WILL PINKSTON | The Sun
Dr. John Cecil, pediatrician at Dallas Medical Family Clinic, reviews electronic medical records at the clinic in between patients Tuesday. According to Cecil, common pediatric digestive issues tend to arise from a child's dietary habits.
Although it often seems like children can eat anything from sugary sweets to fried foods and everything in between without feeling the consequences, when poor nutrition does catch up, children’s digestive systems take a big hit.
Gaining more public attention with each passing day, physician’s growing concern for the nation’s growing waistline has focused a concentrated push towards tackling obesity and promoting proper nutrition from an early age. But common dietary misnomers and conditions can lead to more than just upset stomachs.
While acid reflux in babies and small children remains a common medical condition that pediatricians see on a daily basis, painful reflux in school-aged children can be traced back to dietary concerns.
With the muscular valve between the stomach and esophagus relaxing, causing stomach acid to rise up, reflux can be exacerbated or attributed to obesity; over-eating, especially near bedtime; or consuming particular foods or beverages.
“I have many patients who have to take reflux medications for a month or two stretch at a time,” said Dr. Jeffrey Mudd, pediatrician at The Pediatric Group of Paducah. And if obesity is determined to be a factor in the persistent nature of the reflux, often Mudd will explore the patient’s diet and discuss exercise as a means for leading to weight stabilization.
Trying to make that conscious effort in helping to boost their children’s nutrition, sometimes parents can accidentally or unknowingly create gastrointestinal troubles for their kids.
While cow’s milk has always been hyped as the ultimate nutritional drink for children, especially with its high calcium content, children can also fall susceptible to the painful side effects of lactose intolerance.
“It seems like there has always been a high degree of lactose intolerance in children. Anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of kids will have it,” said Dr. John Cecil, pediatrician at Dallas Medical Family Clinic.
“If you really push cow’s milk and overwhelm the lactose system, you’re going to get gas, abdominal pain or diarrhea. It’s one of those things where there’s probably as many calories in a glass of milk than there are in a glass of Coke.”
Although Cecil pointed out cow’s milk is beneficial, when consumed in large quantities it can intensify such problems and can also lead to picky eaters in children, who remain full on milk all day.
Parents can help avoid such uncomfortable disorders by monitoring what and when their children eat, Cecil said, and preventing rewarding children with food.
“As a parent, it’s their job in nutrition to hit the table with a healthy meal at three times a day, then they’re done. It’s the kid’s job to go from the table to the mouth,” Cecil said.
“Just use common sense, a kid will eat when they’re hungry. The periods between 2 to 3 years of age, their growth is slower than that first year, so they’re only going to gain 4 to 5 pounds in a year. If you do the math, that’s 8 ounces a month. They don’t have to eat three big meals a day to gain that. Don’t push.”
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.