Raising Healthy Kids Starts Early

As a mother of 4 kids, one of my major concerns is always how to keep my kids healthy and strong. There’s no underestimating the overused cliche “Health is Wealth“. It really is true!

It didn’t help that they all had frequent asthma episodes when they were very young. The nebulizer became a necessity and constant partner whenever we traveled. I was also spending a small fortune on medicines, doctors’ fees and ER visits.

No matter how careful one is about their health, children do get sick. And it is not a joke taking care of sick children. I remember staying up late when they had fever to monitor their temperature every 4 hours and if needed, give them a sponge bath if it went too high. No one else stayed with them in the hospital as I wanted to be there whenever they’d be given anything by mouth or intravenously. It was really hard to be a Florence Nightingale 24/7 those days.

I’m a firm believer that the first line of defense against illnesses is really how solid and robust your kids’ immunity foundation is. They may not be able to control external forces like exposure to sick people or contamination but their bodies stand a better chance of fighting these off when their internal defense system is strong. The earlier we start our kids on a healthy lifestyle, the better their chances of staying that way till their adulthood.

My kids don’t get sick that often anymore and that is a big relief. Here are a few things I learned along the way to keeping my kids healthy:

1. Breastfeeding – Although I used to work in the corporate world, every time I gave birth, I’d spend at least 3 months breastfeeding my kids. It meant some inconvenience. I’d report for work bringing a small ice chest packed with bottles & ice. I’d spend so much of mybreak time pumping breastmilk into the bottles so that they could be stored in the freezer or ref for those days when I was not at home. Given a choice, I would have breastfed longer than 3 months as I have read that children who breastfed longer turned out with a stronger immune system.

2. Complete vaccinations – This cannot be overemphasized. Vaccinations ensure they have the antibodies to fight off the viruses that are more deadly or damaging.

3. Healthy diet and lifestyle – I confess this is one of the harder things to implement. Some of my kids eat vegetables; the others don’t. I used to include junk food in my grocery shopping. I no longer do. Any junk food they want to eat comes out of their own pockets. Getting them to sleep early can be challenging too especially for my kids now that they are older. It seems the youth of today have this habit of sleeping way, way beyond midnight. Lack of sleep lowers their resistance and opens them to cough and colds.

4. Home sanitation –  A clean home, free from pests and allergens, and frequent disinfecting of surfaces can rid your home of things that could make your kids sick.

5. Good hygienic habits – Simple habits to teach the kids would minimize their getting sick like frequent hand washing especially after a trip to the comfort room.

5. Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins – I am choosy about the multivitamins I give them. The one they currently take has zinc which is known to boost immunity. Besides that, I also give them Vitamin C to fight the colds.

Learn more about boosting your child’s immunity foundation by visiting www.immunityfoundation.com. On this site you will have access to expert advice and great tips on keeping your kids’ immunity high.


The Biggest Loser Comes to Asia

The Biggest Loser Asia is coming to Asia for the first time and Fitness First is its major sponsor.  Fitness First clubs around Asia (Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia) will be exclusive venues for the live screen test auditions for participants who want to be part of the show. In the Philippines, LIVE screen test auditions were held at Fitness First at SM Megamall from August 15-16, 2009.

Since its debut in 2004 in the US by NBC reality television, The Biggest Loser has become a worldwide hit viewed by millions, airing in over 90 countries and produced in 25 countries. This is the first reality show where obese contestants are challenged and encouraged under guided expert supervision to undergo strenuous physical and mental training in order to shed kilos. The one who loses the most weight not only wins a grand cash prize of USD 100, 000 but also gains a healthier and better quality life!

Produced by Imagine Omnimedia (producers of Contender Asia) for the Hallmark Channel in Asia, Biggest Loser Asia will help change the lives of obese Filipinos who want to take up the challenge of shedding bad lifestyle habits and embracing healthier ones. The Biggest Loser Asia will not just look into the physical challenges of the contestants’ personal journeys but also their emotional and psychological trials and tribulations as they lose the kilos while inspiring and empowering others to do the same.

When my girl C2 and I got to Fitness First, we were met by a long line of applicants, all looking like they really could lose all that extra weight but looking hopeful as well that they would be chosen as one of the wanna-be losers.


Applicants were ushered into THE screen test room in batches of 6. They were told that the panel of judges could ask them any questions like  why they joined The Biggest Loser or even personal questions that could have contributed to their obesity or desire to lose weight.

Simon Flint and Mark Ellis of Fitness First brief the applicants

Simon Flint and Mark Ellis of Fitness First brief the applicants

Here are some snippets from a jolly group of guys who I thought were friends since they were very animated as they sat around waiting for their turn.  But they all just met each other on that day.

And I did an ambush interview with actress Ruby Rodriguez, who I chanced upon also lining up:

The show is expected to come out on TV by end of this year. Watch for it and see who becomes the biggest Asian LOSER!

An A(H1N1) Flu Booklet from the UN

The Philippines is now counted as one of the countries affected by the A(H1N1) virus. As of last count by the Department of Health, there are already57 people who contracted it. Thankfully, we have had no deaths yet.

What is worrisome to parents like me is its timing with the opening of classes.

When De La Salle University was first hit with the news of 2 foreign exchange students testing positive, my first thoughts were with our nephew who had just come to Manila from the province to begin school as a freshman there. We checked up on him and had him go home immediately.

Yesterday, I was at Ateneo with my 2 girls to enroll and get our car stickers as well as meet up with a cousin whose daughter (my niece) was also an incoming freshman in the school. We were in and out of the school and only heard the news in the evening that 3 high school boys of Ateneo had likewise tested positive.

There are also confirmed cases in a Paranaque school and DLSU’s sister school (College of St. Benilde).

My boys (at another school) start school next week after a parent orientation. I know that many families in this school travel abroad during summer. I am now having second thoughts about attending the parent orientation. Maybe the school can use technology, do a podcast or video of what they intended to tell us, upload it into their website, and just have us view it from there. That way we avoid personal contact and still get the same information. I am very happy though that this school is such a proactive one and this week, is having thorough pest control done prior to the boys coming in for classes.

Other private schools should probably look at the use of technology likewise to keep parents, faculty, students and staff informed about their school’s actions to keep them all virus-free.

I have been cutting out newspaper clippings on A(H1N1) but these seemed inadequate. The non-medical one simply listed the symptoms, a few treatments, contact numbers of designated hospitals and some precautionary measures. Another clipping listed down the alert levels for schools (but this was not applicable to me as a parent).

Thanks to a heads-up from Dine and Noemi (on Facebook), I became aware of this document over at Scribd.com. It is an easy read, pleasant to the eyes, uses simple language, and readily understandable to non-medical people like me.

Please feel free to pass this link to your family and friends. The more people who are aware of this document, the more people we can keep healthy and virus-free.

Let’s also continue to pray that our country and our families are kept safe and healthy, not just from this virus but from dengue also, which has actually claimed more lives since the onset of the rains.

View this document on Scribd

Kefir – Time for a Second Look at this Potent Probiotic

In February of 2007, a co-parent at our boys’ school gave me a batch of what looked like cottage cheese-like, curdled milk. I saw kefir for the first time.

It was only after I did some googling on the internet that I discovered that kefir was one of, if not THE most potent, probiotic there is. It contains different varieties of good bacteria and far outweigh the benefits of products claiming to have lactobacilli and even yogurt.

Since then, that first batch of kefir grains has multiplied over and over again. From just that one batch, I have given out kefir grains to friends and even unknown persons who ask for them — many times over. And up to this day, our household continues to culture it, harvest its liquid and drink it plain or as a smoothie (for the kids). Our youngest, who used to consume Yakult by the pack (that comes in packs of 5 bottles), has totally switched over to kefir smoothies, thereby saving me quite a sum of money.

Kefir is not a miracle drug and does not claim to be so. But its powerful live organisms have been known to normalize the digestive tracts of people suffering both from diarrhea and constipation. Other kefir users I have come across on the internet have claimed it boosts the immune system, lowers high blood pressure and reduces the effect of acne (it can be used as a facial mask too!).

With the H1N1 virus threatening the world and who knows what other diseases are out there waiting to explode, it might be good to take a second look at kefir and see if its benefits go beyond just the ones we know so far. At the very least, if it boosts our immune system, we could stand a better chance resisting whatever viruses there are out there.

Here are links to my older posts about kefir:

1. Kefir – An Intro

2. Kefir – Paraphernalia and Process

3. A Kefir Smoothie

4. Kefir – Loads of Good Bacteria

Takbong Pangarap: Joy Rojas’ Big Dream to Run Across America

Last Saturday, I was privileged to hear and meet a Filipina whose “never say die” spirit is one that can spur and motivate many of us who think that whatever handicaps we may have are good enough excuses to back down from our dreams.

Not Joy Rojas!

Joy dreams of crossing the United States in 120 days — RUNNING!

Yes, she plans to run 5,000 kilometers from West to East at approximately 50 kms A DAY, for 100 days!

Takbong Pangarap

This dream appears daunting, especially when you find out she survived tuberculosis (TB) in 2001. But the spirit of this 43-year old freelance journalist flies high. Just a month short of finishing her treatment for TB, Joy completed a 42-km run in 4 hours and 11 minutes. Then in 2005, she became the first Filipina to run from Davao City to Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte in 46 days — a good 2,000-km course!


When Joy completed her Trans-Phiippines run in 2005, she did not just sit on her laurels. To her, the end of that dream was just the start of others. She asked herself where she would run if given the chance to equal or exceed that run and her thoughts brought her to the USA.

More than 200 people have already run across the United States. In fact, Cesar Guarin, a Filipino, did this in 1987. However, no Filipina has accomplished the same feat. In fact, NO SOUTHEAST ASIAN WOMAN has.


Joy will begin her run on May 11, her 44th birthday. The kick-off event will be at Eagle Rock, California, where there is a fairly large Filipino community. She will then continue through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey towards New York City where she expects to cross the finish line at the Philippine Consulate on Fifth Avenue on September 8. Of her 120 days, 100 of them will be spent running while the 20 days are designated rest days in between.


(picture courtesy of Chuck Crisanto)

(picture courtesy of Chuck Crisanto)


At the Meet and Greet at Powerbooks Megamall, I met the other members of Joy’s team.

The first one I talked to was Mat Macabe, Joy’s trainer and running partner. Mat was supposed to do this run with Joy until he had to undergo an open heart surgery in 2008 for a congenital heart condition. Instead, he will bike alongside Joy during some parts of the run. Mat had many funny stories about his running experiences, including outrunning a desert fox and wrestling to the ground a Doberman which was trained to kill. He regaled us with stories about people they had met along their runs. When I asked him about his surgery, he gamely pulled up his shirt to reveal a scar that ran from throat to waist! Gosh!!!!

Next I got to chat with Chuck Crisanto, team manager of Takbong Pangarap. He’s a jolly fellow from Ateneo who is a long distance event record holder for the school. Chuck gave me some additional insights about their planned route, including getting Fil-Ams in the places they go through, to run with Joy part of the way as support for a countrywoman.

(L-R): Mat Macabe, a pulmonologist from TB Society, me, Joy Rojas, Chuck Crisanto

(L-R): Mat Macabe, a pulmonologist, me, Joy Rojas, Chuck Crisanto


Joy is training fervently for this run. She runs for 2 hours, 3-4 times a week, with at least 1 out-of-town run each month. Her diet consists of fish and vegetables. Adidas, one of the sponsors of this run, is providing her different types of attire for different weather conditions. When asked how many pairs of rubber shoes she was bringing, she said she would use 12 pairs which she plans to use in rotation. Wow!

Technology is playing a large part in this attempt too. The Philippine Online Chronicles has put up a channel specifically for Takbong Pangarap. Her every step will be chronicled through this special site and more plans are underway to maximize the access that technology will give to Joy’s supporters.

Joy has an online presence as well:

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/takbongpangarap

Plurk: http://www.plurk.com/takbongpangarap

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Takbong-Pangarap/67564894131

Email: takbongpangarap@thepoc.net

The beneficiaries of this run are the Social Services Division of the Philippine Heart Center and the Anti-TB Program of the Inner Wheel Club of Quezon City, District 378.

Sponsors to date include Adidas, Smart Communications, HSBC, Rustan’s/Shopwise, Sen. Pia Cayetano, Sony Ericsson Phils, Asiana Airlines, Asian Journal Publications, and the Manila Peninsula. SportsAde will provide Joy’s hydration needs.


Despite these sponsorships, the team said that they still need help to ensure that all logistics (including money for food, gasoline & lodgings) for Joy’s run can be provided for. There are several ways to help in your own way:

1. The POC website states that supporters can donate funds via Paypal/Western Union, being a 5k sponsor, and soon via SMS.

2. If you live in the United States and are along the route that Joy will pass, you can help Joy, Mat and Chuck achieve their goal by offering to host them as they pass through your area. Keep checking the POC.net site for details of the route.

3. Embed the Takbong Pangarap widget on your blogs to create awareness of her dream run.

4. For other forms of assistance, contact Chuck Crisanto at chuckcrisanto@yahoo.com or 0917-8983621.

Thanks also to friends Noemi and Dine of filipinaimages.com for hosting the event.

Stress Can Age You

If stress does not kill you, it will at least age you.

Here’s a quick question. If you were to ask your friends (who obviously do not know your real age) how old you are, what do you think would their guess be. Would they think you are older or younger than your chronological age?

I just concluded a project with a company that had very high levels of stress. Although I promised myself that by going back to corporate work I would not let go of my yoga classes, I found myself missing first one class, then two, and before I knew it, I was going months without a yoga practice to speak of. Without my knowing it, I became too absorbed in work and its toxic effects. When I settled back into home life in January of this year, I got sick – TWICE. I think my body, running on adrenalin for the longest time, suddenly felt the letdown of all those months and broke down.

A few months into a home-based life again, I find myself able to resume yoga, be with my kids more (esp. now that it’s summer) and attend blogging events which are far, far from stress. Ever since I ventured into yoga, I have gotten comments from people I bump into and who knew me from decades ago when I was an upcoming corporate executive well-entrenched in the rat race, that I look younger now than I did then. I call yoga my age-regressing stress management treatment.

A finding that was presented at the 114th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that “age may be more related to reactions to stress and the absence of disease rather than to a person’s chronological age…“ Chronic stress, the kind that drags on rather than being just a momentary crisis, can drastically affect hormonal levels and shift the body’s hormonal balance.

Researcher Elissa Epel of the University of California, San Francisco, says it is likely that the imbalance in the hormones is responsible for many of the psychiatric and medical diseases associated with aging. Epel also said that chronically elevated cortisol reduces lean mass, bone density and shifts fat distributions that can precede the onset of many age-related diseases like osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and major depression.

An article “Chronic Stress May Make You Age Faster” states that older adults often face chronic stress in the form of social isolation, bereavement, financial stress and caregiving. However, not all adults handle chronic stress the same way. Those able to take such stressors in stride often look younger than more stressed adults their age.

But there is good news: a healthy lifestyle and exercise can modify some of the hormonal effects that seem to accelerate aging. The article gave out some stress management techniques which I used as a benchmark against how I was doing in these areas:

* moderate exercise (reason why I am into yoga!)

* adequate sleep (this is still an area I need a lot of work on)

* being able to manage one’s goals and expectations (a trial and error situation till now but I am continuing to learn)

* accepting that one cannot always control things (yes, I used to be a control freak; I am learning to let go more often…)

* finding meaning in life (the raison d’etre for this blog)

* strengthening social ties (one of the major reasons why I am into blogging. I draw life from being around young bloggers)

* having spiritual or religious beliefs (being part of a prayer community for many years has given me a link to the Divine that I call on under stressful situations)

Are the effects of aging stress reversible?

If I go by my own personal experience, the answer is a resounding and reassuring YES!!!

Go ahead. Take the age test. Go ask a friend how old he/she thinks you are. Do not be upset by the answer if it was not what you expected. Take their answer as a chance to honestly look at yourself in the mirror and see how the stress you are subject to is affecting how you look. Identify those stressors and see what stress management techniques you can apply to start you off on the road to reversing its aging effects.

Do something NOW, while your body has not yet fallen into the disease traps set by stress. This is your gift not only to your loved ones, but most especially, a gift to YOURSELF!

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