Posts Tagged: health

When poop doesn’t happen

Guest post by Theresa Albert

Nutritionists love to talk about poo. Its size, shape, frequency and texture are all fascinating to us because they express so much about the food that went in and the health of the system that is supposed to be utilizing it. So it pains a nutritionist and parents, when a child won’t, or has trouble, going number two. We know how uncomfortable it can be, and yet important.

The scoop on poop

So what is constipation and what causes it? Naturopathic doctor, Jane Shou, ND, who practices at the Rosedale Wellness Centre in Toronto says: “By definition a child who is used to regular bowel movements who goes two or more days without a bowel movement, or has pain or difficulty passing hard stool is constipated. The most common cause is insufficient fluids and/or too little fibre.” Sounds simple enough but there are other constipation causes worth considering:

  • emotional stress (moving to a new location, or change in routine)
  • too much emphasis on toilet training
  • changes in diet or the introduction of new foods
  • too much fat in diet
  • lack of exercise
  • holding stool for various reasons such as being too active to take the time to have a bowel movement which can lead to reluctance in passing firmer stool due to the association of pain
  • using a medication that may be constipating

During short bouts of constipation, food isn’t used well, bloating or cramping is uncomfortable and fatigue can set in. After a few weeks, minor nutritional deficiencies can be present. Over the long term, chronic constipation can lead to a loss of muscle tone in the bowel, leading to a lifelong problem. In severe cases, rectal fissures (painful microscopic tears in the rectum) can result. Because the bowel presses on the bladder, children who suffer from constipation may also experience bedwetting.

A professional should conduct a very thorough review of past or current issues relating to digestive function and other factors, such as patterns with diet, sleep, stress, energy, demeanour, and other current health concerns. The idea is to find the root cause of the issue and treat from that standpoint and to allow the body to heal and grow stronger for a long term resolution and to prevent future issues.

Try these simple at home remedies:

  • Gradually increase the amount of fibre and fluid in your child’s diet.
  • Provide water, herbal teas, and clear soups before every meal.
  • Serve warm water with 1/4 squeezed lemon, first thing in the morning.
  • Probiotics are fabulous for helping establish healthy gut flora, try yogurt that is free of flavourings, colours or gums such as gelatin.
  • Serve hot cereals such as oatmeal each day.
  • Epsom salts baths, being high in magnesium, can increase circulation to the lower abdomen. Magnesium supplements can soften stool and help relax muscles
  • Massage lower abdomen to stimulate circulation and movement.  Start on the lower right corner and move upwards towards the ribs, and then over to the left, and then down towards the pelvis on the left side of the abdomen
  • Encourage physical activity and awareness of responding promptly to bowel needs. If a young child indicates an urge, respond promptly and take him/her to the bathroom.

The single most important thing to do in preventing or treating constipation is to use whole foods right from the first foods stage and avoid highly processed and packaged foods. If you are already in the toilet on this, so to speak, it’s not too late to find relief from constipation… start eating healthier now. Implement as many of the techniques listed as possible and prevent a lifelong struggle with digestion.


About the Author:

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at


The Good Thing About Lice

Having kids in daycare or school can mean many of you are discovering the joys of lice. I know, I know. How can there be anything good about lice? Here is how I turned it into a good thing for me.

1) My own children had it so many times in kindergarten and grade one that I decided to join the Lice Committee at their school.  It was the first way I got involved in my kids’ school and I liked meeting the other ladies that volunteered and the sense of community it gave me with the other moms.

2) Unlike other parent volunteer jobs in the school, volunteering as a lice nurse really let me get to visit with kids. And a lot of them!  One by one, checking their heads (which is really rather personal and you feel a bit like a baboon going through another person’s heads with chop sticks), I got to have a little visit with the other kids in my children’s school. I knew kids by name and learned a little something about them so I could say “hello” on the school yard to so many of them.

3) I got very skilled at finding those little critters and their nits and differentiating them from hair casts and dandruff, so my own kids benefitted from my keen eye as I got better at “early detection.”  I got a reputation as being the “lice lady” and could offer my services to moms who wondered, “Is this a nit?” “Go ask Alyson to check your kids head!” Ah, nice to share my talents and help others. I was developing my “social interest,” as Adler calls it.

4) When my kids had to be treated and have their nits removed, it was a nice quiet time together, usually involving hot chocolate and watching a movie together and often missing a day of school. Any “exception to the normal day” was a bit of a treat for us both.  We made it an occasion.

5) When I was in the hallways doing the head checks, I could overhear the teachers in the classroom. This gave me a “peek” into various teaching styles that I never would have seen if I was “officially” visiting the class.  Who doesn’t act differently when there is a visitor in the class? So it was a good way to get to know the teachers of the school too. The good, the bad and ugly of that.

6) I learned a LOT about lice and could calm people’s fears. Lice like clean hair, not dirty hair, for example.  Yes, they are a hassle to deal with, but are they are not dangerous.  And yes indeed, the incident of infestation does drastically drop after about grade two.  I needed to see that for myself when it seemed a bit “perpetual” that first year.

So – if you get the note home saying, “Nits have been found in your child’s classroom,” don’t have a hissy fit.  Check their hair and don’t pass judgment on others. This is a part of the stuff of life and if you get a good attitude going, you can find the upside to anything.

Now shall we talk about pin worms? No – maybe not.


About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer









Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at

How to Lose the Baby Fat

By Toronto Nutritionist, Theresa Albert

 What every mom really wants to do is to drop the baby weight safely, easily and once and for all.  Any calorie restriction process (aka “diet”) will allow you to lose weight but they are not all the same.  Cutting back from your ravenous baby growing days isn’t easy when they lead directly into your sleepless, time strapped months.  And, the last thing you want to do is to ignore the food groups that will help you recover from pregnancy.  Make no mistake; pregnancy itself takes a huge toll on the body.  You need nutrients to put all the pieces back together again. If Humpty Dumpty only knew…

The simplest and smartest diet by far is called the DASH diet which was developed for those who have hypertension or high blood pressure.  The acronym stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension and it is a sound, whole foods based approach to do just that. And a lot more. If your intake shifted to this simple, grandma’s advice type way of eating, you could also see a reduction in weight, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, fatigue…  No matter which new piece of nutrition evidence arises, it still stacks up against this plan.  And it is a lot like the infamously  touted Mediterranean Diet.

The DASH diet allows all foods and food groups but it focuses on whole foods while removing sugars and bad fats. Removing these items necessarily avoids convenience and processed foods which is a good thing.  The trick here is to keep a tally all day, every day of the kinds of foods you are eating.  You want more from the top of the list below and less from the bottom.  Vegetables are unlimited and everything else is measured.

In order to achieve success, your slow cooker is your best friend right now in terms of time and vegetable management.  Each week load it up with virtually no calorie foods like canned tomatoes, chopped peppers, onions, carrots, celery and let vegetable soup nourish you all week long and whenever you are hungry.

Print this off and keep it on your fridge, do a tally for a few days and see if you can get:


Vegetables: 8 servings per day (unlimited)

Serving =

½ cup cooked vegetables

½ cup raw vegetables

1 cup green salad

Keep going until you hit 8 servings and beyond!

Fruit:  a maximum of 3 servings per day

1 small piece fresh fruit (plum to peach size)

½ cup berries

¼ cup dried fruit

Poultry, fish, and meat:  exactly 1 serving per day

Serving =

120 grams cooked (deck of cards 4-5 ounces)

Legumes, tofu and nuts:  exactly 2 servings each day

Serving =

½ cup cooked beans

¼ cup nuts

5 ounces tofu

Grains/starch:  a maximum of 4 servings each day

Serving =

1 slice of bread

½ cup cereal or rice

½ cup pasta

1 small potato

Oils and Fats:  a maximum of 2 servings per day

Serving =

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter or mayo

Desserts and Sweets:  pick any 2 servings per day

Serving =

1 small cookie

1 tsp sugar

5 ounces wine/ 12 ounces beer/1 ounce spirits

Wild Card: 1 serving per day (about 120 calories)

Serving =

1 Extra protein or

1 extra tbsp oil

1 extra piece of bread

1 extra cookie


Tip: start your weight loss efforts with this typical day, if you are not losing weight, drop items off the list from the bottom up.

Beyond that, here are some tips and tricks to keep you from over indulging out of sheer exhaustion.

Try  some of these recipes to make a different vegetable soup each week to keep you motivated and your taste buds inspired.


About the Author:

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a nutritionist and food communications consultant. Her Food Network show,Just One Bite! aired for 5 years on both Food Network and BBC Kids. She is currently a trusted on-camera correspondent for CTV Newschannel as well as CBC and regular health expert on the daily lifestyle show, Steven and Chris which airs internationally.

Named one of Canada’s Top 25 Tweeters by Today’s Parent Magazine and one of’s 35 Favorite Bloggers, she is called for comment from every major magazine, newspaper and television outlet in Canada. She has a weekly column in the Metro Newspaper and regularly writes features for Today’s Parent, Canadian Family Magazine and blogs at Huffington Post.



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