August 2010

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Suffering from swollen ankles and feet?  This condition, known as edema, occurs when excess fluids collect in the tissues and is common in pregnancy especially after the 5th month.

Edema can be triggered by the increase in blood volume associated with pregnancy, excess sodium in the diet, a lack of potassium in diet, standing too long, summer heat, and other medical conditions.

It is important to address edema early—when pregnancy-related, before 34 weeks. The longer edema is present in the body, the more it can interfere with the onset of labor, complicating its initiation or progression. When edema is present, it is often an indicator that other imbalances are present in the body. We need to strengthen the body and address fluid metabolism so that the body’s energy can be directed towards the preparation and initiation of labor.

Some contributing factors that put you at risk for edema are:
- overwork, hectic lifestyle
- emotional stress
- overconsumption of cold, raw foods and dairy
- excess sugar, salt or processed foods
- strenuous exercise or sedentary habits

Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent or allay edema:
- try not to sit or stand for more than 20 min at a time.
- stay hydrated
- get regular exercise (improves circulation)
- elevate your feet often
- avoid caffeine

Making some changes to your diet is also helpful. Introduce or increase consumption of these foods:

Coix (yi yi ren)—bland seeds that taste similar to barley. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the sweet bland, slightly cold seed has been used for thousands of years in the treatment of edema.

Barley Water— Helps strengthen the body’s energy, promotes urination and rids the body of excess fluids.

Recipe for Barley Water:

3/4 cup pearled barley
juice of 1 lime + zest (can substitute lemon)
1/2 cup honey (optional)
6 cups filtered water.

Place barley in a strainer and rinse under cold water until water runs clear.  Place barley in a sauce pan with the grated zest and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, simmer for 10 minutes then strain mixture into bowl.  Discard the barley. Add the honey to bowl and stir to dissolve.  Stir in lime juice and let cool.  Can drink warm or cool.

Cucumber—In TCM, these are considered sweet and cool, go to the Stomach and Bladder channels to clear heat, and promote urination to reduce edema.

Grapes—generate fluids and promote urination, reducing edema.

Cornsilk—the silky threads that grow between the husk and the corn. In TCM it is sweet, bland in taste and drains dampness and clears damp-heat from the Liver and Gallbladder, thereby reducing water retention and edema.

Recipe for corn silk tea (which tastes like corn on the cob):

Boil about 1 1/2 cups water.  Place fresh cornsilk (amount from 2 ears of fresh corn) in the boiled water and steep covered for 10 minutes. strain out the cornsilk and enjoy. You can drink this several times a day. (from Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen)

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Starting on solid food is one of the most important moments in your child’s development. Below are five simple rules to guide you through:

1)  Signs of readiness: Listen to your children’s cues.  Babies should begin simple solids/tastes when they show interest by grabbing food off mom and dad’s plates, have lost their tongue thrust reflex, make clucking/mimicking sounds or gestures with mouth, and can sit up on their own.  Don’t give in to pressure by doctors, other moms, or your own mom to give solids before your child is ready.  Remember babies don’t NEED solid food. Your breastmilk is supplying them with complete nutrition for the first year of life.

2)  Appropriate food choices:  Introduce orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut and acorn squash) as well as nonglutinous grain cereals first (Millet, rice, and quinoa).  These foods tonify Spleen and help to set up healthy digestive function.

3) Introducing solids: Steam or slow cook all foods and always serve foods warmed to 100 degrees.  The 100 degree soup helps to aid in easy digestion of new solids. If your baby rejects food, maybe it’s too soon.  Stick with breast milk and try again in a week or few weeks.

4)  Foods to avoid: Avoid overly sweet foods first. Too much of the sweet flavor weakens the Spleen energy.  Therefore, fruit is not the best introduction to food.  It sets up expectations for overly sweet foods and may deter children from eating other things.  Bananas, although often discussed often as the perfect first food,  are actually very energetically cold, overly sweet, and potentially damaging to the young Spleen.  Avoid processed flours like crackers, puffs, teething cookies, cereal.  They provide little nutritional value and deter kids from eating other, more nutritious foods.  Whole food is always best.

5)  Food stagnation: How much is too much?  Initially, introduction of food should be just about “tastes.” Start by introducing only a tablespoon or less daily and repeat the same food for three days to determine any possible food allergies.  Introduce single foods, not food combinations, and never feed a full breast or bottle after a meal of solids.  This can cause accumulation in the stomach which leads to a type of pathologic heat.  Signs of overfeeding/food stagnation are red cheeks, gas pain, restlessness/agitation, insomnia, constipation/irregular bowel movements.  Food stagnation can weaken our Spleen energy which can lead to health issues such as eczema, asthma/allergies, chronic colds/flus, phlegm, ear infections, etc.

You don’t need to rely on processed jar food to start your baby on solids. Making your own baby food is easy and fun.  You don’t eat food out of a box or a jar, so why would you give that to your littlest one?

SIMPLE GRAIN GRUEL:

3 Tbl Millet or Rice or Quinoa
¾  to 1 cup water

Bring to boil.  Then simmer until grain has absorbed most of the water and is mushy.

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