Archive for the ‘Suggestion for a healthier child’ Category

Real Athletes Drink Water

Rethink Your Sports Drink

As a pediatrician, I often ask kids: “What is the healthiest drink for an athlete?”  No, it is NOT Gatorade, I find myself saying all too often.  It is water.  “But aren’t sports drinks good?” I hear parents ask.  No!  In fact, most sports drinks are closer to poison.

Have you ever looked at the ingredients in sports drinks?  Water, high fructose corn syrup are the first two ingredients.  Yes, water and lots of poor quality sugar – 10 1/2 sugar packets per 20 oz bottle to be exact!

In other words, one 20 oz Gatorade contains 34 gms of sugar, equivalent to 12 pieces of Starburst!

However it’s even worse because HFCS is genetically modified, contains traces of the neurotoxin mercury, damages our liver and quickly turns into glycogen. What is glycogen? Stored sugar.  What happens to stored sugar?  It turns to fat!

The University of California at Berkeley warns that “students who drink one 20-ounce sports drink every day for a year can gain about 13 pounds!”

Granted, if you were running a marathon, a little glycogen can be a good thing.  But for the average athlete or person exercising, we want to use our glycogen stores, not create more.

How about the rest of the ingredients?  Depending on the flavor, there are natural and artificial flavors, salt, sodium citrate, yellow 6, glycerol ester of wood rosin, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), and red 40.  Most of these are toxins, with BVO being the most dangerous.  BVO is labeled as unsafe by the FDA, capable of causing multiorgan damage, birth defects and growth problems.

Yes, there are electolytes in sports drinks but the negatives of the other ingredients completely outweight any potential benefit.

Don’t think that the other commercial sports drinks are any better.  If you have any diet version, such as Propel, you are substituting the HFCS with sucralose.  This decreases the calories, but now you are drinking a chlorocarbon, similar to DDT and Lindane.  No long term (>12months) human studies have been performed on sucralose.  However, in animal studies, sucralose caused liver and kidney inflammation and damaged the immune system. Don’t be fooled by Vitamin Water which contains crystalline fructose which is very similar to HFCS.  While PowerAde has less salt, it is likely the most toxic sports drink having 40% more sugar, in the form of HFCS, and also chemical sweeteners phenylalanine (which converts into formaldehyde) and sucralose.

If increased weight gain and all the toxins aren’t convincing enough, consider your teeth.  Sports drinks dissolve tooth enamel, but the damage is far worse in athletes who drink them while exercising. This is due to reduced saliva during exercise, frequent sipping, and the fact that most sports drinks have a pH < 3, consequently causing 30x more erosion than if an athlete just drank water.

While water is sufficient hydration for most athletes, coconut water is great for serious athletesCoconut water is high in potassium, chlorides, calcium, and magnesium, with a modest amount of sodium, sugar, and protein. Add a pinch of Celtic Sea salt to add a few more trace minerals and sodium and it’s perfect.  Often called “natures’ sports drink,” coconut water is even given intravenously for dehydration in tropical areas.

The next time you want a drink, READ the ingredients and THINK for yourself about what’s in it and what you are trying to achieve.

Your body will thank you for it!

Juice Plus

In my pediatric practice, I routinely advise kids to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits every day to maximize health. Ideally, kids should strive to eat at least 3-4 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruits every day.  While my own kids eat a quite healthy diet, enjoying cauliflower, snap peas, and carrots for lunch frequently, it is still challenging to get them to consume enough vegetables and fruits on a daily basis.  Consequently, I suggest supplementing kids’ diets with a  whole food supplement, such as Juice Plus.

I had heard about Juice Plus from patients for years, but never recommended them, nor gave them to my family, because one of their first ingredients was corn syrup. However, now the company removed the corn syrup, decreased the sugar content, and added fiber, making them far better than any other whole food supplement that I have found.

What I like about Juice Plus:

  • It is made from fresh, ripe, real vegetables and fruits, not synthetic vitamins.
  • The chewables (gummies) taste very good and only contain 2 grams of sugar per child serving (1 gram/chewable).  My kids think they are terrific and remind me to give it them.  They even bring them to school as their treat.
  • The farmers don’t use pesticides or chemicals on their produce and never use genetically modified seeds. Furthermore , the finished fruit and vegetable powders are tested regularly for the presence of pesticides and herbicides and shown to be free of any detectable contaminants.  And to verify this, the product is now certified by the National Safety Federation – part of this certification is verifying the product is safe and contains no detectable chemical residues.
  • They are kosher certified.
  • They are essentially gluten free – regularly tested to be <20 parts/million of gluten, which is the standard in the US to be considered gluten free.
  • They use tapioca syrup and organic cane syrup as sweeteners, not corn syrup.
  • Juice Plus has solid research showing bioavailability and clinical benefit for children and adults.  This research is ongoing and currently being studied by multiple hospitals and independent organizations.
  • Juice Plus has a fairly long shelf life and only needs to be ordered every four months, making it convenient for parents.
  • It is endorsed by many well respected doctors, including pediatricians Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Sears.
  • Furthermore, I love that they offer free Juice Plus for a child if a parent is purchasing Juice Plus for themselves and they agree to participate in their study.

If you are interested in purchasing Juice Plus for yourself, for your children or both, please click here to learn more about it.

Probiotics – Healthy Bacteria Make Healthy People

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria.

The word probiotic means “for life.”  We need probiotics to live.  We have 100,000 billion bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract, that’s more bacteria than we have cells in our body.   Many of these are healthy bacteria, but some are not.  It is important to make sure we keep plenty of good bacteria in our GI tract. For infants and children, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are most important.

I like to compare our GI system to our lawns.  To have a healthy lawn you need to feed it, by giving it sun and water. However, if to start out, the ground underneath is unhealthy and lacking nutrients, the grass won’t grow well.   If you nourish the ground with nutrients, the grass will improve.  If a truck drives over it and destroys some sections, you can reseed and the grass will grow back.  However, if you do not reseed, weeds will plant and spread.  Now, if that truck comes back and keeps driving over your lawn, no matter how much you reseed, you can’t keep up with reseeding and eventually the weeds will overgrow.

Birth by c-section, a mom with unhealthy bacteria in her gut, and formula feeding are examples of how our GI lawns may start out less than healthy.  Antibiotics, infections, unhealthy eating patterns, alcohol ingestion, and hospitalization are a few examples of trucks that can come in and destroy our GI lawns. When those trucks come in, they may destroy our healthy balance of gut bacteria, cause our guts to become leaky, and leave room for unhealthy bacterial weeds and yeast weeds to overgrow.  Taking probiotics helps to reseed our GI lawns, improve GI function, and keeps new weeds from planting themselves and current weeds from overgrowing.  However, no matter how many probiotics we take, we can not truly heal our GI lawns unless we stop the trucks from coming.


How do we stop the trucks?

We must respect our bodies, take in foods that feed our GI lawns and avoid toxins and foods that harm it. Additionally, we must support the entire body with water, rest, exercise, and emotional support to help it heal itself.

Enough with the analogy, let’s talk about what probiotics actually do.

Healthy bacterial serve many important functions:

  • Prevent overgrowth of bad bacteria
  • Help heal our GI tract after damage has been done
  • Make vitamins
  • Produce energy
  • Stimulate our immune systems
  • Metabolize food
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Healthy bacteria are the “live active cultures” like those found in yogurt.  This is why people on antibiotics are often advised to eat yogurt to avoid a yeast infection.

    So why not just eat more yogurt?  First, many times those “live” cultures in yogurt aren’t still alive when you eat them.  Sometimes, the bacteria in the probiotic supplements aren’t alive either, which is why we recommend specific reliable brands.  Furthermore, probiotics contain more than ten times the amount of bacteria than 1 yogurt.  Consequently, your chances of benefiting from a probiotic is much better than just eating yogurt.

    What signs/symptoms suggest that you or your child could benefit from taking probiotics?

  • Gas, bloating, burping
  • Taking, or have recently taken, an antibiotic
  • Recurrent colds or infections
  • Eczema, asthma, allergies, psoriasis
  • Diarrhea, caused by a virus, bacteria, or due to an antibiotic
  • Constipation
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Irritable bowel and inflammatory bowel
  • Gastric ulcer prevention and colon cancer prevention
  • Any chronic inflammatory condition, such as arthritis, lupus, and MS
  • ADD/ADHD/ Depression/ Autism
  • Probiotics are safe.

    While any supplement or medication can have negative effects on an individual, the only documented cases of related illness were in severely immunocompromised patients with prolonged hospitalization and after surgery.

    Tips to taking probiotics:

    • The best time to take  probiotics often depends on the probiotic. On the whole, take the probiotic and don’t worry about timing.  However some probiotics get killed in the stomach if the environment is too acidic.  Thus, either taking the probiotic with food or  on a completely empty stomach (just before bed) will be the best way to ensure the bacteria’s viability.
    • If you are taking antibiotics or other supplements that may kill bacteria, ideally take the probiotics at least 15-30 minutes before or after, so the antimicrobial and probiotic are not in the stomach at the same time.
    • Keep probiotics refrigerated for longest shelf-life.  They are living and most will live longer if kept in a cool, dry place.  Some brands are more stable and do not require refrigeration.  When in doubt, refrigerate.
    • How to give probiotics if you can’t swallow pills?  Open the capsule and put in a spoonful of applesauce or yogurt.  Never add them to hot foods or cook them, as the heat will kill the organisms.

    Ideally these bacteria will be happy in your body, and make a home there and reproduce.  However, sometimes they won’t and continued supplementation is necessary.

    Sometimes one probiotic may not be as helpful as another strain.  Each person’s gut is different and some trial and error may be necessary.  Certain conditions suggest that different probiotics are better than others.

    Bananas, asparagus, and onions are good foods to eat when you are taking probiotics.  These are called pre-biotics or fructooligosaccharides, and they feed the healthy bacteria.  Breast milk is also full of pre-biotics.   Many probiotic supplements contain pre-biotics as well.

    A poor diet, excessive alcohol, drugs, including antibiotics, and stress can also throw off the balance of beneficial bacteria.

    So, in addition to probiotics, take good care of your body!  Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole foods.  Avoid sugar, get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure daily (without sunscreen)  or take vitamin D3.  Drink plenty of water, exercise, and get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

    Disclaimer: Some products mentioned have not been evaluated by the FDA.  They are intended to benefit normal structure and function and are not intended to cure, treat, or prevent any disease.

    Why What We Eat is So Important

    Why what we eat is so important

    By Katherine Erlich, M.D.

    Everyone hears the news and knows that there is an obesity epidemic and a crisis in health care.  We oversize, we overeat, we eat too much fast food, too much fat, too much sugar, blah, blah, blah.  At a certain point, people stop hearing it, becoming numb, unsure of how to change, feeling helpless.  But we are not helpless, especially with regards to ourselves and our children.  The consequences of what we eat and how we live surround us.  Obesity is merely one symptom of the underlying chronic disease state that our nation is in.

    Hamburger kids

    Looking at our children, who act as our canaries in the mine, we can see that we are in state of epidemic chronic illness:

    • The U.S. has the third worst health profile in the world, while outspending every other country on health care.
    • Almost 30% of US children are obese.
    • The number of children with peanut allergies has doubled in the past 5 years.
    • The rate of autism is increasing!  The rate of autism in 2006  was documented by the AAP and CDC to be 1:110 children.  In a later study done in 2007, this rate increased to 1:91 children. Since boys are 4x more likely to have the diagnosis of autism, even using the 2006 data, this translates to 1 in every 28 boys.

    • In Michigan, we have seen almost a five-fold increase in autism in the last 10 years (
    • Up to 1 in 10 children have learning disabilities.
    • 12% of children have allergies.
    • 10 to 15% of children have asthma.
    • It is suspected that 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, with most cases starting in childhood, yet the majority of cases go undiagnosed.
    • Type II diabetes and heart disease, formerly rare in childhood, are now being seen in children at surprising rates.

    These problems cannot be attributed to genetics.  Genetics does not cause epidemics.

    Our children are malnourished, as are most US adults.  Yes, you can be obese and still be malnourished.  In fact, most obese people have vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which is partly why they become obese in the first place and find it virtually impossible to loose weight.

    How can people be malnourished when they are consuming so much food?

    Sadly, the foods that we are eating are devoid of minerals and vitamins.  The chemically fertilized ground in which conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are grown are far less nutrient dense than they were when farmers rotated the crops.  The animals are fed grain rather than grass and consequently the meat becomes less nutritious, high in toxic pesticides, and high in poor quality Omega 6 fatty acids. The foods we eat, such as refined sugar and refined salt, actually make it harder to absorb the nutrients even if they are there. Malnourishment, antibiotics, medication, infections, and imbalances make our guts ”leaky.”

    Furthermore, with a high sugar diet, yeast can overgrow in our intestines, making our guts less healthy and even more “leaky.”  A leaky gut allows inadequately broken down foods exposure to the bloodstream.  Here, the immune system sees the food as foreign and attacks it, thus spurring the development of food allergies and food intolerances, increasing the potential for autoimmune disorders.  Seeing these same foods again and again, keeps the body in attack mode, increasing overall inflammation and setting the body up to develop chronic illness.

    Lastly, since processed foods are so devoid of nutrients, they bring in nothing to help our bodies process them.  Thus, they effectively leach enzymes, minerals and vitamins from our body, leaving us far worse off after eating them than before.  It’s like drinking sea water when you are thirsty – it will only kill you.

    “Kid friendly” food isn’t friendly to our kids’ bodies

    Look at any kids’ menu or even the school lunch menu and you’ll see a classic example of the problem.  Start with chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, pizza, grilled cheese sandwich, hot dog, cheeseburger.  Add fries, juice or a pop, and often a dessert.  Clearly, the classic diet of children is full of sugar from candy, drinks, desserts, and white flour.  It is high in sodium (obtained from refined salt which lacks minerals).  It is virtually devoid of fresh vegetables and fruits, and imbalanced with regards to fatty acids.  Kids eat the same limited repertoire of foods multiple times a day, recurrently exposing their guts to dairy and wheat. The processed foods that our children are eating are full of fillers such as soy and corn, which are almost universally genetically modified and coated in chemical toxins.  Yes, they are “fortified,” but fortified with what -with synthetic vitamins that are very difficult for the body to utilize. Also, many of these foods are overcooked or microwaved destroying the limited nutrients and enzymes present in the food.  In the end, our kids are left with unhealthy guts, challenged to heal without the appropriate tools, and open to further exposures; their bodies kept “under attack” and in a state of chronic inflammation.  Chronic inflammation leads to chronic illness, including environmental and food allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders, abdominal pain, headaches, obesity, attention problems like ADD, autism, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, inflammatory bowel, and most other acquired chronic illnesses like heart disease, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and arthritis.

    Food as medicine

    It is up to parents to get past all their own baggage regarding food and, instead begin to view food as a means to provide the necessary building blocks for our bodies to grow and to heal.  Food really is medicine. You are partly what you eat, but really you are truly only what your body can absorb.  Help your kids to heal and give them the gift of maximum potential and longevity.

    As my grandmother would say, “Use it in the best of health!”

    Vitamin D and Cod Liver Oil

    A Big  iDea for Your Child’s Health

    Benefits of vitamin D3 and cod liver oil

    By Katherine Erlich, M.D.
    Published in Natural Awakenings, September 2009

    Do your children suffer from recurrent colds or lack energy?

    Do you have a child who frequently complains of pain?

    Has your child broken a bone?

    Did you ever wonder why children get sick more often in the winter?

    Vitamin D deficiency could be the answer.

    Vitamin D is Essential for Health

    Vitamin D is critical for even the unborn child. If a pregnant mother is deficient in vitamin D, her baby is more likely to be born smaller and to later develop allergies and asthma. One study showed that the children of mothers who took vitamin D during pregnancy had increased bone mass, even at nine years old. Since many mothers are vitamin D deficient, their newborn babies will also be deficient. Consequently, the Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants begin daily supplementation with vitamin D soon after birth.

    While severe vitamin D deficiency in children causes rickets, even mild vitamin D deficiency puts children at increased risk of many acute and chronic illnesses. Low vitamin D levels decrease immunity, increasing chances of catching a cold or the flu, and making it harder to fight it off. Vitamin D deficiency makes it harder to absorb calcium, increasing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. People with vitamin D deficiency show increased rates of asthma, autoimmune diseases, depression, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Recent studies support that vitamin D supplementation early in childhood may decrease the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

    Vitamin D is All Around Us

    The sun is the best source of this important nutrient.  However, sunscreen blocks more than 90% of this vital vitamin. In order to get the 400iu/day RDA of vitamin D, children need to get at least 15 minutes of full-body sun exposure daily, without sunscreen. In Michigan, the ideal time to get vitamin D from the sun is between 10am and 2pm. While too much sun exposure increases our risk of skin cancer, too little vitamin D also increases our risk of skin cancer. As parents, we must find a balance.

    The darker your skin, the more difficult it is to absorb vitamin D. People with darker skin need to spend 5-10 times more in the sun to absorb similar levels of vitamin D.

    While the sun is the best source, vitamin D can be found in fortified foods such as milk. However, one would need to drink 32oz per day to get the minimum daily requirement of vitamin D.  For most people, drinking that much milk would be unhealthy and is not advised. Contrary to common belief, most other dairy foods do not contain vitamin D.

    I suggest a daily supplement of at least 400iu vitamin D3, starting at birth.  I often recommend higher levels to maximize health. The best way to determine how much vitamin D is needed is to have your physician check a vitamin D 25-OHD level.

    One Healthy Fat – Cod Liver Oil

    Cod liver oil is an excellent source of Vitamin D. It’s also is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin A.

    Look for a product with 400 iu of vitamin D3 per tsp, that has met purity standards – assuring no mercury, heavy metals, dioxins or PCBs. The liquid form is more cost effective and far easier to swallow than capsules.

    Dose – 1 tsp/day for ages 2 to adulthood, ½ tsp/day for toddlers (1-2 years old.)

    Keep cod liver oil refrigerated for best texture. Chase with a cold drink or orange slice.

    Cod liver oil has a three month shelf life once opened. It must be discarded thereafter.

    Never force a child to take cod liver oil or fish oil. Never give via syringe. With any oil, aspiration (choking) is possible, so use caution. Consequently, I do not advise cod liver oil for infants, for children with significant reflux, nor right before bed. For babies less than 1 year old, infant multivitamins or liquid vitamin D are the best non-sun sources of vitamin D.

    Use caution if you are on a blood thinner, have an allergy or anaphylactic reaction to fish, or have severe gastroesophageal reflux.

    To best maximize your health and minimize illness, I recommend taking cod liver oil daily. Trust your grandparents and great grandparents, they took it and were much healthier for it.  Luckily, it tastes much better now than when our grandparents were young.

    For more information on the benefits of vitamin D, go to or

    Disclaimer: Some products mentioned have not been evaluated by the FDA.  They are intended to benefit normal structure and function and are not intended to cure, treat, or prevent any disease.