Thursday, 16 July 2015

Treating a fever with herbs

A fever is the body’s first line of defence. The reason for the increase in temperature is to kill the invading bacteria or virus. Modern medicine decrees that we suppress the fever. This is a fear based idea, which does more harm than good. There is altogether too much suppression of natural disease processes these days, which can lead to chronic illness.
Breastfed babies rarely get ill so it's not very likely that baby will get a fever while 100% breastfed. However, your baby might have an older sibling at preschool who brings home a bad cold, which is passed on. If this happens and a fever develops, it's a healthy and normal response and shows that the immune system is working well. If your baby develops a fever, just keep him warm, and continue to feed regularly as normal. Don't give any pharmaceuticals to lower the fever, as this can prolong the problem. The fever needs to do its work - to fight the infection.
What has caused the fever? It could be a virus or bacteria. There may be an ear infection, tonsillitis, bronchitis, measles, chickenpox or any other common respiratory infection.

A fever needs to be well managed. Monitor it regularly. Make sure that your baby gets plenty of fluids. You will be able to see the fever rising over a few hours, and can decide when to take action. Most people worry when the fever reaches 39 deg. At this point you can give a herbal tea to encourage sweating and “break” the fever. Very often the fever only lasts for 24 hours and your baby is fine again. This probably means that the fever did its work. 

Fever tea
Elderflower        1 teaspoon
Peppermint        1 teaspoon
Yarrow                1 teaspoon 

Place in a jug with three cups of boiling water and infuse for 60 minutes. Strain. Drink one cup with every feed, and give baby one teaspoon (in a dinky feeder) every ½ hour.
If baby is older and on solids already, give him some tea to sip every half hour. He might not want more than one sip, but that's fine. Don't try to give solid food while there is a fever. Usually the child isn't hungry and you'll probably end up wiping up a pool of vomit.
If the fever doesn't break within 24 hours, you should take your baby to your phytotherapist (Herbal Practitioner) who will examine his ears and listen to his chest and generally check baby over for signs of a rash or other symptoms. Your phytotherapist will also be able to make up a medicine to help fight the infection. Herbal medicine helps the body without destroying vital microflora, which antibiotics would do.
If you don't have a phytotherapist near you, then of course go to a doctor but don't insist on an antibiotic. You need a diagnosis and then you can use the appropriate medicine, herbal medicine or homoeopathic medicine to treat your child.
In some countries doctors won't give antibiotics for a normal respiratory infection. In South Africa you will most probably get a prescription for an antibiotic. Studies are showing that antibiotics cause resistance for up to two years after a short course.  Infections are very common in small children and many are getting antibiotics for every single infection. If the child gets a serious illness, antibiotics might not be able to save his life, because of the resistance that has been built up. Antibiotics should NOT be used for everyday infections.

DISCLAIMER: This is a herbal blog and advice offered is related to herbal medicine for the reader who is under the guidance of a registered phytotherapy practitioner or medical practitioner. The author will not accept liability for any negative event as a result of reading this blog.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Greatest Gift of All - Germs

When you hold your precious newborn in your arms it is the greatest gift in the world. It is also the greatest responsibility.
From the moment your baby emerges a miracle happens - a whole set of natural events that start a process of immune building and set a course of symbiosis going that will last for your child's life.

Symbiosis - a mutual benefit system of living together - your baby and a myriad of invisible organisms (known as microflora or microbiota) that will live inside your baby's gut and on your baby's skin.

Experts are not in agreement yet. Some say the baby is born with microflora, others say that the baby only gets them during the birth. A vaginal birth is important for this to happen. All mammals are born close to the anus for a good reason. (A whale's teats are close to the anus, so that the calf gets microflora during feeding.) Later on as baby gets bigger, it is no accident that everything gets put in the mouth! Another way to get those all important micro organisms into the gut. Sterilising baby's things with chemicals is seriously harmful for the development of good health.

Once the baby is born, the first thing that happens is that instinct kicks in and the sucking reflex happens. Baby is put to the breast and colostrum flows into the baby's gut where the first microflora get their first feed. So far so good! Colostrum is not only the best food for baby, but also for the microbiome - the massive organism of microflora that has started life in your baby's gut.

If all goes to nature's plan the baby will be breastfed and the baby's "inner world" (the microbiome)will get the perfect food for it to get established and balanced. Balance or harmony in the microbiome is extremely important for health. Good organisms must be in harmony with potentially harmful organisms and keep everything under control.

Most people are completely unaware of this fundamental key to their baby's health.

Some facts about the microbiome:

  • There are more organisms in the microbiome than cells in the human body
  • Up to 90% of one's stool consists of micro organisms
  • The micro organisms are not only bacteria, but many other organisms common to mammals
  • Diversity of the microbiome is important and many people have fewer species due to diet and medication 
  • Micro organisms prefer certain foods for their health and diet can change them, making them less healthy
  • The microbiome of the average western child is not as healthy as that of the average non-western child.
  • Fibre is an important food for the microflora
  • The microflora make certain vitamins for us
  • The microflora  detoxify and help keep us safe from many environmental toxins
  • A healthy microbiome keeps pathogens in check.
  • A healthy well-balanced microbiome can protect against allergies, obesity, mental disorders like depression, anxiety and more
  • We only are as healthy as our microbiome.

In an ideal world a baby would be exclusively breastfed until the first solid foods were introduced. Our ancestors probably chewed the first solid foods for the baby (thereby partially digesting the food with enzymes in the mouth). Babies didn't have special food, they got what everyone else was eating, just well chewed up! This ensured a healthy amount of fibre.
The introduction of solids is a huge change in the baby's life. New foods are being introduced both to the baby and the baby's microbiome. This can influence big changes in the baby's health, depending on what kinds of food are fed.
My advice would be to start with fibre rich vegetables such as butternut squash, carrots, sweet potato and gem squash. A little extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil can be added which helps with the absorption of beta carotene. Later some finely pureed legumes such as lentils, peas, chick peas etc can be added.

Weaning from breast to solids can be a time where the diet deteriorates badly. Many baby foods are devoid of fibre, and phytonutrients ( nutrients found in organically grown, colourful vegetables. I say organically grown, because studies have now shown without a doubt that commercially grown vegetables and fruits have much lower nutrient density, than organically grown.) Included in this scenario is the switch from breastmilk to cow's milk and the introduction of "treats" which can be heavily sweet or salty and fatty. This can be the time where there is a huge shift in the microbiome as the foods change. Coupled with this there may be medication prescribed as the child gets a few colds. Studies have shown huge alterations in the microbiome after antibiotics, which can be the start of a progressive decline if antibiotics are prescribed repeatedly. It can take up to two years for the gut to recover after just one course of antibiotics.

So, the greatest gift you can give your baby is the gift of a healthy microbiome. This can affect future behaviour, performance at school, general health and happiness. Feed your baby with the microflora in mind.