where the operation wasn't readily available, and she rightfully worried about health risks, including a ruptured uterus, if she became pregnant again and had another child vaginally back home. As she screamed for help and frantically tried to free herself, doctors, with a judge's permission, wheeled her off to the O.R. to perform the procedure.

Defying doctors' advice can even lead to criminal prosecution, as Melissa Rowland discovered last year. While pregnant with twins, the 28-year-old Utah mom initially declined a recommended c-section, even though doctors warned that without it her babies might die due to low levels of amniotic fluid and other problems. Several days later, on January 13, 2004, she changed her mind and had the operation. Her daughter, Hannah, survived after treatment with oxygen and antibiotics, but a twin boy was stillborn. Contending that the initial refusal caused his death, prosecutors charged Rowland with first-degree murder. After spending three months in jail, she accepted a deal in which the murder charge was dismissed in return for her guilty plea to two counts of child endangerment (unrelated to her c-section refusal). She's now free, and serving 18 months of probation.

"This case is a tragedy compounded by a shocking abuse of legal authority," contends Lynn Paltrow, executive director of NAPW and a lawyer specializing in reproductive issues. "It shouldn't be a crime for pregnant women to disagree with doctors and make their own medical decisions. Nor should they be punished for a bad outcome when there's always some risk to giving birth, regardless of whether it's vaginal or by c-section."

And you can't be legally compelled to undergo any other medical procedure for the benefit of another person. "You don't have to donate your kidney, your bone marrow, or your blood, even if someone else might die without it," explains Howard Minkoff, M.D., chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Maimonides Medical Center, in Brooklyn, New York, and coauthor (with Paltrow) on an analysis of the Rowland case published in the December 2004 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology. You also can't be prosecuted for murder if you refuse. "So why should c-sections be any different?" the doctor adds. "That's saying pregnant women have fewer rights than anyone else, including a fetus."

A Subtle Pressure
Of course, only a minute fraction of the c-sections performed in this country are court ordered. Far more women undergo the procedure at the recommendation of their doctor. The most common reason a woman is encouraged to have a c-section is if she previously delivered a child this way. These "repeat c-sections" have become so common that they now account for nearly 410,000 births annually in the United States, about 10 percent of births each year.

And it doesn't seem that this number will be getting any lower, as an increasing number of hospitals that formerly permitted women to try for vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) now prohibit the practice, making a return trip to the O.R. mandatory for moms-to-be with a previous surgical delivery. Because it 's getting harder and harder to find medical centers that allow VBAC, the rate has plunged by nearly two-thirds, from 27.5 percent in 1995 to 10.6 percent in 2003.

Ask doctors what's behind the ban, and you'll hear the same answer: fear of lawsuits. Trying for a VBAC carries with it a 1 percent risk of uterine rupture. This dangerous complication is an emergency that requires surgical repair--or, in some cases, a hysterectomy--to stop potentially life-threatening blood loss. "Medical liability is a huge problem for obstetricians, because people are losing their practices over malpractice claims," reports medical ethicist Anne Lyerly, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. "So it's understandable that a lot of us practice defensive medicine by avoiding risky deliveries that might have adverse outcomes." A 2004 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) survey bears this out, since 15 percent of its members say they've stopped doing VBACs to protect themselves from mal-practice claims, and another 14 percent no longer deliver babies at all for the same reason.

In 1999, ACOG responded to concerns about VBAC risks with new practice guidelines, saying that the delivery should only be provided at hospitals equipped to do an immediate c-section if anything went wrong, instead of within 30 minutes' notice, as was previously required.

That's fine for big medical centers that have anesthesiologists and surgeons on duty 24/7, like the one where Dr. Minkoff delivers babies, but not for smaller hospitals. "Often, they can't afford to have doctors standing by in case a woman who arrives in early labor needs surgery later on, so in many parts of the country, especially rural areas, pregnant patients can't find anywhere to have a VBAC," he explains.

An Ethical Debate
How far should ob-gyns go to save an unborn baby they consider at risk? Some of the very doctors you'd most expect to advocate for pregnant women actually support forced c-sections, a 2003 University of Chicago study found. When the researchers surveyed directors of 42 maternal-fetal medicine programs around the country, 14 percent reported that their hospital had used court orders to compel unwilling women to have O.R. deliveries. What's more, 21 percent of these specialists in the care of pregnant patients consider coerced c-sections "ethically justified" to spare a fetus possible harm--even over the woman's physical resistance, as long as her struggles weren't strenuous enough to endanger her or the baby.

ACOG adamantly disagrees. In 2004, its ethics committee ruled that it's never right for health care providers to subject pregnant women to physical force, even with a court order authorizing a c-section or other procedure. The committee also said that seeking such orders against a patient's wishes is "rarely if ever acceptable." The American Medical Association, another prominent doctors' group, has a similar policy.

So what should happen if a doctor is convinced that a vaginal birth would be disastrous? "Personally, I'm willing to counsel women very strongly in that situation--and bring in another physician to offer a second opinion about the risks of not having a c-section," says Dr. Lyerly. "I also tell patients that it's a very safe operation--and I should know, since I've had three c-sections myself."

However, doctors' opinions can also be tragically wrong. Years ago, a Washington, D.C., hospital got a court order to perform a c-section on Angela Carder, who was gravely ill with cancer. Since the mom was in such poor health, the hospital's doctors believed that delivering the 26-week fetus immediately would give it a better chance of survival than waiting for a natural delivery. The result? Carder and her baby both died soon after the operation. Later, in a landmark 1990 ruling, an appeals court overturned the order, finding that Carder had a right to make medical decisions for herself and her unborn child. Her family also received an undisclosed financial settlement from the hospital.

"I hope that doctors and judges are humbled by this terrible mistake that never should have happened," says Dr. Lyerly. "We can make dire predictions and think patients are too irrational to weigh the risks for themselves, but we're not infallible. And since doctors and moms can both be wrong, and if they can't agree on the best way to give birth, ultimately it has to be the woman's choice."

When surgery is being considered, experts say pregnant women need to feel confident that their wishes will prevail, whether they consent to an elective or emergency c-section or decline one they deem medically unnecessary, as Amber Marlowe did. (Want to avoid a c-section? See "Getting the birth experience you want," above.) In 25 years of delivering babies, Dr. Minkoff has learned to respect his patients' decisions about how they want to give birth--even if he doesn't always agree. "It's my duty to fully explain why I think a c-section should be seriously considered and the risks of not following my advice," he says. "But in the end, the strongest advocate for the safety and health of an unborn child is the baby's mother. And that's the way it should be, because she has the most at stake."

Lisa Collier Cool is an award-winning health journalist and mother of three from Pelham, NY.

If you're pregnant, you've probably given a lot of thought to how you'd like to give birth. You may be determined to avoid a c-section, if at all possible. Or you may feel vaginal birth isn't right for you, perhaps because you've had a previous c-section, face a difficult delivery due to twins or a breech baby, or fear complications, such as the slight risk of pelvic floor injuries. But whatever way you're leaning, use these tips to make an informed decision, and get the medical support you need.

Discuss your doctor's criteria for c-sections. While dangerous conditions like placenta previa or fetal distress mandate a trip to the O.R., find out what she does about less urgent problems, such as prolonged labor. That will clue you in to your caregiver's approach, since some doctors are quick to advise surgical birth in this situation, and others will try to stimulate contractions with drugs or have you walk around or change positions to see if that helps. To learn more about situations that warrant a c-section, read "Will you need a cesarean?" at

Talk to other moms. Friends can tip you off to what really goes on in the delivery room, says Anne Lyerly, M.D. "See if they felt their doctor respected their wishes. And if it's a group practice, try to find out as much as you can about women's experiences with the other doctors, since it's possible that one of them might end up handling your delivery."

Check on hospital policies. If you're considering a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), it may not be permitted at medical facilities in your community. Then you'll have to weigh the risks of trying for a vaginal birth, and whether it's worth going to a hospital where that's an option, especially if it means a long drive there while you're in labor. In some areas, VBAC isn't available at all.

Prepare for the possibility of surgical birth. If a planned c-section is advised during your pregnancy, there's plenty of time to investigate the risks and benefits--or get a second opinion if you disagree with the recommendation. But what if a problem strikes while you're in the throes of labor? Plan ahead with a written list of questions to ask: Is this an emergency or can we wait an hour to make a decision?, What are my other options?, and What are the risks to me and the baby if I don't have surgery? If you aren't comfortable with the responses, remember that you have the right to refuse medical procedures or go to another hospital.

You can't be legally compelled to donate your kidney or your bone marrow, even if someone else might die without it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Breastmilk Contains Stem Cells!!

Breast milk contains stem cells
Monday, 11 February 2008
By Catherine Madden

- The Perth scientist who made the world-first discovery that human breast milk contains stem cells is confident that within five years scientists will be harvesting them to research treatment for conditions as far-reaching as spinal injuries, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

But what Dr Mark Cregan is excited about right now is the promise that his discovery could be the start of many more exciting revelations about the potency of breast milk.

He believes that it not only meets all the nutritional needs of a growing infant but contains key markers that guide his or her development into adulthood.

“We already know how breast milk provides for the baby’s nutritional needs, but we are only just beginning to understand that it probably performs many other functions,” says Dr Cregan, a molecular biologist at The University of Western Australia.

He says that, in essence, a new mother’s mammary glands take over from the placenta to provide the development guidance to ensure a baby’s genetic destiny is fulfilled.

“It is setting the baby up for the perfect development,” he says. “We already know that babies who are breast fed have an IQ advantage and that there’s a raft of other health benefits. Researchers also believe that the protective effects of being breast fed continue well into adult life.

“The point is that many mothers see milks as identical – formula milk and breast milk look the same so they must be the same. But we know now that they are quite different and a lot of the effects of breast milk versus formula don’t become apparent for decades. Formula companies have focussed on matching breast milk’s nutritional qualities but formula can never provide the developmental guidance.”

It was Dr Cregan’s interest in infant health that led him to investigate the complex cellular components of human milk. “I was looking at this vast complexity of cells and I thought, ‘No one knows anything about them’.”

His hunch was that if breast milk contains all these cells, surely it has their precursors, too?

His team cultured cells from human breast milk and found a population that tested positive for the stem cell marker, nestin. Further analysis showed that a side population of the stem cells were of multiple lineages with the potential to differentiate into multiple cell types. This means the cells could potentially be “reprogrammed” to form many types of human tissue.

He presented his research at the end of January to 200 of the world’s leading experts in the field at the International Conference of the Society for Research on Human Milk and Lactation in Perth.

“We have shown these cells have all the physical characteristics of stem cells. What we will do next is to see if they behave like stem cells,” he says.

If so, they promise to provide researchers with an entirely ethical means of harvesting stem cells for research without the debate that has dogged the harvesting of cells from embryos.

Further research on immune cells, which have also been found in breast milk and have already been shown to survive the baby’s digestive process, could provide a pathway to developing targets to beat certain viruses or bacteria.


So Glad I Don't Like Artificial Sweetners

Interesting article:

Lab study ties artificial sweetener to weight gain
Rats fed food with saccharin added more body fat, researchers found
updated 5:30 p.m. CT, Sun., Feb. 10, 2008

WASHINGTON - Using an artificial, no-calorie sweetener rather than sugar may make it tougher, not easier, to lose weight, U.S. researchers said Sunday.

Scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, studied rats that were fed food with the artificial sweetener saccharin and rats fed food with glucose, a natural sugar.

In comparison to rats given yogurt sweetened with glucose, those that ate yogurt sweetened with saccharin went on to consume more calories and put on more weight and body fat.

The researchers said sweet foods may prompt the body to get ready to take in a lot of calories, but when sweetness in the form of artificial sweeteners is not followed by a large amount of calories, the body gets confused, which may lead to eating more or expending less energy than normal.

"The data clearly indicate that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body-weight gain and adiposity than would consuming the same food sweetened with high-calorie sugar," Purdue researchers Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson wrote in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, published by the American Psychological Association.

"Such an outcome may seem counterintuitive, if not an anathema, to human clinical researchers and health care practitioners who have long recommended the use of low- and no-calorie sweeteners as a means of weight control."

Other artificial sweeteners such as aspartame that also taste sweet but do not lead to the delivery of calories may have similar effects, the researchers said.

"Animals may use sweet taste to predict the caloric contents of food. Eating sweet noncaloric substances may degrade this predictive relationship," the researchers wrote.

"With the growing use of noncaloric sweeteners in the current food environment, millions of people are being exposed to sweet tastes that are not associated with caloric or nutritive consequences," the researchers added.

The research was the latest to examine the question of whether artificial sweeteners -- used in many soft drinks and other foods — help or thwart those trying to lose weight. Various studies have offered mixed results.

Industry responds
The new research drew criticism from the food industry.

"This study oversimplifies the causes of obesity," Beth Hubrich, a dietitian with the Calorie Control Council, an industry association representing companies that make low- and reduced-calorie foods and beverages, said in a statement.

"The causes of obesity are multi-factorial. Although surveys have shown that there has been an increase in the use of 'sugar-free' foods over the years, portion sizes of foods have also increased, physical activity has decreased and overall calorie intake has increased," Hubrich added.

The council also said findings in animal studies may not be applicable to people, which the researchers acknowledged.

Davidson said by e-mail that the implication of the council's statement "that they, too, are interested in the health of the public seems insincere."

"If they were sincere, one might expect that they would be alarmed by findings from animal or human models suggesting that their products might be contributing to the obesity epidemic that continues to expand and do its damage," Davidson said.
Copyright 2008 Reuters. Click for restrictions.