When it comes to kids with gut related illness – Make changes, but lose that guilt.

One of the most important things paediatrician Dr Michelle Perro can say to mums is ‘We didn’t know’. But we do know now.

This article is an abbreviated extract of an engaging and enlightening youtube interview with Molly Arthur. As Ms Arthur says, Dr Perro is a ‘clarion clear voice for issues around health.’

What changes have you seen in the last thirty years in children?

‘Molly it’s been an interesting journey and the unfortunate part is I’ve seen a decline in children’s health with a profound increase in very alarming health issues, and they encompass all types of health issues – be they respiratory, endocrine disorders such as diabetes, allergy; or involve premature puberty – big problem in children kids going into puberty at 8 or 10 for girls, 12 for boys – you can imagine what is happening in middle schools, it’s a disaster; and health issues around neurodevelopment regarding ADHD disorder, as well as autistic spectrum, and on and on. It’s a profound change in what paediatricians are treating now in children.

‘My practice has evolved. I was a paediatric emergency physician, and over the years I have changed what I do to embrace what I am seeing now… My practice involves integrative health – paediatric medicine, functional medicine, homeopathic medicine – because what I have learned is the previous methods of healing children no longer apply now.’

Because children are sicker today, different types of health issues are challenging professionals, which is the reason why Dr Perro has changed the way she treats her patients. She suggests major factors in the reason health is declining – ‘our food and increased food toxicity, environmental toxins and the influence of drugs on children’s systems and how we practice health and give healthcare’.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMost of what we are seeing is toxic-related. I spend a lot of time talking about nutrition in my practice. Sometimes I feel all I do is talk about food.’
Dr Perro believes that good food, rich in nutrition – which has always been the cornerstone for children’s health – is compromised today.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that children should only be eating non-processed, organic food because here is no amount of pesticides in food that is safe for children. There is a lot of good research on that.’

This is despite, and here Dr Perro sighs, ‘an EPA report on pesticides, I was scanning 250 pages and they talk about the state of our kids health. They had one small paragraph in there about glyphosate. In a class of pesticides called aromatase inhibitor, there is a lot of toxicity, not just for children. Just one paragraph did say there was a link with glyphosate and reproduction… It’s clear, glyphosate has been widely published in European studies of the health risks on animals. This particular pesticides. But there are lots of pesticide. This is just one…’

For example in the Central Valley in California, a big growing area, lots of organophosphates and clear studies linking organophosphates and increased rates of ADHD in children. They’ve studied why is this happening? What types of enzymes these kids lack? Why are the children unable to break down the pesticides?

So you think this ties into the increase in illness and quantity and depth of illness our children have now? ‘I do.’

You see a direct correlation with the environmental toxins? ‘I do…. We’ve had to become toxicologists as paediatricians…. Kids are more exposed, no doubt. ’

‘There are no studies on the multi effects of children showing how multiple chemical exposures, the cumulative effect of the toxins in our diets, effect children. What happens when you have plastic, heavy metals, mercury and lead… what happens when they are together, with genetically modified foods?

These are some of the things we are trying to untangle. We see sick children and parents are coming to us saying help us – what do we do?’

When asked by Ms Arthur to cite an example, Dr Perro works with patients, Dr Perro described this scenario.:
‘You take a child with severe school disruption. The child is unable to focus in class, child’s disruptive in class, the mother’s getting called into school. The child is impulsive, aggressive, disruptive. Just ADHD issues. They often have gut issues as well, these kids. Many of them also have sleep issues. They come home and can’t get to sleep. They’re wired. So mothers are getting calls from constantly from school, they need all sorts of special school support, the kids are aggressive, often impulsive, you can imagine what that’s like, they can’t sleep so half the family is up all night, then you have a sleep deprived family, and many of these kids have secondary health issues. They have asthma, allergies, and you have a mum like that who is managing 1, 2 or 3 kids and I have families with three children or more and each child has a health issue.If kids don’t have healthy guts The rest goes to pot…

So how do you clinically diagnose?

There are things now that are in my toolbag that I didn’t even have ten years ago. I wish I had these things, I have just been learning it as I have gone along. It depends on the child – but I look a lot at the gut. The gut is the largest immune organ – 70-90% of our immune system comes from the gut. If kids don’t have healthy guts? The rest goes to pot.

You need healthy flora many children have had multiple courses of antibiotics for recurrent ear infections. It alters their biome, and that causes disruptions in their immune system. The other thing I see a lot, is for example, leaky gut. Children who leak these different proteins, and develop secondary immune responses, and have food allergies.
How do you diagnose a leaky gut?

I can remove certain food group offenders and see how kids do. An elimination diet. That’s the easy way. I can test and look for food antibodies. These are not the typical antibodies, they’re not the typical tests some allergists may use, … but I have had fabulous results. Finding kids who have these lower grade, food antibodies and food issues. I adjust their diets and right there they get better without having to do anything else.

Do you have to get off gluten?

Getting kids off gluten is a big part of my practice. A lot of kids have gluten sensitivities. Gluten has a lot of deleterious effects on children…
Ms Perro believes that GMO food contributes to abnormal architecture in leaky gut, (she postulates, following results from animals studies). ‘Large gluten proteins are getting across the gut wall, which is supposed to have tight junctions, the immune system is on the other side picking it up, seeing it as a foreign invader, and making an immune response. I wonder what other toxins get across easily because that normal architecture is not intact.

But I do believe leaky gut can be fixed and kids get better.

What I do is organic, organic, organic, non-GMO diet. I say that all day. But critically, for this to work: ‘Somebody has to get into the kitchen. Cooking’s cool!’. This involves no processed food, only organic, no processed food, no chemicals in the food, non-GMO, healthy soil, farmers market when possible, no fast food.’

A lifestyle change.

Are we aware of the risks of GMOs? …

I don’t believe people realise how pervasive it is, and the health impact. I don’t think that’s understood. Because they are not hearing from their paediatrician, it’s not in the literature, it’s not in our newspapers. So when you improve kids health this is where we have to start.

But I have some families who say, ‘I do all that and my kids still have these issues, what’s going on?’ Kids are still sick, what’s happening? I say, look at the school, what chemicals are used there? For example a child had profound headaches – it ended up being new glue in the school carpet. It’s a big conversation. As mums, as families, there is so much toxic stuff around schools, cleaning products, pesticides, dust, glues and art supplies etc.

Children are closer to the ground, they put more in their mouth, metabolise and breathe faster. Children take up more toxic chemicals. …. I worry about heavy metals in seafood.

Can we heal our children?

And it’s very hard to get people to make change. Particularly around habits. I put food in the same category as addictive habits. Trying to come off gluten, it’s not so easy. Off sugar, off carbs – top addictions. When children get better, parents will make the change. Who does the cooking?trying to come off gluten

If you’re the cook, you’re in charge. You do it as a family. You can’t hide junk food in the closet like my husband did.

Eat real food. (Look at) personal care products. You don’t want to overwhelm a family – start with a small list. Sometimes I have mums take pictures of their pantries – let’s see, what have you got in there?!! Home economics isn’t there to educate people anymore. We need to help people…. We think locally, we change home. We model behaviour – to help unruly teenage sons to change as well. It’s not how we started – I’ve come along way.

I tell mums: Lose that guilt – we didn’t know. You have to leave that guilt behind. No self-flagellating! Kids can heal, with testing, with integrative health therapies to help them heal.

For me – what I tell my mums – every change they make – one change is a significant change. You don’t need to change everything in a day. Begin small so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Take baby steps. Some families are ready to do it. They’re there.

1. Use up your existing content in your cupboard.
2. Buy bulk organic – it’s affordable. Buy bulk, and make it.
3. Don’t buy processed foods, you’ll save on your budget.
4. Don’t cave to the kids. Have the snacks ready. Eg. Almonds, raisins and dark chocolate, a special treat.

I wouldn’t be sitting having this conversation with you if I didn’t think women could do this. Dads are involved too, but women have a special calling to keep their kids healthy.
I see them sick, and they get healthy. There’s a fierceness about mothers wanting to improve the world for their children.

If I piss off enough mums they get with the program.
They get it.

Molly Arthur: We can speak up, we can make a difference. We can speak up and have something strong to say. Thank you Dr Perro for being here with us today – for giving us advice for being the Dr Mom that is living the reality – we know we will make it better for our children
Abbreviated. Interview with Dr Perro for Healing from the Ground Up. Published Nov 5, 2014. Community Media Centre of Marin.

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Are the benefits of solar being presented accurately in the NZ media?

We are hearing the message that solar panels don’t save money and are not worth on the EECA web site. They refer to this consumer report: Sunny Money – Are grid-tied solar
photovoltaic systems a good investment?

If you’re considering solar you may want to mull over this piece that was emailed to me :

I know of at least one person who has been put off from installing solar PV because of this article. But you can’t blame politicians if they are quoting Consumer magazine.

I haven’t calculated our solar PV economics recently. Our system has been in place for over 2 years. Initially (first year) we were on a zero sum costing (1 for 1 payback, and we generated a cash surplus). But then Meridian changed the rules to the version described in the consumer article. As a result we have very slowly gone backwards for the last 1.5 years – i.e. our average monthly cost is slightly higher than our average production, but we have not yet worked off the credit that we built up with Meridian. So we have not yet paid any cash for electricity since the system was turned on. With an optimised use strategy in place (i.e. turn things on when generation is at max – usually middle of day) and an energy efficient retrofit of a house, solar PV should be operable at break even. That means the only cost is either cost of borrowing, or opportunity cost of alternative uses for the money spent. Consumer got its story wrong, because it did not take into account how people optimise their house efficiency and use of electricity when they install solar PV. However, it was right to point out that electricity companies can change the rules without consulting, and that affects the payback and value calculations.

Batteries are becoming much cheaper and the technology more reliable. As power companies change the rules to protect their cash flows, people with solar PV will be incentivised to instal batteries and withdraw from the power grid. The argument that installing solar PV on a micro scale simply shifts generation capacity – because solar PV installers still need electricity at night – is political hype. The main grid battery is water in the dams, and solar PV allows more of that water to be held back, reducing demand for the last-ditch requirement to turn on a gas generator. With enough installed solar capacity, the need for the gas generator will fade to zero. In fact, we already have much of that capacity available at Manapouri – suggesting that the best place to instal solar PV is Northland and AUckland. It is pretty much accepted that the alumium smelter is going to die, despite the taxpayer covering ever more of the costs of keeping it running.

Line charges, gst, etc all remain the same in our power bill, although all are charged on a kwh basis so are linked to the production vs use tradeoff. Our system has covered all of these costs succesfully, at an installation cost of $9500. The system is guaranteed, so there are no maintenance costs (I am not sure how long that deal lasts – we have had one minor breakdown that was almost certainly caused by power supply issues from the grid – it was not a fault with our system).

We have no swimming pool, spa pool, electric car or large freezer. These are big electricity users, and if we acquired any of them, we would have to up the size of our solar array to maintain our break-even status. They are a key cause of the average household use normally reported and on which Consumer based its calculations, of about 8000 kwh per year. The use by our big old house with 4 people is 3800 kwh per year (we use a wood fire for heating, and wood costs us about $240/year).

Dr Ian G. McLean

Thanks for the article Ian – it is food for thought.

Might just spark something in you.

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Sometimes you need to hear it to believe it. So here I am.

food victim

Our world view is connected to the people that surround us and the media we are exposed to.  I grew up in a conventional right wing farming family. Politics was never discussed, you simply voted right. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to vote any other way.

But then stuff happened to change me. I learn’t about illness, I learn’t about the story that our government and media aren’t being honest about. 

Did I move left or did the world around me move right? Did seeing suffering, and suffering myself, wake me up?

I watched two parents die of cancer before they got to see their grandchildren. I saw how illness and sadness can disable a family.

Then, in my twenties I escaped into pasta and sweet food. This grew to a common sugar addiction. You’re addicted if you experience constant cravings (every 15-30 minutes).  This can include basic sugars and simple carbohydrates like pasta. I thought of eating all the time. No energy, a bit of depression, a type of empty nothingness. At that stage I never connected my feelings and my health to the food I ate.

After my son was born in my early thirties I was exhausted, in a brain fog, needed 10 hours of sleep a night and was still exhausted. I was sick. I couldn’t remember a thing. I could barely function. My husband was amazing – but he was scared that this would define the rest of our lives. Me useless.

I had developed an autoimmune disease – hypothyroidism. The thrilled doctor worked out my ailment and provided me with pills and told me it was wonderful, I had an illness modern medicine could fix.

But – I was still exhausted, in a brain fog. The bags under my eyes stared back at me in every photo. Living with constant ladies problems.  I should have carried a bottle brush around with me….  Taking loads of anti-fungals that never worked.  I was only in my mid-thirties. How could I feel this bad?

How could I keep taking medicine that never seemed to work?

My friend sent me to a herbalist. 90% of the herbs she put me on are for digestion – to help my kidneys, pancreas, to help my digestive enzymes and gut bacteria work to pull the goodness out of the food I eat. She got my gut working rather than selling me a stack of vitamin pills. Common sense. Honestly, for the first 5 years I didn’t really realise this.  I just realised that I had gone from 70 years old back to now 39 years old. I started to examine the food I was eating. I still had raging candida and brain fog.

Most doctors don’t often acknowledge the fact that hypothyroidism is usually only partially helped by pharmaceutical drugs. My doctor never talked about my diet. Why not?  Why is food no longer medicine? Today I go to the doctors once a year – to get another thyroxine prescription. But to function as a 40 something I also spend over $800 on herbs – mainly for my digestive system. When I stop taking them because I don’t want to spend the money I get sick.

Most people can’t afford to spend this money. I am extremely lucky. But it makes me an activist as I want other people to not get sick.

I look around today – I know too many people on depression tablets, too many people with allergies, too many people with autoimmune disease, too many children and adults with cancer. There is so much talk about our genetic predisposition to illness and not enough talk about how we can avoid illness. We have rabidly more illness than we had 20 years ago. The significant difference is stress and what we put in our mouths.

This is not normal.  This illness load. This should not be the new normal.

Only patented drugs are available at a discount through Phamac. Most disease originates in the gut. Herbs and healthy eating can prevent and repair many of these diseases. But we only send a message out through our health care system to put a plaster on the illness. We don’t examine the ability of natural medicine and food to be as effective (and without the side effects) of pharmaceutical medicine. We need both. But this is ignored. This is a pharmaceutical model not a healthcare model. We could be smarter.

Prevention is cheaper.

I was in the doctors with my pre-diabetic grandmother the other day. I had asked her if the doctor (whom I like very much) had talked to her about her breakfast Weetbix, her toast and cheese for dinner – as being foods that essentially contained simple sugars that would have contributed to her now diabetic status. He had never discussed it with her. He said she was too old to change. Really? Porridge and vegetable soup would be damaging?

A dietary guideline for a healthy diet can never evolve to a cultural (kiwi) habit until our doctors are able to tell us that eating three wheat meals a day is a recipe for disease. That we need to eat to protect the gut. That there are simple herbs and minerals that Pharmac can provide cheaply that act as preventative medicine and can be better long term than pharmaceutical medicines.

Mainstream government doesn’t want to know about it.

I changed my life.  I increased the green vegetables our family eats at night 3 fold and are deaf to complaints. My kids eat bulk bought muesli, plain yoghurt and buttery cheesy omelettes before school. I eat wonderful grass fed meat with fat on it (but not all the time). Hardly any wheat and a tiny bit of sugar. I do everything I can to keep their sugar load down so they don’t develop and addiction to think about food all the time. go down my path of illness. On my watch I will protect them. Guard them.  I want to yell it to the world.  Defend your kids.  We all deserve more.

The French word for food is ‘nourriture’ – nourishment. The English speaking west calls what we put in our mouths food – fuel.

I don’t have cravings now. Only for something that will nourish me. I might sound like a wanker – but I don’t want to live the other way anymore.

But until you get there, you can’t believe you can.  I feel ten years younger than I felt ten years ago. I know sick people who will look at me blankly, not believing they could get better.

My herbalist tells me I am susceptible to diabetes, depression, cancer, osteoporosis… the list goes on.  Every one of us has genetic predisposition to particular illnesses.

We can’t blindly march into illness. Not knowing how deep we are in it until our life is screwed.

That’s why I am speaking up.  Risking criticism. Looking like an idiot.

I slowly started becoming political because it was so, well, unfair. Wrong. Women look after sick kids, women are more susceptible to autoimmune disease.  Women bear the load.

There is room in our media for reporting. But little room today for honest, transparent passionate debate. So we can’t question.  We simply listen. That’s why you never see media reports in the BOP about people affected by pesticide spray.  It affects more people than car crashes but it’s not ‘newsworthy’.

Our national illness forecast is more similar to the US than Europe. NZ needs to be able to fund the sick. Or privatise. Or make waiting lists longer.

Which is what we are doing.  It’s a numbers game. Cutbacks. Less services, keeping our healthcare bill at 11% of GDP the same. But with more people suffering.

America’s healthcare bill as a percentage of GDP is heading towards 20%. Europe’s is around 11%. Europe is making very different decisions from the USA because most of Europe’s health care is socially funded through taxation.

I have to speak up. And I blog because the papers won’t touch this content.

I know my life has changed dramatically. I am desperate for our government to implement policies that protect people from illness so we have less drag on the system.

It’s always about the money. If you take one or two weeks off a year because you are sick.  How much does that cost? Changing your diet radically alters your immunity and predisposition to disease. How much does that cost when you eat less because you are nourished? Seriously, you do.

I bet that even sounds like a joke to many reading this.

There is so much we need to talk about. Can we discuss how the food pyramid is broken? That cereals doused in pesticides take up too much space on our plate? Discuss how we need to support farmers so they can nourish the soil in order to feed us nourishing food? Discuss quality of food not quantity – all our government wants to do is increase production. How can we look sideways to premium markets that want grass fed milk?

Why won’t our government tell our families that cereal for breakfast, bread for lunch and pasta for dinner will lead to sick people?  Why won’t our government tax soft drinks? Why won’t our government limit junk food businesses near schools?

The science is starting to illustrate that real food can be as, or more healing than pharmaceuticals. Can we discuss that pushing more people into private insurance because we have burgeoning medical costs that our tax base simply can’t handle is a reactive response to a growing illness load. That’s a US policy and it’s failing. So, just rich people deserve good health care?

These questions should never be a left wing issue. This should be a mainstream discussion. 

But it’s marginalised.

We will never agree with every policy of any political party. Just like we won’t agree with every decision the people we are closest to will make over their lives.

Europe is so much further down the path than we are. Preventative health as policy. Environmental caution as policy. Is it because they have lived there longer?  They realise that once their world is stuffed, it truly is stuffed?

Why does a significant proportion of Western Europe abolish fracking, refuse GMO’s, have higher taxes for the rich, recycle over 90% of waste, establish taxes for junk food, have systems in place to feed kids vegetables and fruit at lunchtime, embrace green technology and green energy?

Start asking questions and you realise Europe is looking at the science. Science based decisions made by non-corporate scientists. And Europe is more transparent.

Of course Europe will never be perfect. But at this stage is NZ simply following the USA? More non-communicable illness than anywhere else in the world. What a legacy to pass on to us.

It’s very had to live a meaningful and fulfilling life when every day, you feel like shit.

I am desperate for brave decisions and policy discussion. Not sidelining.

I want my kids on a journey that doesn’t involve a constant struggle for good health.

And I have too many questions that aren’t being addressed.

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Must be a bad writer.

A couple of months ago I spent a while trying to get this piece into mainstream media. I tried New Zealand’s National Radio, Listener, Stuff, NZ Herald.

I guess a) no one’s interested in this topic and b) I am a rubbish writer. And yes – of course there is competition for content. But look at the content…. and look at people affected by gut related illness. Fair proportion of the population I would guess.

PRESS RELEASE:  Kiwis have a gut-full of illness.

Increasing medical costs related to leaky gut unsustainable.     July 3, 2014.

TAURANGA NZ:  Mother and researcher, Jodie Bruning, believes the NZ health system needs a sharper focus on research regarding diseases and disorders connected to a permeable bowel (intestinal permeability), known commonly as leaky gut and IBS.

‘This is an election year, it’s time to focus on a really important area of illness that affects a huge amount of Kiwi families.

‘Among the top twenty medicines on our Pharmac list are many medicines for illness or disorders with a common factor. This is a weakened or damaged gut wall and an inability to process nutrients effectively.  Allergies, autoimmune disease, diabetes and asthma – even depression – has this common element which should be investigated, and considered a potential cause.   We’re talking about a huge proportion of the New Zealand population.’

‘Our biggest single drug expense is for an autoimmune drug. Humira (adalimumab) outstrips everything else on the Pharmac list. New Zealand doesn’t even keep an autoimmune register to track the exploding range of autoimmune related illness – and the subsequent cost to our taxpayer load.  But we pay these exploding bills’.

Autoimmunity results from an immune dysfunction and is often an ‘unseen’ illness.  We are all susceptible to immune stress, which can lay dormant for many years. However, autoimmune disease, encompassing more than 80 illnesses globally, is almost always triggered by external influences and it can be life threatening. The disease affects women disproportionally.

Pharmac cost gut permeability Top 20 Medicines ex manufacturer cost 2010-2013Bruning believes the growth in taxpayer cost for these medicines is unsustainable, and that by not researching the environmental triggers, the NZ government is failing in its duty of care.

‘We have always had a base level of these particular illnesses in the New Zealand population – but today the figures are increasing at an astounding rate. We need to ask ‘why’ these diseases weren’t so prevalent 25 years ago, and question why so many of these diseases have gut disorder as a common theme. It’s not just better diagnostics’.

Whilst funding has been directed towards genetic traits and behaviours, there has been little focus on our diets and our physical environment, and how dramatically this has changed in the last 20-30 years.

‘We blame the death of a relative for bringing on, for example, Crohn’s disease, where in previous generations the experience would have been stressful, but not resulted in autoimmune disorder.  When you have a weakened gut wall it doesn’t take much to descend into an exhausting and debilitating lifetime illness or allergy. ‘ In most cases, increased permeability precedes disease’. [1]  It’s time to ‘see the forest for the trees.’

‘We need a responsible, wide ranging conversation and investigation about this from an independent source. Most health practitioners are focussed on one area of health and can’t stretch easily into other illness sectors.  We need dedicated inquiry into the environmental triggers that tip our digestive system and then our bodies into illness. Funding that will put the health of Kiwi’s first.’

Hippocrates advised us 2400 years ago that ‘all disease begins in the gut’, it’s time to take some old fashioned medical advice.





[1] ‘In most cases, increased permeability precedes disease’.

 Intracellular tight junctions:    Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity, and Cancer.  IV. INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY AND DISEASE.  A. Fasano. Physiological ReviewsPublished 1 January 2011Vol. 91no. 151-175 DOI: 10.1152/ physrev. 00003.2008.

Hippocrates 400BC :  Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is quoted as saying, “bad digestion is at the root of all evil” and “death sits in the bowels.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15253677

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Why do we all have sick guts? NZ health policy needs to digest some facts.

It’s an election year and there is one health policy I want to see that none of the parties are publicly considering.road to health paved good intestines

It is a policy I believe nearly every Kiwi would support. Especially women, whom this issue disproportionately affects.  A common sense policy to help us maintain our commitment to a health expenditure as a proportion of GDP at under 11%.

It’s a research funding commitment. Not to develop some new flash drug, some silver bullet, or a ‘sure fix’. It’s not a sexy issue, quite the opposite in fact. It’s down and dirty and rather, errr, fecal.

We need to understand what makes our gut lining and digestive system – degrade. Breakdown.

What are the environmental triggers that lead to a permeable bowel? What are the main dietary and environmental factors that result in a reduced gut microbiota – reduced bugs and bacteria in our gut?

We really don’t know.

What illnesses are related to permeable (leaky) bowel? Many cancers, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, coeliac disease, irritable bowel, CFS & ME, allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD & ADD, depression and ankylosing spondylitis, skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis to name a few. Yes, this list covers a lot of illness. I find it stunning, myself.

A huge part of our immune system depends on a healthy digestive tract. Vitamin C is only part of it. We need a heck of a lot of other nutrients to be absorbed by our bodies – using a healthy digestive system. Without this nutrient conversion and healthy absorbtion our systems break down.  In different ways often, depending on our genetic disposition.

Furthermore, when your family is presenting with ongoing immune related maladies, coughs, colds, the flu etc, it can be pretty surprising to understand the gut connection is a enormous part of getting better. (Therefore don’t eat junk food when you’re sick – get aggressive, get militant, feed your gut and slice and dice that garlic and onion and build up your own forces to repel that invading army. Don’t just spend $40 on medicine.)

There is a reason, 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates considered that all disease began in the gut.

Why is the gut so important? Because a permeable gut wall is usually present before onset of illness. Let me repeat: Before.  So when you descend into illness after a traumatic event, losing a parent for instance, in most cases your gut was already sick. It’s this massive omnipresent cofactor across all these illnesses. Your body didn’t have enough ‘ooomph’ to get you through unscathed. Your gut wasn’t working properly, you couldn’t extract enough nutrients to boost your immune system in a time of stress. Then you got sick. And we all get sick in different ways as we have different genetic predispositions, according to the environmental challenges our ancestors faced.

We have over three times the bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells. Our immune systems and body bacteria are interdependent. Our bodies have evolved to need and use these bacteria every day. We evolved from bacterial sea dwelling slime, we are them and they are us. We get rid of our evolutionary partner and we get sick.

Increased city based populations have resulted in us living in a cleaner, more hygienic environment, reducing our early exposure to germs and dirt. But it’s more than that. Our illnesses are accelerating faster than they ever did before.

What are the environmental triggers that create the pathway into allergy and autoimmune disease? We might have the genetic disposition, but nothing happens until the environmental triggers create the gut dysbiosis.

When we walk into the doctors, the symptoms doctors see are the tip of your own private iceberg. The gut is not often considered, it is hidden away.

Doctors are time poor and this is a relatively new field. Is there a corresponding relationship between New Zealand’s extremely high rate of antibiotic use and it’s correspondingly stunning rate of asthma? How do pesticides sprayed on our food affect our digestive system?  Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides kill plant based bacteria, bugs and fungus, after all. Is it no surprise that a little town of Te Puke in New Zealand with its population of 7,500, it’s orchards and sprays just happens to have an arthritis support group? Why do I know a mum with 2 autistic kids who spent their early years surrounded by 3 different orchards with three different spray regimes?

Why are people starting to believe there is a correlation between the pesticides including Roundup that is sprayed on our wheat, soy, vegetable oils and other cereals, and on the GE/GM feed that our intensively farmed animals (particularly pork and poultry) eat, which together comprise a huge part of our staple food groups – and growing illness rates.

Why doesn’t our government look at the independent publicly released scientific research that indicates pesticides like Roundup and genetically modified organisms are damaging to gut health? You find this newly released research on the NZ EPA site. I can’t.

Please understand there is not a single published study held with the NZ EPA, US EPA, WHO or EU as part of their toxicity assessments investigating the effects of pesticides on the gut microbiome and gut wall and their contribution as  environmental triggers to illness.  At all.

We can talk about the essential role fibre plays in our digestive system, and that antibiotics certainly contribute, as this great Catalyst program illustrates. But the situation is more complex than that.

medicine war between invadingThere’s more… you could say I am generalising or you could say we need to commit the cash for the research.

The pharmaceutical industry is embracing the big new field of ‘prebiotics’ and even ‘fecal transplant medicine’ to help us rebuild our digestive systems. These guys know something is wrong.  My call is that we need to practice prevention.

Practically speaking, researching environmental triggers for gut breakdown isn’t a money maker, which is why the commercial sector aren’t here already. This needs to be publicly funded.

In a country where the medicine is taxpayer funded, the only logical situation is to reduce illness in the first place.

There is no point having a poo transplant to improve your gut bacterial profile, going home and eating a big lunch of bread that has been desiccated (pesticides sprayed on our wheat to dry it out and get rid of weeds) with Roundup (a patented antibiotic, I kid you not).

What a …waste…  I reckon we can be smarter.

Because the NZ tax system isn’t a money pit.

Can we afford to hop on a ridiculous taxpayer funded bandaid roundabout?  That’s why this call for research funding is simple Kiwi common sense.  This is an exciting and relatively new focus of science which could change the way we view medicine – for the better.

Let’s get to the bottom of this problem. Digest some facts.

Doctors are often between a rock and hard place. Distressed parents demanding antibiotics to fix baby Sam’s illness walk into their clinic every day. But I don’t know a single doctor who wouldn’t appreciate independent research (with no ties to the pharmaceutical industry) to get to the guts of the matter.

This initiative covers an incredibly broad spectrum of the non-communicable illnesses whose costs to our healthcare system are spiralling. We have blockbuster drugs on our pharmaceutical scheme the likes of which we have never seen before, tied of course, to problems related to a permeable gut.

happiness digestion Rousseau

The gut is sick before the descent into illness. Without the sick gut would we get sick? Probably not. We need to understand this. We need to do more than apply expensive pharmaceutical bandaids.

A needle in a haystack? Perhaps. But while our governments continue to ignore this pressing need to understand the toxins in our diets, the situation will only get more expensive. (I could say distressing but we are talking policy here). It’s the twenty first century. We have the technology and the scientists.

Does it make sense that we should direct a significant funding commitment to researching gut health? Support groups for people with the above-listed illnesses may agree.  And many sufferers have more than one problem, which can often include mental health disorders – both relating back to the digestive system. Articles here and here and here.  The gut and brain are intricately interconnected through our immune and endocrine systems, among other things, inextricably tied to gut health.

Primarily this is about reducing onset of disease and being cautious. A no-brainer.  It’s tied to a healthy diet (of which lunches in lower decile (‘less fortunate’) schools could only aid), reduced dietary toxins and perhaps altering antibiotic regimes (with independent science based recommendations) to understand what our bodies can actually cope with.

paradigm shift in medical treatmentWe need to ensure our kid’s food is safe (perhaps follow European policy with their no pesticides in baby food mandate) and if necessary, legislate in practical ways to protect our kids physical and psychological futures. Keep toxins out of their bodies as long as we can.

On the plus side, where there is tragedy there’s opportunity. Mass illness?  Mass niche based opportunities!  The science could boost small start-ups in New Zealand. Like suppliers of natural prebiotics. Let’s not let all those big overseas pharmaceutical corporations make all the money. We are the land of raw milk and raw honey, after all.  Develop home grown organic baby foods. There is international market demand for these products.

Let’s reduce the barriers to small food based businesses and let our foodies develop the stuff they know will sell. Let our producers diversify with smart incentives.

These problems aren’t going away quickly. Let’s make some cash while we fix the situation.

I know an entrepreneur or two that may be able to help out….

Call my bluff, tell me I’m generalising, but I urge you to demand that your political parties think strongly about this research.

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The kindness of strangers

Many moons ago I posted a piece hoping that someone out there could fix my ancient 1964 Sunbeam Toastermatic.  I just put it out there.

It was my dads, and it’s special. So I put it in a suitably special place and hoped my wireless plea would reach someone.

This year a very kind person from Melbourne contacted me. Mr. Toastermatic Specialist. Like me, he loves these beautiful old machines. These toasters are so clever, that all you have to do is drop a piece of toast in and it pops up when it is cooked – this is 50 to 60 year old technology.

Look at your mobile phone and ask it if it can last 50 years.  Well then.

I digress – this gentleman and scholar whom I knew from a bar of soap – asked me to send the Toastermatic (and it’s sacrificial brother I had betoasteren keeping for exactly this reason) to Melbourne and he would see what he could do.  He told me to pay particular care to the side wings – when someone asks you to do that, you know he knows what he is talking about.

There’s care there.

So I trusted him. And he fixed my beautiful machine.

I did pay for the cost of fixing it – but the postage cost way more.

He polished her up so she shone like the sun and she glowed like glory, and mailed it back to me.

She is an old lady, so I have to be gentle with her. She only likes going one round on the golf course, so if we are doing a few more rounds we use the griller.

That suits us.

PS:  You companies out there producing long use goods with your planned obsolescence, your breakdown design with your cheap inputs designed to fail after x uses – especially if there is no ease for recycling engineered into your product – you are unethical and shameful.  People will always pay for a good basic product. If the extra inputs making long term quality gives people an extra ten years – they will pay for it.

The poor will pay the extra amount for a product designed for long term use as often it is a small component cost before markup, and the rich will too as long as there is some elite wanky thing showing how extra special their version is.

No-one wants a product designed to breakdown anywhere between 2 and 7 years of use. It’s rubbish.

You should be legislated against. You buggers.

And Mr Melbourne – you are an angel and doubtless extremely good looking. Tell your family to keep you. You’re definitely ‘worth the trouble’.

My family thanks you, stranger. As does my little old antique machine.

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How parents fail.

Our parents don’t fail us when they can’t make it to sports games, don’t bake the perfect birthday cake, aren’t there to watch us get a certificate. When they make a decision once or twice that they later regret. They don’t fail us when they are poor and the electricity sometimes gets shut off.

Our parents fail us when they are unable to love us and provide us with a secure safe environment to grow and flourish in.  They fail us when they systemically act in a way that makes us feel worthless, year after year.  We are monkeys – we’re pretty simple – it’s about love and security.


Our parents fail us when they can’t consistently see beyond their own needs and wants, or their own failures in life – and they are unable to shift into a gear that involves simply doing what is best for the growing child.  And ‘doing best’ is not fulfilling the little darlings every wish and want. It never was.

Our parents fail us when they don’t see us.  When we are hidden to them. When they can’t take that sometimes gargantuan step into ‘small child needs’. When they leave us alone because we are just ‘too hard’ and when they don’t care what time we come home when we are still kids. When they don’t touch us in a loving empathetic way. Because they don’t know how to – or they don’t want to.

Children don’t have to fulfil parent’s expectations in order to be loved, just like a parent will never completely fulfil a child’s expectations.

Guess what – we are allowed to be the ‘difficult child’. The challenging child. The different child. Most families have one – usually because there are similarities to one of the parents. We’ve grabbed their genes, after all. No-one is perfect.

Parents can be tested. That is almost the very definition of being a parent.

These parents usually know they are failing. Somewhere deep inside.

No matter how ‘wonderful’ they are to the outside world.

For kids – it’s not about how many after school activities you are ferried to. It’s not about being worshipped. And it’s definitely not about being told how much they love you. That can be nice – but I know just as many people who grew up with the silent loving parents as the daily ‘I love you’ parents – who are just as secure in their parents love.

It’s about love and comfort.

It’s about being nurtured and supported.  ‘I can’t be at the sports games but I’ll make sure you get there. I will be interested in who you are as a person. I will be there for you for the rest of my life.’

To create a solid foundation for a child to flourish into a confident adult.

Because if you are not loved, flourishing is really hard. Because everything that is said, and, more often than not, unsaid, in the family home, is understood by that child. Negativity seeps into your bones and weighs you down, decade after decade.

Are you worthwhile?  Or are you not?

It can be a massive head-shift to understand that when your parents fail it is not necessarily about you. It can simply be their failure to look beyond their own problems and screw-ups. Sometimes it’s about their state of mental health.

Their inability to ‘grow’.

And the hardest thing for an adult that grew up in a world where they were ‘lesser’ – is to understand, it is not about us. When we are kids lack of truly meaningful love seeps into our subconscious and becomes an indelible part of us. We become defined by an absence of love.

It takes grim determination to kick that one off.

The most important thing a person can do is shift their own gears away from that person who, every time they see that person, makes them shrink inside themselves.  Because ongoing constant (and often subtle) rejection of us as a person – which can be how we interpret all this – makes you feel sick and sad and empty.

I’m not talking about bad times, hard moments, fracturing and difficulty in your teen years – I am talking about decades of knowing your parent/s can’t/won’t love you.

You can’t ever expect to change them. Especially by just sitting around waiting for them to change.  You’ve probably been trying for years to get them to ‘see’ you. Lifetime habits don’t change easily.

Stop wishing.

Create your own soil to flourish in.

Reframe yourself.  If you, in your own life, live in a home that you are happy to come home to (mansions always come at a cost), are with a kind and thoughtful partner &/or friends, and have parented children (if you got there) in a way that is never perfect – but is always defined by your trying to do the right thing for them, with boundaries and care – and so you can see that your world and your kids are happy and confident in a way you could never imagine,…..

If you are watching your children thrive and grow with wings you knew you never had.

You are a success.

So little by little, let go of these people that taught you about suffering. Accept them for who they are. Know that you have learnt much from them.

Give yourself permission to walk away. Because they’ve stuffed up. Failed. You can’t change them. It’s not about you.

Leave them to their own lives.

They’ve taught you enough.

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Making a rash decision from the gut. About a dog.

Myrtle up close 1I am about to conduct an experiment on the dog.

My dog Myrtle has had skin based stomach rashes for a good 6 months now.  Extensive reading has lead me to a mother-type conclusion.  Perhaps an outrageous theory (that is grounded in science..) – that most rashes and problems we see on our body, are connected to gut health.  Of course there are other rashes that may not be.  But we can always race to our much loved vet.

And I am going to have a red hot go, at fixing her.

Of course, I am no vet.  I have been feeding my dog reasonably healthy, cereal based foods for the last 6 years with the odd fresh bone thrown in.  She is entering middle age.  And this rash is ugly.

I want a long term fix. Nothing less.

She is going back to what her great, great grandparents used to eat, back to the basics.

I have begged 3 months grace with the other half in order to restore gut health to Myrtle the fox terrier.  Apparently that is the time you need to get back on track.

When it comes down to it, dog cereal biscuits ain’t no freshly killed rabbit.

My theory is that many of the same disorders are affecting dogs as humans.  We are seeing higher incidence of problems related to gut dysbiosis and a permeable gut (with a broken cell wall) – allergies, autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes, skin and thyroid problems – in the human population, as well as our darling beloved pets.  The whole permeable gut problem ties back to gut wall breakdown and reduced microbiota populations.  As a result we are not processing our food as well, we are not extracting the nutrients as well.  Food is becoming foreign as it gets through our gut wall and causes an autoimmune reaction. Our immune systems are not as robust. We are weaker.

With modern medicine, we have fewer communicable diseases causing us hassle, but there is massive growth in non-communicable disease that was never previously at the levels we see today.

Every second person I meet has something going wrong.  It’s not just better diagnostics. It’s not just ‘weak’ genes. Our grandparents didn’t tip over into autoimmune disease when a stressful, heart braking tragedy occurred.  Or just tipped over for no apparent reason.  Not at the same rate we are now.

We have always had families with genetic tendencies that have the unlucky misfortune to, for example, develop Crohn’s disease.  But we have Crohn’s disease in epidemic proportions compared to 30 years ago.

I tend to think tragedies are ‘tipping points.’  But they’re not the culprit.

There is a ‘something else’ going on inside us is that can make us ‘tip over’ into illness in stressful times – an environmental trigger – and it’s often a weak gut. But this is a slow process that we don’t see. So we don’t know it is happening.

If you look at government budgets for autoimmune disease – in my own country New Zealand, our Pharmac register, drugs for autoimmune disease are the most expensive group of medicines tax payers shell out for. It is not a stretch to say that these illnesses are reaching pandemic proportions.

Yet there is no autoimmune database tracking these illnesses in my country.  There is no discussion of the correlation between a permeable gut and these disorders in the mainstream media. It is all about medicine to fix the problem – important – but not the full story.  People don’t want to get sick in the first place.

And what if a restored gut and microbiota health mean’t that in some cases, we would not have to depend on long term medicine?  But it’s not covered in mainstream medicine.

We need to dedicate research to the environmental triggers that cause this damage. But there is miniscule funding going towards looking at the causes of gut dysbiosis, breakdown of the gut wall and identifying the causes of microbiota death.

It is not a priority.

Sadly, when you look at all the research organisations, cancer, Crohn’s, diabetes type 1, rheumatoid arthritis – and the others – research funding allocations are allocated to researching new drugs. Making more medicine.

What if 20% of their research funds were allocated to researching the cause?  Researching the toxins that trigger disease, rather than just medicine to manage and treat disease? Perhaps our world would be vastly different.

Please can you consider that the Roundup pesticide levels permitted on our cereals – our wheat, barley and oats etc – have increased 6 fold in the last 10 years.  That the levels of Roundup permitted on the over 80 different GMO’s permitted in New Zealand’s diet is astonishingly high – these foods are not yet labelled – mainly corn, soy and canola. The pesticide levels are way higher than what independent scientists recommend. The researched irritant that is within GM food, never discussed by mainstream media.

Don’t groan because I am bringing up the ‘pesticide thing’. There’s a reason why people are concerned about our current exposure levels, and they’re grounded in science.

Roundup – or the weaker active chemical, glyphosate is registered as an antibiotic – it kills bugs – microbiota. It also chelates – pulls metals together – and many scientists believe, makes it harder for us to digest vital minerals and vitamins.

Please understand that the full formulation of Roundup is never tested by the regulatory agencies – only the weaker glyphosate.  And as a mother, it is confronting to me that pesticides are never tested on rodents in the lead up to pregnancy or in the equivalent first trimester for the important developmental studies.

Scientists are calling it ‘the worlds most significant environmental toxin’. That’s a very big call.   It’s a lot to, well, ……………………… digest.

And when you look the ingredients label on your dogs food – and what is in our supermarket food – a picture comes together that shows that our staple foods – wheat, corn, soy – that is in so much of the stuff we buy – are the same foods with the highest Roundup residue loads.

There are other contributors, other culprits contributing towards this suffering, of course there are. But this dark empty space of no-research for the most common pesticide on planet Earth is well, wrong.  For a bit more reading on what other mothers day you can visit Moms Across America.  Most of them, by way of watching sick kids suffering, have entered the world of science in a way many of them never imagined they would.

Back to my dog.  I am going off grid.  Entering the dark side. So far, it has worked for my health and my families health. Keeping it simple.  Eating real food.

So for now it’s green animal guts, fresh meat, a small amount of suitable vegies and a vitamin & mineral mix for Myrtle the wee fox terrier. Approximately the same cost as medicine, I am guessing. And a bit more hassle.  But she is a pretty special part of our family.

We’re staying away from pork and chicken – they’re the meats with the highest load of GM feed, sadly.

I’m just relieved she is small, so not too expensive.

The finger has been pulled out and the experiment is ON!

Will it work for my dog?

Or will I end up at the vets?

I know, you are beside yourself with excitement.  Jiggling in your seat.

Posted in Environment, Health, Kids & Family | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Roundup & glyphosate: Independent Research is the Key

crop massgen poppies

This article is a response to an opinion piece in the Bay of Plenty Herald.  Unlike most opinion pieces, the piece BOP Times Independent research is the key never went online…. so here is the text:

In response to Tauranga city council’s communications adviser Marcel Currin’s opinion piece ‘Scare Tactics Modify Stance on GMOs’, of Friday December 6th.

He discusses unhappy rats that ended up with ugly tumours.

Why is there such a fuss over this study?

It’s different.

Professor Seralini is the first scientist to do a lifetime study of the complete Roundup formulation. The study found tumours both with rats fed GMOs and rats fed only Roundup. And they were higher than the control group of rats – the rats on a normal diet.

None of the big assessment agencies like the WHO, EPA and European Commission consider the stronger formula – it is not industry requirement.  But there are a tonne of scientists out there, not connected to industry that want studies of the complete Roundup formulation. It’s more toxic.

And the predisposition to tumours?  These are the same rats used historically by Monsanto, Cheminova and Syngenta. These rats have similar responses to toxins to humans living in industrialised societies.

Mr Currin, does the pesticide industry get to use this rat strain for years and then dismiss this strain when an organisation working in the public interest finds tumours (at a higher rate than controls?

I think that’s called having your cake and eating it too.

Normally a journal demands a retraction of a study for faults like data error, plagiarism or unethical reseach.  Many scientists believe the retraction of this study for ‘inconclusive science’ was illicit, unscientific and unethical.

I believe Professor Seralini previously worked for the European agency EFSA, and assessing the GMO’s that come into Europe.  His job was to say ‘yes, these are safe’.  And when he couldn’t say they were safe he couldn’t work there anymore.

So that’s when he started filling in the scientific gaps left by the corporate GMO industry.

Mr. Currin, the world we are in now is a lot different from the world we inhabited as children.  When I was a child, most of the research and development for agriculture was in the hands of government departments.

It’s not like that anymore.

But we need to see toxicity studies, of the formulations we spray on our food, unconnected to industry shareholders, proving safety.  That’s my middle ground, I don’t believe that’s a ‘sensationalist straw to pluck’.

And your comments regarding ‘anti-GMO grumble’? Why is Roundup so connected to GMO’s?

Because the last 16 years of open research for GMO’s in America have led to more pesticide being sprayed on crops (not less), and the development of six major transgenic pest-management traits dominating pesticide use in the U.S. over this period, 1996–2011: herbicide-resistant (Roundup) corn, soybeans, and cotton;  Bt corn and cotton.

Thousands of smaller ag-based firms have closed business as ownership of the corn traits have led to domination by a small group of firms.

This has led to less crop diversity, higher input margins for farmers, less crop rotation, less drought tolerance, poorer soils and more chemicals on our food.

The scientists at Scion will tell you that internationally, scientists have no problem with GMOs.

The fact is, internationally, industry connected scientists have no problems with GMOs.  But scientists and medical professionals unconnected to GMO industry in the fields of toxicology, paediatrics, neurology, oncology, soil science, endocrinology and veterinary work have a huge problem with them.  These guys want more science to prove safety.

The legal term of GRAS that GMO’s receive, generally regarded as safe, means this stuff doesn’t get tested for toxicity, ever. Yet science demonstrates GMO corn has 18 times the safe level of glyphosate set by the EPA.  GMO plants have less essential nutrients in them – less calcium, less magnesium, less manganese.

They are different.

One of the latest food New Zealand GMO food approvals is for corn with an insecticidal toxin inside the actual plant, which can be then sprayed with Roundup, and 2,4-D and glufosinate and a new pesticide called AOPP.  All together.  These are called stacked traits.

No assessment agency in the world requires these combined pesticides to be tested cumulatively to prove them safe.

Every carcinogenicity study in the world declaring 2,4-D is safe, is directly paid for by Dow or a pesticide industry organisation known as 2,4-D task force?

Intuition, logic and independent science tells me this is not safe. For our kids. This is why I write.

Mr Currin, the Scion scientists believe if the Bay of Plenty uses the term ‘precautionary principle’ in its policy wording it will lead to less science. Poppycock.

Many of our food exporters involved with ongoing research and development believe higher premiums are tied to a GMO free export product.

Consider Comvita, for instance. Do they fit in your ‘middle ground’?

Mr. Currin, my central, conservative view, is that we need more science. More research to prove safety – that is not paid for by industry.

And a heck of a lot of very conservative scientists and corporations agree with me.

Jodie Bruning.


Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first sixteen years:  Charles M Benbrook  http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility: http://www.ensser.org/increasing-public-information/no-scientific-consensus-on-gmo-safety/

Posted in Environment | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Free-range kids in the Bay of Plenty.

2012-02-27 003

Our family ended up at Matahui Road School after moving from a highly esteemed local primary school in the Bay of Plenty Region, where after 6 weeks in the new entrance class the teacher didn’t realise that my son could read, do some maths, that sort of stuff.  She really had no idea.  Things change and this may not be a problem at that school anymore, but it was a problem for us then.

And then, one day at the previous school when I was quietly helping in the classroom, Will finished his project and went into a corner and rolled a yellow digger up and down repeatedly for 20 minutes.  The teacher was busy, harassed, she didn’t have time to look after him, and he was causing no trouble.  And I thought to myself, is this how his education will be?  In this large classroom at this beautifully resourced, decile 10 school?  He dashes through his work and has permission to be bored because he causes no trouble?  Oh, and then he would hop in the car at the end of the day talking about being pushed over and kicked by a gang of boys….  so many factors weren’t right.

At about the same time my cousin had apologetically told me that her kids wouldn’t be going to this same school, the school their father and grandfather had attended, because she had found another one.  One that was little, just north of Tauranga, it was independent (private) and well, different.  A school that claimed to ‘inspire a love of learning’ that was wise to such things as the ‘habits of mind’ – a concept that was new to me then.  Learning isn’t just about knowing stuff – it is about learning behaviour that will make you strong in this world.  Fair enough.

This school, apparently, reinforced ideas such as:  ‘the true measure of success is not in knowing the right answer, but in knowing what to do when you don’t have the right answer’.

To teach confidence in how we approach this world.   Big call.

My mother-in-law had gone along with my cousin to the open day, possibly a little jaded that the daughters-in-law were departing from family habitude.  But once she arrived at Matahui Road School she exclaimed happily “but this is how the boy’s school used to be!”  And she was converted. Our hearts lifted.

It is a little school, our school, with under 90 on the role.  And its main claim to fame for every new parent, a critical variable for many –  are low class sizes.  Every family has a child that needs extra attention – a little more time.  And to be honest, I believe that is all most children need to get there in the end – time.  Patience.  Something this world does not always have.

And with smaller classes I do believe this is what we get – a more focussed and less harassed teacher. A critical variable in successful learning.

Matahui Road School is an independent primary school in the Western Bay of Plenty.  This is quite rare in our region.  It survives on half the income per student that the flash secondary schools in Auckland and over the hill in the Hamilton region, require to survive.  It is not rich.  It has a marketing budget that would fit in my belly button, as money is spent on more important things.  Nor is it a religious school.  It was set up 25 years ago by two mothers who had a vision of a school where children could be free to learn, free to explore, in a safe yet dynamic environment where risks could be taken –  self-esteem fostered and confidence encouraged.  I would definitely say it is a highly moral school – in part because of a values system that is entwined throughout the schools culture.

The cars aren’t as grand as the public school down the road – many parents make sacrifices to send their kids here.  People don’t come here to name drop.  They come here to make happy, strong kids.

Everyone is different and here, this attitude seems to work.  Our school gets excellent academic results – Matahui, for a small school, punches above its weight.  Our ICAS results confirm this.  There is also, and many of us believe importantly, an energy and strength about the kids who, after their stint here depart for college/secondary – and the feedback from the secondary schools confirms it.

Teachers here are kind, and, I believe empowered in the process of how they structure the program and teach their kids.  So the teachers are happy here.  And in many ways, in this world today, we underestimate the power of kindness and happy educators.

Here, big kids talk to little kids and little kids talk to big kids – no-one is pigeon holed into playing only with their age group.  Be warned, play equipment can be well, risky at times.  If you swing the swinging ball hard without looking, someone will get hurt.  And the swinging ball is one of the most fabulous, beloved pieces of play equipment in the playground.  Because without risk, kids mightn’t be exposed to anxiety.  Kids need and want risk.  Don’t deny them that. And guess what the swinging ball encourages? Kids looking out for each other! Caring! Sharing! Courage! Communicating! As well as risk.  Crazy how many things one big orange ball can do.

And a comment of my son from a long time ago now, stays with me, ‘Mum, at that school I went to when I was little there were ‘no bullying’ signs everywhere, and I was bullied, but at Matahui there are no ‘no-bullying’ signs’.  How interesting.

Is it the best primary school in the Bay of Plenty?

We think so.

Our daughter and our son have been at Matahui Road School for a few years now, living as free-range kids, barefoot most days, as you do at a Kiwi school.   And I would watch them having fun and running around and it all looked so easy.  And this was something that used to niggle me a lot, because it niggles every parent that comes here at some stage or another – are they learning enough?  Are they on par with NZ, with the international world?  Because there is a financial commitment to coming to this school, and parents don’t just want their kids to thrive – they need to perform academically too.  Is it worth it?

And I can confirm that this school is on par. If not above.  We have just had a year at school in France.  As many of you may know, the French system, is, despite the efforts of caring and dedicated teachers, an industrial system.  It is a ‘sit at your desk and write down this dictation’ kind of system.  Yes, it draws out of the ether some of the best engineers and mathematicians in the world.  But it is a largely joyless system.  So it is natural to question this seemingly laissez faire approach of Matahui and contrast the two educational polarities.

Does it really work?

My kids entered French school with minimal French, and after 4 months struggling with learning a new language, thrived.  Their math and science were fine. They only had a year there and they did well, fitted in and kept up.  All in a foreign language.  Then they returned to Matahui and breathed a big sigh of relief, because they were back in a place where they could be happy AND learn at the same place.

This is a skill not every school can achieve.  And, when it comes down to it, we only live once.

Seniors leave Matahui on every academic level.  Because we are not all the same.  Like the world out there, our kids are a mix of brilliant, average and struggling.  Kids will be who they are.  Some will be academic and some won’t be.  Just like the mix of parents who love them.

But do you know what our school is really good at?

Teaching children that everyone is good at something.  Teaching them that they can learn. Teaching them not to dread school and everything it means.

Fostering friendships and confidence and a love of learning in a world where too often, kids and their simple need to be kids, gets left behind.  One of the big buzzwords when it comes to success these days is ‘grit’.  This is why Matahui Road School has a nationally awarded EOTC – Education Outside the Classroom program, that builds strengths in kids in ways they never knew they had.

Our school is about self-awareness and self-esteem in children that means they can grow up and be happy adults.  It’s not just a springboard to secondary school.

Oh and along the way tall poppies can be tall poppies, average kids can strive, dyslexics can be dyslexics (and learn to read at all the different ages dyslexics do – not just at 6 and ¾), sporty kids can thrive and spectrum kids can learn in the hundred different ways they do.

And mix in together and play ball tiggy and play music and climb the best climbing tree in the world.

Because our kids have varied and multiple intelligences.  And we love them for it.

Success is success.  And we all reach whatever our definition of what success is, in a million different ways.

Think about every entrepreneur you can imagine.

NB: this rave is unpaid.


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