Thursday, March 8, 2018

Boosting Immunity: some simple strategies

I know how easy it is to get caught up in our busy every day lives and forget to do things each day that can boost our immunity to protect us and keep us healthy.  But please remember that a few simple things can really make the difference and have a very positive impact on your health.  

So whether it's being stressed out or not making the best food choices, it's not surprising how quickly we can get under the weather.  However, the best reason to boost your immunity is so that your body can handle when it does come down with something, so it does not lead to a more serious complication.

We have all heard these scary news stories recently about children and adults dying in record numbers from the flu this year.  But you need to look at some of the facts before jumping to the conclusion that we are all at high-risk for something terrible like this happening to one of us.  First, we don't know how healthy these people were before they got the flu.  Second, they could have had their immune system overwhelmed for instance if they recently just had a vaccine, especially a flu vaccination.  And lastly, it is hard to know if any of these deaths may have been caused by a side effect from a commonly prescribed drug used to treat the flu that seems to be causing issues for many people.

So the best defense you have against having a complication due to an illness is to keep your immunity boosted each day and not wait till until you get sick to start thinking about it. There are some very simple steps that you can take to keep your health at its optimal level.
First and foremost is to eat the least amount of processed food as possible.  Those chemicals and preservatives really get in the way of our digestion and we know our gut is very involved with how the immune system functions.  Next, processed food is just not wholesome food.  It doesn't give our body the vitamins, minerals and enzymes that it needs to function properly.  Many processed foods contain a lot of sugar, which we know also lowers our immunity.

Now we all know that there are certain days that you just don't have the time or opportunity to make the best food choices. So on those days make the best ones that you can and then consider an immune boosting supplement such as Olive leaf extract, Cats Claw or Astralagus.  

But the thing to do better then supplementing is to eat in a way that you get everything you need from the food you eat.  Think about what you can add to a meal before you eat it.  For example, consider adding tumeric mixed in with olive oil on a piece of healthy toast with avocado.  Or try berries, chia seeds in coconut or almond yogurt.  You can make a smoothie and add medicinal mushrooms and chlorella.  Cook some chicken broth over the weekend and have a glass each morning.  There are so many little things you can do to tweek each meal and make it more immune boosting.  You just have to give it a little bit of thought.

Aside from the basics of washing your hands more often in winter months, you should arm yourself with some other basic things like supplementing with Vitamin D, probiotic, Vitamin C and Cod Liver Oil.  There are many other supplements to consider trying but these are the bare bones to take.  And if stress is your big issue then make sure you get to the gym, spend time meditating, listen to music, read a good book, chat with a good friend or have that glass of wine and try to relax.  Your body and health will thank you for it!

You can find more health prevention information in Dara Berger's new book:  HOW TO PREVENT AUTISM.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Changing your kids behavior starts with better nutrition

 How many times have we heard that saying "you are what you eat"?  I know it's exhausting, but I have found over the last decade that it could not be more true.  This discovery came first with my own health, then watching my son slowly recovering from autism over time.  And it wasn't until my daughter that the phrase took a deeper meaning.  

You see with my daughter I was so hell bent on preventing autism that nutrition became my weapon to combat chronic illness.  I started using it years before I got pregnant with her, while I was cleaning out my body preconception.  Then I developed an even deeper relationship with nutrition during my pregnancy, which continued after she was born.

Nutrition became the antidote when I battled through her leaky gut, food allergies and eczema.  All her classmates mom could not understand the connection from food to her eczema.  They were all happy just to slather on the steroid cream that would not continue working once you stopped using it and never got to the route of the problem.  It also had the lovely side effect of thinning the skin.  I chose to go a different route.

I diligently gave her nutritional supplements and paid extremely close attention to what she ate.  The pleasant side effect I got from all this paid off handsomely with much better overall behavior and less out of control emotions.  This revelation cinched the deal, I had discovered something better then our endless talks and punishment.  I was hooked on using nutrition to control behavior and emotions.  

There are times when I loosen the reigns and allow her more junk or processed food if it's a holiday or a special celebration.  It may be hard to believe but I notice the difference quite quickly.  The same goes for my son.  It's different with him, since he has autism.  The work is harder and more uphill but like with her it needs to be carried out each day.  Here are some simple tips that I live by:

1.     If your kids are acting out badly then by all means take an accounting of how they have been eating lately and by all means MAKE SOME SWIFT CHANGES!  Take out the processed food, sugar and heavy load of carbs.  

2.     Make sure your children are eating fresh fruits and vegetables at a minimum of 2 x's a day.  If they won't do it then you may consider taking away something they like or want to get then to eat the desired food.  You have to use the method that works for you.  I personally started with bribery.  But if they are older then try to talk to them about the way food will make them feel.

3.     Give them a probiotic or fermented food every day as insurance for their gut.

4.      Feed them as much organic produce as possible.  The pesticides and chemicals used to treat the food can really interfere with brain function.  

5.      Consider using nutritional supplements to help get their brain back on track if behavior is starting to become a more constant problem.  Some good basic supplements are fish oil, Vitamin D3, multivitamin and probiotic.  Some others I use are 5-MTHF (folate), B12, B complex, and magnesium as these can help calm the nervous system.  It is always good to work with a qualified practitioner who can advise you on which supplements might be good to take and specific dosages.  I also use a lot of herbal supplements that are antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory as well as Vitamin C, A and E.

5.     If their emotions are getting in the way of day to day functioning or activities then consider bringing them to a functional medicine doctor or nutritionist who can do specialized testing to help create an individualized protocol that can help you target making some bigger changes that may need to be made.

Sometimes negative behavior is of course just about being a kid, but other times it can be about nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, sub-par food that feeds the bad bacteria in our guts, processed food with too many chemicals and preservatives that get in the way of us feeling good and thinking clearly.

There is no down side to improving nutrition to see if it makes a difference in your child's behavior. So why not give it a try!

You can find more information on preventing chronic illness in children with Dara Berger's new book: HOW TO PREVENT AUTISM.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


By Dara Berger


It's always best to start healthy habits as early as possible, so they are already incorporated into your child's life from early on.  This way it is something they always remember doing.  You know the saying that it's "hard to teach an old dog new tricks".  Kids don't love change especially to their eating habits.  But remember they are much more adaptable then adults and can be "trained" or "bribed" in my daughter's case!

I have had to work very hard to change over my son's eating habits and really didn't feel like I had a choice.  You see he has autism and I learned that a big part of his recovery would be eating super healthy to get his Microbiome (balance of good and bad bacteria in his gut) back on track.  Remember this isn't just for autism but must be done for almost any chronic illness.  We have known for some time that 70% of the immune system is in the gut which many practitioners refer to it as our second brain.

It was a long tough road to changing my son's dietary habits as he was used to the SAD (Standard American Diet) full of pizza and bagels.  With my daughter I started much earlier, so eating healthy is all she has ever known.  The complicated issue with her has been noticing and complaining about what her friends get to eat.  I constantly have to point out how many of the kids in her class are very unhealthy with anaphylactic food allergies or inhalers for asthma.

The one thing that was on my side with my son is he would pretty much take anything I would give him.  He had issues with food textures and everything had to be crunchy.  I used this to my advantage by starting to give him celery, cucumber and raw beets cut up.  Next I would serve him a teaspoon of fermented beet kvass or pickle rind.  When he gets home from school I give him a salad with raw crunchy lettuce and radishes.  Over time I have been able to cook brussell sprouts, broccoli, and carrots starting with making them al dente.  Now he eats them any way I serve them.  It greatly helps if a child witnesses their parents eat these healthy items.  My son also has PANDAS, which I try also to use to my advantage.  Once I introduce something it becomes part of his routine and then he has to have it each day.  So I started giving him a glass of green juice twice a day.  He gulps it down quite quickly and will even get upset if we don't have time to make it on a particular day.

Now with my typical daughter it is different and in some ways more complicated.  The same tactics I use with my son would NEVER work with her!  At first, I had to bribe her using the picky eater technique of saying "take one bite of this" or you can't have "that".  It took a few days as she is stubborn.  But I stayed the course and eventually prevailed.  As she got a little bit older getting her involved worked.  She wanted to be the one to make the salad and be in control.  I of course didn't care as I just wanted her to eat the vegetables.  So I gave her a cutting board and a butter knife and off she went to make her salad at 3 years old.  And at 7 1/2 she still makes her own when she comes home from school.  My daughter likes to eat cooked vegetable but gets tired easily so it forces me to rotate them more often.  This is a good practice to do anyway.  Luckily my fridge is constantly full with an insane amount of vegetables, so it is no problem.  I try to let them choose what they are eating each day, so that they feel more involved and in control and less apt to be resistant.

Here is a list of vegetables that I make for them.  I will give them to you in order of preference with the ones they enjoy eating the most at the top.  Hopefully this will inspire you to branch out and make something new for your family.  And remember don't be let down if they don't like it on the very first try.  Keep making the ones that you enjoy, so they witness your healthy eating habits!

Vegetables my kids enjoy:

1.      Brussel Sprouts baked in the oven with coconut oil and sea salt (I cut them in half to cook quicker and also add fresh garlic for flavor).

2.      Baked Kale cut up in pieces drizzled with oil and salt.  The kids love this healthy crunchy chip.

3.      Sweet Potatoes cut up in small pieces baked with coconut oil and sea salt.  You can slice them like a thick potato chip too.  I also make purple potatoes the same way.

4.     Carrots cut up and sauteed with oil, salt and touch of maple syrup.

5.     Steam green beans and broccoli or saute with garlic and salt depending on what type of texture your child prefers.

6.     Beets baked in the oven with coconut or palm oil and sea salt.

7.     Parsnips cut up and baked with oil and sea salt.

8.     Cauliflower steamed and put in the food processor with olive oil and salt.  This tastes just like mashed potatoes but much healthier.

9.     Spinach is a great thing to hide in a fruit smoothie if your child doesn't like the texture.  I juice if for my son.

10.   Avocado is tasty mashed up for a baby or put on toast.  However my daughter loves my home made guacamole that I give her cassava root chips to dip into.

11.   Zucchini is a vegetable that I put a lot in a homemade paleo bread that I never feel guilty feeding them.  It makes such a wholesome and satisfying snack.  Both my kids love it!

12.  Green juice is a wonderful way to get a lot of vegetables in your child such as Swiss Chard, Kale, Spinach, Fennel, Parsley and Cilantro.  You can add beets or apple to make if more  for palatable for them.

As you can see the choices are quite plentiful and you will have to perform your own trial and error to see what works best for your kids.  I hope my suggestions above have given you some ideas to play with.  

Remember that your kids will do best modeling your good behavior!  It's also best to get the whole family on board and most of all be patient with your children especially if they are getting rid of some not so great eating habits that they have had up until now.  

You can find more great tips on health prevention and natural living in my new book How to Prevent Autism.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Simple & Natural Remedies 
during cold and flu season....

I am so passionate about using natural remedies for many of our everyday ailments that I devote an entire chapter in my new book How to Prevent Autism.

For today's purpose, I am going to focus on cold and flu season as we are right in the midst of it!  I find no matter how careful you are or how many times you wash your hands it is inevitable that your body may come down with something when you are feeling vulnerable due to stress or possibly lack of sleep.  Our kids on the other hand sit in their classrooms all day, which can be like an incubator for these viruses.  So besides being careful and diligent, it's great to arm yourself with some preventative strategies as well as some solid treatments in the event you or the kids come down with something.

Let's start with a good old-fashion cold.  I like to give elderberry syrup at the first sign of a virus.  It is a very potent antiviral and a general immune booster.  If a sore throat or cough is present then I will add in Manuka honey 1-2 times daily.  Manuka honey is a medicinal form of honey that is highly antibacterial, so it can help get rid of the germs associated with the cough and sore throat.  If the cold is really bad I may add in olive leaf extract, which is antiviral and antibacterial as well as an immune enhancing supplement.  Other herbs I use are Astralagus and Berberine.  Many times I will rub the essential oil Frankincense on my children's feet to stimulate their immune system to work better.  Once the symptoms of the cold are getting better then I taper off the the supplements, so that I may use them the next time they are needed.
Now this isn't to say that you can't put one or two of these in preventatively and rotate them throughout the wintertime.  However, I would first make sure that I have my solid basics of a good quality vitamin D, probiotic and clean organic whole foods diet that will lay the foundation for a strong and healthy immune system.  Remember if you put junk in then you will feel like JUNK!

Now that we covered the basic cold, let's move on to a stronger virus that may produce a high fever in kids and some other symptoms such as a headache that keeps them laid out in bed.  The moment I detect a lack of appetite I always reach for the thermometer knowing that they are most likely registering a fever.  My rule of thumb is that I normally don't give Ibuprofen right away unless they are incredibly uncomfortable or it's over 103.  My first go to step for a fever is Peppermint essential oil rubbed on the feet every hour and a half in the beginning stages of a fever.  This usually lowers it slowly over the first night and second day.  If there is a headache I rub Lavender and Frankincense essential oil right in front of the hairline from one ear up across the forehead to the other ear.  I also always put in the elderberry and Manuka honey right away as well as some of the immune boosting supplements such as  olive leaf extract, berberine, and astralagus.  My children always drink coconut water in addition to regular water as it will balance the electrolytes and help keep your child from getting dehyrated.  And making a big pot of chicken soup with fresh herbs and a few  cloves of garlic is a nutritious and delicious meal that keeps them hydrated during the virus.

So these are just some simple things that I do for my kids when they are experiencing one of those annoying viruses that they get in the Wintertime.  Of course if your not sure what you are dealing with or if your child seems very uncomfortable then a quick trip to the doctor for a diagnosis and a quick check is never a bad idea.  You can still go home and implement your natural cold and virus protocol afterwards.

You can find more wonderful tips on how to use natural medicine for all your everyday common complaints in my new book How to Prevent Autism.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Welcoming 2018!


A New Year can mean a time to do new things!

Let 2018 be your best year yet!

Now that we have finished ringing in the New Year it is time to make some slow and subtle changes that can be done over time.  You have probably had time to reflect on this past year and think about all the things you would like to do that never got done in 2017.  Or perhaps you were inspired by other people’s wishes for the New Year.

Well when it comes to health there is no better time than the present to do the things you know will bring you “health and happiness”.  And yes those two seem to go hand in hand.  When we are healthy and feel good we are usually happier and vice versa.

So let’s get to it!

If you’re a mom like me you probably focus all your energy on the health and well being of your child especially if they suffer from a chronic illness that you are trying to heal them from. But it’s important to remember that you matter too!  Your daily habits and state of well-being will trickle down to your children.  It’s like when you’re on an aircraft and they tell all the adults to put on their oxygen mask first, so you are in good shape to help others more vulnerable around you.  It’s the same thing here.  Your healthy habits will be visible for your children to see and learn from.  Plus you’ll feel better from them too!

So remember a healthy family starts with your health!  I plan to do a series of health posts that have to do with my new book “How to Prevent Autism”.  It’s an important concept to realize that your child’s health begins with the state of your own health.  Our kids inherit our DNA, our microbiome, toxins and immune responses.  What I am trying to say is that the healthier you are the healthier they will be.  And no matter how good we are being each day, we all know our routine can always be tweaked.  Plus we should always strive to add new things in when our body gets used to a particular food or supplement no matter how healthy it is for us.

So whether you have been procrastinating working on your own health or you just need a little nudge to change things up a bit let’s get started on some of the basics this week.

Here are my top tips for 2018:

1.      Make sure you have a good probiotic or fermented food in your diet today!  Most of us have immune systems that are under siege by stress or toxins in the world around us.  We have to support out Microbiome as we know the gut houses 70% of our immune system. 
2.      Eat Organic as often as possible!  Those nasty pesticides contribute to autoimmune illnesses and cancer, neither of which do you want.  I know it’s more expensive, but you will pay dearly by getting sick from them in the long run.  In my book, I speak about ways to work around the extra expense.  I used to let my kids cheat a couple times a year and eat Lays potato chips until I found out that potatoes are the most heavily sprayed vegetable.  There literally can be 50 different kinds of chemicals on a single potato chip.  Needless to say I haven’t touched one since.  It’s just not worth it!

3.      Lower the stress!  I know this one seems impossible with new messages coming through on our smart phones every second telling us to do this and that or buy this and that!  We know stress inhibits the immune system from working properly.  Basically stress alone can make someone sick even with the healthiest diet.  So do things each day to mitigate the stress you cannot control.  Choose whatever makes you feel relaxed and happy, but do something each day to combat the stress.

4.      Get moving!  We need to move our bodies each day to get our lymphatic systems working at our best.  It can be just a ten-minute walk or climb the stairs a bunch of times.  It will stimulate your body to do the things it needs to, plus bring more oxygen to your organs and lower stress all at the same time.  So don’t skip your exercise time.  Fit it in somewhere!

5.      Detox negative people from your life!  If someone is bringing you down or you find being around him or her creates negativity then spend less time with them or even consider a break.  You have to look after your own emotional well being.  We know our emotions have a profound effect on the body.  Focus on the people and things that relax and bring you joy.  This will create more inner peace and happiness!

6.      Lower the toxins around you!  Many of us who have children with a chronic illness and know first hand that it is about a toxic load that got our children sick.  So whether it is toxins from a vaccine, cleaning product (especially the blue window cleaner), our personal care products or new furniture, we need to create as safe an environment as possible.  You have to pay attention to the things YOU CAN CONTROL!

The above tips are meant to get you thinking about what you can do different this upcoming year.  We will dive into each category in more detail as well as explore many other areas of health and wellness.  Many of these topics will be about prevention and healing, as the things you do for both are really one in the same. 

I hope your 2018 is already off to a beautiful start.  Wishing you and your family a year filled with health, healing and happiness!

Boosting Immunity:  some simple strategies I know how easy it is to get caught up in our busy every day lives and forget to do thin...