Naturopathic health in the trenches /
A day-to-day health diary by Katherine Willow, ND

The deadline for my blog post was fast approaching and I wondered what I was going to write about.  Then something happened which provided plenty of material.

It was a Friday evening and I was putting my 16 month old grandson Felix to bed.  This is usually a joyful process: he gets a bath with all of his bath toys and of course natural shampoo twice a week for his grown-out mohawk (for a while I was the only one in our household without one!); then a massage with essential oils; change into pj’s, preferably cotton, which don’t interfere with one’s “energy body” (I got a little wake-up call when I noticed that his fleece pj’s generate little sparks when he rolls over!); warm up a bottle of milk, either organic cow’s milk, soy, rice or almond, depending on Felix’s state of congestion — if he has a runny nose we give him the non-dairy milks, often fortified with some organic soy formula powder; then into bed for a story, turn out the lights to drink the bottle and then sing sacred Sanskrit chants (our current favourites) in the dark together until Felix curls into my arm, gets quiet and then gently falls asleep.

If any of you have insomnia, this is a foolproof bedtime routine for any age — or so I thought.

This night was totally different.  We got to the singing phase but little Felix seemed unnaturally restless.  He literally tossed and turned making little baby groans as he tried to sleep — and couldn’t.  I’d never seen him in such turmoil.  He even started to bang his head against the wall!  I watched his silhouette in the dark in amazement and then suddenly realized what had happened: for dinner I had added some unknown sauce from a take-out meal to my chicken stir-fry.  I figured it was only about a teaspoon and then I wouldn’t have to throw it out.  But now I remembered that almost all processed foods have MSG in them.  And MSG is an “excitotoxin” to the nervous system!

Briefly, excitotoxins excite brain cells until they die, causing a minute amount of brain damage with each serving.  They are implicated in Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease.  Their main source is processed food with aspartame or MSG.  And the latter is often labeled in ways that you would never suspect, such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein and yeast extract.  I didn’t know this myself until recently.

So Felix finally went to sleep.  It took 40 minutes when it usually takes 10 or 15.  And our family learned firsthand about the stimulation of MSG!  Needless to say, we’ll minimize the take-out food even more.

If you are interested in further information about this topic, I recommend the book ‘Excitotoxins–The Taste that Kills’, by respected neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock MD and also the website  You really have to be on your toes to be healthy in our modern world!

Here’s wishing you a Balanced New Year for 2010, and we hope to see you at some of our events!