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'Gastroenterology' Parentelligence posts

Kids and lactose intolerance

Do you wonder if your child might have “lactose intolerance”?    Have you ever thought of removing dairy from your child’s diet?  If the answer to either of these questions is yes, here are a few things to remember when it comes to lactose intolerance in kids:

  • Lactose is broken down by lactase.

While lactose is the carbohydrate (sugar) found in milk, lactase is the enzyme that digests the sugar. This enzyme is found in the lining of the small intestine, breaks down lactose into simpler molecules that are easier to absorb.  When there isn’t enough lactase, the sugar isn’t properly absorbed, which leads to the symptoms of “intolerance”, which include gas, bloating, pain and diarrhea.

  • True lactose intolerance is rare in young children.

Although children as young as infants can “transiently” have less lactase in their digestive tracts (most often, this happens for a week or two after an infection), lactase production remains ...

Gluten intolerance or low FODMAPs?

Despite test results that show no evidence of their children having neither any detectable allergies to wheat nor any signs of celiac disease, many parents choose to have their children follow a gluten-free diet.  This is because of convincing stories of how gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains) seems to cause their kids to have belly aches, nausea, bloating and a variety of other symptoms.  

For years, this was hard to explain without a scientific explanation.   Gastroenterologists like me had a hard time supporting families who wanted to follow gluten free diets, without a good “medical reason”.  Then, in 2011, researchers from Australia conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, rechallenge trial in nearly 3 dozen patients (none of whom had celiac disease or wheat allergy), all of whom described worsening symptoms when unknowingly ingesting small amounts of gluten.  The results of this study described a condition termed, “Non-celiac gluten intolerance”.    It was after reading this landmark study that many physicians, including myself, began to validate parents’ concerns about gluten being the culprit behind their children’s gastrointestinal (GI) problems.

But then in 2013, just as word of non-celiac gluten intolerance was gaining popularity amongst physicians like me, the exact same group of researchers from Australia published a follow-up study on a similar set of about 3 dozen patients.  The findings of this 2nd study showed that instead...

Does your child have a food allergy or food sensitivity?

“Every time my child eats, his belly hurts. I think he must have a food allergy. Can you help us?”

Countless times have I heard this from parents of children worried about foods being the cause of their child’s gastrointestinal (GI) complaints. Some families wonder whether their child should start a “gluten-free” or other type of dietary change. More often than not, families have already tried a few diets before meeting with me.

Parents considering these types of elimination diets need to be aware of a few key points:
The difference between “food allergy” and “food sensitivity”:

Helping kids with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Do you know what it is?  Do you know what symptoms people suffer from? Do you know that 1.4 million Americans have IBD, and that it can affect both children and adults alike?  The gastroenterology team at Swedish takes care of both children and adults who suffer with this chronic, disease of the gastrointestinal tract

As the pediatric gastroenterology nurse who works intimately with the pediatric IBD patients at Swedish, I know all too well that many can suffer with the “ups and downs” of this sometimes debilitating disease.  Often, I tend to hear from kids when they are “down”, but my favorite time to hear from them is when they are excited about upcoming special events like the “Take Steps” walk, or Camp Oasis (a camp just for kids with IBD), both events sponsored by the CCFA.  It’s often at these events, that children first say that they start to feel “normal”. 

This year, we want to invite you to ...

FDA finally defines gluten free

On August 5th, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at long last published a formal rule regulating the use of the term "gluten free" on foods and beverages.  Even though this came with a big sigh of relief to the millions of people with celiac disease living in the US, consumers should be aware that the law gives manufacturers one year to be in full compliance (and goes into effect August 5, 2014).

As we head into the final months before the law’s final compliance date, I thought I’d highlight a few other key points about this brand new law:

1. No symbols needed.  The law does not require or recommend manufacturers use any particular symbol or food label, but if a label should include any of the following phrases, compliance must be ensured:
    •    “Gluten-free”
    •    “Free of gluten”
    •    “No gluten”
    •    “Without gluten”

2.  It’s voluntary.  A manufacturer may produce gluten-free foods, but just choose not to label them as such.   

3.  “Gluten-free” does not mean “zero gluten”. The new law defines "gluten-free" to mean that a food contains less than 20 parts per million (20 ppm) of gluten.  (This tiny amount can be visualized as less than a tenth of a grain of salt on a slice of bread, and is acceptable as the standard for people with celiac disease).

4.  As with any rule, there are exceptions.  Although ...
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