Why I Believe in My Superfoods

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This is how Superfoods make me feel! And, for a girl w a chronic pain and fatigue disorder, that’s pretty damn special!

Superfoods…  a health term that gets thrown around A LOT these days, huh? So, what are they? Why are some foods super and some not? GOOD QUESTION! It’s taken me a long time to figure it out too. If you want to know the truth, I’m still learning more every day!

My superfoods have changed the way I am able to live. I have multiple chronic illnesses that were being controlled by what I was putting in my body.

I don’t like veggies very much. I’m a very picky eater, my grandmother used to call me “finiky”… it’s a texture thing and an anxiety thing for me. If I think I don’t like it, I don’t like it… I know, grow up, Katie. I’ve tried. I’ve gotten better, but I’m just not one that likes a big variety of foods.

I know I can eat plenty of protein and fiber (kinda) and goods fats. Y’all do know the necessity of good fats, right? The whole fat-free thing is a bunch of milarchy. It’s crucial that our bodies get good fats and if they don’t multiple disease processes can appear. Good fats keep our brain working… our brain controls EVERYTHING!

Did you know you can get TOO MUCH PROTEIN, and it will make you gain weight just like sugar will? Actually, when you eat too much protein, it turns into sugar, and then fat. That’s why I’m not a protein shake kinda girl, I’m a SUPERFOOD shake kinda girl. Sure, I need protein, but I eat protein… eggs, steak, chicken, and bacon aren’t the hard part for me, it’s the veggies. Yes, I was that kid, and still am at 46.

So, how do I get my veggies, I have some that I love and we have them with dinner each night, some days I have Caesar salad w meat on it for lunch, but my Shakeology fills in the missing nutrition. #winning

Why Shakeology?

I took this holistic nutrition class and learned about adaptogenic herbs. Cool things, those adaptogens… they help my body adapt to stress. I didn’t know food did that!!! Did you?? Adaptogenic herbs help my body detox and fight the stress of everyday life and the toxic substances that I breathe in and ingest.

Then, I learned that Shakeology has digestive enzymes and prebiotics and probiotics. Why does that matter? Have you heard of digestion? I know, stupid question… Digestion is the process of absorbing nutrients to fuel our body. Here’s the thing, we need digestive enzymes to help absorb the good stuff and not the bad, we need prebiotics to help feed the probiotics. Those probiotics help digest the food we eat so we can absorb the nutrients. These enzymes and natural organisms used to be in our food.

Ever heard of phytonutrients and antioxidants? These are the super greens and funny sounding plants that provide immune benefits. Did you know with a healthy immune system you can fight off almost any disease there is, including cancer? I know I sound like a nut, trust me, it was new to me when I first heard it too. I am a total believer though, I’ve seen too many people get healthier by committing to holistic nutrition.

Did you know that antioxidants actually are like a detox for your body? Seriously! Isn’t that cool!? They help eliminate free radicals. What are free radicals? There are toxic substances that float around in our bodies from different environmental assaults (foods, stress, organisms, chemicals, etc.). Antioxidants eliminate those free radicals… SWEET, give me some! I’m all for free, but not when it comes to toxins in my body, that’s what weakens my immune system. Not cool!

So, what else do I need to tell you?? Oh, yea, there IS protein in Shakeology. What I found in the past was most protein shakes are whey or soy, both are inflammatory for most people. (More about chronic inflammation and how it contributes to disease here.) Whey, soy, and too much protein are going to cause weight gain, which is not what most people are looking for.

My choice for protein is plant-based proteins: quinoa, oat, rice, flax, chia, and pea. Why? flax and chia have omega 3 fatty acids which are good fats that my body needs. I don’t want whey because dairy is inflammatory. I significantly limit soy because soy is bad for our endocrine health, want to know more -> read this.

You see, Shakeology is my way of getting 70 different anti-inflammatory foods, most of which I don’t know how to source or prepare. That’s A LOT of holistic nutrition in a tasty treat, folks!

Superfoods are super important for the long-term health of your body. If you’d like to know more about the choices I make, reach out, let’s chat. If you want to join my groups, I’m happy to be your health coach, we ALL need a health coach (mine makes my world a much easier place to navigate). If you want to contact me via my coach website or order Shakeolgy, start here, or you can find me on Facebook @ Katie Pink Tolley

I hope you find a way to make your wellness journey enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all get by with a little help from our friends. 😉

If you’d like to hear what’s so special about Shakeology from the developer herself (yes, HER, one of my heroes, Isabelle), click here.

Oh, I should probably add the health issues that I had that are almost non-existent now that I practice an anti-inflammatory lifestyle 90% of the time along with adding in Shakeology: Asthma, Allergies, Thyroid imbalance, Eczema, Restless Leg Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrom, Constipation, Anxiety, ADHD, Sleep problems, constant stomach pain, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Disorder. Yea, that’s tiring to even think about, so glad I found holistic nutrition and these superfoods. They’ve changed my life, actually, now I can live my life! #golden

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Graphic compliments of Beachbody

As always, Enjoy the Journey & Be Well. ~kp

What IS Gluten Anyway?? – Digestive Health Lesson #4

gluten-freeGluten is the latest buzz word in nutrition.

But, so many people have no idea what it is.

When friends of mine with PhD’s start asking for more info, it’s time for an article about gluten and why it’s a problem.

So, What is Gluten??

Gluten is a the protein found in the seed of wheat, barley, and rye.

the-gluten-protein-is-mainly-found-in-the-endosperm-of-grain-kernel-seedHere is definition from Celiac.org:

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.
Read more here.

Why is it a problem? 

Gluten per se isn’t the problem for everyone (more on that below). It’s the amount of gluten in the standard american diet, and the tampering of the native seed.

When you look at the diets of most Americans, approximately 80% of meals have a gluten component. There is too much bread, breading, pasta, crackers, croutons, tortillas, etc. in our meals.

Gluten can be inflammatory for many people, too much gluten can be inflammatory for anyone. Inflammation can lead to other chronic diseases, I talk more about that in my article explaining how Inflammation is the root of most disease.

Chronic inflammation occurs because of a process called Intestinal Hyperpermeability, aka, Leaky Gut. I explain this process and how it leads to chronic inflammation in my first digestive health article.

The lifelong health issues I have come from being sensitive to gluten and dairy, but I do not have Celiac Disease and my sensitivity does not show up on allergy testing. That means absolutely nothing though. I learned more about Gluten sensitivity from a GI Specialist last spring during a Pediatric Conference at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Here are the numbers he shared…

  • 10% of our population has Celiac Disease
    • These people CANNOT eat gluten without major symptoms.
    • Many people in our population are undiagnosed, continuing to eat gluten will cause multiple health problems. Think ADHD, Thyroid issues, Irritable Bowel, Autism, Epilepsy, and the list goes on.
  • 40% of our population has Gluten Sensitivity
    • Symptoms are more subtle than Celiac Disease; stomach pain, headache, sinus issues, eczema, constipation, brain fog, lethargy, food cravings, mood swings, depression, anxiety, focus issues, etc.
    • It will get worse.
    • It will cause chronic inflammation and intestinal hyperpermeability.
    • It will most likely cause Celiac Disease if gluten is continually consumed, and will definitely lead to a host of other disease processes. (Please refer to the digestive health articles above for more details.)
    • **If you read some research, please note, some people in modern medicine will tell you there is no way to confirm gluten sensitivity. THIS IS NOT TRUE!! There is a way for doctors to check for gluten sensitivity!! It’s as easy as running a simple blood test for gluten immunoglobulins. I know this, because that’s how we found out my son cannot have gluten. When his Holistic Doctor did labs, the antibodies for gluten and wheat were 5-6 times normal. His Celiac tests and allergy tests are negative. I also know this because one of the top specialist in GI Pediatrics told me all the same stuff himself with research and a groovy powerpoint presentation!

One of the biggest reasons we need more awareness and sensitivity is the vast amount of food that contains gluten, and the vast amount of people, especially children that should not be eating it. If we look at the percentages above, 50% of our population should avoid gluten, yet, 80-90% of our public food choices contain gluten.

THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM FOR OUR CHILDREN AND FOR OUR FUTURE!!!brain-fog

If you think it’s hard to function as an adult with stomach pain and headaches and brain fog, try being a kid, sitting in school after eating mostly gluten for breakfast AND lunch and having anxiety and mood swings… Is it the kid? NO, it’s his food! AND IT’S CHANGING HIS FUTURE! And, he’s a problem in class sitting next to your kid, and that’s why you should care!

I could go on about how reducing our gluten intake has changed my family’s health, but I’ll invite you to read through my blog a little more to find that out, there’s plenty of evidence.

If you want to read how gluten breaks down in our system and causes damage, read how “Getting ‘Glutened’ is Drugging My Kid!!”

I share because I care. I want a better world for me and you and our children.

Please, practice wellness so you live a happier and healthier life. Your loved ones will be awfully glad you did! Enjoy the Journey! 🙂

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Photo compliments of glutenfreesociety.org 

 

 

Getting ‘Glutened’ is Drugging My Kid! I’ve had it!! (Digestive Health Series, Part 3)

 

So, What does getting ‘glutened’ look like?

A. Laziness, fatigue

B. Anxious, depressed, irritable, angry

C. Disoriented, unaware, spaced out, Cognitive dysfunction

D. Stomach ache, migraine, joint pain

E. All of the above and then some!!!

Anyone that has talked with me knows this is a hot topic for me. What angers me the most is the total disregard of our society for the people that have true dietary issues that are ignored by the general population, including much of the medical population. As a nurse practitioner, I don’t like to say we’re missing things in medicine, but… WE ARE MISSING THINGS!!!!

As a mom, I knew there was more to it, and I knew I needed to keep searching for answers. Never. Give. Up. That’s going to be the name of my book. I’m not really a very good writer, avoided it like the plague in school. I have no idea where to start with a book, but it’s a goal of mine, and I need to share our story with other families. Moms need to know that it is worth every bit of energy you use figuring out how to help your child. 

He is so bright, it puts him on a different level. Friends started noticing it before I did, he put concepts together that 2 year olds just didn’t put together. He was smarter than some of the adults in his world and it caused problems. Problems that gradually got worse as the years went on. There were jokes about Einstein being thrown out of school, he even has a hat with Al on it. But, seriously, it took a decade of lots of struggles and difficulties to realize he wasn’t going to get better with prescriptions or school accommodation or anything else traditionally done for bright, ADHD kids. We’d been trying for years, and things were just getting worse… WHY???  Continue reading

Digestive Health Lesson #2 – It all Starts with Inflammation

Dr. Tanya Edwards, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine (Cleveland), wrote that inflammation is now recognized as the underlying basis of a significant number of diseases.

Inflammation

Inflammation 101

Inflammation defined by the free online medical dictionary: 1. A localized protective response elicited by injury or destruction of tissues, which serves to destroy, dilute, or wall off both the injurious agent and the injured tissue.  2.The inflammatory response can be provoked by physical, chemical, and biologic agents, including mechanical trauma, exposure to excessive amounts of sunlight, x-rays and radioactive materials, corrosive chemicals, extremes of heat and cold, or by infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and other pathogenic microorganisms. Although these infectious agents can produce inflammation, infection and inflammation are not synonymous.

Dr. Edwards points out that anti-inflammatory foods have been used to combat Cancer and many other diseases, i.e.: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, many Autoimmune diseases, asthma. Here is the abstract from her article:  Continue reading

“Oh NO, NOT the BROWNIES” and Other Foods My Family (mostly) Aviods

“F#ck A Brownie!” Sorry(!), but, that was the initial, primal thought I had at 2:39 last night when all I wanted was a good night’s sleep! Nausea. Upset stomach. Pain. Hot and Cold Flashes. Explosive…. NOT a good night’s sleep. Damn my weak will power! I love brownies, but I hate can’t live with the way they make me feel. I know it’s not just the brownies, it’s the processed wheat flour in everything I ate yesterday.

So, why in the world did I eat it?? Well…. Continue reading

How the hell did that happen? 50 pounds later…

Growing up as an athlete, weight was not a problem… until my teen years. I stayed fit multiple ways; there was soccer, gymnastics, swimming, roller skating and ice skating, field hockey, tennis, weight training and the list goes on. As an adult, I controlled my weight by eating healthy, walking, weight training, waitressing, bartending, nursing, biking, swimming, pilates, yoga. I even taught pilates for a year when Drew Elizabeth was a baby. Best shape I’ve ever been in, and I was 35 and had 2 kids! I love pilates and thought I’d do it forever, but then I started my graduate program, and my exercise habits went to Hell, but it was a slow slide.

I was over 40 when my weight was creeping up, quickly, and I felt like a prisoner in my own body. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong… I gained 30 pounds in 8 months! It all started just after my brother’s wedding in April 2012. My goal has been to get back into that dress.

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April 2012, 40 years old and feeling good (before the gain).

So, when I hopped on the scale at the Y in January, I thought it was broken. I know that sounds like a joke, but, I really did. I went to my friend’s house. I told her I needed to use her scale, because I didn’t own one and the one at the Y had to be broken. I came back down the stairs stunned.

The scale wasn’t broken.

I gained 30 pounds in 8 months! WTF!

How the hell did that happen??? 

I had a plan. I joined the 3 month weight loss program at the Y.  I went to kick ass cardio classes at 5:30am, which is almost impossible for me (Fibro is a chronic fatigue disorder), but I did it. I was doing weight training, I was walking. I was working out 6-7 times a week, even won highest attendance in that contest. I lost 4 pounds in 3 months… What. The. Fuck. Excuse my language, there just is NO substitution. I have never had trouble losing weight. It’s never been easy, but I know how to get it done. Well, I thought I did. I was struggling.

Off to the doctors I went, primary doc, endocrine doc, neither of them thought there was a medical problem. Katie was just gaining weight, it happens when women turn 40. WHAT!?! NO! That was not acceptable. But, what was I to do. I kept struggling.

In March 2014, I was heavier than I had been when I was full term pregnant with either of my children. This couldn’t be happening. How was this happening. I was crying almost every day when I got dressed. I didn’t want to get dressed. I was depressed.

I went to a friend’s 50th birthday party and a college roommate’s wedding that month. I was so very happy for them, and I hated how I felt inside and how I looked on the outside.

I hid. These are the only pictures I can find of me at that time.

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Top right, February 2014, before I knew, I was swollen and inflamed. Left and bottom right are about 4 weeks into my purge. You can see my face is a bit less swollen. But, my stomach was so upset in both of these pictures. I can still remember, and it was almost 2 years ago.

I had an epiphany one day reading a Fibro blog, I clicked on a link to yeast allergy because I was somewhat familiar. I was worried I might have some of those symptoms.

O.M.G.!     Did I have some of the symptoms???     I. Had. Every. One. 

Let’s see if I can remember them all…

  • dry skin
  • constipation
  • bloating
  • stomach upset
  • asthma (it got so bad I went back on meds I hadn’t been taking for years!)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • eczema
  • thinning hair
  • yeast infections (yup, those kind of yeast infections!)
  • sleep problems
  • dandruff, with fungal patches on my scalp
  • UTI (never had a UTI except when I was prego)
  • major sugar cravings
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • acne
  • the list seems to go on and on…

It. Sucked.

So, what to do? Fortunately, I’ve got this friend… Thank God I have all kinds of knowledgeable friends. Remember, Kathy, the allergy RN from my allergy posts? Yeah, she got a text real quick. Not only did she agree with me, she thought the same thing when she’d seen me the previous week.

So, how do I fix it?!?!?

No biggie, just avoid the following:

  • Sugar
  • Processed, packaged foods
  • Vinegar, anything vinegar based
  • Leftovers past 24-36 hours old, they start to grow organisms, a healthy GI tract can tolerate this, mine could not.
  • Yogurt has a ton of sugar, beware.
  • All berries/grapes and other fruits with the S.minor fungal organism, that white mold that shows up after 5-6 days. Our GI system should be able to break that down, unless it’s inflamed and leaky, like mine was!
  • Breads with yeast (flatbread and crackers would be ok on occasion)
  • Wheat is a cross-contaminant, so I should avoid that too
  • Wine (!)(!problem!)(!ALERT!)(!ALERT!)(!problem!) I had to do all this AND avoid wine… it’s fermented. Oh, champagne is even more fermented. (A girl’s gotta have sip on occasion, so I do enjoy a glass of wine (or 2) here and there!)
  • Alcohol is fermented. (Vodka is distilled!!!)
  • Change your cooking oil to coconut and olive, be sure to buy quality items.
  • Balance your Omega 3 oils with your Omega 6 oils. (Fish oil, tuna, coconut, olive are Omega 3 sources.) I get my coconut oil here.
  • I’m sure there were more, but if you take a look, there isn’t much left.

So, that leaves veggies and meats with no marinade. Fun. It was going to have to be fun. But, I did come up with dinners like this one. This was actually last nights, and it was yummy.

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Chicken with fresh lemon, garlic, salt, pepper, italian spices over baby spinach with peas and sweet potatoes. Now that I’ve changed, I think this is scrumptious. Actually, it was!!

I’ve learned more about cooking with dry spices, and now wouldn’t do anything else.

I’ve learned that I prefer to put my meat on a bed of greens, and don’t really need salad dressing if I have it that way. Good luck finding salad dressing without vinegar or soy. Soy is a huge inflammatory. I avoid it at all cost, along with all the other inflammatory foods.

What I’ve learned in my research over the past few years is that inflammation is the root of most health issues, including obesity. Now that I know that, I look back at the struggles I had in my life with my weight, my fibro, my asthma, my skin, my irritable bowel, my anxiety, and it all makes so much sense. It was all because of food intolerances that I knew nothing about. I know I’m not alone… look at the obesity epidemic in this society.

I encourage anyone that has weight challenges to learn about inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. Knowing this knowledge will change your world.

Besides diet changes, what should you do:

  • Probiotic to help heal the gut; multiple lacto and bifido strains, specifically acidophilus, My family takes 40 billion units minimum and changes brand each month too.
  • Vitamins, I use B-complex, Vit C 1000mg, Vit D 2000-5000 IU each day. Most multis don’t have enough in them unless they are a high dose. In my recent readings, I’m learning more about the CRUCIAL role of Vit D, which is really a hormone, and essential.
  • Purge from the above foods for a minimum of 6-8 weeks, then you can slowly try to reintroduce some things. Still only eat them on occasion. Adding fermented foods back into your diet is helpful for a healthy gut.
  • Exercise, at least 3/x week, but daily activity is important.
  • Find ways to manage your stress, this is crucial! Cortisol changes everything. High cortisol makes is really hard to be healthy in multiple ways.
  • 8 hours sleep should be a minimum. WE HEAL WHEN WE SLEEP!!
  • Change your cookware to avoid non-stick chemicals like teflon. I use solid ceramic Xtrema by Ceramcor.
  • I have found that eating Paleo, or close to Paleo is the way to go for me. I have decreased my grain intake significantly.

Well, there wasn’t a damn thing easy about it. I honestly didn’t think I’d see the day I got back into the dress I wore to my brother’s wedding. But I have, comfortably… pictures the next time I have an event! 😉

This was part of my journey that was and continues to be a real struggle. I wanted to share, because I think there are an awful lot of people out there going through what I went through. You don’t have to.

Of all the chapters I’ve lived, I must say, this was a toughy. I have learned an awful lot from this part of my journey, and now I can share some pretty important health information with others.

I knew I needed to write this post 2 years ago. I hoped my journey would bring me here. I can’t tell you how overwhelmingly happy I am that I am writing and telling you all about it. I hope it helps you.

Nothin’ easy about it! We HAVE TO help each other.

Enjoy the Journey!! 😉

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January 2016, 44 years old, 50 pounds lighter than my max weight. BAM! HELL YEAH!

 

Springtime & Sneezes…You might have allergies if…

AAAACCHHOOOO! Excuse me! We’re having a little problem with allergies already this spring, how about you?!? It’s Springtime and allergies are in full flare! I love Spring, it is my favorite season! The grass is so green, the flowers are so pretty and brilliant, the birdies are singing, the air is warming up, what’s not to like? Well, ok, yes, the pollen and allergens that travel up our nose as we begin to venture back outside.

Can you recognize the symptoms??? Some patients tell me they don’t have allergies,  they just have a cough.

  •  Well, if that cough is nagging you mostly at night and when you wake in the morning, you might have allergies.
  • If you wake up and have to clear your throat or blow your nose, you might have allergies.
  • If your child is coughing when they first wake up, it sounds a little wet, or a little hoarse, but then goes away in 30-45 minutes or so, they might have allergies.
  • If you sneeze, you might have allergies.  
  • If you have a sore, scratchy throat, but no fever, you might have allergies. (It is always a good idea to have a sore throat check out with your doctor or NP, if it’s strep, it has to be treated.)
  • If you have a clear runny nose that doesn’t get worse and doesn’t go away, you might have allergies.
  • If you have itchy, watery eyesyou might have allergies. 
  • If your child has asthma and is wheezing, it may be worsened by allergies.

There are many people that don’t think they have allergies, but they might…. ;-). Keep in mind that if you notice these symptoms year round, your allergies may be indoor and outdoor. The best way to determine if you have allergies is to see your primary care provide or an allergist. My allergy doc and his RN/Allergy Specialist wife, are a great resource for me! If you are local, email me and I will give you their contact info. They would be happy to help!

So, what can you do about your allergies so that you can enjoy the great outdoors???

  • If you don’t typically suffer from allergy problems, a netty pot can be a great way to help clean out those sinuses. I have friends that swear by their nasal rinses! You will want to microwave or boil the water before using the netti pot…of course, you should allow it to cool to room temperature before doing the rinse. 
  • Taking an antihistamine such as Claritin or Zyrtec can be helpful. I usually recommend Allegra if these first 2 aren’t helpful.
  • Nasal sprays such as Flonase or Nasonex can be quite helpful. They help to reduce the swelling and secretions caused by allergens.
  • Nasal sprays and oral medications can be a good combination therapy. If you’ve tried this without relief, I recommend seeing an allergist.
  • Eye drops such as Zatidor or Pataday can be helpful as well. Check with your health care provider to be sure this is the appropriate treatment for your family.
  • Wash your hair every night!! As we go though the day, all kinds of allergens sit on our hair. If we don’t wash them off, they are on the pillow. Laying on a pillow full of allergens all night is just as bad or even worse than being outside.
  • Keep your windows closed! The first thing I want to do when the weather warms up is open the windows. My husband runs behind me closing them all up again because he and Joshua have bad allergies. Keeping the windows closed keeps the allergens out!
  • Get rid of carpet and heavy drapes that hold dust and allergens. Hard floors and blinds are much easier to keep clean.
  • Buy hypoallergenic pillow and mattress covers. I am not even going to mention all the allergens (dust mites,etc) that can be trapped in pillows.
  • When you are cleaning the house, wet dust and wet mop. Sweeping and dry dusting just moves the dust around. Investing in a vacuum with a good HEPA filter to trap the allergens can be helpful also. Many vacuums just blow the dust right back out.
  • Immunotherapy: Allergy shots provide small exposure to specific allergens to help the immune system build up antibodies against the allergen. Immunotherapy works!
  • Don’t forget that Hydration can be helpful! If you learn nothing else from me, you will learn the importance of hydration (see The Importance of Hydration for more info on adequate hydration)
  • Treating allergies can be tricky, don’t try to do it all by yourself.

Please keep in mind that untreated allergies can cause increased problems for those with asthma and eczema. I see so many kids with eczema problems that are not on allergy medication, allergy medication may be key in controlling the eczema symptoms.

The secretions that come from inflamed nasal and sinus tissue can cause ear infections, sinus infections, and headaches. I have found that most people that suffer from allergies are allergic to grass and dust mites. So inside and outside, there is always exposure. These people should be on allergy medication year round.

There are a many different foods that cause allergies as well. Many people suffer from food sensitivities vs. food allergies. I suffered from occasional stomach pain and Irritable Bowel Symptoms all my life, and finally found that I have food sensitives.  Food sensitives can present as stomach pain, bloating, vomiting, dry skin, eczema and other allergy symptoms.  Allergy testing, diagnosis, and treatment can be tricky. Just because the test is negative doesn’t mean you don’t have a sensitivity to that substance. I’ve talked to Kathy, RN my best allergy source at the office and we both agree that an negative allergy panel is not conclusive; there is no way to test for the millions of substances that are floating around in this world.

Well, I hope I’ve given you enough info to help you through the Spring. I talk more about food allergies and concomitant allergies in another post, Don’t eat that egg…You’re allergic to Ragweed.  Concomitant allergies are foods that will make allergies worse. One example is avoiding apples during the season when oak trees are blooming. Another is avoiding milk, egg, and mint if you have a ragweed allergy. So, as you can see, allergy testing can be helpful!

I think it’s time end this post and go wash my face and hands… My cat came and sat down next to me about 10 minutes ago, which usually doesn’t bother me, but I was petting him for a few minutes, and apparently touched my face, and now my eyes are all itchy and watering…. Still love my Jersey cat though! He’s a big, beautiful, black tom cat that will be 17 next month. He’s a sweety! Glad I didn’t know I had a cat allergy before I got him. Although, I had a sneaky suspicion when I got my Persian back in college and needed my inhaler every couple hours to breathe comfortably the first few days.  After I got used to her, things got better, I should have known then. I guess I did, but I love cats, and denial is a powerful defense mechanism! 😉

Please let me know if you have more questions about allergies, and I will do my best to help you Enjoy your parenting journey!

What’s that cough all about??

Hi all! I hope you are doing well, ’cause there are lots of sick kiddos out there.  I have been so busy in the office, I haven’t had time for a post, so this one is going to be full of info for you.

So many kids are coughing!  I’m sure you are nodding your head in agreement right now.  What I’m noticing is a common goal: Most parents just want the cough to go away!  Well, of course they do, so I…. it’s the same in my house.  Drew Elizabeth has been coughing on and off for months; but, that’s life in Kindergarten.   Joshua coughs and sneezes and clears his throat every morning, which has got to be disturbing to him, it is to the rest of us.

With all of this coughing going on the real question is WHY IS MY CHILD COUGHING?? 

A cough is the body’s way to protect itself.  The real goal for parents and pediatric providers is to determine what is causing the cough? Is it post nasal drip, congestion from a cold, asthma, croup, pneumonia??   Figuring out what is causing the cough is the first step in figuring out how to treat the cough.  Treating a cough with a cough suppressant is not a good idea, the cough is there for a reason.

If your child has a cold (upper respiratory infection or URI), the congestion may be causing the cough.  URI symptoms are cough, congestion, runny nose (clear or yellowish), low-grade fevers (<102F), decreased appetite, disturbed sleep and overall they feel kind of miserable. The congestion from a cold usually runs down the throat, causing the body to cough.  Coughing is the body’s defense mechanism to keep the congestion from travelling down to the lungs.  Colds are caused by viruses, rhinovirus, adenovirus, etc.

Some viruses cause Croup.  Croup is caused by inflammation of the airway and vocal cords during a URI.  This causes a “barky” sound that is SCARY the first time you hear it. I freaked out the first time Josh had croup, at 2am my first thought was asthma attack because he looked like he couldn’t breath and his eyes were as big as eggs! He looked terrified, which terrified me!  If this happens to you in the middle of the night, do the tried and true steamy shower trick. As soon as you can, take a trip to the doctor for a dose of steroids and that cough won’t sound so scary.

Antibiotics will not get rid of a virus, antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses.  Viruses typically last 7-10 days, with symptoms worsening over the first 3-5 days.   The best way to treat the cough is by trying to dry up the congestion.  I usually recommend an antihistamine or decongestant to help.  Check with your medical provider to see if this is proper treatment advice for your child.

Specific treatment options should be discussed with your primary care provider (PCP).  Children that do not start improving within a week should be evaluated for ear infections, pneumonia or other complications.  Children with symptoms that get bad quickly should be evaluated sooner.   Infants with lots of congestion and runny nose should also be evaluated sooner.  Babies are at higher risk for complications from viruses that older children and adults can easily fight off.

Pneumonia, a lower respiratory infection, can be a serious complication from ongoing cough and congestion. Children that have pneumonia will often present with symptoms other than cough, but not always.   These children will typically have little energy, and tire more easily when playing. Children with pneumonia will often have difficulty taking a deep breath, or doing so may be painful and will cause lots of coughing. These children are often compensating by doing lots of shallow breathing, and their breathing may be faster than usual.  Keep in mind fevers can also cause fast breathing and rapid heart rate. Children with pneumonia will often run a fever, but not always.  Another red flag with pneumonia is a cough that went away, or you thought it went away… The cough that is wet, thick and sounds bad, and then just disappears, may be a sign that there is fluid in the lungs that is inhibiting the child’s cough.  These children often look sick and have little energy, but again, not always.  If your child has a cough for more than a week that doesn’t get any better, but continues to linger, please have your child evaluated.  Children of all ages get pneumonia. I’ve treated just as many teens with pneumonia as younger children this winter.

Vaccinate against Pneumonia: You can help protect your children under the age of 5 years old with a vaccine.  Please check with your doctor to be sure that your child has had all of their pneumonia vaccines; this vaccine protects against 13 different organisms that cause pneumonia.  Children over the age of 2 years old with asthma or other chronic health conditions should consult with their doctor to see if they should have an additional pneumonia vaccine that is for people of all ages; this vaccine protects against 23 different causes.

Coughing can be a symptom of asthma.    Children with asthma will cough because of inflammation and secretions in the airway.  Children with asthma may not look like they are having difficulties breathing because they will breath more shallow to compensate.    Frequently, parents and children do not even realize this is happening.  I treated a little girl (8 yrs old) yesterday for asthma that was flaring because she has a cold.  The child’s symptoms were cough and congestion.  When I evaluated her, I discovered she was moving very little air in her lungs, but didn’t look bad at all.  Mom had not realize she needed her asthma treatments because her symptoms were so mild.  After giving her a nebulizer treatment in the office, she was able to move air in and out of her lungs more easily.   URI’s frequently cause children with asthma to have increased breathing problems.  Even if the child has not needed daily treatment in the past, they may while they have a URI.  Without a proper physical assessment, it is not possible to determine if a child is coughing because of asthma.  Please consult your provider to create an Asthma Care Plan for your child.  This plan should include treatment for mild, moderate, and severe asthma symptoms.  Asthma symptoms are often exacerbated by allergies, this should be addressed by your providerChildren cannot be diagnosed with asthma with one visit or one incidence of breathing difficulties.  Asthma is a diagnosis of chronic/ongoing incidence. 

If a child has allergies, they usually have a nighttime cough, but this cough goes away during the day.  These children will often cough, sneeze, and clear their throat for a while in the mornings.  Yes, this does sound like Joshua.  Zyrtec is often helpful for him, but at almost 10 years old, I let him chose if he is going to take it.  Recently, he has chosen no; so, the morning sneezing continues.  As April approaches  his allergy symptoms will get worse, and I will strongly encourage 😉 him to take his Zyrtec every night.  Joshua’s allergies are tricky to say the least, but that’s for another day.  If you think your child has allergies, check with your doctor to see if your child displays other silent allergy symptoms.  Allergy medication can be helpful, but you should always consult with your pediatric provider before starting a chronic medication.  I’ll talk about allergies in a future post, the season is not too far off.

I enjoy sharing my advice, and encourage you to consult with your pediatric care provider about all of your child’s healthcare needs and concerns.  Think of your Doc, PA, or NP as your partner in parenting and caring for your child. That is what I hope I am for all the families that I work with.  The journey is a challenging one, the more we stick together, the better parents we can be!

I hope you enjoy the journey, even with the coughs and runny noses! 😉