Guest Interview

Julie Daniluk’s Healthy Recipes with Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients

Julie Daniluk Healthy Recipes with EczemaBlues

Julie Daniluk RHN, nutritionist, hosted Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network and had also appeared on numerous TV and radio shows including The Dr Oz Show, CTV’s Breakfast TV and Wylde on Health (CP24). She has 3 award-winning best sellers, including Meals that Heal Inflammation that features a practical nutrition guide, menu plan and 130 easy and delicious recipes.

Children with eczema, like all other children, need healthy food to grow. Lack of sleep and the constant struggle with eczema may have affected your child’s growth and thus, it’s even more important to ensure a healthy diet. MarcieMom is privileged to be given permission to feature recipes of Julie Daniluk, and have selected nutritious recipes whose ingredients are anti-inflammatory and available in Singapore. This was originally posted as a 5-week series and consolidated into a single post featuring all 5 recipes.

Broccoli Seaweed Salad

JD Broccoli Seaweed Salad
Take care not to overcook the broccoli, so that it maintains some crispness and more of its nutritive value Picture credit:


  • 1 cup hijiki or thinly cut wakame seaweed
  • 1 cup large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp hemp or flax oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • ½ tsp umeboshi plum paste or ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger

1) Place seaweed in a bowl and cover with water; let stand.

2) Sauté onions in olive oil, in a covered saucepan over low-medium heat, until they are translucent. Combine water with the onions and cook for 5 minutes.

3) Add broccoli, stir, and cook covered on low heat for approximately 10 minutes, until the broccoli is heated through, but still a vibrant green colour.

4) Remove the pot from the heat. Drain the soaking water from the seaweed (you can save it for a soup stock).

5) Transfer the veggies and softened seaweed to a large bowl.

6) In a mason jar mix the flax or hemp oil, lemon juice, toasted sesame oil, umeboshi plum paste, ginger. Shake well until blended and pour over veggies.

Makes 4 servings

MarcieMom: Broccoli’s Benefits include reducing inflammation and allergic reactions!

I looked up broccoli and here are some fast facts & benefits of eating broccoli!

  1. Source of  vitamin C (aids iron absorption), vitamin A/ beta-carotene (anti-inflammatory), folic acid, calcium (for bone), protein, Omega-3 and fibre
  2. Contains sulforaphene, a type of isothiocyanates/phytochemical, that reduces cancer/ tumours and helps repair skin from damage
  3. Best consumed as whole foods versus supplements (study showed supplements lacking in an enzyme that is required for better absorption by body)
  4. Best lightly cooked as cooking till soft would have destroyed most of the enzymes
  5. Contains soluble fibre that is able to reduce blood cholesterol
  6. Source of kaempferol, a phytonutrient that can reduce allergic reactions

Healthy Vanilla Sesame Milk

Sesame is one of the richest sources of plant sterols. Recent studies confirm that raw honey nourishes the nervous system and stimulates immune function.  Picture credit:
Sesame is one of the richest sources of plant sterols. Recent studies confirm that raw honey nourishes the nervous system and stimulates immune function. Picture credit:


  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) sesame seeds, soaked
  • 4 cups (750 mL) filtered water
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL raw honey)
  • pinch of sea salt (optional)

1. Soak the sesame seeds in a bowl for 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Blend the soaked sesame seeds with the water until smooth (approximately 2 minutes).

3.Pour the mixture through a strainer into a large bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. (Save the sesame pulp in the refrigerator or freezer for later use—it can be added to porridge or soups to increase the nutty flavor of any recipe.)

4.Pour the sesame milk back in the blender, add the vanilla, pinch of sea salt and raw honey, and blend until smooth.

This milk will last in the refrigerator for about 3 to 5 days. Shake well before using.

Makes 3 cups of Milk and 1 cup of Sesame paste

Marcie Mom: I’m excited about this recipe because a local nutritionist has also just recommended me to give my toddler (Marcie) sesame paste, particularly after she heard that Marcie doesn’t drink milk formula. So, I’m excited to read up on the benefits of sesame and beware, I’ve vested interest because I’ve already been giving Marcie sesame paste for a month!

Sesame – Benefits include anti-inflammation + rich source of calcium!

  1. Source of manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin B1, selenium, zinc, protein, folic acid and fiber
  2. Contains sesamin and sesamolin associated with lowering cholesterol, liver damage prevention and anti-inflammation
  3. Contains magnesium associated with reduction of airway spasm in asthma patients
  4. Rich source of phytosterols, i.e. plant compounds that lowers cholesterol and regulates immune responses
  5. Source of copper which is anti-inflammatory and able to activate enzyme that builds collagen and elastin
  6. Some may be allergic to it, check for cross-reactivity and buy from trusted source that takes care not to mix with nuts during production

Holiday Pumpkin Rice Pudding

A satisfying recipe that combines the richness of pumpkin and coconut milk to be eaten all day! Picture credit:
A satisfying recipe that combines the richness of pumpkin and coconut milk to be eaten all day! Picture credit:


  • 3 cups (750 mL) water
  • 1/4 cup (75mL) coconut milk (“light” if you want to reduce calories)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) short-grain brown rice
  • Pinch of grey sea salt or pink rock salt
  • 1/3 cup (85 mL) currants or cranberries
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) hemp seeds
  • 1 cup (250 mL)  pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup (63 mL)  honey
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  1. Bring water, rice and salt to a boil in an uncovered pot over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes.
  2. Add currants and cinnamon. Cook on low for another 15 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.
  3. The rice should be very creamy.
  4. Remove from heat. Fold coconut milk, vanilla, hemp seeds, pumpkin puree and honey into pudding.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon. If desired, sweeten more with a drizzle of honey and add crunch with nuts or seeds.

Makes 8 servings

MarcieMom: Pumpkin’s Benefits include Anti-Inflammation & Low Calorie-d!

Pumpkin is one of the first solid foods that I gave my baby and I’m excited to know it can be incorporated into a rice pudding for the entire family! Some quick facts and benefits of pumpkin:

  1. Source of  Vitamin A, B-complex, C, K and E, antioxidant carotenoids (alpha and beta-carotenes), protein, essential fatty acids, minerals including magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and fibre
  2. Source of carotenoids which help to reduce free radicals, prevent pre-mature aging and protect the eyes
  3. Good source of phytosterols that can help reduce blood cholesterol
  4. Due to low calories per weight, recommended for weight reduction
  5. The pumpkin seeds can be roasted and is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, and anti-inflammatory too! (studied in reducing arthritis)

Krispy Kale

Kale chips make a perfect replacement for potato or corn chips when you are having a craving  Picture credit:
Kale chips make a perfect replacement for potato or corn chips when you are having a craving Picture credit:


  • 2 heads (10 cups/2.5 L) green curly kale, washed, large stems removed, torn into bite size pieces
  • ‘Cheese’ Coating:
  • 1 cup (250 mL) cashews, (soaked 2 hours)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sweet potato, grated
  • 1 medium lemon, juiced (about 4 tbsp/60 mL)
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) honey
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) grey sea salt or pink rock salt
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) filtered water

1. Place kale in a large mixing bowl.

2. Blend the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth and thick. You may have to open the lid and scrape down the sides to ensure proper mixing.

3. Pour over kale and mix thoroughly with your hands to coat the kale. You want this mixture to be really glued on to the kale.

4. Place kale onto parchment paper and dehydrate for 6 hours at 115 degrees F. You’ll need to use two trays. If you don’t own a dehydrator, set your oven to 150 °F (65 °C) and dehydrate for 2.5 to 3 hours.

5. Remove and store in a dry airtight container.

Makes about 6 cups (1.5 L)

Marcie Mom: I‘m amazed that kale can be made to chips! Kale seems to be one of those foods that I keep coming across in magazines, especially, when it’s talking about healthy foods or food that is good for the heart. So once again, I did a little ‘digging’ on its benefits!

Kale – Benefits include anti-inflammation + rich source of vitamins!

  1. Source of Vitamins A, B6, C, K, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, folic acid and fiber (best part – no fats!)
  2. Source of antioxidants (carotenoids, flavonoids) that is associated with protection against cancer, including kaempferol and quercetin that helps reduce oxidation and chronic inflammation
  3. Anti-inflammatory food that contains omega-3, see this post to learn more on inflammation
  4. Contains fibre that binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels, particularly when kale is steamed
  5. Buy organic – it’s assessed by Environmental Working Group to be part of Dirty Dozen Plus, due to its insecticide content
  6. Best to be eaten at separate times from consuming calcium, as Kale contains oxalates that can impede calcium absorption

Warming Quinoa Muesli


  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 cup rolled quinoa
  • Sprinkle with your choice of:
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4-cup raisins
  • 10 chopped almonds

1) Boil water in a medium sauce pan. Add rolled quinoa and stir for 90 seconds. Distribute the hot cereal evenly between 2 bowls (or put one cooled portion in an airtight container for the next day).

2) Mix in the spices, nuts, honey and salt until evenly distributed.

3) Tip for on the run: This cereal is perfect for a portable meal at work or school. Simply add all the ingredients to a wide mouth thermos and enjoy when you get to your destination. Note: For extra creaminess, serve with almond milk.

Makes about 2 servings

Marcie Mom: I’ve heard so much about quinoa and really interested to find out more ways to cook it for my girl!

Quinoa – Benefits include anti-inflammation + rich calcium content!

  1. Source of Vitamin B and E, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, protein (containing 9 essential amino acids), folic acid, zinc and fibre
  2. Source of antioxidants, including kaempferol and quercetin, that help reduce oxidation and chronic inflammation
  3. Anti-inflammatory food – Contains anti-inflammatory phyto-nutrients, manganese, copper, omega-3 and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  4. Good source of calcium – for healthy bones, teeth and skin!
  5. Source of riboflavin, magnesium that helps reduce migraine by improving oxygen supply to brain
  6. Reduces cholesterol and reverses effect of high fructose diet, see study here
  7. High insoluble dietary fibre content can help prevent formation of gallstones
  8. Contains lysine that aids tissue repair
  9. Rinse before cooking quinoa and best part – cooking doesn’t significantly reduce its nutrients
  10. Gluten-free!
Guest Interview

Friday Q&A with Julie Daniluk – Foods in Spotlight – Green Beans, Mushroom, Seaweed and Bok Choy

ulie Daniluk Foods in Spotlight with EczemaBlues

Julie Daniluk RHN, nutritionist, hosted Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network and had also appeared on numerous TV and radio shows including The Dr Oz Show, CTV’s Breakfast TV and Wylde on Health (CP24). She has 3 award-winning best sellers, including Meals that Heal Inflammation that features a practical nutrition guide, menu plan and 130 easy and delicious recipes.

After reading Julie’s recipes, Marcie Mom discovered that some readily available foods in Singapore are of high nutritional value but we may not have thought of giving them to our kids! Thus, I caught up with Julie to find out the nutritional benefits of these foods and knowing how nutritious they are will certainly motivate us to cook for our kids! This was originally posted on 4 Fridays, but had since been combined into one more info-packed post.

Julie Daniluk Well known nutritionist book meals that heal inflammation
Julie Daniluk – Nutritionist (picture credit –

Shiitake Mushroom

What are the nutritional benefits of Shiitake Mushroom?

Julie: Shiitake mushroom is a tasty and nutritious fungi, that has been studied and also associated with protecting our body against toxins, in particular our liver. Other benefits include:

  1. Protecting against flu – This is due to the compound known as Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) which can improve our immune response after exposure to flu virus.
  2. Protecting against adverse effects of cancer treatments – This is credited to polysaccharides which can reduce the immune-compromising effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. Also helps improve liver function and recovery from treatment.
  3. Protecting against hypertension – The rich source of potassium in shiitake mushroom helps to regulate fluid and blood in our system.
  4. Protecting against high blood cholesterol – A compound eritadenine helps to lower blood cholesterol.
  5. Protecting against bacteria in contaminated food – This is credited to an active compound, lentinan, that has anti-bacterial properties against food-borne pathogens.
  6. Protecting against osteoporosis – This is due to its vitamin D, that reduces likelihood of osteoporosis and improves calcium absorption.
  7. Shiitake mushroom also has Vitamin B, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, copper, zinc, protein and magnesium.

How Much Shiitake Mushroom can a Child take?

Julie: A child dosage of remedies is based on weight. If they weigh 40 pounds it would be a 1/3rd to what an adult would have.

Is there significant loss in nutrients if cooked?

Julie: In general, water soluble vitamins are lost in cooking but some fat soluble nutrients like pro-vitmain A is increased by cooking! Shiitake mushrooms should be cooked as they are easier to digest.

Is Shiitake Mushrooms Anti-Inflammatory Food?

Julie: Shiitake mushrooms are certainly an anti-inflammatory food!

Marcie Mom: Thanks Julie, I have been cooking shiitake mushroom in chicken broth with celery for my toddler to scoop the chewy mushroom onto her wrap. She’s been having fun eating mushroom and kept thanking me for it! I’ve also found other mushroom recipes online:

Nori Seaweed

What are the nutritional benefits of Nori Seaweed?

Julie: Sushi is a popular food and while there’re many nutritional benefits of the nori seaweed, do note not to over-consume the white rice as it is high in sugar content. Brown rice, or non-rice options, wrapped with nori seaweed will be a healthier option! Nori Seaweed contains about one-third protein and 1/3 dietary fibre, with a good content of Vitamins A, Bs, C, E, K, calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. Benefits of these nutrients include:

  1. Reducing risk of Type 2 Diabetes – Nori contains iodine that can reduce insulin resistance and allow glucose into cells to be used for energy. This manages the blood sugar level and reduces the work load for our pancreas.
  2. Reduces risk of tissue degeneration – Nori contains Vitamin A, that has been associated with the prevention of tissue degeneration, in particular in our eyes and our lungs.
  3. Reduces time for skin healing – Nori contains Vitamin C that is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, able to improve wound healing and reduce inflammation in our body and on our skin.
  4. Reduces blood cholesterol – Nori is high in niacin, which can reduce LDL cholesterol, particularly in Type 2 Diabetes sufferers. Through its increased metabolism of triglycerides (fats), fats can be reduced on the arterial walls and blood stream.
  5. Relieves headaches and muscle cramps – Nori is high in magnesium, which can reduce muscle cramping and relaxes small arterial and skeletal muscles in the head and neck.

Nori Seaweed Reduces Time for Skin Healing

(ii) A study published in the 2009 issue of the “Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health” indicates that seaweed presented a relatively low quantity of mercury in the Korean diet, where seaweed is eaten frequently — 0.02 mg per person per day compared with the 1.8 mg per person per day from seafood, considered to be the greatest mercury risk. The small risk might be mitigated by the health benefits of seaweed, however. Evidence available in the February 2004 “Veterinary and Human Toxicology” journal correlates the consumption of seaweed with antioxidant protections that can ward off neurological damage caused by mercury.

Read more:

How much Nori Seaweed can a Child Eat?

Julie: I think ½ sheet of nori per day would be healthy for school age children as long as it is from a clean source. Eden foods tests their seaweed for contaminants.

Here is an excellent study on Thyroid Research Journal

MarcieMom: Thanks Julie, I’ve started giving my toddler Nori seaweed, within her shiitake mushroom wrap but sometimes, she stuff the seaweed strips in her mouth and laughs about it! (and half of it fell off!). Will continue looking into ways to incorporate Nori in her diet! Some recipes I’ve found –

Homemade Seaweed Snacks – by Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

Bok Choy

What are the nutritional benefits of Bok Choy?

Julie: Brassica chinensis, better known as Bok Choy, is a member of the Chinese cabbage and its chinese name ‘白菜’ meant ‘white vegetables’. Bok Choy is a good source of sulforaphane, calcium, beta-carotene, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, Vitamins A, B-complex, C, K and fibre. Benefits of some of these nutrients are:

  1. Prevents cancer – due to a compound, sulforaphane, that can prevent cancer cells from multiplying
  2. Reduces risk of osteoprorosis and hypertension – credited to its high calcium content, sufficiently high to be an alternative to diary and it’s more easily absorbed into the body
  3. Aids eyesight development – pregnant women and infants especially, can benefit from its high Vitamin A content
  4.  Reduces blood cholesterol – through its soluble and insoluble fibre that can bind bile to fats, thus preventing fats from entering into our blood stream
  5. Protects against hypertension – its high potassium content can help to reduce blood pressure level
  6. Protects against & reduces inflammation – through its rich source of anti-oxidants content, namely of Vitamin C and manganese

How much Bok Choy can a child take?

Julie: Bokchoy is self-limiting, which means a child will not eat more then they need. Have you ever met a kid say- I want another head of cabbage please!

2 TB is the standard serving a child will eat. The only contra-indication for Bok Choy is if someone has thyroid issues, they should not eat it raw!

MarcieMom: Thanks Julie, I’ll be sure to ask my parents to cook for themselves too! As obviously, they can benefit from Bok Choy as aged parents are at risk of osteoprorosis and high blood pressure. Will also be cooking for my toddler, just wondering how to make it cute! Some recipes that I’ve found online, mostly a quick stir fry will do!

Baby Bok Choy with Cashews – by Simply Recipes

Green Beans

What are the nutritional benefits of Green Beans?

Julie: Green beans are also known as french beans, string beans, snap beans and squeaky beans. It is a rich source of Vitamins A, B complex, C, K, protein, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and fibre. Green bean can also benefit us in the following ways:

  1. Reduces inflammation on the skin due to sun burn – Green beans have high carotenoids; in particular, beta-carotene and lutein can stop erythema, which is skin redness and inflammation after a sunburn.
  2. Reduces benzopyrene toxicity due to charred food – Green beans have high chlorphyll, which can stop the multiplicaiton of tumor cells due to benzopyrene.
  3. Reduces inflammation – Having the highest antioxidant in the bean family, Green beans contain quercetin and kaemferol that have been researched to stop death of dopamine-creating cells, thus aiding the treatment of Parkinsons disease.
  4. Improves connective tissue – Through the mineral silicon, Green beans can improve the health of our connective tissue, including cartilage, bones, ligaments and skin.
  5. Reduces likelihood of bone fractures – Being high in Vitamin K, Green beans strengthen our bone matrix, preventing bone fractures and osteopenia. Vitamin K also moderates blood clotting.

How much Green Beans can a Child take?

Julie: A child serving would be 2 tbsp.

Will Nutrients be lost when Cooked?

Julie: Vitamin B and C is lost in boiling so steaming green beans is a perferred cooking method.

MarcieMom: Wow, I’ve to bear in mind the ‘power’ of green beans, in particular, to encourage my mom to take more of it. It’s strange though, at one time Marcie loves green beans (when we eat out) but once I got my mom to cook for her, she hates it! Time for me to look into recipes to entice her back to Green beans!

Fresh Green Beans, One Way – by The Pioneer Woman

Green Beans with Almonds and Thyme – by Simply Recipes

Guest Interview

Oliva Forte – Could its patented HIDROX, extracted from olives, help your child’s eczema through its anti-inflammatory property? (Cont’d)

Outstanding Application in Health Management in the Nutraceutical Business Technology Award ceremony in May 2011, Geneva

This is a continuation of the interview with Mr ManHon Shiew, CEO, CreAgri International on OLIVA Forte. You can read the 1st & 2nd parts of the interview here, here and on Mr ManHon here.

MarcieMom: What are the ingredients of Oliva Forte? I’ve read that allergy to olive is uncommon but are there additives used in Oliva Forte that parents ought to be aware of?

ManHon: There are several different products under the OLIVA Forte umbrella – ESSENCE, EASEFLEX and ENCHANT.  ESSENCE contains pure HIDROX®, whilst EASEFLEX is made up of HIDROX® and Glucosamine for joint health and ENCHANT is formulated with HIDROX® and Alpha Lipoic Acid for skin health and whitening effect. There are no other additives that should worry anyone. If a person is not allergic to olives, glucosamine or alpha lipoic acid, he can safely consume OLIVA forte. For parents who are thinking of giving OLIVA forte to their children, they should consider ESSENCE, since it is the purest form with no additives.

MarcieMom: Can you share with us if CreAgri controls the manufacturing process of Oliva Forte or is this part of the value chain handled by another party that purchases HIDROX® from CreAgri?

ManHon: As you know by now, CreAgri controls the manufacturing process and parameters of HIDROX®. Product formulations using HIDROX® are also developed by CreAgri. The actual production of finished products is contracted to external factories. These factories execute production based on parameters set by CreAgri.

Marcie Mom: Specifically on HIDROX®, it is made of the polyphenol known as hydroxytyrosol which has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It works by inhibiting nitric oxide and and prostaglandin which are pro-inflammatory compounds, protect against the damaging effects of free radicals and also aids reduction of ‘bad cholesterol’. Versus directly eating olives, it contains higher antioxidant effects as antioxidants are lost in the processing of olives for sale (see here for more FAQ).

I noted in your website that clinical trials for skin orders that include eczema have been conducted but the sample size is 10 patients. Are there other trials of a larger sample size?

ManHon:  You must be referring to the small trial conducted by Prof Fujio Numano from the Tokyo Vascular Institute. In addition to that, I like to draw your attention to a larger trial with more than 100 patients conducted by Arizona State University. More significantly is that this larger study was a double blinded placebo control trial. The results from this study confirm the anti-inflammatory properties of HIDROX®.

Marcie Mom: There are various product ranges in Oliva Forte – which one is recommended for children with eczema? What is the dosage recommended for children? And given that it is a very potent antioxidant, is there a need to take precautions when taking Oliva Forte? Is there certain food to take with Oliva Forte to ensure it can be better absorbed into the body? What is the difference between taking Oliva Forte and taking HIDROX®? Can Oliva Forte be used as olive oil, e.g. in bath, removal of cradle cap?

ManHon: Let me first get the easy part of your question out the way. OLIVA Forte is formulated for consumption (ingestion) as capsule or in its natural liquid form. It is not suitable to be use topically as a bath additive or to remove cradle cap.

Now that we have clarified that, we recommend OLIVA Forte ESSENCE liquid for children with eczema. This allows parents to conveniently feed even young children who are not able to swallow capsules.  The liquid can be dropped into their favorite juices or just plain water. The natural olive flavour will remind children of their pizza with olive toppings!  The dosage for children below 6 years is 0.5mL TWICE a day whilst those above 6 (including adults) are recommended to take 1ml TWICE daily.  If the child is able to swallow capsules without problem, the equivalent is for them to take OLIVA Forte ESSENCE capsules. One capsule is the bio equivalent of 1mL of liquid.

HIDROX® is an ambiphilic molecule which means it is soluble in water as well as fat. This means you can consume OLIVA Forte either with or without food. CreAgri has conducted bioavailability studies (absorption) to show that HIDROX® is absorbed within minutes into the blood stream. This makes OLIVA Forte a highly versatile product with proven efficacy for eczema and other inflammatory conditions.

You can find out more about HIDROX® and see the organic farm in California including the Integrale Process in this video on CreAgri’s YouTube channel.

Marcie Mom: Thanks ManHon for being patient with me and answering all my questions on Olive Forte, it’s always a pleasure to meet a company that is open about its products. p.s. to readers of, I didn’t receive any money from Steward Cross, CreAgri or Oliva Forte for this interview.

Guest Interview

Oliva Forte – Could its patented HIDROX, extracted from olives, help your child’s eczema through its anti-inflammatory property? (Cont’d)

CreAgri process olives in a more eco sustainable way and successfully eliminate toxic substances from the waste stream.

This is a continuation of the interview with Mr ManHon Shiew, CEO, CreAgri International on OLIVA Forte. You can read the first part of the interview here and on Mr ManHon here.

MarcieMom: Can you share with us what differentiates Integrale Process from other competitors that also extract polyphenol from olives (who also state the extraction process is solvent-free and chemical-free)?

ManHon:  The patented Integrale Process is different from other methods in several ways. CreAgri is always interested to preserve the integrity of the environment has always made this goal paramount to the company’s philosophy. CreAgri process olives in a more eco sustainable way and successfully eliminate toxic substances from the waste stream. It starts off with organic olives that are grown without use of any chemicals and pesticides.

Integrale focuses on retaining olive polyphenols in their original matrix instead of selectively extracting hydroxytyrosol the most potent molecule of all olive polyphenols.  Unlike other methods, Integrale does not actually “extract” polyphenols.  Any molecular extraction is only possible with the use of solvent. Instead, Integrale relies on the natural process of hydrolysis and incubation (between 6-8 months) to produce a unique olive polyphenol blend that is rich in hydroxytyrosol along with its naturally occurring sibling molecules such as tyrosol and oleuropein. If you care to read the patents of other competitors selling hydroxytyrosol and who claim “solvent-free” extraction process, you will invariably discover that those methods DO employ the use of alcohol solvents such as ethanol and methanol. We have even seen methods that employ industrial chemicals such as sulphuric acid (H2SO4) being promoted as “chemical free”.

This explanation is not complete without also explaining the importance and significance of retaining hydroxytyrosol and other olive polyphenols together in its natural state and balance. CreAgri holds the view that the benefits of natural molecules are most optimal when consumed as close to its natural state. Several studies have been published to show that hydroxytyrosol are more easily absorbed when consumed in a form that includes other polyphenols (Gonzales-Santiago 2010)  and more critically, that hydroxytyrosol if consumed as a single molecule (pure form) could in fact be harmful (Acin 2006). Both studies advocate the consumption of olive polyphenols in their natural form without extraction. The olive oil is a natural state of fatty acids recovered from the olive, whilst HIDROX® is the natural state of water fraction from the olive fruit.  This is the major difference between Integrale and other methods.

Coincidentally, CreAgri’s leadership in thought and polyphenol research was recognized recently by the International Society of Antioxidants in Nutrition and Health which accorded the company with the prestigious Paris Polyphenol 2012 award.

Marcie Mom: Also, I noted that formulation of HIDROX® is done at your R&D facility in California. What is unique about HIDROX® formulation (also why is formulation required after the polyphenol is extracted)?

ManHon: Hopefully by now, my explanation about the uniqueness of HIDROX® will help shed some light to this question. Since HIDROX® is a proprietary blend of olive polyphenols and not a standardized molecule, there is a need to ensure that the product meets the specification of formulation previously tested to be clinically efficacious. HIDROX® formulation is the core intellectual property of CreAgri and is kept in house as a matter of policy.  In this way, HIDROX® is always differentiated from other competing products.

MarcieMom: Thanks, it is very good to see a CEO taking the time to explain to its users on the process, instead of giving ‘marketing’ terms. The next post will talk more about the ingredients and consumption for kids.

Guest Interview

Oliva Forte – Could its patented HIDROX, extracted from olives, help your child’s eczema through its anti-inflammatory property?

Hidrox – Awarded the Outstanding Application in Health Management in the Nutraceutical Business Technology Award ceremony in May 2011

MarcieMom was contacted by a pharmaceutical sales and marketing company, on their charity sales of the product Oliva Forte where 20 per cent of the proceeds would go to the Singapore eczema fund (a fund that is initiated by my donation and administered by the Asthma Association).

Oliva Forte is a health supplement containing HIDROX®, a standardised freeze dried blend of organic olive juice patented by CreAgri Inc, a US company that specializes in the development of olive and antioxidant polyphenols. As you know, MarcieMom doesn’t do product review but is open to understanding more of products that are targeted for eczema patients, so that you can have your questions answered before deciding on a purchase.

For this interview, MarcieMom asked ManHon Shiew, CEO, CreAgri International to explain more about OLIVA Forte. CreAgri International is the international arm of CreAgri’s venture responsible to advance the application of HIDROX® in the field of human dietary supplement. In his role, ManHon leads his team to launch and promote their brands OLIVA Forte, OLIVENOL and OLIVENOL Plus in different international markets. You can read more on ManHon’s background in featured guest.

Marcie Mom: Thank you ManHon for taking time for this interview. Before we go into the product, let’s first understand the company behind it, CreAgri Inc. CreAgri is a California company founded by Dr Roberto Crea who has been granted over 25 patents in his career, and is one of the scientific co-founders of Genentech, Inc. Could you let us know more about CreAgri, specifically when CreAgri is started, the number of employees and scientists it employs and its research facility?

ManHon:  CreAgri was founded following a serendipitous sequence of events triggered by the curiosity of a scientist. Back in the late 90s, fresh off a successful disposal of one of his US biotech company to a major pharma, Dr Crea was holidaying in Italy, his home country. It was then that he was introduced to a new method of producing olive oil developed by scientists in the University of Rome. There was a lot of interest in the scientific and medical community at that time in the health benefits of olive oils and olive derivatives.  The olive oil industry was focusing on improving the quality olive oil. The method developed by the University of Rome produced very high quality oil. It was Dr Crea’s curiosity that led him to question if it was possible to recover equally beneficial molecules from the discarded portions of the olive oil industry. This led him to look into wastewater that was disposed after oil is separated.  In summary, it was through this early endeavour that Dr Crea discovered that olive polyphenols responsible for health benefit from olive oil are available in abundance in the wastewater. CreAgri was founded to develop and exploit the discovery made by Dr Crea.

From its inception in 2001, CreAgri’s R&D team of 5 research scientists was kept in house in California where Dr Crea resides. Clinical studies on products and formulation produced by CreAgri were conducted in collaboration with external institutions such Tokyo Vascular Institute and Arizona State University. A total of 20 other staff makes up the rest of CreAgri Inc.

MarcieMom: On the product, Oliva Forte – It contains HIDROX® and CreAgri HIDROX® has been awarded the Outstanding Application in Health Management in the Nutraceutical Business Technology Award ceremony in May 2011, Geneva. Olive Forte is an improved formulation of Olivenol TM and is derived from the juice of organic olives. Olive is a rich source of polyphenols, a family of natural compounds found in plant foods, which have been associated with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-tumour properties. However, in the production of olive oil, active polyphenols in the form of olive juice is disposed as wastewater. What CreAgri does is grow its own certified organic olive farm in California, harvest the olives early (for higher level of polyphenol) and then use a proprietary process (“Integrale Process”) to extract the polyphenol. HIDROX® is certified GRAS, Generally Regarded as Safe, meaning it has passed safety tests recognized by FDA.

In the next post, ManHon answers MarcieMom’s questions on the Integrale Process.

Guest Interview

Oliva Forte’s Facebook Charity Sales Drive for Singapore Eczema Fund

OLIVA forte essence (30 capsules) – Exclusive pack size for this charity drive!

Oliva Forte is running a charity sales drive for Singapore Eczema Fund where 20% of the total sales proceeds of their exclusive pack size of OLIVA forte Essence (30 capsules) will be donated to the eczema fund!

The charity drive is through their facebook page, from 16 July to 16 Sep 2012 at a price of $25 per pack of 30 capsules. 20% of $25 will be donated to the eczema fund.

Coinciding with the charity drive, there will be an interview with CEO of CreAgri International, Mr ManHon Shiew, where you can learn more about Oliva forte. As ManHon has shared in-depth about the product, its process and company, the interview will be posted over 3 posts from today to Wednesday.

So, do read, understand and you can head out to you can have the details of the charity drive and contact for its Singapore’s distributor, StewardCross.

note: MarcieMom did not receive any money for this post or for Olivaforte’s charity sales drive. Also, Oliva Forte or any other company running a charity sales drive for eczema fund does not mean it has been endorsed by me or Allergy Association.

Guest Interview

Eczema Kids’ Nutrition

Eczema Kids Nutrition with Toby Amidor

Toby is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition where she provides food and nutrition consulting services. She has served as the Nutrition Expert for and Nutrition Advisor for Sear’s, adjunct professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and at Hunter College in New York City.

This 5-part Eczema Kids’ Nutrition series was in collaboration with Toby Amidor, whereby MarcieMom would share different topics on kids’ nutrition and Toby provide her insights. It has since been combined into one longer informative post.

Inflammatory Foods

What’s Inflammation?

Inflammation is a protective response of our body to remove injured cells or irritants and helps heal our body. The problem, however, is chronic inflammation where there is an excess of pro-inflammatory immune cells in our body and damages healthy parts of our body. Chronic inflammation is associated with, among others, arthritis, diabetes, eczema, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.

Which are the Inflammatory Foods?

Food that increases the production of inflammatory substances include:

  1. Sugar – Sugar is the most common inflammatory food, and comes in soft drinks, pastries, candies, bread and is also listed as corn syrup, frutose, sucrose and maltose. Sugar increases insulin level and increases pro-inflammatory hormones eicosanoids.
  2. Vegetable oils – Oils from safflower, soy, sunflower, corn, peanut are polyunsaturated fats that are high in omega 6, linoleicacid. The body convert these to arachidonic acid, which is pro-inflammatory.
  3. Trans Fat – Trans fat is present in fried food, fast food, commercially baked food and also listed as hydrogenated oil and vegetable shortening. Trans fat increases free radicals that damage health cells and trigger inflammation.
  4. Dairy products and feed-lot raised meat that comes from animals fed with soy and corn (that is mentioned above to promote inflammation) or injected with hormones and antibiotics is also an inflammatory food.

A worth mentioning research related to infant is that milk formula has been studied to contain Advanced Glycation End Products which can increase the risk of diabetes in young children. This can be transferred by mom to fetus and also in milk formula.

Toby’s Thoughts

MarcieMom: Can you share with us how can parents manage the amount of sugar in our kids’ diet? Do we have to monitor the glycemic index?

Toby: Absolutely not! There is no need to monitor the glycemic index of food unless it is for a diabetic.

Parents can manage the amount of sugar in their kids’ diet by being conscious of the foods they buy. Sugary beverages like soda and juice drinks are typically the number 1 source of sugar. In addition, the guidelines for 100% juice is 4-fluid ounces per day for a younger child— which makes it tough to follow if you buy the individual juice boxes which usually 6.75-ounces. Get your kids used to good old water—there is nothing more refreshing!

A note on Trans Fat – Zero Trans Fat is not NONE

MarcieMom: I’ve read that zero trans fat could still contain trans fat if less than 0.5g. Is that right? Should parents go by food label or should the ingredient list be scrutinized?

Toby: Yes, that is correct. According to the food labelling guidelines, anything that has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can be labelled as ‘trans fat free’. That is why it is important to read the ingredient list carefully—look for words like partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated to indicate if trans fat is in the product.

MarcieMom: I’ve also read that fruits like apples, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, grapes are also inflammatory. Is that right?

Toby: Fruits contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, plant chemicals that help prevent disease and promote health. They provide so many beneficial nutrients that I never suggest avoiding them (unless a child was allergic).

Antioxidants and Skin

What’s Antioxidant?

Before I go on, I have to give a spoiler that I don’t have the answer to whether it’s proven without a doubt that antioxidants can benefit the skin of our children with eczema. However, after researching this topic, I believe it’s beneficial to eat antioxidant-rich food, so let’s start by looking at what’s antioxidant!

Antioxidants are vitamins and nutrients, including Vitamin  A, C, E and selenium, that helps to protect our cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Through our exposure to sun and digestion, free radicals (which are unstable molecules) form and they promote inflammation and damage skin cells. Antioxidants are able to inhibit oxidation and damage to the skin cells and speed up repair of the damaged cells.

Limited Resource on Impact on Skin

While there are many products that want us to eat antioxidant in the form of supplements or apply them onto our skin, I couldn’t find many studies in this area. There’s one research published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition that linked increased intake of antioxidant (namely, beta-cartoene and Vitamin E) to reduced risk of atopic dermatitis in children. However, there’s another research that linked increased risk of skin cancer in women who took antioxidant capsules.

What are the Antioxidant Rich Foods?

Whole foods are recommended and foods rich in antioxidants are berries, beans, dark and orange vegetables. There’s an interesting WebMD article I’ve found that rank vegetables in terms of their antioxidant levels and most of them are higher in antioxidants after cooking! Some of these vegetables include spinach, potatoes and eggplants. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C, E and selenium include citrus fruits, red pepper, broccoli, whole grains, brazil nuts and turkey.

Another WebMD article stated that in terms of antioxidant creams, the concentration may be too low to be useful and potent creams ought to have 15-20% Vitamin C, 2-5% Vitamin E and 0.2-0.5% Selenium. Do note that Vitamin E is on the list of allergen, so do always test on a small patch of your child’s skin before using a cream with Vitamin E.

Toby’s Thoughts

MarcieMom: I’ve read that whole foods are preferred to supplements because the former contain enzymes that cannot be manufactured into a supplement. Is that true and can you share with us how enzymes help in the anti-oxidative process?

Toby: Whole foods are preferred over supplements because they contain phytonutrients, which are plant chemicals that have health benefits and can help protect against disease. Many of these phytonutrients have not been isolated into supplements, plus there is not enough research to know if they work well alone or in conjunction with other nutrients in the foods they are found in. For example, a phytonutrient called anthocyanin is powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant found in berries. Studies show they may help lower the risk of some forms of cancer.

Is it harmful to take an excess of antioxidants? 

Toby: Taking in too many antioxidants can be harmful.  More is definitely not better and many of the antioxidants can potentially be toxic when taken in excess, especially through supplementation. Children should eat a well-balanced diet of whole foods including plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts and seeds in order to get their daily dose of antioxidants.

Fluid Intake and Skin

Water and Our Body

We know that water is critical to the proper functioning of our body, which includes ensuring proper digestion, brain function, blood and oxygen circulation and regulating the body temperature. We hear we’ve to drink more water for glowing skin, but that is not exactly correct because water that we drink goes to the intestines, blood streams, filtered by kidneys instead of directly to the skin.

Water we Drink does not go directly to our Skin

review has been conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation that concludes drinking water does not impact skin’s appearance. So, while we know that taking fluids is not the way to rehydrate our child’s skin, using sunscreen, balanced diet are essential for our child’s skin, and moisturizing is a must for those with eczema.

How Much Fluid Should Your Child Drink?

Ensuring sufficient fluid intake is important for your child and my recommendation (based on what I’ve read) is not to count glasses of water but to encourage our children to drink water throughout the day and more, if they are exercising or outdoors. Children, being smaller in size and not sweating as much,  have a higher risk of dehydration and harder for them to cool off. To know how much fluid our child has lost after exercise, we can weigh him/her before and after exercise and normally, note the color of our child’s urine and whether their lips are dry.

What Fluids to Take and Which to Avoid for Your Child

Water serves its purpose by being water, so it’s always best to get your child to get used to drinking it once they start on solids. Eating fruits and vegetables also count towards their water intake, as are drinking milk and fuit juice. For children above 2 year old, low or non-fat milk can be taken and for kids below 6 year old, 4-6 ounces of juice per day can be given.

What NOT to drink is obviously artificially colored or sweetened empty calories, like soda and drinks containing hugh frutose corn syrup, no matter how kids’ appealing the packaging looks! Moreover, sugar is inflammatory and not good for our child. Vitamin water is also not recommended as vitamins added to water and consumed individually may not reap any benefit.

Will Drinking Softened Water Help Your Child’s Eczema?

Many parents have feedback that softened water helps but unfortunately, based on the softened water eczema trial conducted by Prof Hywel Williams and Dr Kim Thomas of the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology at the University of Nottingham, there was no difference noticed in the trial that involved 336 children whose homes were fitted with water softener.

Toby’s Thoughts

MarcieMom: We know that ensuring sufficient fluid intake is important, what guidelines would you give to parents who want to ensure that their children consume sufficient fluid?

Toby: Have children sip water throughout the day and learn to recognize when they are thirsty before they start becoming dehydrated, especially on a hot day or after intense exercise. Also, be sure they are using the restroom to urinate on a regular basis—this is also a good sign of proper hydration. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies can also help contribute to hydration.

More Fluid Intake for Dry Skin?

MarcieMom: For parents whose child’s skin is inherently dry, should they give their child more water than a child with normal skin?

Toby: No, studies do not show that more water means moister skin. Just keep them hydrated like everyone else. No more, no less.

MarcieMom: At what age would you recommend starting on fresh milk or UHT milk, instead of milk formula? Do you think that today’s milk formula with added probiotics and DHA is essential as part of our toddler’s diet or should children be getting what they need from eating a balanced diet?

Toby: The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends whole milk at 1 year of age, going to 2% (reduced fat milk) at 2 years and whole milk by 3 years of age.

Formula should be used until about 18 months— at that time, the child should be eating a varied diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, healthy fat, and dairy which will provide sufficient nutritional value.

Water or Juice for Young Children?

MarcieMom: Finally, for children who already dislikes water, what tips do you have for their parents to get the child interested in water? (I dilute all of Marcie’s juice and let her drink ice water from the adult cup in restaurant, just like we do!)

Toby: Don’t give up when it comes to water. As any food or beverage, it takes time to enjoy it. If you want to increase the flavor, add lemon, lime, or orange slices. Children should not taste juice until at least 2 years of age—the more water is a part of their regular diet, the more they will accept it. Parents should also lead by example and serve water to the entire family.

Starting Fish from Young (or not)

Fish – A Common Food Allergen to Introduce Early?

There are six common foods that make up majority of the allergic foods, and fish is one of them (the other five foods are milk, egg, soy, peanuts and wheat). Yet, there were a few studies conducted in Sweden and Norway that indicated a lower rate of eczema for children who started fish in their diets early. In a 2008 study, introduction of fish to babies before 9 month-old showed 24% less likelihood of getting eczema by one year old. In another study, one to two year old who ate fish once a week had 38% less likelihood of eczema. In the journal by American Academy of Pediatrics, late introduction of fish was strongly related to inhalant sensitization. Research had not measured notable reduction in eczema with intake of supplements nor were there differences between eating fish vis-à-vis omega-3 rich fish. It is also observed in countries that typically introduce fish in children’s diet early that there is a lower rate of fish allergy.

What’s in a Fish and What’s Omega-3?

Fish is a source of protein that contains taurine, zinc, selenium, iodine, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. Of interest for the past decade, is the Omega-3 that is contained in fish. Omega-3 is one of the fatty acids that cannot be manufactured by the body. The long chains of the fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA, have been reported to have health benefits, including brain development of babies. Fish that are rich in Omega-3 include salmon, sardines and mackerel but for a child, intake must not be overdone as fish are also rich in mercury, especially shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish.

How does Fish affect Eczema?

This has no conclusive answer. From what I’ve looked up, the body is able to convert DHA to RvD2 which is a Resolvin that can regulate inflammatory responses. I’ve also read that fish oil may help to reduce leukotriene B4, which is an inflammatory substance. However, eating more fish alone may not be enough as there’s increasing suggestion that it’s the balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 (from vegetable oils) that regulates inflammation.

Toby’s Thoughts

What’s the recommended intake of fish for an infant below 1 year old?

Toby: Since there is a higher chance of an allergic reaction to fish, it should not be introduced until the child is 1 year into the diet. If there is a family history of allergies, then even longer.

You also need to remember that many of the fish high in omega-3 fats like tuna and salmon have a very strong flavor. Kids have more taste buds than adults, so even if you do introduce them at 1-year, the kids may not accept them very easily. I suggest introducing more mild tasting fish like mahi-mahi and red snapper as a first step.

Would you recommend taking fish supplements?

Toby: If a parent is worried about their child getting enough omega-3 fats, then they should seek professional guidance from a registered dietitian before giving their child fish supplements. This is especially important if a child (usually under the age of 1) is taking in formula or is still breastfeeding since they are probably getting enough. You don’t want to give too much either—there are always side effects.

How can a parent help a child who has eczema balance his/her intake of Omega 3 and Omega 6?

Toby: Giving a child a well-balanced diet should do the trick. Also, if a child is breastfeeding or on formula, they should be getting enough of both nutrients. Once they get off the formula and/or breast milk then introducing every food group to the child to help create a healthful diet is important.

Genetically Modified GM Foods

What’s Genetically Modified Food?

Genetically modified (GM) food or genetically engineered (GE) food are foods which genome has been modified by having another gene selected and transferred to it, encoded for a specific protein. GM food came into the supermarket around 1994, starting with tomatoes being approved for consumption and since, the majority of soy, corn, cottonseed and canola are genetically modified. 

Foods are genetically engineered mainly (i) to be tolerant to herbicides and (ii) to be able to produce its own pesticides that kill the pests feeding on them. To be tolerant of herbicides meant that farmers could say, spray Roundup herbicide (produced by Monsanto) and kill the weeds but not kill the vegetables, known as Roundup Ready soybeans, cotton etc. which seeds are also sold by Monsanto.

How did GM or GE Food Come About?

Crops can be genetically modified to be easier and faster to grow, and more resistant to drought, pests and diseases, thereby increasing food supply in our increasingly populated world. As mentioned above, the vegetables can also be engineered to be tolerant to herbicides. Some foods are genetically modified to improve its nutritional value by say, introducing antioxidants to vegetables that are lower in it.

So What’s the Problem?

The problem seems to be that we know little of the extent of the problem. There is a growing opposition against genetically modified food and some articles on the web have summarized it:

Dr Mercola’s comments in ‘Monsanto’s Roundup Residues in GM Food Causes Cell Damage

Jennifer Grayson’s article in Huffington Post on ‘Is Genetically Modified Food Linked to Kids’ Food Allergies?’

The main worries are:

Risk of increased allergy – for instance, there’s a soy allergen, trypsin inhibitor, which normally would reduce if the soy has been cooked. However, if the soy has been genetically modified, cooking didn’t reduce the amount of the allergic protein.

Risk of antibiotic resistance markers in human – if the markers are added to the GM food, there’s a risk of horizontal gene transfer whereby the antibiotic resistant gene will be transferred to bacteria in human intestine.

Risk of increased herbicide or pesticide – Although GM food would need less herbicide, farmers may end up using more of it since the crops are tolerant to it!

Risk of SuperPests – The pests turn ‘super’ because they have also adjusted to the GM food and thus stronger pest-resistant crops need to be engineered which may set off harmful effect on the food chain.

Risk of harm to organs – Some studies showed that rats had higher mortality rates and damages to their body organs and mouse had reduced enzyme production after consuming GM food.

Should it be Avoided for a Child with Allergy or Eczema?

There is no straight answer to this, though pregnant woman and young children may want to be more aware of this since the brain and immune system of foetus and young children are not well developed. There is no study directly linking children with allergy or eczema to GM food, and parents who are worried about GM food can opt for organic, which means not genetically modified, no synthetic pesticides, no irradiation or bio-solids added as fertilizer.

The Dirt Dozen Foods (Updated 2019)

Below are the ‘Dirty Dozen’ foods that contain the most pesticides, in a study done by non-profit organization Environmental Working Group.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

Most of the foods above are so rich in vitamins which I give lots to my girl! Buying organic for the top pesticide food and top GM food would target the most risky ones and be less costly than switching all food to organic.

Toby’s Thoughts

MarcieMom: Would you recommend a parent to always buy organic if they can afford it? And if they can’t, what food would you say ‘It’s better to eat the non-organic ones than not eat it’ and for what food would you say ‘Forget about feeding your child this if you can’t find an organic version’?

Toby: I would suggest going by the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. The dirty dozen contains the highest levels of contaminants and includes apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce and kale/collard greens. I suggest to spend your organic dollar on those 12 foods. Another option is local—visit your local farmer’s market and speak to your local farmer about what they grow and the techniques they use. They are typically very happy to discuss this information!

MarcieMom: The foods that are genetically modified such as soy, cottonseed, corn and canola are used in many processed foods, including soy lecithin used in chocolates, corn syrup in many sugary snacks and canola in oil. Would you recommend parents to read the label for all the food items and not buy if they contain soy, corn, cotton or canola? Or would your advice be to avoid certain category of food, say snacks and cookies, which aren’t healthy anyway?

Toby: These ingredients are found in such high amounts in our society, but we need to balance the good with the not-so-good. In general, all these oils are unsaturated and better for heart health. Using them within your repertoire of oils in moderation is healthy. And if you choose more whole foods over highly processed ones, you could pretty much avoid many of those other ingredients and higher calorie foods that should really be limited in your child’s diet. 

MarcieMom: Will feeding our children supplements for the nutrients or vitamins we want them to consume get around this problem of pesticide and GM food?

TobyNO! Whole foods provide so much more than can be isolated in a pill. The nutrients found in food work with one another to provide your child with maximum health benefits. Furthermore, eating food helps maintain the integrity of your gut. You also want to get your child to get used to eating well-balanced meals together with the family—they will learn about healthy eating and spend more time with the family too.

Guest Interview

Registered Dietitian Answers on Child’s Diet

Joy Musselman, Registered Dietitian who specialize in weight management

Joy Musselman @MyDietitianJoy answers Marcie Mom’s questions relating to children’s diet. Joy hosted a live chat #foodchat and was kind enough to answer my questions even after the chat! Here’re the three questions I asked and Joy’s replies:

Marcie Mom:  Any recommendations on what a child with sensitive skin or eczema should eat to improve his or her skin condition?
Joy: For eczema a varied diet is best. Not sure of your child age but recommend try avocados, whole grains, and lots of fruits/veggies.
Marcie Mom: How long should a child keep drinking baby juice that’s vitamin fortified? When can he/she upgrade to fruit juice? Is there still a need to dilute?
Joy: 100% fruit juice is ok after 6months but limit to 4-6oz per new guidelines.
Marcie Mom: Can a child drink cold water? Any adverse effect? From how young can cold water be given to a child? (The reason I asked this was because my baby Marcie loves cold drinks and sometimes I distract her from scratching! See this post)
Joy: Water is ok (even cold) once solid foods are introduced. I give water only with solids. Breastmilk or formula to meet fluid needs.
Guest Interview

What I’ve learnt from Dr Ava Shamban’s Channel – Protecting Skin

Dr AVA MD’s Channel

Been watching Dr Ava Shamban’s Channel – a series of youtube videos relating to skincare. Dr. Ava Shamban–a renowned board-certified dermatologist licensed to practice medicine in California, New York and Hawaii–graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University before receiving her medical degree from Case Western Reserve Medical School. In addition to serving as Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the UCLA-Geffen School of Medicine, she is recognized as the “Extreme Makeover” dermatologist and the resident expert on the Emmy winning daytime talk show, “The Doctors.” Dr. Shamban is also author of the new book, Heal Your Skin: The Breakthrough Plan for Renewal (Wiley)

Dr. Ava on How Exercise Benefits Skin
Exercise can increase circulation, thereby increasing nutrients to the skin and reducing toxins. Cortisol, produced by adrenal gland, will also be reduced (cortisol lowers immune system). Any exercise that can be carried out on daily/ every other day basis is good!
Dr Ava on How to Avoid Stress that Causes Acne
Stress can manifest both internally and externally, on the skin. Stress, increases cortisol, which is viewed as a male-like hormone (androgen) and increases acne. To de-stress, relax and nap. A combination of rest and exercise is always beneficial.
See also my post here on stress on children with eczema.
Dr Ava on How to Buy Quality Skincare at the Drugstore
The skincare products suited for you may not necessarily be the most expensive; label-reading is important (which is why I’ve started the Sensitive Skin Products series with VMVHypoallergenics). Make sure that the active ingredient is in the first five ingredients and the product is fragrance-free. In Dr Ava’s words ‘If you want to use perfume, use perfume; but not on your face’.
Dr Ava on How to Choose the Right Sunscreen and SPF?
Choose a high SPF especially at least SPF50 on higher altitude. Choose one that is not too oily or greasy and comfortable to use (with make-up). If doing sports, need a water-proof or resistant one. Sunscreen on the face is formulated differently with that on the body.
Sun-protection is discussed and Dr Ava’s recommendation is to have a high SPF sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat and wear sun-protective clothing (there’s even for babies with SPF 50 rating). Choose physical sunscreen that’s safer for children (you can see this post for more info). For face, a non-comedogenic lotion with SPF can also be used. There’re also certain foods that can help increase SPF, mainly red/purple fruits such as pomegranate, carrots, watermelons, blueberry and raspberry!
Guest Interview

Questions I asked at webinar hosted by DrSearsLean

Dr Sears L.E.A.N. webinar on The Pros and Cons of Soy (image from

It’s another first for me, participating in a webinar, this time hosted by DrSearsLean. The webinar was conducted by Dominique Hodgin, MA, NE, the Executive Director of Education at DrSearsLean and Nutritionist. The presentation covered the definition of soy as well as the positive and negative effects of soy. I’ll leave to DrSearsLean to update you on the presentation which will be made available on his website; for me, I managed to get my questions related to eczema children answered and presenting to you as fast as I can!

Marcie Mom:   For infants who are diagnosed with eczema, should they switch to cow’s milk alternative like soy or goat or partially hydrolysed milk?

Dominique: A lot of the soy-based infant formula are isolated soy proteins which can potentially create some problems associated with soy isolates. If non-soy formula can be consumed by the infant, it’ll be better to consume a non-soy one. Dr Sears recommended in his book that even if the infant has to use a soy formula, it is good to try to reintroduce lactose at a later age.

Marcie Mom: Can a skin prick test accurately detect a soy allergy? How young can an infant take a skin prick test?

Dominique: Yes, a skin prick test can detect a soy allergy. Infant, as young as 6 month old can take a skin prick test (younger than that, may not be accurate).  Of course, to be sure, you can check for symptoms of allergy whether present/absent after eliminating soy from the diet.

Marcie Mom: For moms with cow’s milk allergy, would drinking soy during pregnancy instead of cow’s milk, reduce chance of baby developing soy allergy? (actually, I typed in the incorrect question, wanted to ask if it’d reduce chance of baby developing milk allergy)

Dominique: Not necessary. Milk allergy is a broad term, as there are various components that one may be allergic to, say whey. In any case, no definite on moms’ diet on baby’s development of allergy/not. Do also note that one does not only consume soy through drinking soy, as soy is present in many packaged food. Key is not to over consume soy.

Read more on food allergies for children, including soy allergy

Learn more from nutritionist and dietitian Judy Converse MPH LD RD about breast milk, cow’s milk and other alternatives

Eczema Tips

Giving my Eczema Baby Cold Water and Getting a Backlash

Cold Drinks in my Baby Bag

One of the most contentious parenting issues between my parents and I are over giving my baby cold water. From about six months old, when my baby Marcie was started on water and solids, I realised that she preferred cold water, refrigerated baby juice and fruit puree. My parents had always disagreed over the temperature of her food, even to go as far as suggesting it caused her eczema and low weight gain; both of which, I countered with (a) my baby whose eczema is triggered by heat really prefers cold stuff, and eating cold food is better than no food and (b) the low weight gain is due to abnormally high birth weight (heavy newborn at 4kg plus) and possibly, lack of good sleep.

So, is giving cold drinks to baby really that bad? My answer, if you do not believe in TCM, is nodrinking cold drink will mean that your baby needs to use energy to warm the liquid up, thus less energy for body functions. If you believe in TCM, the theory is that cold drink weakens your lungs, lowers your immune system and as my parents believe, causes asthma (which again is a myth). However, certain cold drinks (not due to the temperature) are indeed bad for your baby:

1.      Soft drinks that contain caffeine, which is a trigger for eczema.

2.      Sugary drinks that increase chance of tooth decay.

3.      Artificially flavoured drinks which have been linked to ADHD.

As you can see in my baby bag, I always pack ice or cold drink (or both if going to the zoo). To me, if cold water can stop my baby from scratching, offer her (and me) some relief when dining out or when outdoors in a park/zoo, why not?

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Is it what you ate? How Pregnancy diet affect eczema in baby

Citrus Fruits

“OH NO, could it be what I ate?” This was what went through my mind when I first read that pregnancy diet could increase the chance of my baby getting eczema (and my baby girl Marcie has eczema since two weeks old). I am not writing this post to put more guilt and blame into your life, but rather, if you’re considering a next child, it will be good to avoid some food or increase the intake of others. There is no conclusive evidence despite some scattered research reported on the web, so the overriding consideration is still to have a balanced diet (because a diet that is not balanced can lead to a whole host of other problems in the foetus and mothers who restrict their diet have resulted in smaller babies).

Here are some food to avoid:

1. Margarine; vegetable oil (too much will be too fat anyway)

2. Citrus fruit; celery (I ate lots of oranges during my pregnancy! Then again, my hubby has eczema so it’s more likely hereditary than diet)

3. Peanuts (Again, I ate peanut butter every morning! If your child has eczema or allergy, the advice is to delay giving peanuts till 3 years old)

4. No smoking or alcohol

Results of 2007 German study of 2,641 children is that food rich in n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and citrus fruits increase eczema in children up to 2 years old, whereas food rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease chance of infant eczema. A later Japan study in 2010 shows that green and yellow vegetables, citrus fruit and beta-carotene reduces chance of infant eczema. (So citrus or no citrus?)

Here are some food to increase:

  1. Fish or fish oil
  2. Lactobacillus reuteri as oral probiotic supplement (my friend with eczema was prescribed this during pregnancy and both her girls turn out with no eczema)

Personally, I will eat more fish, take the probiotic supplement, not eat so many oranges nor peanut butter in my next pregnancy. I know how scary it is thinking our next child will also have eczema, fingers crossed..

Update: Almost 2 years later, we’ve decided not to have another child BUT more importantly, linking this article to a Q&A that I did with nutritionist Judy Converse on breast milk and pregnancy diet.

Update for a study in October 2014 that studied associations between maternal iron status in pregnancy and childhood wheeze and atopy. The results suggest that reduced maternal iron status during pregnancy is adversely associated with childhood wheeze, lung function and atopic sensitisation, justifying further studies on maternal Fe status and childhood asthma and atopic disease.

Update for a study in Nov-Dec 2014 that looked at all past studies Does maternal diet during pregnancy and lactation affect outcomes in offspring? A systematic review of food-based approaches. Conclusion was did not find widespread or consistent links between mothers’ dietary intake and atopic outcomes in their children. However, maternal consumption of Mediterranean dietary patterns, diets rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, and vitamin D-containing foods were suggestive of benefit, requiring further evaluation.