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Child’s Belly Discomfort Caused By Allergies

This is one of the most common questions that I get asked in the office. Allergic diseases are certainly becoming more and more prevalent in the developed world. General pediatricians and specialists are on ‘high-alert’ for this when evaluating a child that may be sick. Within the realm of intestinal diseases, however, a true allergy is actually not very common. To understand this, we must first understand what ‘allergy’ means.

An allergy is a biologic response from our body’s immune system. When our body senses a foreign invader, our army of immune cells attacks it. It does this by releasing chemicals into the blood stream and/or in to the organs where the threat may lie. Those chemicals are meant to destroy the invader, but often hurt our healthy organs as well. For example, airborn pollen may land in your eye, the immune system senses that pollen, releases those chemicals, and as a consequence we get itchy, puffy, watery eyes. The same thing can happen in the bowel if we ingest food that we are allergic to.

Intestinal manifestations of food allergies

One of the more common sites of an allergic response to food is in the esophagus—the food pipe. When the esophagus gets inflamed, it can manifest in a few different ways: heartburn symptoms, chest pain, chronic dry cough, upper abdominal pain, frequent regurgitation, or food that is stuck the chest. The name of this is Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Food allergies lower in the bowels can cause diarrhea, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, and fatigue.

There are usually other red flags

One of the most important things to remember is ....

Family Meals with Young Children

Many parents don’t realize how much eating meals together as a family helps their children’s development and well-being in addition to being known to reduce the risk of obesity and improve the nutrition of children. Eating meals together is a valuable lesson and practice in sharing. By eating the same foods, hearing about someone else’s day, and telling stories, kids learn to compromise and show respect. Sitting around the table with the family is a great setting for children to see how they are a part of something bigger than just themselves.

When you have young children, it is a key time to start eating meals as a family and develop this lifetime habit. Even babies old enough to sit in a high chair but not old enough to eat everything everyone else is eating will benefit from joining the family at the table.

Here are some tips to make mealtimes more pleasant with young ones:

Picky Eaters - Tips for Establishing Healthy Eating Habits

Picky eaters. We all know at least one, have a child that’s proud to be one, or heck, might have a history of being one (gulp). Every child is unique, hence the approach to picky eating needs to be highly individualized, but here I will outline some general tips on how to establish healthy habits for picky eaters!

The Basic Rules...

Introducing solids to your infant

As your baby grows, you’ve probably started wondering when and how to start feeding your infant solid foods. Here are some general tips to consider:

Is there a safe age to start feeding solid foods to my infant?

Yes, most infants this is between four and six months of age.

Why is there a ‘safe’ age to start feeding solids?

There are a few reasons why this age is safest. The first reason is because prior to four months of age, an infant is not developmentally ready to safely eat from a spoon.

To be able to swallow solids safely, an infant needs good head control; to be able to sit well with support; and to have lost the “extrusion reflex” (the reflex which enables newborns to tightly latch and suck from a nipple, but makes them shove a spoon out of their mouth).

The second reason an infant should be fed solids between four and six months is something many families are not aware of: it is also a strategy to prevent common food allergies. This is one of the strongest reasons I passionately advocate for infants to be exposed to as many foods as possible during this crucial three-month window.

Starting solids and preventing food allergies:

In the past, healthcare providers have advised parents to avoid potential allergens such as peanuts, eggs, and milk. New evidence is now showing that this practice might have played a role in the increased incidence of childhood food allergies in the U.S

Why might this occur? The ...

Childhood obesity

Eating healthy and being physically active are important things to keep in mind during and especially after the holidays when an abundance of food is present.

Parents often have questions about their child’s weight such as: Is my child’s weight appropriate? Is there a difference between being overweight and being obese? When should we be worried about his or her weight? If I am overweight, what is the risk that my child may become overweight?

Physicians often use the term BMI (body mass index) to define the terms overweight and obese, and this provides physicians and parents with a guide to monitor weight in children. BMI can be calculated using the weight and height (weight in kilo divided by square of height in meters; this can also be calculated using the BMI calculator. A child is considered overweight if the BMI is greater than the 85th percentile and obese if greater than 95th percentile. Once a child is obese, they are at risk of developing complications like hypertension, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, etc.

Physical activity should be a significant part of everyday life of your child. Each child should aim to be active for a minimum of 30 minutes per day. They can be enrolled in an organized sports activity program like football, soccer, baseball, or swimming, or they can remain active by riding a bike, jogging and so on. Parents need to be aware if their child is playing video games for hours at a time and restrict the amount of screen time if necessary. Reduced television watching and computer use may reduce BMI and sedentary behavior.

Eating healthy plays an essential role in the well-being of every child. Studies have shown a lower prevalence of obesity in children who eat a healthy breakfast every day. Parents need to provide children with healthy food options at home so that they can develop a habit of eating healthy. It is important for children to try to eat all food groups, including grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat or fish. Fats, oils and sweets must be consumed in limited amounts. Lifestyle modification involving the whole family is a key factor in maintaining healthy weight in children.

What if my child is obese or overweight?

Food matters

Cooking with kids is a great way to expose them to new flavors and cultures.  It teaches them math and science in a way that they don’t even realize.  It brings families closer and having family dinners has shown to reduce depression and drug use, and make for happier, healthier kids.

There is a wonderful not-so-new concept that is catching on like the latest cute cat video on YouTube. This experience is bringing communities together and helping families bond.

Community Kitchens.  

Once a week, multi-generational families from a community come together and cook with local foods from their Farmer’s Market to make wonderfully nutritious meals.  There are conversations over chopping carrots about the community, families, and cooking.  Then everyone sits down and has a fantastic meal together and have lively discussions about anything.  At then end, everyone cleans up, and takes home leftovers to freeze for easier and healthier meals during the week.

Parents just don’t have much time in the evening to prepare such time intensive dishes, after work and between homework, laundry, dishes, and bedtime.  Home Economics and Cooking classes have been cut from most school districts’ budgets, so where do our kids learn to prepare barley, or homemade apple pie?

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