Scare Up Some Halloween Fun with These Allergen Free Treats

By Sonnie Sei
Staff Writer
Kirkman Group, Inc

Halloween is a celebration of fun, friends and food! From Halloween parties, school parties or trick-or-treating, there are endless opportunities to indulge in candy and sweets.

Don’t let your kids feel left out from all of the Halloween festivities due to allergies or sensitivities. Instead, whip up some tasty treats ahead of time that you and your family can enjoy. All of these are allergen free and fun to make.

Kirkman’s Halloween Cupcakes

Create a worry free dessert for you and your kids to look forward to after trick-or-treating.
Try these cupcakes topped with an allergen free frosting.

 Cupcakes

 Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Mix sugar substitute and margarine until smooth; beat in eggs until blended.
  • Mix together flour, salt, cocoa powder and baking powder in a separate bowl, and slowly sift into wet ingredients, while mixing.
  • Add vanilla and milk substitute.
  • Fill greased or paper-lined cupcake tins ¾ of the way full.
  • Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean. 

Frosting

Ingredients:

Directions For Frosting:

  • Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for 30 second intervals or use a double boiler 
on the stove. Stir until smooth. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
  • Scoop only the thick coconut cream from the can. (Use the watery liquid from the can for another recipe like a smoothie.)
  • Add the coconut cream to a stand mixer and blend until smooth. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate chips into the mixer and blend until combined well.
  • Use frosting to decorate cupcakes or keep refrigerated until ready to decorate. May need to soften in the microwave for 30 seconds if kept refrigerated for a long period of time.

Kirkman’s Ghostly Strawberries

Here’s a fun and safe snack to look forward to after trick-or-treating. This cute and easy-to-make Halloween treat is simply white chocolate covered strawberries with melted chocolate chip features.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with waxed paper.
  • Wash the strawberries and pat them dry. Make sure they’re truly dry and don’t have any wet patches, otherwise you’ll have trouble dipping them.
  • Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, stirring after every 30 seconds until it is smooth and fluid. If you are using white chocolate chips, they might be quite stiff when you melt them, so you can add a spoonful of vegetable shortening to make the chocolate softer if necessary.
  • Hold a strawberry by the stem and dip it in the chocolate until it is almost entirely covered. Hold it over the bowl and let the excess drip back into the bowl, then scrape the bottom against the lip of the bowl. Place the berry on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Repeat the process until all of the strawberries are covered with white chocolate. Refrigerate the tray until the chocolate is set, for about 15 minutes.
  • While you’re waiting for the white chocolate to harden, melt the semi-sweet chocolate. Pour it into a paper cone or plastic baggie with a small hole cut in the corner.
  • Decorate the strawberries with the chocolate so they have eyes and mouths and resemble ghosts. Let the chocolate set completely before serving.

Ghost Strawberries are best eaten the day they are made. Store them in the refrigerator until serving.

Candy Corn Marshmallow Ghosts

Create an allergen-free snack that is sure to bring Halloween to life. These spooky candy corn marshmallow ghosts are fun to make and guaranteed to be the life of any party!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of vegan, gluten free marshmallows
  • 8 ounces of white chocolate 
  • Vegetable, canola or coconut oil
  • Yellow food coloring
  • Orange food coloring
  • cups Paskesz Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (melted) 

Directions:

  • Melt the white chocolate (in the microwave, or on the stovetop).
  • Pour into two separate bowls and add yellow food coloring to one and orange to the other. Whisk.
  • Dip your marshmallow in the orange first, about ⅓ of the way up and then set on parchment paper. Proceed throughout the marshmallows doing the orange, placing your dipped marshmallows on a platter or a table lined with parchment.
  • Once the chocolate is set up and firm, repeat with the yellow and only coat half way up the orange color. Again, let that set up.
  • Melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips, and use a toothpick to gently make two eyes on each marshmallow. Let them set up before bagging.   
Posted in Allergies & Allergens, Gluten Free / Casein Free, recipe | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Toxicity Control Helps Our Bodies Detoxify

Though the human body has built-in systems for removing toxins, systems that have evolved over the course of millennia, the environmental assaults of the modern world are historically unprecedented. The slow pace of evolution is no match for the speed with which technology moves. For now, humans are stuck with bodies that developed long before plastics (or pesticides, or flame retardants etc.) were conceived. With our detoxification systems now required to do more work than ever before, it only makes sense to give them some help.

Toxicity ControlIt can no longer be denied that the world is changing dramatically all around us, with our environment becoming more and more toxic due to contaminants and pollutants:

  • Our water supply is becoming increasingly contaminated from heavy metal impurities that industry is releasing into the soil or through wastewater diverted into our rivers and streams.
  •  Industry is releasing polluted air and gases into our atmosphere, which affects the quality of the air we breathe.
  • The plants and herbs in our food are being sprayed with hundreds of different pesticides and fungicides that leave toxic residues.
  • The animals making up food sources we eat are feeding off more contaminated soils.
  • The products we use and the food we consume contain questionable chemicals and preservatives, some of which are known to be toxic.
  • The materials used to package products contain chemicals (solvents, stabilizers, colorants etc.) that can be toxic.
  • Toxic mold, yeast and microbiological contamination are becoming increasingly prevalent.
  • The presence of common allergens is increasing.

As these changes are occurring, the scientific community is becoming more knowledgeable about the consequences of a toxic environment. Several health conditions are linked to environmental elements. Developmental disorders, gastrointestinal conditions, immune system deficiencies, allergies and neurological disorders have all been linked to environmental exposures.

Prospective new parents are aware that it takes healthy individuals to have healthy babies with good pregnancy outcomes. Toxicity can result in miscarriage, preterm births, chronic medical conditions or neurological or developmental abnormalities. No matter where we live and no matter how carefully we choose our food, some level of toxicity will creep into our bodies.

Studies are being undertaken to determine what levels of various contaminants are toxic. The problem is much more complex, however, than just examining each individual contaminant. For example, we can study lead or mercury and determine what are harmful levels, but how do we measure the cumulative effects of these contaminants ingested in combination? What happens when you ingest high amounts of lead in conjunction with mercury, cadmium, other heavy metals, pesticide residues and other harmful chemicals? The possible combinations of ingested contaminants are endless.

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Kirkman’s CEO Signs Agreement with the University of Georgia to Establish a P2i Center of Excellence

 

Kirkman’s CEO, David Humphrey, acting in his capacity as President of The Forum Institute, signed an agreement with the University of Georgia, Atlanta (UGA), to establish the first “P2i (Preconception to Infancy) Center of Excellence.”  Representatives from UGA and The Forum Institute met on Sept. 9 to formalize the partnership at the UGA campus in Atlanta, Ga., where the center will be housed.

“As we envision it, the P2i Center of Excellence in Georgia has the potential to improve pregnancy outcomes and the proliferation of childhood health issues in the U.S. and globally.” Humphrey said.

David Humphrey, Kirkman® CEO

Set to begin operation in 2017, The P2i™ Center of Excellence will be will be headed by Dr. Jose Cordero. Cordero formerly served as Assistant Surgeon General of the Public Health Service and is currently the Patel Distinguished Professor of Public Health at the University of Georgia. He worked for the Centers of Disease Control for 27 years and has extensive experience in both pediatrics and epidemiology.

The Forum Institute will provide $2.4 million over the next two years to help fund the center of excellence. Established in 2001, the Forum Institute is widely recognized as the most successful think tank focused on special needs children. Their vision statement sets forth their goal to “significantly reduce chronic disease in the worlds’s children with prevention protocols.”  The Forum’s P2i initative also includes a virtual conference center where doctors, patients and researchers can converge to share information.

The Forum’s P2i initiative has a goal  to enroll 100,000 pregnant women from the United States in the P2i™ program. Children born to participants will be monitored for the first five years of life. Their treatments and outcomes will be collected in a database that can be used by researchers to improve treatment protocols and help researchers better understand how genetics, nutritional status and environmental exposures combine to influence health.

The P2i Center of Excellence will use the data it gathers to establish recommendations for best practices, with the goal of drastically reducing the instances of pregnancy problems and chronic health conditions for newborns.

Posted in Environmental Health & Toxicity, P2i, Preconception, Special Offer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kirkman® Introduces 5-HTP

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a gentle, sleep support supplement made from all natural ingredients. 

Kirkman’s 5-HTP is derived from the seeds of the African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia and includes added vitamin B-6, which is necessary for 5-HTP to be converted to serotonin. In many studies, 5-HTP has been shown to be more effective in promoting sleep than melatonin. This amino acid derivative has also shown promise for improving mood. 

5-HTP cannot be obtained from food. Instead, the human body manufactures 5-HTP out of tryptophan, an amino acid common in many protein rich foods. Tryptophan is often associated with turkey, though there are many other foods that contain as much or more tryptophan per gram, such as soybeans, sunflower seeds and cheeses. Pork, chicken, beef and certain varieties of fish all have roughly the same amount of tryptophan as turkey. So the oft repeated assertion that the after Thanksgiving dinner sleepiness is a result of tryptophan, is probably false. However, the idea has a reasonable basis: tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP5-HTP is in turn used to make serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to a person’s mood and well being. Supplementing with 5-HTP can increase serotonin levels, which in turn minimizes conditions associated with low serotonin levels, which include sleep and mood problems. Side effects from supplementation with 5-HTP are generally mild.

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Kirkman’s New Curcumin Turmeric Root Extract Offers Excellent Bioavailability and Concentration

 For thousands of years, turmeric has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. In the last couple decades, research has begun to verify the health benefits of turmeric, and companies have been turning spice into nutritional supplements. However, because of some difficulties turmeric presents—namely the low concentration and solubility of the health promoting compounds—these supplements can vary widely in their effectiveness. Kirkman® has developed a turmeric supplement that addresses both problems.

Before turmeric is dried and ground to a powder, it is virtually indistinguishable from ginger root. The two are close relatives, and each has a knobby, fibrous exterior. Cut them open, though, and you will see turmeric’s orange flesh—in contrast to ginger’s almost white interior. Dried and ground to a powder, as turmeric is often sold, it’s this orange pigment that often gives curries their vivid color.

The compounds that provide this color are called “curcuminoids.” They are natural phenols that provide several health benefits. Research has indicated curcuminoids help regulate blood sugar,1 increase antioxidant activity2 and provide neurochemical benefits.3

However, simply eating turmeric is unlikely to provide much benefit. For one thing, turmeric actually has a fairly low concentration of curcuminoids—around only five percent. Curcuminoids also naturally have low solubility in acidic water (such as that in the human stomach), so the human body has difficulty absorbing it.  

The solution to the first problem seems obvious, and it’s what supplement manufacturers do when they create a turmeric/curcumin supplement: they extract the curcuminoids, condense them and put them in a capsule. The results of such processing can vary widely, however. Some supplements, despite all the effort, end up having an extremely low curcuminoid concentration. A consumer testing lab found some supplements provided less than 15 percent of the curcuminoid content claimed on the product labels4. (That’s not a 15 percent curcuminoid content—that’s 15 percent of what the company claimed was present.)

Kirkman’s curcumin/turmeric blend addresses both solubility and the concentration issues.

First, Kirkman’s Curcumin/Turmeric Root Extract 275 mg (#0530-060) is standardized to have a minimum curcuminoid concentration of 20 percent. So when the label says you’ll get 275 mg, that’s what you will get.    

To solve the issue of low absorbability, the curcuminoids in Kirkman’s Curcumin/Turmeric Root Extract 275 mg (#5530-060). have been subjected to a process that alters their solubility. This process involves grinding the dried curcuminoid extract into an extremely fine powder, then combining it with a water-soluble, cellulose-based carrier. When completed, this process yields curcuminoids that are approximately 46 times more absorbable than in standard curcumin.

 

References

 1. Effect of curcumin supplementation on blood glucose, plasma insulin, and glucose homeostasis related enzyme activities in diabetic db/db mice. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Sep;52(9):995-1004. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200700184.

2. Antioxidant and radical scavenging properties of curcumin. Chem Biol Interact. 2008 Jul 10;174(1):27-37. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2008.05.003. Epub 2008 May 7.

3. Neuroprotectice effects of curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007; 595: 197–212. doi:  10.1007/978-0-387-46401-5_8

4. Some turmeric and curcumin supplements fail quality review. Accessed 8/15/15 from: https://www.consumerlab.com/news/turmeric-cucumin-supplements-review/02_16_2011/

 

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New Study Hints at Connection Between Microbiome and Behavior

That gastrointestinal issues are comorbid with certain special needs conditions is not news. The seminal study on the brain/gut microbiome connection was performed on mice. Biota-free mice displayed reduced sociability and repetitive grooming. After being “colonized” (meaning having normal mouse biota introduced) the mice displayed fewer abnormal behaviors.1

However, determining if there is a causal link has been difficult. Are the gastrointestinal problems simply a symptom of the underlying condition, or are those gut irregularities being caused by unhealthy microbiota also affecting mood and cognition?

Summarizing the state of the research, a 2014 paper stated, “overall, accumulating evidence in rodent studies suggests that there are links among the microbiota composition, brain bio-chemistry, and behavior.”2

Though the general idea that there are connections between gut microbiota and the brain is becoming widely accepted, we are still a long way from having clear evidence about how and which microorganisms affect mood and behavior. But a short-term study from this year has at least identified one bacterial strain that appears to be worth investigating.

This study, intended as “a prelude to a much larger study,” tracked children for two weeks, taking daily stool samples of a special needs child and that child’s neurotypical sibling. The study intended to correlate behavioral patterns with gastrointestinal status, and “identify organisms of interest for exploration in a larger dataset in the future.”3

The bacterial profiles of the two children were distinctly different. However, the special needs child did not just exhibit low levels of beneficial bacteria, but also had a few strains of bacteria present that had already been observed in other special needs children: Sarcina ventriculi, Barnesiella intestihominis and Clostridium bartlettii.

The real surprise, however, was that during two periods when behavioral issues (including self-harm) manifested, a strain known as Haemophilus parainfluenza made an appearance. The presence of these bacteria in the gut was itself a bit of an oddity. It is a pathogen that is usually found in the respiratory system, often leading to sneezing and coughing. During one of these periods, the child experienced gastrointestinal disturbance, however during the other there were no gastrointestinal problems evident.

For children who have trouble communicating, it can be extremely difficult to determine if negative behavioral changes are attributable to physical discomfort or to some other cause. Studying gut microbiota can, therefore, be particularly murky since the same microorganism that can induce physical pain can also lead to mood and behavioral changes. Put simply, it’s hard to tell if the reason a child is acting out is that their brain chemistry is altered or if it’s that they have a stomachache.  

Since, in this recent study, behavioral changes occurred even when there was no evidence of gastrointestinal distress, the inference that has been drawn is that the behavioral changes were resulting from the bacteria’s influence on the brain, rather than any digestive problems the bacteria may induce.

References

1. Clarke G, Grenham S, Scully P, Fitzgerald P, Moloney RD, Shanahan F, Dinan TG, Cryan JF (2013) The microbiome-gut-brain axis during early life regulates the hippocampal serotonergic system…Mol Psychiatry 18:666 –673.

2. Mayer E, Knight R, Mazmanian S. Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. The Journal of Neuroscience, November 12, 2014 • 34(46):15490 –15496

3. Luna, RA, Magee, A, Runge, JK, Venkatachalam, M, RubioGonzales, M, Versalovic, J. A case study of the gut microbiome in ASD: correlation of microbial profiles with GI and behavioral Symptoms.

Posted in Gastrointestinal Health, Microbiome | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Probiotics and the Human Microbiome

By Timothy Prentiss
Staff Writer
Kirkman Group, Inc

We are far less human than we might think. Though that statement may sound like pseudo-philosophy, it’s actually a biological fact. As odd as it might sound, the human body is made up of a large number of microorganisms that are not considered human cells. In fact most of the human body is non-human, the most reliable estimate currently being that human cells are outnumbered by non-human cells at a rate of about three to one (though some have estimated rates as high as ten to one). The sum of all of this non-human life in us and on us is known as the “ human microbiome.”

Most research on the microbiome has focused on gut flora–the portion of the microbiome that resides in our digestive tract. Correlations have been made between gut flora and a number of other conditions, both temporary and chronic—mental health issues,immune system strength2 and a variety of special needs conditions.3, 4  

It is not yet clear, however, what (if any) causal relationship exists. Does gut flora influence or even cause these conditions? Are the gut conditions and the mental (or other) conditions simply co-occurring, possibly both triggered by an unknown third variable? But whatever the relationship is exactly, research has shown repopulation of depleted gut flora can reduce the symptoms of certain chronic conditions, at least in mice.5

Gut flora both acts upon and is acted upon by the foods we consume. Certain diets, especially those lacking “live” foods like yogurt and other fermented products will lead to a depletion of healthy bacteria. Depletion of healthy gut bacteria can also lead to unhealthy bacteria flourishing. Eating live foods can help to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria; one can also take a probiotic supplement.

Most probiotics sold commercially are members of one of two genera: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Of the two, lactobacillus is the more commonly available commercially. It occurs naturally in yogurt and various fermented foods such as sauerkraut. There are more than 50 known species of lactobacillus. Lactobacilli predominantly reside in the small intestine.

Bifidobacterium, though also important to adult gastrointestinal health, is particularly important in children. Like lactobacillus, it also naturally occurs in certain dairy products—several species having been found in various raw milk cheeses. So far, there are more than 30 species that have been discovered. Bifidobacteria predominantly reside in the large intestine.

In probiotic products offered by Kirkman®, there are ten species of probiotics included—either in combinations or as single-strain products.

Lactobacillus acidophilus

L. acidophilus is probably the most commonly used probiotic. It sets up residence in the mucosal membrane of the mouth, in the small intestine and in the genitourinary tract. It inhibits the growth of undesirable flora, aids in digestion and produces lactase enzymes (which help break down lactose). (Included in Kirkman’s Lactobacillus Acidophilus – Hypoallergenic product.)

Lactobacillus casei

L. casei resides in the mouth and in the membrane of the small intestine. It enhances the number of immunoglobulin A (IgA) producing cells,6 which play an important role in the mucosal immune system response. It has also been found to provide peptido-glycan,7 which stimulates phagocytosis by macrophages8—another important immune system process. (Included in Multi-Flora Spectrum™ and our entire Pro-Bio Gold™ line.)

Lactobacillus plantarum

L. plantarum is a lactic acid producing bacteria that has been shown to be particularly effective against certain hard-to-eradicate bacteria.10 (Included in Lactobacillus DuoMulti-Flora Spectrum and our entire Pro-Bio Gold™ line.)

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

L. rhamnosus resides in the small intestine, helping to crowd out undesirable flora. It also has been shown to increase production of IgA cells.11 (Included in Lactobacillus DuoPro-Culture Gold™Multi-Flora Spectrum and our entire Pro-Bio Gold™ line.)

Bifidobacterium bifidum

B. bifidum produces acetic and lactic acids in the digestive system. The resulting increase in acidity creates an environment that is inhospitable to undesirable flora. Like l. casei and l. rhamnosus, it also supports the immune system through an increase in IgA cells.12 (Included in Bifido Complex™ Advanced FormulaMulti-Flora Spectrum, and our entire Pro-Bio™ Gold line.)

Bifidobacterium breve

B. breve has been shown to be effective in colonizing the bowels of infants, resulting in fewer abnormal symptoms and improved weight gain.13 It also has a positive effect on the immune system.14 (Included in Bifido Complex™  Advanced Formula.)

 Bifidobacterium lactis

B. lactis aids in the crowding out of undesirable flora. It also enhances the immune system response of the intestinal mucosa.15 It has also been shown to be helpful to infants with diarrhea.16 (Included in Bifido Complex™  Advanced Formula and Super Pro-Bio™  75 Billion.

 Streptococcus thermophilus

While bifidobacterium and lactobacillus are “resident” bacteria, meaning they colonize and reproduce inside the body, s. thermophilus is “transient,” meaning it passes through the body.  S. thermophiles produces the lactase enzyme, which is necessary for the digestion of lactose. It also produces lactic acid, which helps create an environment inhospitable to undesirable flora.17 (Included in Multi-Flora Spectrum and our entire Pro-Bio™ Gold line.)

Kirkman’s probiotic products include our proprietary and best-selling probiotic, Pro-Bio Gold™. Click here for a complete list of Kirkman’s probiotic products.

References

1. Venosa, A. Depression not just a mental illness; it’s a systemic disease that affects the entire body, Medical Daily. Mar 10, 2016

 2. Purchiaroni F, Tortora A, Gabrielli M, Bertucci F, Gigante G, Ianiro G, Ojetti V, Scarpellini E, Gasbarrini A. The role of intestinal microbiota and the immune system. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Feb;17(3):323-33.

 3. Krajmalnik-Brown R, Lozupone C, Kang D-W, Adams JB. doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26914.

 4. Eat more yogurt! Low levels of healthy gut bacteria could be the cause of mental health issues such as ‘anxiety and schizophrenia’, Daily Mail, 12 Sept. 2013

 5. Hsiao, E. Y. et alCell http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2013.11.024 (2013). 

Posted in Gastrointestinal Health, Immune System, Microbiome, Probiotics | Tagged , | Leave a comment