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Daily Dose

Diagnosing Diabetes

1.15 to read

I often see parents who come in worried that their child might have diabetes. I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, which was previously known as juvenile onset diabetes. 

While there is much in the news about type 2 diabetes, which is typically related to childhood obesity, the mystery of type 1 diabetes has not yet been totally elucidated. Type 1 diabetes affects about 1 in 400 children and adolescents. There does seem to be a genetic predisposition (certain genes are being identified) to the disease and then “something” seems to trigger the development of diabetes. Researchers continue to look at viral triggers, or environmental triggers (such as cold weather as diabetes is more common in colder climates). Early diet may play a role as well, as there is a lower incidence of diabetes in children who were breast fed and who started solid foods after 6 months of age.   

In type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not produce enough ( or any) insulin. Insulin is needed to help sugars (glucose) in the diet to enter cells to produce energy.  Without insulin the body cannot make enough energy and the glucose levels in the blood stream become elevated which leads to numerous problems. Children with type 1 diabetes are often fairly sick by the time they are diagnosed.  

The most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes are extreme thirst (while all kids drink a lot this is over the top thirst) frequent urination ( sometimes seen as new onset bedwetting with excessive daytime urination as well), excessive hunger,  and despite eating all of the time, weight loss and fatigue.  

Any time a child complains of being thirsty or seems to have to go the bathroom a lot, a parent (including me) worries about diabetes. But, this is not just being thirsty or having a few extra bathroom breaks or wetting the bed one night. The symptoms worsen and persist and you soon realize that your child is also losing weight and not feeling well. 

Although diabetes is currently not curable, great strides have been made in caring for diabetics and improving their daily life. I now have children who are using insulin pumps and one mother has had an islet cell transplant. The research being done is incredible, and hopefully there will one day be a cure. 

In the meantime, try not to  worry every time your child tells you they are thirsty or tired, as all kids will complain about these symptoms from time to time.  But do watch for ongoing symptoms.  

Lastly, eating sugar DOES NOT cause type 1 diabetes. Now it may lead to weight gain which can lead to type 2 diabetes....but that is another story. 

Daily Dose

Don't Let Your Child Become an Obesity Statistic

Healthy eating begins with the first foods that you feed your infant.An alarming statistic was released today which shows that one in five 4-year-old children are obese and these numbers are even higher in minority children. This study was just published in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, and followed over 8,000 children looking at height and weight. The findings were quite concerning, showing a trend toward obesity at an age younger than predicted, and numerous long term health problems associated with obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and bone and joint problems.

This is a national health issue and a call to action for all families to teach and model healthy eating. One of the problems is that many of the government sponsored food programs provide foods high in carbohydrates, and low in fresh fruits and vegetables, and this promotes obesity. School lunches have also been found to be high in fat and carbohydrate and continue to promote poor food choices. With the bad economy and recession, families have cut back on groceries and may be eating more fast foods, breads and pastas, again providing more carbohydrate than protein. Healthy eating begins with the first foods that you feed your infant. A well balanced diet with grains, fruits, vegetables and meats begins in the high chair and should continue at the family dinner table. The meals may be simple and healthy. Being a short order cook, or providing your child's favorite pizza and fried food on a daily basis, even in a young toddler will have deleterious effects for the rest of their life. Don't let your child become a statistic heading toward lifelong health issues secondary to childhood obesity. Change your own eating habits, improve your children's and remain committed to family meals. We, as parents, cannot afford to raise a generation where obesity is the norm: the change must begin now. That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow. More Information: 1 in 5 Preschoolers Obese

Daily Dose

Don't Give-In To Picky Eating

I am trying to clean up my desk and I have been looking through stacks of pediatric articles that I felt were really interesting.

An article by Dr. Barbara Howard entitled “Three Magic Words Offer Food for Thought” made a wonderful point regarding family meals and eating habits. She states that one of the best questions to ask a child during a “well-child” visit only requires three words, but offers so much insight into a family’s interactions. What are the magic words? “How are your meals?” I know you know how much I believe in, and promote, families eating together. There has been a lot of data substantiating the many positive side effects that stem from family meals. You can look at some of the studies by going to The Promoting Family Meals Project, http://www.cfs.purdue.edu/CFP/promotingfamilymeals. Not only does eating together as a family help improve food choices which may help prevent obesity, it also leads to children who have improved vocabulary and language skills, social skills and manners. Family meals have also been shown to lessen the chance of risk taking behaviors in adolescents. There has also been an association with fewer eating disorders among adolescents who have regular family meals. So, when I ask children about their meals, I also get parental feedback. The biggest complaint is that their children are “picky eaters”. Many children and parents will say that they don’t eat together as a family as everyone eats something different. I don’t think being a “short order cook” is a job requirement of any parent. Social worker Ally Slater, delineates parent’s responsibilities with regard to food as “what, when and where” while leaving children, “how much and whether”. I love that!! Parents control the grocery cart, meal and snack choices and food offerings on the plate. It is nice to always offer at least one food that most family members like. Once that food is offered and we are gathered together to eat, parents need to back off. Is that easier said than done? Maybe in the beginning, but over time it actually simplifies family life. I think it is really fairly easy if you “buy into” the idea of family meals and know that children will make better and wider food choices if given that opportunity. It may take up to 100 times, and many months for your child to try different foods, but eventually you will be pleased that you have a child who is a healthy eater, and who also enjoys a wide variety of foods. Trust me, your children when raised this way, really turn out to be great eaters as adolescents and young adults.  I think my boys are less “picky” than I am! (No sushi for me). Make family meal time a priority. Your children will respect the rules, learn table manners, and enjoy dinnertime conversation, while eventually developing a more mature palate. It just takes time. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Baby's First Foods

1:30 to read

Have you heard of “baby led weaning” (BLW)? Many of my patients who have infants that are ready to start “solid foods”, also called complementary foods, have questions about this method. Most babies begin eating foods along with breast milk or formula somewhere around 5 - 6 months of age.  So BLW is not really “weaning”,  as your infant will continue to have breast milk or formula in conjunction with foods…so this really should more aptly be named “baby self feeding”. 

In this method you never offer your baby “mush” or pureed foods, but rather offer them foods from the table.   While I am a huge advocate of self feeding (old term is finger feeding), I also think that early on offering a baby “mushy” food on a spoon is an important milestone. In fact, for most babies at 5 -6 months, it is difficult to pick up a small piece of food to self feed as the pincer grasp has not developed. So, a baby is trying to get food to their mouths by cupping it or hoping it sticks to their hand while pushing pieces around their tray. Some parents will put the food into their baby’s hand.  But, by 8-ish months most babies have developed their pincer grasp and the finger feeding should be preferred.  

Parents are also concerned about starting solid foods and the possibility of choking.  I am always discussing how to make sure that your child avoids choking hazards with foods. In other words, no whole grapes, or hot dogs, or popcorn or chunks of meat.   Other hazards are raw carrots, apples, celery and any “hard” food that your baby might be able to bite a chunk of and then choke. But, if you cook the carrots and then cut them in small bites they are easily handled by a baby who is self feeding.  It is really all about the consistency of the food as once your baby has lower teeth they can easily bite/pry off a big “chunk” of food that could lead to a choking hazard.

Interestingly, there was a recent study that looked at the incidence of choking in children who started with self feeding vs those fed traditionally with pureed foods from a spoon. In this study of about 200 children between 6 - 8 months of age the incidence of choking was similar, while there were more gagging events in the BLW group.  Fortunately, “the choking events resolved on their own”. Gagging is quite different than choking. Some children will gag on pureed foods just due to texture issues. 

I am an advocate of what I am going to call parent led feeding followed by early self feeding of appropriate foods. By the time a child is 9 months of age they should be able to finger feeding the majority of their meals. But there are some foods that are just not conducive to finger feeding at all….yogurt, apple sauce, puddings…and they will be spoon fed until your child is capable of using a spoon which is anywhere from 12 -18 months.   But as a reminder, whenever you offer your child a finger food you should remember two things, #1 is the piece small enough that my child cannot choke and #2 is the food cooked well enough to not pose a choking hazard.  

Several years ago there was a 1 year old in our practice who was given a piece of an apple to chew on… she bit off a chunk of the apple, aspirated and died. It was a terrible accident.  I will never forget that….and re-iterate to all of my patients…a pork chop, or chicken leg or any number of foods can become a choking hazard if your child bites off a chunk. Children really don’t chew until they are around 2 years, they just bite and try to swallow so I pay a great deal of attention to what foods they are offered.

 

Old school and new school…the combo seems to make sense to me. 

Daily Dose

Do You Have a Happy Spitter?

1.15 to read

New parents often come in concerned about their baby spitting up.  They typically  ask, “does my baby have gastroesophageal reflux (GER)?”.  I reassure them that “spit happens” and it occurs in more than 2/3 of perfectly healthy infants.  Whether you want to call it GER or spit up, it is regurgitation and in most cases it goes away with time. 

GER is defined as “the physiologic passage of gastric contents into the esophagus”, while GERD is “reflux associated with troublesome symptoms or complications”.  GER in infants is typically painless and does not affect growth. We call these babies “happy spitters”.  

For a “happy spitter” parents need to know that spitting gets worse before it gets better and typically lasts for 5-6 months, with the worst spitting occurring around 3-4 months of age.  

The best treatment for benign GER is lifestyle management.  Small things like thickening feedings with either rice or oatmeal cereal will often decrease the volume of spit up ( parents get sick of wearing towels over their shoulders). Thickening feedings does increase the calories a baby receives. There are also formulas available that contain thickening agents if parents prefer trying them that have the same amount of calories as other formulas.  Thickening feeds has been shown to decrease crying time in some irritable infants with GER and also increases sleep time for fussy babies.  It is always worth trying.

While many parents try putting their baby in a car seat to help with reflux and spitting, car seats may actually make the problem worse. Infants have less reflux when in the prone (tummy) position, but remember your baby must NEVER sleep on their TUMMY!

Babies who are spitters may also benefit from smaller more frequent feedings. When a baby is fussy, parents may try to keep feeding their baby and overfeeding may actually make the spitting worse. Just because a baby is crying, does not always mean they are hungry, especially if they have just been fed.  Sucking in and of itself may help reflux, so a pacifier may be the trick and provide non nutritive sucking.

For babies with GERD who are extremely irritable, may refuse feedings and even lose weight further work up and management with pharmacotherapy may be necessary.  Talk to your doctor about options if lifestyle management does not seem to help. 

Daily Dose

Cut Soda to Fight Childhood Obesity

Getting rid of sugar-laden drinks and replacing them with water has a dramatic impact on the amount of calories children consume and could help in the fight against childhood obesity. Researchers from Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York found that children get 10 to 15 percent of the daily caloric intake from empty calories.

"The key observation is that when kids substitute sugar-sweetened beverages with water, there is a significant decline in total energy intake without any compensatory increase in the consumption of other beverages or food," said Dr. Y. Claire Wang. Dr. Wang also noted that substituting calorie-free beverages "is a simple and effective way of eliminating the excess calories while improving the diet quality." Sugar-sweetened beverages "should be viewed as treats, not necessities, and water is a perfect substitute for the purpose of thirst-quenching," Wang said. Wang and her colleagues looked at diet data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Survey of over 4,000 children aged two to 19 years. They found that substituting sugar-sweetened beverages with water was associated with significant reductions in total calories consumed. Wang and colleagues estimate that replacing all sugary drinks with water could cut out an average of 235 calories out of kids' diets each day. Since the late 1970s, consumption of sugary drinks by children and adolescents has increased "substantially," and is thought to be "an important contributing factor to obesity," the researchers point out in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. "Replacing these liquid calories with calorie-free beverage alternatives therefore represents a key strategy to eliminate excess calories and to prevent obesity in childhood," they conclude.

Daily Dose

Why Family Meals Are Important

It seems so easy to have meal time together, but it needs to begin when your child are younger, so that you will continue to have family dinner time once your children are older and busier.On our last radio show I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Dr. Dan Kindlon the author of Too Much of a Good Thing, where he discusses the problems with overindulged children. One of the many interesting points in his book is that he reiterates the importance of family mealtimes.

During Dr. Kindlon's research he looked at common attributes among the teens that he felt were "well adjusted" and successful at both school and outside the home. One of his findings was that these students had regular family meals. It seems so easy to have meal time together, but it needs to begin when your child are younger, so that you will continue to have family dinner time once your children are older and busier. Too many families find too little time to gather for a family meal. The excuses for all of us are many: after school and evening activities, parents work schedule, homework, etc. But there are really very few reasons to skip weeknight and or weekend family meals. It may be more convenient to have meals as a family three school nights and one weekend or all school nights or some combination. But, the bottom line is, the more often families gather for meals and spend time together engagedin dinner table conversation, the better adjusted, more successful and happier the children and teens seem to be. The other great thing about family meals is that they tend to be healthier and cheaper! If youneed recipe ideas, check out What's Cooking with Chef Dad on our Web site. A family dinner is just a click away!

That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

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Daily Dose

No Tech at the Table

1.15 to read

I am a huge proponent of family meals and Chef Dad Tom Fleming is always supplying The Kid’s Doctor with new family friendly recipes. I think many families are now trying to “make the time” to eat together at least several nights a week.  Kudos to those families! 

The problem that I am now seeing is that while families are trying to make a point to eat together, the meal is suddenly being invaded by technology! What I mean by this is that everyone is coming to the table with their smartphone, tablet, iPod, Nintendo DS or any other gadget or gizmo which allows one to be “disengaged” during mealtime. 

I certainly remember many a family dinner where I could barely get three words out of any of the boys (they would tell me that they had already used up their 700 words that day), despite the numerous “open ended” questions that I peppered them with.  We would even try to play those games like, “best thing that happened today” or “worst thing that happened”, I think the Obamas call this “thorns and roses” as they too enjoy families meals. 

With 3 sons and a husband I sometimes felt like it might be possible that those 4 males would eat together and never even say a word. (they tell me that when I was gone this was often the case and they did not view that as a problem!) 

At any rate, part of the value of the family meal is conversation and that means with those who are gathered at the table. Emailing, texting, game playing etc. during dinner needs to be not only discouraged but forbidden. That goes for both the adults (me included) and the children. 

I realize that there are many important world events happening during meal time…one might miss some one’s post on facebook, or a tweet or a text for a few minutes. But the need for continuous information from a gadget, or constant communication via texting does not have a place at the family meal. 

It used to be that we talked about no TV during meals. I remember that rule was rarely broken during my childhood except for events like the Kennedy assassination or the men landing on the Moon.  For our family we tried to continue the same rule and it was broken for events like Super Bowl, early space shuttle launches and landings and for terrible tragedies like 9/11. But we tried to keep the TV out of the dining area.  

I now I find that I have to remind my children and myself to “check all electronics” at the door before coming into dinner. If I don’t, I sometimes look down the family table and see heads bent looking at a sports score, or replying to a text about a party later that night or reading an email about work (me included). But if we all just leave the gadgets turned off/silenced and away from the table the conversation gets going. 

There is not such a rush to “go to the next event” and the work issues are put aside for 15 - 20 minutes. We can enjoy the rare occasion that all 6 of us get to be together and actually converse in real time. The time a family can spend together talking over breakfast, lunch or dinner is too important and precious to be shared with others not present until the meal is over. 

So, start the rule, No Tech at the Table, and enjoy family mealtime.   

Daily Dose

No More Food Battles

1.30 to read

Seems that I spend several times a day discussing “food battles” with my patients and their families.  I guess the longer I practice the more I don’t think we should even have to discuss how often parents “battle” with their kids about eating.  

From the early days of parenting when a baby is first offered either breast or formula, they are not asked “do you like this?”.  It is taken for granted that an infant will eat and grow and  there you have it.  The easiest days of parenting, correct? (except for a few months of sleep deprivation).  But once that baby begins to eat the discussions start about “he makes a face when he eats spinach”, or “she will only eat chicken tenders from Chik-fil-a”, or “he only likes pasta and won’t eat meat”, or even “I make 3 diferent meals for my 3 kids”.  If you have a child older than 9 months you understand what I am talking about. 

Food is necessary to nutrition, growth and health. But, with that being said, parents have to trust that a child WILL EAT when they are hungry.  Really, hunger drives us all to eat, eventually.  That bowl or cereal, or the steamed vegetables or even the dreaded chicken breast will get eaten if your child gets hungry enough. I remember reading somewhere that , “ a parent’s job is to provide food for their children at appropriate meal times, and child’s job is to decide if they will eat it.”  In other words, make the meal whether for your toddler or teen and “forget about it”.  Meal time needn’t be a battle but more a gathering to enjoy being together eating is just a bonus.  

As an adult, when you go to a dinner party, you don’t ask what they are serving before you accept, nor do you tell the host/hostess, I hate lamb!!  (my example).  You just smile and find something to eat and there is not a battle.  We all need to approach family meals as a dinner party. Our children are our guests, and sometimes they like what we fix and other times they push some food around their plate and choose not to eat.  The good news for most children is that there is another meal to follow. 

So, think about it and don’t let certain food likes and dislikes dictate mealtime. The more foods young children are exposed to the better chance they have of EVENTUALLY becoming a well rounded eater.  Children’s taste buds change with time as well, so you will find some foods that a 3 year old loved is no longer the favorite at 13 years of age.   

Well balanced, nutritious, colorful meals are the family goal and “food battles” can be left out of the vocabulary.   

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