10 Things People with Hemophilia Want You to Know

Hemophilia is defined as a medical condition in which the ability of the blood to clot is severely reduced, causing the sufferer to bleed severely from even a slight injury.

This is a rare disorder in which your blood does not clot normally because it lacks sufficient blood clotting proteins (clotting factors). If you have hemophilia, you may bleed for a longer time after an injury than you would if your blood clotted normally, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It is stated that small cuts usually aren’t much of a problem. The greater health concern is deep bleeding inside your body, especially your knees, ankles and elbows. That internal bleeding can damage your organs and tissues and may be life threatening.

Hemophilia is an inherited disorder. There is no known cure, but with the proper treatment and self-care, most people are stated to have hemophilia while maintaining active, productive lifestyles.

One report notes that 400,000 people worldwide are living with hemophilia, and 400 babies are born with it each year, according to the Hemophilia Federation of America.

Hemophilia Info

1. According to WebMD – Hemophilia refers to a group of inherited disorders that cause abnormal bleeding. The bleeding is said to occur because part of the blood – called plasma – has too little of a protein that helps blood clot.

Symptoms of hemophilia range from increased bleeding after trauma, injury, or surgery to sudden bleeding with no apparent cause. There are two types of hemophilia:

2. Hemophilia A – also called classic hemophilia – is most common and occurs in about 80% of people with hemophilia

This type results from too little of a plasma protein called factor VIII, which helps blood clot the greater the deficiency, the more severe the symptoms.

  • Mild Hemophilia – 5-40% of the normal factor VIII level
  • Moderate Hemophilia – 1-5% of the normal factor VIII level
  • Severe Hemophilia – Less than 1 percent of the normal factor VIII level

It is stated that most people who have hemophilia A have moderate or severe symptoms.

3. Hemophilia B – Also called Christmas disease – is less common and occurs in about twenty percent of people with hemophilia. It is so called Christmas disease because the disorder was first reported in the medical literature in 1952 in a patient with the name of Stephen Christmas.

This type results from too little of a plasma protein called factor IX, which helps blood clot. As in hemophilia a, hemophilia B can be mild, moderate or severe. The greater the deficiency, the more severe the symptoms.

It is important to recognize that if there is no family history of hemophilia, an infant would not be tested for the condition. However, if there is a family history, specific tests can be done from an umbilical cord blood sample to see if a newborn infant has hemophilia.

In a description from Medicinenet. – Hemophilia is caused by a genetic mutation. The mutations are said to involve genes that code for proteins that are essential in the blood clotting process. The bleeding symptoms arise because blood clotting is impaired.


This report describes that the process of blood clotting involves a series of complex mechanisms, usually involving 13 different proteins classically termed factors 1 through 13 and written with Roman numerals. If the lining of the blood vessels becomes damaged, platelets are recruited to the injured area to form an initial plug. These activated platelets release chemicals that start the clotting cascade, activating a series of 13 proteins known as clotting factors. Ultimately, it is stated, fibrin is formed. Fibrin is an insoluble protein formed from fibrinogen during the clotting of blood. It forms a fibrous mesh that impedes the flow of blood.

So, we’re here to talk about Factor X – also known as the Stuart Prower Factor Deficiency

According to – this deficiency was first identified in the 1950s in the United States and England in two patients: Rufus Stuart and Audrey Prower.

The incidence of FX deficiency is estimated at 1 in 500,000 to 1 in a million. It is said to be inherited in an autosomal recessive fashion, meaning that both parents must carry the gene to pass it on to their children; it affects men and women equally. The factor X protein plays an important role in activating the enzymes that help to form a clot. It needs vitamin K for synthesis, which is produced by the liver.

Read Also: Vitamin K for Mood Swings and Menopause

4. Acquired FX deficiency can result from a lack of vitamin K, amyloidosis (abnormal buildup of the protein amyloid in various organs) and severe liver damage.

People with mild FX deficiency experience easy bruising, nose or mouth bleeds, and bleeding after trauma or surgery. Symptoms for patients with severe FX deficiency include excessive umbilical cord bleeding, joint bleeds and bruising. More serious bleeds include spontaneous head bleeds, spinal cord bleeds and gastrointestinal bleeds. Women with FX deficiency may have menorrhagia, heavy menstrual bleeding. Pregnant women are said to possibly experience first trimester miscarriage or other complications during labor and delivery.

5. Accordingly, there is no FX concentrate currently available in the United States, although one is currently in clinical trials. Fresh-frozen plasma (FPP) or plasma derived prothrombin complex concentrates (PCCs) are normally used as treatment. However, the amount of FX varies between PCCs. PCCs should be used cautiously because at higher volumes they can produce blood clots.

6. What Causes Hemophilia?

Hemophilia Causes

It is stated that men and women each have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Women have two X chromosomes, men have one X and one Y chromosome. Hemophilia is an X linked genetic disorder, which means that it’s passed on from the mother to the son on the X chromosome. If the mother carries the gene for hemophilia on one of her X chromosomes, each of her sons will have a fifty percent chance of having hemophilia.

Furthermore, although girls rarely develop the symptoms of hemophilia itself, they can be carriers of the disease. In some cases, girls who are carriers can have mild bleeding symptoms. For a girl to get hemophilia, she would have to receive affected X chromosomes from both of her parents. Although this is not impossible, it is highly unlikely.

7. There Are Symptoms To Watch Out For

  • bruises that are unusual in location or number
  • nosebleeds that won’t stop
  • excessive bleeding from biting a lip, having a tooth pulled or losing a tooth
  • painful or swollen joints
  • blood in the urine

There are Hemophilia Treatment Centers funded by the Federal Government in a nationwide network of hemophilia treatment centers. These centers are an important resource for people who have hemophilia and their families.

The medical experts at these centers provide treatment, education and support. They can teach you or your family members how to do home treatments.

People that get care at these Hemophilia Treatment Centers are less likely than those who get care elsewhere to have bleeding complication and hospitalizations. They’re also more likely to have a better quality of life. This may be due to the centers’ emphasis on bleeding prevention and the education and support provided to patients and their caregivers.

8. More than 100 federally funded HTCs are located throughout the United States. Many HTCs are located at major university medical and research centers. The hemophilia teams at these centers include:

  • Nurse coordinators
  • Pediatricians
  • Social Workers
  • Physical Therapists
  • Dentists

9. Finally – take note that young children with this disease need extra protection from things in the home and elsewhere that could cause injuries and bleeding:

  • Protect toddlers with kneepads, elbow pads, and protective helmets. All children should wear safety helmets when riding tricycles or bicycles
  • Be sure to use the safety belts and straps in high chairs, car seats, and strollers to protect your child from falls.
  • Remove furniture with sharp corners or pad them while your child is a toddler.
  • Keep out of reach or locked away, small and sharp objects, and other items that could cause bleeding or harm.
  • Check play equipment and outdoor play areas for possible hazards.

The point is this – this is not a debilitating disease, however it is very serious. There is no cure for hemophilia though there is treatment…

10. The main treatment for hemophilia is called replacement therapy. Concentrations of clotting factor VIII or clotting factor IX are slowly dripped or injected into a vein. These infusions help replace the clotting factor that is missing or low.

The main thing to remember here is that your friend with hemophilia is not going to bleed to death from a paper cut. It may take some time to quit bleeding, though it should not bleed long or hard enough for him or her to die.

Take these notes into consideration if you’re dealing with someone with this rare disorder.



10 Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

It can be hard to tell if you have Parkinson’s disease.

Here are the 10 signs you might have the disease. No single one of these signs means that you should worry. But if you have more than one symptom you should make an appointment to talk to your doctor.

Tremor or Shaking

Have you noticed a slight shaking or tremor in your finger, thumb, hand, chin or lip? Does your leg shake when you sit down or relax? Twitching or shaking of limbs is a common early sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Shaking can be normal after lots of exercise or if you have been injured. Shaking could also be caused by a medicine you take.

Small Handwriting

Has your handwriting suddenly gotten much smaller than in it was in the past? You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, such as letter sizes are smaller and the words are crowded together. A sudden change in handwriting is often a sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Sometimes writing can change as you get older, if you have stiff hands or fingers or poor vision, but this happens over time and not suddenly.

Loss of Smell

Have you noticed you no longer smell certain foods very well? If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Your sense of smell can be changed by a cold, flu or a stuffy nose, but it should come back after you are better.

Trouble Sleeping

Do you thrash around in bed or kick and punch while you are deeply asleep? You might notice that you started falling out of bed while asleep. Sometimes, your spouse will notice, or will want to move to another bed. Sudden movements during sleep may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

It is normal for everyone to have a night when they ‘toss and turn’ instead of sleeping.

Trouble Moving or Walking

Do you feel stiff in your body, arms or legs? Sometimes stiffness goes away as you move. If it does not, it can be a sign of Parkinson’s disease. You might notice that your arms don’t swing when you walk, or maybe other people have said you look stiff. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem ‘stuck to the floor.’

What is normal?

If you have injured your arm or shoulder, you may not be able to use it as well until it is healed, or another illness like arthritis might cause the same symptom.


Do you have trouble moving your bowels without straining every day? Straining to move your bowels can be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease and you should talk to your doctor.

What is normal?

If you do not have enough water or fiber in your body, it can cause problems in the bathroom. Also some medicine will cause constipation. If there is no other reason such as diet or medicine that would cause you to have trouble moving your bowels, you should speak with your doctor.

A Soft or Low Voice

Have other people told you that your voice is very soft when you speak in a normal tone, or that you sound hoarse? If there has been a change in your voice you should see your doctor about whether it could be Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes you might think other people are losing their hearing, when really you are speaking more softly.

What is normal?

A chest cold or other virus can cause your voice to sound different, but you should go back to sounding the same when you get over your cough or cold.

Masked Face

Have you been told that you have a serious, depressed or mad look on your face more often, even when you are not in a bad mood? This serious-looking face is called masking. Also, if you or other people notice that you have a blank stare or do not blink your eyes very often, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Some medicines can cause you to have the same type of serious or staring look, but you would go back to the way you were after you stopped the medication.

Dizziness or Fainting

Do you notice that you often feel dizzy when you stand up out of a chair? Feeling dizzy or fainting can be signs of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

Everyone has had a time when they stood up and felt dizzy, but if it happens on a regular basis you should see your doctor.

Stooping or Hunching Over

Are you not standing up as straight as you used to? If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?

If you have pain from an injury or if you are sick, it might cause you to stand crookedly. Also, a problem with your bones can make you hunch over.

What you can do if you have Parkinson’s disease

  • Work with your doctor to create a plan to stay healthy. This might include the following:
    • A referral to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the brain
    • Care from an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist
    • Meeting with a medical social worker to talk about how Parkinson’s will affect your life
  • Start a regular exercise program to delay further symptoms.

Talk with family and friends who can provide you with the support you need



9 Things Only People With Albinism Would Understand


If you or a loved one suffers from albinism, you can be sure that you will have come across ignorance, misunderstanding, fear, and prejudice. The same old story. If you are different, you are picked on, teased, bullied and often excluded socially. Perhaps albinism gets far too much attention because white skin and hair is so different, especially if you are living in Africa. Here are 9 things that you can relate to if you suffer from this disease.

1. You wish people were better informed.

You and I know that albinism is a very rare disease. It is estimated that only1 in 17,000 in the USA are born with this genetic defect. It is simply a lack of melanin which normally adds color to skin and hair. Because of this deficiency in melanin, albinos have very fair or white hair and also white skin. Albinos may have problems with eyesight and may have only 20/100 vision. They have to be very careful in the sun and wear sunblock. They may also suffer from photophobia which is an extreme sensitivity to light. But, apart from that, they are perfectly normal. If people were better informed, they might start to treat you like a normal human being.

2. You wish people would stop staring.

This becomes extremely irritating. If people can accept different races and different body shapes, why on earth cannot they take an albino on board? This was the question that Megan Palmer, a 16 year old albino who is also a filmmaker, wanted to address. She felt there was an urgent need to educate people so that they would stop gawking. Her short film on albinism was nominated for four awards at the THIMUN Qatar Film Festival.

Megan has already achieved some of her objectives in that her film has gone viral on YouTube and is raising awareness about a forgotten minority. The characters in the film all talk about their difficulties and frustrations in living with albinism. It is a very moving tribute to their courage and persistence.

3. You wish filmmakers would stop portraying albino villains and weirdoes.

Nothing wrong with starring albinos in films but so far these have been almost all very negative portrayals. This only adds to the miscomprehension and intolerance. Have you seen The Da Vinci Code, for example? You may remember Silas, the albino monk who practises severe corporal mortification. What about the albino twins in The Matrix Reloaded? It seems that Hollywood has a penchant for portraying several albino characters who are evil, ruthless, and violent assassins. Name me one famous film with a normal, sympathetic or funny albino! The claim that many albino villains have saved some lousy films from oblivion is hardly a compliment.

4. You wish people would stop wanting to touch your hair.

In Megan Palmer’s film, several of the albino people talk about how disturbing it is to have people approach them and ask to touch their hair. Why would people want to touch your hair? They do not want to touch people with red hair for instance! These people are ignorant and although they may be seeking information, they are often unaware of their insensitivity.

5. You wish schools would help more.

When parents of children with albinism fill in an Education Plan or IEP, they are signalling that their children need extra help in the classroom. Teachers usually ensure that large print copies of textbooks and worksheets are available. But some children can manage quite well with proper reading glasses which can also help to correct astigmatism.Children may find that hand-held monocular devices and other magnifying aids are helpful.

The major problems arise when children have to socialize. Teasing and bullying are all too common, unfortunately. You feel that schools could do a lot more in making children aware of differences in ability and appearance and how to behave accordingly.

“I was insulted, harassed and tortured by my peers at school and during play.” – John Makumbe

6. You wish people were more aware of what is happening in Africa.

Ignorance and superstition in Tanzania and East Africa have now resulted in albinos being murdered! Estimates say that the rate of albinism in Tanzania is 1 in 2,000. It is a terrible tragedy because people believe that the bones and even the skin of albinos have magical properties. Some people believe that HIV and cancer can be cured by using the body parts. In addition, the albinos can rarely go out in the sun because of the risk of skin cancer. Their life expectancy is also much shorter than in western countries and many albinos die in their early thirties.

“To some of our African communities they think it’s a curse – having such a child.” – Jotham Makoha

7. You wish people did not place such a high value on labels.

Unfortunately, our society wants to label any difference or handicap from early childhood. The stigma of having a label slapped on you is so unfair. Labels such as ADHD, disabled, albino or the more general SEN (special educational needs) tend to exclude children. They emphasize the condition, rather than the person. Yes, the schools are catering for their needs but this should be a totally seamless process so that all children are included and will never be a target for abuse. Teaching children to be tolerant and supportive of differences should be one of the main pillars of the educational system.

8. You wish people would not ask such personal questions.

Whether you are a child or an adult with albinism, you will always be asked the wrong question, which is usually highly insensitive or obnoxious. People will try to see if your eyes are red because there is a stupid belief that this is the case. If only they knew! The fact is the light passing through the translucent iris means that a person may be seeing the actual blood vessels underneath. Most people with albinism have blue eyes but some have brown or hazel eyes. Then, some people even ask if you can see in the dark!

Some people will tease in a rather affectionate way but this very much depends whether the albino has a positive self image or not. It can be a useful starting point though for telling people the facts about albinism.

9. You wish there was more support and positive coverage in the media.

Coping with total ignorance, superstition and prejudice can be tough for the person with albinism. Myths abound. People will say that an albino can live for ever and that he or she is not really human! They are even afraid of touching an albino because they will be cursed.

In order to counter that, many organisations and support groups for people with albinism are working hard to get a positive and accurate message out. Information needs to be provided and the media should be doing more in this regard. Many people with albinism have found great support from these charities and have benefited enormously. Now, if the media gave those organisations more coverage that would be great.



Choosing the Right Multivitamin for Your Low-Carb Diet

Low Carb Multivitamins

Do you wonder if you need supplements to support your low-carb diet? Low-carb diet authors and dietitians recommend supplementation, especially in the beginning.

Lack of essential nutrients can derail your diet, no matter how hard you work.

Getting all the required vitamins from low-carb food is possible, but requires meticulous planning.

If you don’t have the time or the patience, a multivitamin is a cheap insurance policy against possible deficiencies.

Choosing the right multivitamin for your low-carb diet

Low-carb lifestyle is still niche. Mass-market food companies create products for people on a “standard diet”. You know the one I mean – carb intake of around 300g a day, plenty of grains and fruit, up to 20g of sugar a day, etc.

Supplements market is no exception.

Generic multivitamins include vitamins and minerals up to 100% of the daily recommended values. These figures (“Nutrient Reference Values” in the UK, “Daily Values” in USA) are the official governmental recommendations on nutrition. These figures assume the standard diet, and aren’t relevant to anyone who is on low-carb.

If generic multivitamins aren’t optimal, how can you find the right product?

Look for more specialised products, designed for people who are not on average diets. To find an optimum multivitamin formula for your low-carb diet, check that it is:

  • sugar-free
  • iron-free
  • contains extra-strong B and C vitamins
  • contains electrolytes – sodium, potassium and magnesium
  • contains one or more extra ingredients: chromium, L-Carnitine, green tea extract, piperine, probiotics, co-enzyme Q10

Let’s look at each point in detail.


The last thing you want on a low-carb diet is a hit of pure sugar with your supplement.

Unfortunately, generic multivitamin products are usually sugar-coated. Some include sugar-based fillers like dextrose or maltodextrin. Although the amount of sugar is small, carbs do add up. Don’t spend your limited carb allowance on supplement coating.

So our number one requirement for a low-carb diet multivitamin – it must besugar-free.


Iron is an essential mineral. But too much iron can be harmful. Doctors advise caution when taking iron supplements.

Meat and green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of iron. Both are staple foods for low-carb dieters, providing plenty of iron naturally. An additional iron supplement is unnecessary and possibly harmful.

The only exception is vegetarian low-carb diets. (I am not entirely sure how this is even possible but some people manage to pull it off.) Vegetarians should supplement iron, as they don’t get any from meat.

When choosing a multivitamin formula, look for an iron-free product.

Extra-strong B and C vitamins

Whole grains and fruit are high in B and C vitamins, but also high in carbs. There won’t be much of either food in your diet. So you need to watch your intake of these vitamins.

B and C vitamins are essential for the normal functioning of almost all systems and organs in your body. Supplementing these vitamins has additional therapeutic effects, for example, helping to reduce fatigue and increase energy-yielding metabolism.

Many low-carb diet authors recommend taking supplements of B and C vitamins with extra-strong dosages. If you are on a ketogenic diet, with only 20-30g of carbs a day, you could go as high as 2000-3000% of NRV for B and C vitamins.

Electrolytes: sodium, potassium, magnesium

You need to drink lots of water on a low-carb diet, to assist your kidneys. You will most likely feel extra-thirsty anyway.

There is just one issue with drinking lots. It flushes out essential minerals and electrolytes from your system. Depleted electrolytes can result in muscle cramps and headaches.

Your multivitamins should ideally contain a range of minerals. Sodium, potassium and magnesium are the key ones to replace. You can also get extra sodium by adding more table salt to your food.

Extra ingredients

Specialised multivitamins may also include one or more extra ingredients, known to help with fat-burning metabolism and cravings. Although not a requirement, these nutrients can give your diet an extra boost.


Chromium plays a role in regulating glucose, insulin and lipids. Studies indicate that it can reduce hunger and sugar cravings. For this reason, chromium picolinate is a popular supplement amongst dieters. Chromium is often included in multimineral formulas. To get the full benefits, you need at least 200µg a day (500% of UK NRV).


Carnitine is important for your body’s energy production. It transports long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria to produce energy, concentrating in tissues that utilise fatty acids as a dietary fuel. Most people don’t need to supplement carnitine. But if you are on a ketogenic diet, L-carnitine supplement can speed up ketosis and boost your fat-burning metabolism.

Co-Enzyme Q10

According to Dr Atkins, Co-Enzyme Q10 works in collaboration with chromium and L-Carnitine to mobilise fat and reduce metabolic resistance. Some multivitamin formulas include CoQ10 in tablet form. However, oil-based CoQ10 supplements have better absorption properties. So it’s better to take CoQ10 as a separate oil-based supplement, or take it together with your omega oils.

Green tea extract

Green tea has a strong reputation as a diet aid. Research shows that it helps to control blood sugar, boost fat-burning metabolism, improve energy levels and reduce sugar cravings. It is also a strong antioxidant.

Capsicum, Piperine, Bioperine

Another popular group of diet supplements is spice extracts from the pepper family. Benefits may include improved digestive health, better fat metabolism and increased energy. They improve absorption rate of other nutrients, and so work well as part of a multi-nutrient supplement.


Probiotics are healthy bacteria that live in your digestive system and help to keep it healthy. When you switch to a low-carb diet, probiotics may help your system to adjust while you get used to eating different types of food.

Multivitamins are not magic weight-loss pills

Multivitamins help to protect your health while you diet. They can help you solve common diet problems, such as tiredness or sugar cravings, making your diet easier overall. But only if you do the work – sticking to your diet and doing exercise.

Multivitamins are NOT magic pills to make you lose weight directly. Nothing works like that. Any product that claims otherwise is a fraud. At best, it would be a waste of money and at worst, might actually harm your health.

Other low-carb diet supplements

In addition to your multivitamin, you might also want to consider omega oils, co-enzyme Q10 and fibre supplements. Read more about low-carb diet supplements.

Varied diet

Although supplements can enhance your nutrient intake, they are not a substitute for a varied and balanced diet. On a low-carb diet, the best strategy is to use up your carb allowance on the most vitamin-rich foods.

Try to include the following low-carb high-vitamin foods to your diet:

  • Green vegetables: spinach, kale, collard greens, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
  • Salad vegetables: bell peppers, tomatoes, radishes, bean sprouts, spring onions
  • Fish and seafood: salmon, mackerel, mussels and other shellfish
  • Berries: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries
  • Nuts and seeds: hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Offal meats (I know it’s a bit ew but they are packed with nutrients): liver, kidneys

Don’t forget eggs, sour cream and cheese.

Lemons are low in carbs but packed with vitamin C. Just squeeze a bit of lemon juice to your drinking water.



Autism is not a disease

Autism is known as a complex developmental disability that is believed to be the result of a neurological disorder affecting normal brain function. People with autism have issues with non-verbal communication, a wide range of social interactions, and activities that include an element of play and/or banter.

People diagonsed with autism have been subjects of severe social stigma and have often been called out as being mentally disabled. Autism is treated as an entity that needs to be purged from the human body in order to allow the person “suffering” from it, as well their families, to live in peace and harmony with the rest of the “normal” folk. There are quite a few people who would beg to disagree.

Melanie Yergeau is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. She is uncomfortable with making eye contact, threads a stiff rubber band between her fingers when she gets overwhelmed and is an advocate of the neurodiversity movement. In an interview with Michigan Daily, she says

If you were to take away autism, you’re taking away the person you’re talking to. It’s how you process information. It’s how you communicate. It’s how you sense the world. It affects your movement. I don’t know who I’d be if I did not have autism. I wouldn’t be me.

Let us take a moment to analyze this. A person diagnosed with autism does not consider themselves as a cog that does not fit in with people. They just perceive and interact with the world differently. To give them a brand and segregate them from the opportunities of living a fulfilled life seems no less than barbaric.

In his blog, Don’t Mourn for Us, activitst Jim Sinclair says,

Autism isn’t something a person has, or a ‘shell’ that a person is trapped inside. There’s no normal child hidden behind the autism. Therefore, when parents say, ‘I wish my child did not have autism,’ what they’re really saying is, “I wish the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead.”

In her inteview with Michigan Daily, Yergeau speaks about some of the issues she has faced in her personal life as well in her activism in gaining acceptance for autism. She serves on the board of directors of Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), an organization composed of people on the autistic spectrum who seek to give voice to the conversations that concern them. They are in tune with the Autism Rights Movement that encourages autistic people, their caregivers, and society to adopt a position of neurodiversity, accepting autism as a variation in functioning rahter than a disorder to be cured.

In a New York Times blog, a parent talks about the situations he and his wife faced in the raising of their child. A poor choice of words and journalism ended up in backlash and upset quite a few adults on the autism spectrum. In the reflective blog post, he talks about the need to accept people as they are and it is heartwarming to read that the important thing is not to say such people, especially children, are “like” everyone else but, that they are different and that’s alright.



Many dermatologists manage eczema with steroid creams. But is a steroid deficiency really the cause of dry, itchy skin?

Eczema – or, as we doctor-types like to call it, Atopic Dermatitis – has been on the rise in the western world, with an estimated 7 to 15 percent of the population affected

The main symptom of eczema is itchiness, particularly on the backs of the knees, in the elbow creases, and on the face, neck, forehead, backs of the hands, and toes.

Most cases are managed (note that I don’t say “treated”) with steroid creams like hydrocortisone and triamcinolone. These creams essentially work by telling the inflammatory chemicals in the skin to calm down, thus providing significant symptom relief in the short run. When used long term, however, these creams can thin the skin and break it down. Plus the unpleasant symptoms come right back once the tube of cream runs out.

Understanding the causes of eczema can help us find more natural – and much more effective – ways to reduce the frequency and severity of its symptoms, and maybe cure it permanently.

So… Where does it come from, you may ask?


There is a clear genetic predisposition to eczema within affected families. Although many patients think there’s nothing you can do about your genes, I prefer to think of it this way: what you inherent from your parents is a greater or lesser need for a certain set of nutrients.

So keep reading: just because your family members suffer from eczema doesn’t mean that you have to.

Eczema + Asthma + Allergies

Eczema tends to run in families, particularly in families where other member have eczema, asthma, and/or allergies. These conditions all share a common root cause, and indeed, many people are affected by all 3 conditions. Nearly 80 percent of children with eczema develop allergic rhinitis, and 30 to 50 percent develop asthma.

The underlying imbalance behind eczema, asthma, and allergies – collectively referred to as the atopic triad – is a tendency to be “hyper-allergenic” or “atopic.” (This is why eczema is called atopic dermatitis.)

Although everybody’s allergies are different, most people with eczema are irritated by skin contact with wool, lanolin, and sweat, and almost all (60 to 80 percent!) have food intolerances.

Food Allergies & Intolerances

It’s estimated that 60 to 80 percent of all cases of eczema are associated with food allergies and/or food intolerances

To successfully treat eczema, it is essential to identify the triggers. In medicine we refer to allergies and other triggers “obstacles to cure,” because while the trigger foods are still in the diet, full resolution of the condition is near impossible.

The easiest way to identify food allergies and sensitivities is to either get tested (available at Natura Integrative Medicine) or to do an elimination and challenge diet on your own to watch for reactions to common trigger foods (I’m happy to coach you through this process during a private visit).

The major offenders in eczema are eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, fish, and gluten. In babies with infantile eczema, I recommend avoiding these foods entirely until 18 months of age. It’s estimated that 26 percent of children who avoid a known trigger from this list for one year will outgrow the allergy! (J.Ped 1989)

Less common (but still worth mentioning) food triggers include citrus, tomatoes, strawberries, corn, chocolate, food preservatives, and artificial coloring. One study (J.Ped 1989) showed that if a child was triggered by one of these “minor” allergens and avoided that food for a year, there was a 66% chance of outgrowing the allergy altogether. That’s amazing! That’s a better success rate than with allergy shots!

Respiratory allergens – such as animal dander, smoke, and dust mites – are also a problem for many with eczema.

Babies at high risk for atopic conditions (those with a first-degree relative with eczema, asthma, or allergies) are less likely to develop these ailments themselves if they are exclusively breast-fed for at least 4 months. That means giving the baby no other food besides breast milk – not even formula – for the first 4 months of life.

Leaky Gut

Eating trigger foods and/or taking too many antibiotics can over time create inflammation in the gut, affect the integrity of the cells lining the intestine. The spaces between these cells (known as “tight junctions”) begin to break down in the presence of this inflammation, creating a condition known as leaky gut.

When the gut becomes “leaky,” pieces of protein and harmful bacteria can start passing through the spaces between the cells, wrecking inflammatory havoc. These proteins and bacteria stimulate the immune system to react, resulting in a myriad of symptoms from autoimmune disease to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to food intolerances to eczema.

Therapies that treat leaky gut invariably improve eczema symptoms.

Regardless of the patient’s age, probiotics have been shown to help a staggering number of those living with eczema. One study even found that babies given probiotics from birth onward were half as likely to develop eczema by age two when compared to babies who didn’t get probiotics (Lancet 2001). Likewise, glutamine has likewise been shown to reduce the risk (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 2007; 161 (11): 1095-101).

For more information about leaky gut, check out this great blog post by one of my heroes, Dr. Aviva Romm (


Patients with eczema often have low levels of a chemical called cyclic adenosine monophosphate, or cAMP. cAMP is an important signaling messenger that regulates the production of many important substances within the body. Patients low in cAMP tend to have higher levels of histamine. (If you’ve ever had a rash or hayfever, then you’ve likely become acquainted with the unpleasant, itchy effects of histamine.)

I therefore often strive to increase cAMP levels in patients with eczema to reduce the itching and inflammation. One of the best ways to increase cAMP and lower histamine is through exercise, which is yet another compelling reason to start moving your body on a regular basis.

Brightly-colored foods like blueberries, raspberries, parsley, green tea, and oranges are rich in flavonoids, a nutritional compound that increases cAMP.

Some cAMP-increasing herbs include licorice, borage, black currant, evening primrose oil, and ginkgo – herbs that I often blend into custom formulations for my patients.


You’ve probably heard that inflammation is bad, and that anti-inflammatory foods and supplements can help a myriad of health conditions. This is particularly true for patients with atopic conditions like eczema.

It’s been found that patients with eczema are deficient in an enzyme that helps convert healthy foods and even supplements into anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body.

This enzyme, known as delta-6-desaturase, is essential for turning vegetarian health foods (such as nuts, seeds, and vegetables) and even supplements (like flax oil) into forms that can be used to fight inflammation. Without this enzyme, patients with eczema and other atopic conditions end up having higher inflammation than others.

Fortunately, nutrients such as vitamin B3 and zinc can support the function of delta-6-desaturase, strengthening its function in affected patients over time.

Fish oil supplements, which are rich in the anti-inflammatory chemicals EPA and DHA, do notrely on delta-6-desaturase to work in the body, and therefore help effectively fight inflammation in patients with eczema. This is why the patients with eczema in my practice are almost always put on a fish oil supplement and encouraged to eat fish rich in EPA (wild salmon, halibut, mackerel, herring, sardines) at least twice a week. (Assuming there is no fish allergy.)

delta 6 desaturase.jpg

Because patients with eczema have poor delta-6-desaturase activity and therefore possess higher levels of inflammation than others, it is further important to avoid inflammation-causing foods and substances. I strongly encourage my patients with eczema to eliminate poor quality fats from the diet, as these are known to promote inflammation in the body:  grain fed meats, fried foods, and hydrogenated oils. Anti-inflammatory diets low in gluten, sugar, alcohol, and nightshade vegetables also yield incredible results. (Check out the Anti-Inflammation Diet and Cookbook by Dr. Jessica Black for more information.)

In adults and older children, the importance of stress management cannot be overstated, as stress rather dramatically increases inflammatory cytokines in the body. Indeed, emotional health and stress management is all too often the missing piece in patient care.

Weaker Skin Defenses

The above-explained imbalances in the immune response lead to downstream imbalances in the skin. Although successful treatment lies in treating the deeper causes of eczema – namely through balancing the allergic response, strengthening the immune system, healing the leaky gut, and fighting inflammation – it’s also important to care for the skin directly to alleviate symptoms when they arise.

There tends to be a hyper-vigilance among North Americans when it comes to personal hygiene. Although frequent bathing and hand washing does indeed prevent the risk of transmitting bacteria and viruses, these practices tend to dry out the skin. I often recommend that patients bathe as infrequently as they can (while still maintaining social and hygienic standards), so that the oils naturally secreted by the skin can help keep it supple and strong. I also discourage patients from using anti-bacterial soaps, as these disrupt the normal and healthy bacterial balance on the skin’s surface.

It’s also important to moisturize the skin frequently with emollients like Eucerin, calendula oil, coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil and Lycrogel. Be sure to read labels and avoid any ingredients you’re allergic to (eg: if you’re allergic to nuts, don’t use almond oil!). I also recommend adding calendula oil or calendula succus (juice) to a store bought moisturizer to help facilitate skin healing.

Raw, unpasteurized honey (manuka is best) can also be rubbed into the raw and itchy areas, and has been shown to be quite helpful in relieving and resolving symptoms (Complement Ther Med. 2003 Dec;11(4):226-34). (Please note that honey is contraindicated in babies.)

Nourish the Body, Treat the Cause

The skin is where the body expresses deeper-seated imbalances. It’s clear that the conventional approach of treating eczema at the level of the skin alone is not working, as topical creams and steroids do little if anything to address the cause of this condition.

To effectively treat eczema, it’s essential that we start nourishing the body on a deeper level, namely through balancing the allergic response, supporting the immune system, strengthening the integrity of the gut, and fighting inflammation. This approach takes more work than the conventional model, but is also more effective in the long term. Your health is worth it, and I’m here to help you along the way.



7 Things Not to Say to the Parent of a Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

“Penny has sensory processing disorder.”

I remember saying this one simple sentence to family and friends shortly after my 3-year-old’s diagnosis this past fall. Every single person we told of Penny’s diagnosis asked, “What is sensory processing disorder, exactly?”

In short, sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which a person has difficulty both receiving and responding to information acquired through the senses. Every single child with SPD is different and will have different symptoms. SPD can be a stand-alone condition, but it is often diagnosed along with autism spectrum disorder or ADHD. In our case, our daughter does not have autism or ADHD, both of which can make the diagnosis of SPD even more confusing.

Most people don’t know how to handle a condition they’ve never heard of. At times, I’ve been frustrated by the things people have said to me, to my husband, and especially to my daughter. My hope is not to shame others, but to educate people on what SPD is and the appropriate way to respond to caregivers and children with sensory issues.

mother holding daughter

Brianna holding her daughter, Penny.

The following are seven things that I, as a sensory parent, feel you definitely should not say:

1. “But she’s so normal.”

What is normal anyway? Can we just do away with the word normal — forever and ever, amen? You often can’t see the person’s struggle with your own eyes. That is true. However, when you tune in with your mind and heart, you will begin to see the little day-to-day difficulties that make life a bit different for a child with SPD.

When you start to pay attention, hopefully you will feel some empathy — and even curiosity. A child with SPD will require special care but does not need to be alienated. No child, regardless of ability, should be alienated. So let’s do away with categorizing children as normal and not normal. Let’s just love them and care for them the way that they need.

2. “She’s just picky/spoiled.”

The most common statement we’ve received is that our child is incredibly picky. One of our biggest challenges has been eating, and for a long time we described our daughter as “the pickiest eater in the world.” Many provided well-meaning advice about how to feed her or get her to eat a wider variety of foods, but nothing worked.

We were all missing the heart of the issue, which was not that Penny is picky, but that her senses are different from ours. How can we expect a child to eat something when her senses are being overloaded and we have no idea how the food tastes to her? We no longer use the word picky, and certainly not spoiled, but many others haven’t quite received the message. Through occupational therapy, we have seen great improvement and learned that a gentle and slow approach is best with a child who has SPD.

3. “She’ll grow out of it eventually.”

I don’t believe that there’s a cure for sensory processing disorder; however, there is therapy that can help integrate the senses and expose a child to new experiences. We have noticed an improvement through therapy, but it’s still a daily challenge for her to eat, sleep, get dressed and learn new skills.

4. “This didn’t exist 20 years ago.”

The diagnosis may not have existed, but a child with sensory processing issues certainly did. How can I be so confident? Because I was a child with SPD, and I’m now an adult aware of my own sensory processing issues. I never did outgrow my SPD, but I have learned ways to cope.

As a teenager I was always known for unbuttoning my jeans; it was just one of my many quirks. Now, I understand that I needed to unbutton my jeans because I just couldn’t deal with the pressure of the button on my belly. Today, I rarely wear tight or constricting pants, but when I do, you can bet they’re unbuttoned before long.

5. “You just need to be tougher.”

Recently, my daughter and I were at the grocery store, and she took her shoes and socks off while sitting in the cart. She became very agitated when I explained to her that we had lost one of her socks.

“Penny, you’re not in trouble. We’ll just buy some new socks,” I explained.

I don’t have time to worry about every little issue that arises, and I certainly don’t have time to worry about lost socks. If you know anything about kids with SPD, you know that they sometimes hate socks and tags. If I made a big deal out of every spilled drink, every missing sock, or every meal skipped, I would have a very stressful relationship with my child.

Many think I’m too easy-going and that my lack of discipline is what has made my daughter “this way.” According to the professionals, my daughter is in the safest environment when I am relaxed and calm about the little blips in our day.

6. “My kid does that, too — and he/she is fine.”

I’m not sure why so many parents feel the need to compare their children to others’, but it happens more frequently than I’d like. I’ll admit, I was one of those parents who said to a friend: “My kid does that, too.” I have no issue with others noticing sensory processing issues in their kids.

I will often relay tools I have learned in therapy to them, to help them guide their children in the right direction.

Please know, a child with sensory processing issues will need special care and patience. Most kids with SPD are receiving therapy, and the typical “rules” or “methods” of parenting may not apply.

7.  “But your other child eats/sleeps/etc. so well.”

When my second daughter was born, I compared my children all the time. My oldest was too young to understand, and I was unaware of her sensory issues at the time. Regardless, I should never have done it, and I formed a bad habit of inwardly comparing them.

But once my second daughter started eating and sleeping well, I started receiving lots of comments comparing my kids, and I realized how wrong I had been to start such a bad habit.

Typically, these comments are directed at me, but they’re often said in front of my children — and sometimes they’re even directed right at them. This, I feel, is probably one of the hardest things to hear as a parent. I do not want my children growing up around comparisons. I never want my child to attach good behavior or bad behavior to the things that she eats or the way that she sleeps. If I can suggest one thing, it’s that you should never compare siblings to each other.

There are plenty of things that you can (and should) say to sensory parents. I would suggest asking questions, showing empathy and letting them know that they’re in your thoughts. The beginning stages of a diagnosis are typically difficult for a family — and support is always appreciated.

In our family, we have chosen not to talk about sensory processing disorder directly to our 3-year-old. She is just too young to understand it, so we have not used these exact words around her. If a parent doesn’t tell you of a diagnosis right in front of his or her children, you may not want to bring up the diagnosis around them.



How My Husband’s Cerebral Palsy is Like the Sprinkles on My Favorite Cake

A yellow cake with vanilla frosting that is encrusted in rainbow sprinkles. The cake was shot against a pale gray backdrop.

Dear cerebral palsy,

If my marriage was a cake, you would be the brightly colored, impossible to miss sprinkles covering the outer edge. You’re there, boldly covering the surface area of what me and my husband and family are.

At first, I didn’t think much of you. You were part of my childhood, there adorning the cakes of two of my closest friends. You weren’t this strange, foreign thing like blowfish or something that I had no experience with. Besides, this is a cake metaphor, and blowfish on a cake would be weird.  I knew you.  You were there, but you weren’t on my cake.

As I saw the impact you had on my husband, I started resenting you.  Seriously, sometimes sprinkles are just too much on a cake anyway. There were surgeries, physical therapy, more surgeries, wheelchairs, and… wait… more surgeries. And with every little thing, every sleepless night my husband endured, there you were. And believe me, you’re the first thing anybody sees when they look at us. People don’t see our love, our humor, or even his ability. They see his wheels. They see you.

Now, nearly seven years later, I have come to love you. Not just the “I guess I’ll deal with you” love, but a love filled with gratitude. As I grew, and saw my husband and now son grow, I see you for what you are.

Christine's son pushes his father's wheelchair.
Christine’s son pushes his father’s wheelchair.

You see, without you, cerebral palsy, my family wouldn’t be what it is today. We wouldn’t be the same people. Through the struggles, discrimination, pain, and frustration, my husband is more resilient and determined than anyone I’ve ever met. His faith is unbreakable and unwavering. He is getting his master’s degree, chasing his dreams. He is such a patient father, always encouraging but never forceful.  He understands himself, and his limitations, which gives him a much better understanding of those around him. He shows our son what perseverance and true strength are every day. He is the most loving, gentle, supportive husband.

Because of you.

Because of you, cerebral palsy, my son has grown tremendously in his faith, and has a true servant’s heart. He learned to walk pushing his daddy’s wheelchair. He holds doors, he waits patiently, he helps at every opportunity. He has no concept of disability. At 5 years old, he understands that all people do things differently, in their own way, and everyone does better working together. He believes from firsthand experience that God works all things for good.

Because of you, cerebral palsy, we believe without a doubt that God holds us all. We know that tomorrow isn’t promised, but to cherish each day as it comes. Every single moment is precious. Love is hard, and everything that’s worth having is worth the work it takes to keep.

Because of you.

Every single moment, eyes are on us. He can’t go to a job interview without you. You are a hidden blessing, cerebral palsy, because you help us see who is interested in the whole cake, not just making a judgement based on the decorating job. Anyone can make a cake look good, but it’s got nothing to do with how good the cake is. You force people to look beyond the exterior.

So thank you. Thank you for being part of our life. I know that we will always have the strength to fight and love more than we ever could without you. You’ve given us dreams, passion, drive, and with that, we can stand firm and show the world ability, and help them to ignore that silly little prefix that so many can’t look past.

You’re the sprinkles on my favorite cake.


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To protect yourself from malaria sleep with a chicken next to your bed

For the first time, scientists have shown that malaria-transmitting mosquitoes actively avoid feeding on certain animal species such as chickens, using their sense of smell. Odors emitted by species such as chickens could provide protection for humans at risk of mosquito-transmitted diseases, according to a study in the open access Malaria Journal.

Researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia found that Anopheles arabiensis, one of the predominant species transmitting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, avoids chickens when looking for hosts to feed on. This indicates that, unlike humans, cattle, goats and sheep, chickens are a non-host species for An. arabiensis and that the mosquitoes have developed ways of distinguishing them from host species.

Rickard Ignell, the corresponding author, said: “We were surprised to find that malaria mosquitoes are repelled by the odors emitted by chickens. This study shows for the first time that malaria mosquitoes actively avoid feeding on certain animal species, and that this behavior is regulated through odor cues.”

To find out which species the mosquitoes prefer, the research team collected data on the population of human and domestic animals in three Ethiopian villages. They also collected blood-fed mosquitoes to test for the source of the blood that the mosquitoes had fed on. People living in the areas in which the research was conducted share their living quarters with their livestock. The researchers found that while An. arabiensis strongly prefers human over animal blood when seeking hosts indoors, it randomly feeds on cattle, goats and sheep when outdoors, but avoids chickens in both settings, despite their relatively high abundance.

Since mosquitoes select and discriminate between their hosts mainly based on their sense of smell, the researchers collected hair, wool and feathers from potential host and non-host species to analyze the odor compounds present in them. Identifying certain compounds that were only present in chicken feathers, the researchers used these and other compounds obtained from all species to test their ability to repel mosquitoes from mosquito traps. The traps were set up in 11 thatched houses in one of the villages for a total of 11 days. In each of the houses, a single volunteer aged between 27 and 36 years slept under an untreated bed net.

The researchers found that significantly fewer mosquitoes were caught in traps baited with chicken compounds than in control traps. Suspending a living chicken in a cage next to a trap had a similar repellent effect.

Because it feeds indoors and outdoors on various host species, An. arabiensis is difficult to control with existing methods, according to previous research. The results of this study suggest that, in combination with established control methods, the odors emitted by chickens and other non-host species could prove useful in controlling An. arabiensis.

Rickard Ignell said: “People in sub-Saharan Africa have suffered considerably under the burden of malaria over an extended period of time and mosquitoes are becoming increasingly physiologically resistant to pesticides, while also changing their feeding habits for example by moving from indoors to outdoors. For this reason there is a need to develop novel control methods. In our study, we have been able to identify a number of natural odour compounds which could repel host-seeking malaria mosquitoes and prevent them from getting in contact with people.”



10 Things I Wish the Entertainment Industry Understood About Autism

Movie camera and film on wooden table.

It’s been almost 30 years since the 1988 movie “Rain Man” came out, featuring Dustin Hoffman as a character who was on the autism spectrum. At the time, it was one of the few depictions of autism in film. Since then more films, plays and television shows have been featuring the stories of fictional and non-fictional people with autism.

My fascination with this topic began when my parents started getting me involved in theatre to help me build on my communication skills after I was diagnosed with autism at age 4. Now as an adult, I’ve taken a role in helping bring a realistic portrayal of autism to these projects.

Here are 10 things I hope the entertainment industry knows when they are looking to feature autism.

10. Our autism spectrum has more dimensions than Rain Man. Growing up I was often asked questions such as “Do you share any similarities to Rain Man?” Many see Rain Man as the one-size-fits-all of autism. Today our spectrum varies; we have a variety of characteristics and abilities.

9.  We need to highlight girls on the autism spectrum, too. Many people still think of autism as a boy’s disorder and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Boys are diagnosed with autism 5 times more
often than girls in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean their stories shouldn’t be highlighted. A great example of a film that looks at the life of a woman with autism is HBO’s “Temple Grandin.”

8.  Look at issues those with autism are facing today. Growing up I faced more than communication and social delays. While autism is characterized as a social and communication disorder, it can also include sensory, cognitive and motor challenges. There are issues about trying to find money to pay for supports at home and school, young adults with autism having difficulties finding employment, and trying to find a relationship.

7. Ask experts in the field of autism. Most importantly, ask people with autism to lend their support! Ask them about their stories, and even consider featuring their story in your project if you don’t have a central idea yet for what you want to do. Many people both on and off the spectrum would like to help. I’ve helped with four films focused on autism.

6. Understand that autism is a lifelong disorder. Consider featuring both children and adults equally. 50,000 children with autism reach adulthood every year. Showing the obstacles and successes they face throughout their lifespan is essential. Everything from early intervention to later adulthood services matters.

5. Nonverbal people with autism should be included in these conversations. A great example of someone who would be worthy of featuring is Carly Fleischmann, a 21-year-old woman who is completely nonverbal but communicates via her iPad.

4. Don’t try to push a character with autism into a project if it doesn’t fit into the storyline. As much as we want recognition, we also don’t want to step into a project that wouldn’t be an appropriate fit. Autism is one of the hot topics in the entertainment industry today, but coming into any project with sensitivity is important.

A few years ago I had an extreme fascination with the character of Sheldon Cooper from the CBS hit show “The Big Bang Theory,” based on many people’s beliefs that Sheldon falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. I wrote a blog titled “Why Our Autism Community Loves Sheldon Cooper.” Even though he’s not on the autism spectrum, because it may not fit into the storyline of the show, he’s still very relatable for our community.

3. Once your project is completed, consider the needs of audience members who have autism and may want to come out and see it. Countless groups are doing sensory-friendly events for movie theaters, Broadway plays, etc. Check out websites such as AMC Theatres Sensory-Friendly Initiative and Theatre Development Fund’s Autism Theater Initiative to learn more.

2. Educate if you can! What can the audience learn about autism by watching your project? One of my favorite teachers of all time said, “Think with the end in mind.” What do you hope people take away from your project as part of the overall story? If you can educate about autism and include organizations that are helping those with autism, like Autism Speaks, that’s even better!

1. Having more projects focused on a realistic portrayal of autism will help educate our communities.This is the most important thing I wish you knew. Ignorance is just a lack of awareness. With your support of our community, we can foster diverse education and acceptance for all with autism. You can make a world of difference. Never forget that.