Posts

Food as Medicine

The seasons are about to change, school has resumed, and it’s only a matter of time before kids start getting sick. You can do your best to try to shave off those dreaded illnesses by ensuring proper nutrition and rest every day. But there’s just no avoiding it sometimes. Try not to get too stressed if your child has decreased intake when he or she is ill. It’s normal, and likely they will rebound after and make up for it by eating more of what they need for re-nourishment. Drinking adequate fluids is very important, however, as dehydration can have serious consequences. Also, adequate hydration helps the body “flush out” the bacteria, viruses, and immune factors causing symptoms.

sick child eating

For the following illnesses, here are some nutrition considerations:

Sore Throat. Eating and drinking can obviously be painful. Focus on cold, liquid foods.

  • Applesauce. Stir in quinoa for extra protein. Just cook the quinoa, let it cool, refrigerate, and stir into applesauce when your child is interested in eating.
  • Yogurt
  • Smoothies, made with yogurt, frozen fruit, and baby spinach leaves.
  • Gazpacho
  • Frozen bananas
  • Frozen fruit puree popsicles
  • Pediasure, especially if your child is on the low end of the growth chart, has other chronic medical issues, or otherwise has poor nutrition.

Diarrhea and/or Vomiting.

Gastrointestinal illnesses can occur for a variety of reasons. Likely eating or drinking will induce nausea. Hydration and electrolyte balance/replenishment are important with prolonged diarrhea and vomiting. Call the pediatrician if the vomiting or diarrhea persists longer than 24 hours. Seek medical care immediately if you see blood in the stool or emesis, and also if your child seems dehydrated. Some signs of dehydration are decreased urine output, darker colored urine, urine with a strong odor, dark circles under the eyes, lack of tears when crying, “tenting” of the skin (when you pull it up it doesn’t retract quickly), dry mouth, and lethargy. The best you can do is to encourage drinking fluids and eating small amounts as able. Focus on easily digested foods that are low in fat.

  • The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast). These foods are easily digested, and the bananas and applesauce contain soluble fiber, which absorbs fluids in the gut and promotes a bulkier, more formed stool. This counteracts loose, watery diarrhea.
  • Congee is used to treat diarrhea, and versions of it are used in African, Indian, and Asian cultures. It’s basically rice that has been cooked for a long time with extra water so that it boils into a soupy mixture that is easily digestible .
  • Offer electrolyte replacement beverages, such as those discussed in my exercise hydration post. A great, natural option is called Recharge and can be found at Whole Foods and other natural grocery stores.
  • Some studies have shown improvement in duration of gastrointestinal symptoms with taking probiotics. See my probiotics blog for more recommendations.

Common cold or flu. Warming, soothing foods are usually best accepted.

  • Soups or stews. Take advantage of the opportunity to get some quality nutrition in these meals. Butternut squash soup is a good source of vitamin A, tomato soup is a good source of vitamin C, potato soup is a good source of potassium, and beef or chicken stew provides good protein.
  • Bone broth. This traditional soup is made by actually boiling bones for a prolonged time, which creates a broth full of the nutrients stored in bones. You can use bones from a whole chicken after cooking it and using the meat for another meal. Put them in a crock pot on low over night or simmer on the stove for 8-12 hours. Use the broth to make soups, noodles, congee, or drink it warmed.
  • Offer good vitamin C sources such as fresh citrus fruits.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

Probiotics: What are they and Why are they Important?

Probiotics is the term for food and supplements that contain microorganisms that can colonize the gut, specifically the small and large intestines. We actually have billions of bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract. We now know that these bacteria have important roles in the body. They are involved in digestion, prevent infection by other disease-causing bacteria, and maintain the lining of the digestive tract. These bacteria can be killed off by antibiotics, and up to 30% of people taking antibiotics experience the side-effect known as antibiotic-associated diarrhea (1). Some research has shown benefits to ingesting probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics to prevent diarrhea, to prevent pathogenic bacteria such a Clostridium difficile (C. diff) from inhabiting the gut and causing illness, and to maintain the lining of the gut. It is especially important for infants and children to have healthy gut bacteria, as they can be particularly susceptible to these side effects. It is also important that infants and children have a strong gut barrier as they constantly put things in their mouths and are still developing their gut-associated immune system. 70% of the human body’s immune system actually lines the gastrointestinal tract, and probiotics can help develop that.

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host” (2). The supplement industry, which includes probiotics supplements, is not tightly regulated in the United States. Therefore, it is wise to ask a doctor or registered dietitian for recommendations of brands of probiotics if you or your child needs to take them in supplement form.

Probiotics are found naturally occurring in fermented foods such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Acidophilus Milk
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi

Including some of these foods in you and your child’s weekly diet can help ensure healthy gut bacteria and optimal digestion. For more information on probiotics in foods or supplements, and when to use probiotics, contact a dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

References

  1. Mack DR. Probiotics. Can Fam Physician. 2005 November 10; 51(11): 1455–1457.
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization Expert Consultation. Evaluation of health and nutritional properties of powder milk and live lactic acid bacteria. Córdoba, Argentina: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization; 2001. [cited 2005 September 8]. Available from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/es/esn/food/probio_report_en.pdf.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!