Archive for the ‘Digestion’ Category

Does it Undermine Breastfeeding to give a Whole Food Alternative to Commercial Formula?

Over at Nourishing Our Children’s Facebook page, there has been a lot of criticism about a particular post that recommends which foods to begin feeding babies starting at 4 months. Some people are criticizing the Weston Price Organization for undermining or demphasizing  exclusive breastfeeding in favour of starting babies on solid foods. While it may at first glance appear that way, I don’t think that the Weston Price Organization or Nourishing Our Children for that matter have that intention.

Inspired by that  Facebook post, I wrote a little about my own experience  and research in the natural timing of infants introduction to solid food. I think it is worthwhile sharing here on my blog as well! 

I personally waited until both of my babes were 1 year of age until introducing solids (and both of my children were breastfed past the age of 4!) yet, I don’t think that there is any magic age to introduce solids.

What I’ve noticed is, that if solid foods are not offered babies don’t show an interest in it (especially first babies- many other mama’s  experiences have mirrored that of my own). When they have older siblings to imitate, our second children we have  noticed, seem to really want to take part in eating with the family.

But what did nature intend? I did some research on the natural timing of infant’s introduction to solid food and wrote and article for natural news about it, which can be found here. It is referenced, so you can check my sources.

It seems that we all agree that there is no specific time to introduce solids that applies universally. I have come to feel that we need to follow our babies. If they aren’t interested in eating solids, then we shouldn’t insist on it, just because of the conventional dogma that tells us we should.

And if our baby is interested, then why not allow them to explore foods appropriate to their digestive maturity, carefully watching for signs of their ability to digest the food and introducing only 1 food at a time, so that we can be sure that the particular food in question is right for them. We can determine this by looking at their stool and watching for rashes. If the food is coming out undigested, well then it has likely been an irritant, and definately not a source of nourishment. We cannot assimilate nutrition from something that we are not digesting. Watch also that their stool is well formed, not loose or constipated. This can become complicated to determine when mother  herself has a leaky gut, and passes on undigested food particles through her breastmilk. In this situation, the baby will have colic and/or rashes even when exclusively breast fed and this situation requires that the mother heal her own digestive challenges.

Some people claim that it is weird or unnatural to feed babies pureed foods and that we should let them only eat foods that they can pick up with their fingers. While I agree that being able to pick up food with their fingers could potentially be an indication that they are ready for solid foods, I also have to acknowledge that it was not an uncommon tradition for our ancestors to feed their babies pre-chewed foods (from the mother’s mouth). If they can’t chew it well, we might want to ask ourselves if the food is nourishment, a toy- at best or at worst- a burden to their developing digestive capacity.

I don’t necessarily agree with the logic that babies or toddlers should eat food in its original state  because they can hold it in their hands, nor do I assume that it is some kind of  panacea to ensure that our children will enjoy the natural texture of real food. Food in its unprocessed perfection is raw, and many raw  foods are just too hard to digest for babies and young children. These foods cool the digestive fire (see my article ” Thou Shall Not Feed thy Child Like a Little Adult”), not to mention the added problem of anti nutrients and often difficult to digest fibers. While most children will eat whatever you put infront of them up to the age of 3 (unless they already have some type of digestive or true picky eater syndrome), after that look out! Suddenly all that they once enjoyed will be preceded by the words “ew yuck” or “I don’t like that”! It may be just a developmental expression of will or it could be because they are on strike from being deprived of the saturated fats that would have fortified their digestion (or both!). At some point the toddler’s body says enough is enough! Give me the stuff that I can easily digest! Mashing, blending, stewing,  fermenting act like an extra stomach outside of their stomach- thus taking some of the weight off the developing digestive tract in a world where modern mama’s typically do not chew their babies and toddlers food for them! 

I used the aforementioned approach of waiting until 1 year to introduce solids and then letting  my son eat whatever we were eating (predominantly a whole foods, whole grains and veggie diet) . I think this was a mistake.  To be fair and transparent, I have to share as well that my son had a round of antibiotics at the age of 4 months which clearly would make him more digestively susceptible.

While my son did have much time for his digestion to mature before introducing solids, I don’t think that waiting this long and then just letting him eat what we ate (a whole foods vegetarian diet) was ideal. I strongly feel that we still should have STILL gradually introduced foods, thus allowing his digestive system to adjust to the changes, rather than assume that the age of 1 ensured a certain level of digestive maturity or readiness.

While we have all this information on how baby’s digestive systems develop, I am going to take an educated guess that while there is a certain pattern to how the manufacturing of digestive enzymes mature, I propose that the actual manufacturing of these enzymes is actually activated by the  introduction of solid foods.

While I don’t have the research on this, is this not how our enzyme systems work anyway, on an as needed basis? You have to eat the food for the body to use it’s energy and resources to produce the enzyme (whether from a digestive organ or from the intestinal microflora who themselves manufacture enzymes for us as well). 

Unfortunately, in my fervent idealism I assumed that the age of 1 was a magic age of digestive maturity! 

Now, however I truly believe that we need to consciously choose which foods to begin with and build on that with more choices at any age (whether starting at 6 or 9 months or 1 year…or later, and some babies really need this extra time). Although, I have to say that I don’t recommend starting a babe on solids before 9 months, unless they are formula fed. That is my instinctual cave mama perspective. And when we do begin them on solids I certainly wouldn’t recommend fortified rice cereal (see the previous article I wrote for Natural News).

What I do propose is that one follows the outline I gave in my article  “Feed them Fat! Rethinking how we Introduce Food to our Babies and Children”. WHEN you start is not as important as HOW you start. And don’t forget that our babies need ample saturated fat for the gut integrity that ensures good digestion. That was another mistake I made. I introduced a vegetarian diet with minimal cheese, butter and eggs…..but let me tell you I’m doing my best to make up for that now!!

Back to the accusations about the Weston Price Organization not being supportive of breastfeeding…I don’t see that as being true. Only if you get stuck on the fact that they point out that while many studies show that breastfeeding babies are healthier all around, they also mention one or two studies that are not consistent with this same conclusions. BUT, they go on to say that what this suggests is that, it is also the diet of the mother that confers many of those benefits, not solely the act of breastfeeding itself!

They are not calling breastfeeding into question! Come on people, Weston Price Association is about traditional foods….breast milk is the most ancient traditional food of the entire human species, no one is arguing that! What is up for question is the quality of our breast milk. We can’t just assume that the quality of all breast milk is the same. Mother has to eat the nutrition or manufacture it via her intestinal microflora (assuming she has optimal ratios) for it to be in the breastmilk!

I think that the reason that thus far the Weston Price association has emphasized how to introduce solid foods to babies that are so young is because realistically, for women who aren’t breastfeeding, their baby’s diet would be way more nutritionally rich with solid foods based on nutrient dense diet, than one of processed commercial formula.

Also, Sally Fallon as I recall reading from Nourishing Traditions fell ill at the time of her initiating breastfeeding, and as a result had her milk supply dry up. Because of her experience, she has a special focus on this area of feeding young babies and making homemade formula. I don’t think it is to undermine breastfeeding at all and if you don’t like her tone, just remember that she comes from a different era where few women breastfed.

I for one, am thankful that she formulated a food based formula. I am sure that those babies whose mothers took the extra time to make it, are healthier for it. And I am speaking as woman who as a baby wasn’t breastfed a day in her life. In all honesty, I wish my own mother would have fed me Sally Fallon’s formula and nutrient dense solid food instead of the processed formula on which I built the very tissues of my young body, ew yuck!

I really appreciate that the Weston Price association is hitting it home hard that we need saturated fats for our babies and toddlers. And I do think that we should also be making the connection that, if that is really so, our first choice of saturated fat should be our OWN  breast milk! Which opens a whole other can of worms doesn’t it?

Should we really be choosing the weaning time for our babies because of our own preference or convenience? Just sayin’. At the very least, we should be accounting for this loss and ensuring that our babes do get ample saturated fats from animal sources, if we are to wean them in our own timing. And what are the consequences of weaning our babes and then putting them on a low-fat, vegetarian or vegan diet? According to Dr. Natasha Campbell Mc Bride, the consequence of that, is a leaky gut and the host of problems that go along with it such as tummy troubles, loose stools, constipation, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD, Autism, depression etc.

While I recognize that many people think it is strange or extreme that I am still nursing my 4 and a half-year old again (after stopping for 5 months when I figured I’d  personally had enough), is because I came to the logical conclusion that if children have a physiological need for so much saturated animal fat, then first and foremost nature and tradition would have that, it means they would best thrive on the milk of their own species! HUMAN BREASTMILK!

And so there you have it! And because I know y’all are gonna ask me how I could produce breast milk after stopping for 5 months, all I can tell you is that if there isn’t a physiological “defect” of some sort (and realistically that only pertains to 2% of women), any block that we have to breastfeeding is a psychological one. I intended to breastfeed and I did. Her very first nurse after 5 months ended in a big belch (just in case you are thinking that my breast milk production would be negilable). Our breastmilk is first our blood, and it only takes as long as it takes our blood to move through our milk ducts to be transformed into milk to make breast milk!  I just didn’t entertain the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to make milk! I just put her on the boob and let nature do its thing!

Without further adieu, I would like to suggest that offering a solution for introducing solid foods at an early age, is not meant to be an alternative to breastfeeding, but rather an alternative to commercial formula feeding. Let’s be thankful that a bridge has been created by the Weston Price Association between where we are as a culture with real food and with breastfeeding.

In the meantime, send your hard feelings Dr. Mercola’s way….just kidding….totally kidding….Yip it could be a bridge too…..we can be both/and. While I do believe that “breast is best” and I am not afraid to stand for that, when it comes down to the harsh reality of our world, truth be told, if a baby isn’t being breastfed, it is in their best interest at the individual level that I support healthy alternatives. It doesn’t serve the babies whose moms aren’t breastfeeding them, (for whatever reason) that I should try to suppress the alternatives just because I don’t agree that they are necessary 98% of the time (and I don’t).  As women who stand up for breastfeeding, we are better off putting our energy towards that which we are for- in this case breastfeeding, than pushing against something we do not want. That which we resist persists!


Feed them Fat! Rethinking How we Introduce Food to Our Babies and Children

Feed them Fat! Rethinking How we Introduce Food to Our Babies and Children
© Sherry Rothwell

This article is in process as I take the wisdom of our ancestors’ natural timing in feeding our infants, and combine it with traditional food wisdom, along with the science of understanding how our baby’s digestive tracts mature and the successive increase in enzyme development as it occurs. In addition, I have factored in that a high fibre diet is not great for young children (irritating to the gut), and instead emphasize easy to digest full fat foods as it seems nature has intended for them. These are my conclusions, not only from the perspective of historical evidence, but also by acknowledging and following the instinctual food longings of our children and being witness to the digestive distress of a low fat, high fiber diet on my own children and in the diets of the children in my community.

Mother’s milk is over 50% fat, with most of it being saturated animal fat (breast milk is a form of saturated animal fat for we are mammals too)! I am starting to wonder how much of a shock it must be for our babies to go from 50% of their calories being animal sources fats into a low fat toddlerhood, virtually overnight (when breast milk is no longer a source of food or no longer the primary source of food). Surely their nutritional needs do not change overnight! With our cultures fear of fat and obsession with eating artificially reconstituted dairy products (skim milk and it’s 1% and 2% counterparts), it is hardly a stretch to assume that many of our children are chronically deficient in saturated fat.

According to Mary Enig PhD (fat expert and author), fats remain the #1 nutrient when it comes to toddlerhood, just as it was in infancy. She suggests that natural dietary fats should provide approximately 50-55% of the calories in a child’s diet from birth to the age of two years!

Is it any wonder why many children are slow to like their vegetables! Is it possible that our children stay in the picky eating phase for so long, because they are still waiting to be provided with the saturated fats we thought we should limit, because of our culture’s fear of animal fats?

Healthy saturated fats and cholesterol provide the nourishment needed for growth, brain development and for the myelin sheath which surrounds nerve fibres.

Natural sources of animal fats include:
breast milk
raw goat, sheep, cow milk
whipping cream
grass fed meat
organ meats
egg yolks

Animal fats also provide the fat soluble vitamins A & D which are co factors for protein assimilation, normal growth and hormone production. Where do our kids get concentrated sources of these fat soluble nutrients other than from nutrient dense, fat rich animal foods? According to Enig, young children`s enzyme systems are not mature enough to readily convert beta carotene to Vit. A.  Naturally sourced vitamin D is exclusively produced for us by our animal friends too (by eating them or through supplements made from the oil on their skin). While it is true that we can produce our own Vit.D, we do not live the way our ancestors did. We spend most of our time indoors and they spent most of their time outdoors and often year round. Especially if we live in the northern climates where it is difficult to get outside, we must consider consciously taking the time to obtaining a source of Vit.D for ourselves and our children. You may commit to spending time outdoors each day, no matter what the weather is like, or you may choose to supplement with Vit.D. Better yet, supplement with Cod Liver Oil. Not only is it both a source of Vit D and Vit.A, but also a source of essential fats.

How then should we begin feeding our children?

Assuming your toddler  eats the average 1500 calories per day, then from a practical perspective give him or her 6 tbsp of fat per day from butter, egg yolk, meat fat, coconut oil, whole raw dairy, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

And if you are just starting to feed your baby solid foods (or you want to start over because your toddler or young child is digestively distressed) here is some uncommon advice about starting baby’s on solid foods. The start time is not as important as the progression. Remember the uniqueness of your child and adjust accordingly.

Exclusively breastfeed until 9-12 months. Mother must eat a nutrient rich diet herself.

Prior to age 1 the following foods should serve as the primary source of fatty animal foods:
breast milk
egg yolks
plain chicken or beef broth (no added seasonings)

Also, if your baby has digestive distress give him/her just the juice of fermented veggies beginning with a 1/8  to a  ¼ of a teaspoon, and increase incrementally to normalize digestion.

Continue to emphasize these foods while adding the following at 1 year:
-chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, seafood, raw milk,
-incorporate seasoned beef and chicken broth into grain dishes, soups and stews

Introduce stewed fruit.

Then graduate to sweet root vegetables

Introduce fermented vegetables.

Cautiously Introduce: Raw veggies such as tomatoes and cucumbers should be served with generous avocado, olive oil or cream to help absorb the nutrients. (Think of Italian foods- tomato, cream and olive oil- the fats help buffer the acidity.)

Cautiously Introduce: Nightshade and cruciferous (because of the goitrogens and gas producing factor) veggies should be introduced with caution; they should be very well cooked and served with ample saturated fat.

Legumes should also be prepared by soaking and fermentation and served with generous amounts of saturated fat/oil (think of Mexican food such as guacamole or refried beans!)

After the age of 1 but ideally at around 36 months (because they are often the most likely to be the culprit in digestive distress) you can introduce grains, nuts and seeds.

Remember that the production of digestive enzymes only gradually increases as babies grow.  The last enzymes to be fully functional are the ones that break down carbohydrates, which can take up to 36 months.

Begin with non-glutinous grains (buckwheat, quinoa, millet, rice, amaranth) and always serve pre-digested through lactic acid fermentation. Combine with butter, ghee, coconut oil or egg yolk for optimal absorbability of nutrients.

Gradually you can add soaked and fermented glutinous grains, but you may want to wait until your child is past 36 months.

Once your toddler can hold finger food, introduce “crispy nuts”, ones that have been soaked and dehydrated with the addition of unrefined salt and butter/ghee/ coconut oil. Especially ensure that peanuts are soaked and dehydrated, cooked or roasted to eliminate aflatoxin, a dangerous mould.

Citrus and other commonly allergic foods should be introduced last and with caution.

Make sure that when feeding your child sweet treats, that you load them with good balancing fats for nourishment, stability and calmness- to keep them from bouncing off the walls!

Ideally all treats for children and adults would be made with butter or coconut oil and served with whipped cream, or cream cheese to slow down the rate of sugar absorption (and to make them more nutrient dense!). When raw milk is not available, emphasize coconut milk in your baking. Hot drinks such as hot chocolate can be nutritionally enhanced by some coconut oil melted in…..don’t forget the whipping cream and a bit of cinnamon (also slows sugar absorption) on top!

Emphasise warming spices and warm, cooked soft, easy to digest foods, to make it easier for your children to absorb and assimilate the nutrition. Add fermented foods or the juice from fermented foods as early as possible to get baby used to the sour flavour. In addition, while other raw foods are beneficial, emphasize fruits and green smoothies, but not raw vegetables, nuts, seeds or grains which need to be pre-digested for optimal nourishment. I am not saying never or ever, but please be aware that looking at our children’s stool and noticing that there is an absence of undigested food or symptoms, is more indicative of the benefits of a diet, than any pre determined dietary dogma. No sense feeding your child food that is assumed to have more nutrition, yet it irritates their gut, reduces their digestive fire and gives them a tummy ache.

In addition, when we try to get them to eat foods that are not particularly suited to them, we subsequently reduce how much they will eat altogether and unknowingly reduce their nutrition by holding onto our own commonly held and limiting viewpoints. It has been said we are not what we eat, but rather what we can digest and absorb. Use both logic and intuition when choosing when and what to feed your children while acknowledging and following your child’s instinctual food longings too.

Digestion: Inner Pathway to Health, David W. Rowland

Probiotic “Diet” Immersion Weekend Workshop!

A little video about what we do at the Probiotic “Diet”  Immersion Weekend Workshop! 

Discover just some of the surprising nutritional and practical benefits of learning the skill of lactic acid fermentation! Find out why fermentation is not only more affordable, but also more sustainable than probiotic pills and how learning this skill has the potential to be life saving in the event of a power outage!

The Top 5 Reasons that I Love Making Ferments!

#1 Delicious, Healthy and Satisfying!
Fermented foods are so freakin’ good for us!!  Our microflora serve both as the frontline of our immune system AND they optimize our digestion….problems with our digestion and our immunity are at the root of many chronic conditions. Digestion is said to be the root of good health, while death is said to begin in the colon. Two sides of the same coin my friends! In addition, as we feed ourselves the sour flavour, our cravings to consume excessive amounts of sweets begins to dimish…no willpower necessary!

#2 Simple, Affordable, Accessible
Ferments are cheaper, more effective and more nutritious than probiotic pills. Eating fermented condiments is one of the ways that our ancestors cultivated and sustained proper microflora ratios! Ferments are not just a source of good bacteria, but they are also a source of lactic acid (which creates ideal living conditions for our good bacteria and is antagonistic to harmful bacteria). Finally, probiotic pills are just good bacteria- they don’t come with added nutritional value that ferments do! Ferments are simple, accessible and sustainable, compared to probiotic pills, which require scientific formulation, manufacturing and transport. 

#3 Making the Fruit of our Work Visible
Work hard once, but eat for months! 1 quart of fermented vegetables will take me no longer to make,  than the time it takes to bake cookies, yet the cookies disappear overnight! Momma, how more satisfying could it be to spend a little time in the kitchen and have lots to show for it, for months? Finally ladies, some work in the kitchen that isn’t invisible!

#4 Life Saving Skill
Learning the simple skill of preparing lacto fermented foods has provided me with a skill that enables me to store food without the need for sterilization (sure you could slave and sweat for hours over those canned tomatoes, but why bother when you could ferment and store them as a living food!). In the unfortunate event of a power outage in summer or in the dead of winter, I can preserve the fruits and vegetables that I do have from freezing or going rotten, through fermentation! Having this skill that could be life saving, not to mention empowering!

#5 Domestic Goddess “ness”
Another reason that I love making ferments, is because they look so darn pretty sitting on my counterop! Not to mention how much I enjoy feeling like a domestic mother  goddess while the whole house comes alive with my little bacteria babies! Making ferments is such a lovely way to bring nature inside, all year round!

Check out my probiotic website for more details about making ferments, to register for your “probiotic diet immersion”  in Winnipeg, MB or to start envisioning  how you can bring my family to yours, for a probiotic immersion in your community!

Thou Shall not Feed Thy Child, Like a Little Adult

It is important not to think of infants and children’s as little adults in our feeding of them, because essentially their digestive systems do not mature until about the age of 6 or 7.

Their digestive enzymes are not as plentiful or as efficient as ours and they are less able to assimilate the nutrition that is provided. 

“Intestinal materials including undesirable particles are more readily absorbed into the bloodstream through the porous lining of the digestive tract. Their digestive capacity may be weakened or impaired due to poor dietary choices and environmental stresses. This weakness can persist well into adulthood increasing the likelihood of chronic childhood and adult illnesses.” Lawrence B. Palevsky, MD

Infants have few teeth, and few children chew their food well. Foods that are not chewed well exert an extra strain, calling for more enzymes and mechanical heat to be generated where there is already a low supply.

The following food choices weaken children’s developing digestive capacities:

Foods that are too hot, spicy and fried.

Foods that are too cold or cooling in temperature and quality.

Foods that are smothering or heavy and thick in nature (they smother the digestive fire).

Foods that are dampening-ones that produce mucous and phlegm.

Instead, emphasize foods that are whole, simple, warm, cooked, and easy to digest and traditionally prepared, including ones that are neutral or warming in their thermal nature.

Mucous and inflammation are a by-product of poor digestion, contribute to a leaky gut and produce the following common symptoms in babies and children: colic, vomiting and spitting upconstipation and diarrheaear infectionsfevernasal congestion and sinusitis allergiesacute and chronic coughsasthma, eczema etc.

In the acute conditions the body is cleansing itself, but when the discomforts become chronic it is a sign that the body no longer has the vitality to cleanse itself of the foods, environmental toxins and life stressors that have weakened the digestive, immune and nervous system.

When the body shows mucous and inflammation symptoms, it is a sign that our children are out of balance and that we need to put our attention on creating a diet and lifestyle that is more supportive and reflective of our children’s true needs rather than taste or convenience.

© Sherry Rothwell

Beet Kvass the Moontime Elixir

Beet Kvass is an excellent tonic for the childbearing years.

With it’s affinity to support the liver, Beet Kvass not only helps prevent potential morning sickness in woman of childbearing age, but it also eases premenstrual tension. 

If you find yourself feeling that throbbing, “empty pulling” sensation as you are about to begin your moontime (or during your heaviest bleeding days), it could be a sign that your body is aching  for more minerals!

With beets having the “blood signature”, as indicated by their bright red colour, they are a fantastic tonic for rebuilding the blood.

So why not take a some time each month to consciously restore some of  the nutrients you’ve lost through your menstrual blood?

I personally find that taking the time to make a couple of quarts of beet kvass a few days before I am “scheduled” to bleed, is not only nourishing to the body, but nourishing to the soul as well. Rather than feel depleted during this sacred time of letting go, why not consciously slow down and cultivate some extra self care?

In addition, beet kvass, by its nourishing quality, also promotes regularity and aids in digestion. Thus, making for a great overall tonic for anytime of the month!

Making Beet Kvass is a very simple  ritual that you can incorporate into your monthly self care rhythm.

Keep reading for the recipe and picture tutorial!

You will need:
1) 2 quart glass container of sorts with lid
2) 2 large beets
3) 1 Tbsp unrefined sea salt
4) 1/4 cup whey  *This is made simply by pouring plain yogurt through a clean dishtowel, which is then tied with string and hung over a bowl. Over night, the whey will strain from your cloth into the bowl.. leaving you with yogurt cream cheese! Yummy! Store the whey and “cream cheese” in separate containers in the fridge.
5) chlorine free water

Simply chop the beets into bite sized pieces.


Place them in a 2 quart glass container (maybe you have  an old pickle jar in the cupboard?)

Pour 1/4 cup of  whey over the beets.

Next, pour your 1 Tbsp of unrefined salt over top of the beets.

Then pour your filtered water on top, ensuring that the beets are fully submerged…. yet leave about an inch of air space in the top of the jar.

Finally, stir well and put your lid on tightly.

Keep at room temperature for 48 hours before straining and transferring to the fridge. 

Rather than discard the beets, you can make a second batch by reserving some of the kvass (about 1/2 inch including the beets and fill the jar again with filtered water). Leave at room temperature for another 2 days! Second batch won’t be quite as potent, but will still be very nourishing.

After the 2nd batch, you will want to compost your beets. But if you prefer to make a vegan batch of kvass or if you don’t always have whey on hand, you can omit the whey and use 1/4 cup of beet kvass from a prior brew to make your next fresh batch.

Enjoy, and please take a moment to comment on how beet kvass, or simply how taking the time out to make special preparations to honour and nourish your body, is impacting your moontime experience!

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon w/Mary Enig
Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford

This post is inspired in part by which is a “Harvest Challenge” by Nourished Kitchen….check it out and stay tuned!