Category Archives: Health
According to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates, about 1 person out of every 100 has allergic symptoms after exposure to sulfites, chemical additives widely used in the food industry. Asthma adds to the risk; sulfites cause serious symptoms in about 5% of people with asthma.
What Are Sulfites?
Sulfites are added to prolong the shelf life of many fruits, vegetables, and shellfish; to halt the growth of bacteria in wines; and to whiten food starches and condition dough. They are also used as preservatives in some medications. Although once freely allowed under the FDA category of “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS), sulfite use has been more closely regulated in the past couple of decades after being linked to numerous health problems, including allergic symptoms ranging in severity from hives and difficulty breathing to fatal anaphylactic shock. While sulfites are indeed harmless to the great majority, they can cause potentially life-threatening reactions in some people with asthma and others who are sensitive to the compounds. Scientists haven’t yet determined the smallest amount needed to trigger a reaction. Current methods cannot detect sulfite concentrations below 10 parts per million (ppm) in food, although many experts believe that a sulfite-sensitive person may experience symptoms at even lower concentrations.
To reduce the risk, the FDA has imposed the following restrictions:
- Sulfites may not be used on fruits and vegetables intended to be eaten raw, such as in supermarket produce departments or restaurant salad bars.
- Product labels must list sulfites in concentrations of 10 ppm or higher, or any sulfites that have been used in processing, regardless of the concentration. In addition, labels must specify the purpose for which sulfites were used.
If you suspect that exposure to sulfites has triggered hives, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, or other symptoms in your child, call your pediatrician to determine whether a sensitivity is present.
A balanced diet, with plenty of calcium and vitamin D to increase calcium absorption, should provide all the nutrients necessary to build strong teeth and keep gums and mouth tissues healthy. Young people can get adequate calcium from 3 or 4 daily servings of dairy foods, as well as from many other sources (eg, calcium-processed tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, green vegetables such as broccoli).
The Benefits of Fluoride
Fluoride reduces dental decay by making the enamel harder, reducing the ability of bacteria to produce acid that erodes enamel, and by replacing minerals in the teeth after they have been lost. In areas where the natural fluoride content of the water is low and water supplies are not fluoridated, or if your household uses bottled or reverse osmosis filtered water, pediatricians and dentists may advise fluoride supplements, fluoride toothpaste, or fluoride treatments to strengthen children’s tooth enamel against decay. Most bottled water does not contain adequate amounts of fluoride. Home water treatment systems like reverse osmosis and distillation units remove much of the fluoride from tap water. However, carbon or charcoal water filtration systems generally do not remove substantial amounts of fluoride.
Too Much Fluoride & Fluorosis
One of the complications of too much fluoride is dental fluorosis. Fluorosis ranges from minor white lines that run across the teeth to a chalky appearance of the teeth with brown staining. Fluorosis can be caused by prescribing fluoride supplements in communities with fluoridated water, or young children swallowing fluoridated toothpaste. To avoid this latter problem, children should use no more than a smear of fluoridated toothpaste before age 2, if your child’s pediatrician or dentist suggests using fluoridated toothpaste. For children older than age 2, use only a small pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Also, your pediatrician or pediatric dentist will know the fluoride content of your local water and can advise you if a supplement is necessary or excessive.
Raw milk is milk that comes straight from a cow, sheep, or goat. Raw milk is not pasteurized (heated to kill germs) or homogenized (processed to keep the cream from separating from the milk).
Is Raw Milk Safe to Drink?
Raw milk is not safe to drink, because it can carry harmful bacteria and other germs. Harmful bacteria include Salmonella, E coli, and Listeria.
Anyone can get sick from drinking raw milk or products made from raw milk.
Products made with raw milk may include:
- Ice cream
- Frozen yogurt
Children, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, or older adults are at greater risk of getting sick.
Symptoms of Illness:
- Stomach cramps
- Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body ache
While most healthy people get well, the symptoms can become chronic (long term) or severe or may result in death.
Call the Doctor If…
- Anyone in your family becomes sick after drinking raw milk or eating products made from raw milk.
- Anyone in your family is pregnant and drinks raw milk or eats products made from raw milk. The bacteria Listeria can cause miscarriage, fetal death, or illness or death of a newborn.
Food Safety Tips
The following are food safety tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Only drink pasteurized milk.
- Only eat milk products made from pasteurized milk. If “pasteurized” is not on the label or listed in the ingredients, ask to be sure.
- Keep pasteurized dairy products in a refrigerator that is set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
- Do not eat any expired dairy products. Be sure to throw out expired dairy products.
Facts About Pasteurization
The following are facts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
- Pasteurizing milk does not cause lactose intolerance and allergic reactions.
- Pasteurizing milk does not reduce its nutritional value.
- Pasteurizing milk does kill harmful bacteria.
- Pasteurizing milk does save lives.
Three minerals—calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium—account for 98% of the body’s mineral content by weight. Calcium and phosphorus play basic roles in countless biochemical reactions at the cellular level. They are also the main components of the skeleton, and without magnesium many metabolic functions could not take place.
Phosphorus is in almost all animal and vegetable foods and is often found in foods that contain calcium. Milk and dairy products, fish bones (such as in canned salmon and sardines), and dark-green, leafy vegetables are the best sources of calcium. Magnesium, like phosphorus, is abundant in animal and plant cells.
Healthy children do not lack phosphorus and magnesium because these minerals are easily absorbed. By contrast, low calcium intakes are very common, especially among adolescent girls who shun milk and dairy foods to avoid fat calories. These girls risk osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones, starting as early as age 30. Nonfat milk, yogurt, and other dairy foods are excellent sources of calcium and do not add unwanted fat calories to the diet.
Mineral absorption is influenced by a number of factors, including certain hormones and vitamin levels. Infants absorb calcium more easily than adults do, and the rate of absorption is increased when other nutrients are around, including the milk sugar lactose, the amino acids lysine and arginine, and vitamin C (eg, calcium-fortified orange juice). Calcium absorption may be decreased by high dietary levels of phosphate, oxalate (in rhubarb and certain leafy green vegetables), or phytate compounds in fiber. Too much protein in the diet may increase the amount of calcium excreted in the urine and decrease the amount available for building bones.
The following are food and ingredients to avoid if your child is allergic to milk.
- Calcium caseinate
- Cheese, cottage cheese
- Condensed milk
- Cow’s milk
- Evaporated milk
- Milk chocolate
- Milk solids
- Powdered milk
- Sherbet (if made with milk)
- Sodium caseinate
A true milk protein allergy usually appears in the first year of life, when an infant’s digestive system is still quite immature.
Milk allergy symptoms may appear anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after the child consumes a milk product, but the most severe symptoms usually occur within half an hour. The most common symptoms are:
- Gastrointestinal/stomach upset
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Less common symptoms include blood in the stool.
In babies, if the milk allergy affects their respiratory system, they also may have chronic nasal stuffiness, a runny nose, cough, wheezing, or difficulty in breathing. The allergy also can cause eczema, hives, swelling, itching, or a rash around the mouth and on the chin due to contact with milk.
If you suspect your baby has an allergy to milk, tell your pediatrician, and be sure to mention whether there’s a family history of allergy. Take your child to the doctor’s office or emergency room immediately if he
- Has difficulty breathing
- Turns blue
- Is extremely pale or weak
- Has generalized hives
- Develops swelling in the head and neck region
- Has bloody diarrhea
If your breastfed infant develops a milk allergy, your pediatrician may recommend that you follow a milk-free diet yourself. (You should take an extra calcium supplement in addition to the prenatal vitamin that you are already taking.) As you wean your baby, delay feeding him cow’s milk as long as possible, and give it very cautiously at first, at the direction of your doctor.
Infants with milk allergy should be given alternatives like soy formula or elemental formula, according to your pediatrician’s guidelines. Ask your doctor to recommend a brand of hypoallergenic formula made with extensive hydrolysate protein, which is processed in a way to avoid allergic reactions. He can not only offer guidance on which formulas to select, but also where to buy them (they’re not available in all stores).
Infants over one year old
If your pediatrician suspects that a milk allergy is present, first he will try eliminating milk and milk products completely for a period of time to see if there is any improvement. If there is, your child may then be given a milk trial—that is, a controlled introduction of milk to the diet. This will reveal whether the symptoms decrease or disappear when milk is avoided and if they reappear when it’s introduced again. This trial of milk should be carried out cautiously and under the supervision of a doctor; don’t experiment by trying to introduce milk on your own—talk with your pediatrician. Infants who are allergic to milk can become sick quickly, even if exposed to only a small amount.
As a parent, you are interested in your child’s health. Your role is to provide healthy food in appropriate portions, and your child’s role is to decide how much to eat. That is why it is important to understand how to provide healthy choices for your child.
Read on for information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about making healthful choices. If you have specific questions about your child’s nutrition, talk with your child’s doctor or a registered dietitian.
Child-sized portions help children accept new foods. Two tips for parents include:
- Serve one-fourth to one-third of the adult portion size, or 1 measuring tablespoon of each food for each year of your child’s age.
- Give less than you think your child will eat. Let your child ask for more if she is still hungry.
How do I know when my child is eating enough?
Children eat when they are hungry and usually stop when they are full. Some parents worry because young children appear to eat very small amounts of food, especially when compared with adult portions. To check your child’s eating pattern, pay attention to his food choices.
- Offer all food groups at every meal. Make sure no one food group is completely left out. If this happens for a few days, don’t worry. However, missing out on a food group for a long time could keep your child from getting enough nutrients.
- Encourage your child to eat a variety of foods within the food groups by modeling good eating yourself. Even within a food group, different foods provide different nutrients.
- A child who is growing well is getting enough to eat.
Building a healthy plate
Over the years, various tools have been created to provide guidance on the type and amount of food Americans should eat. MyPlate (the new healthy eating food icon that replaced MyPyramid) recommends the following:
- Balancing calories. Enjoy your food, but eat less. Avoid oversized portions.
- Foods to increase. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Switch to nonfat or low-fat milk (see “Milk—whole or reduced fat?”).
- Foods to reduce. Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose the foods with lower numbers. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
There is a variety of foods from each food group (the following is a sample list of food choices). The next time you go grocery shopping, try something new.
NOTE: Do not feed children younger than 4 years round, firm food unless it is chopped completely. The following foods are choking hazards: nuts and seeds; chunks of meat or cheese; hot dogs; whole grapes; fruit chunks (such as apples); popcorn; raw vegetables; hard, gooey, or sticky candy; and chewing gum. Peanut butter can be a choking hazard for children younger than 2. If your child has food allergies or is diagnosed with peanut or tree nut allergies, avoid nuts and any food that contains or is made with nut products.
Forcing children to eat food doesn’t work. Neither does forbidding foods. When children think that a food is forbidden by their parents, the food often becomes more desirable.
It’s important for both children and adults to be sensible and enjoy all foods and beverages, but not to overdo it on any one type of food. Sweets and higher-fat snack foods in appropriate portions are OK in moderation.
The following is information about fat, sugar, and salt and dietary recommendations based on recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Encouraging Healthy Eating for a Healthy Heart
Childhood is the best time to start heart healthy eating habits, but adult goals for cutting back on total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are not meant generally for children younger than 2 years.
Fat is an Essential Nutritent for Children
Fat supplies the energy, or calories, children need for growth and active play and should not be severely restricted.
Dangers of High Fat Intake
However, high fat intake—particularly a diet high in saturated fats—can cause health problems, including heart disease later in life. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperatures and are found in fatty meats (such as beef, pork, ham, veal, and lamb) and many dairy products (whole milk, cheese, and ice cream).
For that reason, after age 2 children should be served foods that are lower in fat and saturated fats.
Healthier, More Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Foods for Children Over Age 2:
- Lean meat (broiled, baked, or roasted; not fried)
- Soft margarine (instead of butter)
- Low-fat dairy products
- Low-saturated fat oils from vegetables
- Limiting egg consumption
The General Rule on Fats
As a general guideline, fats should make up less than 30% of the calories in your child’s diet, with no more than about one-third or fewer of those fat calories coming from saturated fat and the remainder from unsaturated (polyunsaturated or monounsaturated) fats, which are liquid at room temperature and include vegetable oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and olive.
Some parents find the information about various types of fat confusing. In general, oils and fats derived from animal origin are saturated. The simplest place to start is merely to reduce the amount of fatty foods of all types in your family’s diet.
Note: Whole milk is recommended for children 12 to 24 months of age. However, you child’s doctor may recommend reduced-fat (2%) milk if your child is obese or overweight or if there is a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease. Check with your child’s doctor or dietition before switching from whole to reduced-fat milk.
Serve Children Foods Low in Salt
Table salt, or sodium chloride, may improve the taste of certain foods. However, researchers have found a relationship between dietary salt and high blood pressure in some individuals and population groups. High blood pressure afflicts about 25% of adult Americans and contributes to heart attacks and strokes.
Take the Salt Shaker Off the Table
The habit of using extra salt is an acquired one. Thus, as much as possible, serve your child foods low in salt. In the kitchen, minimize the amount of salt you add to food during its preparation, using herbs, spices, or lemon juice instead. Also, take the salt shaker off the dinner table, or at least limit its use by your family.
Good nutrition—it’s not just for breakfast anymore. It’s for growth of a young body, preventing diseases, maintaining healthy functioning tissues of the body all the way to your cells, and fueling the body involved in exercise activity. Daily proper nutrition helps sustain and support exercise demands on a regular basis. If your child participates in competitions or sporting events, there are some more basics to cover
Remember that the days leading up to an event or practice are important to keep fuel and energy stores full with good sources of complex carbohydrates. Fats are slow and difficult to digest, so they should be avoided for the few hours before an event. Choose good sources of nutrition that the body can use quickly without the danger of a sugar crash. A donut with a candy bar chaser is not the way to go—but don’t think I haven’t seen it. Maintaining excellent hydration is also key to prevent going into an event already dry.
Fluids such as water and sports drinks are important to maintain energy and hydration. If the event lasts for hours with breaks between competition, light carbohydrate snacks such as fruit, natural yogurts, or concentrated gels can be used along with water and sports drinks. Highly caffeinated drinks or high-sugar soft drinks are not recommended because these pull fluids away from tissues that need them.
This is a very important aspect to recovery that many kids overlook. The amount of energy spent needs to be replaced to allow the body to be ready for the next training session or exercise bout. Your child’s muscles are like wide receivers just waiting to restore what they have used up. The ability to soak up muscle carbohydrate like a sponge is best during the first 30 to 60 minutes after exercise, and the process seems to work better with a little protein. This restoration process has important implications. If your child uses up more stored energy than she replaces, you can see that the storage unit will slowly get emptier over time. Inability to completely and properly replenish carbohydrate stores can lead to a progressive decline in performance, exercise staleness, overtraining, depression, and immune system malfunction.
Nutritional sources are not only important for carbohydrate replacement, but also for antioxidants that are critical for providing the clearing machinery necessary to get rid of free radicals and other chemical by-products of exercise and keep the immune system andother cells healthy.
Rehydration must also occur to make up for sweat losses and heat exposure. Remember that having a poor thirst drive is a developmental problem with youngsters. They also base their intake on taste. These characteristics show the importance of having mandatory drink breaks and also determining the best way for your child to want to have adequate fluid intake. Water is usually great, but kids often will not like it because it has no taste. It will suffice for short events, but if there are longer situations, your child may need something different to keep her adequately hydrated. Some of the electrolyte sports drinks taste better to them, which helps them drink more, and those drinks also help keep the thirst drive stimulated because of the electrolyte effects.
The basic 4 components of performance are genetics, equipment, training and technique, and nutrition. Because genetics cannot be controlled and equipment can be equalized, it boils down to training and nutrition, which are intimately connected. Your youngster may train for hours, but without the right nutrition, training cannot be supported optimally. Kids have the added need to provide calories for both growth and exercise energy. Good nutrition is not limited by age and developmental boundaries, so proper nutritional practices can and should be started from birth.
A food allergy happens when the body reacts against harmless proteins found in foods. The reaction usually happens shortly after a food is eaten. Food allergy reactions can vary from mild to severe.
Because many symptoms and illnesses could be wrongly blamed on “food allergies,” it is important for parents to know the usual symptoms. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about food allergies and how to recognize and treat the symptoms. There is also important information about how to keep your child safe and healthy at home and in school if he has a food allergy.
Symptoms of a food allergy
When the body’s immune system overreacts to certain foods, the following symptoms may occur:
- Skin problems
- Hives (red spots that look like mosquito bites)
- Itchy skin rashes (eczema, also called atopic dermatitis)
- Breathing problems
- Throat tightness
- Stomach symptoms
- Circulation symptoms
- Pale skin
- Loss of consciousness
If several areas of the body are affected, the reaction may be severe or even life-threatening. This type of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical attention.
Not a food allergy
Food can cause many illnesses that are sometimes confused with food allergies. The following are not food allergies:
- Food poisoning—Can cause diarrhea or vomiting, but is usually caused by bacteria in spoiled food or undercooked food.
- Drug effects—Certain ingredients, such as caffeine in soda or candy, can make your child shaky or restless.
- Skin irritation—Can often be caused by acids found in such foods as orange juice or tomato products.
- Diarrhea—Can occur in small children from too much sugar, such as from fruit juices.
Some food-related illnesses are called intolerance, or a food sensitivity, rather than an allergy because the immune system is not causing the problem. Lactose intolerance is an example of a food intolerance that is often confused with a food allergy. Lactose intolerance is when a person has trouble digesting milk sugar, called lactose, leading to stomachaches, bloating, and loose stools.
Sometimes reactions to the chemicals added to foods, such as dyes or preservatives, are mistaken for a food allergy. However, while some people may be sensitive to certain food additives, it is rare to be allergic to them.
Foods that can cause food allergies
Any food could cause a food allergy, but most food allergies are caused by the following:
- Cow milk
- Nuts from trees (such as walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews)
- Fish (such as tuna, salmon, cod)
- Shellfish (such as shrimp, lobster)
Peanuts, nuts, and seafood are the most common causes of severe reactions. Allergies also occur to other foods such as meats, fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds such as sesame.
Food additives, properly used, allow us to enjoy a variety of wholesome foods in every season. Many people, wary of additives, believe that they are toxic chemicals brewed up in laboratories. Such fears are groundless. The great majority of the 3,000 or so additives allowed by the FDA are foods or normal ingredients of foods.
Additives help keep our food healthful in at least 5 important ways.
- They retard spoilage.
- They improve or maintain nutritional value.
- They make breads and baked goods rise.
- They enhance flavor, color, and appearance.
- They keep flavors and textures consistent.
Additives listed on food labels under their chemical names seem less intimidating when you know their everyday equivalents. For example, salt is sodium chloride, vitamin C is ascorbic acid, and vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol. Not every additive has a familiar name, but it’s reassuring to remember that all food is made up of chemicals, just as our bodies are. Regulations known as good manufacturing practices limit the amounts of additives that may be used in foods. Manufacturers use only as much of an additive as is needed to achieve the desired result.
The additives most widely used are salt, sugar and corn syrup, vitamin C, vitamin E, and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). These substances prolong shelf life, stop fats and oils from turning rancid, and prevent discoloration and changes in texture. Additives are also used in packing materials and must be approved for this purpose.
Additives That Enrich and Fortify
Additives used for enriching and fortifying foods are particularly beneficial. Enrichment restores essential nutrients that are lost during the processing of raw materials. For example, white flour and rice are enriched with B vitamins that are removed when the grains are milled. As a public health measure, certain foods are fortified with important nutrients to make sure people consume enough to stay healthy. Vitamin D, for example, is added to milk; vitamin A to margarine; and iron and folic acid to flours and cereals.
Additives Don’t Appear to Influence Hyperactivity
Years ago, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist, claimed that the behavior of hyperactive children improved dramatically when they followed a diet that eliminated additives, including artificial colors and flavors, as well as naturally occurring salicylates in fruits and vegetables. But when tested scientifically, the Feingold diet had no favorable effect. Some children, however, appeared to benefit from the extra parental attention.
In other cases, belief in the diet’s efficacy seemed to bring about an improvement similar to the placebo effect sometimes seen with medical treatments. In one study, the behavior of a small group of children with more severe hyperactivity changed for the worse when they were given food spiked with huge doses of artificial colors. However, the doses were many times greater than children would normally consume, and the findings, therefore, do not apply to usual situations.
Nevertheless, it is possible that a child may be unusually sensitive to a particular ingredient or food. If you are convinced there’s a connection between your child’s behavior and his diet, talk to your pediatrician, who may perform sensitivity testing or recommend cutting out an offending food and finding alternative sources if essential nutrients are involved