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The Autoimmune Epidemic- Protect your kids with a natural and simple approach.

Have you ever really considered how many toxins, heavy metals, pesticides, additives, chemicals and viruses we are exposed to each and every day in our daily lives?

Furthermore….how do they affect our health?

In her book “The Auto Immune Epidemic”, journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa is examining and exposing the connection between above environmental triggers and autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis etc.  It has even been suspected that Autism might be an autoimmune disease as well.

Auto immune diseases are diseases where the immune system mistakes specific cells in the body for one of these environmental triggers or invaders and starts attacking them, causing inflammation and dysfunction of whatever system of cells are attacked.  Joints in arthritis, nerves in Multiple sclerosis, intestinal lining in Crohn’s diease, insulin making cells in Diabetes type 1 etc etc. 

Nakazawa makes the point that we in this new century are exposed to so many environmental triggers that we no longer necessarily need to be genetically predisposed to develop these diseases.  But genes or not, we can limit our exposure to environmental triggers.

People with Auto immune diseases will commonly develop them after being in a toxic environment for a while, after being exposed to a certain virus or after an overload of exposure to one or all many triggers at once. Stress also plays a large role in autoimmune disease development and flair ups, since it has been proven to affect the function of the immune system.

In most of the developed world there is a misconception that the body can handle just about anything we put in it! Or that a healthy diet is a diet low in fat, sugar and calories.

We need to start thinking in a different way about staying healthy if we want to support our immune systems in staying well functioning, fighting germs and cancer and not our own cells! It is simple.

Let’s reflects on all the possible daily exposures of environmental triggers:

  • When cleaning your house/apartment, how many toxins are you inhaling in the air?
  • If you have pets, do you apply anti-flee treatments on their fur?
  • How often do you use makeup and hair products?
  • Is your garden sprayed with pesticides and where are you when this is done?
  • Do you go to a nail salon to get your nails done?
  • Do you buy organic fruit and vegetables? Or the ones that are sprayed?
  • How much of your shopping cart and food cabinet is filled with processed food with additives etc?
  • If you exercise outside, is it close to cars and car fumes?
  • When you get your hair done, is done with chemicals?
  • Are you aware of any toxic waste dumps close to your water source?
  • Do you have a Pest service? What do they spray with and do they spray when you are home?
  • How often do you take your clothes to the dry cleaners?
  • Do you drink filtered water?
  • Does your carpets and furniture contain flame resistant materials? 
  • Do you drink coffee from lined paper cups?
  • Do you eat canned food from cans lined with unhealthy chemicals?


As you can see, even a life of an average American can be highly exposed to environmental triggers!

It is very important that we start applying value to a more natural environment in a century where 1:12 Americans have autoimmune diseases. More people that cancer and heart disease combined.

The good part is that making your lifestyle and food choices more simple and natural does not only lower your chances for getting auto immune diseases, it can also improve your health if you are already suffering from an autoimmune disease.

It is said that new mothers have increased amounts of toxins in their breast milk. This means that our kids already are exposed to toxins as newborns- and more than likely before birth as well.

What can we do to limit our chances of getting an autoimmune disease?

  • Resorting to organic pesticides, hair products and cleaning supplies would help. Visit
  • Limit your visits to the hairdresser or nail salon- limiting your exposure to chemicals. Avoid dark hair colors as much as possible.
  • Eat organic and wash your veggies and fruit before eating them. You can buy specific soap in the supermarket for this.
  • Wash your new clothes before wearing them.
  • Buy clothes that does not need dry cleaning or take your clothes to an organic drycleaner.
  • When buying toys for your toddler/ kids, stay away from lead based paints such as in Chinese toys. Buy as natural as possible, such as wood etc.
  • For the most parts stay out of the aisles in the supermarket. This is where the processed foods are located. Stay with foods high in Omega 3 fats such as certain fish and eat lots of raw non cooked fruits and Veggies. 
  • Cook from scratch as much as possible.  Teach your kids how to  cook.
  • Learn about reading food labels. The super market really is a mine field.
  • Avoid buying new cars or carpets that leak flame resistant toxic fumes. Choose no carpet if possible.
  • Use non toxic makeup when at all possible. Visit for suggestions.
  • Take a Probiotic every day to improve your bowel lining.
  • Manage your stress levels, whether this is via Yoga, exercise, medication, naps etc?
  • Think happy thoughts. Be mindful of your thoughts and how you speak to your kids. A positive outlook can keep your immune system healthier! How we speak to our kids becomes their inner voice.

Each small choice adds up.

When I recently worked at a summer camp as the camp nurse, a majority of the medications I handed out were medications for ADHD, asthma, eczema, diabetes etc. Mostly diseases with a dysfunction of the immune system, autoimmune or allergic in nature.

Lets prevent our kids from getting auto immune diseases…Lets leave them capable and with the knowledge to prevent autoimmune diseases….To keep our immune system happy and well functioning.

It is mainly by modeling you parent- If we don’t start making life style changes our selves- how will our kids?

To quote Nakazawa; “Food processing has been defined as: taking a food from nature, removing everything natural from it, then adding preservatives, dyes, bleaches, flavors, emulsifiers, and stabilizers to make it taste, look, feel, and smell like what it was originally supposed to be, but no longer is”.

Maybe we should get back to eating foods as they are made in nature?

In my opinion the real future health challenge is how to keep our immune systems healthy and well functioning. The focus on this has not been adequate.

How many more children will have to suffer from auto immune diseases before we start changing our ways?



Musical distraction works wonders in pediatrics

It is a known fact that a child in the hospital will be very anxious and scared at some, if not many points, during their hospitalization.

There are many ways of overcoming procedure anxiety, such as age appropriate preparation, play therapy and distraction.

Many medical professionals working with children has mastered the art of distraction. Especially the Child Life Profession is working wonders distracting children from painful or scary situations after all, they are there to educate and  guide the child through the procedure while the nurses, doctors and techs perform the procedure. They can keep their focus on the childs reactions and emotions and not on technicalities.

There are many different ways to distract children depending of their age. Everything from soap bubbles to iPAD applications can be used. Many Child Life Specialists will carry their iPAD’s and “Marry Poppins” bags around for this purpose only.

At the Anna Meyer pediatric hospital in Italy, the Livia Benini foundation funded the project “Music in the Hospital” in 1996.  They were the first pediatric hospital in Italy ( and probably around the world) to have live musicians playing in the wards to help distract children during procedures. Since 2002 many musical institutes in Paris, Florence and Strasbourg have been training musicians for this purpose only.

Music is a cognitive technique to shift attention away from procedure related pain.

According to following article from the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, studies have found that many children undergoing invasive medical procedures do experience moderate to severe procedural distress and pain. In particular children younger than 7 years old report more distress and pain from needles than older children do.

Meta analysis studies at the Anna Meyer hospital have shown that live music has greater overall effect than taped music- probably due to the distraction aspect. In a randomized controlled study with 108 italian children they found that the presence of musicians can reduce pain and distress before, during and after medical procedures in children who must undergo blood tests.

Wouldn’t it be the case with any painful hospital procedure?

As well as hiring more Child Life Specialists, is  it time to hire musicians in our children’s hospitals?

See following article on the subject





Many ways to stay healthy

Over the last many years there has been much talk of cutting calories and exercising. This is only the few ways of staying healthy and keeping your kids healthy. Although only obese children have to be challenged with cutting calories.

Our health starts in the super market aisles and the kitchen.

Here are a few highlights of the many considerations in staying healthy.

Drink plenty of water. Not soda or juice. Water. Generally 1 ounce per 2 pounds of bodyweight is a good rule of thumb.

Eat the right oils– Oils from avocado, fish, non cooked olive oil, flax-seed oil, nut oils, natural peanut butter and nuts.

Eat foods that cleanse and doesn’t clog. Keeping your intestines healthy is a very important part of keeping your immune system healthy and gaining the full benefits from a healthy diet.

Eating as much raw fruit and veggies as possible will give you vitamins to protect your body, enzymes to help digest and will fiber to keep your gut healthy.

Eat less processed food. The additives and coloring etc in processed food is linked to many health issues and are toxins the body really doesn’t know how to deal with. Cook more from scratch when you have time. A way to do this is staying out of the aisles in the supermarket as much as possible.

Eat less animal fat such as butter, eggs and meat. Especially red meat and pork should be limited.

Make sure your eat food with a low glycemic index. Meaning, they should elevate your blood sugar slowly and not fast. So limit white bread, pasta, rice, potatoes etc and especially cakes, candy and soda.

Take probiotic and/ or eat yogurt with natural bacteria, daily. It helps your guts immune system and helps you stay healthy.

 And of course make exercise into something you like to do a few times a week at a minimum. It elevates your mood, exercises your heart, keep your veins healthy and helps you feel better.

additionally there has been research suggesting a link between your mood and the function of your immune system. So make a list of things to do that makes you happy, and do at least one every day. And try to limit your stress load.

I will be covering each of these areas in detail in later chapters. They are all important parts in staying healthy….

And it just takes a little reorganising and change of cooking style. Everything in moderation….and give your selves time to change. Nothing happens overnight.

Most importantly….Cook with your kids… is the only way they can learn to stay healthy when they grow up. 



No need for “brave kids” when it comes to painful procedures

Working in a Burn Center with kids and adults I have come to realize very early on that there is a big difference in treating painful procedures in kids and adults.

We expect the adults to handle a certain amount of pain- and many will develop PTSD later on because of the daily trauma of painful procedures with  anticipation and stress.

Smaller children do not understand and comprehend why and what is going on. They cannot apply a meaning to the pain, which makes it much worse. Pain is always easier to handle when it has a purpose and is temporary.

When children do not comprehend these aspects is makes it that much more important to give them medicine to help them relax, not remember and to help the pain. Even before we start procedures such as Burn dressing changes etc.

There is no need to see how much they can tolerate, because the unkown  factor is so much bigger, They cannot reason with the pain.

I  wish that all medical staff working with children can somehow picture being small again and administer sedation/ pain medications more willingly to dimish PSTD ( Post traumatic stress syndrome).

…and of course  we cannot forget how well distraction and parent participation works as well 🙂

Don’t forget that Pediatrics is about kids

When kids are sick they get sick in very different ways than adults. They have different symptoms, different diseases and they are treated differently.

This should translate into the psychology of pediatrics as well.

All nurses have in their education the science of child development, as part of their pediatric module. How come we then sometimes forget how differently all age groups of kids should be treated.

A 2 year old should not have many choices, but very clear instructions and consequences. A 6 year old most definitely need to be a part of any process involving him/her and be given choices. A teenager is very concerned how his peers might react and how any procedure or image might affect his/ her image.

Child life specialists spend their whole career revolving around child development. Nurses spend the majority of their time at the bedside of the ill pediatric patient. Maybe we should merge the two?

My wish is that we as nurses will remember what we learned in nursing school and incorporate more age appropriate strategies of coping into our pediatric care taking. Let’s bring the Child Life Specialist to the bedside.

Let us remember what it was like to be 2 or 6 or 14 and treat our patients with the professionalism and pediatric angle that is the true magnetic status of a great pediatric nurse and hospital.



Support your child’s immune system

Working in the ER I am frequently asked how I manage to not get sick. Not sure how parents of patients know that fact, but it is true. So I educate them, which is actually just as great a responsibility and job in an ER, just as much as saving lives. We all have an immune system. It builds memory in how to fight germs, which is why we get immunizations (shots) to help trick the immune system into building antibodies (germ fighting memory). So as we are exposed to each germ by getting sick or getting shots, our body remembers how to fight it next time and not get sick from it. That is the reason why babies have to be protected from germs and why toddlers get sick over and over. The baby’s immune system doesn’t have any memory yet and the toddler is building memory after memory. The thing is that some germs change so our bodies don’t know it quite as much any longer. Just as the Trojan horse. So we have to keep our immune system on its toes. There are many books out there on how to avoid germs, but the fact is that there are germs everywhere and if we keep our immune systems healthy and don’t over expose ourselves to germs that cause sickness, then we will almost never get sick. Avoiding germs that gets us sick means washing your hands before you eat, because you never know when you touched a phone or door handle etc with a germ that makes you sick. Or stay away from people who are sick, if you can. Most people do not know that 75% of our immune system is in our gut, so it is very important to the immune system that you and your child eat healthy foods that gives you strength and energy and doesn’t poison the body. Healthy foods are non- processed low sugar foods with high fiber content and healthy fat. A lot of sugar at once stresses the immune system (such as candy, cakes, soda etc) High fiber makes the gut healthy (such as fruits and veggies, brown bread/rice/pasta instead of white) Healthy fat makes the body run smoothly just as oil in a machine (such as avocado, salmon, no cooked olive oil, raw nuts etc) Were as unhealthy fats such as cheese, steak, butter etc does the opposite. Non- processed means from nature…wasn’t made in a factory (try to avoid the isles in the supermarket and shop mainly in the perimeter) And don’t forget a lot of water. It makes everything work quicker and better. There are many recommendations’ out there but a general rule is that you and your child need 1 ounce of water per 2 pounds of bodyweight per day to function at an optimal energetic level. Fruits and vegetables give you the enzymes, vitamins and phytonutrients to help your immune system fight germs, protects all your cells from attacks and can actually help repair damaged DNA. This is why “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is almost true…it just takes a little more than one apple. Actually American Heart association and many other organizations recommend eating 7-13 servings of non-cooked fruits or veggies a day! Just try your best. Besides eating healthy it has also been documented that how you feel actually makes a different in the function of your immune system. So if you or your child is stressed, you might get sick, if you are exposed to an illness causing germ at that time. The good news is also that a well functioning immune system doesn’t only fight germs. It fights cancer cells and doesn’t over react to the body, causing auto immune diseases and allergies etc. So do your child a favor and make them aware what they can do to not get sick. In my attempt to help with this issue I have created a “Good stuff to read” list at, with lots of books for your child to read on a healthy diet. If you need any suggestions or help, you can always email me at All the best, Sofie

Please Tell Children the Truth

In the ER where I work as a Pediatric RN, we recently opened a new extension. We are currently short staffed and very busy. I have learned over and over again that when nurses are busy, there may not be time to ask pertinent questions and probe into situations.

Still in this stressful environment I used the IV book 4 times in a day for younger kids, keeping in mind that the Bastian Adventure booklets are only used for kids that are not critically ill or panicked already.

Using Bastian’s IV Experience, I was able to insert IV’s without help, even on 4 year old children.

  • The parents were very engaged in the process and were flipping through the pages throughout the procedure, referring to what was going to happen next.
  • The parents were less anxious, making their child less anxious.
  • Parents and child had a reference point to talk about after the procedure, which allowed for the child to process the experience.
  • The child had something to take home to their friends and family members showing them how brave they had been and what they went through during their ER stay.
  • The children were scared but not anxious anymore and they held still and cooperated throughout the procedure, holding their arm still when asked to etc.
  • I gained their trust before the procedure by handing them a book and being truthful with them.

I would like to emphasize to all health professionals and parents out there:

Please give your children the benefit of the doubt when it comes to being truthful with them.

I promise they will live up to your expectations and make you proud. They are capable of understanding much more than you expect.  Don’t tell them things will not hurt, when they will. The distrust after the fact is worse than the anxiety and pain during the procedure.

I am so proud of all the little kids that have sat through IV Insertions with me and made their parents proud. They surprise me over and over again and I can feel the thankfulness from them that I told them the truth, knowing that there might be a chance they would panic.

The kids are always scared before medical procedure. But if you tell them the truth and trust that they can handle it, my experience is that they will 90% of the time.

Man always tries to live up to the expectations put to him. That also goes for 2-6 year old children.

My hats off to all the little souls out there that proved this to be true.

With respect and admiration,

–          Sofie