greener production of antibiotics

Antibiotic vs Probiotic

It’s really frightening when your child has a fever and infection, especially so when they’re very young. The first port of call for parents who have a sick child is usually the GP and in urgent situations, the hospital. The most common medication prescribed in these instances are antibiotics, which in most cases bring about relief within 24 hours.

Antibiotics are life-saving medicines however they do have undesirable side effects. This article aims to discuss the pros and cons, natural alternatives and how to use them sensibly and effectively.

History of antibiotics
Antibiotics destroy dangerous pathogens, they do this by filling bacteria with holes, poison or by disabling their ability to reproduce, they have no effect on viruses whatsoever.

Antibiotics first came on the scene in the late 18th century with the discovery of bacterial resistant mould, which lead to the development of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928.

Antibiotics weren’t widely available to the general public until after the war in 1945. These “magic bullets” contributed to the near eradication of diseases such as tuberculosis, however, within ten years penicillin resistance became a significant problem, so many of the advances of the prior decade were under threat.

Due to their effectiveness and availability, antibiotics today are largely over-prescribed. The problem of antibiotic resistance has grown exponentially since the 1950’s, with the World Health Organisation classifying it as one of the biggest threats to current global health, food security, and development today.

Benefits of Antibiotics
Antibiotics save lives, you may have had personal experience of this with a loved one, they’ve also played a pivotal role in advancing medicine and surgery, by making procedures such as organ transplants, joint replacements, cardiac surgery and cesarean section possible. Antibiotics have also helped to extend life expectancy and have decreased the likelihood of mortality due to food-borne and other poverty related infections in developing countries.


Common reasons for antibiotic usage
Bacterial infections
Parasitic infection
Appendicitis (as a way to avoid surgery)
As a preventive measure (prophylactic)
Used in surgery to help prevent infection
Skin conditions

Common side effects
Diarrhea, which is the bodies way of excreting dead bacteria.
Overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut, such as clostridium difficile and candida.
Antibiotics can affect the vaginal flora and may lead to an overgrowth of yeast.

Antibiotic resistance
As already mentioned, we’re experiencing a global issue with antibiotic resistance due to over prescription. It’s the bacteria itself that’s becoming resistant to antibiotics, not humans or animals.

Antibiotics rarely kill all bacteria and the ones that remain are the strongest and become difficult to control with antibiotics. A growing list of infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhea are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible to treat, as a result of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

This problem has been well researched and documented in the case of ear infections, which do not respond well to antibiotics, and may be the reason why a child’s infection simply doesn’t resolve despite several rounds of antibiotics. The very diseases that antibiotics so successfully treated less than a hundred years ago are now re-emerging and are multi-drug resistant.

The more antibiotics you take, the less likely they are to work when you really need them.

Antibiotics in agriculture
The problem of antibiotic resistance is not limited to humans. Livestock are steadily fed low doses of antibiotics to prevent and treat disease, the resistant strains of bacteria are being transferred to humans via the food supply, causing infections and adverse health consequences.

The agricultural use of antibiotics also affects the environment, with up to 90% of antibiotics given to livestock being excreted in the urine and stool, which is then dispersed through fertilizer to grow vegetables and into our waterways.


Fruits and vegetables are not screened for the presence of antibiotics, you can reduce your exposure by washing produce thoroughly. Milk, eggs and meat are screened for antibiotics, in order to maintain certain limits considered safe for human consumption.

Australia currently has one of the worlds safest practices when it comes to the administration of antibiotics to animals, whilst other countries such as India and Spain have little or no regulation. Buying organic meat is the safest option if you are concerned about contamination.

Antibiotics and the microbiome
The word microbiome is a collective term for a diverse range of beneficial micro-organisms that co-exist in our bodies, 70% of this microbiome is found in the gut and is made up of as many as 36,000 species of bacteria, all of which play a pivotal role in our health and well-being, both mentally, emotionally and physically.

Having good bacteria in the gut helps defend against harmful bacteria by preventing them from taking up residence. They produce their own small amounts of antibiotic and make the gut generally less habitable for unhealthy bacteria by robbing them of their food source.

Beneficial gut bacteria assist the body in some of the following ways:

  • Immunity
  • Absorption of nutrients
  • Reduction of harmful toxins
  • Discourage the growth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast
  • Vitamin production
  • Aid digestion
  • Protection from pathogens

Dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) of the microbiome has been associated with a large number of health problems such as metabolic, immunological, and developmental disorders, as well as susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Antibiotics alter our gut flora considerably, as they destroy beneficial bacteria along with harmful pathogens. Our microbiome can become lass diverse as a result and the ability of the remaining bacteria can change, for example the ability to produce vitamins and substances that help us digest.

Antibiotics can be particularly problematic for children and the elderly due to the gut flora being less stable and slower to recover after antibiotic treatment. A small research study in Sweden has shown that the gut bacteria of children were significantly altered two months after taking antibiotics, their guts contained more potentially harmful bacteria and fewer beneficial types, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

Another study identified that a five-day antibiotic course significantly decreased the richness and diversity of the gut bacterial community of patients. Recovery of the bacteria to pre-antibiotic levels, was seen in only one patient four weeks after antibiotic treatment, others did not recover until six months after antibiotics.

The only long-term studies on the effects of antibiotics on the microbiome, show that as long as two years after taking antibiotics, unhealthy bacteria, was still present in the gut.

The future of antibiotics
The issue or antibiotic resistance is so severe, in 2015 the World Health Organisation began a global campaign to help bring attention to antibiotic resistance and the appropriate use of antibiotics. Antibiotic Awareness Week takes place in November of each year.

Patients and Doctors are being encouraged to limit the amount of antibiotics used, to choose appropriate and targeted drugs given at the right dosage and not for conditions that are known not to respond well or conditions that will most likely resolve on their own. The advise is to avoid giving them to children if at all possible.


There is little interest in research and future antibiotic development by the pharmaceutical companies for several reasons, the primary one being, it’s not an economically wise investment. Antibiotics are used for relatively short periods of time and often cure, therefore they are not as profitable as drugs that treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and psychiatric disorders or vaccines.

A cost–benefit analysis by the Office of Health Economics in London calculated that the net present value (NPV) of a new antibiotic is only about $50 million, compared to approximately $1 billion for a drug used to treat a neuro-muscular disease.

Suggestions for appropriate antibiotic use
1. Only take antibiotics when really necessary and for the appropriate time. Scientists now feel that it’s preferable to stop treatment as soon as symptoms have resolved.

2. Ask your Dr to take a swab to determine the cause of the illness, so that a narrow spectrum antibiotic can be chosen as opposed to broad spectrum, which creates more damage to beneficial bacteria. Having a swab taken can also identify whether the infection is viral in origin, which antibiotics can not treat.

3. Ask your GP if a watch and wait is appropriate for your child.

4. Include natural anti-microbials alongside antibiotic therapy to support the immune system.

5. Give probiotics during and after antibiotic therapy.

6. Individuals with Down syndrome show signs of high sulfur levels due to over-expression, therefore it has been suggested that asking for sulfur free antibiotics is preferable.

7. If gut problems persist a month after antibiotics, consider a comprehensive stool analysis to determine whether remaining pathogens need to be dealt with and certain strains of probiotics required to rebalance the gut flora.


Natural antimicrobials
Natural antimicrobials (antibiotics) inhibit overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria without destroying beneficial bacteria or creating resistance. Some natural antibiotics have the ability to treat bacteria as well as viruses and are particular effective if used during early onset of symptoms.

  • Unsweetened cranberry juice is an effective agent against UTI’s (urinary tract infections)
  • Garlic is antimicrobial and in studies has shown to be effective against staph, clostridia, chronic and resistant infections. It also helps break down biofilm the slimy substance secreted by bacteria to protect itself. Fresh garlic is effective alone or as an adjunct to antibiotics.
  • Honey is a natural antibiotic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. Manuka honey has been proven to have the highest levels of antioxidants and curative properties.
  • Elderberry syrup prevents proliferation of  the influenza virus. A teaspoon ever day for kids. helps deactivate bronchial viruses and acts against methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA). It reduces inflammation in the brain, improves mood and tastes great!
  • Echinacea stimulates the immune system and has antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral actions. It’s most effective used at the first signs of illness or as a preventative.
  • Colloidal silver is a mixture of silver particles suspended in fluid. Since too much silver, a heavy metal, can be toxic it should only be used short term and some believe it’s not suitable for children with Down syndrome for this reason. Colloidal silver disables the enzyme that single-cell bacteria require to multiply, it’s effective against viruses as well as bacteria.
  • Grapefruit seed extract. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a study that found grapefruit seed extract effective against more than 800 forms of viruses and bacteria, more than a hundred strains of fungus, and many parasites.
  • AntiBioBotanic by Panaxea is a practitioner only product made from Chinese herbs. It’s indicated for use when you would consider an antibiotic. It’s also safe to take alongside antibiotics.

These are just a selection of antimicrobials available from the natural world and work best when accompanied by nourishing nutrient rich foods, plenty of rest, fresh water and probiotics. Seeking out an experienced naturopath to assist you in treating infections is highly recommended.

Natural antimicrobials are not the solution for serious illness, that’s when antibiotics come into there own. Although we as parents ideally want to minimise the amount of antibiotics our children take, it’s important to be sensible and choose them when advised and needed.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts found in fermented foods and dietary supplements. These healthful microorganisms assist in maintaining beneficial bacteria in digestive tract and treating specific conditions.

Research identifying individual probiotics that help to treat pathogens is gaining traction. L. salivarius  for example has shown to be effective against Listeria infection and Lactobacillus probiotics are replacing antibiotics as a method of treating UTI’s.


Evidence that probiotics can work alongside antibiotics to reduce adverse effects, improve antibiotic function and enhance overall immunity is mounting.

It was previously thought that probiotics should be taken after antibiotics and not during, however this point of view has since changed. Certainly some of the strains of beneficial bacteria in the probiotic will be destroyed, however when taken six hours apart, they may assist in protecting the intestinal flora.

Probiotics won’t regrow lost gut bacteria, this is an area of research that’s currently in development. Prebiotic foods and amino acids will, however only if the strains of bacteria you are wanting to grow still exist in the gut. Once you stop taking a probiotic, the beneficial strains of bacteria will quickly be excreted.

The following product recommendations are all available from most health food shops, pharmacies and online.

Qiara probiotics are beneficial for children born via c section or whose gut bacteria has been compromised since birth.

BabyBiotic is suitable for babies and contains both probiotic bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, which are often significantly destroyed during antibiotic therapy.

SB Floractiv (Saccharomyces boulardi) may protect against the development of unhealthy yeasts and candida so common after taking antibiotics. It’s also useful as a treatment for antibiotic-related diarrhea and discourages the growth of unfriendly micro-organisms and reduces digestive inflammation.

UltraBiotic 500 super strength is recommend as a short term recovery product to be taken during and after antibiotic therapy. It may help to maintain intestinal microbiota when taken during and after antibiotic therapy. This product is not available for children under the age of two.

Researching this article has been fascinating and confronting. It was interesting to discover that the benefits of probiotic foods to health were realised shortly before the development of antibiotics.

These two approaches to health care couldn’t be more opposed, although both stem from the very same source, bacteria itself. Antibiotics certainly revolutionised healthcare and the treatment of serious infection, however that has come at a cost to the diversity of our microbiome and the development of superbugs that are becoming multi-drug resistant.

We certainly need to adjust our relationship with antibiotics and begin to use them more wisely in both agricultural settings and for personal treatment, if we’re to avoid a post antibiotic era.

The overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics must be quickly phased out in favor of more precise approaches and must be complemented by efficient methods to restore the microbiome after injury.

The central message is that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can prevent them working when you do and that antibiotic resistance effects the whole, not just the individual.

Science has spent a long time studying ways to destroy bacteria, now it needs to turn it’s attention towards how to preserve and support the beneficial bacteria that essentially give us life.

Helen Goodwin


Garlic and biofilm
Elderberry and influenza
Elderberry and MRSA
Elderberry reduces inflammation
Drug resistant threat CDC
Post antibiotic era documents/surveillancereport/en/
The antibiotic resistance crisis
Antibiotics and the microbiome
GIT antibiotics and Clostridium dificile
Antibiotics and IBS
The vaginal application of lactobacilli and urinary tract infection
Probiotics to prevent the need for antibiotics
The microbiome and immune system
Antibiotics and crohn’s disease
Antibiotics, asthma and respiratory infection
Neurodevelopmental disorders (gut microbiome brain)
Gut bacteria protect against food allergies
Effect of antibiotics on the microbiome
Probiotic supplementation on microbiome
Effect of probiotics on the microbiome
Peadiatrics probiotics and the microbiome


Down syndrome online life

Much of the connection and communication in the Down syndrome community happens online. This in my view is both a blessing and at times a burden.

The benefits are abundant, the opportunity to ask questions, be informed, form bonds with other parents, share photos, video’s, arrange catch up’s and receive support when life throws up curly situations. I’m extremely grateful for this strong and inspiring community and look forward to a time when my son can become an active part of it.

Like everything in life, there is of course a shadow side to online life, the main one being, in my opinion, the sheer volume of information about Down syndrome on social media. This plethora of opinion, experience and advice, however well meaning, has the potential to inspire and motivate but also make you feel overwhelmed, confused and worried.

We have to have a strong sense of self and balance in our own lives, in order to sift through the mass of information and opinion that is the Down syndrome community. Like every large community group, it’s fractured and largely self-policing. If your opinions sit outside any majority, you may not feel comfortable to express your thoughts or ask questions. If you find yourself in this situation, my advice would be to consider finding groups and individuals that are more aligned with your philosophies.

The other challenge of online life are families and individuals who appear to really have their fingers on the pulse, they seem to be juggling life with Down syndrome well and have all the balls in the air. If I’m in a positive place, then I can feel really inspired to hear about the latest therapy, recipe or supplement, however when I’m under the pump and the balls are all over the floor, I can start to feel panicky. When this happens I tend to switch off from it all and try to remember that I’m doing my very best, as we all are, and that everyone has their own challenges to overcome.

When it comes to information about natural therapies and remedies for our children, the information online is positively deafening. Some parents are able to throw themselves into research and thrive doing so, they are an extremely formidable and empowered group of individuals, to whom I am very grateful. I remember when I started to research in online groups and it felt like I was thrown on to a motorway. The rapid pace of information passing me by was scary for this new mum and I had to back off until I was ready.

This experience was one of the main reasons I started this project, as I wanted a more user friendly, static approach to learning, something that online groups simply can’t offer. I’m acutely aware however, a year into the development of this foundation, that I’m only adding to the online noise, sorry, which is partly why my articles and posts are few and far between!

We are a unique online group, strangers who share a deep and meaningful bond through our children. Outside of this online bubble of Down syndrome connection, we have completely individual lives, live in different cities, have our own way of parenting, preference for health care, spirituality, passions, tastes and views on Down syndrome and what it means to us and our families.

I’m not quite sure what the purpose of this article is, except to say, don’t lose sight of that unique life, don’t let it be buried under online information and opinion. The challenge is to know how to cherry pick what’s right for you and integrate into your world whilst letting the rest slide. You are always free to decide how you navigate this journey, it has to be uniquely yours. It does take time to sift through the information available and discard what doesn’t feel right, so be gentle with yourself about that.

When you’re in a minority group, it’s natural to yearn for belonging and approval. We all want to feel like we are included, on the right path and doing everything we can to help our children thrive. The Down syndrome community offers a great beacon of belonging for parents, however you may still find that your thoughts and choices sit left of centre and don’t fit with the mainstream. If this is the case for you, then I feel it’s important that you listen to that, honour it and pursue it with a great sense of relief and confidence.

I of course have my own views on healthcare and what Down syndrome means to me, thoughts and feelings that have taken shape after navigating my way through available information and options. I’ve settled on a path that is working for us as a family and feels right for now.

I also have some very personal views on health and wellbeing for children with Down syndrome, as I’m sure you do too, thoughts that I share with only a few people in my life. One day these opinions may reach the broader community, however for now, it feels safer to nurture and protect them in my own heart and mind, for fear of being judged.

We are all unique, the path rarely runs in a straight line and there’s never one way that fits the majority. This truth is both frustrating and a divine blessing in equal measure.

Helen Goodwin


Improving your child’s appetite

Does your child have a poor appetite? If the answer is yes, then you are not alone. This problem appears to be rife in the Down syndrome community and obviously causes parents and children a great deal of stress. We know that providing a nutritious diet is the best option but what if our children just aren’t interested in eating?

Children can be fussy eaters and appetites do wax and wane, but food refusal and fussiness is often put down to behavior or stubbornness, which may not necessarily be the case. Viewing food challenges through this lens only can have a detrimental effect in the long run, if underlying issues aren’t addressed.

Appetite is a reflection of our overall health and when it’s poor, indicates that something is out of balance and needs addressing. This article will shine a light on the most common physical reasons for poor appetite and ways in which you can tackle them.

If your child has a high sugar diet, it’s quite likely that they also have a low tolerance for other foods. A high sugar diet doesn’t necessarily mean one that is filled with cakes, biscuits and sweets. Commercial breakfast cereals, yoghurt, milk, sauces, dips, bread and fruit juice often contain very high amounts.

Food stimulates receptor sites in the digestive system which then triggers appetite, desire and reward for food. Sugar stimulates this response almost immediately, which can become extremely satisfying and addictive. So much so, that scientific studies have shown that when given the choice, rats would choose sugar over cocaine.

It’s not easy to wean a child of sugar but it is possible. The first step is to take a look at the foods you are currently providing and if you feel that sugar levels are too high, start to slowly reduce the daily amount.

Include recipes with sweet vegetables such as pumpkin and sweet potato, add fruit puree to plain yogurt for example and look out for recipes that can replace firm favourites, so you can control the amount of sugar that goes into the food.

I wouldn’t recommend going cold turkey, as your child will go into withdrawal and you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. You may like to pick up one of Sarah Wilson’s “I Quit Sugar” cookbooks for assistance, most of which can be found in your local library.

I’ve heard numerous cases of children who were fussy eaters until their mineral status was improved. Zinc, magnesium and iron deficiency are all linked to poor appetite. In fact I had a call this morning from a mum to say her young daughter’s appetite has dramatically improved since the introduction of zinc supplementation.

Children with Down syndrome and autism often appear to have low levels of these minerals, so arranging for a blood test and supplementing if necessary is a very worthwhile endeavor, not just for the potential appetite improvement but for overall health and well-being.

Do you feel hungry when your stressed or busy? I know I don’t. Many of us hold tension in the gut which really kills the appetite, inhibits the flow of gastric juice and slows down peristalsis. If your child is highly sensitive and of a nervous disposition, then this may certainly be playing a part in their food challenges.

When we are in fight or flight mode it’s not possible to rest and digest. The last thing on our mind is food, we only want quick fuel in order to survive. The adrenal glands produce cortisol, adrenaline and glucose to feed the brain quickly when were in stress mode, what children crave in these moments is sugar, it’s a physiological response that feels like a survival strategy.

Children with Down syndrome and autism can be highly sensitive. with nervous systems that struggle to keep up with and process sensory input. If your child fits this picture, you can start to understand why even colourful or textured foods could tip the sensory input into overload. It’s quite simply a self preservation strategy.

We can assist our children by allowing time to relax before meals, reduce other sensory input like loud music or the television and simple strategies like laying the table and placing a relaxing candle in the middle. There are many other ways to address sensory overwhelm and stress in our children, a huge topic that will have to wait for another day and another article.

If your child has digestive problems such as IBS, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea, it’s likely that underlying issues such as candida, parasites or unbalanced gut bacteria, will be contributing to poor appetite. I know that for many of you, your child has or is experiencing gut issues such as these, which seem difficult to treat with both conventional or natural medicines such as herbs and probiotics.

Stool analysis
The very best way to really get to grips with what’s going on in your child’s gut is to have a comprehensive stool analysis. This is not a cheap treatment however is one of the most worthwhile investment’s you can make towards your child’s health.

Stool tests determine the levels of beneficial, as well as harmful microbial levels in the gut. A GP can order a test that looks for parasites, however for a more comprehensive look at the factors contributing to gut problems, you would need the expertise of a Naturopath or Integrative Doctor. 

These natural health practitioners can arrange a test for you, analyse the results and provide a treatment plan for your child. Make sure before booking an appointment that the practitioner is specifically trained in how to interpret results, as I’ve heard of parents who’ve been left high and dry with results and poor interpretation.

Low levels of hydrochloric acid
Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is produced in the stomach and assists in the breakdown of foods, especially proteins, it is also necessary for the absorption of important nutrients such as B12 and zinc and also helps maintain healthy pH levels in the stomach.

It appears that children with Down syndrome can have low levels of HCL due to gene over-expression, which causes issues with digestion and the production of a hormone called motilin, which helps control the contraction of the intestines (peristalsis). Both motilin and peristalsis are involved with the signalling of appetite.

It is possible to order a test that determines HCL levels, however, if your child suffers with indigestion, bloating or reflux after eating protein, this can be a strong indicator that levels are low. Ironically the mainstream medical approach is often to prescribe acid blockers, which can only make the condition worse.

If you are open to supplementation, there’s a possibility that this issue can be overcome by introducing a specialist multi-nutrient formula to address the underlying genetic over-expression, which is at the root of this particular problem.

The other options are to include sauerkraut juice, or digestive enzymes with each protein meal, or 1/2 tsp of diluted apple cider vinegar 10 minutes beforehand (this amount would suit a 4-5 year old, less if younger). It is possible to purchase betaine HCL supplements, however I feel that this would only be appropriate in extreme cases, with diagnosis and treatment overseen by a healthcare professional.

Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzyme supplements replicate what the body should be doing, which is producing enzymes to break down proteins, fats, carbohydrates and associated nutrients, they also assist with stimulating hydrochloric acid and pepsin production in the stomach.

Supplementing your child with enzymes will certainly assist in taking the pressure of the stomach and small intestine and can be a great treatment option for helping to alleviate constipation, food allergy, bloating and nausea, which result from poorly digested food.

There are many brands of digestive enzymes available, you may wish to check out the following, Tri-Enza, Vital-Zymes, DigestEnz, Enzymedica or Nutrivene digestive enzymes.

Herbal Remedies
Where digestive enzymes take over the bodies role by supplementing, herbs actually stimulate the body into producing digestive enzymes an juices, therefore improving overall digestive function.

There are many herbal options that are safe and effective for children, Iberogast being one of the most well known. This formula is recommended by naturopathic practitioners for a variety of digestive issues. It’s suitable for babies and children.

Iberogast is available in most health foods shops and even pharmacies. This formula does contain Milk Thistle which is contraindicated in Down syndrome due to it’s sulfur content, the amount found in this product is however minimal and therefore in my opinion still makes the product suitable.

If your child is 12 years old or over then Swedish Bitters, which are also freely available, provide exceptional digestive support and appetite stimulation.

If you are looking for an effective home remedy, then loose leaf peppermint and crushed fennel seed tea is a great digestive stimulant and it tastes good too. Ginger is another excellent digestive tonic. Organic liquid ginger drops can be purchased freely online or in health foods shops and may be mixed with honey to improve the flavour for children. You can of course make a tea using fresh ginger and hot water.


A child who struggles to eat, can be a very stressful experience for a parent, especially if you’re cooking great meals that are being neglected or worse thrown on the floor.

It’s worth considering that your child’s lack of food co-operation may be due to lack of appetite or other factors mentioned. This article provides lot’s of ideas to get you started with improving digestion and appetite, which will hopefully bring positive results. It may seem very overwhelming, so I suggest taking things step by step in the following order.

1. Take an honest look at sugar consumption
2. Check for nutrient deficiencies
3. Consider sensory issues and stress levels
4. Support the gut

If nothing is changing and you’re worried about it, then it’s important that you find someone who can listen to your concerns, if you believe that your child’s food aversion is more than more than just fussiness, and look at some of the possible underlying causes mentioned above and start a treatment plan.
Helen Goodwin

Motilin and MMC in SIBO and hunger signaling.
ACV and increased mineral absorption
Iberogast herbal drug treatment for GIT disorders
Sugar addiction and behaviour
Sugar and opiod addiction
Zinc as an appetite simulator
Zinc deficiency can cause lack of appetite
Magnesium and loss of appetite
Appetite in children with iron deficiency

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Natural treatments for blocked and runny noses

A common problem for kids with Down syndrome is excessive congestion in the nose and throat. Many children suffer with runny noses of course, however children with Down syndrome are particularly affected due to smaller than average air passages and often flatter nasal bridges.

Having clear airways is beneficial to your child’s health, as it encourages nose rather than mouth breathing, contributes to a well oxygenated brain and a good night sleep for all! Constant congestion is not only uncomfortable for a child but it means that these benefits are compromised, and the likelihood of infection is increased.

Mucus is secreted by goblet cells, which are found in the lining of the intestinal and respiratory tract, they are also found in the conjunctive in the upper eyelid.

Mucus is made up of water, salt, antibacterial enzymes and proteins called antibodies that help trap and destroy germs, bacteria, viruses, allergens and particles of dirt. It is naturally and constantly produced, as a way of protecting mucus membranes.

The yellow and green colour of mucus indicated that this job is underway, as the proteins change colour once they die with the pathogen. The idea is that this contaminated mucus is then either blown out of the nose or swallowed, something that is difficult for small children and impossible for babies.

In small amounts as you can see, mucus can be very beneficial, however once it starts to build up or get thick and the body can’t eliminate it, then problems can arise. The goal is to keep mucus loose and running, so that the body can clear it and treat any associated infection.


  • Inflammation
  • Bacterial of viral infection
  • Air born pollutants
  • A dry environment (excessive heat or air conditioning)
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Structural differences that create a cramped environment in the head region

Although excess mucus production can come from allergies, household chemicals, pollution, or bacteria and viruses, a major cause of mucus production is from the diet.

Whether you are tackling excessive mucus due to infection, or more chronic congestion, the first thing you can do is stop feeding your child foods that create inflammation, as inflammation will cause the body to secrete more mucus. The most common culprits include gluten, soy, sugar and dairy products.

Foods that help to reduce inflammation and congestion include the following:

Plenty of cooked vegetables especially leafy greens
Pineapple juice
Fresh lemon and lime
Bone stock
Onions and garlic
Fresh turmeric
Fresh or ground ginger (not if the mucus is green or yellow)
Ghee if tolerated

I’m aware that for some of you reading this, the idea of shifting your child’s diet like this may seem extremely hard, so if that’s the case for you, don’t worry, just start by removing dairy, sugar, soy and gluten. Here’s a simple chicken and turmeric soup for you to try, that includes many of the beneficial ingredients previously mentioned.

Increasing fluid intake will help thin sections, which makes it easier to cough or blow mucus out of the lungs and nose, so make sure your child is well hydrated with pure water or herbal teas.

If you’re breastfeeding removing these foods from your own diet will help your baby deal with the excessive mucus. If you are giving your baby cow’s milk formula, you may want to look at switching to organic goats milk formula, as it seems to be better tolerated and less mucus forming.

Many parents head straight to saline sprays when their children have blocked noses. If your child will tolerate such a procedure, then doing so a few times a day only, can really help to lubricate and break down the mucus.

You can purchase saline sprays from pharmacies, alternatively you could try this activated nasal mist that incorporates xylitol and essential oils to help with infection and the thinning of mucus. If your child can and will breathe through a warm wet face cloth, this is another great way to decongest the nasal passages.

If you are breastfeeding, then a few drops of milk up your child’s nose, or in a gooey eye or ear can produce great results.

If you were considering a device to suck the mucus out of the nose once it becomes loose, you may want to think about a few things such as hygiene, safety and the possibility of drying out the membranes, which will only cause more mucus to be produced. One of the safest and most hygienic devices available is the Nose Frida.

Massage is not recommended during times of illness, however once infection has passed, or for general congestion, it can really help to loosen and circulate residual mucus. If your child will let you near their face, some gentle pressure point massage may help to circulate congestion and release pressure and fluid. You can also gently clap your child’s back with a cupped hand over the chest and lungs to help shake the mucus, which allows the lungs to cough it up more easily.

You can try elevating the mattress to help with drainage at night and use a humidifier in the room to help keep secretions loose during the night.  Keeping the room at a steady temperature can also help, as cool air can dry out the nasal passages which stimulate mucus production.

There are many brands of essential oils on the market and equally as many points of view regarding their safety. I recommend the “Kids Safe”  blends from Plant therapy. Synergy blends such as sniffle stopper and immune boom, have been designed specifically for children and are both safe and affordable. You can diffuse the oils, or put them on the soles of the feet, with a little coconut oil as a barrier.

If the cause of excessive mucus is an infection, then herbs such as Echinacea and elderberry, which are safe for infants, are beneficial remedies that help to strengthen and stimulate the immune response, by interacting with various cells of the immune system. Echinacea should not be used long term.

A very popular and effective herbal blend is “De Stuff” from Kiwi Herbs, alcohol free and made for children. De-stuff is made from certified organic elderflower (elderberry), ribwort and echinacea root, this formula can be used for infants and children 0-12 years old and may help to relieve catarrh and congestion in the upper respiratory tract.

Vitamin C significantly alleviated the severity and duration of colds and helps deal with the oxidative stress that is increased during times of infection. Zinc should also be considered as part of any natural health first aid cabinet. Both of these supplements are beneficial in times of illness to assist in boosting immunity and reducing the duration of infection.

The connection between the gut and the respiratory system has been understood by natural therapist for centuries and there is accumulating evidence that supports the use of probiotics as a treatment and preventive measure against respiratory tract infections.

Immunity starts in the gut and ideally a comprehensive stool analysis should be done in order for the correct strains of beneficial bacteria to be selected, this is especially beneficial if the congestion is ongoing even when your child isn’t sick.

During times of illness, you may find the addition of the following product beneficial in terms of boosting immunity and gut function.

For infants the broad spectrum dairy free“baby biotic” from Bioceuticals contains strains of bacteria commonly found in breast milk and is a popular and effective choice of probiotic. You can dampen the powder with water before pasting it on to your nipple, or bottle teat before feeding, or insert it into your child’s cheek or bottom lip before feeding.

For older children Ultra Flora Immune Enhance by metagenics is another good choice. You can give the probiotic last thing at night on a spoon, which will help to coat the back of the throat and reach the nasal passages more easily.

If you have had to give your child antibiotics to overcome infection, then you can follow up with a course of probiotics to help re-establish the beneficial bacteria in the gut that the antibiotics would have destroyed.

Chiropractors and osteopaths offer treatment that can safely assist in the drainage of congestion and fluid from the Eustachian tubes, and sinuses. A lesser known modality is craniosacral therapy, which works towards moving the fluids around the body, so is therefore another valuable treatment option when congestion is a problem.

If your child is suffering with congestion, even when they aren’t sick, it’s worth investigating the following causes with the assistance and guidance of your health professional.

  • Poor gut health
  • Food intolerance
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • Excessive production of interleukin 10, which is over expressed in Down syndrome. (down regulated by the supplement curcumin)
  • Swallowing difficulties that cause aspiration and associated fluid in the ears and bronchial
  • Reflux which can cause an increase of mucus in the throat

As we have discovered, mucus is a natural and beneficial substance that assists in protecting the body from pathogens and disease. When it starts to be produced in excessive amounts however, it can prove problematic as a child’s breathing and oxygen intake becomes compromised, as does sleep and the chances of infection increases.

Congestion often occurs as a direct response to bacterial or viral infection as a way of helping to destroy and remove them from the body. There are however many other reasons for ongoing congestion problems, such as food intolerance, poor gut health and environmental pollutants.

Children with Down syndrome are more vulnerable to congestion due to the smaller airways and compromised immune and gut function, which is why we see so much for it in our community.

Finding some strategies that work for you and your child during acute episodes, will help to keep congestion in check. Addressing some of the possible underlying causes will provide more long term relief and overall health benefits.

It’s important to always have your child’s ears, nose, throat and chest looked at by a professional when excessive mucus or illness strikes, as It’s not always obvious where the congestion is settling, or how severe it has become. Not treating problematic congestion can lead to complications with breathing, so it’s important to seek medical attention.

Helen Goodwin

Role of mucus layers in gut infection and inflammation
Antibiotics and probiotics
Chiropractic research and the immune system
chinacea and immune system modulation
chinacea and the modulation of immune function
Impact of probiotics on respiratory infections
itamin C promotes maturation of T cells
itamin C and infections



Oliver's eyes

Why the world needs people with Down syndrome

My neighbour rang me yesterday, to ask if I would sign for some medical oxygen she was having delivered for her home birth. Sure I said, no problem.  Little did I know that the encounter with the “gas man” was going to be an experience of connection and transformation for both.

Our conversation started off casually at first, glorious weather, going anywhere for Easter, the usual type of thing and shortly after that it spiralled into a deep and meaningful about Down syndrome, which was totally unexpected and at times quite confronting.

I feel completely in my comfort zone chatting to friends in the Down syndrome community about all the complex issues that confront us as parents, the genetic tests, health issues and care, discrimination, opinions, misrepresentation and education. Nothing is off limits and we’re all helping each other to find our way, whilst we decide upon our own views on these matters.

When it comes to sharing these views out into the world however, I generally get a bit tongue tied. This is partly due to a lack of practise and also not really feeling 100% sure or confident with my own personal perspectives.

The conversation with the gas man moved on to topics such as my sons health, did he have a heart problem, then the uncomfortable generalisations, the “they” blah blah blah’s, you know the drill. I was a bit sweaty at this point and my heart was racing slightly. I then took things to the next level, genetic testing, the potential for eradication of individuals with Down syndrome, ethical concerns about that, what do I say to my son, did you know that people with Down syndrome are largely medically neglected, a situation known as medical overshadowing.  The heart was racing faster now but this is where the conversation wanted to go.

This man, a stranger in my home, sat calmly taking it all in, he wasn’t shocked, he wasn’t alarmed, why would he be, this is not something personal to his life, or so he thought.  He replied with the comment that we shouldn’t judge people who terminate a pregnancy, even at full term, it’s a huge responsibility to take on the care of a child with Down syndrome, or any other disability. He went on to say that these kids are not going to develop in the same way as normal kids, they will need much more support from the parents, will not necessarily move out into the world when they are in their twenties and are basically a shackle around the necks and ankles of the people who care for them.

I cannot argue with some of these points, the truth is that caring for a child with a disability is hard work,  for some, incredibly hard work, as serious health and mobility issues are at hand. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t even be sitting there having this difficult conversation if my child were “normal”, I would most likely be sitting in the Autumn sun sipping chardonnay. I certainly wouldn’t have to defend the very existence of my child and all the other T21 children that I have come to know and love.

Here was the crux of it all for me, the very nub of conflict in my heart about Down syndrome and children with disabilities. It’s not necessarily about the child and their suffering, although that’s what the medical profession will tell us, after all, who can truly determine that before or even after birth? It’s just as much if not more about the perceived and sometimes genuine suffering of the parents.

The counter argument to this situation in our community is to educate, to inform people that it’s not so bad, that our kids are amazing, that medical care and outcomes have never been better, whilst quietly glossing over the health issues, struggles with funding, discrimination and stress.

I have found it exhausting living this way, flip flopping between the two sides of the same coin, in order for my brain to make some sense of mine and my son’s place in this mainstream world. Neither of these sides have felt authentic, I’ve been looking for my middle path.

I have, like many of you I’m sure, wondered about the meaning of Down syndrome in my life. I’m not talking about the biochemistry, the supplements, appointments, therapies and all that I’ve just mentioned, I mean what lies underneath all of that, the soul that resides in the body and the biochemistry.

I’ve contemplated why we are are so passionate about celebrating our kids and why their lives and those of their unborn sisters and brothers matters so much. I’ve wrestled with it all until yesterday’s conversation helped me unpack it, lay it bare and see for myself the faults in my thinking.

After all these topics were discussed, I got to the heart and soul of it all, the sweet spot that is going to sustain me for life. I started talking about diversity in our world, how you can’t see an advert on TV, or an article in a magazine that isn’t showcasing the necessity to accept and love each other.

You cannot fault the sentiment but we, as a human race, need to do more than just pay these sentiments lip service with a clever quote and a sassy jingle. We have to actually do something about the division that exists, not just read about it.

I believe becoming a parent to a child with Down syndrome is one way an individual can break down the fake walls and beliefs that keep us divided, and that the experience can provide personal transformation, if we choose to change ourselves rather than our children.

This can be incredibly hard to do, as it requires us to strip away the beliefs we’ve been accumulating since birth, the ones which have locked us in to a paradigm of needing to be perfect and normal in order to be valued, accepted and safe.

It’s only when we look beyond the paradigm that we can begin to see the soul qualities of people with Down syndrome. The genuine authenticity, the way they are lead by their souls and hearts more than their heads and how transparent these qualities are, because they’re not buried underneath layers of conditioning.

We need to be inspired and learn from the qualities of gentleness, love, joy and courage that people with Down syndrome bring in to to the world and more than ever and we need to be around their free spirits, open hearts and honesty.

“We really need and want a world that is free and wild in it’s diversity and acceptance of that, if we are ever going to find the happiness we seek.”

We really need and want a world that is free and wild in it’s diversity and acceptance of that, if we are ever going to find the happiness that we seek. People with Down syndrome can help us to discover these things by opening our hearts, stretching our capacities, and developing our patience and courage.

We need people with Down syndrome in our schools, our homes, our communities and our workplaces, to show others how to live authentically, without shame and self-hatred.  We need them to help us challenge the value we put on health, wealth and intellectual and physical perfection, and instead privilege how we love and care for each other and how free and far we will allow our souls to fly.

You may think I’m painting a simplistic and utopian view and a stereotypical perspective of people with Down syndrome and that’s ok, I get that and you may be right but I know there is something about our kids that is unique and yes, special. I know they have unseen gifts that only a parent can feel and see. It’s beyond the clumsiness of my words to describe, because what we feel when we are trying to communicate about our children is indescribable.

This road isn’t always easy, it’s frustrating, lonely, back breaking and overwhelming sometimes and for some of you sheer hell. I don’t want to diminish or ignore these realities, however by putting them into the context of a quiet revolution of soul, it certainly helps me to stay connected to the bigger picture and the small part that I am willing to play.

We need more parents like you who say yes to the children they’ve been given, to the souls that have been entrusted into their care and for a mission that whilst initially unknown, will reveal itself once the dust settles.

The gas man left an hour after he had arrived, we were both changed somehow, who knows what he will do or say with his new found awareness. I’m writing to you, sharing my experience and views, sending another fine thread out into the web, in the hope that it touches someone and perhaps uncover another layer of the mystery and wonder that we call Down syndrome.

Helen Goodwin


Specialist multi-nutrient formulas and TNI for Trisomy 21

Talking about vitamins and minerals shouldn’t really have to come with a trigger warning but when it comes to specialised multi-nutrient formulas and TNI for the Down syndrome community, I feel that such a statement may be warranted.

You see, once you start to explain the rationale behind the creation of these formulations, you simply have to acknowledge the presence and potential effect that the additional 21st chromosome may have on your child’s biochemistry. The initial impact of that knowing can be confronting, as you start to peel the diagnosis away from the person and view it under a separate lens.

Multi-nutrient formulas and TNI are not a cure for Down syndrome and not meant as a substitute for medical interventions or a healthy diet. These products are designed as health solutions that attempt to re-balance biochemistry, slow degeneration of neurons and improve general health and immune function. They do this through the use of nutritional supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, phytochemicals and nutraceuticals.

I’ve spent quite some time on Down syndrome related forums and looking at Down syndrome organisational websites from around the world, to see what the general consensus is on these products.

The comments appear to overwhelmingly dismiss any beneficial effects, with many accusations that the manufacturers are preying on people’s vulnerabilities and making over inflated statements about their benefits.

The lack of concrete evidence to show efficacy are considered the major stumbling blocks to their acceptance, along with views that people with Down syndrome do not have specific nutrient deficiencies that need addressing, and concerns over interfering with biochemistry. Many suggest that these products will offer no more or less than a standard over the counter multivitamin formulation.

Whether you decide to give your child these products or not, I feel it’s worth exploring the rationale behind specialist formulas, in order to give a more balanced perspective.

Nutrition related therapies for Down syndrome have existed since the 1940’s, when one of the earlier pioneers in the field, Dr Henry Turkel, claimed that a mixture of forty-eight different ingredients, called the U-series, improved the health and cognition of children with Down syndrome.

Since Turkel’s U-series, a great deal of research has been published about Down syndrome, nutritional therapy and more recently nutrigenomics. As a result modern formulations such as Nutrichem’s MSB Methyl-Plus have become extremely sophisticated and specific, with ingredients no longer there to simply meet the perceived nutritional needs of children and adults with Down syndrome, but synergistically designed to target biochemical imbalances, caused by the presence of the additional chromosome 21.

The phrase TNI, which stands for Targeted Nutritional Intervention, was coined by W. James Croom, Phd., NCSU, aresearch scientist and member of Trisomy 21 Research Foundations, SAC. the term refers to a supplement protocol developed by biochemist Dixie Lawrence. Nutrivene is the core product of the TNI protocol, it’s a multi-nutrient formula for Down syndrome, which has been designed to target and manipulate the gene over-expression that is involved with the 21st chromosome, not necessarily nutrient deficiencies like the original U-series and subsequent formulations.

TNI is designed to target and manipulate gene over-expression involved with the 21st chromosome, not as a method of addressing nutrient deficiencies. 

Understanding the difference is crucial if you are to understand the rationale behind a TNI product. We are talking about a completely different reason for supplementing, which has little to do with whether a child is deficient in any particular nutrient and everything to do with trying to tame the over-expression of genetic material.

As we know individuals with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, which means that genes encoded on to these chromosomes (around 500) may be expressing up to 40-50% more than those with only two chromosomes. Biochemical reactions that are directed by the genes, may therefore be happening in triplicate instead of duplicate.

Some of the genes encoded on to the 21st chromosome are as follows.

MicroRNA 155
Micro RNA-125b

Let’s take a closer look at SOD1, one of the more well-known genes encoded on to these 21st chromosomes. SOD1, or superoxide dismutase, is a major enzyme in the body, which helps to break down potentially harmful oxygen molecules (free radicals) into water, and is one of the bodies’ most powerful natural antioxidants.

SOD1 production is determined by the 21st chromosome, which means that it’s produced at approximately 150% instead of 100%. This doesn’t necessarily sound like a problem, until you look a little deeper. SOD1 works by firstly converting free radicals into hydrogen peroxide, a substance which is damaging to cell membranes and their nucleus.

Ordinarily hydrogen peroxide is safely converted to water by combining with glutathione and catalayse. The problem is neither of which are produced at 150%, as they are coded on to the 20th chromosome, therefore there is not enough to meet the production of SOD1, which leads to problems.

Free floating SOD1 can create an excess of hydrogen, which converts into hydroxyl free radicals, the most reactive free radicals in the body, damaging DNA, cell membranes and mitochondria. This may lead to faster ageing, decreased cognition, decreased growth and an increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

A specialist multi-nutrient or TNI formula, will contain higher than average levels of vitamins A, C and E in an attempt to combat high amounts of SOD1, plus selenium and vitamin D to boost glutathione stores.

In a similar way, other nutrients are included in the formulations, to suppress or counter the effects of other genes that are over-expressing.

Can nutrients really effect genes? The answer appears to be yes. Nutrigenomics is a science which demonstrates that nutrition has an effect on our genes. This research is emerging and widespread, it demonstrates how we might treat and prevent disease with nutrients, rather than pharmaceuticals.

In 2014 Randy L. Jirtle won the Linus Pauling award for his research into epigenetics (the way genes express themselves). The results of his research proved that gene expression is indeed influenced by nutrition, meaning we can control how our genes express themselves to improve our health.

This was ground-breaking news for many people who have previously believed that their health was dictated by genetic heritage, and an especially exciting discovery for people with Down syndrome, whose genes are so influenced by the addition of the third chromosome.

Science is now showing us, not only the genes affected by the presence of the extra chromosome 21, but pointing us towards specific nutrients required to manipulate them.

It could therefore be said that TNI formulations are nutrigenomic in nature, meaning they provide nutrients for the biochemical process in the body, as well as effecting genetic material. These products are cutting edge in their approach to healthcare, not widely understood, and aim to address the underlying and core issues associated with Down syndrome.

Many parents, peak bodies and professionals will not support any form of supplementation without randomised controlled trials to support efficacy.

This opposition focuses on the lack of evidence, as judged by biomedical science criteria. It has been estimated that 20-50% of mainstream medical care has not been evaluated using the same criteria of randomised controlled trials, however they rarely come under the same level as scrutiny.

There are other forms of research, that the Oxford Centre for evidence based medicine considers scientifically valid. These include individual case control studies, case series, individual cohort studies and outcomes research.

It must also be said, that there is a great deal of evidence based research, on individual nutrients that are contained in the multivitamin formulas, many of these studies have been done within the Down syndrome community.

A survey conducted by German doctor Gelb estimated that 15% of children with Down syndrome are being supplemented by their parents without supervision or approval from their attending physician.

Dr Gelb compared a group who were supplementing with Nutrivene, with a control group of 80 children. Laboratory findings showed a reduction in cholesterol, higher HDL (high density lipoproteins) and higher levels of selenium, vitamin A and E.

In 1997 Dr. Lawrence Leichtman, a clinical geneticist and paediatrician reported on the health of 113 patients with Down syndrome, ranging in age from one month to 12 years of age, who were being supplemented with a TNI multivitamin, his finding were as follows:

1. An increase in growth ranking of the TNI patients from the 5” to the 19” percentile.
2. A significant reduction in the susceptibility to infections, including upper respiratory and ear infections.
3. Seriology data demonstrating increased IgA levels and increased number of leukocytes.
4. Decreased gastroenteritis, including repeat incidents or prolonged incidents
5. Significant developmental neurological improvements regarding language, motor skills and cognitive perception.

Nutrivene is based on about 4,000 clinical profiles of children with Down syndrome, including blood and urine analysis. Not every child of course will fit the average established by this research, they do not take in to consideration how well each child is regulating gene expression or other factors such as an individual’s diet, gut and overall health.

A carefully designed double blind study would be ideal to clarify the efficacy of these multi-nutrient formulas and assist parents and professionals to make a more confident choice. However, it’s unlikely that such trials will take place, as they are complicated, expensive to undertake and some believe would raise questions of an ethical nature. It’s been commented upon that no drug company would run such a study, as the treatment could not be patented.

Although from my observations, many parents report positive things when they start their children on specific Down syndrome multi-vitamins, such as improved immunity, thyroid function, cognition and speech, there are parents who say that their children have quite strong negative reactions to the supplementation, in the form of upset tummies, irritated mood and even a regression in health and cognition. There are of course parents who have seen no marked changes in their children and some who have seen huge improvement once they remove the product.

There are several reasons that may explain why some children react badly, the first being that they may have an intolerance to one or more of the ingredients, too much product was given too soon, or the child may have some underlying gut or methylation issues, which are being stirred up by the nutrients in the formulations.

If gut issues such as candida, un-diagnosed coeliac disease or lactose intolerance are present, then it’s quite possible that the nutrients from the formulas will not be absorbed into the system very well and even contribute to the “feeding” of unhealthy gut bacteria, rendering the product ineffective, or in some cases exacerbating existing health issues.

These specialist formulas do not take into account your child’s unique biochemistry and health challenges; they are formulated to meet the average, so they may not be suited to your child. If an ingredient it not required then there’s a small risk that toxicity may result, particularly with B vitamins and vitamin A.

Some companies can offer a tailored blend based on blood test results, alternatively it is possible to create a specific formulation through a compounding chemist and careful selection of individual supplements. This approach however requires specialist assistance and a variety of tests to determine your child’s specific nutritional needs, which can be an expensive process.

The other down side to these formulations is the cost, which may be prohibitive for some, especially when we think about the number of years we may intend to supplement for. Compliance is another challenge as these formulations have a strong taste and many children will refuse to consume them, no matter how they are disguised.

If you start your child on a specialist formula and symptoms such as the ones mentioned occur, it’s important that you contact the company you bought your product from, as they can assist and support you with dosage, possibly a custom formula more suitable for your child and advice.

If you do decide to give your child a multi-nutrient formula, it would be worth spending some time to investigate the following specialised formulations, rather than a regular over the counter multivitamin.

Regular over the counter multis are generally not suitable for children with Down syndrome for a number of reasons. It’s unlikely that they meet the same high level of manufacturing standards as the specialist formulations, and may contain unhealthful fillers, heavy metals, sugar and nutrients such as folic acid, which accumulates in people with MTHFR mutation, (something that is very common in the Down syndrome population), and cysteine and taurine, which are often already at higher levels.

If you’re interested in giving your child a supplement it’s worth spending time investigating the following multivitamins and TNI fomulas, as they vary in ingredients and dosage recommendations.

NuTriVene-D The original and some would say only real TNI pharmaceutical grade supplement, created using synthesised nutrients. It is the only product to my knowledge that has been created in an FDA certified lab, where it undergoes rigid testing, including testing for heavy metals. International Nutrition who produce this product, in conjunction with the Trisomy 21 Research Institute, also offer a night time sleep formula, digestive enzyme supplement and a polyphenol support formula, that inhibits numerous over expressed genes, as part of their complete TNI protocol. You can request a sample or a customised formula based on your child’s blood test results by contacting

MSB Methyl-Plus 4th Generation Another pharmaceutical grade supplement that may be classified as TNI or nutrigenomic. MSB is made in Canada by NutriChem. Health Canada requests that any supplement containing zinc must also contain copper which MSB does. The problem is copper levels are often high in children with Down syndrome due to low levels of zinc, which is a problem, as copper is highly toxic to the brain. All copper should ideally be from dietary sources only. You can contact NutriChem for a copper free version of MSB, at no extra cost. NutriChem also offer customized vitamin and mineral formulas, based on individual testing and offer a variety of flavours which may assist with compliance.

New Downs is a multivitamin, not a TNI formulation, it is pharmaceutical grade and claims to contain vitamins and minerals, which are more easily absorbed than other formulations. Created by a Naturopath and mother of a child with Down syndrome, this formula contains iron and copper, minerals that ideally need to be monitored via blood test, to ensure levels remain within range, as an excess can become detrimental. This formula contains lower levels of glutathione than the other formulas and cysteine, which can be high in individuals with Down syndrome, due to the over-expressed CBS gene. This products is marketed as more of a general multi-nutrient formula rather than a TNI product.

Vitaspectrum is another pharmaceutical grade multivitamin, not a TNI formulation, for children who are on the autistic spectrum. It is also used by individuals with Down syndrome, in conjunction with additional nutrients and Klaire Labs amino acid complete. You require a referral from your practitioner in order to make a purchase.

The importance of adequate micronutrient intake on physiological, immunologic, or developmental processes for all children is undisputed.

Vitamins and minerals have been consumed by the general population for decades and are widely recommended by a variety of health professionals as a way to boost health, supplement the diet and provide nutrients that are needed for the multitude of biochemical processes that occur in our bodies every single day.

We know that children with Down syndrome tend to have additional health challenges and that their biochemistry is unique and complex. Perhaps it is worth looking at vitamins and minerals as a way to support our children with these challenges.

As we’ve discovered, there are TNI supplements on the market that go beyond simply poviding a broad range of nutrients and are attempting to manipulate the very genes involved with Down syndrome, in order to prevent health challenges from occurring in the first place. How well this is achieved is not easy to clarify.

There is evidence to show that nutrients can indeed influence genetics and research that has shown the benefit of individualised nutrients to the Down syndrome community but as yet no long term well designed studies on the synergism of nutrients found in TNI formulas.

At this point in time, the only real way to determine if a TNI product is actually effecting gene over-expression, is through the monitoring of blood samples and biochemical markers. Measuring oxidative stress and nutrient status for example, before and after supplementation.

Due to the lack of concrete evidence, most practitioners and Down syndrome organisations will be reluctant to recommend these products to families and children, or indeed support them when they do, which leaves many families undertaking their own research and supplementing their children without their health care providers knowledge for fear of judgement. This situation is far from ideal and leaves parents with the decision of whether to supplement or not, which can be a confusing and difficult choice for some.

Supplements and TNI are not a cure for Down syndrome, they neither promise that, nor do they ensure that your child will never become ill. The intent behind the creation of these products, is to support the current health and development of children with Down syndrome and also act as a potential preventative medicine for the more long term challenges that the extra chromosome presents. How well they achieve this aim is very hard to confirm, however there are many parents who believe that their children are benefiting from TNI and other supplementation programmes.

We need to look at the current research available regarding genetics, nutrigenomics and Down syndrome itself, in order to put the pieces of the puzzle together, which is something that scientists and biochemists who are involved in the creation of specialist formulas for Down syndrome have been doing since the 1940’s.

Whatever you decide as a parent, it’s important to remember that supplementation in any form is not a replacement for a healthy diet, exercise, fresh air and attendance to thyroid, gut and efficient methylation, it should be part of an holistic approach to care that would ideally be overseen or at the very least supported by your health care professional.

Helen Goodwin

Levels of Scientific Evidence Oxford CEBM

High dose vitamin therapy stimulates variant enzymes with decreases coenzyme binding affinity, relevance to genetic disease and polymorphisms.

Orthomolecular medicine: the therapeutic use of dietary supplements for anti-ageing

Epigallacatechin-3-gallate, a DYRK1A inhibitor, rescues cognitive deficits in Down syndrome mouse models and in humans.

Trisomy for the Down syndrome “critical region” is necessary but not sufficient for brain phenotypes of trisomic mice.

Oxidative stress and cognitive ability in adults with Down syndrome

Down syndrome searching for the genetic culprits

Anneren G, Erdman B. Down syndrome — a gene dosage disease caused by trisomy of genes within a small segment of the long arm of chromosome 21, exemplified by the study of the effects from the superoxide-dismutase type 1 (SOD1) gene. APMIS 1993; 40 Supp:71-79.(abstract)

Bidder RT, Gray P, Newcombe RG, Evans BK, Hughes M. The effects of multivitamins and minerals on children with Down syndrome. Dev Med Child Neurol 1989; 31:532-537.

Busciglio J and Yankner BA: Apoptosis and increased generation of reactive oxygen species in Downís Syndrome neurons in vitro. Nature, 378:776-779, 1995

Ceballos-Picot I. Transgenic mice overexpressing copper/zinc superoxide dismutase: a model for the study of radical mechanisms and aging. Seances Soc Biol Fil 1993; 187:308-323.(abstract)

Chadefaux, et al: Cystathionine beta synthase: Gene dosage effect of trisomy 21. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Comm., 128:40, 1988

Chirocolo, M., et al. (1993) Enhanced DNA repair in lymphocytes of Down syndrome patients: the influence of zinc nutritional supplementation. Mutat. Res. 295: 105-111.

de Haan JB, Cristiano F, Iannello R, Blandier C, Kelner MJ, Kola I. Elevation of the ratio of CU/Zn- superoxide dismutase to glutathione peroxidase activity induces features of cellular senescence and this effect is mediated by hydrogen peroxide. Hum Mol Genet 1996; 5:283-292.

De la Torre R, De Sola S, Pons M, Duchon A, de Lagran MM, Farré M, Fitó M, Benejam B, Langohr K, Rodriguez J, Pujadas M, Bizot JC, Cuenca A, Janel N, Catuara S, Covas MI, Blehaut H, Herault Y, Delabar JM, Dierssen M. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, a DYRK1A inhibitor, rescues cognitive deficits in Down syndrome mouse models and in humans. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014 Feb;58(2):278-88.

Kaput J, Astley S, Renkema M, Ordovas J, and van Ommen B. Harnessing Nutrigenomics: Development of Web-based communication, databases, resources and tools. Genes & Nutrition Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 5-12, 2006


Sobbing on the bathroom floor

So there I was, a week and a bit before Christmas Day, lying on the bathroom floor sobbing. You may know this kind of gut wrenching sob, where your shoulders heave up and down and hot tears stream, not delicately roll, down your red and swollen face.

You need something solid underneath you when you’re falling apart and as it turns out, bathroom floors are ideal in such situations. The solidness of the ground and the coolness of the tiles on a hot face are surprisingly supportive.

I would like to blame this emotional outburst on the super moon that was high that day, perhaps it played a part but this story began a good six months before, when it was time to decide whether to send my son to school the following year, or repeat kindergarten.

I asked my sons teachers at the time and other parents and it was unanimous that we aim for mainstream prep. I found a small, community oriented school with beautiful bushland grounds, chickens, sun filled rooms, wonderful outdoor play spaces and a creative and visual orientated approach to learning. Not only that but the principal and prep teacher couldn’t have been more welcoming to my son and accommodating of my endless questions. So far so good. There were tears but more so from relief and happiness.

Once a school was found, I set about organising the necessary documents required for the funding application and this is where the story starts to turn a little sour. If you’re reading this and already have a child in school and have been through the process, you will already know what a challenging time this is as a mother, the seemingly endless assessments required, to demonstrate your child’s capacities, in order to match that with appropriate support in the school. That’s the theory anyway.

These assessments are necessary but brutal to the mind of a mother. It doesn’t matter how many people tell you they’re exaggerated or not a true reflection of your child’s abilities, the fact is they can get under your skin, tap into the part of your brain that feels afraid of your child’s disability, and what that means for them in life, and it brings to the forefront any areas of concern that you may have been tucking away for later, when you’re ready to address them.

Your child’s physical, mental, emotional and psychological health are all under the spotlight, as reports are written from allied health professionals and the kinder teacher. Words such as severe delay may and did present for us, in RED, which is challenging if you’ve never had assessments before. An independent child psychologist is also brought in to provide a gauge of how intellectually disabled your child is in various areas of cognitive development. Horrible but a necessary experience if you want your child in school.

If like me, you have spent five and half years doing your best with every aspect of your child’s health and wellbeing, attended courses, read books, spent hundreds of hours researching, trawling through online forums, at appointments, trying to find the money for specialists and equipment, going to war with your GP to get the blood tests you need, giving supplements, cooking everything from scratch and generally giving it everything you’ve got, this news is crushing.

It’s hard not to beat yourself for not doing enough, for not knowing better, for not doing things differently and it can become hard not to view your child as an endless series of problems to be fixed, rather than simply your unique amazing and capable child. I felt like I’d failed him a hundred times over.

It became very clear throughout this process that my son would need a very high level of support in the school if he had any chance of success and because the assessments were so thorough and in some cases so dire, I was assured that we would most likely get a high amount of funding, so the negativity and heartache of the process would have a positive outcome. That thought made me feel a little better.

Once all the assessments were in hand, I had a meeting with our early intervention key worker to go over the finer details, to ensure we had everything covered. We then had another meeting with the school to fill out the ENQ report with the principal and an independent psychologist, who cross checked that we had all the supporting evidence in place for a successful application. Done, or so I thought.

A few months later and were close to Christmas, my son has successfully completed his transition programme at the school, he had has his buddy and school uniform, I’d ordered the stationary, I’d also finished my initial battle with the new NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) and had the funding in place for the following years early intervention.

I’d also switched over my sons healthcare providers, got him sorted with glasses, orthotics, a neurodevelopmental programme and had my head in a great place about my son starting school with all the supports I’d put in place for the following year, and the resources that I was planning to make over the holidays. It was time to put a busy, challenging and consuming six months behind me and get my Christmas spirit on.

Then I got a phone call. The call. Luckily I was at the Doctors surgery with my son having his lungs checked, which have not been 100%, since the asthma storms the previous month. It was the school principal, she told me that she’d heard back about the funding, and the school had been given level 2, which equates to two hours a day, or playground supervision, with nothing in the classroom. She was surprised and disappointed; I was completely shocked, in disbelief and angry. If I’d been anywhere else I would have probably sworn or screamed at her down the phone, which is why I say lucky I was in a public place.

I was told that we had a window to re-apply but the window was closing in five days and if we missed it, we wouldn’t be able to try again until term two. So, after months of meetings, research about inclusive education, assessments and heartache, we were told that my son could be watched over in the playground but wasn’t eligible for help in the classroom, despite piles of paperwork clearly stating that he had a high need for assistance. It was like a slap in the face, a punch in the guts a slide down the longest snake on the board, after months of negotiating ladders. How on earth could they classify my child as being severely intellectually disabled and not provide any care in the classroom? It was illogical.

So began the longest and most stressful week of the year. Exhausted after two weeks of broken nights with my son’s coughing, having him by my side, I stood at the bottom of the mountain looked up, allowed my fury to get me started and went for it. I spent three days with a phone glued to my ear, I contacted all of my son’s allied health professionals and asked them, almost begged them to re-write a new report, focusing on the specific areas that needed more evidence.

I was told at this eleventh hour that a psychology report was required to support the issues surrounding behaviour. Why had nobody told me about this six months before? How was I going to find a psychologist in the last week of term, who would write a report based on one hour of assessment and how is that more valid than a report from a kinder teacher, who has seen him all year? I found a therapist who was willing to re-schedule some time to help, if only I could be there at 8.45am the following morning, with $640.00 in my hand. Not an option for a single parent a week before Christmas.

Did this mean my son wouldn’t be getting any more funding because I couldn’t provide a last minute psych report? Was this report absolutely necessary? Would someone please confirm this for me? I rang Down Syndrome Victoria, my Early Intervention Team, the school, nobody could clarify this for me, everyone said it was ridiculous but that didn’t help. If the system said it needed to be done, then that’s what we needed to provide, no matter how ludicrous. I kept pushing this point and eventually we found a way over the hurdle and only hope it will suffice.

Overall most people were understanding and supportive with the new reports, despite it being the last week of the school term and I shall be eternally grateful for that. I did meet with some resistance and it has cost me a fair amount of money to get the job done in time. I was given advice on what to ask people to include in reports, in order to get funding, ideas so dark and grotesque to me, that I simply cannot even write them here. Suggestions from parents who had been treading this path before me, who clearly knew the failings of the system and had worked out how to manipulate it in order to get what their children needed. I was horrified, told I was too trusting, too nice, that I needed to play the game and the whole situation began to mess with my head.

The new reports began to flood in, they were so damning, so negative, so awful I stopped reading. I just forwarded them on to the school and said if you need anything changed get back to the author. I didn’t trust anyone at this point and despite allegations that this that or the other person should be taking care of this that or the other, I wouldn’t let go of control or sink into blame. This wasn’t the time for that, this was a time to pull things together and try again.

Three days it took me, three days of my son sitting in front of a bunch of movies, or trailing around with me to appointments or to pick up reports. It’s amazing what you can achieve for your child when you need too. This should have been a joyful last week of term, the last sweet days of kinder but instead I spent it in a fight with the Department of Education, ripping my son into dysfunctional parts, in order for him to have an opportunity to partake in the myth of inclusive education.

Every morning and every night I would say to my son, you are brilliant, you’re smart, you’re funny, creative, strong, and you can do it, you can do anything you want in this life. I said it for myself as much as for him, an attempt to find light in all of this negativity, holding on to the truth of him.

Three days in and I was a broken woman, this is when I found my face on the tiles, 5 minutes after my son had been picked up by his dad. The fear, the frustration and confusion of it all took over and had to be expressed, it was a relief, a shedding of the darkness and allowed me to find that sweetness inside, the trusting, loving, gentle vulnerable and positive me again, the woman who doesn’t want to manipulate, go into battle, distrust, be greedy, needy or beg for what her child needs.

I called for an emergency appointment with the counsellor that I’ve seen for the last two years, an opportunity to vent and swear and explode with fury, a place where I’m allowed to feel all these things without being judged, suppressed, fixed or told to just get on with it, it’s just the way things are, or that you’re amazing.

After my session I felt clearer and more able to understand why this whole situation had caused so much distress. I arranged a meeting with the kinder teacher and the speech therapist and OT independently and asked them for the truth. Did they in their expert opinion truly feel that my son was capable of attending a mainstream school and if so, how much level of support would he need. The answer was still yes to mainstream but with significant support. I also asked them for all the positive aspects of my child’s development this year and were their reports exaggerated and if so by how much.

I’ve been involved with applying for school funding and NDIS for the last six months and both seem like a reasonable process, after all, you do need to identify that a need exists. However once you’re in it, you because aware that like so many areas of disability funding, these systems are inherently flawed, where parents are often pushed into manipulating it, in order to get their child’s needs met.

It’s not necessarily about a dysfunction in people, everyone I know who has been involved in this process over the last six months has had my son’s best interests at heart and are equally as frustrated. It’s a dysfunction in the system, a lack of policy guided by people who truly know what it’s like to be on the other side.

This system is designed to suppress you, to depress you, to have you running around and working hard for relative crumbs. So many people have been kept in employment this week because of this flawed system, others have the benefit of a pay check over the holidays, as a result of a small role in the “drama” but not me, it’s cost me, both financially and emotionally and that hardly seems fair.

I now have to wait until next year to find out if my child’s funding has been bumped up and if so by how much. If it’s not, or not by enough, I will have to keep applying and fighting, or make alternative plans for his education or our lives. I have contemplated dropping out of the system all together because is all of this worth it for both him and I? Would we be better off living a completely different type of existence that wasn’t ruled by a broken system, a system that cannot agree that children who have disabilities need additional support in the classroom, for their benefit and the benefit of fellow classmates and teachers?

I’ve learnt several things this week, because it’s always important to focus on the gifts right? I’ve discovered that I can be a fierce boss when I need to be, although I don’t really enjoy it. I’ve become aware of how some schools truly want to offer inclusive education to their students but have to fight for it just as much as we do and how exhausting, time consuming and resource sucking that is and I’ve been reminded that if you try to measure my brilliant, funny, creative, healthy, strong, loving, wonderful son against an ideology of normal, he will always fall short. However, if  assessments are given with care and accuracy and not simply written for the purpose of manipulation, they fulfill their intended purpose, which is assisting us in being able to offer better support to our children.

I’m not sure how I will manage to negotiate these systems in the future, as I’m not sure how to maintain my composure, my truth and integrity, whilst navigating these labyrinths with no map and no end. I do feel that a veil of naivety has been lifted this week and I’m now more alert to what I’m actually dealing with in the future, so that I guess is a blessing of sorts.

One thing I know for sure is I will not compromise who I am to play a game of legalised money laundering. I will not allow myself to stop believing in my child’s abilities, or that good prevails in all people. I will not allow myself to become bitter and angry, drained and helpless in the face of all these obstacles, or take myself away from gratefulness for too long.

What I will allow are vulnerability, sensitivity, compassion, acceptance and generosity to reign in my heart. I will endeavor to fill myself up with beauty and mindfulness, creativity, the divine, nature and precious moments with my son and my life. These are the true goals when all is said and done, to feel connected and filled with hope and love.

So now with this last sentence I will put this chapter behind me and move on, time to wrap some more presents, to revel in this most precious of seasons and count my blessings one by one before the year comes to a close.

Helen Goodwin


Empowered women informed choice

The most pressing topic within the Down syndrome community at the moment, is that of the NIPT (non invasive prenatal test) a new form of early detection screening. The advent of this new test brings with it the possibility of a future devoid of people with an additional 21st chromosome.

There are so many points of discussion surrounding this topic, from both a social, emotional and ethical perspective and as a mother of a child with Down syndrome, a certain impetus to do something to prevent this possibility, is at the forefront of my mind.

Parents of children with Down syndrome seem mostly concerned about the bias of information that is given prior to screening and after diagnosis. Research indicates that the majority of information provided, leans heavily towards the negative, with many women and families feeling pressure to terminate.

Parents are keen to address this imbalance by enlightening the medical community and prospective parents about the realities of raising a child with additional needs, something that a health professional is unlikely to have any experience with. This needs to be done respectfully and truthfully, so that an informed choice can be made by families who have a positive diagnosis.

On a personal note, I’ve thought about this topic a great deal and which perspective I would like to add to the discussion. What it really comes down to for me has very little to do with Down syndrome at all and more to do with how we interpret and process difficult events and decisions in our lives.

When something seemingly awful and devastating happens, the first thoughts are usually, why has this happened to me, I don’t want this to be happening and I want it to go away because it’s not in line with the plans I had for my life and I want to get back on track with those.

Sometimes we can get rid of the challenge quickly and move on, sometimes we can’t and we find ourselves stuck with something that feels at first to be nothing but a burden. That’s a really scary place to be, it’s the place you find yourself in when you’re given a diagnosis and I can completely understand the powerful desire to make it go away and get back to “normal”.

There is a place however that sits just next to that fear and anxiety, it’s a place of clarity and personal truth that is the gateway to new paths in life. This is where we can have a more grounded and balanced conversation within ourselves and truly start to open up to information, options and ultimately decision. It’s important for our resilience that we don’t try and take away initial discomfort before we have even tried looking at possibilities.

I think this is the pause and reflect place that parents of children with Down syndrome so desperately want prospective parents, especially mother, to allow themselves. We don’t want to “sell” Down syndrome, rather point out that once you get past that initial place of fear, you are in a much better space to self inquire and consider your options. Once you hit this spot the question moves from why me to what if?

A huge majority of families comment that their child with Down syndrome is the heart of their home, that their lives are happy, their marriages better. People with Down syndrome are more accepting of themselves and their lives than the majority of people, which for me is a relief and joy to know as a parent. In terms of opportunity, support and health care, there has never been a better time in history to be born with Down syndrome. These facts and many others should be made available to women as part of their decision making process.

We cannot allow our fears and others to influence the choices we make, if we do, we render ourselves powerless and at the mercy of life and the many curve balls it sends. We need to set the fear aside and look around, get informed, ask questions, challenge perceptions and decide what our personal truth is and what path feels right for us in those mysterious moments. What if the answer is yes to wanting the child with the extra chromosome but we never allow ourselves to sit quietly enough to know that?

It’s not the role of health professionals or individuals to have a vested interest in whether a woman chooses to terminate or not, that’s not their call to make. Their role and ours, as members of society, is to encourage and guide women into becoming well informed and emotionally willing before making such a life altering choice.

The only person who knows the truth of a woman’s heart when she’s carrying a child is her, only she knows if she has the capacity and desire to bring a baby with Down syndrome in to this world and she needs to be respected and supported whilst making that decision.

Helen Goodwin


Feeding issues and Down syndrome

Have you been offered support with regards to overcoming your child’s feeding problems, or guidance as to how best to teach them how to feed and eat properly. Are you aware how important this aspect of care is in relation to speech development?

In 2014 Down Syndrome Australia submitted a state inquiry into speech, language and communication disorders and speech pathology services in Australia. The submission stated that almost all children with Down syndrome will require therapy services for speech and communication challenges, whilst almost 40% of children will need assistance with feeding issues. Feeding issues as I define them include but are not limited to, food refusal, an inability to bite, chew and swallow foods and, or eat a wide a variety of mixed textured foods.

The inquiry goes on to say that access to adequate speech therapy is often limited for children due to cost and accessibility, with less than 15% of children receiving support for their feeding issues through government providers. It’s a big problem which is not easily or cheaply solved but a very important one to address not only from a nutritional standpoint but from a communication one too.

This article is by no means meant to replace expert advice, I’m not a speech or occupational therapist, but I do have the benefit of being a mum who has struggled with her child in the feeding department and would like to share some of my knowledge, research and personal experience.

Children with Down syndrome typically have low muscle tone which affects their fine motor and gross motor control. Problems associated with low muscle tone, include lack of jaw strength and range of motion of the facial muscles, which may lead to problems with sucking, swallowing, lip closure, tongue protrusion, chewing, and failure to advance with food textures. Other issues to consider are early problems with breast of bottle feeding, serious health challenges and gastric tube feeding.

Swallowing disorders such as silent aspiration
Pneumonia and respiratory infections due to silent aspiration
Poor speech development
Nutritional deficiencies
Food aversion
Digestive problems such as constipation, reflux and bloating

Children with feeding problems may have difficulty in co-ordinating their tongue and jaw, due to a poor interaction between the sensory and motor system’s in the body.

The sensory system is a part of the nervous system responsible for processing information in the brain and the motor system is the one that carries out instruction via movement. You may vaguely remember this from science class at school. If you put your hand in a flame the sensory system send messages via neural pathways to the brain, so it can determine what’s going on and then signal the muscles in your arm and hand, via the motor system, to move.

When children have low muscle tone, the interaction between these two systems may not be functioning in harmony with each other, which can lead to hyposensitivity and hypersensitivity to foods and subsequent difficulties with feeding.

It has been observed that children with Down syndrome tend to be hyposensitive to taste and temperature and hypersensitive to texture. Either way, the issue is the same, the brain may simply not be getting an accurate assessment from the sensory system and therefore won’t know what message, if any, needs to be conveyed to the muscles in the mouth and jaw.

This is a useful thing to know, not only because it helps develop more compassion and understanding for our children’s challenges but also because it gives us some clues when it comes to more successful feeding.

Hyposensitivity means that more information is required by the sensory system in order for messages to be sent to the brain for interpretation. Hyposensitive children who have low oral tone may have little awareness of what’s going on inside their mouths.

If your child is hyposensitive to temperature and flavour it may be worth experimenting to see if more feedback can be given. Offering a frozen raspberry for example, will give more sensory input to the brain than a fresh one and your child might eat it. Adding spices and flavour to otherwise bland foods may also be a stimulating and successful strategy.

Hypersensitivity means that individuals are overly sensitive and often experience oral defensiveness and aversions to texture, temperature and taste. In both cases speech and feeding development can be affected.

In my experience crunchier textures such as crackers and toast are easily tolerated. Perhaps these foods send enough feedback to the brain without being overwhelming, which stimulates the chewing response nicely. These foods need to be first bitten by the front teeth, so children with biting issues may have trouble with this texture.

Mixed textures such as soup with vegetable pieces are often the problem, with children often preferring either hard crunchy foods or soft pureed foods. “In-between” foods that are neither solid nor crunchy but do require the tongue to move them around the mouth and the teeth to chew, foods such as eggs, pasta, cooked whole vegetables, meat, chicken and many whole fruits can also be difficult for children who have hypersensitivity feeding issues.

As we can see, children with Down syndrome have several issues that need addressing when it comes to assisting them with their feeding issues, some may be habitual, psychological or behavioral but what we are looking at today are more the physical challenges that present due to muscle tone and nervous system challenges.

These stages may seem obvious but every one of them is an important step in the development of feeding and speech. You may find yourself stuck at one particular stage, which you can hopefully then focus on developing with the some of the information provided and if necessary expert help.

An important aspect to consider before feeding a child is that they are seated correctly, they need to be upright with a stable core and no head tilt to avoid chocking and aspiration. Some parents have even used car seats in the early stages, to ensure that their child is in the optimal position for feeding.

Stage one starts with a suckling technique developed through breast or bottle feeding, which helps strengthen the tongue and mouth, whilst developing the next stage of which is sucking.  It’s important that new mothers receive adequate support when breastfeeding, including assistance provided by a speech pathologist where necessary. Nasal gastric tubing should be a very last option when all other avenues for feeding are exhausted.

Stage two is sucking, which creates a more rhythmic up and down jaw movement than suckling, an elevation of the tip of the tongue, and a firm closure of the lips around the nipple or teat. It’s usually shortly after this stage that a baby will take a first bite.

Stage three are first foods which are usually strained and pureed and often include baby cereals. It depends on the child but this stage can be introduced as early as 4-6 months of age. It’s normal for a baby to lose a fair amount of food from their mouths during this phase, as they’re still using the same technique applied to sucking.

If your child has food all over their lips and cheeks, resist the urge to wipe it off and allow them to try and lick it off, which can assist with the development of lateral tongue movement. You can always dab something tasty at the corners of your child’s mouth or above or below their lips, to encourage them to reach out with their tongue.

When using a spoon for the first time place it sideways on, so that it touches both corners of the baby’s mouth and is resting on the lower lip. Don’t empty the spoon into your baby’s mouth and don’t pull the spoon out. Wait for the baby’s lips to close to let the mouth do the work and build up strength and skill. Immediately turn the spoon the other way (still sideways but facing the other direction). Keep alternating until the food is gone from the spoon. This technique is very important for discouraging tongue thrust and encouraging lip closure.


Stage four moves on to thicker puree’s in preparation for chewing. It’s advisable to avoid mixed textures at this point so your child doesn’t gag or choke. If your child can use a spoon or a hand to self feed, this is a great time to start.

Stage five arrives when your child has mastered the thicker purees and it’s time to move on to the new textures and flavours which can be the tricky part!

It’s at this point that you want to make sure your child has what’s called a phasic bite, which is a neurological reflex present in infants, where pressure on the gums causes a rhythmic opening and closing of the jaw. This can be checked by running your index finger along the lower gums from back to front. If the answer is no, this exercise can assist in developing this skill in readiness for chewing.

When babies put their hands and toys and everything else into their mouths, they are providing themselves with lots of oral stimulation and opportunity to develop this reflex, so it should be encouraged, especially if a child isn’t motivated to do it.

Once you see that your child has the ability to chew by demonstrating the phasic bite reflex, you can gradually make blended food less smooth by liquidizing less and adding texture such as bread or cracker crumbs.

I used a manual blender which is perfect for this stage, as you can monitor the level of texture really easily. I found that mixing textures such as puree and peas didn’t work, it just created gagging and spitting food on the floor, so I kept the texture consistent, just thicker.


You can use a small spoon and place the food in the mouth towards the back molars, as this also helps stimulate the chew reflex. Food that goes straight on to the tongue doesn’t necessarily do this and the child will tend to want to swallow instead of chew, which can result in choking or spitting the food out.

Another tip, that I found really useful, was to give my son alternating pieces of toast or a cracker with his chunky pureed food, so that his brain and mouth would get into the rhythm of chewing and lay the ground for mixed textures. I would also say “chew” every time he chewed his toast and remind him by saying “chew” every time he ate chunky food. I’m not sure how a professional would view this technique but it worked for us.

Stage six is when your child has gained confidence in chewing the chunky textures, you can move on to well mashed foods and then on to chopped foods. When we reached this stage, I found it was beneficial to start off the meal with a few spoonful’s of more pureed food, then on to the more chunky parts once he got started.

When a baby or young child starts to feed themselves, they are learning what’s called tongue retraction, meaning they pull their tongue back into their mouth which should ideally go from the middle of the mouth to the side, which then stimulates the chew reflex.

When a child puts something into the side of their mouth, then the tongue should follow in the same direction to help with the control of that food. This lateralising of the tongue from side to side is an important step in the development of speech. The following sounds are created from developing a strong tongue through this movement. SH, CH, J and R.

When a child is self-feeding, you can also look to see if they are using their front teeth for biting and their back molars when chewing, both of which are necessary for successful eating and speech development. If they are not using both sides of their mouth when biting down, you can encourage them by placing foods into their mouths from the sides as well as the front.

These are exercises and stretches for the mouth which assist in helping build strength and oral skills necessary for proper speech and feeding development, they creates awareness, co-ordination and strength for the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw would be beneficial for children with low muscle tone and poor motor function. You can find some very helpful links at the bottom of this article.

I noticed that my son wasn’t using his back molars and wasn’t happy having them brushed either. He didn’t have a toothache, so I determined that it was a sensory issue. I started to introduce the toothbrush in this area of his mouth, telling him I was giving them a tickle. I did this very slowly and gently, building up his tolerance over a number of weeks. It was after doing this that he was able to use his molars for chewing more successfully. This is an example of oral motor therapy in action.

The Nuk and Z-Vibe are stimulation devices for the mouth and tongue. The Nuk is like a spiky toothbrush and the z-vibe is, as the name suggests, a vibrational electric tool. These devices are often employed to wake up mouth muscles by rubbing them around the mouth, on the cheeks, gums and tongue. They can bring awareness to areas of the mouth that the child wasn’t previously aware of, by providing sensory input and help desensitize hypersensitive areas, so that new sensations and textures are tolerated.


The Nuk is a great tool to use with first foods instead of a spoon. You can dip it in puree and let your child suck and chew at the same time. Alternating this with the side spoon feeding previously mentioned will provide a variety of sensation for the nervous system and brain. The z-vibe can be used both outside and inside the mouth, with different attachments. I have read that overuse can reinforce poor muscle tone, so I recommend that it be used with professional guidance and intermittently. Here’s an article with some ideas for how to use the Z-Vibe.

It has been a slow process for me with my sons eating not only because of food refusal but moving him through the various stages of eating. I have had many days where I want to give up and just feed him crackers and toast but I have persevered, even when he was stuck eating soup and puree for months.

I decided that nutrition was my first priority, as I knew that the feeding issue would resolve at some stage and I was right. We still have a way to go with it all but I feel more confident in knowing what to look for in terms of sensory problems and how to address them in creative ways. I’m also more respectful towards my sons process and rate of development, which makes everything less stressful and in turn more successful.

There are so many things to consider when it comes to developing health eating with our children and for some it can be a complex problem that has a variety of physical and emotional components, which are not easily addressed in one article.

If you are looking for more information and resources from an expert source, I recommend you take a look at the Talk Tools  and Ark Therapeutic websites where you can find feeding and oral motor support products, DVD’s, books and you tube video’s, which will provide you with ideas and tools to assist your child in developing successful eating habits.

Ideally any plan for feeding and speech development should be understood and supported by your speech or occupational therapist. I would recommend asking your current or potential provider, if they have experience with oral motor feeding issues and oral motor therapy exercises for children with low tone.

The relationship between successful eating and speech development is inextricably linked and should therefore be a priority in the early years. In my opinion speech therapy should begin with feeding babies and infants, helping them strengthen and tone the facial muscles, overcome sensory issues and develop tongue and jaw movement in readiness for what I believe could be more successful speech therapy in the future.

Helen Goodwin

Links and articles regarding oral motor skill development:
Resource Guide to Oral Motor Skill Difficulties in Children with Down Syndrome
Supporting feeding and oral development in young children
Pre-feeding skills: A comprehensive resource for mealtime development
Oral sensitivities and low tone in children with Down syndrome
The development of oral motor control and language
Toungue exercises
Oral motor therapy, designing your own programme
Lip exercises to develop weak muscle tone in cheeks


Cross section biomedical illustration of the anatomy of the ear

Ear health and Down syndrome

Having healthy ears that are free from fluid, mucus and infection is important for the development of speech, balance and a child’s physical and emotional comfort. Unfortunately ear problems are rife with approximately 75% of all children visiting a doctor least once before they turn three with an ear complaint.

As we know children with Down syndrome are more susceptible to ear problems most likely due to smaller than average Eustachian tubes and frequent upper respiratory congestion and infection, which are the most common reasons for ear infections.

There are natural ways to break the cycle of ear infections, glue ear, blocked tubes and fluid but it’s not as straightforward as simply taking a medicine, it’s an holistic approach to care that tackles the underlying cause of the problem along with treatments to deal with acute situations.

Otitis media is an umbrella term for a group of inflammatory conditions affecting the middle ear, it’s associated with fluid build-up which contributes to hearing difficulty as sound vibrations are affected.

Acute otitis media is acute inflammation of the middle ear and may be caused by bacteria or viruses. This form of otitis media may also present with pus.

Otitis media with effusion (glue ear) usually follows an episode of acute otitis media and is characterised by fluid in the middle-ear. This is the most common cause of hearing impairment and also the most common reason for grommet surgery in childhood.

Painful ears
Sore throat
Nasal congestion
Runny nose
Ringing or buzzing in the ears
Trouble sleeping
Pulling on or scratching the ears

The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat and help to drain fluid. In adults these tubes are diagonally located, however in children they lie horizontally, which means that drainage isn’t as effective.

Children with Down syndrome typically have smaller than average Eustachian tubes which can become easily blocked. Other factors that contribute to congested Eustachian tubes include inflamed adenoids and tonsils as they can block the tubes from draining effectively.


Ear infections can be either bacterial or viral in origin and are mostly caused by a secondary infection from the nose and throat. Because this condition is so painful for a child it’s understandable that a quick and effective treatment is desired and many parents seek out an antibiotic solution for this very reason.

If an earache is accompanied by a fever, it’s important to have your child checked out by a doctor but it’s impossible to tell if antibiotics will be of any use, unless a bacterial infection rather than viral infection has been confirmed. You could ask if a watch and wait approach would be appropriate for your child, whilst you employ some other strategies.

A British study clearly identified that prescribing antibiotics for ear infections increased the risk of re-occurrence, not only that but the common otitis media pathogen  Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is actually increased by antibiotic treatment.

A more recent study that looked into ear infections and antibiotic resistance, identified that biofilm in the ear was the cause of persistent infection, due to bacteria being bound up in a film where the antibiotics can’t reach them. Ironically antibiotics contribute to biofilm formation.

Grommets are tiny tubes that are inserted into the ear drum to assist with fluid drainage and ventilation of the middle ear. This form of treatment is most commonly recommended for children who present with persistent otitis media, hearing loss or children who have social, educational or developmental difficulties. These recommendations are from the National Institute for Health and Care excellence (NICE),

NICE also conclude the following with respect to grommet insertion:

  • The insertion of grommets results in an improvement in hearing over a twelve-month period, which starts to tail off after six months. There is little evidence that language or speech development improves in the long term.
  • Tympanosclerosis (calcification of tissues in the middle ear, sometimes resulting in a detrimental effect to hearing) frequently occurs after grommet insertion, although the long-term consequences of this are uncertain.
  • Infection after grommet insertion may occur and there is also a slightly increased incidence of perforation.








Studies that looked into the long term effect and benefit of grommets on children with Down syndrome showed that long term complications were common and significantly increased if the patient required three or more sets of tubes.

The efficacy of tube insertion for children with Down syndrome was much lower than in control studied children. There was no improvement in hearing in 40 per cent of ears, compared with only 9 per cent of ears in 21 age-matched controls with otitis media.

In contrast to NICE recommendations, researchers suggest that in children with Down syndrome conservative management should be the treatment of first choice and that the insertion of tubes should be indicated only when hearing loss due to middle ear fluid is in a severe degree.

Inserting tubes for otitis media in children with Down syndrome can bring instant relief and results however studies suggest they have a high short-term failure rate, which should be explained to the parents before surgery.

If you decide that you want to treat your child’s ear infections naturally, whilst applying a watch and wait approach, here are some tried and tested natural remedies to consider. If you know that your child is susceptible, then it’s well worth stocking up on remedies when your child is well, so you are ready to treat at the first sign of infection.

Pain management

  • Tea tree and lavender essential oils for pain and infections, mixed in a carrier oil (coconut oil) and massaged behind the ear in a downwards motion to help release the Eustachian tube.
  • A drop of oregano oil on a cotton ball, placed at the entrance of the ear for pain and infection.
  • A hot compress over the ear, which will help to drive the essential oils into the bloods stream.
  • Place a clove of garlic at the entrance of the ear, not inside.
  • A few drops of warmed garlic and mullein oil placed in the ear, not suitable if grommets are in place.
  • Hydrogen peroxide placed in the ear helps with ear infections, this is suitable for use with grommets.

Supplements to help fight infection

  • Echinacea
  • Garlic
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Probiotics

Several studies have confirmed that Homeopathic remedies are a safe and extremely effective way to address ear infections.

The difficulty with homeopathy is knowing which remedy to choose, as each one has a slightly different characteristic. If your child suffers with recurrent infections, it may be worth seeking out a professional homeopath, who can prescribe a specific remedy for every stage of the infection, along with a constitutional which may assist in resolving the problems long term.

You can purchase single remedies or combination blends if you wish to treat yourself. Here’s a link to help you decide which remedy you think may be appropriate for your child.

Melanie Creedy, a homeopath who used to run the Children’s Ear Clinic in Perth offers Skype consultations and homeopathic remedies through her website Elements of Health. Another popular source of homeopathic remedies is Puraforce. you can call to discuss your child’s specific needs.


Ear infections happen when the Eustachian tubes are blocked. Blockages can be caused by:

  • A respiratory infection, such as cold or flu
  • Allergies
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Infected or overgrown adenoids (tonsils)
  • Infants who are fed lying down
  • Reflux
  • Poor gut health
  • Antibiotics
  • Smaller than average nasopharynx in childen with Down syndrome
  • Mastoid abnormalities in children with Down syndrome

As mentioned at the beginning of this article a holistic approach to treating otitis media is not a quick fix process, it requires a multifaceted approach which includes removing food allergies and intolerance and improving the immune and digestive system.

Removing food allergies and sensitivities
Food allergy and sensitivity have long been targeted as a major contributor to ear infections, especially dairy milk and products.

The most common foods found to be associated with otitis media are milk, gluten, wheat, egg, beans, citrus fruits, and tomatoes. Studies have shown that the elimination of these led to a significant improvement in symtoms of otitis media in most children.

Many parents also find bananas and soy products to be particularly mucus forming. Once you have removed the foods for a month and providing you see a reduction in mucus, you can slowly introduce each food and see if they have an effect.

If you’re looking for a more specific tool to identify food allergies and sensitivities then you may wish  to consider the Hair Analysis Bio-Compatability test offered by Naturopath Rebecca Lang whch helps pinpoint specific foods that are causing problems, alternatively an ALCAT blood test for food allergies and intolerance.

The other option when it comes to food is to follow a specific low allergy, intolerance diet such as Failsafe or the GAPS. rather than isolating specific foods to avoid.

Improving gut health
An estimated 70-80% of our immune health is created by beneficial bacteria that resides in the gastrointestinal tract. This bacteria is affected by the foods we eat, breastfeeding, cesarean birth, environmental toxins and antibiotics. If the beneficial bacteria is out of balance, then pathogens and toxins can proliferate leading to digestive and respiratory problems.

A fascinating study which looked into children with ear infections, discovered that the fluid in the middle ear and Eustachian tubes contained pepsin from the stomach of children who had reflux, which indicates that a link definitely exists between the digestive system and the upper respiratory tract.

Foods that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut:

  • Bone broth
  • Fermented foods
  • Water kefir
  • Gelatin

Dealing with pathogens and infections in the gut is something that requires professional help and guidance, so if you feel that poor gut function is where the problem lies for your child, it’s worth seeking out someone who has experience in this area to guide you through the process. Taking care of the gut is particularly important after antibiotic treatment, as the beneficial bacteria will be compromised and therefore the immune system.

Probiotics help to offset the damage done by antibiotics and help to restore beneficial bacteria. If your child is under two years of age, they will need a probiotic that is suitable for children and babies to ensure that they contain strains of bacteria that are usually found in the guts of infants.

  • Bioceuticals BabyBiotic
  • Biomedica Neocare
  • Fusion kids probiotic advance
  • Flora care
  • Metagenics immune enhance

A good tip is to give your child their probiotic last thing at night and try to place it at the back of the tongue so it reaches the throat, adenoids and Eustachian tubes.

Boosting the immune system
Reducing food allergies and sensitivities and dealing with gut issues will go a long way to improving the health of the immune system, however here are some ideas for herbs and supplements that can help give the immune system a boost during cold and flu season.

  • Ensuring adequate levels of the mineral zinc especially during winter is beneficial for the immune system.
  • Vitamin C up to 400mg for a 1-3 year old daily.
  • Vitamin D deficiency predisposes children to ear infections, so plenty of sunshine and supplementation if needed.
  • Cod liver oil is a potent immune booster due to the high levels of vitamin A. It can be difficult for some children to metabolise vitamin A in the liver, so alternating between regular fish oils would be beneficial.
  • Elderberry syrup is a wonderful natural immune boosting food to include over winter time.
  • Echinacea is another famous immune stimulating herb suitable for children. You need to take breaks in between dosage, such as three weeks on and one week off during winter to avoid the immune system becoming reliant.

Ear health is an essential element for a child’s development, not only from a speech perspective but from an emotional and behavioral perspective too. This widespread health issue is not always easily resolved by conventional methods and is a symptom of something more complex. Rather than being a localised problem, we can see that it’s more likely to be systemic in it’s pathogenisis and therefore needs to be looked at and treated holistically if long term resolution is to be achieved.

There is a great deal of information contained in this article and so much more that could have been included. I understand if the thought of embarking on dietary changes and possibly trying a natural remedy for the first time might be daunting, which is why seeking out a professional is always a great first step.

There is a lot that natural therapies and remedies can offer in the treatment and resolution of ear problems given time and perseverance, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean antibiotics and grommet therapy. The great news is, that employing some of the suggestions mentioned, may assist your child in many other areas of health and development, which makes embarking on the journey very worth while.

Helen Goodwin


Food allergy and Otitis Media
Antibiotics and ear infections
Trends in antibiotic prescribing and ear infections
Watch and wait advice for ear infections influenzae increased by antibiotics http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov4/pmc/articles/PMC4090067/
Antibiotics asthma
Reflux and ear infections
Depression in children with otitis media
The effect of grommets on otitis media
Grommet surgery recommendations
Complications from grommets in children with Down syndrome
Down syndrome mouse model and otitis media
Adonectomy not as effective in children with Down syndrome
Ineffectiveness of grommet therapy for children with DS  and
Eustachian tubes DS
Small nasopharynx DS
Mastoid abnormalities and hearing loss in DS
Food allergy and respiratory disease
Complementary therapies and otitis media
Chiropractic care and otitis media
Spinal manipulation and OM
Homeopathic treatment and otitis media
Homeopathy for ear pain
Homeopathy and ear infection
Homeopathy VS conventional treatment of Otitis Media



Gluten and Down syndrome

Gluten free diets have become a hot topic in recent years and are a common recommendation for children with Down syndrome, due to the high prevalence of coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity in the community.

Studies have confirmed coeliac disease in the Down syndrome population to be at least 96 times greater than the prevalence of coeliac in the general US pediatric population, less so in other nations around the world. Researchers have also shown that the extensiveness of coeliac disease in Down syndrome is not necessarily due to an extra copy of a gene on chromosome 21.

Coeliac disease
A person with coeliac disease has an intolerance to gliadin, which is the protein found in gluten. This protein is responsible for giving bread, cakes and pastries body, texture and rise. If you have ever made dough, you will recognise it’s elasticity as you knead away, this is gluten in action.

Gluten is present in wheat, barley, rye and some oats.

Coeliac disease is considered a genetic auto-immune disorder. When a person with coeliac disease eats gluten, the body sees it as a toxin/pathogen and an inflammatory response ensues.

This inflammation damages the villi, or finger like projections in the intestines, which is a big problem, as villi are the sites at which nutrients from food are absorbed into the blood stream and digestive enzymes are released. Symptoms of malnutrition and digestive issues result from having damaged villi.

The only way to know if you have coeliac disease, is to be tested and if a diagnosis is confirmed, a lifelong 100% gluten free diet is required, in order to restore the body to good health.


Symptoms of Coeliac disease
Interestingly only around a third of people with coeliac disease exhibit symptoms, however the majority will experience digestive pain and changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, smelly stools, wind and weight loss when they eat gluten.

Other symptoms of coeliac disease include:

  • Unexplained anemia (low iron)
  • Recurrent and slow healing infections
  • Bone pain
  • Behaviour changes
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Delayed growth
  • Failure to thrive in infants
  • Pain in the joints
  • Seizures tingling or numbness in the legs (from nerve damage)
  • Pale sores inside the mouth
  • Painful skin rash
  • Tooth discoloration or loss of enamel
  • Reproductive issues (miscarriages, infertility)
  • Missed menstrual periods (often because of excessive weight loss)Disorders associated with coeliac disease
  • Auto-immune neurological disease
  • Addison’s disease (chronic adrenal dysfunction)
  • Respiratory issues
  • Auto-immune thyroid disorders
  • Auto-immune liver disease
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Rhematological and connective tissue disease
  • Cardiological disease

Testing for coeliac disease
If you suspect that you or your child have coeliac disease, it’s important that you continue to eat foods containing gluten until you’ve been diagnosed, in order to receive an accurate result.

If a person has self-diagnosed coeliac disease and pursues a gluten free diet without a specific diagnosis, they will need to eat gluten containing foods for six weeks before testing.

The two main tests for coeliac disease are a blood test which looks for the antibodies present when gliadin is consumed and a biopsy of the small intestine.

Blood test
Blood tests are used to screen for coeliac disease by measuring the antibody levels in the blood, which are typically elevated in people with untreated coeliac disease, due to the body’s reaction to gluten. Your doctor can arrange a test.

These tests can be less reliable in children under the age of four years, as their antibody levels can fluctuate. It is suggested the antibody tests be performed on two occasions three months apart.

Unfortunately a diagnosis of coeliac disease should not be made on the basis of a blood test alone. It’s recommended that a positive blood test is followed by a small bowel biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Bowel biopsy
A bowel biopsy or gastroscopy is a simple day procedure done under light anaesthetic that takes about 10 minutes. In that time several tiny samples (biopsies) of the small bowel are taken which are then viewed under a microscope to confirm the presence of damaged villi.


Gene Testing
Gene (HLA) testing is a useful test when the diagnosis of coeliac disease is unclear. This can occur if the blood or small bowel biopsy results are difficult to interpret, or if adequate gluten was not being consumed to make the test reliable. It is performed on a blood test or cheek scraping and can be ordered through your local doctor.

Over 99% of people affected by coeliac disease have the HLA DQ2, HLA DQ8, or parts of these genes. Therefore, a negative test for these genes effectively rules out coeliac disease. The gene test on its own cannot diagnose coeliac disease, only 1 in 30 people who have HLA DQ2 or HLA DQ8 will develop coeliac disease. A gluten free diet should only be started after confirmation of coeliac disease by small bowel biopsy.

As the gene test is not dependent on gluten intake, it can be used when people have already commenced a gluten free diet. If the gene test is positive, then a gluten challenge followed by small bowel biopsy will be required to test for coeliac disease.

The only treatment for coeliac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Some people are so gluten sensitive, that even traces of gluten can cause an inflammatory response, which damages the villi and takes weeks to recover from.

Quality of gluten free foods
The problem with following a gluten free diet, whether you have to, or choose to, is that the quality of commercially made gluten free products is questionable. They may appear healthier in the mind as they are free from gluten, however in reality these products are usually full of sugar, unhealthful fats and other poor quality ingredients.

If you go gluten free, it’s still important to make good food choices, irrespective of the gluten content of a food. If you do have an intolerance, then including a variety of gluten free whole grains such as quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat will be better for you than eating processed gluten free foods.

Gluten and wheat intolerance 
This is where it gets confusing because a person may not have coeliac disease, however they may react badly to wheat and or gluten and have similar digestive complaints as a person with coeliac disease. Symptoms such as fatigue, mood changes, eczema, allergies and digestive complaints are common.

Common reasons for food intolerance and allergies:

  • Overuse of a particular food
  • Not rotating foods
  • Born with allergic predisposition to particular components of food
  • Lacking in specific enzymes to break down certain food molecules
  • Acquired sensitivity due to an infection in the digestive system, which may cause leaky gut (a weakened gut lining, where large molecules of food can enter the blood stream, causing an antibody-antigen response.)
  • Poorly prepared grains (not soaked or cooked for long enough), which can lead to a weakened digestive system.

Digestive health
Many people are self-diagnosing themselves with gluten intolerance even without testing and choose to go gluten free in an attempt to elevate digestive and other health complaints, such as skin problems and fatigue. Some food philosophies and healing regimes such as the GAPS and Paleo diets, recommend abstaining from all grains, not just the gluten containing ones, for good digestive health.

Thyroid health
Several studies show a strong link between auto immune thyroid disorders, which account for around 90% of thyroid problems and gluten intolerance. The link is so well-established that researchers suggest that all people who have auto-immune conditions refrain from gluten containing foods.

The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin enters the bloodstream, the immune system targets it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have an auto immune thyroid disorder and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.

It is not known whether treatment of coleiac disease reduces the likelihood of developing autoimmune disorders. A gluten-free diet probably should be started early, before autoimmune disorders are well established, to affect their course. Treatment also improves the absorption of medications for the associated conditions such as hypothyroidism

Testing for wheat allergy and intolerance
Unlike the definitive tests for coeliac disease, getting tested for wheat allergy or intolerance is more challenging, as many tests have been shown to deliver conflicting results. Before looking at test options, it’s useful to know that IgE is a true allergy response, meaning an immediate reaction to a substance will occur, an IgG sensitiviy or intolerance, is a delayed reaction and an IgA reaction to food is due to damaged gut mucosa.

There is no irrefutable, reliable form of testing for all food allergies or in tolerances. Because an allergic reaction causes an over production of IgE it should be easy to pinpoint but it is not as easy as it seems. There needs to be recent exposure to the allergen to get an accurate result.

Skin prick/IgE/rash tests for foods are commonly used in conventional medicine. This is the done by pricking the skin with a needle or probe and dropping serum containing the allergen into the exposed skin. In naturopathy this form of testing is considered to be unreliable for food allergies and intolerances as it produces both false positive and negative reactions.

Elisa/IgG blood tests for food sensitivities are carried out by some labs in Australia but are not covered by Medicare. Apart from this and ALCAT type of testing being not accepted by conventional medicine the biggest potential issues are the lack of labs doing this test in Australia to compare results for accuracy and also the relatively small number of foods that are tested. Most use less than 100 common foods, which are Northern European in source. For example common Australian fish like flathead and flake are not tested.

There is significant evidence to show that children and adults with Down syndrome have a very high tendency to have or develop coeliac disease in their lifetimes. This disease presents with or without symptoms but will undoubtedly cause damage to the digestive system and therefore the bodies ability to absorb nutrients, leading to malnutrition.

At this point studies do not indicate that the extra copy of chromosome 21 is the cause of the high levels of coeliac disease, rather as part of a general pattern of auto-immune conditions, which the community so frequently experience.

There is no current evidence to suggest that a gluten free diet will assist in reversing auto-immune diseases, however the evolution of auto-immune conditions and the formation of new auto-immune related diseases can be slowed or even halted as a result of following a gluten free diet.

Studies suggest that even if a child tests negatively to coeliac disease in early life, there is a strong possibility that it will develop over time, therefore regular and accurate screening is advisable in order to rule out this possibility.

It is also possible to have a gluten or wheat intolerance or allergy without having coeliac disease, which complicates the picture even further, as many parents assume that a child will be ok with eating bread and other gluten containing foods when they receive a negative result from their coeliac screen.

If your panicking right now and feel overwhelmed at the thought of gluten and how to flush it out of your cupboards and life, then please take a breath and relax. I know it’s overwhelming and can feel impossible to make such a huge change in and you may be wondering how you can do it but please know that you can but it will take time.

I will be posting about gluten free options and diets in the next couple of weeks, so keep and eye out for that. In the meantime have a re-read of this article, so that you have a good idea as to what you need to do next, in terms of testing and getting mentally prepared for going gluten free, if that’s what you decide to do. You may also like to talk things through with your health care provider or contact Coeliac Australia for more information.

Helen Goodwin



Elderberry syrup

Elderberry syrup is a gentle yet effective natural remedy traditionally used to boost the immune system and fight off colds and flu. There are several species of elder, but Sambucus nigra, or European elder (also called black elder), is the one most often used for medicinal purposes.

Studies have shown that elderberries can shorten the duration of illness by as much as four days and assists in reducing the phlegm so commonly associated with winter related illness. In fact the pharmaceutical drug Tamiflu is based upon phyto-chemicals found in elderberries.

Elderberries help protect the body from viruses and studies have shown the extract to be effective against the H1N1 strain otherwise known as Swine Flu and the H5N1 strain of Avian Flu. As well as treating viruses, phyto-chemicals from the berries act as bronchial modulators helping reduce the severity of coughs and associated wheezing, which can be especially useful for children with whopping cough.

Black elderberry syrup can be used as part of preventative care, not just when illness strikes. The bioflavonoids and vitamin C and A content is very high, making it effective at fighting free radical damage, which is excellent news.

Elderberries have an ORAC rating (ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, which is a scoring system to measure the amounts of antioxidants in a food) of 147 with blueberries coming in at only sixty-two. These impressive credentials mean that elderberries are beneficial for heart health and vision, as well as supporting immunity.

Elderberry tincture is readily available online and in health foods shops, I recommend purchasing an organic variety such as the one produced by Gaia herbs. Make sure that tinctures are free from corn syrup and glucose as these sugars are not beneficial to the immune system. You can find a variety of other products and blends here.

You can combine elderberry with echinacea for additional immune support and it also marries very well with yarrow and peppermint when your specifically wishing to tackle congestion and phlegm.

This is a very safe and gentle remedy for children over age of six months old, just follow the dosage instructions given on the product you purchase. If your child has a polyphenol sensitivity, then this remedy is not suitable.

Black elderberry bushes are found in many parts of the world and grow well in Australia. You can purchase organic black elderberries online or may be lucky enough to get your hands on some fresh berries to make your own syrup.

To make approximately one litre of elderberry syrup, you will need:

  • 1 cup fresh black elderberries (1/2 cup if you are using dried)
  • 3 cups of pure water
  • 1 cup raw honey* (manuka honey optional)
  • Cinnamon sticks or cloves (optional)
  • Saucepan
  • Metal spoon
  • Strainer
  • Cheesecloth
  • 1 litre jar, preferably sterilized

*If the syrup is intended for children under one year old,  find an alternative sweetener source. as honey can contain botulism spores, something that young digestive systems aren’t equipped to handle.


1. Put the black elderberries and water in a pan and bring to a boil. (If you have chosen to add cinnamon or cloves, add them in now.)

2. Simmer gently for about forty-five minutes.

3. Mash the berries well.

4. Strain the berries. This is where a cheesecloth comes in handy, as you can lay the cheesecloth in the strainer, pour the berry mixture in, and get most of the water out, then lift the cheesecloth, twist the ends together, and gently squeeze the remaining liquid through the strainer to get as much of the goodness out of the berries as possible.

5. Pour off ½ cup of the black elderberry juice into a small bowl with the honey and mix until dissolved.

6. Pour the honey mixture into the rest of the black elderberry juice and stir.

7. Pour into a jar and refrigerate. It should last at least one month in the fridge.

Adult dosage is one tablespoon every three to four hours; child dosage is one-half to one teaspoon every three to four hours when you or your family member is fighting off illness. Elderberry syrup may also be taken daily as a preventative, with the above dosages given once a day.

A single teaspoon once or twice a day is sufficient as a preventative measure. If illness strikes, use more as necessary, with up to 3 teaspoons four times a day which is the amount used in randomized studies.

Black elderberry tincture is a wonderful and gentle traditional medicine, that has a great many health benefits for both adults and children alike. Given that children with Down syndrome often struggle with immune health, congestion and excessive oxidative stress, this syrup could be an ideal addition to any winter immune boosting protocol as both a preventative and treatment option.

Helen Goodwin

Sambucus Nigra monograph

Elderberry and influenza

Elderberry and MRSA

Elderberry reduces inflammation


Fish oils for brain health

Omega three fatty acids are known as essential fatty acids, meaning we cannot produce them in the body and have to consume them. They have a positive impact on brain development in infants and children and are naturally occurring in mothers milk.

Most children are deficient in essential fatty acids, most likely due to a lack of deep sea oily fish in the diet. These nutrients are crucial building blocks of child development and play key roles in every aspect of health, including brain and eye function.

In order that adequate support is provided to the developing brain, essential fatty acids should ideally be supplemented during the pre-conception period by both parents and ideally through the mother during pregnancy.

Studies have shown that children with autism and with other developmental differences, benefit enormously from DHA & EPA supplementation.

One study demonstrated significant improvement in concentration, language development, play skills, social interaction, behaviour, reading and memory after supplementing with DHA and EPA for three months.

Other benefits of essential fatty acids include support for the heart, eyes, immunity and central nervous system. There is some evidence that suggests fish oils may also be of benefit to children who suffer with asthma and allergies.

Omega three fatty acids contain active ingredients called DHA and EPA, which perform different roles in the body.

DHA is the structural component of neuronal tissue needed for optimal brain cell development and maintenance. High levels of DHA are required by the brain and retina in order to develop good vision, an ability to learn and for cognitive development.

DHA stimulates the growth of new brain cells whilst offering protection for existing brain cells. It also aids in a process called neuroplasticity, which means the communication between brain cells.

EPA is the anti-inflammatory component of fish oil. Most supplements contain higher levels of EPA, as unlike DHA, it is not stored in the tissue and and is destroyed by oxidation.

Inflammation is a problem in the Down syndrome community due to oxidative stress and is linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Omega three fish oils can therefore assist in reducing the inflammation that is so destructive to the tissues and brain.

Because of concern’s regarding high levels of heavy metals, such as mercury being found in fish, many women and children avoid eating it at a time when they need the benefits of DHA the most. You can find out more information regarding this topic here.

If you don’t feel confident that your fish sources are low in heavy metals supplementation can be safe and effective way of obtaining DHA and EPA. If you do choose to eat fish rather than supplement, the recommendation is three serves of oily fish 2-3 times a week.

As previously mentioned, Mums can start introducing omega-3 during preconception and pregnancy by taking fish oil supplements. Babies can continue to receive DHA & EPA through breast milk.

Some formulas are enhanced with DHA but not necessarily the anti-inflammatory EPA, which is so beneficial for our children. If you are bottle feeding, you can always include additional EFA’s with an essential fatty supplement.

It’s extremely important that you purchase a high quality fish oil for yourself and your child, one that has been screened for heavy metals, peroxide and dioxins.

The baby and children’s DHA formula’s from Nordic Naturals Children’s range, are safe quality oils, which are available in chewable or liquid form in a variety of flavours. This company also stock a formula made from algae which is suitable for vegetarians, or children who aren’t tolerating oils very well.

If your child is taking a multivitamin that contains vitamin A, then be aware that many fish oil formulas are made from cod liver oil, which is high in vitamin A. This fat soluble vitamin may be difficult for some children to process it in their liver. If blood tests show elevated Vitamin A, then you may wish to switch to a fish oil blend that doesn’t contain cod liver oil, or the algae formula.

For parents and breastfeeding mothers Herbs of Gold offer an Omega 3 concentrate and Nutrigold an Omega 3 Gold. are recommended brands which are available online and from health food shops.

Quality practitioner only supplements include Bioceuticals UltraClean 85, Orthoplex White Label bio active lipids and Orthoplex BioOmega Liquid.

If you are a pregnant or breastfeeding mother struggling with reflux after taking fish oil capsules, a good tip is to store them in the freezer before swallowing.

If your child has reflux or diarrhea after taking fish oils, you need to reduce the dose until symptoms subside, or try another brand.

Recommended dosage according to the Trisomy 21 Research Foundation are as follows. Please note that boys have shown to have a higher requirement for both DHA and EPA.

Infants (1-18 months)
5-10lbs 2-4kilos 200mg DHA
10-15lbs 4-6kilos 350mg DHA

20-40lbs 9-18 kilos 300mg DHA/EPA
40-60lbs 18-27 kilos 600mg DHA/EPA
60-80lbs 27-36kilos 900mg DHA/EPA
100-120lbs 45-54kilos 1500mg DHA/EPA
120-140lbs 54-63kilos 1800mg DHA/EPA
140-160lbs 63-72kilos 2100mg DHA/EPA

Adults (over 15 years)
650mg DHA/EPA
220mg DHA – minimum
220mg EPA – minimum

Breastfeeding women
650mg DHA

Omega three oils may increase the blood thinning effect of aspirin or warfrin, so discuss these possibilities with your health care provider if they are a relevant concern.

Research concludes that daily supplementation with a quality fish oil supplement can support the production and protection of brain cells and facilitate communication between neurons (brain cells).

Omega three fatty acids also assist in reducing inflammation both systemically and in the brain, which may provide protection against neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Fish oils contain safe, natural and extremely beneficial nutrients for infants and children especially if they are neurologically challenged.

Helen Goodwin


The DHA (docasahexaenoic acid) Oxford Learning and Behaviour (DOLAB) confirmatory study
Fish oil improves gene targets on Down syndrome mouse models



Last weekend I attended a workshop presented by two Ayurvedic doctors from Kerala in South India, followed by a consultation for myself and my son. It was very interesting to learn about this multi-layered and fascinating system of healing. I shall attempt to condense and simplify its complexity in this article.

Ayurvedic medicine, also known as Ayurveda, is the traditional medicine of India which has been practised for over 5,000 years. This makes it one of the oldest holistic (whole body) healing systems in the world. Both Chinese and Tibetan Medicine have their roots deep within the Ayurvedic system of health care and early Greek medicine also embraced many concepts originally described in the classical Ayurvedic texts.

In India modern medicine and traditional medicine sit side by side as treatment options for chronic and acute health conditions, something which I’m sure every natural therapist in the west wishes could be the case. The Indian government is currently investing into research to validate the efficacy of Ayurveda.

Young people in India often see modern allopathic medicine as being superior to traditional remedies because of the scientific element and perhaps because they see it as fitting in with their modern lifestyles, however most people in this country of over a billion people, still turn to traditional medicine before pharmaceutical drugs when illness strikes.

Ayurveda literally means the science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science) this science deals with the treatment of disease from both acurative and preventative perspective. It is also a complete philosophy and way of life, that encompasses physical, mental and spiritual health.

The primary focus of Ayurvedic medicine is to promote good health, rather than fight disease, however treatments, herbal medicines and foods are also available and recommended for specific health problems.

The preservation of health is achieved through Ayurveda by addressing the root cause of illness or imbalance rather than simply treating the symptoms. This roots cause occurs due to malpractices, such as smoking, lack of excessive, poor diet or alcohol, or through toxins or poisons that enter the body.

Just like naturopathy Ayurveda considers a persons constitution when developing a treatment plan. A constitution or prakriti, is formed from a combination of psychological and physical characteristics and stays with a person their whole life, it is influenced by food, lifestyle and thinking.

As well as prakriti, Ayurvedic practitioners recognise that human beings are an intrinsic part of nature and as such, bodies are made up of a combination of the natural elements found in the universe, earth, water, air, space and earth. These elements combine in the body to form energies called doshas, which control how the body works and the characteristics of our physical and mental self.

The three doshas are:

Everyone has a unique mix of these three doshas, however one or two are usually more dominant than another. Each dosha controls a different bodily function and your chances of getting sick are linked to an inbalance of your doshas. Each dosha creates a unique frequency in the body which can be determined by an Ayurvedic practitioner through feeling your pulse.

A person with a dominant vatta dosha will usually be tall and thin, have small eyes, dry skin, hair and nails, rapid speech and hyperactive mind, constipation and restless sleep, they will feel the cold, anger quickly and experience fear and associated anxiety.

A pitta person will most likely have a medium weight and frame, oily skin and hair, a strong appetite, loose stools, a sharp memory, reddish palms and feet, a warm body temperature and can be purposeful and intense in nature.

Kapha dominant people will tend to have a large stocky build, gain weight easily, have round chubby cheeks, large eyes, soft skin, thick oily hair, slow digestion, a sedentary lifestyle and a slow memory, they prefer long hours of deep sleep and tend to be easy going and accepting.

You can take a test to work out your own dosha here

The goal of Ayurveda is to identify a persons ideal state of balance based on their doshas, determine where they are out of balance and offer treatment in the form of diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage treatment, yoga and meditation to bring about healing and health.

Just like Naturopathy and Chinese medicine, Ayurveda believes that many disease states are created from faulty digestive function. According to Ayurveda good health depends on a persons digestive energies, known as Agni (fire). When the Agni is robust a person can create healthy tissues, eliminate waste effectively and produce a subtle essence known as ojas, which is considered to be the innermost sap of our psychophysiology and the basis of perception, physical strength and immunity.

The digestive fire or Agni is a vital component of this process and if it is weak then foods are not metabolised properly and waste products known as ama accumulates in the body blocking the flow of energy, cell communication and nourishment,

Ayurveda considers this build up of toxins to be the underlying case of disease, therefore supporting and improving digestive fire is paramount for successful treatment and a healthy body.

Agni is said to be strongest at noon and weakest first thing in the morning and at night, so ideally the main meal of the day should be consumed at midday. In childhood the kapha dosha is more prevalent and therefore Agni in general will be low. This means that foods given to young children, according to Ayurvedic principles, should be light and easy to digest in order to support an strengthen digestive fire and all the associated benefits of that. Another tip for preserving digestive fire is to only eat until you are half full and try not to over eat.

A cornerstone of the Ayurvedic approach to treatment is panchakarma, which is a cleansing process that assist in releasing negative emotions and toxins that accumulate in the body creating imbalance and disease. A panchakarma programme involves a consultation to determine a suitable treatment protocol and the following therapies. Abhayanga massage with herb infused oils, Swedana or sweat therapy, shirodhara, which is when oil is poured on to the forehead and udhulana which is when herbs are rubbed in to the body. These therapies are given along with dietary and lifestyle recommendations and herbal medicine if appropriate and can be tailored to meet the needs of children.

After the workshop was over, my son had a consultation with Dr Madhusudhanan, the chief physician at Sreechithra Ayurvedic care home in India and a specialist in treating children with disabilities. Because each consultation is unique to the person, it’s not possible to share many details, however it would be appropriate to say that the Doctor commented that trisomy 21 cannot be cured as it’s a genetic condition, however there are things that can be done to strengthen the body and mind through Ayurvedic medicine and therapies.

He prescribed a herbal infused ghee (clarified butter) that is to be given with honey each morning, the herbs, which include turmeric, are to reduce inflammation, improve digestion, elimination and the smooth flow of energy though the inner channels of the body including the mind. A simple and elegant treatment. It was interesting to note that practitioners of classical Ayurvedic medicine do not believe that vitamins and minerals in the form of supplementation are of any benefit to the body.

Down syndrome predisposes people to a kapha dosha imbalance, which is also more prominent in childhood. When kapha is pushed out of balance symptoms such as hypothyroidism, glue ear, weight gain and reflux can occur.

Vata imbalance can also contribute to problems such as malabsorption, atrioventricular septal defect, muscle weakness, speech impairment, anxiety, memory loss and  difficulty in learning.

Kapha-Pacifying Diet
Children are classically in a kapha dosha state which can be balanced by the following recommendations. A diet of freshly cooked, whole foods that are light, warming, well spiced, easy to digest and ideally served warm or hot.

The following foods calm kapha by balancing mucous production and regulating digestion. Diet is one of the most effective ways to balance this dosha. Kapha types thrive on a simple diet of smaller meals, little snacking, fewer sweets and an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Kapha is heavy, cool, oily and smooth, so eating foods that neutralise these qualities such a as light, warm, dry and rough foods, which include broccoli, cauliflower and dark leafy greens, can help balance excess Kapha.

Dairy milk is recommended for kapha imbalance, however please note that in India raw milk is drunk, which is a completely different food to the pasteurised and homogenised variety we have here in Australia, which many children react badly to.

Fruits such as apples and pears are light in texture therefore recommeded. Small amounts of dried fruit are considered appropriate. Ayurveda recommends reducing dense sweet and sour fruits like oranges, grapes, bananas, coconut, dates, melons, pineapple and plums for a kapha imbalance.

Honey is excellent for reducing kapha but is not recommended for children under 12 months old.

All beans (legumes) except tofu are suitable, as they are astringent and therefore help to compress and tone bodily tissues.

Keeping nuts to a minimum is advised, due to their oily nature which is aggravating to kapha dosha.

Most grains, especially barley and millet are beneficial. Gluten containing grains are contraindicated in naturopathic medicine for children with Down syndrome and children with coeliac disease.

Kapha dosha is aggravated by sweet, sour and salty tastes and pacified by pungent (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, garlic, paprika and turmeric) bitter and astringent flavours.

All vegetables lightly cooked are beneficial but especially leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

Suggested meals

Fresh fruit or stewed apples, a fruit smoothies or fresh juice
Hot cereals like quinoa, amaranth, millet or barley
Muesli with warm milk

Lentil vegetable soup with kale and corn bread
Whole chickpeas with sautéed cabbage and quinoa, with ghee and spices
Black bean tacos with capsicum, lettuce, salsa and lime juice

Dal soup with sautéed greens and basmati rice
Split pea soup and rye toast
Potato and leek soup with a small salad and tamari and ginger dressing

There are many resources and recipes available on the Internet to assist in designing Kapha pacifying recipes for your child and cookbooks to give you inspiration if this is a path you wish to peruse.

Finding an Ayurvedic practitioner in Australia is not as easy as finding a Naturopath, however they do exist. Some Naturopaths will have an understanding of the philosophy of Ayurveda and may have undertaken training in this modality, which means you can get the best of both worlds. has a list of Ayurvedic practitioners Australia wide and would be a good place to start your search.

If you are looking for a truly gentle, wholistic and natural approach to caring for your child, then I believe that Ayurvedic medicine has a great deal to offer.

Helen Goodwin


Vitamin E and Down syndrome

Vitamin E is a superhero nutrient, with multiple benefits for children and young adults with Down syndrome, which have been well researched and documented. Vitamin E is naturally occurring in certain foods, added to some processed foods and also taken as a supplement.

It’s main function is that of an antioxidant, providing protection to the cells from harmful free radicals. If free radicals are not offset by antioxidants such as Vitamin E, oxidative stress, which is a big issue for people with Down syndrome, occurs. The body also utilizes vitamin E to boost the immune system and assist cells to communicate with each other.

Elevated oxidative stress levels, which are a sign of ageing, are seen very early on in children with Down syndrome, due to the over-expression of enzymes such as SOD superoxide dismutase, which are gene coded on to the 21st chromosome. If left untreated this oxidation, which is a result of free radical damage, results in systemic inflammation and contributes to neuronal (brain cell) degeneration, which can manifest as cognitive decline, poor working memory and loss of basal fore brain function.

The good news is, that the oxidative stress can be offset with familiar antioxidant such as vitamin E and C. One study which looked at the oxidative stress markers in Down syndrome mouse models, observed that they were able to be reduced after long term supplementation with vitamin E. The mice receiving vitamin E supplementation showed improved performance and working memory, which is a crucial component to learning.

Another study researched the effect that vitamin E had on oxidative levels measured in children and young teenagers with Down syndrome. After supplementation with vitamin C and E, the oxidative stress markers were shown to significantly reduce, which is very exciting news.

A study conducted at Oregon State University, discovered that vitamin E assists in getting DHA omega 3 fatty acids, which are required for brain health, cellular development and repair, into the brain. As we know, omega 3 fish oils are extremely beneficial for the development of memory and intelligence and are often recommended for pregnant women and in early childhood. As the study concludes, if we want to maximize the effectiveness of omega 3 fatty acid’s for children’s brain development, supplementing with vitamin E can be very beneficial. Many people give their children fish oils and vitamin E at the same time, for this reason.

Unfortunately people with Down syndrome are at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Oxidative stress, which damages cellular proteins, membranes and genes, contributes to systemic inflammation which is implicated in the development of many serious diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Vitamin E contains a substance called DHA-PC, which is a component of the cellular membrane of neurons. In studies, deficiencies in vitamin E and therefore DHA-PC, have been associated with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Verbal apraxia is a neurologically based speech disorder, commonly seen in autism spectrum disorders. Studies indicate that vitamin E deficiency have shown an overlap with those of verbal apraxia.

In 2009 a study was conducted with 187 children with verbal apraxia and signs of autism, such as sensory issues, low muscle tone, co-ordination difficulties, food allergy and digestive and sensory issues. All the children were given Vitamin E supplementation as part of a trial, along with Omega 3 essential fatty acids.

Families reported dramatic improvements within their children, in a variety of areas, including speech, imitation, coordination, eye contact, behavior, sensory issues, and development of pain sensation, after the trial concluded. I’ve heard mixed results within the Down syndrome community, regarding the effect that vitamin E has had on speech and other areas of development, that were demonstrated in this trial.

Many foods contain vitamin E, however these are some of the richer sources.
Sunflower seeds and oil
Cashew nuts
Sprouted seeds
Sunflower seeds
Green leafy vegetable

There are eight forms of vitamin E, four tocopherols (alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherol) and four tocotrienols (alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienols) supplements should contain them all to maximize the effect on brain health.

Past research tended to only look at the tocopherols in terms of cardiovascular disease, eye health and cancer prevention, more recent studies have shown the extraordinary benefits of tocotrienols on brain health and improved cognitive function and the protection of brain cells (neurons) from neurodegeneration, so make sure your supplement contains all forms for best results.

Avoid purchasing supplements that contain genetically modified ingredients, soy, synthetic vitamin E and low alpha tocopherol. Some quality brands to look out for include Nutrigold, full spectrum Vitamin E Gold, Dr Mercola Vitamin E, Bioceuticals Mixed Tocopherol and Tocotrienols. Your natural healthcare provider will also be able to supply you with a practitioner only brand. Due to the nature of sharing information via the internet, mentioning specific brand name’s in this way, requires me to say that doing so does not imply an endorsement of the product.

Vitamin E from natural (food) sources is commonly listed as “d-alpha-tocopherol” on food packaging and supplement labels. Synthetic (laboratory-made) vitamin E is commonly listed as “dl-alpha-tocopherol.” The natural form is more potent. For example, 100 IU of natural vitamin E is equal to about 150 IU of the synthetic form.


Age Males Females Pregnancy Lactation
0–6 months* 4 mg
(6 IU)
4 mg
(6 IU)
7–12 months* 5 mg
(7.5 IU)
5 mg
(7.5 IU)
1–3 years 6 mg
(9 IU)
6 mg
(9 IU)
4–8 years 7 mg
(10.4 IU)
7 mg
(10.4 IU)
9–13 years 11 mg
(16.4 IU)
11 mg
(16.4 IU)
14+ years 15 mg
(22.4 IU)
15 mg
(22.4 IU)
15 mg
(22.4 IU)
19 mg
(28.4 IU)

*Adequate Intake (AI) Please note that these levels are at the lower range and not necessarily considered therapeutic doses. Most Down syndrome specific multi-nutrient formulas contain vitamin E, so remember to take that into consideration when looking at dosage.

Vitamin E can increase the risk of bleeding in people taking anticoagulant or anti-platelet medicines, such as warfarin. In one study, vitamin E plus other antioxidants, reduced the heart-protective effects of two drugs taken in combination (a statin and niacin) which were being taken to manage blood cholesterol. Oncologists may advise against taking antioxidant supplements, while patients undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy, with the belief that they may alter the effectiveness of these treatments. More research is required to support this theory.

As with all advice and information contained in these articles, we are unable to offer you or your child specific information regarding the suitability or recommended dosage of vitamin E, therefore we recommend that you talk to your primary natural health care provider for guidance.

Helen Goodwin



Why parents are choosing a natural way

When you received the news that your baby had Down syndrome, you were most likely given a list of health complications that your child may experience, with little guidance as to treatment options, other than regular testing for hearing, eyesight, heart and hopefully thyroid.

As a parent it’s natural to want to protect your child from illness and equally natural to look elsewhere if information and options are not being provided.  I think this instinct is a huge motivator for parents seeking out natural therapies and remedies.

Parents who do start to research often begin by introducing supplements, choosing a casein and gluten free diet, to assist with digestion and respiratory conditions and choosing therapies, such as osteopathy or chiropractic care, which have a long history of assisting children, with or without Down syndrome, to improve and support their health.

Making these choices doesn’t necessarily mean that a parent wants to change their child, or cannot accept that they have an additional chromosome, it simply a natural drive that some people have. It also doesn’t mean that natural therapies and remedies are a cure, or that they will be instantly successful or even appropriate, which can be said for many other more standard treatment protocols.

It is generally accepted, that a child with Down syndrome will require additional support when it comes to fine and gross motor, speech and cognitive development, so services such as occupational and speech therapy have been put in place to address these needs. Why is it however, that nutrition and healthcare information, that pertains directly to a child with an additional 21st chromosome, is not provided, when so much research and empirical evidence exists to support the benefits.

A lack of knowledge about the safety and efficacy of natural therapies and remedies for children in general perhaps? and or a failure to acknowledge, that many of the health challenges in the community can in fact be ameliorated. Having an extra copy of the 21’st chromosome does by its very nature contribute to health issues our children experience and may face in the future, so learning about how to successfully manage the unique biochemistry and associated health issues is, in my opinion, as equally important as speech therapy or any other early intervention programme.

Unfortunately many medical professionals, unless they are integrated or biomedical practitioners, have yet to catch up with the research and knowledge that currently exists, regarding the benefits of complementary medicine for children with health challenges, but not knowing about something doesn’t negate its existence or relevance, it just means you don’t know. It’s important to point out, that many Naturopath’s and natural therapists, unless they specialise in treating children with Down syndrome, are as equally in the dark with regards to some aspects of Down syndrome biochemistry.

Choosing to support your child’s health with natural therapies and remedies, does unfortunately require more research and potential overwhelm and confusion, which is why we recommend seeking out professional support, if you choose to investigate more deeply. It does mean extra costs, because disability funding does not cover natural therapies and remedies, however certain health funds do offer out of pocket expenses for many natural therapies in Australia, so this is worth investigating. It may also mean additional appointments and cooking for a specialist diet, which can be more time consuming at first and certainly confronting if our own diets are a bit out of shape.

As a community, we are incredibly lucky, as we have access to decade’s worth of research regarding our unique children and products that have been specifically designed to support their health. I know that children who have less familiar chromosomal differences are not so fortunate.

Choosing natural therapies and remedies such as supplements, appropriate herbs, aromatherapy, chiropractic care and any one of the myriad of therapies available, has nothing to do with changing children, nothing to do with a cure, being in denial or feeling superior to other families who choose not to follow the same path. It’s simply a parents path of choice that works for their child.

Helen Goodwin


Milk matters

Milk is one of those foods that causes much heated nutritional debate and consumer confusion. On the one hand we are told that milk is a valuable source of nourishment for both adults and children, however others tell us that it’s extremely detrimental to health and not suitable for anyone other than baby cows.

Like all foods these days we are driven wild with conflicting opinion and it becomes hard to make a choice. Making the decision to go dairy free is a big step for some families who rely heavily on milk, cheese, butter and yogurt, in their diet.  Here’s an in depth look at this controversial food, to help you decide what works best for your child and family.


Children and babies with Down syndrome have small eustachian tubes and airways, which very often leads to respiratory issues, breathing problems, mucus build up and infection. The results of which can lead to grommet surgery, frequent chest and ear infections, sleep apnoea and mouth breathing, which is not as beneficial to the brain as nasal breath. Keeping these compromised airways clear, is essential in order to maximize oxygenation of the blood, quality sleep and to avoid congestion and associated respiratory illness.

It may sound strange but most upper respiratory issues stem from the digestive system, another sensitive area for our children unfortunately, so if problems arise or persist, then this is the area to address. Healing the gut is a huge topic and one that we will cover in small sections over time but for today we can look at the relationship between dairy and the effect it has on the gut and respiratory system and how limiting, or going completely dairy free, might assist in improving these areas of health.

Raw milk is considered by many health experts as the only way milk should be consumed, as the beneficial bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus is still present along with enzymes that help digest milk proteins and sugars, plus vitamins, including A, C, D, B6 and B12 have not been destroyed through pasteurization.

Raw milk is higher in calcium than other milks, due to the cow’s diet of calcium rich grass. Many people who experience problems with regular milk find they thrive when switching to raw products. The issue with raw milk, is the potential for harmful bacteria, a problem if the milk is not treated in the most hygienic manner. It is for this reason that buying raw milk products for human consumption is currently illegal in Australia.

When farmers decided to join together in order to produce milk on a larger scale at a cheaper price, the community dairy became obsolete. Harmful bacteria became an issue, as milk from different herds were mixed together. It was at this time that the pasteurization process was introduced in order to overcome these issues.

Pasteurization is essentially the rapid heating and cooling of milk, as a way of destroying dangerous bacteria’s, unfortunately much of the goodness found in raw milk is lost as a consequence and you are left with a ‘dead’ rather than living food.

The proteins and sugars in the milk are also altered through pasteurization, which may be a contributing factor in some of the health related issues that milk is associated with such as digestive, skin problems and auto-immune disease.

It is possible to re-constitute some of the lost enzyme and probiotic action of pasteurized milk, by fermenting it using live cultured grains called kefir. Kefir grains are readily available via the internet and health food shops. You simply add these grains to the milk and within a few days it has fermented, the probiotic action is ignited and the milk becomes more digestible.

The next chapter in the story of milk is that of homogenisation. Milk and cream used to separate in the bottle and the butter milk used to float to the top. Commercially this natural separation of fat and water became a disadvantage, so in the 1950’s milk began to be homogenized, a process of pushing the milk at force through a tiny sieve like apparatus, so the fat molecules split and become suspended throughout the milk.

Every cause has an effect and the splitting of the buttermilk in this way causes an increase in oxidation of fat, which is a polite way of saying that it has become rancid. Also, these smaller molecules of fat are able to find there way more easily into the blood stream and have been targeted as a contributor to atherosclerosis and heart disease.

A1/A2 Milks
A1 and A2 is a term used to describe proteins called beta-casein found in milk. Most dairy milk today contains both A1 and A2 proteins.  The A2 protein is considered the original milk protein and is sourced from older breeds of cows such as the Jersey, Guernsey, Asian and African varieties.

It’s believed that thousands of years ago this A2 protein mutated in certain breeds of cattle into a form that is now known as A1 beta-casein. This A1 protein acts differently in the body to the A2, easily converting into histadines which are pre-cursers to the inflammatory histamines. It’s for this and other reasons that A1 milk has been associated with dairy related health issues, especially excessive mucus, upper respiratory problems, allergies, digestive and skin issues.

Although these milks still contain lactose, are pasteurized and homogenised, many people find that they are able to tolerate the A2 protein without any problems, indicating that it’s the protein rather than the lactose or manufacturing that are to blame.

Milk and dairy products are highly intolerant for many people and can cause a variety of health problems, which as we have seen may be largely due to modern processing methods, rather than the milk itself.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between the symptoms of food allergy and food intolerance. Usually symptoms caused by food allergy develop soon after eating even a small amount of the problem food, causing symptoms such as swelling, nausea, diarrhea, rashes and breathing difficulties. Symptoms of food intolerance can also be immediate but typically take between 1 and 48 hours to develop, reactions can be mild and are usually related to the amount of the food consumed.

Symptoms of dairy intolerance
Excessive mucus
Ear infection
Sinus infection
Food allergies and intolerance
Type 1 Diabetes
Auto-immune conditions
Leaky gut

Thankfully many of the major food intolerances such as gluten and lactose intolerance are becoming increasingly recognized with more research, awareness and alternative food products becoming available. Lactose the sugar molecules found in milk and the protein casein are the most common cause of food intolerance. The body lacks the enzyme lactase required to break down the milk sugars and casein is very difficult to digest.

If you suspect your child has food sensitivities, these can be confirmed by having an IgG Food Sensitivity Profile done, or by following an elimination diet, which needs to be carried out for at least one month before foods are slowly re-introduced. If you are breastfeeding and suspect your child has an allergy or intolerance, you will need to refrain from dairy foods until they are weaned.

The protein casein found in cows milk, is particularly tough to digest unless you have four stomachs, like a cow, or enough digestive enzymes and stomach acids to break it down, which are often found lacking in children with Down syndrome.

When casein is not sufficiently broken down, undigested protein particles contribute to inflammation in the gut which leads to intestinal permeability. This means the lining or tight junctions of the intestines become leaky and pathogens, food particles and toxins can then enter the blood stream. Coeliac disease is a major contributor to intestinal permeability, so should also be ruled out, as similarly to milk intolerance and allergy, it’s very common in the Down syndrome community.

When partially digested casein proteins leak through the gut wall and into the blood stream, they are treated as foreign proteins by the immune system, which subsequently triggers an autoimmune response and resulting systemic inflammation.

Problems such as food allergies and intolerance can arise as a result of a leaky gut, as well as auto-immune conditions, excessive mucus production, free radical damage and oxidative stress. Leaky gut syndrome also effects the liver’s ability to detoxify and clean the blood of pathogens.

Organs and systems of the body that are effected as a result of intestinal permeability include the sinuses, respiratory system, joints, thyroid, adrenal glands, colon and brain.

As well as casein being problematic, compounds found in milk known as petides (casomorphins) can pass through a leaky gut wall and begin to act like opiods, where they replicate the effects of opiate drugs. Foods containing opiods can be highly addictive and have been linked to problems in areas of speech, communication, behavior and social skills.

Leaky gut can be confirmed by an intestinal permeability test and treated successfully by removing the substances that caused the damage and healing the gut wall with appropriate food, supplements and probiotics.

The gut lining is protected by a thin mucus membrane known as biofilm, which should ideally be thin and permeable, allowing nutrients to pass over the gut wall into the blood stream.

When inflammation occurs in the gut, due to pathogens and food allergens such as casein, excessive mucus is produced to reduce the inflammation. This is the bodies way of protecting itself, however at the same time the excessive mucus creates a thicker less permeable biofilm, which harbors unhealthy bacteria and pathogens and creates a barrier that reduces nutrient absorption. Middle-ear infections and glue ear are being increasingly linked to unhealthy biofilm.

Milk also contains lactose which is a sugar and therefore a food source for unhealthy bugs and bacteria in the gut, it also requires lactase digestive enzyme to break it down. When a person doesn’t produce enough of this enzyme, problems such as diorreah, nausea, bloating and other digestive complains can occur, as the partially digested food passes through the system.

The wall of the intestines produce lactase enzyme, which can be suppressed if an unhealthy biofilm is present. Lactase production in infants is significantly reduced after breastfeeding, as the body no longer has the same requirement for it. Every other species on earth stops drinking milk once weaning takes place. So one could say that lactose intolerance is a natural event.

Many people are convinced they will be deficient in calcium if they reduce or eliminate dairy food from their diet, however many of the worlds population consume less than half an Australians recommended dietary allowance and still have very strong bones and teeth.

Foods high in calcium (milligrams of calcium per 100grams)
Broccoli 130
Leafy greens 187
Parsley 203
Almonds 254
Sesame seeds and tahini 1,160
Seaweeds (kelp, kombu, wakame) 1,093
Cows milk contains 118 milligrams of calcium per 100grams

Calcium intake should be limited to moderate amounts, due to the potential for build up and inflammatory effect on the brain.

In a similar vein to gluten free foods, most commercially made dairy free products are highly processed and not healthy food choices. Dairy alternatives such as  soy milks, soy yoghurt’s, ice-cream and cheeses are best avoided, as are margarine’s and non dairy spreads.

Soybeans are one of the top five genetically modified crops, it’s cheap to produce and used in far too many products these days from baby’s formula to ice-cream and fake sausages. Soy is a hormone disrupter and ironically mucus forming, it’s not a suitable substitute for children.

Healthy dairy alternatives
Top choices include:
Organic hemp milk. You can read more about the benefits here.
Freshly made coconut milk. You can find a recipe here.
If you live in the US, look up for information about pea milk

Other choices:
Commercial rice*almond and oat milk (watch out for sugar content and remember oat milk is not gluten free)
Homemade nut milks

Tahini spread
Coconut oil
Nut and seed butters and cheese

Coconut ice cream
Coconut whipped cream
Coconut yoghurt

Many of these items can be bought in health food and organic food shops, or can be made at home. Check out Jo Witton’s Quirky Cooking article on making healthy dairy free alternative foods.

*Studies have shown that rice can be very high in arsenic, so it would be wise to limit it’s consumption.

If you still wish to include dairy products in your diet, then here are some choices that may be better tolerated by the body, if allergy and intolerance have been ruled out, gut health is good and lactose intolerance is not an issue.

Organic unsweetened natural yoghurt
Organic whole full fat milk (un-homogenised if possible)
Goat’s milk (easier for some people to digest)
Ghee (clarified butter)
Quality soft cheeses, goats cheese, or buffalo mozzarella
Organic butter
Milk kefir and fermented yoghurt
A2 Milk

As we can see from this lengthy article, the issue of dairy consumption and it’s effects on the body are complex. It would appear that many of the processes that modern milk goes through, can effect how well milk is tolerated and digested in the body, which would also include the prevalence of A1 modern casein proteins.

Dairy foods are not the only contributors to leaky gut syndrome, which is a huge issue when it comes to the negative effects that dairy proteins have on the body as a whole. It makes sense to remove the foods that are causing the intestinal permeability and heal and seal the gut lining, if we want to ensure that the body and brain are protected from inflammation and excessive mucus production.

If you suspect your child has an intolerance or allergy to dairy foods, or a gut permeability issue, then you can confirm your suspicions by consulting with your health care provider for testing and treatment. Even is a child doesn’t display typical signs of allergy or intolerance to dairy foods, the harmful effect of undigested dairy proteins and sugar on the gut and immune system may still be an issue.

Helen Goodwin


Benefits of Selenium

Selenium is an extremely important mineral for health and can play a huge role in supporting children with Down syndrome. This amazing mineral is essential for a well functioning thyroid gland and is vital for antioxidant protection and a healthy immune system.

The best way to optimize selenium levels is by eating foods which have been grown in selenium rich soils, such as those found in certain parts of the United States. Unfortunately many soils around the world are deficient in Selenium, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North-East China, which can lead to low levels in the body and health related problems.

Inadequate levels of Selenium are associated with chronic diseases such as cancers and cardiovascular disease, increased risk of viral infections, a decrease in thyroid function and increased incidence of neurological and inflammatory disorders, many of which are issues that effect children with Down syndrome.

When the thyroid gland is converting inactive T4 to active T3, it requires selenium and zinc for the conversion, so having adequate levels of both of these minerals, is essential in the treatment of thyroid disorders, which are so prevalent in the Down syndrome community. Selenium also works together with iodine to regulate thyroid metabolism and is needed to produce the thyroid hormone T3, which also regulates metabolism.

A study in China determined that the risk of thyroid disorders was 69% higher for those living in low-selenium countries, meaning the soil levels were poor, than for those in the adequate-selenium countries. More than 30% of subjects in the low-selenium areas had thyroid disease compared with 18% of those in the adequate-selenium areas.

Children with Down syndrome often have poor immune function and are more susceptible to infections, particularly of the respiratory tract. This lowered immunity is partly due to mild to moderate T and B cell lymphopenia, which some of you might have seen on blood test results, with a decrease in the production of lymphocytes and T cells.

Selenium is a vital component in the proper functioning of the immune system and has been found in the tissue of the spleen, liver and lymph nodes, where it assists the cells of the immune system to do their job effectively.

Studies have identified that children with Down syndrome often have low levels of selenium and when supplemented with therapeutic levels, a lower incidence of infections occurred.

Selenium is utilised in the production of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, the bodies master antioxidant, which works to prevent cellular damage from free radicals and also helps the thyroid gland and immune system to function.

Children with Down syndrome have an especially high requirement for glutathione, as it’s needed to offset the negative effects of excess SOD, (superoxide dismutase), which is over-expressed by the 21st chromosome.

Selenium also works in conjunction with vitamin E, to help prevent oxidative damage in the body and helps recycle vitamin C, which is another powerful antioxidant.

Eating selenium rich foods is the best and safest way to optimise levels. Supplementation is not recommended due to the possibility of toxicity, unless levels are very low and guidance is given by a professional, who can monitor levels and dosage.

If gut health is an issue, then the ability for the body to access and absorb the selenium from the food may be compromised. If low levels persist, then this is an area to consider addressing, with measures such as digestive enzyme support.


1) Brazil nuts
1 oz (6-8 nuts): 544 mcg

2) Yellowfin tuna
3 oz: 92 mcg

3) Halibut, cooked
3 oz: 47mcg

4) Sardines, canned
3 oz: 45mcg

5) Grass-fed beef
3 oz: 33 mcg

6) Turkey, boneless
3 oz: 31 mcg

7) Beef liver
3 oz: 28 mcg

8) Chicken
3 oz: 22 mcg

9) Egg
1 large, 15 mcg

10) Spinach
1 cup: 11 mcg

Other sources of selenium include, organ meats, cashew nuts and sunflower seeds. As many fish contain high levels of mercury, which is detrimental to brain health, it’s wise to keep fish servings to a minimum and choose other selenium rich foods.


Birth to 6 months 15 mcg
Infants 7-12 months 20 mcg
Children 1-3 years 20 mcg
Children 4-8 years 30 mcg
Children 9-13 years 40 mcg
Teens 14-18 years 55 mcg
Breastfeeding women 70 mcg

Remember that the amount of selenium in plant foods depends on the amount of selenium in the soil where they were grown, so these recommended daily allowances are a guide and do not take into consideration deficiency or optimal therapeutic levels for an individual.

If you are concerned that your child may have a selenium deficiency, talk to your health care provider about organising either a blood or hair analysis test.

Helen Goodwin


Anneren G et al. Increased plasma and erythrocyte selenium concentrations but decreased erythrocyte glutathione peroxidase activity after selenium supplementation in children with Down syndrome. Acta Paediatr Scand 78:879-884, 1989

Antila E et al. Selenium therapy in Down syndrome: a theory and clinical trial. Antioxidants in Therapy and Prev Med, ed. I. Emerit et al, 183-186, Plenum Press, 1990. Selenium supplementation increased red blood cell glutathione peroxidase activity.

Kanavin OJ et al. Thyroid hypofunction in Down’s syndrome. Biol Trace Elem Res 78(1-3):35-42, 2000.


Natural remedies for exhaustion

Negotiating this modern world can be a very stressful and busy affair, with so many things to juggle. Looking after children, managing a household and or a job, can mean that energy levels deplete and we can start to feel wired and tired.

When you add to this regular picture of life, all the added extras that come along with being a parent of a child with additional needs, such as the appointments, health concerns and anxiety for the future, then we can find ourselves walking on rocky emotional and physical ground, as cups begin to run over.

If you have feelings of being constantly tired, feel run down and overwhelmed, have a low mood, a short temper and find it difficult to get to sleep, or stay asleep, chances are your body and mind are not catching up with, or managing your hectic schedule and you may find yourself in a state of exhaustion, often referred to as adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue results in a low tolerance to stress, which easily topples over into feelings of overwhelm, frustration and anger. So many mums give themselves a hard time when these feelings erupt, however it’s often a sign that they are physically exhausted and at their limit, which has nothing to do with being a bad parent.

Commonly people with this condition feel especially tired in the morning and mid afternoon, with a boost of energy at around 6.00pm. Poor circulation, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), a craving for caffeine, sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates are also common symptoms, as are muscle weakness, poor stamina and libido, lowered immunity and feelings of apathy, anxiety and depression.

Physical and emotional stress are the biggest contributors to adrenal dysfunction. If your relationships are strained,  your lacking adequate support, looking after a sick child, or having a hard time at work, it’s your adrenal glands that will be taking the brunt.

On the physical side, if your recovering from surgery or illness, have health issues such as hypothyroidism, inflammation, coeliac disease, other auto-immune conditions, or running on caffeine, sugar and a poor diet, then your adrenal glands will be under strain as a result.

Although Naturopaths and other complementary health care practitioners are familiar with the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and how to treat it, most medical doctors only recognise an extreme form of adrenal fatigue known as Addison’s disease, so will often not be aware of how to test and treat the condition.

Some doctor’s however may be familiar with the salivary cortisol test, which helps to measure levels throughout the day which gives an indication of how the adrenal glands are performing. Cortisol is a steroid hormone, produced by the adrenal cortex, which is released in response to stress and low blood sugar.

The salivary cortisol test and other more specific tests to determine the presence of adrenal fatigue and contributing factors, are easily accessible through Naturopaths and Integrative Doctors.

There are two elements to successful treatment for adrenal fatigue, first it’s necessary to reduce or manage as many external stressors as possible and secondly you need to support and heal the adrenal glands, through the use of correct diet, herbs and supplementation.

In an ideal world, the most natural treatment strategy for adrenal fatigue would be rest, relaxation activities, adequate sleep, gentle exercise and nourishing food.

However, we live in the real world and for most of us this just isn’t going to happen, which can be a huge stress in itself. So, if we can’t change our lives to meet our health needs, we need to look towards ways in which we can manage the stresses in our lives by becoming more resilient to them.

If you are dealing with emotional stress, then it’s essential that you have someone you can really confide in, someone who can listen and allow you to express all that your feeling. If you don’t have anyone in your life at the moment who you feel you can talk to, then you might consider seeing a counselor or psychologist. Sometimes talking to a third party, who is not directly involved in your life, can be very helpful. In Australia Doctors are able to organise mental health plans, which cover six therapy sessions or more if needed.

Adrenal glands love gentle exercise, so contrary to the belief that the body needs nothing but rest to recover, taking a walk, going for a swim or some gentle yoga can be very beneficial. There are lot’s of yoga classes available via CD or YouTube if classes are too hard to get too. I recommend looking into Yin Yoga which is an excellent, effective and gentle way of calming the nervous system

Stress management techniques such as breathing and meditation can also really help prevent stress levels rising and keep the cortisol in check, again if you can’t get to a class, check out some guided meditation CD’s online, that you can download on to your phone and use when needed.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C increases adrenal function and stimulates the immune system, so this is a must in any adrenal fatigue recovery programme. Look for a buffered ascorbic acid blend that contains bioflavanoids for best results. Due to the water soluble nature of this vitamin, it’s best taken several times during the day.

Everyone will have different requirements for Vitamin C, depending on the severity of their condition. As a rule of thumb, you can take 1000mg of Vitamin C per hour until your bowel movements are soft and runny, then reduce the amount by 1000mg. The most common daily range is 2000-4000mg per day but it can be a lot more than that for chronic conditions. Be cautious when reducing your daily dosage, to avoid a sudden Vitamin C deficiency occurring.

Magnesium acts like a spark plug for your adrenal glands and is essential for the production of enzymes and energy necessary for the adrenals to function well, so this mineral is really important for adrenal recovery. The recommended form is Magnesium Citrate, or L-Threonate, at approximately 400mg per day. This is best taken before bed, as it’s more easily absorbed after 8.00pm.

B6 in the form or Pyridoxyl 5 Phosphate, down regulates excessive cortisol secretion and is a co-factor in the the adrenal cortex cascade, therefore an important vitamin for recovery. If you have trouble recalling your dreams, it may be an indication that you are deficient in this mineral. Typically 50-100mg a day are plenty.

B complex formulas are readily available from health food shops, however many contain folate which is not suitable for many people. It’s recommended that you look for activated B complex formulas, such as the one by Pure Innovations, which contains the active form of folate (B9), called folinic acid. This particular formula also contains Pyridoxyl 5 Phosphate, so you wouldn’t need to purchase a separate supplement.

Omega oils
Fish or krill oil are both rich in omega 3 oils, which have beneficial effect on lowering cortisol, which negatively effects the brain during stress and adrenal fatigue. Choose a mercury free supplement as a great addition to your healing programme.

There are certain herbs such as Licorice root, Ashwaganda Root and Leaf (Withania), Siberean Ginseng, Ginger Root and Ginko Biloba which are very beneficial for treating adrenal fatigue and improving stress resistance, you can purchase blends in health food shops, or online, such as Yarrow Adrenal Optimizer, however practitioner only formulations, or tailored formulas, will most likely be more effective due to strength of product and suitability. Herbs can be taken alongside the above mentioned supplements to great effect.

Please consult with a professional if you are breastfeeding or pregnant before taking any of these natural remedies, to ensure safety for you and your child.

Adrenal glands love protein, especially first thing in the morning and throughout the day, as it helps to balance blood sugar levels and avoid cortisol spikes. Reducing or even better eliminating sugar, alcohol and caffeine is very helpful and I would say essential but hard to do when your exhausted. You may find that you don’t need them to get through the day quite as much, once you start on a supplement programme. A diet rich in vegetables, healthy fats and quality protein, with small amounts of complex carbohydrates, are good dietary guidelines for adrenal recovery.

With any health condition, especially if the health picture is complex, seeking out professional guidance is the best approach. It may seem expensive, however a tailored programme, along with support and high quality remedies and supplements can help you get back on track more quickly and save costly mistakes in the long run.

Helen Goodwin



Constipation solutions

When a child has constipation, it can be a worry for a parent and extremely uncomfortable for a child, often making them feel pretty grumpy.

The bowel is one of the major organs of detoxification, therefore dealing with constipation is an important issue to address. The longer a stool remains in the colon, the more water is absorbed and the problem exacerbates itself. The other issue with constipation is the potential for an increase in unhealthy bacterial growth, which can cause further problems for the gut.

Constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week, with difficulty in emptying the bowels and is usually associated with hardened faeces. Chronic constipation is defined as infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools that persists for several weeks or longer.

Sometimes constipation is not identified because the child continues to pass small amounts of liquid stool. This happens when hard dry stools are retained in the rectum, whist small amounts of liquid stool seep around the sides often resulting in soiling. This is called constipation with overflow.

The frequency of daily bowel movements varies from person to person and will depend upon stress levels, constitution and diet. It would be fair to say that having at least one bowel movement a day, that is well formed and not overly bad smelling, would be an ideal goal. If your child is a long way from this ideal, don’t panic, there are solutions, you might just need to try a few things in order to find out what works best for your child.

Typically constipation is caused by a variety of factors that include a lack of gut motility, dehydration, stress and an unsuitable diet. Even though the reasons are a little more complex for children with Down syndrome, due to hypotonia and motor function, the following recommendations are good places to start when looking to improve overall digestion and elimination.

If dehydration is playing a part in your child’s constipation, then giving two glasses of warm water at night can help lubricate the bowels overnight. Drinking plenty of water during the day is also crucial. Try not to wait until your child is thirsty, because this is a sign that they are already dehydrated.

Some parents report success with pear or prune juice, so you may wish to give these a try too. Juices are very high in sugar, so not something to be given on a regular basis, however if they work when constipation strikes, I would say they would be a better alternative to a laxative.

Soak a couple of prunes in water overnight and include with breakfast.

Lubricating the intestines with oil can can really help things to move along, so you may wish to try one of the following options.

Soak a quarter to a half teaspoon of flaxseeds in boiling water overnight and include with breakfast or the above mentioned soaked prunes and pear juice.

Coconut oil has many health benefits, so is a safe and great option to try, giving half a teaspoon in divided doses morning and evening may also help with constipation. When you start ingesting any type of oil, you need to start with small amounts, so build up to 1/2 a teaspoon over a week and monitor how your child reacts. You can give it straight off the spoon, mixed with food such as avocado, or melted in a warm drink.

Olive oil stimulates liver function and bile production, so you can give small amounts of this with a little lemon juice or in food to help kick start the liver and the natural digestive process.

Making up an evening chamomile and fennel tea, aids digestion and relaxes the gut if tension is a contributing factor to the constipation. Tea bags hold no therapeutic value, so you would need to purchase loose leaf chamomile and fennel seeds.

Salt, meat and poultry are contracting foods that are more difficult to digest, so limiting these foods can be beneficial whilst trying to get digestion back on track.

All vegetables are beneficial for treating constipation, however the following are especially useful. Spinach, honey, pear, prune, peach, kiwi fruit, papaya, apple, apricot, carrot, cabbage, peas, sweet potato, cauliflower and beetroot.

Fermented foods and bone broth are also beneficial, as they heal the gut, increase healthy bacteria and simulate the production of digestive enzymes.

Dairy and gluten containing foods have been known to contribute to constipation, especially if an intolerance exists, so removing them from the diet, may be a strategy worth exploring.

This is a very beneficial treatment for constipation, so walking, running, jumping, moving of any description should help.

Digestive enzymes are released in various locations throughout the digestive tract, to assist with breaking down food and releasing nutrients for absorption. The production of these enzymes can be a problem for people with Down syndrome, so choosing a good supplement that can take over the job can have multiple benefits, including the treatment of constipation.

There are many different forms of magnesium that perform different functions in the body, magnesium bisglyconate, is the one to choose when constipation is an issue, as it helps hydrate the system and move the bowels.

This familiar vitamin is usually associated with the treatment of colds and flu, however buffered Vitamin C can be given in small doses throughout the day, until to bowel tolerance is reached and the bowel contents are”flushed” out. You would need to speak to your practitioner regarding dosage and instruction on this method of treatment, as you need to go low and slow.

Many children with Down syndrome find themselves on iron supplements to address a deficiency, however these can cause constipation, so make sure that the brand you choose, if your child needs it, states it’s non-constipating.

A broad spectrum quality probiotic can help boost the function of the digestive system and assist with treating constipation, so this is another supplement to consider.
If your child is happy for you to massage their tummy, then make sure you always do so in a clockwise manner, which is in line with the direction of the colon. You can pay particular attention to the area known as the ileocecal valve, which is the point at which the small and large intestine meet. As you can see from the diagram, it’s a prime location for faeces to back up.

There are lot’s of tailored aromatherapy blends available and plenty of digestive specific ones, which may help with the digestion and gut motility. Look for ingredients such as ginger, fennel, peppermint, coriander, tarragon and star anise.

Laxatives and enemas are meant to be used for occasional constipation and not as along term solution, however if it’s a balance of keeping the bowel clear whilst you work on managing the underlying issues, they can be a very useful tool short term. There are natural laxatives available and you may wish to look into saline or olive oil enemas for more options.

A very common underlying cause of constipation in children with Down syndrome is hypothyroidism, so it’s important to ensure that function is accurately and regularly monitored and treated if it’s a contributing factor.

Other things to consider with chronic constipation include, in a very small minority, Hirschprung’s disease, Coeliac disease and low levels of serotonin in the gut. Like with any chronic condition that is not responding to simple treatments such as the ones mentioned above, seeking out a medical professional who can investigate matters further is important.

Helen Goodwin



Rethink Zinc


Those of us in the Southern hemisphere are currently preparing ourselves and our children for winter, so immune boosting strategies are a hot topic right now.

I was talking to a Biochemist the other day about viruses, in particular the cold and flu variety and how best to treat them. Our conversation came round to zinc, a popular and commonly used mineral, best known for its immune boosting capabilities.

Zinc is often found to be deficient in children with Down syndrome for a number of reasons, including high copper levels, coeliac disease and gene over-expression. It is frequently given as a daily supplement, most commonly in the form of Zinc picolinate, due to its superior absorbability, with the dosage boosted during times of illness.

Signs of mild zinc deficiency include, poor appetite, fussy eating, weight loss and an increase in infections. Zinc plays an important role in healthy thyroid function, wound healing and healthy growth and development, so these aspects of your child’s health may be affected if levels are low.

Whilst zinc is most commonly given in capsule form, with the powder released into food, for small children, there have been some fascinating studies into the beneficial effect of zinc lozenges in relation to treating colds, which is the focus of my post for today.

In 1984, a double blind study was undertaken by the American Society for Biology, which demonstrated that zinc gluconate lozenges could shorten the duration of a cold by seven days, improving outcomes for a whopping 90% of participants, compared to 46% in the placebo group.

The motivation for this study came after observation of a three year old girl, who was undergoing chemotherapy for acute lymphocytic leukaemia. The little girl was frequently developing severe colds both before and after treatment and was being given zinc tablets, to help stimulate T-cell lymphocyte responsiveness.

At the onset of a new cold, she refused to swallow a 23mg zinc glyconate tablet and dissolved it in her mouth instead, within several hours the cold had gone. An existing research study revealed that zinc ions, which are released on ingestion of zinc, inhibit the replication of viruses by inhibiting viral polypeptide cleavage, in other words, zinc stops the division and replication of viruses, which is worth reading again in order to let it sink in, so here it is. Zinc has been shown to stop the division and replication of viruses!

Clinical trials revealed that 23 mg zinc gluconate lozenges used every two waking hours (nine a day) shortened the common cold by about seven days. Children under 27kg were given half a tablet every two hours and no more than 6 tablets a day. As a result of the zinc supplementation, all of the following symptoms were diminished:

Nasal discharge
Nasal congestion
Scratchy throat
Sore throat
Muscular aches

Most viral replications found in common colds occur before or within the first 24 hours of onset of clinical symptoms, so the inhibition of viral replication by zinc treatment will be at it’s most effective in the early stages. A cold of a few hours for example, even in an immune suppressed child, can vanish within several hours, so the key to success is early treatment.

Given that it’s unwise to give your child a lozenge to dissolve in their mouth due to safety issues, liquid zinc is an effective alternative, as is an opened capsule of zinc powder. This may not be as effective as a slow releasing lozenge, but the zinc ions will coat the throat none the less. Simply add the powder or liquid to a cup of water or food, such as apple puree, or to a drink bottle, which can be sipped throughout the day. Zinc is best given after or with meals, as it can cause nausea and vomiting, if taken on an empty stomach.

As we are unable to offer specific advice regarding dosage, because we don’t know your child’s health history or zinc levels, we recommend you seek out your health care provider for more information regarding an appropriate brand and dosage for your child. What we can recommend, as with any new supplement, is that you start slowly and build up to the appropriate dose.

As a short term treatment strategy, zinc can be a powerful tool for acute respiratory conditions in winter, long term use of zinc should be at the recommended daily dose, or that which has been suggested by your health care professional. It is advisable to monitor levels regularly by checking serum zinc via blood test.

Helen Goodwin





Please eat something!

Ok, so let’s start tackling some of these fussy eaters shall we!

Let me just start by saying that I’ve been at my wits end at times, trying to get my son to eat a proper meal, so if you’re struggling, you have my empathy, it can be frustrating and make you feel very anxious at times. At one point my son would only be fed if he was watching shows on his iPad, he had to be distracted completely, otherwise he just wouldn’t eat. I don’t regret doing it, I did what I had to at the time, in order to get food in to his mouth and that’s ok. I wanted to move on from that when the time was right and the following strategies have worked incredibly well for us so far.

As I mentioned in my post last week, there are many reasons why children might not be eating well but for today, I will be making a few suggestions for the children who have no known sensory or underlying health issues and are just being stubborn about it.

First of all keep an eye on the amount of sweet foods and refined carbohydrates that your child eats. These foods are highly addictive and make more nourishing foods, especially protein, less desirable. If your little one has become accustomed to crackers, cereal, treats, popcorn, bread, rice and similar foods, then the transition to vegetables and protein rich foods can be quite hard. Try it yourself, if you eat these foods in abundance, you too will find it more challenging to sit down to a balanced meal that you have to chew and really work at.

If you’ve fallen in to that trap because that’s all your child will eat, then you need to wean them off these refined carbohydrate foods by reducing them daily and substituting the sweet taste with foods such as sweet potato, pumpkin and carrots, pureed, baked or in soup. These foods satisfy the sweet taste, without the negativity of refined carbohydrates. Work towards having “treat” foods like cake and chocolate, only on very special occasions, such as a birthday party and decide upon how many of the other foods, like popcorn, biscuits and crackers, that you think are reasonable to give on a daily basis. Once you have a plan in mind, stick to it!

You can also try intertwining favourite foods with new foods. My son for example loves toast and is allowed one piece a day. If I let him, he would eat a whole loaf in a day! At dinner time, when we are having soup, he now knows he can have a piece of cut up toast, for every mouthful. It works a treat and the added bonus is, he’s exploring mixed textures at the same time and learning the skill of delayed gratification.

If you too have a child who has to be distracted by devices before they will eat, you may wish to try the following which has really helped me to relax about the whole thing and start seeing mealtimes as a pleasant experience once again, which has been reflected in my sons compliance.

Start by setting the table for dinner times and if your child is old enough, ask them to help. This could include a table cloth, cutlery, plates, cups and a candle that they can blow out only after the meal is complete. This practice is firmly entrenched in the Steiner and Montessori philosophies of early childhood and sets up a healthy association with meal times and food. It becomes a rhythm and ritual in the day and takes the focus and pressure away from eating being the sole goal, as the intent becomes more about connection between family members, relaxation and conversation.

The next recommendation is that a grazing plate be placed in the middle of the meal table, that the child is allowed to snack on during the meal. These snack items could include carrots and other vegetable sticks, tomatoes, a dip, some nuts, whatever you want as long, as it’s healthy. Children need to be given a choice and some autonomy when choosing their own food, otherwise it becomes a battle of wills, when a plate of food is put in front of them. You could also break up the main meal into separate bowls and ask them to serve themselves. Tongs are a great addition to this evening ritual, as it becomes a fun game to play and again takes the focus off the actual eating and more on the experience of it all.

It goes without saying that all electronic devices should ideally be switched off during mealtimes, if at all possible and the focus be redirected to the family. If a distraction is required for your child, then I have found drawing pictures effective, breaking up crackers into small pieces and pretending they are animals and talking to my son about his strong muscles, because he’s eating his dinner, or our day, to be very helpful.

Every child is different as is every family and children do come to things in their own time as we know but if you haven’t already tried some of these tips, then why not give them a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.



Standing on the shoulders of giants


Today is the official launch of the Three 21 Wellness Foundation and World Down Syndrome Day 2016.

As we celebrate the amazing achievement of our children and the gifts that they bring in to our lives and others, I wish to dedicate this news post to the wellness educators and practitioners, who’s work has shaped the lives of so many and most certainly inspired the creation of this Foundation.

With deepest respect we would would like to thank:

Dr Erica Peirson and the Peirson Center, for their biomedical and naturopathic approach to treatment and ongoing dedication to research and education.

Andi Durkin for sharing natural health solutions that have worked for her son and her continuing commitment to sharing knowledge with the community.

Kristen Morrison for boldly sharing the journey with Down syndrome and natural therapies, through her book “Naturally Better”, which has paved the way for so many parents in Australia and beyond.

Wellness coach Melissa Zulli, for her courageous and inspiring healing journey, showing just what’s possible through good food and wholistic living.

The MINDD foundation for providing parents and practitioners with integrative healthcare solutions, that are helping children heal and recover.

Dixie Lawrence for her research and continuing commitment to product development and for the education and support she provides parents.

Dr Amy Yasko for her brilliant mind and integrative approach to treatment, in particular MTHFR issues.

Dr Robyn Cosford for understanding that it all starts in the gut and for her integrative approach to treating children.

This list is by no means exhaustive, the Down syndrome community is surrounded and supported by brilliant, progressive and committed professionals, who are willing to step outside of the square and help our children.

Our only hope as a parent focused resource, is that we can fuse some of this brilliance together and translate it into everyday language and resources that can be implemented into daily life.

We would also like to acknowledge the following people and organisations, for their contribution on this very special day.

Joelle Kelly
Kent McCleod
The Lejeune Foundation
Lawrence Leichtman
Qadayosha Fysh
CERI research
Down Syndrome OPTIONS
British Association of Osteopaths
Kay Ness
Jivadhara Institute for Neurodevelopment
Anat Baniel
Dr Norman Shwartz
Dr Weil

Lastly but most importantly, we wish to save our deepest respect and acknowledgment to you, the parents. You may have been in the trenches many times over and most likely felt confused, elated and hopeless with the natural healing journey, perhaps all in the same day!

Your endless commitment to the development, health and well-being of your children is inspiring, humbling, miraculous and often times heroic. Without you, nothing would happen, the brilliance in the minds of those we have mentioned, would be lost in the ether without your collaboration.

We thank you, your children will most definitely thank you and we hope that our efforts in the future will make the journey that little bit more easeful for you.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day, we have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward too.

Behind the scenes

When you have a big dream, one that lights up the heart and mind and inspires others along the way, it becomes increasingly frustrating when the dream takes so long to materialise into physical form. It just seems so easy on paper!

In our fast paced, want it now society, it’s easy to forget the old saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day and get frustrated and downhearted. It’s a bit like the journey of natural healthcare itself really, certainly not a quick fix or instant gratification endeavour, rather a long term commitment to creating and sustaining something valuable and meaningful.

Behind the scenes, life goes on for all involved with this project, families need to be fed, appointments met and attended, beds made, houses cleaned, work commitments fulfilled and everything in between. It’s a joy to be involved with this endeavor and the dedication is as strong as ever, even when life piles high on top of it.

So, with some morning space available to re-connect with this marvelous and exciting project, emails have been sent, connections made and re-ignited, and the dream takes one more step towards liberation and reality.


Website Update

Three 21 Wellness Foundation now has a new website! Exciting times.

Something very magical happens when a logo and site is specifically designed for a project, an identity starts to take shape and everything starts to feel very real.

What started out as a seed of an idea less than a year ago, has already gone through so many stages of change to become what it is today, and we are still only at the very beginning.

This website will serve as a platform for our ideas, a vehicle to spread the word, gather support, feedback and ultimately funding for the next website build.

If you haven’t already, have a look around the new site and drop us a line to let us know what you think. We would love to hear from you.





Let’s do this!

Woo Hoo! The Three 21 Wellness Foundation has a voice. Finally the dream is starting to feel more like a reality.

Today, we are more dedicated and committed than ever, to helping parents and practitioners, throughout Australia and beyond, access quality healthcare information and resources for their loved ones with Down Syndrome.

Join us on this journey, it’s sure to be a wonderful adventure and we would love you along for the ride!