This section is devoted to the information that will be useful in the creation of a Kin's Domains.
Unassisted Home Birth Story - Fidele
Natural Childbirth Basics
Your body is built for natural childbirth. Amazing, isn't it? You've been designed to give birth to your baby - without lots of medical intervention.
Women don't choose drug-free birth to win medals. Giving birth naturally is a healthy choice for you and your baby - and it's empowering.
Why Choose Natural Childbirth?
Natural birth is the best birth for you and for your baby. Despite what you might be told, all medication - even the epidural - has an effect on your baby. The medications used during birth cross to your baby and change the way your body responds to labor.
Medical intervention and surgical birth - either by cesarean section or by "assisted delivery" (forceps and vacuum extractors) and episiotomy - interferes with birth. Birth interventions can interrupt those precious first moments with your new child. Even worse, they can cause those moments to be lost forever.
Cesarean section vs. vaginal birth is a huge topic. The bottom line is (though there are times when cesarean birth is a lifesaver) in the vast majority of the cases a cesarean was neither best or even preferable to the mother. The cesarean epidemic is out of control. You were designed to give birth - without surgery.
Your Birth Options
One of the first things you'll decide is where to give birth. You have several options. Some women want to be in the hospital. If you find a good care provider and are able to advocate for your rights it's possible to have a wonderful natural childbirth experience in the hospital - lots of women have done it!
You can also choose a birth center. You may like the thought of the extra backup at a birth center - while enjoying more intimate care and a home-like feel. Birth centers generally have low intervention rates and transfer rates and natural births happen most of the time.
Home birth is an option. Birth at home is intimate, empowering, and beautiful. It's a wonderful experience that gives your baby and excellent start and allows you the most freedom.
Another choice to consider is who should be at your baby's birth. This can end up being a complicated choice. There are many considerations to take into account - but it comes down to what you want. You choose who to have there and even if you want your older kids at the birth.
A doula is a woman who is specially trained to support you during labor - to "mother the mother." Doulas offer amazing (and scientifically proven) support during natural childbirth and it's well worth researching doulas in your area.
There are women who choose unassisted childbirth with only their partner and family. Some want to birth alone. The choice of where to birth and who to have there is yours to make!
Have you thought about waterbirth? Labor is the time to dip in and relax! Water can feel great in labor. It may also help you birth more gently and avoid intervention such as episiotomy.
You may also be asked to about inducing labor - it's good to know the different methods and effects of each one. It's also very helpful to know natural methods for inducing labor!
Learning about your birth options allows you to be an informed consumer. Know your choices and your rights - you're the customer!
Waterbirth is a great choice for natural childbirth. A large part of the human body is water and most people find comfort in water - they love to soak in a warm bath or take a hot shower.
Water is relaxing and soothing. Laboring women are no different - water gives relief from the pain of labor, the weight of pregnancy, and allows babies to be born gently and naturally.
Water Helps Women
Water is beneficial for laboring mothers. Water eases pain (as you have no doubt noticed before!)
When a woman feels pain and fear in labor her instinct is to tighten up. Her body begins to shut labor down so that she can flee whatever is scaring her - it is a "flight" reflex. Soaking in warm water reduces pain and helps women relax during labor.
When you're free to loosen up and embrace labor you're free to do what you needs to in order to birth your baby. During a waterbirth you move as you wish. You can change positions, allowing the water to support you. You can easily squat - a natural position for laboring and giving birth.
If you have a partner in the tub with you you'll have even more support. Your ability to move as you wish will also assist your baby's descent through the birth canal.
Water provides even pressure on your body. It not only supports your weight as you labor it adds support as your body opens to accommodate your baby traveling down the birth canal. It provides equalizing pressure on the perineum as the baby's head crowns and is born.
All the even support from the water allows your blood to flow freely, meaning that you and baby are getting all the oxygen and nutrients you need throughout labor.
Besides reducing pain and giving support for a smooth birth waterbirth empowers you. If you've been able to labor naturally you can connect with your baby right away and be energized and empowered by your birth experience.
Good for Baby
Waterbirth is natural for babies. They are able to move gently from the womb to the water. Water supports the baby as he is born, allowing him to move easily into a place that feels familiar to him.
Your baby has been in water for 9 months. This gentle, warm water is what your child knows. Instead of being jarred immediately into cold air, you can bring your baby's head out of the water and then ease his body out slowly.
As mentioned before your blood flows more freely, allowing more blood to reach the baby. Your baby will benefit from this increased circulation. Your baby's cord will be able to float freely in the water, allowing the last blood from the placenta to flow smoothly to your child. A waterbirth can also have the added benefit of ensuring that the cord is not cut right away.
Babies do not start breathing until they feel air on their faces and umbilical cords. With water birth delayed cord clamping your baby is allowed gentle transition from the umbilical cord to breathing air.
You'll be able to bring your baby right up out of the water and to your breast. Water birthed babies are often peaceful and alert after having been gently born into the water and pulled up to their mother.
Many water birthed babies are very calm after birth and do not cry much or get upset. Their gentle transition to life outside the womb allows them to relax and observe. These peaceful babies may also have an easier time getting breastfeeding started.
A tub is needed for waterbirth. You can rent a tub or you can use any tub that is big enough for you to move around in. Generally you'll want a tub big enough for you to be immersed to your armpits when you sit.
You need a source of clean, warm water. A rented birth tub will have a heater attached that keeps the water warm. If you do not have a tub with a heater attached you may want to have several pots of water staying warm on the stove to replenish warm water as the tub cools.
You'll need a brand new hose that can carry hot water. You also want a small net. The net will allow for easy clean-up of the water after the birth. You'll probably want to have a flashlight and a small thermometer available.
A large tarp or plastic sheet is a good idea for protecting floors from spilled water. Have plenty of clean towels on hand for mopping up spills and for wrapping around yourself when you get out of the tub.
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Learning in the Real World
by Wendy Priesnitz
A retired school teacher acquaintance recently acquired her first computer. After plugging it in and connecting the components according to the instructions, she called me to ask if I could recommend a course that she could take to learn how to use her new toy. I said I couldn't recommend a course because I've never taken a computer course in my life. Then how in the world, she wondered, had I become such a proficient computer user? Well, I responded, I just began using it!
I hadn't given much thought to it before, but I realized then that I learn most things by just doing them. And I suppose that made me a good role model for our life learning daughters when they were young... or at least it helped me understand that "just doing it" can be an effective way to learn. And that, of course, is fundamental to my philosophy of living and learning.
It's also fundamental to how all children learn to walk and to talk. They don't take a course. They don’t "goof off" while learning it because they're bored or it's too hard. They are not marked, tested, graded or nagged to practice. They just do it. They are motivated by wanting to do it well, like bigger people.
To someone dependent on being carried or on crawling, walking must seem like a natural, easy and fast way to get around. Their parents, older siblings and other walkers in their lives have a mobility that they must envy, especially given their high level of curiosity. And curiosity is motivating.
Aside from modeling the behavior, we create a safe environment, putting breakables away, toddler-proofing our homes so there are no stairs to fall down, no sharp corners to bang against. And we provide nourishing food so they developed straight bones and strong muscles.
We unconsciously encourage and stimulate them to learn, bouncing them on our knee at first as they try to push their legs straight against our stomachs, then holding them at floor level and pretending they are walking, then holding out our hands just a few inches in front of them, encouraging them to take those first few tentative steps.
Then, when they finally take those first triumphant steps, we celebrate the satisfaction of accomplishment with them. We also reassure them when they have a setback, cuddling them when they fall, patching up a scratched knee, encouraging them to try again. And reassuring them they can and will eventually walk.
But perhaps most important of all, we trust them to learn to walk. Unless they are severely disabled, we don't think twice about whether or not they will learn to walk. People walk, so we know our children will eventually do it too. We take it for granted. We just let them get on with it, as we do the same.
We don't worry that we might need a degree to help them learn this important and difficult skill. We know that we're up to the task and so are they. They do it experientially, from real life, motivated by a real need. And they work hard at it. In fact, they relish the challenge to learn and put a lot of self-discipline to work on whatever they choose to learn.
In the same way, a child will teach herself the language spoken by the adults around her. And that same child can later learn to read it. She will do that as part of her real world experience - speaking and reading for real-life reasons.
Let's take another example, this time looking at how a child just off the breast or bottle learns about a cup. As she uses it, she makes many discoveries: What it is, what is its substance? What are its attributes, what it feels like, tastes like? How is it different from the last cup she used in texture, weight, shape and color? What will a cup hold? How much will a cup hold? Is it better to hold it with one hand or two? Where can cups be put down without spilling (and perhaps more interestingly to a young child, with spilling)? What happens when a cup is thrown across the room (first full, then empty)?
The child learns all this science experientially, not because somebody teaches her or tells her she has to learn it. She picks up the knowledge as part of her everyday life... in just the same way that we adults learn things. She didn't learn it because we got inside her head to examine her thought processes...and whether or not she was "doing it right" or even knew the name we've given to that type of science. But she did challenge that curious notion that children have short attention spans! (In my experience, they only have short attention spans when someone is making them do something they are not interested in.)
But that sort of learning only happens when we believe that it will and that it should, when we allow the learner to be in control and give them enough time to "just do it." We need to give them the space to recognize or formulate a "problem," set about solving it, take it as far as they can go, consult with others about it or observe them doing it, reflect on that and tackle it again. And we must make the real world accessible to them so they can have real-life experiences, instead of the sort where they are "allowed" to "help" within certain constraints (usually relating to cleanliness and efficiency) or where they pretend to do real work with the aid of toy tools. Life learning is about kids doing their own real work, motivated by their own real interests and goals... and being around adults who are also doing their own real work.
Unfortunately, there are few places where children can experience the adult world. Most children - and even many homeschooled ones - don't have nearly enough opportunities to be with adults who are doing their own thing in the real world and not, as John Holt once put it, "just hanging around entertaining or instructing or being nice to children."
The working world of adults is not very accessible to children because we fear they will get hurt, get in the way of or slow down production, or abuse or break the equipment. So we make childhood a rehearsal for personhood, replacing real experiences with pseudo experiences. Many of those pseudo experiences take place in schools, but they can also be part of the home-based learning environment.
Our daughters Heidi and Melanie grew up living and learning in the midst of our busy home-based magazine publishing business. They used all the tools of that business and never abused them. They respected the tools as part of our business and saw how carefully we used them. And, more importantly, those tools were an important part of their everyday lives too, so they had a stake in taking care of them.
But one of my homeschooling friends, who also happened to be a writer, was horrified to discover that our children were able to use my typewriter, then my word processor, then later my computer, as well as various photocopiers, typesetters and other related equipment. She said her kids would wreck hers for sure if allowed anywhere near them. Maybe... or maybe not if given the opportunity and the trust.
There are many opportunities for children and young people to learn in and be of service to the real world. They include volunteering with community organizations, helping in their parents' businesses or at their workplaces, working for pay or as apprentices at neighborhood businesses and running their own businesses. Our daughters often they put all that office equipment to good use in their own money-making enterprises... and they were noticeably more passionate about those businesses than they were about stuffing magazines in envelopes for their parents' business!
Although I don't want to romanticize the past or ignore the abuses against children that took place a few centuries ago, there was a time when children had the opportunity to do real work at their parents' side, as well as on their own accord, and to be involved in the life of their communities. In our more complex modern world, this same type of opportunity and respect for children's abilities is still possible if we all share a sense of responsibility for helping develop the minds that will lead us into the future. In our current economy, no one has all the experiences and information necessary to prepare young people for a rapidly developing future. But we can share our skills and experiences with our children, or take on other people's kids as apprentices in order to pass along our knowledge and skills.
That sort of real world learning experience is often easier to describe than to arrange. A group of parents have come together in a community park in Toronto to build a series of cob structures housing a sink, cooking fireplace, baby-changing station and, ultimately, a composting toilet with a rammed earth foundation. Cob is a traditional style of construction that uses a mixture of sand, straw, clay and water and is people-friendly, low-tech and community-building. Aside from filling a need for those facilities in the park, one of the purposes of the project is to offer people of all ages a chance to learn how to build low impact shelter. And that includes children of various ages. But the municipal bureaucracy has enforced labor code regulations, which required the building of a six-foot-high fence and excluding the participation of children. Georgie Donais, an unschooling mom who coordinates the project, has devised a "workaround" whereby people mixing cob materials on tarps are located outside the fence and only work booted adults are allowed inside the fence. Besides segregating people by functions, this relegates children to the mixing function and prevents them from being involved in some of the more "exciting" aspects like shoveling, hauling materials or filling bags of dirt. Georgie, trying to see the situation through the bureaucracy's eyes, admits, "I imagine it is a truly strange thing to be asked to listen to and support some woman who wants to - with barely any money and very few power tools, but with many bare feet and children involved - create a building out of mud that houses a toilet."
That "strange thing" is something our children need much more of, especially if the well-meaning powers-that-be (whether they are municipal officials, business owners or parents) can sort out the mindless bureaucratic requirements from the necessary safety concerns. Kids need the sense of accomplishment that comes from being trusted with a real job to do in the real world. They benefit from the increased self-esteem that comes from participating - at whatever level - in a functioning group. Everyone benefits when kids develop the grace and confidence that accompanies being in control of themselves and of their surroundings. And, of course, they don't need the sort of "protection" that results from lack of adult trust and preparation, and that keeps them sitting on the sidelines and away from meaningful work.
Aside from safety, there are other reasons for sidelining children. Showing respect for a child's developing skills takes patience and skills. Doing a task ourselves is usually easier and more efficient than allowing the time needed for a child to do it. Children's results might be not good enough for the satisfaction of perfectionist adults. And some people just underestimate what a child can do.
They may be the same people who question how unschooled children will ever learn how to function in the real world! Perhaps they misunderstand the concept of life learning, or maybe they mean that the real world is a competitive, hostile and grim place - does that mean it's intentional that schools are so often such ugly places?! If that's the case, I'd have to say that not only do life learning kids have the secure preparation of a joyous childhood to prepare themselves for adulthood, they are able to observe, experience and celebrate the positive aspects of life by interacting with friendly, supportive adults. And who knows? That might be just the sort of childhood that's needed to make the whole world a better place!
Personal empowerment starts with the realization of the value of our own life experience and potential to affect the world - whether we are babies, toddlers, teens or adults. So as life learners, we need to find as many ways as possible to nurture this awareness of the value of experience in people of all ages. Our children especially deserve the same flexibility, control, access and opportunities to be part of - and learn from - the daily life of the families and communities in which they live.
This essay first appeared in Life Learning Magazine, November/December 2007
Copyright (c) Wendy Priesnitz 2008
Image copyrights: http://www.uci.edu/; http://image.guardian.co.uk/
Formula for disaster
Many new parents think infant formula is the next best thing to Mom, but nothing could be further from the truth.
When Tabitha Walrond's 7-week-old infant died of starvation last year, the fact that this young New York mother had attempted to breast-feed her baby -- albeit with obvious lack of success -- was widely blamed for the complex and haunting tragedy. The national headlines regarding the Walrond case were ongoing and sensational. "Nursed to Death" read one. "Breast-feeding can kill?" inquired another.
During the same period, the similar death of the 6-week-old breast-fed baby of another New York mother, Tatiana Cheeks, raised further breast-feeding concerns in the press and with the public. This time one headline read "Nursing Death?" In 1995, a widely-circulated Wall Street Journal article detailing dehydration in several middle-class breast-fed babies whose mothers had experienced breast-feeding difficulties led to a surge in phone calls to pediatricians and hospital hotlines across the country from new parents worried that breast-feeding itself could somehow harm their infants. Given this environment, many conscientious new parents may conclude that formula-feeding represents a safer alternative to the potential "dangers" of breast-feeding. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
In virtually all of the reported cases each year in which a breast-fed baby becomes seriously ill as a result of her mother's feeding choice, the problem is actually one of not breast-feeding -- meaning that, as in the Walrond and Cheeks cases, some uninformed and unsupported nursing mothers are not aware that they aren't effectively transferring milk from their breasts to their babies. In sharp contrast, however, routine formula feeding -- even when done properly by parents -- is itself a contributor to overall rates of infant morbidity and mortality in the United States. This is because -- despite what manufacturers' advertising would have parents believe -- today's commercial infant formulas, while a marked improvement over the homemade concoctions of years past, still represent a flawed and highly inferior imitation of our own, species-specific milk.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' most recent member survey, a majority of baby doctors see slightly more formula-fed babies than breast-fed babies admitted to the hospital for instances of malnutrition and failure to thrive. But this represents only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the differences in rates of morbidity and mortality between formula-fed and breast-fed infants in this country. When the overall health of formula-fed infants in the U.S. is compared to that of breast-fed infants -- even after controlling for variables such as parents' socioeconomic backgrounds -- it becomes clear that formula-fed babies are sicker, sick more often, and are more likely to die in infancy or childhood. However, parents often lack access to this information, and in fact, are often the recipients of misinformation, thus denied the ability to make truly informed choices regarding how they will feed their babies. Although the phrase "breast-feeding is best" is tossed around so liberally as to have been rendered almost meaningless, many Americans are under the mistaken impression that today's commercial infant formulas are nearly identical to human milk. And because of this, parents who routinely approach other important infant health and safety issues in a thoughtful, deliberate way are largely unaware that in epidemiological terms, the decision to formula-feed when breast-feeding is an option places their child at demonstrably higher risk for a wide variety of ailments.
"Parents are not adequately informed regarding the real risks of artificial milks [infant formula]," says Nancy Wight, MD, FAAP, IBCLC, and a neonatologist at Children's Hospital in San Diego. She says that she considers it part of her job to strongly encourage the parents of her patients to breast-feed. "Doctors never worry about making parents feel guilty when we discuss childhood immunizations, car seats, seatbelts, bicycle helmets or fencing around pools. I have an obligation to my patients to give them correct information -- not formula marketing slogans -- and let them make the choice."
Dr. Lawrence Gartner, MD, FAAP is a respected medical authority on infant feeding who has played a role in drafting policy statements for the AAP regarding this issue. He agrees that parents today aren't fully aware that the breast-or-bottle decision is more than just another neutral lifestyle choice."Compared to other equally important child safety issues like car seat use or babies' sleep position, parents should understand that the decision whether to breast- or bottle-feed ranks right up on top when it comes to protecting babies. The AAP certainly puts it in that category."
In fact, the AAP explicitly states that encouraging breast-feeding among parents is "as important to preventive pediatric health care as promoting immunizations, car seat use, and proper infant sleep position."
Katherine Dettwyler, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University and an internationally recognized expert on infant nutrition, agrees with Gartner's assessment of the relative risks of "artificial feeding" for American children. "I would rank the decision of how to feed your baby as the No. 1 infant safety issue in this country," says Dettwyler.
Despite the widespread misperception that aggressive promotion of breast-feeding has had a major impact on how we feed our babies, more than 70% of infants in the United States are fed infant formula as their primary source of nutrition for most of their critical first year of life. According to a recent report in the Washington Post, although a federal survey in 1995 found that 58% of American mothers start off breast-feeding their babies -- the same percentage as a decade earlier -- 20% fewer mothers today are still breast-feeding after three months. While it is certainly true that many individual formula-fed infants will do "just fine" (as will most unvaccinated individuals in the United States), the research clearly indicates that, as a population, America's formula-fed babies are not "fine" at all.
"Sure, you can speak of the benefits of breast-feeding," explains Dr. Gartner. "But it's really just as accurate -- maybe more accurate -- to speak of the risks of formula-feeding. Unfortunately, the large volume of medical literature we now have that demonstrates this is written from the perspective of proving the 'advantages' of breast-feeding -- as if formula-feeding were the gold standard. But when you read the literature the other way around -- as it should be read, really -- the results are rather startling."
These "startling" results were crystallized in the AAP's exhaustively researched 1998 Policy Statement on Breast-feeding and the Use of Human Milk. For the first time, parents can easily access a readable, comprehensive overview of all the most current medical literature related to infant feeding. Summarizing the results of their study, the AAP Policy Statement notes that infants who are not breast-fed "in the United States, Canada, Europe, and other developed countries, among predominantly middle-class populations" see an increased incidence and severity of such diseases as diarrhea (a malady from which approximately 500 American children aged 4 and under lose their lives each year), lower respiratory infection, otitis media (ear infections), bacteremia, bacterial meningitis, botulism, urinary tract infection, and necrotizing enterocolitis. The AAP goes on to say that a number of studies now indicate that breast milk may lower babies' risk for sudden infant death syndrome, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, lymphoma (cancer), allergic diseases, and other chronic digestive diseases.
"More than 1,000 childhood deaths per year in the United States could be prevented through breast-feeding," says Dr. Allan Cunningham, associate professor of pediatrics at the State University of New York Health Science Center, Syracuse and the author of scholarly articles on the mortality risks of bottle-fed babies in the United States. "This includes infants who die from a wide variety of illnesses such as diarrheal diseases like rotavirus, as well as pneumonia and bacterial meningitis. Although the 'Back to Sleep' campaign has made a large dent in the number of babies who die each year from crib death, my estimate is that you roughly double the statistical risk of a baby dying of SIDS if you formula-feed. This is something parents just aren't made aware of."
Dr. Cunningham has published research in leading pediatric journals indicating that for every 1,000 bottle-fed infants in the United States, 77 hospital admissions would result. The comparable figure for breast-fed infants was determined to be five hospital admissions. And Naomi Baumslag, M.D., MPH and Dia Michels note in their book, "Milk, Money and Madness" (Bergin and Garvey, 1995): "Even where bacterial contamination can be minimized, the risks of bottle-feeding are not inconsequential. Bottle-fed infants raised by educated women in clean environments, to this day, have significantly greater rates of illness and even death ... In a study that analyzed hospitalization patterns for a homogeneous, middle-class, white American population, bottle-fed infants were 14 times more likely to be hospitalized than breast-fed infants."
A May 1995 study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, "Differences in Morbidity Between Breast-fed and Formula-fed Infants," examined "whether breast-feeding is protective against infection in relatively affluent populations." The study followed two groups of babies, each of whom was either breast-fed or formula-fed exclusively for the entire first year of life. The babies were matched for characteristics such as birth weight and parental socioeconomic status, and the study was controlled for the use of daycare. The results of this research revealed that, in the first year of life, the incidence of diarrheal illness among formula-fed infants was twice that of breast-fed infants and the number of prolonged ear infections (more than ten days in duration) was 80% higher in formula-fed infants. Breast-fed infants experienced 19% fewer ear infections overall.
In a study reported in the April 1999 issue of Pediatrics, researchers looked at the frequency of only three illnesses during the first year of life: lower respiratory tract illnesses, otitis media, and gastrointestinal illness. Infants in the study were healthy at birth and were classified as never breast-fed, partially breast-fed, or exclusively breast-fed, based on their mother's feeding choice during the first three months of life. According to the study's authors, "Frequency of office visits and hospitalizations for the three illnesses was adjusted for maternal education and maternal smoking, using analysis of variance." The results of the research revealed that there were 2,033 excess office visits, 212 excess days of hospitalization and 609 excess prescriptions for these three illnesses alone per 1,000 bottle-fed infants compared with 1,000 exclusively breast-fed infants.
To Dr. Dettwyler, more familiar illnesses, such as ear infections, represent an important aspect of the risks of formula-feeding which shouldn't be overlooked. "In this country we have just become accustomed to repeated ear infections in our babies. Although we can treat these problems with antibiotics, we should be asking ourselves how this affects our babies' quality of life," says Dettwyler.
Dr. Wight agrees. "We are accepting as normal, abnormal amounts of unnecessary illnesses such as otitis media, lower respiratory illness, gastroenteritis, diabetes and allergies, among others."
Despite the fact that the medical literature clearly supports the contention that formula-feeding represents a statistically riskier enterprise for American babies than does breast-feeding, this isn't a message parents often hear in the media. It's hard to imagine headlines proclaiming: "Mother's choice to formula-feed leads to preemie dying of necrotizing enterocolitis!" (Necrotizing enterocolitis is an inflammation of the large and small intestines, which carries a mortality rate of 20-40 percent for the 5-12 percent of all very premature infants who become ill with it. Formula-fed preemies are up to 10 times more likely to experience this serious complication, and of those infants who develop the illness, infants who aren't receiving breast milk are significantly more likely to require surgery and to die.) Individual health-care providers across the country are able to relate specific instances in which babies experienced less favorable health and developmental outcomes attributable to artificial feeding. But no one from the Wall Street Journal is calling to put these cases on the front page as evidence of the potential hazards of infant formula.
Dr. Linda Shaw, M.D., FAAP, is a practicing pediatrician in Altoona, Penn. who says that she sees "plenty of babies with formula problems ... Just a few months ago, I had a formula-fed infant I had to admit to the hospital for failure to thrive. I have also cared for infants with cow's milk protein allergies leading to gross rectal bleeding. I've seen lots of infants hospitalized with gastroenteritis or RSV [Respiratory Syncytial Virus, the single most common cause of lung infections in infants] that was worse because they weren't getting the maternal antibodies found in breast milk," says Shaw.
Catherine Bargar, RN, IBCLC is a lactation consultant in private practice in Ithaca, N.Y. She says that in her previous positions as Obstetrics Discharge Coordinator at an Ithaca hospital and as a staff member with a local office of the Women Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program for low-income families, she saw "many babies who experienced significant negative health effects from formula." In some instances, these illnesses were actually due to improper formula-feeding, such as patients preparing formula with water from unclean wells, leading to babies with severe diarrhea requiring hospitalization. In many other cases, however, the problems Bargar observed were directly attributable to the risks inherent in any formula feeding.
"I saw countless babies suffering through numerous unsuccessful formula changes in an attempt to find one that the baby could tolerate. Details varied somewhat as to which formula had what negative effect, but the story was always the same: The mom had stopped breast-feeding or never even started and tried formula Brand X. The baby then vomited, got serious rashes, failed to gain weight appropriately, developed asthma, etc. They then switched formula numerous times with varying negative health effects and ended up with a sickly baby or toddler," recalls Bargar. "These children ended up on expensive and only marginally-tolerated formula. Often these babies were diagnosed with gastric esophageal reflux following expensive testing. This scenario was one I encountered at least daily."
Although commercial infant formulas are better than synthetic human milk substitutes of the past, the simple fact is that they can never duplicate the living, anti-infective and unique hormonal properties of real breast milk. "It has become increasingly apparent that infant formula can never duplicate human milk," wrote John D. Benson, Ph.D., and Mark L. Masor, Ph.D., in the March 1994 issue of the medical journal Endocrine Regulations. "Human milk contains living cells, hormones, active enzymes, immunoglobulins and compounds with unique structures that cannot be replicated in infant formula." Benson and Masor, both researchers for infant formula manufacturing giant Abbott Labs, went on to note that they believe that creating an infant formula that replicates human milk would be impossible.
This may come as a surprise to parents who see and hear frequent advertisements from infant formula companies touting their products as "a miracle" and "most like breast milk." In fact, formula manufacturers have no idea exactly how close their product is to breast milk because new ingredients and properties of breast milk are discovered every year. And even among those elements of human milk of which science is already aware, today's infant formula still doesn't measure up. Breast milk contains hundreds of known ingredients and elements which have not been -- or cannot be -- added to infant formula at this time.
"Modern formulas are only superficially similar to breast milk. Every correction of a deficiency in formulas is advertised as an advance. Fundamentally they are inexact copies based on outdated and incomplete knowledge of what breast milk is. Formulas contain no antibodies, no living cells, no enzymes, no hormones. They contain much more aluminum, manganese, cadmium and iron than breast milk. They contain significantly more protein than breast milk. The proteins and fats are fundamentally different from those in breast milk," says Dr. Jack Newman, a Canadian pediatrician who has been a UNICEF infant nutrition consultant in Africa, and has published articles on the subject of breast-feeding in Scientific American and several medical journals
Dr. Martha Neuringer, a research associate professor of clinical nutrition at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland was quoted in 1994 by New York Times science writer Natalie Angier as saying that, "Human milk is an incredibly complicated substance. It contains proteins we haven't even identified yet, much less know the function of."
In the June 1999 issue of Discover Magazine, it was reported that Swedish and British immunologists working with a grant from the American Cancer Society have discovered that one identified protein in breast milk, alpha-lactalbumin, literally destroys every cancer cell with which it comes into contact. According to lead scientist Catharina Svanborg, her team pursued this exciting research in an attempt to determine why "the relative risk of childhood lymphoma is nine times higher in bottle-fed infants, and the risk for carcinoma is also elevated."
"This [alpha-lactalbumin] is a substance that kills lots of tumor cells, every cancer we test it against. Lung cancer, throat cancer, kidney cancer, colon cancer, bladder cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, and pneumococcus bacteria too," explained Svanborg in Discover.
One new tack taken by infant-formula manufacturers has been to attempt to match the body chemistry of the breast-fed infant rather than the chemical makeup of breast milk itself. Abbott Labs researchers have stated, "A better goal is to match the performance of the breast-fed infant. Performance is measured by the infant's growth, absorption of nutrients, gastrointestinal tolerance and reactions in blood."
Yet even using this standard of measurement, bottle-feeding falls short. Levels of long-chain fatty acids -- a critical component of brain development in humans -- are markedly lower in the blood chemistry of artificially-fed infants. Additionally, certain hormones, minerals and amino acids are found at very different levels in breast- and bottle-fed babies. "Formulas succeed only at making babies grow well, usually, but there is more to breast-feeding than getting the baby to grow quickly," explains Dr. Newman.
In addition to the health risks inherent in feeding an inferior substitute for mother's milk -- formula-feeding can also be hazardous due to parental misuse or manufacturing error. Child health advocates, particularly those associated with the WIC program, report that some parents dilute their babies' bottles of formula in an attempt to make the expensive product last longer. This can cause malnutrition, or a condition known as "water intoxication," leading to brain swelling and seizures. Additionally, parents who do not have access to a safe water supply place their babies at risk of bacterial contamination when they prepare bottles of formula.
Formula manufacturing errors are also far more common than most American parents are aware. In fact, the federal Infant Formula Act, which aimed to improve the safety and effectiveness of infant formula, was passed after a manufacturing error allowed a large quantity of chloride-deficient formula to enter the U.S. marketplace, causing documented health problems in a number of babies.
According to information on a company Web site from "Qualicon, Inc.," a new DuPont subsidiary that describes itself as providing commercial diagnostics in food, pharmaceutical and personal-care products, an unnamed infant formula manufacturer recently discovered that "its finished product was consistently contaminated with low levels of Enterobacter sakazakii." Although Qualicon's report of this incident states that this substance is not a known pathogen, in fact strains of Enterobacter sakazakii are known to cause deadly illnesses such as meningitis in infants fed infected formula. In this case, Qualicon describes having isolated Enterobacter sakazakii "frequently in products from two (infant formula) factories and infrequently in products from a third." Qualicon found several hundred samples and more than 30 different strains of the bacteria in both raw materials and the environment at each site. This widespread problem was found to be caused by cross-contamination due to cleaning methods and personnel movement. As this information came from a Web site advertising Qualicon's services to the food industry and not from any infant formula manufacturer, parents are unlikely to have been aware of this potentially life-threatening infectious hazard.
In early June 1999, Mead Johnson, makers of infant formula brands including Enfamil and Prosobee, reported that 120,000 cans of infant formula shipped to stores late last year were being recalled due to a labeling mistake that could lead to "severe medical problems" in some babies. Company officials said the cans labeled as infant formula could actually contain the "adult nutritional supplement" Vanilla Sustacal. No public explanation was offered for the time lapse between discovery of the problem and the recall being issued. In another recent incident, a memo released by the Georgia WIC program on May 6, 1999 announced that in April of this year, Abbott Labs initiated a voluntary recall of its Ready-to-Feed (RTF) Isomil, an iron-fortified soy-based infant formula. The memo fails to mention exactly why the formula is being recalled. In April of this year, 75,000 32-ounce cans of Nestle's Carnation Good Start brand infant formula were recalled due to the product's having "curdled." No mention of this recall was made on Carnation's promotional Web site for parents.
In fact, between 1982 and 1994 alone, there were 22 significant infant formula recalls in the United States. At least seven of these were classified by the Food and Drug Administration as Class I, meaning health problems could be life-threatening to babies who were fed the tainted formula. In many cases, parents never become aware that their child's primary food source has been recalled because this would require checking with the FDA Enforcement Report every week to find out about any new problems with various brands.
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Tainted Baby Formula Kills 3 in China
Wonders of breast milk
Breasts are an astounding and fascinating body part, not because of how they might look like, but because of what they produce and the nursing process they are involved in! After studying the marvelous properties of breast milk, one cannot but be awed at this substance. Don't be afraid of being fascinated by breasts, as long as it is fascination towards the wonderful baby-nurturing process they take part in!
Even though many Americans have the mistaken idea that today's infant formulas are nearly identical to human milk and that they are "almost as good as breast milk", that is not true at all. Compared to infant formula, breast milk is so much better that there is no comparison! God knew what He was doing when He ordained our bodies to produce this amazing substance that makes babies thrive.
Formula-fed babies are sicker, sick more often, and are more likely to die in infancy or childhood. Compared to exclusive/extended breastfed babies, formula-fed babies have a doubled overall infant death risk, and 4-fold risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). According a study that analyzed hospitalization patterns for a homogeneous, middle-class, white American population, bottle-fed infants were 14 times more likely to be hospitalized than breast-fed infants. A careful study of statistics shows that 9,000 lives could be saved yearly in the USA by exclusive breastfeeding!
In reality we should think breast milk as THE NORM and understand that infant formula is an inferior artificial baby feed. Formula is static, is often not tolerated well, and does not contain live white cells and antibodies to fight diseases like breast milk does. Breast milk is species-specific for humans and changes according to the infant's needs.
For example, if the baby is born pre-term, breasts produce milk that has a different composition, especially suited for a premature infant. In fact, for premature babies, breast milk can make the difference in life and death. Also, the newborn's first milk, colostrum, is in many ways different from the mature milk. It contains lots of antibodies, and acts as a laxative to purge the newborn's bowels from waste accumulated during the time in utero. Man simply CANNOT duplicate this wonder substance!
Protein in breast milk is mostly whey, which is easier to digest than casein (main protein in cow's milk). Protein of breast milk has high amounts of amino acid taurine, which has an important role in the development of the brain and the eyes.
Fats in breast milk are practically self-digesting, since breast milk also contains the enzyme lipase, which breaks down the fat.Fat is the main source of calories for babies - and babies need LOTS of calories to grow well! Also, fat in human milk has large amounts of certain omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain development (provided the mother eats those good omega-3 fats herself).
Vitamins and minerals in human milk are bioavailable-meaning they get absorbed well. Breast milk contains substances that enhance the absorption of minerals and vitamins.
DNA. Breast milk has been shown to affect an infant's gene expression. Breast milk and formula have different effects on at least 146 genes. Most of the genes enhanced by breast milk promote quick development of the intestine and immune system. For example, some of the genes positively affected by breast milk protect against "leaky gut".
Immune boosters. In each feeding mother delivers MILLIONS of LIVING white blood cells to her baby to help baby fight off all kinds of diseases. You will not find these living cells in formula! Also, when mother is exposed to a germ, she makes antibodies to that germ and gives these antibodies to her infant via her milk. Breast milk also contains factors that prevent microbes from attaching, and a long list of other antiviral, antibacterial and antiparasitic factors.
- Even more amazing, if a baby contracts an illness that mom has not been exposed to previously, he will transfer this organism through his saliva to the breast, where antibodies are manufactured on site and then sent back to baby via the milk to help him cope. Mothers who wean their babies from the breast during the first and even second and third years of life often notice that their child becomes sick more than before, or for the first time.
Lisa Marasco and Jan Barger in Examining the Evidence for Cue feeding of Breastfed Infants
Hormones and enzymes. Breast milk has lots of digestive enzymes, and also many hormones. These all contribute to the baby's well being. Every year scientists find more valuable substances in breast milk. Science is only beginning to understand what all there is in human milk that helps baby's growth and development!
Breast milk makes healthy babies
Breastfeeding prevents obesity. Formula-fed babies are more likely to be obese during adolescence. Longer periods of breastfeeding greatly reduce the risk of being overweight in adulthood.
Healthy teeth. Formula-fed babies have worse jaw alignment and are more likely to need orthodontic work as they get older. This is probably because the sucking action during breastfeeding improves the development of facial muscles and the shape of the palate.
Healthy eyes and ears. Bottle fed babies have worse vision, and get more ear infections than breast-fed infants.
General health. Bottle-fed infants and children have more and more severe upper respiratory infections, wheezing, pneumonia and influenza. They have more diarrhea, more gastrointestinal infections and constipation.
Health later in life. Formula-fed babies have a raised risk of heart disease, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, asthma and allergy. Breastfeeding may also play a role in preventing digestive diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, as well as childhood cancers. If you give your infant the unique food designed for it by God, his or her body will function in a healthier way in all aspects.
Breastfeeding and intelligence (IQ)
Studies on breastfeeding and intelligence generally show that breastfeeding has a positive effect on the child's IQ.
For example, in a study of more than 3,000 young men and women from Copenhagen, Denmark, it was found that infants breastfed for nine months grew up to be significantly more intelligent than infants breastfed for one month or less. This study took into account 13 similar factors related to the mother's health, wealth and behavior when analyzing the difference between the scores of more-breastfed and less-breastfed young adults. The significant differences held up after they were factored in.
Another study published in 2007 found a VERY interesting relationship between breastfeeding and intelligence: it showed that whether breastfeeding affects a child's intelligence depends on a certain gene. In 90% of the children, the gene is such a way that breastfeeding DOES affect the child's intelligence, probably by affecting the fatty acid metabolism, or the way the body processes fatty acids. In the remaining 10%, breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding has no effect on intelligence.
This important finding now sheds some light on the previous studies that have had mixed results: there is another confounding factor there, in the children's genetic material. But it further confirms the intellectual advantage breastfeeding can give for 90% of the children. (And of course even the 10% are helped by breast milk in other ways.)
In one 2007 study from the University of Bristol, researchers found that breastfed children are more likely to climb the social ladder than those who are bottle-fed. The researchers said one possible reason for the findings could be that breastfeeding improves health, stature, and IQ.
Breast milk contains several substances that help the baby's brain and can increase the child's IQ over his bottle-fed peers.
- It contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid that is important for the brain (see Chapter 11). The levels of this fatty acid in breast milk depend on the mother's consumption of omega-3 rich foods, such as fish and flax. The DHA levels are also highest in babies who are breastfed the longest.
- Breast milk has cholesterol, which is needed to make nerve tissue in the growing brain.
- Breast milk is high in lactose, which is broken down in the body into glucose and galactose, and galactose is a valuable nutrient for brain tissue development. We know from animal studies that the more intelligent species of mammals have greater amounts of lactose in their milk. Cow's milk contains lactose, but not as much as human milk. Soy-based and other lactose-free formulas obviously contain no lactose at all.
- Taurine, an amino acid found in breast milk, is important to the brain development. This amino acid is low in cow's milk.
- The breastfeeding process itself may also benefit a child's brain development because it varies more than the bottle-feeding experience, and because of a greater skin-to-skin contact.
You might say that you know someone who was breast fed and ended up less smart than someone else who was bottle-fed. Certainly that is true in individual cases, because there are many factors that affect individual's intelligence − not just breastfeeding. Genetic makeup, how the child is raised, and the nutrition after infancy play a big role too. The duration of breastfeeding matters also; nursing for a few months might not make such a difference as nursing till the child self-weans. So breastfeeding alone won't guarantee that your child will be some kind of Einstein, but it does have its effect.
There also exist studies that have not found any link between breastfeeding and IQ, and often such studies can make big headlines in the media when they first come out. However, many such studies have severe flaws in their design: for example, some studies have defined breastfeeding as "ever breastfed" − if the child gets one sip of breast milk and the rest is formula, then he belongs to the "breastfeeding" group. Such a definition automatically leads to flawed results.
Another factor that may play a role is that the amount of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in breast milk varies according to the mother's diet. We would expect that studies done on mothers who do not eat much fish or take fish oil (which is a large portion of the US population) would not reveal a large difference in IQ as compared to bottle-fed babies. But more research comes out every year, and the picture will get clearer as time goes on.
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Vitamin B6 and methionine slash lung cancer risk by 50 percent
Lung cancer, which usually develops in the cells lining air passages, will be diagnosed in about 222,520 Americans this year, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In addition, the NCI says nearly half that many people -- about 157,300 -- will die from the disease in 2010.
Although lung cancer is notoriously difficult to treat successfully, French scientists have discovered several natural substances that offer substantial protection from the malignancy. In a huge study of almost 400,000 participants, those who had higher blood levels of vitamin B6 and the essential amino acid methionine (found in many forms of protein) had the lowest risk of lung cancer -- even those who were former or current smokers.
For the study, which was just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Paul Brennan, Ph.D., of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France, and colleagues documented B vitamins and methionine levels based on serum samples from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study. In all, they investigated 385,747 research subjects from 10 European countries. By 2006, 899 had been diagnosed with lung cancer; they were compared to 1,770 control participants and all were individually matched by country, sex, date of birth, and date of blood collection.
The results of the researchers' analysis revealed a dramatically lower risk for lung cancer among participants with the highest blood levels of B6 and methionine. In addition, a moderately lower risk for lung cancer in former and current smokers was observed in those with higher serum levels of folate.
"Similar and consistent decreases in risk were observed in never, former, and current smokers, indicating that results were not due to confounding (factors that can influence outcomes) by smoking. The magnitude of risk was also constant with increasing length of follow-up, indicating that the associations were not explained by preclinical disease," the researchers stated in their JAMA article.
"Our results suggest that above-median serum measures of both B6 and methionine, assessed on average five years prior to disease onset, are associated with a reduction of at least 50 percent on the risk of developing lung cancer. An additional association for serum levels of folate was present, that when combined with B6 and methionine, was associated with a two-thirds lower risk of lung cancer," the scientists wrote.
So how could these natural substances keep lung cancer at bay? The key may be found in previous research which has shown that B vitamin deficiencies likely increase the probability of DNA damage and subsequent gene mutations. "Given their involvement in maintaining DNA integrity and gene expression, these nutrients have a potentially important role in inhibiting cancer development, and offer the possibility of modifying cancer risk through dietary changes," the authors concluded. They also pointed out that B vitamin deficiencies are known to be high in many western populations.
Additional good news about lung protection was presented earlier this year at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference. Scientists have found eating a handful of pistachios daily may offer significant protection from lung cancer
The Major Exercise Mistake I Made for Over 30 Years...
Watch: Fitness Revolution
A recent study shows that ten minutes of brisk exercise triggers metabolic changes that last at least an hour. What's more, the more fit you are, the more benefits you will get.
Researchers measured biochemical changes in the blood of a variety of people. Metabolic changes that began after 10 minutes on a treadmill still were measurable 60 minutes after people cooled down.
According to USA Today:
"Checking a metabolite of fat breakdown, the team found people who were more fit — as measured by oxygen intake during exercise -- appeared to be burning more fat than the less fit ... The extremely fit -- 25 Boston Marathon runners -- had ten-fold increases in that metabolite after the race."
However, there's more to exercise than what this study presents.
Knowing what type of exercise creates the greatest beneficial biochemical changes can make a huge difference in your health.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
The science of exercise has come a long way over the past decades. We're constantly discovering new information and details about how exercise creates the health benefits we typically associate with it, and more importantly, how we can exercise more efficiently and effectively to maximize results.
In this article, I will discuss an uncommon exercise technique that can make a dramatic difference in your health, and why.
But first, the study summarized above essentially confirms what I've been stating for years: that exercise is a key player for controlling your blood sugar and normalizing your insulin levels.
I actually view exercise as a drug with regard to being properly prescribed and having proper dosage, And it's one that you can readily substitute for some of the most common drugs used today for things like diabetes, heart disease and depression. All of these conditions will improve with exercise and with the help of an experienced natural health care clinician.
Nearly one in four people in the US have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes and it is my experience that most of them could be reversed with the appropriate diet and exercise regimen -- exercise being the crucial key.
How Exercise Changes Your Biochemistry
In this study, the researchers measured the biochemical changes that occur during exercise, and found alterations in more than 20 different metabolites. Some of these compounds help you burn calories and fat, while others help stabilize your blood sugar, among other things.
Essentially, being of a healthy weight and exercising regularly creates a healthy feedback loop that optimizes and helps maintain healthy glucose and insulin levels through optimization of insulin receptor sensitivity.
And as I've explained on countless occasions, normalizing your insulin levels is the most important factor for optimizing your overall health and preventing disease of all kinds, from diabetes, to heart disease, to cancer, and everything in between.
It runs neck and neck with vitamin D as the two most important physical elements that you can do to improve your health.
This is also good news for those who are out of shape or overweight, because although it may take a little longer for you to correct your biochemistry, this same positive feedback loop will continue to create ever increasing health benefits as you persist and get fitter and leaner.
Best of all, just 10 minutes of BRISK exercise led to beneficial biochemical changes that were still measurable an hour later. And this is where what I have to say next comes into play.
Increase Your Exercise Benefits by Ditching Traditional Aerobic Cardio
Walk into any gym and you'll see most of the people crowding around the aerobics equipment, but there's actually a way to exercise that is FAR more effective than aerobic exercises like walking or running on a treadmill or elliptical machine for an hour, and it's called peak fitness.
Later, I will review all the types of exercise needed for a truly comprehensive routine, but first I want to explain just why peak fitness is so essential for your health, and how you can benefit from this particular style of training in ways you cannot get from ANY other type of exercise.
I've been trying this out for a several months now and in the first three months alone I dropped five percent body fat without ever touching a treadmill.
But boosting fat burning is just the beginning.
The NEW Peak Fitness Program
Dr. Al Sears first introduced me to his PACE concept but I always found his material to general and non specific and no information on the use of this exercise for growth hormone. I really started to understand this when I met Phil Campbell at a fitness camp earlier this year in Mexico. He wrote the book Ready Set Go which details how these exercises for super fast muscle fibers can increase growth hormone.
So that is the history and what we sought to do is to provide the material in a digestible format, just like we do with the medical news, to provide you with a simple to comprehend guide that can explode you into fitness and health. In addition the the peak cardio exercises promoted by Sears and Campbell, we are seeking to promote a holistic approach to exercise.
Peak fitness is a term I am coining to represent a comprehensive exercise program that includes far more than typical cardio training. The major change is that once or twice a week you do peak exercises, in which you raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then you recover for 90 seconds.
You would repeat this cycle for a total of eight repetitions. These cycles are preceded by a three minute warm up and two minute cool down so the total time investment is about 20 minutes.
It has been my personal experience that using this approach is far more effective than traditional cardio for a number of reasons that I will describe below. I was able to use this to help me lose over ten pounds of body fat and get my percent body fat down to 12 percent, but my goal is single digits.
The intensity is absolutely individual. For some it may be as simple as fast walking alternating with slow walking.
You can improvise it into just about any type of exercise, and you really don't require a gym membership or any equipment to do it. If you do have access to equipment, using an elliptical or recumbent bike work really well.
One of my favorites is to use a recumbent bike. It is extremely challenging, and I enjoy that! This is the one I chose and am personally committed to, but the alternatives are almost limitless.
They key is to push your heart rate into that training zone for 30 seconds and then recover slowly for 90 seconds.
We call it "peak fitness" because if you graph your heart rate, you will see that it peaks 8 times during the workout.
Exercise to Increase Your Levels of the "Fitness Hormone"
One of the major reasons I am so enthusiastic about peak fitness is that it can actually increase your growth hormone level.
Yes, I realize that many athletes are injecting this illegally to achieve fitness, but it is expensive and fraught with side effects.
Peak fitness exercises, on the other hand, can actually cause your growth hormone to increase naturally, without any of the expense or side effects.
In order to better grasp the benefits of peak fitness exercises, you first need to understand that you have three different types of muscle fibers: slow, fast, and super-fast. And only ONE of these muscles will impact your production of a vital hormone called HGH, or human growth hormone, which is KEY for strength, health and longevity.
Currently, the vast majority of people, including many athletes such as marathon runners, only train using their slow muscle fibers, which has the unfortunate effect of actually causing the super fast fibers to decrease or atrophy.
In fact, neither traditionally performed aerobic cardio nor strength training will work anything but your slow muscles. These are the red muscles, which are filled with capillaries and mitochondria, and hence a lot of oxygen.
Next you have the fast type of fiber which is also red muscle, and oxygenates quickly, but is five times faster than the slow fibers. Power training, or plyometrics burst types of exercises will engage these fast muscles.
The super-fast ones are the white muscle fibers. They contain far less blood and less densely packed mitochondria. These muscle fibers are what you use when you do anaerobic short burst exercises.
High intensity burst cardio is the form of exercise that will engage these super fast fibers. They're ten times faster than slow fibers, and this is the key to producing growth hormone!
Are You in Somatopause (Age Related Growth Hormone Deficiency?)
As you reach your 30s and beyond, you enter what's called "somatopause," when your levels of HGH begin to drop off quite dramatically. This is part of what drives your aging process.
It has been my experience that nearly everyone over 30 has dramatically abnormal levels of this important hormone because they begin leading increasingly more sedentary life styles.
Children and most animals in the wild do not run marathons or lift weights, they move at high speeds for very short periods of time and then rest. This is natural and what optimizes the production of growth hormone.
The higher your levels of growth hormone, the healthier and stronger you're going to be. And the longer you can keep your body producing higher levels of HGH, the longer you will experience robust health and strength.
Dr. Harvey Cushing discovered HGH in the form of somatotropin almost a hundred years ago. Many individuals choose to inject it, though it is a banned substance in many professional sports.
As I said earlier, I don't recommend doing this as I believe the health risks and cost are in no way justifiable.
Ideally, you really want your body to produce it naturally, as injecting HGH does have side effects. And the way you produce it is by exercising your super-fast muscle fibers.
Benefits of Peak Fitness Exercises
Once you regularly participate in these 20 minute excises about twice a week, most everyone notices the following benefits:
- Lowers your body fat
- Dramatically improves muscle tone
- Firms your skin and reduces wrinkles
- Boosts your energy and sexual desire
- Improves athletic speed and performance
- Allows you to achieve your fitness goals much faster
How to Properly Perform Peak Fitness Exercises to Increase Your Growth Hormone Levels
First of all, please remember that you can perform this with any type of exercise. While having access to a gym or exercise equipment will provide you with a larger variety of options, you don't require either. You can easily perform this by walking or running on flat ground.
You will certainly want to work your way up to this point, but ultimately you want to exercise vigorously enough so you reach your anaerobic threshold as this is where the "magic" happens that will trigger your growth hormone release.
Whatever activity you choose, by the end of your 30 second period you will want to reach these markers:
- It will be relatively hard to breathe and talk because you are in oxygen debt
- You will start to sweat profusely. Typically this is occurs in the second or third repetition unless you have a thyroid issue and don't sweat much normally.
- Your body temperature will rise
- Lactic acid increases and you will feel a muscle "burn"
If you are using cardio equipment like an elliptical or bike, you don't need to reach any "magical" speed. It's highly individual, based on your current level of fitness. But you know you're doing it right when you're exerting yourself to the point of typically gasping for breath, after a short burst of activity.
An added boon is that you'll save a tremendous amount of time because peak fitness will cut your hour-long cardio workout down to a total of 20 minutes or so, including your recovery time, warm-up and cool down.
The actual sprinting totals only 4 minutes!
Here's what a typical peak fitness routine might look like using a recumbent bike:
- Warm up for three minutes
- Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should feel like you couldn't possibly go on another few seconds
- Recover for 90 seconds
- Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times
Be mindful of your current fitness level and don't overdo it when you first start out.
If you are not in great shape and just starting this you may want to start with just two or three repetitions, and work your way up to eight, which is where the magic really starts to happen. You may need to start with just walking and when you do your 30 second bursts your legs would be moving as fast as possible without running - and your arms would be pumping hard and fast.
If you can do a peak fitness workout twice a week, and follow the dietary recommendations I'll go over next, you will increase your production of growth hormone.
Dietary Recommendations to Maximize Growth Hormone Release
To maximize your growth hormone release you need to:
- Get a good night's sleep
- Avoid a high fat meal prior to exercising
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat healthy carbs (think vegetables) and high quality protein
- Optimize your vitamin D levels
- Avoid sugar, especially fructose
The last part is absolutely crucial.
If you consume sugar or fructose, especially within two hours post-exercise, you will increase somatostatin which will in turn obliterate the production of growth hormone!
This is yet another example of why gulping down sports drinks that are chockfull of high fructose corn syrup can do your body more harm than good, and will just shut down your body's production of HGH and negate many of the benefits from your exercise.
Creating a Comprehensive Exercise Plan
You really do need a comprehensive approach to exercise, which is a major part of our peak fitness exercise approach.
Ideally you want to have a variety of exercises and avoid doing the same ones all the time, as this will lead to a relative tolerance and you will not provide your body with the variety of stresses it needs to continuously adapt, improve, and grow stronger.
There are four additional types that will turn your peak fitness regimen into a truly comprehensive exercise plan:
- Aerobic: No, I didn't say you had to quit straight aerobics altogether, (even though I did, and am reaping greater results than before). Jogging, using an elliptical machine, and walking fast are all examples of aerobic exercise, which will increase the amount of oxygen in your blood and increase endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. Aerobic exercise also activates your immune system, helps your heart pump blood more efficiently, and increases your stamina over time.
- Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a 1-set strength training routine will ensure that you're really optimizing the possible health benefits of a regular exercise program. You need enough repetitions to exhaust your muscles. The weight should be heavy enough that this can be done in fewer than 12 repetitions, yet light enough to do a minimum of four repetitions. It is also important NOT to exercise the same muscle groups every day. They need at least two days of rest to recover, repair and rebuild.
- Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability. Pilates and yoga are great for strengthening your core muscles, as are specific exercises you can learn from a personal trainer. Even if a personal trainer is not in the cards for you right now, please watch these sample videos for examples of healthy exercise routines you can do with very little equipment and in virtually any location. http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/videos.aspx Focusing on your breath and mindfulness along with increasing your flexibility is an important element of total fitness.
- Stretching: My favorite types of stretches are active isolated stretching (AIS) http://www.stretchingusa.com/ developed by Aaron Mattes. It's an amazing way to get flexibility back into your system, and it's completely different from the traditional type of stretching.
Masanobu Fukuoka's Natural Farming and Permaculture
Masanobu Fukuoka is a farmer/philosopher who lives on the Island of Shikoku, in southern Japan. His farming technique requires no machines, no chemicals and very little weeding. He does not plow the soil or use prepared compost and yet the condition of the soil in his orchards and fields improve each year. His method creates no pollution and does not require fossil fuels. His method requires less labor than any other, yet the yields in his orchard and fields compare favorably with the most productive Japanese farms which use all the technical know-how of modern science.
How is this possible? I admit, when I first went to his farm in 1973 I was skeptical. But there was the proof - beautiful grain crops in the fields, healthy orchard trees growing with a ground cover of vegetables, weeds and white clover. Over the two-year period I lived and worked there his techniques and philosophy gradually became clear to me.
I had not heard of permaculture at the time, but I can see now that Fukuoka's farm is a classic working model of permaculture design. It is remarkable that Fukuoka and Bill Mollison, working independently, on two different continents with entirely different environmental conditions should come up with such similar solutions to the question, "How can people on live this planet sustainably and in harmony with nature." Both claim that the principles of their system can be adapted to any climatic area.
Mollison and Fukuoka took entirely different routes to get to essentially the same place. Permaculture is a design system which aims to maximize the functional connection of its elements. It integrates raising crops and animals with careful water management. Homes and other structures are designed for maximum energy efficiency. Everything is made to work together and evolve over time to blend harmoniously into a complete and sustainable agricultural system.
The key word here is design. Permaculture is a consciously designed system. The designer carefully uses his/her knowledge, skill and sensitivity to make a plan, then implement it. Fukuoka created natural farming from a completely different perspective.
The idea for natural farming came to Fukuoka when he was about twenty five years old. One morning, as he sat at sunrise on a bluff overlooking Yokohama Bay, a flash of inspiration occurred. He saw that nature was perfect just as it is. Problems arise when people try to improve upon nature and use nature strictly for human benefit. He tried to explain this understanding to others, but when they could not understand he made a decision to return to his family farm. He decided to create a concrete example of his understanding by applying it to agriculture.
But where to begin? Fukuoka had no model to go by. "'How about trying this? How about trying that?' That is the usual way of developing agricultural technique. My way was different. 'How about not doing this, and How about not doing that?' - this was the path I followed. Now my rice growing is simply sowing seed and spreading straw, but it has taken me more than thirty years to reach this simplicity."
The basic idea for his rice growing came to him one day when he happened to pass an old field which had been left unused and unplowed for many years. There he saw healthy rice seedlings sprouting through a tangle of grasses and weeds. From that time on he stopped sowing rice seed in the spring and, instead, put the seed out in the fall when it would naturally have fallen to the ground. Instead of plowing to get rid of weeds he learned to control them with a ground cover of white clover and a mulch of barley straw. Once he has tilted the balance slightly in favor of his crops Fukuoka interferes as little as possible with the plant and animal communities in his fields.
This is not to say that Fukuoka did not experiment. For example, he tried more than twenty different ground covers before noticing that white clover was the only one which held back weeds effectively. It also fixes nitrogen so it improves the soil. He tried spreading the straw neatly over the fields but found the rice seeds could not make their way through. In one corner of the field, however, where the straw had scattered every which way, the seedlings emerged. The next year he scattered the straw across the entire field. There were years when his experiments resulted in almost a total crop loss, but in small areas things worked out well. He closely observed what was different in that part of the field and next year the results were better. The point is, he had no preconceived idea of what would work the best. He tried many things and took the direction nature revealed. As far as possible, Fukuoka was trying to take the human intellect out of the decision making process.
His vegetable growing also reflects this idea. He grows vegetables in the spaces between the citrus trees in the orchard. Instead of deciding which vegetables would do well in which locations he mixes all the seeds together and scatters them everywhere. He lets the vegetables find their own location, often in areas he would have least have expected. The vegetables reseed themselves and move around the orchard from year to year. Vegetables grown this way stronger and gradually revert to the form of their semi-wild ancestors.
I mentioned that Fukuoka's farm is a fine model of permaculture design. In Zone 1, nearest his family home in the village, he and his family maintain a vegetable garden in the traditional Japanese style. Kitchen scraps are dug into the rows, are crops rotated and chickens run freely. This garden is really an extension of the home living area.
Zone 2 is his grain fields. He grows a crop of rice and one of barley every year. Because he returns the straw to the fields and has the ground cover of white clover the soil actually improves each year. The natural balance of insects and a healthy soil keep insect and disease infestations to a minimum. Until Bill Mollison read The One-Straw Revolution he said he had no idea of how to include grain growing in his permaculture designs. All the agricultural models involved plowing the soil, a practice he does not agree with. Now he includes Fukuoka's no-tillage technique in his teaching.
Zone 3 is the orchard. The main tree crop is Mandarin oranges, but he also grows many other fruit trees, native shrubs and other native and ornamental trees. The upper story is tall trees, many of which fix nitrogen and so improve the soil deep down. The middle story is the citrus and other fruit trees. The ground is covered with a riotous mixture of weeds, vegetables, herbs and white clover. Chickens run freely. This multi-tiered orchard area came about through a natural evolution rather than conscious design. It still contains many of the basic permacultural design features. It has many different plant and species, maximizes surface area, contains solar sunlight "traps" and maintains a natural balance of insect populations.
Author Larry Korn with Fukuoka
Fukuoka invites visitors from Zone 4 anytime. Wild animals and birds come and go freely. The surrounding forest is the source of mushrooms, wild herbs and vegetables. It is also an inspiration. "To get an idea of the perfection and abundance of nature," Fukuoka says, "take a walk into the forest sometime. There, the animals, tall trees and shrubs are living together in harmony. All of this came about without benefit of human ingenuity or intervention."
What is remarkable is that Fukuoka's natural farming and permaculture should resemble each other so closely despite their nearly opposite approaches. Permaculture relies on the human intellect to devise a strategy to live abundantly and sustainably within nature. Fukuoka sees the human intellect as the culprit serving only to separate people from nature. The "one mountain top, many paths" adage seems to apply here.
Natural farming and permaculture share a profound debt to each other. The many examples of permaculture throughout the world show that a natural farming system is truly universal. It can be applied to arid climates as well as humid, temperate Japan. Also, the worldwide permaculture movement is an inspiration to Fukuoka. For many years he worked virtually alone in his work. For most of his life Japan was not receptive to his message. He had to self-publish his books because no publisher would take a chance on someone so far from the mainstream. When his experiments resulted in failure the other villagers would ridicule his work. In the mid-1980's he came to a Permaculture Convergence in Olympia, Washington and met Bill Mollison. There were nearly one thousand people there. He was overwhelmed and heartened by the number and sincerity of the like-thinking people he met. He thanked Mollison for "creating this network of bright, energetic people working to help save the planet." "Now," he said, "for the first time in my life I have hope for the future."
In turn, permaculture has adopted many things from Fukuoka. Besides the many agricultural techniques, such as continuous no-tillage grain growing and growing vegetables like wild plants, permaculture has also learned an important new approach for devising practical strategies. Most importantly, the philosophy of natural farming has given permaculture a truly spiritual basis lacking in its earlier teachings.
Fukuoka believes that natural farming proceeds from the spiritual health of the individual. He considers the healing of the land and the purification of the human spirit to be one process, and he proposes a way of life and a way of farming in which this process can take place. "Natural farming is not just for growing crops," he says, "it is for the cultivation and perfection of human beings."
Text and images copyright 2003 Larry Korn
A Fukuoka Inspired Permaculture Garden
No Toil Gardening
There is a very simple and very beautiful way of eliminating 98% of the drudgery and toil of gardening. It's very simple; just mulch your vegetable and flower beds. And that's it; no more weeding, no more hoeing, no more of all that back breaking, stooping toil - and your gardens look great - all the time.
And if the odd week pokes through the mulch now and then, it is actually a pleasure to go and pull a few weeds. You'll see.
What you get from mulched gardens is inordinate good looks - all the time - and an equally inordinate measure of joy and satisfaction with the beauty of it all - and totally unclouded by the thought that you had to spend endless hours weeding and cultivating the whole thing. So, when the odd weed pokes through the mulch here and there, and now and then, it really is a pleasure to go out there and 'tidy up' a bit, now and then. I found myself wanting to, even itching to 'tidy up' a bit.
I continue to be amazed whenever I see un-mulched gardens. I can't understand it. It baffles me. And the more so because this beautiful no hassle, no toil, no labour way of gardening has a whole lot of additional powerful benefits. Besides the constant great good looks, it also keeps your gardens very healthy, and very productive.
A 3 to 4 inches deep layer of mulch also preserves a great deal of moisture, and this reduces the need for frequent watering, another substantial savings of time and labour. And hereabouts, when things heat up in Summer and we need to conserve water, this is a major, and great peace of mind, factor. But that's far from all. The constant moisture a mulch provides also does wonders for your plants. It eliminates the stress caused by lack of moisture and your plants can grow to their little heart's content.
Now then, if you can also use your dirty dish water in your gardens, you've not only solved the watering problems in summer, but you have a great fertilizer at the same time, and best of all, at no cost. And this 'double duty' of your dishwater is near the ultimate in conservation, and very, very 'green' - in many more ways than one.
A nice mulch also keeps the soil cool in the heat of day, and keeps it warm at night when our night time temperatures plummet. And this is another great boost to the health and vitality of your gardens. This alone prevents the dreaded blossom end rot in tomato plants, for instance. And of course, all the tropical natives, like tomatoes, peppers and melons - as well as all the tropical annuals in the flower gardens - just love it. It's one of the very best things you can do for them. And they'll reward you with strapping health and great productivity.
Mulching also eliminates all the labour of hoeing and cultivating. It chokes out all the weeds, which eliminates the need for hoeing. And even if you don't walk on your garden beds, rain will slowly compact and firm your soil, but the mulch absorbs the impact and leaves the soil underneath nicely loose. This eliminates the need for cultivating the soil. So, before you lay down your mulch, loosen the soil and the mulch will keep it that way for a long, long time - long enough that you never have to cultivate the soil again, until you lay down a new mulch.
Best of all, and if all this were not enough, it also enriches the quality and fertility of your soil. When the mulch decays, which it dos eventually, it adds its extremely valuable organic substance to the soil, enriching the quality, fertility, friability and moisture retention of your soil.
Last, but by no means least, the mulch is also a great haven for those miniscule hunting spiders, which keep your garden free of all insect pests.
Here then is a list of the most common mulches:
Ground bark; my favourite for for flower beds (fine), around shrubs and trees (fine or medium), and in paths between beds (medium). Looks very natural and very neat. No Cedar bark though! Cedar bark contains a strong antibiotic - that's why cedar wood lasts so long - and it'll kill your gardens. Ground bark is slightly acidic, which is superb for rhododendrons, azaleas, and all other woodland plants. Needs a good dusting of dolomite lime (no other) underneath it to compensate for its acidity in flower beds and for other plants than wood land natives. Lasts for about 2 years, and needs only a bit of topping up every year to keep it at its optimum depth of 3 to 4 inches.
Wood chips; from chipped branches, shrubs, asf. Great around shrubs and trees, and in paths. Looks natural, but some people don't like its irregular look. Again, no cedar!
Wood shavings or sawdust; good around shrubs and trees, and in paths. Looks clean and natural. But it ties up nitrogen. Needs nitrogen fertilizer to compensate. It can also blow away in strong winds, and it sheds water when dry. Again, no cedar though!
Sheared weeds; my all time favourite for vegetable beds. Looks a bit 'messy' when fresh, but soon dries out to the neat and natural look of straw. Decays much faster than woody mulches, which is great for increasing the fertility, quality, friability and moisture retention capacity of your soil. And its totally free; just shear your weeds to 2 inches periodically - so they can grow again for more mulch - and lay the shearings over as a mulch. Doesn't need any compensation for acidity or nitrogen.
And right now, after the soil has warmed up, is the best time to lay down a mulch. It needs to be a minimum of 3 inches deep, and 4 inches is better, to effectively suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, even out soil temperatures and keep your soil loose. Keep the mulch away from the crown of plants though. In paths, lay down a double layer of cardboard first, to prevent the mulch being trodden into the soil. This needs to be renewed every two years.
Mulching your gardens - once a year is more than plenty - has so many priceless benefits, besides inordinate good looks, and saves so much labour, that I can't understand why every garden isn't mulched. As I said, it baffles me no end.
First zero-emission home unveiled - UK
The UK has unveiled its first zero emission home that will set the environmental standard for all new homes in the future.
The two-bedroom house is insulated to lose 60% less heat than a normal home.
It also features solar panels, a biomass boiler and water efficiency devices such as rainwater harvesting.
The design, unveiled at the Offsite 2007 exhibition in Watford, meets rules to be applied in 2016 that aim to make UK homes more energy-efficient.
The Kingspan Off-Site's Lighthouse design is the first to achieve level six of the Code for Sustainable Homes - which means the house is carbon neutral.
About a quarter of UK carbon emissions come from homes.
Chancellor Gordon Brown announced in his Budget in March that zero-carbon houses would be exempt from stamp duty.
See inside the eco-house
BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said the Kingspan home is the first to reach level six requirements in the UK.
"The home generates all its own energy - and when you're away on holiday can send electricity back to the National Grid. The company says its annual energy bill would be 31 pounds, as compared to 500 pounds for the standard new home of this size," he said.
Among the features in the house are a biomass boiler, which runs on organic fuels such as wood pellets.
It counts as zero-emission because the carbon dioxide it gives off during the burning process is offset by the amount absorbed when the fuel crop was grown.
It also has a waste separation system that allows combustible waste to be burned to help provide power.
1. Wind catcher, for summer ventilation
2. Solar array at back of house for hot water and electricity
3. High-level of wall insulation
4. Biomass boiler
There will be smart metering so that inhabitants will be able to tell if they are wasting any energy.
While the bills may be cheap, Kingspan, an Ireland-based materials specialist, admits the building cost is 40% more than the standard home.
But house designer Alan Shingler, of architects Sheppard Robson, was confident that costs would fall when more of the homes were built.
"It gets cheaper when you build, say, 250 of them," he said. "For a whole development you can introduce other ways of generating electricity - which is where most of the extra cost comes."
Image Copyrights: http://www.pauliddon.net/
Passive Solar Home - A Perfect Use Of Solar Energy
The Truth About Bioplastics
Biodegradable plastics are going mainstream, but how green are they?
by Fiona Wagner
Plastics have been getting their fair share of bad press lately, especially those ubiquitous grocery bags. Critics argue they’re made with fossil fuels, take anywhere between 100 to 1,000 years to break down and create a massive litter problem worldwide.
Enter biodegradable plastics, eco-solutions for consumer items such as bags, plastic wrap and take-out food containers and cutlery. While still in its infancy, insiders estimate the ‘alternative’ plastic product industry could capture up to 20 percent of the plastics market over the next decade.
So, if traditional plastics are "bad," these greener alternatives must be good, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. Here’s why.
While conventional plastics such as polyethylene and polystyrene are derived from fossil fuels, bioplastics, such as polylactic acid (PLA), are made from renewable resources such as starch from corn or sugar cane. Biodegradeable plastics (not to be confused with bioplastics), which break down under certain circumstances, can be derived from either agricultural or petrochemical sources.
In fact, biodegradeable plastics have been used in niche applications for years (consider dissolvable medical sutures, now a $300 million industry). But the consumer items have a shorter history. In the early 1990s, biodegradable plastic bags and plates, made of conventional polymers, such as polyolefin, mixed with a starch compound, were touted as a green alternative. Unfortunately, these products fell short of consumer expectations: While the starch component biodegraded, the plastic remained, albeit in much smaller bits.
And therein lies an important distinction: the meaning of the terms biodegradable and compostable. While a material can be labeled biodegradable (referring to the process whereby microorganisms cause decomposition and assimilation), it may not necessarily be compostable, the process by which material biodegrades to produce carbon dioxide, water and humus within a specified period of time. (This is what happens to organic waste that is processed in a municipal compost system or in your backyard composter.)
Confused? It gets worse. Beyond ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’, today’s next generation of greener products may be labeled as oxo-biodegradeable, hydro-biodegradable, photo-biodegradable or water soluble, which speaks to the chemical process by which these materials break down.
The bottom line is, not all biodegradable plastics are created equal and there are a lot of misleading claims out there. Fortunately, you don’t need a chemistry degree to sort it all out.
Just look for the "Compostable Logo," designed by the New York City-based Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and the U.S. Composting Council. It identifies products that meet industry standards to break down quickly and completely in a municipal compost facility.
A not-so-perfect solution
If you think that opting for "green" plastics on a day-to-day basis is a way of doing your part to help address our growing landfill problem, think again.
"When they [consumers] hear the term "biodegradable" they think that somehow things are going to magically disappear no matter what they do, ranging from littering to putting them in landfill," says Steve Mojo, executive director of BPI. "The reality is, none of that happens."
Why? Because landfills are essentially built to "entomb" waste, preventing exposure to air, moisture and sunlight. So even biodegradable waste won’t break down very much in a landfill (and the products that claim they will cite dependency on variables such as oxygen and microbial activity). That’s why newspapers found in landfills are still readable 35 years later.
"The notion of making plastic bags biodegradable and then sending them to landfill is really oxymoronic," says Mojo. Which is why consumers should look for compostable, not biodegradable products, he says. "By calling things ‘compostable’, you signal to the consumer that this is something you need to handle differently."
How to handle
"If you don’t have [access to] a commercial composting system, you might as well not bother" with biodegradable plastics, says Joanne Fedyk, executive director of the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council . "[Composting] is what [these products] are created to do and if you put them in the landfill, they won’t break down any more than plastic will."
Simply put, biodegradable products belong in the green bin, not the trash, and certainly not the blue box (biodegradable plastic and recycled plastic don’t mix).
But not all municipalities have access to commercial organic diversion programs yet. According to Statistics Canada, in 2006, 30 percent of Canadians composted kitchen waste via a curbside collection system (the figure was only slightly higher for yard waste, at 38 percent).
So dealing with our growing waste problem is less about plastic versus bioplastic and more about getting back to the basics.
"In order to minimize what you send to the landfill, you need to reduce, reuse, recycle and divert to compost," says Mojo.
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