family practice issues and general life events

Posts tagged ‘food’

Allergies and why they matter

As we travel through this allergy season, I am actually having an easier time of it than usual, in what is apparently one of the worst in Southeastern Oklahoma in several years.  Due to the lack of a cold winter, we did not have the period to kill off the normal plants and decrease the load, so I have a great deal of patients in my office complaining of allergy symptoms that in many instances never had.

What exactly are allergies?

According to the Institute of Public Health allergies are defined as “an exaggerated immune response or reaction to substances that are generally not harmful.” 1.   The key to that definition is “generally.”  Because of that word we are aware that there are those that are harmful.  Today more than ever we hear about children who have anaphylactic reactions to foods such as peanuts and nuts.  And yes, I did mean to separate them, because a peanut is technically a member of the legume family and not a nut at all.  Other foods that commonly trigger an allergic reaction include shellfish, eggs, wheat, milk and soy.  These are not always as serious as anaphylaxis but they can be.   Today there is a big attempt to remove milk from the diet, and creates gluten free diet, and unless you are a celiac (allergic to the binding protein in wheat, rye and other common grains) it is found to be a limited benefit in others.  However, limiting your gluten intake may make you feel better, if only due to removing most of the processed food from your diet.  And for those that are allergic to soy, well this diet would cause more problems than not, since many of the replacement foods contain soy.

Another issue that is appearing with soy is that in males in may lead to hypogonadism and infertility.  Now these studies are early and they are still looking closer, but one of the beliefs is that the link may be the result of soy breaking into down into estrogen like compounds and at least temporarily decreasing the sperm count.  Soy can also as I learned in the past week cause anaphylaxis.


This picture is actually my son, 30 minutes after his school gave him a large dose of benedryl, which may have been more than the recommended dosage, but with his whole face swelling up, I think it was the better of the two choices.

I myself have food allergies, and hay fever, and everything else that goes with it.  I spent years wearing long sleeves in hot weather, and other ridiculous things to hide arms so that I didn’t have the ridiculous questions about the “track marks” on my arms, and “how I couldn’t hit the vein.”  This is my arm today

This is my arm today.  It actually is relatively under control  Yes you can see the eczema- but there are only a few spots that are terribly red and irritated.  And there is the scratch on the arm.  Must have done that in my sleep.  I am better most days now that I am older and more aware of the damage that I do so I can at least attempt not to scratch.  Those white spaces scarring from the years of scratching.  It makes my skin fairly tough, and hard to take blood, well at least getting through the skin- once through the veins are right there.  But this is enough of an issue that I had to argue with the people at the blood back that they could take my blood.  I mean there is a blood shortage, and you want to not take my blood because of a little scar tissue.  Once the needle is in the vein it all comes out the same

Anyway, other than the unsightly skin, and itchy, watery eyes, and sneezy nose- why do allergies matter?  I mean if those reasons are not enough.  The National Institute of Public health states that most children outgrow their allergies- I am not so sure.  I haven’t outgrown mine yet.  But the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America estimates that allergies cost $14.5 billion a year.  This includes the direct costs of $1.3 billion for office visits and $11 billion for medication, both prescription and over the counter.  The rest are the indirect costs of missing of work and decreased productivity.  “For adults, allergies (hay fever) is the 5th leading chronic disease and a major cause of work absenteeism and “presenteeism,” resulting in nearly 4 million missed or lost workdays each year, resulting in a total cost of more than $700 million in total lost productivity.” 2  This makes allergies the 5th leading cause of doctor visits in the United States.

If possible removal of the allergen is recommended for those that suffer from allergies, and those that suffer heavily may benefit from allergy testing and immunotherapy.  At the very least, there might be an improvement in the allergy sufferers quality of life.



1. “Allergies” A.D.A.M.  Medical Encyclopedia  PUBMed Health  last reviewe October 2011, obtained online at 6, 2012)

2. Allergy Facts and Figures.  Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found online at (May 6, 2012)




Give the gift of health

As Christmas approaches I think about the one thing we should all attempt to give our children- and that is the gift of health.  This does not pertain to those poor children with diagnosis such as cancer, chronic illnesses, or other disease states that have nothing to do with habits that you can control.  Instead this focuses on the rest of the population who can do something to help prevent medical conditions.

Childhood obesity is on the rise.  Mostly due to the readily available fast food culture and the decrease in the physical activity of society overall.  This is not a condemnation of McDonald’s.  I believe in the free market, and if the free market demanded salads and low calorie alternatives, McDonald’s would have one answer within a week and possibly a whole new menu within six months.  But the public does not demand it, so there is no change.

No the answer lies on the parent.  I know, easy scape goat.  But who is ultimately responsible for teaching the child, mom and dad.  And most eating habits are learned at an early age, before the child even enters school.  There is nothing built into the child that makes it demand McDonald’s before it can walk or talk.  In fact, if you never take it to McDonald’s requests for it are limited.  Sure they might see commercials on television, but if you limit the amount of television they watch, there would not be a request.  You may substitute any other fast food establishment you desire in for McDonald’s the story is all the same.

In the parents’ defense, in many poorer areas processed and fast food is cheaper and easier to obtain than fresh fruits and vegetables.  It can be done, it only takes more effort.  And lately I am finding that most parents of obese children that I see, know nothing about serving sizes, how many servings a day or the differences between good calories and bad calories.  Somewhere along the line, this information was lost.  Frequently the parent of a 14 year old tells me how much the child has eaten, and seems surprised when I tell them that is too much food.  And in reality, trying to teach a 14 year old good eating habits (or anything else for that matter) is like hitting your head against a brick wall.  It doesn’t do much good and you end up with a headache.

I like to use the hand as a guide for serving size.  While not exact it is a lot more understandable than gram, ounce or other measuring device.  A hand is always accessible.  Smaller hands, smaller serving sizes

The other thing lost, and probably the bigger problem, is exercise.  While XBOX 360 and Wii have created games that help increase the movements with video games, they do not fully replace the playing baseball in the street, riding your bike until dark, or just having fun playing games with one’s friends.  This I am not faulting parents for not letting your kids out by themselves.  I don’t either.  But unfortunately this fun running without a care has disappeared thus eliminating the burning of calories.  In fact it has probably been replaced in many instances with a bag of Cheetos in front of the television, so not only are we not burning calories we are now increasing the amount we are not burning.

Additionally, parents are under the impression that large amounts of juice is good for the child.  First of all if it is not 100% juice, you might as well give the child a coke.  Secondly, no child needs more that 2 glasses of juice (8 ounces) a day, the rest is just empty calories.  Milk should be limited to 3 glasses (24 ounces total) daily.  Water should make up the rest.  And neither children nor adults need any of the sports drinks unless they are actively pursing a sporting activity.  If you are running a race, ok have a gatorade or a G2.  Sitting on your couch – well you don’t need that 240 calories, you have not lost enough carbohydrates to justify drinking any sports drink.

And I don’t care how hyper your 2 year old is, Mountain Dew is not the same as Ritalin (just because they both are technically stimulants).  You can’t diagnose ADHD that young, current accepted age is 6 with some more recent studies saying 4.  However, they are not the same thing.  Not unless you are hiding the Ritalin in a Cocoa Puff anyway.

Additionally, stop giving coca cola in a baby bottle.  First of all, if they are still drinking out of a bottle there is NO good reason for a Coke.  Talking to the dentists around here it is a toss up between coke in a bottle or putting the two year old to bed with a bottle of juice as being the biggest culprits for tooth decay at a young age.   And unfortunately the earlier we teach these habits, the more ingrained they become

This blog is not anti- any of these foods.  I like the occasional trip to McDonalds, and having pizza delivered when you don’t feel like cooking are nice conveniences.  Additionally, one of the biggest motivators for children is to be like their parents.  So you as a parent need to practice good health.  Eat healthy, with junk food in moderation.  Eat what a serving size is.  Drink plenty of water.  Drink alcohol only in moderation.  Exercise. Find some activity you enjoy doing.  Do it as a family if you can.  Or just find something that you love for exercise and encourage your child to do so.  Don’t smoke, or if you do quit.  Tobacco use in parents is the greatest risk factor for teen to start smoking.  All of these are things that you can do to help encourage a healthy lifestyle in your children.

Please don’t expect the government to help.  Their help has included concepts such as the food pyramid of the 1980’s which many of us grew up with, found later to be flawed and possibly lead to obesity, corn subsidies which has led to an increase in the cost of lean meats, and makes it so that fast food outlets and food manufacturers have cheap, unhealthy products to sell at a cheap cost.  Schools don’t have the time, and from the words of many of my parents their meal options could not be counted as healthy.  And as I was told by one parent, her son was allowed to go back for thirds in the free lunch program at school.  Even overeating healthy foods can lead to obesity when coupled by lack of exercise.  So the answer goes back to the parents.  IT both starts and ends at home.  Please give you child the gift of health, and help change the trend of childhood obesity.  Don’t make me have to talk to another child and explain why their eating habits are killing them.



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