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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Baby Talk

The idea of teaching your baby sign language has been around since the 1980’s when university student Joseph Garcia first noticed that babies of deaf people were naturally starting to sign as early as 8 or 9 months old. He was intrigued at how proficient the babies became at it and if you click on the word video, it will actually show you a number of babies signing and how effective it can be.

As the same time in the 1980's two other researchers had separately discovered and were doing research on teaching babies to sign so I thought that by now it had become common knowledge. However when I mentioned it to a couple the other day, neither of them had heard of it so I am writing this blog for anyone unaware of this great way to communicate with your preverbal child.

Having had children myself, I know how frustrating it can be when your baby cries and you have no idea why. Up until they are 8 or 9 months old obviously all you can do is guess at the reason for their distress but as they mature, and you teach them baby sign language it can be an adventure and a blessing to be able to communicate with them.

I can still remember teaching my babies to say bye-bye by picking up a little hand and waving it at departing friends. Once they ‘got it’ they loved doing it and would look at us for approval. Babies usually clap their hands when they are happy about something and I’ve always loved their natural tendency from an early age to point that little index finger at anything and everything. Signing is just a natural but educated extension of using their hands when they try to tell us something.

With sign language it is not only satisfying to interact with your child for the convenience and fun, but because communicating is a highly evolved part of being human, it also strengthens the bonds of love and trust between you and your baby.

There are other proven advantages as well. It turns out that learning to sign requires early development of some parts of the young child's brain that research shows are important later for developing language skills as well as more effective social and emotional capabilities .

If you happen to have a very young child you want to start teaching sign language, there are many sites available. Click on this highlighted text to get started. Rie

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Keeping book

I’ve always been drawn to the methods of science - keeping records of observations and collecting numerical data if possible. I even took a stopwatch to the hospital when my second child was about to be born. I timed the periods between contractions, the first stage of ‘labour’, and how long they lasted. I found it not only interesting but it also had the added bonus of distracting me. I discovered that if I think about something else, most pain is actually easier to bear somehow.

When my children were school age I started teaching high school and I loved it. I enjoyed the teenagers and rarely had problems until I was assigned to a special Grade 10 class that had been giving everyone grief. I soon found out that there were two older boys in the class whose whole aim was to ‘get the teacher’ and they were good at it and were obviously enjoying finding creative ways to disrupt the class so it was unteachable.

After a week or so, I checked with the school Principle to find out what I might do in the circumstance. It turned out that one of the school rules was that if a student failed to do their homework three times in a row, they could be suspended for a few days. I gave the class fair warning about this rule, assigned a little homework every night and 'kept book' with dates and circumstances. It didn’t take long before I had enough data and, though I had to insist, it was acted on. It worked, as 'keeping book' usually does. The class was teachable but I always regretted that those boys never came back, especially after learning why they probably acted the way they did and how they might have been helped.

I’ve found that 'keeping book. has helped in lots of different circumstances and I can hear myself giving advice to those who I found are always complaining about unfair or abusive situations at work or elsewhere but never really did anything about it. Try stopping defusing your anger by venting and 'keep book'.

When I visit my Doctor, the ‘white coat’ effect usually has an influence on how much I can remember when I am asked to describe my health problem and how long I’ve had it. Now, that I ‘keep book’, recording symptoms and when they occur, it is much more helpful and impressive to present to the Doctor and she has a better chance to come up with a correct diagnosis. An example for me is when my blood pressure is measured. It is always higher when it is recorded in the Doctor’s office so I bought a cuff and recorder and now use at home during the day and pass recorded results over so she can prescribe more accurately how much medication to prescribe to keep it in a good range. We are the only ones who can actually describe what our bodies are experiencing and Doctors need our health information divulged as succinctly as possible in order to keep us in topnotch health.

Try being creative in ‘keeping book’ – it works surprisingly well! Rie

Sunday, June 12, 2011


A couple of years ago I was told by a friend who suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that she probably got it because her immune system had been overwhelmed by trying to combat so many viruses.

Many people wonder why there hasn’t been a drug invented that could kill viruses. The answer to that is simple – you can’t kill viruses because they are not alive! A striking demonstration of this was given some years ago when the tobacco mosaic virus was purified and its crystals stored in a jar. One crystal was taken out years later and put on a moist tobacco leaf and the virus began to attack the plant’s cells and multiply. Click on the video and see the remarkable way a virus does that.

There are now drugs called ‘antivirals’ that can’t kill viruses but can inhibit a targeted virus's development. Some of these drugs are well known like those for HIV, hepatitis B or herpes. No antivirals have been developed for the common cold yet and because viruses go through mutations and new viruses can develop for various kinds of ‘flu', the best means of attack developed so far are vaccines.

A vaccine contains something that resembles the virus or the dead or weakened form of the virus itself that, when injected, causes your immune system to get busy developing antigens to kill it. So if you do catch the viral disease, your immune system can respond so quickly it can stop it in its tracks.

Linus Pauling, who won the Nobel Prize twice, gave convincing reasons why ingesting enough vitamin C could prevent a virus from multiplying and making you sick, but those claims have not ever been shown to be true in scientific trials. Still there are persistent stories of people who were dying of polio or swine flu being revived to live again after being given injections of vitamin C.

Obviously, having a healthy immune system is the best defense against any form of viral attack and how can you build a really healthy immune system is no secret - have a healthy intestinal tract full of trillions of probiotic bacteria. Eating a daily dose of good yogurt [tests should show it has at least a billion probiotics per serving] is a good start but if you really want to have a super healthy system working in your ‘gut’ you can try kefir.

Kefir has been around since ancient times and a single serving can contain over 30 billion of the best probiotic bacteria! Those famous Bulgarians who lived in the northern slopes of the Caucasian mountains and all lived well into their 100’s discovered how to make kefir, which is just another form of fermented milk like yogurt. Health food stores are a good source and if you want to live to be 100, it's the best advice I can give you.

Here’s to your good health and a long life! Rie

Sunday, June 5, 2011


My children were born in the early 1950’s and, since my husband’s career was in a city that had no place where I could further my scientific career, the focus of most of my reading was on books about how to give my young ones the best start in life that I could.
It included reading books by nutritionist Adell Davis that were then just being published. I found them very readable and informative and was so convinced by her that I started following her recommendations at a time when paying attention to what you ate was scoffed at. My faith in her advice on healthy eating back then was not misplaced. Research today vindicates her science and I felt great satisfaction when in 2000 she placed sixth among her century’s notables - that included scientists like Edison and Einstein!
For one thing, Adelle advocated eating yoghurt long before it became the highly advertised popular health food it has become in recent years. Back then it was sometimes hard to get yogurt, so I made it myself in an inexpensive temperature regulator and found it simple, inexpensive and fool proof.
I was curious as to why yogurt was so healthful and found out that it’s all about the bacteria it contains. I also learned that these single celled organisms were among the earliest forms of life that evolved on Earth 4 billion years ago. It took 3 billion years for them to diversify and learn to communicate before they finally got together to form the first multicellular creatures that we have evolved from. And they are still everywhere – so small they are invisible - in the air, in the soil, in us and on us.
Actually, amazingly, there are 3 or 4 lbs. of bacteria in our intestinal tract and we couldn’t live without them. They play a large part in the digestion of food, making vitamins and generally assisting in keeping our body working well. Tampering with their well being as we do when we take antibiotics or are under unusual stress, can cause serious illnesses like persistent diarrhea and throat and genital infections for example.
In contrast to ‘antibiotics’ that kill bacteria, ‘probiotics’ promote the health of our trillions and trillions of intestinal bacterial. Yogurt, properly made, contains mainly probiotic good kinds of bacteria. Unfortunately, to preserve their shelf life, most commercial yogurts have been heated and contain only dead bacteria. I learned recently that to be sure you are getting the good live bacteria in the yogurt you buy, it has to be tested in human clinical trials. The only yogurt I know of that has been tested in Canada and has good live bacteria is Danone Activia.
As I mentioned, making it yourself with milk is not difficult. You can also get probiotics in pill form but they are dormant in that state and not as effective in adapting to handle sudden changes that affect your bacterial health. We take them when we travel to foreign countries and are encountering new kinds of bacteria that are sometimes toxic.
Here’s to a good healthy gut and long life. Rie