Vitamin D – why aren’t we getting enough?

Vitamin D are we getting enoughThere’s been a lot in the news recently about Vitamin D deficiency. In fact whilst we were away visiting my sister in sunny California last week and getting our winter vitamin D fix, it was Vitamin D Awareness Week – ironic.

In the UK we apparently don’t get enough vitamin D because we don’t get enough sun! Well I for one had a beautiful English Summer and sapped up all the Vitamin D I needed just from 15 minutes a day of sun exposure and enjoyed every minute of it.

What I really think the problem is that in the UK we don’t get enough TIME in the Sun. We’re a nation of desk addicts that rarely take a lunch break as opposed to other Europeans who regularly take time off during daylight hours for leisurely lunches and siestas.

Our children have a more indoors lifestyle thanks to too much homework, TV, computers and video games as well as a fear of letting them play on the streets as I used to do as a child.

To top it off, skin cancer awareness has been heightened in recent years and sun screen is liberally applied at any sign of a small ray of sun for fear of burning. I witnessed this over the Summer at Melissa’s nursery where factor 50 was slapped on at every opportunity for an outside play.

Yet just 15 minutes a day of decent sunlight (between the hours of 11 and 3pm) is all you need to get enough vitamin D! And unlike other nutrients it’s free this way; no need for expensive supplements or modified diets.

What is Vitamin D?

Unlike other nutrients, vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin at all; it’s a hormone, made by your body as you are exposed to sunlight. Its relationship to bone metabolism is more complicated than you might guess as it acts to increase calcium in the blood stream by increasing your ability to absorb calcium from foods and by reducing the amount of calcium you lose in urine.

So sadly, if you don’t have enough Vitamin D in your body, then all the milk and cheese in the world won’t give you strong bones.

How to maximise your vitamin D!

1) Get some SUN!

Expose yourself to 10-15 minutes of sun every day in the UK from April to October before applying sunscreen. If you have dark skin you may need longer.

Soaking up the Vitamin D from california sun2) Eat Vitamin D rich foods.

10% of your vitamin D intake comes from the food you eat. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so you need to eat fat to get it – so let go of your fat phobia. Fat is good for you as long as it’s the natural kind (none of these man-made margarines – that’s a whole another blog post). Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna, egg yolks and real butter are best; other types of dairy don’t contain significant amounts of vitamin D unless they’ve been fortified, and in the UK we don’t fortify milk.

3) Supplement.

Okay, let’s say you’re wrinkle and fat phobic, pregnant or breastfeeding and want to boost your Vitamin D levels. Well there are plenty of supplements on the market for you to pick from. My favourite is Biocare Vitasorb D which comes in liquid drop form which makes it easy to give to kids and absorption rates are good.

4) Free supplements

Pregnant women and children aged five or under who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free supplements containing vitamin D.

Find out what the NHS say about who should take vitamin D supplements and how much to take.

I’d love to hear your views on Vitamin D supplementation or getting it from the sun. Please leave comments below.

Are night time coughs keeping you awake?

Originally posted on mydaughterwontsleep:

missy tissue

If you already have a poor sleeper, you’ll know the agony of a night time cough, scratchy throat or blocked up nose. Children get on average between 6 and 10 colds a year, as their new immune systems take on the usual seasonal bugs.

Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are not suitable for babies or children under six years old, due to the risk of side-effects.

So what other options are there?

As a herbalist, natural remedies are always my first port of call for common colds, coughs and sore throats.  Melissa, being born in September, was a target for the onslaught of the UK Winter. She was at the age where she was into touching and licking everything in sight, just when all the relatives came to visit for Christmas. But instead of spraying everything in Dettol, and getting visitors to walk through a decontamination bath before meeting…

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3 EASY ways to STAY GORGEOUS when you’re a mum.

‘The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows’.
Audrey Hepburn

3 easy ways to stay gorgeous when you're a mumWhen you become a mum you have so very little time to spend on yourself. Keeping bum’s clean, tummy’s full and stopping the washing pile from taking over becomes your priority. Make up goes out of the window and heels are left at the back of the cupboard – a distant memory of your former sexy self. It’s more about prioritising your time for the children so that you can experience them to the full before they’re all grown up, right?

Wrong! Now I’m not saying you need to become a 1950’s housewife with immaculate hair and make-up who mops the floor in heels. No. But taking pride in your appearance gives you a sense of self that helps you remember who you were before you had children. And that’s important because you’re not just a mum, you’re also a partner, friend, sister, daughter and downright amazing and beautiful individual – let’s not forget it!

But let’s face it, speed is of the essence. We no longer have time (or money) for leisurely hair salon appointments, pedicures or extended grooming sessions. Streamlining your beauty routine is the key to success. After all, just because you’re now a mum, that’s not excuse to let yourself go.

My top tips on staying gorgeous when you become a mum;

1) Make time for a shower and clean clothes.

Your kids get a bath each night and clean clothes every day. You take pride in how cute they look and relish buying them adorable outfits, but what about you? It’s easy to get to lunch time and still be in your PJ’s, or even worse your husband gets home in the evening and you realise you haven’t had a wash yet. It sounds like basic common sense, but just a quick rinse and your favourite jeans coupled with a clean T-shirt can really set you up for the day. I have found that if I get dressed and look presentable I feel better. It makes me more motivated to get out, do stuff and enjoy the day. This in turn lifts my mood, boosts my self-esteem, makes me more fun to be around, and reminds me that I can still be attractive even if most of my time is spent at home.

2) Stop worrying about wrinkles.

M and powderLet’s face it, when you become a mum, you’ve no time to worry about wrinkles. So stop thinking about them! Instead accept it; we’re all going to age. But how you age is the key. Firstly, make a pact with yourself to find the humour in the ridiculous. Like when Melissa decorated herself with my favourite face powder. Try to smile when you should be fuming with frustration, and make sure those wrinkles are of the good kind. After all, laughter lines are just beautiful wrinkles.

Secondly, find a good anti-ageing moisturiser; one that makes you feel great. I’m in love with Australian Bush Flower replenishing night cream which is so fantastic I use it both day and night. Being prone to the occasional breakout, I struggle to find a moisturiser that doesn’t irritate but I have to say this one does it for me! I’ve been using it for the past few months and its organic ingredients, age protecting antioxidants and Rose Stem Cells seem to shrink pores and plump up my skin, making it feel wonderfully hydrated, elastic and baby soft. I can’t help but feel gorgeous.

4) Hair, make-up ….GO!

Not even the girl who wouldn’t leave the house without a full face on wants to wear make-up every day now you’re a mum. But sometimes you want to make the effort to remind yourself of the ‘sexy siren’ you once were.

Australian Bush Flower Essence Night Replenishing CreamPicking 3 products that I know I can apply in under 3 minutes helps me fulfil my occasional need to glow. For me that’s a lashing of Body Shop voluminous mascara, which I’ve used ever since I was a teenager. A dot of MAC cream blusher in Vintage Rose (this product lasts forever), and a slick of Max Factor lip gloss in Diva Pink and I’m ready to go. I’ve also leaned to style that up-do for those dirty hair days. I love to go all ‘Game of Thrones’ perfecting the French plate and can whip my hair into one in 2 minutes flat. The results – Melissa get the ‘positive’ me, and my husband is reminded of the person he once married.

Do you have a secret or favourite product that allows you to feel gorgeous? I love to hear about it. Or are you a mum that feels that dressing up is no longer necessary? Please feel free to leave comments below.

* Thank you Australian Bush Flower Essences for introducing me to your Replenishing Night Cream, and providing it for review.

Nocturnal Asthma – EASY Solutions to help your child breathe better at night

Bedding direct silk-filled duvet product reviewAs autumn takes its hold and we reach for our woollies, other clues to a change in Season are the sniffles and sneezes spreading like wild fire around schools and day-care centres. Melissa was a September baby, born at a time when balmy evenings were waning. I remember those blissful few weeks walking in the park as the leaves changed to a myriad of colours. Then as winter closed in she got a cold. Not just a sniffle, but a blocked nose that interfered with her breathing, and a wheeze and night time cough that stopped her sleeping. As the months went on I began to wonder, was this more than a case of the common cold?

For those with Asthma, Autumn can be an especially stressful time of year because even a simple cold virus can trigger an asthma attack. In the UK about 15% of children are affected with asthma, a figure that is 8-10 times higher than in developing countries, but why?

The origin of asthma is not yet fully understood but is probably explained by a combination of hereditary and environmental trigger factors, including an increase in exposure to pollution and indoor allergens. Whatever the cause, asthma is a serious and sometimes fatal condition that must be carefully managed.

Asthma is difficult to diagnose in children, especially if your child is too young to articulate what they are experiencing. However, according to research, children often show the first signs of asthma during sleep; as airway function decreases as sleep progresses. So watch out for a prolonged night time cough, wheeze and breathlessness that disturbs your child’s sleep; especially if there’s a family history of asthma or allergies. Whilst it is important that you visit your doctor for a diagnosis, there are also a number of steps you should take to insure that your home is asthma and allergy proofed. This reduces the worry of a Nocturnal Asthma attack and helps your child get a restful night’s sleep.

Asthma-proof your child’s bedroom

When you are designing your child’s bedroom think about the simplicity of the minimalist Scandinavian style. Clean blinds and light fittings that don’t attract dust or mould. Clutter free cupboards and shelves and a well ventilated room stops damp from forming. Sadly, soft toys attract dust, and although cute, should not be adorning your child’s room. Pick one they like best and make sure it’s washed and thoroughly dried regularly.

Nocturnal Asthma Triggers

One of the most common triggers of Nocturnal Asthma attacks are dust mites and their droppings as well as moulds and fungus’s that grow naturally in your child’s mattress and duvet. In order to reduce exposure to these asthma triggers, make sure that the bedroom is clean and free of dust by steam cleaning carpets and vacuuming regularly. Children should start their sleeping lives with a new mattress encased in allergen-impermeable coverings. These casings are efficient at blocking out dust mites and mould spores, but they are also breathable and water permeable.

asthma and allergy proof childs bedroomStudies show that more dust mites live in the bedroom than any other room in the house. Therefore, an allergy free duvet is one of the most important purchases you can make for your child. Silk-filled duvets containing 100% pure and natural Mulberry silk are ideal for asthma and allergy sufferers, as dust mites, bed bugs and other microscopic life cannot live in Mulberry silk. Furthermore, Mulberry silk is used in its natural state; no chemicals or anything else is added in the production process. Beware of inferior products that claim allergy benefits. Bedding made from tussah silk, feather down, wool and other synthetic materials need to be chemically treated before use and could therefore trigger a Nocturnal Asthma attack.

I was fortunate enough to be given a Mulberry Silk-filled duvet by Silk bedding Direct for Melissa to try. She was extremely exciting to have such a huge parcel arrive for her in the post. When I put it on her bed, its cotton casing and silk filling seemed so light in texture I was worried that it wouldn’t keep her warm. Yet true to its claim it fitted so snugly around her little body that she commented ‘Mummy, I like my new bed it’s so cosy and warm’.

Silk-filled duvets breathe allowing both excess heat and moisture to escape whilst retaining warmth on colder nights; helping little ones sleep better. Melissa always kicks off the duvet as she gets too hot, and then wakes in the early hours cold and exposed. With this duvet she kept herself covered all night long, so there was no 3am duvet re-arranging for us, what a bonus! As well as the hypo-allergic and anti-dust mite benefits, it is also said that silk-filled duvets are good for eczema sufferers and promote relaxation of the central nervous system – perfect for little ones that struggle to fall asleep or wake frequently in the night.

Research on House Dust Mite & Asthma

Interestingly, the Daily Mail documented that three out of four beds and bedroom carpets contain allergens such as house dust mites above the safety levels recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Research indicates that if simple measures such as using appropriate bedding were implemented to reduce the house dust mite, asthma related visits to the GP could be cut by 60% and many individuals may significantly reduce their use of prescription inhalers. This would bring welcome relief for many worried parents and a huge improvement to the quality of life for asthmatics.

Stirling Howieson, author of Are our homes making us ill? And researcher at Strathclyde University said that ‘…. for around £500, most homes could become healthy places to live, rather than triggering chronic ill-health’. The results would be well worth the effort – better breathing, fewer medications and a greater freedom from allergy and asthma attacks!

Are you a family of asthma or allergy sufferers? Have you found benefit from implementing clean-home strategies for Nocturnal Asthma? Or are you just someone trying to live a healthier lifestyle? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave any comments below.

* Thanks to Silk Bedding Direct for providing the duvet for review. If you would like to purchase a silk-filled duvet like the one I tried, the silk bedding direct website offers duvet’s at below the RRP. You may also receive a further 10% discount with this code – 10THANKS.

BEST Natural home remedies to cure an ear infection

How can you tell if you child has an ear infectionAn ear infection can be a very painful explanation for a sleepless night. Three out of four children will have suffered at least one by their third birthday. It is also the most prevalent complaint that lands children at the doctor’s surgery, and the most common reason for prescribed antibiotics. Yet the NHS website states that the routine use of antibiotics to treat middle ear infections is not recommended, as there is no evidence that they speed up the healing process. In fact, many ear infections are caused by viruses, which antibiotics are completely ineffective against. So what natural solutions are there for a child with an ear infection?

I remember waiting several hours to see a doctor at a walk-in clinic on a Sunday morning when Melissa was really small to find out, to my relief, that her ear pulling and grumpy disposition was just a bad case of teething.

When your baby screams in excruciating pain unable to tell you what the matter is, it’s easy to feel helpless. Yet ear infections are almost completely preventable and easily remedied at home.

Firstly, how can you tell if your baby has an ear infection?

1) Ear infections are almost always preceded by a cold. Watch out for a runny nose that turns yellow or green as a bacterial infection sets in.

2) Increased night-waking and fussiness during the day and night could be a sign of pain, however it’s often difficult to tell the difference between teething and an ear infection.

3) Low grade fever (101-102F) most certainly indicates an illness of some kind but is not always present with an ear infection.

4) Ear drainage – blood or pus draining out of the ear is a sure sign of an ear infection but will only show if the eardrum is ruptured.

5) Worsening of pain when lying flat could be a sign; however the pain could be elsewhere, for example colic pain is often worse when lying down.

6) Pulling on the ear – small children cannot localise where pain is coming from and may do this when teething or simply playing with their ear.

7) Diminished hearing – may indicate a blocked ear in a baby, but could just be a sign that your toddler is developing selective hearing.

As you can see it’s all very confusing. You can never be completely sure that your child has an ear infection unless you or a doctor to take a look right inside. However, you can take preventative measures to make sure that your child does not get one to begin with, by following these simple steps.

1) Put on a woolly hat! Cold wind can quickly get to the ears and turn a cold into an earache. Keep heads and ears well covered on a cold winter’s day.

2) Don’t go swimming if your child has a cold, and use a nasal aspirator to clear mucus from the sinuses and prevent infections spreading to the ear.

3) Make sure the ears are completely dry after getting wet in the bath, shower or swimming pool by gently tipping your child’s head each way over a towel for a minute to allow water to drain.

4) Exposure to cigarette smoke can irritate the tiny Eustachian tubes in a child and lead to an infection. It goes without saying – don’t smoke around children.

What natural steps can you take to cure a suspected ear infection?

1) Apply a warm wash cloth, water bottle or heating pad on the ear – this helps with pain.

2) Combine a few drops of garlic oil with a tsp of olive oil and warm it to body temperature. Using a dropper, drop a few drops into the infected ear and allow the child to rest their head to the side in order for the oil to penetrate. Repeat on the other side if necessary. WARNING – if you see any liquid or pus draining out of the ear, DO NOT PUT ANY DROPS INTO THE EAR.

3) Perform a gentle ear drainage massage to clear the ear and get rid of excess fluid. See the video below.

4) Echinacea is a herb which medical research has shown to be safe and effective at boosting the immune system decreasing the frequency, duration and severity of common illnesses including ear infections. Here’s my favourite brand for babies over 6 months.

Do remember, that although extremely painful, an ear infection will usually clear up itself after 3 days with no treatment whatsoever.

As a child I suffered from numerous ear infections. Goodness, they were the most painful thing (other than labour) that I’ve ever experienced. I had many courses of antibiotics, my ears drained and waxy build up syringed, but they just kept coming back. Then when I was 18 I discovered I had a cow’s milk allergy. I haven’t had cow’s milk regularly now for nearly 20 years, and I have also never suffered with another ear infection.

If your child is having repeated ear infections I suggest you consider the following;

Natural solutions for chronic ear infections

Natural solutions for ear infections1. Craniosacral therapy – During labour the skull of your baby is squashed to fit through the birthing canal and especially in the case of an assisted birth (vontouse or forceps) may take time to recover shape. Gentle adjustment to the skull and neck can improve middle ear drainage and decrease ear infections.

2) Swimmers ear – if your child seems to get an ear infection every time they go swimming, you may prevent this by placing several drops of rubbing alcohol or white vinegar into the ear canal with a dropper. These kill infection and dry up the moisture.

3) Get an otoscope so you can see the infection yourself without having to wait for a doctor’s appointment. This way you can treat at the first sign.

4) Allergies – if like me, your child has continuous ear infections I would consider an allergy to cow’s milk. Research has shown a link between cow’s milk allergies and recurrent ear infections. Other signs that your child may have a cow’s milk allergy are colic, hay fever, eczema, acid reflux and digestive problems.

Does your child suffer with ear infections? Have you found any natural solutions or cures for your child’s ear infections? I’d love to hear about them. Please leave comments below.


Mummy De-Stress!

Looking after number 1 – Part 3

Spa minerals face packWhen you become a mum, it’s important to put some coping strategies into place to make sure you don’t reach the point of ‘burnout’.

If you’ve read my post on how to cope with sleep deprivation you’ll have seen that at the beginning I wasn’t very good at doing this. I literally road a caffeine fuelled car to get me through the day. This only stressed my adrenal glands and blocked important sleep inducing chemicals in the brain, so that when I did want to sleep I wasn’t able to. How frustrating!

These days I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve stopped trying to be the perfect mum who has all the washing and ironing done. After all, rushing around cleaning the house when your child is asleep is all very well, but I’ve discovered that nobody but you really cares if the house is spotless. And when Melissa tells me

mummy you just need to relax’

……instead of ignoring her warning and getting annoyed that a 4 year old is patronising me, I listen to her intuitiveness and use it as an excuse to put my feet up. After all, she and I are both aware that a de-stressed mummy is a happy healthy mummy.

So I’ve swapped my coffee for a cup of relaxing herbal tea and I’ve searched out ways to put 10 minutes of calm back into my life. Whether it is a simple yoga stretch on the floor, a face pack that stops me from talking, or a foot massage with some beautiful smelling essential oils, I find a way to be just me (for a few minutes).

Baldwins destress pack for mumsI was lucky enough some weeks ago, to be sent a Mummy De-Stress pack by one of my favourite Complementary Health stores; Baldwins.

I lived in South East London for over 15 years before moving to Oxford, and being into all things natural, I often frequented this gem of a place on London’s Walworth Road. It stocks all kinds of herbs, supplements and goodies and is a proper modern day Apothecary.

The Mummy De-Stress pack was an absolute joy to receive and test out. It included some of my favourite holistic brands. For example Bach flower Rescue Remedy and Rescue night liquid melts; which I’ve been popping just before bed to help me sleep deeply, as well as giving the odd one to Melissa if she wakes upset from a nightmare.

We’ve just put our SE London flat on the market, hoping to make the move to Oxford a permanent one. As you can imagine selling a flat is never straight forward and worries tend to creep in at night when you lie in bed. A night time bath with Baldwins Soothing Bath Oil followed by a couple of capsules of Pukka Night Time blend of Valerian and Ashwagandha has certainly helped me to ‘turn off’ the worries until morning. Whilst sipping a bedtime cup of Baldwins loose herbal teas (read more on these here) has left me so relaxed I’m practically horizontal.

Herbal sleep tea for childrenThank you Baldwins for sending this Mummy De-Stress pack to us. Even though I’m a Herbalist I’m still constantly blown away by the healing power of herbs, and Melissa was extremely chuffed to see her name on the packet of Melissa officinalis tea!

Are you a parent that’s found a coping mechanism or a way to de-stress from the strains of parenthood? I’d love to hear about it. Please leave comments below. If you missed part 1 and part 2 of my series on ‘Looking after number 1′ please click here (part 1 – coping with sleep deprivation & part 2 – the value of having some ‘me time’).

Make your own Natural Food Colouring

Make your own Natural food colourings for birthday cake
For many years there have been parents who have insisted that additives and E numbers in food and drink have caused changes in their child’s behaviour.

If you’ve read my blog posts on natural ways to deal with Temper Tantrums and Sleep Inducing foods, you’ll know that research is now catching up. In fact, it reveals that as many as 75% of children with a behavioural problem have some sort of food reaction to common artificial food colourings and preservatives that exacerbate their condition.

Food additives linked to behaviour & allergic reactions

Other studies have now shown the potential risk of allergic reactions, such as asthma and breathing problems linked with certain food additives and E numbers. Furthermore, food chemicals can pass through breast milk and affect breastfed babies. So if you have a cranky poor sleeping breastfed baby, I would look directly at your own diet.

With the above in mind, parents are now recommended to avoid products with these suspect additives and E numbers in them, especially if their child shows signs of allergy, behavioural problems and hyperactivity. The main ones to look out for are:

  • E102 – tartrazine
  • E104 – quinoline yellow
  • E110 – sunset yellow
  • E122 – carmoisine
  • E125 – ponceau 4R
  • E129 – allura red
  • E211 – sodium benzoate

These E numbers are everywhere; in Smarties, Jelly tots, Jammie Dodges as well as Sugar free Ribena and Fruit Shoots to name a few! And when you’re thinking of making a birthday cake extravaganza, it’s easy to grab a bottle of food colouring and create. However if you’ve inviited twenty 3 year old’s to your home, you may wish to re-think what goes into the icing; otherwise you could have a brawl rather than a party on your hands.

Melissa, being a spirited and energetic little soul has always led me to search out natural ways to maintain her calm. It was her birthday 3 days ago and I thought I’d go the extra mile to design a birthday cake that wouldn’t send her over the edge. If you wish to do the same, here’s my list of tried and tested natural food colourings. All you need to do is juice a tiny amount of each fruit or vegetable to get your natural food dye:

Natural food colourings from fruit and vegetables:

beetroot cupcakesRed: beetroot juice gives an amazingly wonderful deep pink colour. You only need a drop or two if you want pale pink icing or more if you want a deep fuscia. Click on the picture and scroll down to see my chocolate and beetroot fairy cake recipe.

Orange: carrot juice is fantastic and healthy

Yellow: a pinch of turmeric or saffron in a little water, or orange juice if you’re making an orange flavoured cake.

Brown: golden beetroot’s earthy yellow colour produces a dye that’s brown.

Green: spinach, rocket or watercress juice is actually undetectable if mixed with sugar paste.

Blue: blueberry juice gives a blue / purple hew that is beautiful. It’s not a sea blue colour but if marbled with green sugar paste it creates a perfect mermaid’s tail.

Purple: blueberry and blackberry juice give a wonderful purple colour; commercial colour free natural grape juice concentrate gives a great colour too but a strong taste; okay if you like it.

Black/brown – if you mix all the coloured icing pastes together you can get a rock effect. It is trial and error on how much of each you add but the results can be a beautiful marble.

Does your child have a reaction to food colourings and E numbers? Have you found any naturally coloured children’s sweets that you recommend or have you successfully experimented with natural food colourings yourself? I’d love to hear about your experiences.