Thursday, November 17, 2016

What Your Child May Be Afraid Of…….And You Had No Idea!

Just imagine if your child suffered a panic attack and severe stress by just looking at a mushroom sitting on a plate or refused to eat any food at all due to an overwhelming fear that it might cause bodily harm. What would life be like for your child and you? Would mealtimes be hellish? Are they at that stage right now? Your child could be suffering from a food phobia.
ACEROPHOBIA – Fear of sourness
ALEKTOROPHOBIA – Fear of chicken
ALLIUMPHOBIA – Fear of garlic
ARACHIBUTYROPHOBIA – Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth
CARNOPHOBIA – Fear of meat
CONSECOTELAPHOBIA – Fear of chopsticks
EMETOPHOBIA – Fear of vomiting
FRIGOPHOBIA – Fear of cold things
GEUMOPHOBIA – Fear of taste
ICHTHYOPHOBIA – Fear of fish
LACHANOPHOBIA – Fear of vegetables
MAGEIROCOPHOBIA – Fear of cooking
METHYPHOBIA – Fear of alcohol
MYCOPHOBIA - Fear of mushrooms
OENOPHOBIA – Fear of wine
OSTRACONOPHOBIA – Fear of shellfish
PHAGOPHOBIA – Fear of swallowing
PNIGOPHOBIA – Fear of choking
THERMOPHOBIA – Fear of hot things
TOXOPHOBIA – Fear of being accidentally poisoned
XANTHOPHOBIA – Fear of the colour yellow

“A Phobia is a confused state” says B. Mallika, a counsellor based in Chennai. A child who suffers from a phobia is unable to communicate and express what they are going through. More importantly, parents aren’t teaching them how to do so and often react in frustration.
Phobias can be present in an individual from a very mild degree to extreme forms which severely impact quality of life for him or her and people around them. If you recognise that your child or family member has symptoms, it is time to get help from a mental health professional.
Let’s look at a couple of more common food phobias to get an insight into the suffering that people with these conditions go through.
Cibophobia / Sitiophobia:
Quite literally, it is the fear of food. It is not linked to body image and is thus distinct from anorexia and bulemia. As in all other phobias, the extent of the fear is revealed by severity of symptoms. A person suffering from this disorder is convinced that eating certain foods (mostly mushrooms, cheese, pickles, eggs and milk) will cause great bodily harm.
He/She would be concerned with expiry dates on food packaging and tends to overcook foods to the point of burning them to avoid microbiological contamination. Psychological stress after consuming such a food may result in nausea, vomiting and physical trembling. Chest pain, shortness of breath and other symptoms of severe anxiety may also arise. Every case is different because every individual, their thinking patterns and triggers of the fear are different.
Some psychological symptoms are
  • Knowing your fears are unreasonable yet feeling powerless to control them.
  • A feeling of anxiety when you think about or are exposed to eating foods you are afraid of.
  • The feeling that you must do everything possible to avoid eating.
  • You are unable to function normally because of your anxiety.
Sufferers often don’t drink and eat enough to supply adequate nutrition and may as a result, have nutritional deficiencies and health problems. They then need nutrient supplementation to maintain health. Some children and even teens will refuse to eat solid foods. Their condition can disrupt family harmony and such children experience isolation by their peers. Sleep is impacted. Bed-wetting, nightmares, refusal to sleep alone and other behavioural issues are usually present.
A mental health professional is the best person to assist a child with such symptoms. That being said, drugs and medication may tackle only the symptoms apart from having side effects. A recent study in the US concluded that 90% of children on medication for behavioural problems didn’t require them at all! Even if medication is necessary, it would not address the patterns of thinking that are actually the core of the problem.
Food Neophobia:
Neophobia is the fear of anything new. Sufferers of food neophobia reject new and unfamiliar foods. It usually first appears in infants between the ages of 12 – 24 months and is thought to be an evolutionary trait to protect babies from eating poisonous / harmful foods. Acceptance of new foods until the age of 5 years may often require at least 5 – 10 exposures to a particular food. Older children and adults are mostly capable of overcoming it.
Neophobias in children can be lessened in degree or even overcome through their role models (parents, teachers, superheroes, peers, etc). If they create a positive impression, the child may be influenced to try new nutritious foods.
Speaking of which, the food groups most often disliked are dairy, cereal grains and pulses, meat, fish, vegetables and fruits. As with cibophobia, neophobia restricts food choices and can lead to nutritional deficiencies without proper intervention.
How do Food Phobias Develop?
Children may develop cibophobia whilst eating in front of authoritative figures. Child abuse and news of a death of someone close to them can also trigger this phobia in tender minds. Phagophobia, the fear of swallowing is said to be directly related to the vocal chords. When they are tight, constricted and won’t open fully this signifies that communication is suppressed in this individual. She/He does not know how and is not encouraged to be open and communicative. They are suppressed and told to be quiet often. They might be mocked, scolded and have low self esteem.
When this environment alters, when children are encouraged to read aloud, sing and tell stories and express themselves without fear of repression, they start thriving and the degree of the phobia is lessened and often disappears completely. Studies have also shown that children who are allowed to touch and play with their food are much less likely to develop food neophobia.
Surprising isn’t it? Fear usually thrives in negative, dis-empowering, oppressive environments. Every family goes through rough patches but parents should be careful that their children are not impacted as the stress produced is harmful to their physical and emotional health.
If you make negative statements about a child as s/he eats, the less s/he will eat and the converse is also true – More appreciation and encouragement is related to increased weight of the child.
Food phobias (and any other type of phobia) not only impacts the sufferer and their quality of life, they affect family members as well. A harried mother trying desperately to feed her child will soon despair and vent her frustration on other family members.
Mealtimes become a battleground and the family’s focus may be on the child suffering, relegating the needs of siblings to the background. Individual stress levels increase, affecting their short term and long term health. Parents whose child(ren) are fussy eaters tend to be frustrated and that condition affects how they view, love and parent that child.
According to Mallika, The first reaction to anything new is that our body objects to it. Consider that for a moment. The body says ‘No’ to any new experience, even if it’s a fraction of a second before both body and brain learn to accept the new experience. This means that parents can also show the way to their children by teaching them to differentiate between positive and negative experiences, establish rules, guide them as to how the world works, what they can transform and what they must learn to accept.
Learning to accept the new – both comfortable and uncomfortable is a valuable life skill that needs to be instilled very early by parents, family and teachers. What is also critical is that all this needs to be done with empathy and with a view to empower children. There is no way to guarantee this 100% but what matters is being aware of and acting on this responsibility.
So what else can we do to prevent or mitigate food phobias from developing? Sit down to a family meal as often as possible. Teach your children that they eat food to nourish their bodies and make sure you are transitioning to a super healthy and nourishing eating pattern. Allow them to eat how much they choose because they can recognise when they are full.
Movement and exercise is just as critical for young bodies and minds. The more they move, climb, jump, commune with nature and laugh the clearer their head and heart will be. As B Mallika says, “Fear is darkness, Clarity is Light”.

The edited version published in the October 2015 issue of Parent Circle....

Feedback for this article....

Say No To Caffeine

Caffeine is a Drug
The Union Health Ministry will soon issue an order that asks beverage manufacturers to carry a mandatory caffeine content warning label prominently on their packaging… “Not recommended for children, pregnant, lactating women or persons sensitive to caffeine.”
Energy drinks, all laden with caffeine, will have to cease using the ‘Energy’ tag and instead realistically be called ‘Caffeinated beverage’. These will carry a warning label stating the following “Not recommended for children, pregnant or lactating women, persons sensitive to caffeine and sportspersons”. In addition, the packaging also needs to warn consumers “No more than 2 cans should be consumed per day”.
Why all this fuss? Study after study has shown caffeine to act in the body as an addictive substance does. Just like sugar, nicotine or alcohol. It especially has radical, measurable side effects if consumed by children. Just as in the case of many medications, a reduced dose of caffeine does not mean reduced consequences in young ones. Caffeine’s effects are magnified even at low levels of intake.
OK, so you never give your children coffee. What about soft drinks? Does your teen spend some pocket money on energy drinks or even colas on the way home from school or even at a social event with friends? How about processed coffee flavoured chocolates or milk drinks? Did you think dark chocolate was safe for kids? Not if they consume half a bar… they’re getting too much caffeine.
What are the effects of caffeine consumption in children?
  • Jitteriness (inability to keep still for short periods), trembling hands, difficulty in concentrating
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Headaches
  • Upset digestion
  • Dehydration – caffeine is a diuretic which means it causes flushing of water from the body. Definitely no cold drinks on hot summer days.
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

List of processed products that contain caffeine:
. Regular coffee powder
. Instant coffee powder
. Regular Black Tea leaves and tea made from this
. Instant tea mixes or ready-to-drink teas
. Red Bull, normal can contains 112 mg of caffeine
. Red Bull, sugar free – 80 mg of caffeine
. Mountain Dew
. Diet, Zero and regular Coca Cola
. Diet and regular Pepsi
. Thumbs Up
. Coffee-flavoured milk drinks, biscuits and chocolates
. Dark Chocolate
. Coffee liqueurs
. Weight loss supplements (which aren’t meant for children anyway)
Many other products also contain small amounts of caffeine unless labeled ‘Decaffeinated’ (which may be worse, chemically than caffeinated itself). It is always better to stay away from processed foods for this and many more reasons.

Green tea also contains a nominal amount of caffeine. One cup of coffee contains 100-150mg of caffeine; a cup of green tea has only about 25mg of caffeine. However, there are many variables affecting these numbers. For example, the caffeine content of different types of green tea can vary; also a longer brewing period can result in more strongly caffeinated tea.

Green tea contains two other stimulants in addition to caffeine. These substances, theobromine and theophylline, may affect heart rate and the central nervous system in a way somewhat similar to caffeine. These substances are also found in chocolate.

The combined stimulant effects of caffeine, theobromine and theophylline in green tea may be balanced by another substance in the tea, the amino acid L-Theanine which simultaneously calms the nervous system and enhances concentration abilities. So green tea may not be suitable for children below the age of 15 years, however older children may consume in moderation.
How does caffeine affect our family’ bodies? When you consume caffeine, the drug begins its effects by initiating uncontrolled neuron firing in your brain, according to Stephen Cherniske in his book, Caffeine Blues. This excessive neuronal activity triggers your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, cortisol and nor-epinephrine. This process puts your body in "fight-or-flight" state and when this adrenal high wears off later, you feel the drop in terms of fatigue, irritability, headache or confusion.

On regular consumption of caffeine containing products, your body enters a state of adrenal exhaustion. Your caffeine consumption has simply pushed your adrenal glands so much that they've burned out, making you more and more tired over time. This over production of stress hormones also takes a toll on health, mainly weight gain and under-functioning of several important physiological processes. The heart and liver are also affected.
A study examined Caffeine’s effects at a low dose in youngsters and found that post pubescent teenage boys showed the most vulnerability to Caffeine’s side effects. The Canadian Government’s guidelines for children aged 4-6 years sets a maximum of 45 mg per day. One cup of filtered coffee contains approximately 150 mg of caffeine per 250 ml and the same quantity of Pepsi contains 55 mg. Caffeine is not a ‘necessary nutrient’ by any standards so it can also be present at 0% in your children’s diet.
These are several great incentives to minimise caffeine consumption yourself and in your children. All the more necessary for pregnant and breast-feeding women to avoid caffeine. In addition, moderate caffeine consumption in these critical phases increases the risk of miscarriage, difficult labour and finally, can result in low birth-weight babies.
Add to this the fact that stopping caffeine consumption results in withdrawal symptoms, now you know why Caffeine is labelled a ‘DRUG’.
In terms of stimulants, it is tough to keep abreast of the latest chemicals being used in foods and drinks. If you see Guarana (40 times as potent as caffeine and lethal when combined with it), Taurine and Ephedrine on any product, put it down and look for a genuinely natural alternative if absolutely necessary.
Last year, of numerous energy drink related reports at the US National Poison Data System, 50% were in children younger than 6 years! They didn’t go out to a store and buy those drinks….they found them at home. Which brings me to the point…can you really monitor your kids 100% of the time? Don’t leave caffeinated beverages unattended to at home, just like you keep all poisonous chemicals out of reach. These cause harm and children don’t really understand the possible consequences.
Lastly, I stopped drinking coffee regularly a few months ago. Immediately I noticed withdrawal symptoms which subsided after a week. I noticed more clarity of thought, positivity and most importantly, regularized sleep pattern. I do have a cup now and then (and I notice the consequences too) but I mostly drink green and herbal teas when I need them which contribute to my health.

Why Carbonated and Energy drinks are not a good idea besides their caffeine content….They

  • Contain acids which erode teeth enamel besides having many harmful effects on the body
  • Contain sugars which are harmful for metabolism and cause dental caries too.
  • Artificial sweeteners in diet drinks have been linked to everything from cancer to sugar cravings!
  • Contain a chemical cocktail of additives, some of which have been proven to cause cancer
  • Affect children’s delicate metabolism and promote obesity
  • Cause satiety with no nutrients and are consumed instead of nutrient dense, healthy snacks. Therefore, children may exhibit signs of nutrient deficiencies (easy fractures, low energy, etc.)***

Snapshot of the edited version of this article published in the Dec 2015 issue of Parent Circle...

Feedback on the above article.....

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Beginning at the End....

     The end result of digestion, that is. So why start here when knowing what  to eat is so critical right now? Hopefully, going through this information could present your family with a clear 'Before' picture as to what is going on with your guts. This post could help you all get started with some basic changes to food and water habits right now.
     Every person has different bowel habits. Some may just move their bowels once a day although emerging data may suggest more than once a day is optimal since we eat more than just once too. That, along with squatting on an Indian-style toilet and going first thing in the morning are indicators that things are well. 

     You don't need to worry in case this isn't you (or your children), just start drinking more water and including more fibre for yourselves. As we go through more nutrition info in the coming posts, make changes and you will be wonder-struck at the difference in quality of life.
     I am attaching a few infographics at the end which will obviate reading through a looooong post on poop! I do want to share a habit that we (my son and I) have adopted...squatting. To clarify, we have western-style loos at home but since reading up on the benefits of squatting for optimal bowel movement, we've 'adapted'. Here are some pics that clarify......

A product only an innovative American could come up with.......
Here are the infographics promised.....some info is repetitive but we move our bowels daily too, so.....
Found these on this website ....

Post - Festival Detox

     Getting back to best health after a festival, wedding, vacation or any other occasion during which any quantity of rich food is consumed for a few days, is always a challenge. One’s commitment, too, has to be renewed at the earliest. 

     Of course, you can consciously shift towards healthier versions of traditional preparations yourself but it may not be possible to avoid everything offered when out socialising. When you and your family have eaten out (including bought foods like sweets, savouries and catered food) especially, it is critical to cleanse your bodies of the additives such as colouring, flavouring, preservatives, etc.

     You may have heard of juice cleanses in the media. These may or may not work but even if you opt for one, never consume only liquids for more than two days. Also, it is not safe for you to administer such a diet to children under the age of 18 years. If it is medically required, it is best done with the guidance of a Nutritionist. Juice cleanses and detoxification protocols do have value for adult health but do so in consultation with medical / alternative health professionals always.

     Real body cleansing can happen easily and tastily, with the right kind of foods and liquids. So is this all about a ‘diet’? No. This is about making radical changes in eating for a total of 1 WEEK. 

     If you sustain the majority of good habits created during this time, natural and perpetual cleansing will make you and your family glow with health.

     What to eat….It is always best to choose organic products for detoxification and yes, these foods can be cooked. Cooking with less water and for only a short duration will help retain nutrients. As far as possible, eat stuff raw. Stock up as much as possible before Diwali (or any other occasion) or else you’ll be hard pressed for time to shop as you start the work and school week.

Best Ingredients to Use…..

Whole grains ….Millets, Oats, Brown and Red rice, etc.

Whole Pulses….Sprouts, Whole grams like Channa, Moong, Horse gram, etc.

Raw Veggies….Green leaves and veggies, colourful vegetables.

Fruits…..Regional and seasonal varieties are best.

Seeds and nuts….Pumpkin, watermelon, flaxseeds, walnuts and almonds.

Dairy….Organic milk, curds, cheese if possible. If not, limit dairy intake to just bare minimum in adults and half of usual quantity for kids (or cut out completely for the duration– they will be making up on Calcium and Protein with nuts, seeds, green leaves and sprouts).

Meat…. Consume once or twice this week if you need to. Choose organic, grass fed poultry and wild caught fresh water fish…. Marine fish have higher levels of mercury and other heavy metals. Ordinary meat and poultry contain antibiotics and residues of other chemicals.

Healing Cooking Oils....Organic cold pressed coconut / sesame / mustard / kardi (safflower) / olive oils. Organic and cold pressed oils retain the highest amount of healing properties in those oils.

Superfoods (all organic as far as possible) like Green / Herbal Tea, Amla (gooseberry), Methi sprouts, Hemp seeds / oil, Avocados, Wheatgrass (fresh or powder), Kombucha, Spirulina and Chia seeds.

1 – 2 litres of purified water (depending on age). 2 + litres for adults.

Must Avoid at All Costs…..
Sugar or jaggery, any food with added sugar (candies, chocolates, baked goods), processed and fast foods, coffee, milk tea, foods from external vendors (including eating out as well), starchy refined foods such as white rice and white bread, refined oils, deep fried foods and every other type of food you ever heard was bad for you (just in case I missed anything), too.

     Specific foods and spices that aid in detoxification -
Include a lot of these during this week and use them regularly in large quantities from now on.

     Coriander, Garlic, Papaya (with seeds), Watermelon (with seeds), Lemon (with seeds), Moong (green gram) sprouts or any sprouts for that matter, Beetroots, Turmeric (raw and powder), Flaxseeds (don’t roast), Almonds, Avocados, Cabbage, Cinnamon, Ginger, Pineapples, Sesame seeds, oil and butter and Wheatgrass.

 Inputs from Creative Movement Expert, Mrinalini Sekar:

   Cleansing through physical activity: 

“    For children and adults, any aerobic activities especially those which make you sweat, help to eliminate waste partly because the skin is a major route for excretion of toxins. 

     Toxins stored in fat tissue are released, kidneys filter and excrete unhealthy compounds more efficiently and exercise also stimulates regular bowel movements. So at least 45 minutes of vigorous exercise / play is essential on the days you are cleansing your system. 

     During festival / vacation time, encourage children to be active. Even better, walk the talk and keep exercising, yourselves.  Engaging yourselves in activity empowers you to control festival indulgences.

     Don’t forget ‘Dancercise’… organise some music and create a dance event for everyone who has gathered. Include the very young children and seniors too!"

Apart from cleansing through food, also teach your child to breathe deeply. Enrol yourselves in a Pranayama class and teach them the importance of breathing properly, especially during physical activity.

Detox Smoothie Recipes: (Have everyone in your family drink at least one veggie / fruit combo juice + one green juice during the day). Add seeds / nuts for more protein calcium and good fats.

1] Anti-inflammatory Banana-Turmeric Smoothie: (Credit Rob R,


Curds (yoghurt) – 2 cups
Bananas – 2 big or 3 small
Mango / apple / orange – 1 no.
Ginger – 1 inch piece, freshly grated
Forest Honey – 2 tsps
Lemon juice – 1 no., freshly sqeezed
Turmeric – 3 tsp
Cinnamon powder - 1 ½ tsp / 2 inch medium pc.
Himalayan pink salt – a pinch.
1 cup water or more if you want it thinner to serve more people.
Makes 3 – 4 servings.
Blend all ingredients together in a mixie / blender till a smooth consistency is reached. Play around with the quantities and innovate.

2] Green Smoothie: (Chew your green juice to get your saliva going as it contains enzymes important for digestion and absorption).


Spinach, Amaranth and Dill (sompukeerai / sapsige/ savaa / shepu) – 1 small bunch each. (Dill is strongly flavoured so introduce it cheerfully to your kids)
Apple -1 no.
Strawberries 1 cup / Orange – 1 no.
Ginger – 1 inch pc
1 cup water or more if you want to dilute it. ***

     Natural Colon Cleansers for kids and grownups…. The colon forms the end of the intestine and its effective functioning is vital for good digestion and absorption. 

     Enemas and colonics may be required in certain medical conditions but these natural food cleanses do a good enough job if consumed monthly. Drink any two cleansing drinks twice in your detox week.  Don’t worry if kids (or you) have loose stools for a couple of days after or if they are a weird colour. That’s just gunk accumulated in your gut being discharged.
A)  Add 1 tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 tsp of freshly grated ginger to a cup (200ml) of freshly boiled and purified water.
B)  Add 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 tbsp honey and a teaspoon of lemon juice to a cup of freshly boiled and purified water.
C)  Slice an aloe leaf lengthwise and remove the valuable gel. Add 1 tbsp of this gel and 1 tbsp lemon juice to a cup of room temperature purified water, mix well and drink immediately. Use 1 tsp of the two ingredients for children under 16 yrs of age. Add 1 tsp honey if required. 

A festival, vacation or wedding doesn’t even need to be all about the food. Shift the focus (through conversations with your kids) from food to observing and understanding the actual rituals, meeting and getting connected to family members, making new friends and playing (a lot, even you). This is a conscious process and involves effort when you or family members are otherwise inclined. So get active, disconnect from your electronic gadgets and have fun this festival season.

The edited version of this which appeared in Parent Circle, November 2015 issue:

Feedback about this article published in the Dec 2015 issue,