Don’t blame teething for baby’s ills

Posted by on 4:43 pm in Babies, Featured, Illness, Milestones, Normal or Not?, Sleep | 0 comments

Don’t blame teething for baby’s ills

Teething has had a bad reputation for over 5000 years. Hippocrates, Homer, and Aristotle associated teething with serious diseases1. Since then teething has been blamed for ailments from seizures, to infections like cholera, meningitis, tetanus and even penile discharge. In 18th century France, about half of all infant deaths were attributed to teething. Obviously, it’s ridiculous to blame the eruption of a new tooth for life-threatening disease, but teething is still widely thought to cause fever, diarrhea, irritability, poor sleep and drooling. Teething is uncomfortable. But it’s mostly coincidence that kids are a mess when they are teething. First of all, they cut new teeth from about 6 months, until sometime around 3 years. So there is virtually never a time when they are sleeping poorly, have a fever or diarrhea, when they aren’t ALSO getting a new tooth. They are always teething, so their symptoms aren’t necessarily due to a new tooth. Second, babies’ first tooth erupts in the center of their lower jaw at the same age when kids really start to explore their environment. They put their hands on everything they can grab and then shove them in their mouth because they just learned how to do that. And they probably do have some amount of gingival discomfort with those new teeth coming in, so they like to chew on the grocery cart handle, their friend’s toy, and frankly, anything they can find that is covered in infectious virus particles. And they haven’t quite built up their grown-up immune system, so they get sick. I’m not just making this up. Research supports this germ theory of teething-related fever and diarrhea. A summary of 10 studies on teething (a “meta-analysis”) 2 showed that teething absolutely does not cause fever. The most common teething-related symptoms were gum irritation in 86% of kids, and irritability in 68%. One of the studies3 included in this analysis compared 236 toothdays (days when new teeth were erupting) to 895 non-toothdays in 21 babies at a daycare center. They examined the babies mouths, took their temperatures and asked parents and daycare workers about symptoms. They found that fever, sleep disturbance, drooling, diarrhea, and rashes were not at all related to the timing of baby tooth eruption. It’s time to exonerate teething. Despite the evidence, both parents and physicians still hold incorrect beliefs about teething. And placing the blame for fever, diarrhea and even fussiness on teething prevents parents from addressing poor sleep and fussiness. Just as a child with language delay might benefit from early intervention, so would a child with poor sleep benefit from sleep training more than pain medication or teething tablets. Besides, using teething remedies can be dangerous. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recently advised against using homeopathic teething remedies when a lab analysis of some homeopathic teething pills found greater amounts of deadly nightshade (belladonna) than were on the label. Symptoms of belladonna include seizures, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, skin flushing and agitation. Similarly, topical pain relievers with benzocaine (e.g. Orajel) have long been known to cause serious side effects. So, what should you do for teething? During the day, a baby can easily be distracted from the minor discomfort so just show them a new toy or tickle them. Or try cold fruit inside a Fresh Food Feeder....

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How to rehydrate kids with stomach flu

Posted by on 10:03 am in Babies, Featured, Illness, Poop, School-Age Child, Toddlers | 0 comments

How to rehydrate kids with stomach flu

Most kids don’t need intravenous (IV) fluids to get back on their feet after a bout of vomiting or diarrhea. Here’s what you need to know to get through the stomach flu: Give frequent, small sips of fluids. Offer a drink even if your child is vomiting every 5-10 minutes — which is common during the first few hours of being sick. Their stomach will absorb enough of the fluid before they vomit again and you can prevent dehydration if you get a head start on replacing lost fluids. You can’t make an infant drink if they don’t want to. So if a baby (or grouchy toddler) won’t drink willingly, use a medicine dropper or syringe to squirt fluids into their mouth. Start with 1 teaspoon (5ml) every 5 minutes and then increase the amount slowly when the child stops vomiting. Try 15ml every 15 minutes, and if they don’t vomit that amount, offer an ounce (30ml). If they keep down an ounce, then you can let them drink as much as they want. The goal is to not stretch out the stomach with a large volume of fluid that will just make them vomit again. Slow and steady wins the race here. Your choice of drink is important. Drinks that are too sugary, like sports drinks and juice, will actually cause diarrhea. And chicken broth has too much sodium and isn’t absorbed well. What about water? That’s the worst choice. The lining of the intestine has tiny passages that carry fluid into the blood stream. These passages are unlocked by a specific combination of sugar and sodium. That’s why there are ready-made rehydration drinks. Pedialyte and other commercially available electrolyte drinks have the optimal ratio, but some kids don’t like the taste. A recent study showed that watered-down apple juice (1:1 ratio) is extremely effective at preventing dehydration in kids with the stomach flu. I also love popsicles because kids can’t drink them fast. See my post that explains why popsicles are a legit stomach flu treatment. Why juice, soda and broth aren't the best choices The high sugar concentration in fruit juice and soda holds water in the intestine. Instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream the liquid will continue to travel through your intestine and come out the other end as diarrhea. Fluids with far more sodium than sugar (chicken broth) have insufficient sugar to make the intestinal water pump function properly to bring water from the intestines into the blood stream. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO) has worked for decades to determine just the right formula for rehydration fluid. Even if a child is moderately dehydrated, drinking liquids has been shown in many studies to be equally effective to an IV. If your child won’t take Pedialyte offer them any other fluid you think they will drink. Any drink is better than nothing. Once a child becomes dehydrated they will feel awful and it will be even harder to get them to take fluids. Baby got a fever? If they vomit their fever medicine, rectal acetaminophen is an ideal option. Let me tell you why!  ...

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What’s autism, what’s not?

Posted by on 5:05 pm in Babies, Featured, Language, Milestones, Normal or Not?, School-Age Child, Toddlers | 0 comments

What’s autism, what’s not?

Don’t freak out if you catch your child head-banging, echoing others words’ or hand flapping. Yes, those are symptoms of autism, but they don’t define your child as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Every regular developing kid will do many of the same things that autistic kids do at some point. Many “autistic” behaviors are part of normal development and are simply stages kids go through as their nervous system wires itself for adulthood. People with autism just stick with some of these behaviors for too long or do them too often. Kids with ASD have a different operating system than other children. What’s even more complicated is that children with autism can be vastly different from one another, which is why its’ called a “spectrum”. But at the very heart of autism, all kids on the spectrum have a few things in common: they have abnormal social interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of interests. Parents with 16-30 month old toddlers can screen for ASD using the 20-question M-Chat screening tool. If your child tests positive on this questionnaire, 95% of kids will eventually be diagnosed with some developmental disorder. However, only about 45% will actually be diagnosed with autism. That’s because lots of other diagnoses have symptoms that look like autism, but are nothing more than a similar looking manifestation with an entirely different root cause. For example, ADHD can look like autism because ADHD symptoms include inattentiveness and impulsiveness. So if a child is inattentive to language and other social cues, they may seem to have autism. But really they have attention problems. Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential, because the treatments are so different. Kids who have a suspected diagnosis of autism often turn out to have anxiety, a language delay, or selective mutism (the inability to speak in certain situations, but able to speak in comfortable environments). Parents are extremely accurate when they have concerns about their child’s development. So if you are worried, your concern is probably valid. However, the issue is most likely not what you fear. So talk to your pediatrician. In the meantime, your child probably does NOT have autism if he or she: Looks at an object when you point at it Pretends to talk on the phone, or pretends to feed a doll Points to show you something that they want you to see also Smiles back when you smile at her Tries to copy you (claps when you clap, makes a funny noise when you make a funny noise) Tries to get you to watch them do something, looks at you for praise or wants your attention Looks at you to see your reaction if something surprising or new happens Follows your directions – like “put the book on the chair” or “bring me a diaper”...

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How to outsmart mosquitos and prevent bites

Posted by on 5:40 pm in Babies, Illness, Injury, School-Age Child, Toddlers | 0 comments

How to outsmart mosquitos and prevent bites

Yes, you should be worried about mosquitos transmitting Zika. And you should be just as worried about dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile, and several other diseases. About 700 million people are infected every year around the world and some get really sick. Even if you don’t get sick, bug bites are easily infected by dirty kid hands scratching their itch. Plus, bug bites are just annoying. Here’s how to avoid them: Step 1: Understand the enemy Mosquitos lay their eggs in little insect “nurseries” like birdbaths, discarded cups, and old tires. Even small areas of standing water provide a soup of organisms they can feed on – it’s like mosquito Enfamil. Once they grow up, all mosquitos feed on plant nectar. However, females need protein and other nutrients found only in blood so that they can produce new eggs. So mosquito mothers-to-be have special chemical and heat sensors to help them search out carbon dioxide and octenol in our breath and sweat. Every person has a unique smell signature that make some people more fragrant to a mosquito than others. (Ooh..is that Octenol no. 5 you’re wearing?) There’s nothing you can do to change your scent – not even eating garlic, onions or other malodorous foods, so don’t bother trying.   How do bugs bite? Once a female mosquito locks on to your smell, their mouthparts bite through your skin and their hypopharynx wiggles around until it finds a capillary. It punctures through the wall of the capillary and pumps blood out and saliva in. Their saliva keeps our blood from clotting and makes most of us itch (but not everyone – some people do get bit, but they don’t react to mosquito saliva).   Step 2: Protect yourself Reduce the number of mosquitos in your area by getting rid of any standing water in your yard (tarp folds, kiddie pools). And protect your family from getting bit. Most species of mosquitos feed at dawn or dusk, so that’s when you need to stay inside or use insect repellent. For young kids, use an insect net over their stroller. Cover as much skin with clothing as is comfortable and try hats with insect screens. If you plan to be outside, there are lots of insect repellent options.   Step 3: Repel the critters Insect repellents work by blocking insects’ sense of smell; some even confuse their sensors to make your good scent smell bad. Permethrin – effective against mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and chiggers – Permethrin is not actually a repellent. It causes nervous system toxicity in insects. So they either leave or stay and die. Permethrin can only be used on clothes. DEET is very safe and the most effective repellent, it can be safely used in pregnancy and in babies after 2 months. However, DEET can damage plastic and synthetic fabrics (e.g. rayon and spandex ) so be careful around your $98 yoga pants! DEET is available in products up to 70% concentration, but 30% is plenty. If you’re worried about toxicity, there are microencapsulated formulations (e.g. 3M Ultrathon), which increase repellency while reducing skin absorption. Picaridin is plant-derived. The benefit is that it is odorless, non-sticky, and non-greasy – so kids won’t complain when you smear it on. It is available in several...

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5 dangers worth worrying about

Posted by on 12:38 pm in Injury, School-Age Child, Toddlers | 0 comments

5 dangers worth worrying about

I only have 3 rules for my own kids; wear helmets, buckle up and brush your teeth. Otherwise, I let my kids run, jump and play without much intervention. But that’s because I’m a pediatrician that works in an emergency room and I know what’s really dangerous. Your child is far more likely to be harmed by things you aren’t even thinking about. Here’s what makes my palms sweat:   1. CHOKING New parents choose baby’s first solid foods carefully to make sure they are soft and small enough. But when kids are learning to eat they will gag, and struggle a little as they tackle new textures. Kids have a built in safety mechanism that closes their airway if food is trying to get in. So an 18-month-old may gag and choke when they over ambitiously shove a taco in their mouth. But that’s how they learn to eat. Introduce a variety of textures and sizes of food for kids to tackle, particularly so they grow up to be adventurous eaters — and ignore their gagging and spitting noises. What choking hazards should you worry about? Popped balloons are one of the most dangerous, so I never take my eyes off a baby playing with a balloon. In the pediatric ER we see a lot of young kids who have swallowed coins and other objects. Typically it happens when the child is alone with their older sibling. So in terms of choking risks, leaving young children alone to play with older kids is a slightly riskier situation since older kids may have toys that are unsafe for young kids. And don’t let kids run with a lollipop or toothbrush in their mouth. While not a common injury, it can be very dangerous if a child falls and punctures their palate.   2. DOG BITES Parents worry about the cleanliness of animals because they often come to the emergency room explaining that they are concerned their child got sick from playing with a cat or dog. But don’t worry about a pet being “dirty,” there’s virtually no risk of infection from a dog lick. Instead focus your efforts to prevent dog bites. By far the most harmful animal injuries I see are from a friendly family dog attacking a child. Teach your child how to approach a dog and to never take something away from a dog. Every dog, no matter how mild-mannered, is capable of biting a child.   3. WATER You take your kids to swim lessons and warn not to run around the pool. But that’s not gonna keep kids safe around water. We can fix a cut chin or bruised knee from tripping on the pool deck. So why do swimming pools scare me? Kids drown right in front of you. Even older kids who know how to swim can drown. And unfortunately swim lessons really aren’t protective. Be sure to have a dedicated set of eyes on the pool at all times. Consider having a ridiculous looking “lifeguard” hat that you can pass around between adults at a pool party to designate that one person is always responsible for keeping an eye on the swimmers. And if you are visiting a house with a pool, make sure there is a locked door or gate between...

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The Sunscreen Scoop: recommendations for every age

Posted by on 6:26 pm in Babies, School-Age Child, Toddlers | 0 comments

The Sunscreen Scoop: recommendations for every age

Lost in the sea of sunscreen choices? Here’ s how to choose the perfect sun protection for every situation Although there is no perfect sunscreen, it’s a little easier to choose a good one these days. Older sunscreens were only designed to block UVB rays because they cause sunburn. But scientists recently discovered that although UVA rays don’t cause sunburn, they do cause skin cancer and photo-aging (aka wrinkles and age spots). SPF only measures the UVB protection of a sunscreen. Modern sunscreens protect against both UVB and UVA (look for the label “Broad-spectrum”). And sunscreen manufacturers are constantly re-engineering their products to make them easier to apply and longer lasting. So now there are billions of different products on the shelves. Here’s how to find the right protection for your family: Infants under six months Use hats, clothing and umbrellas to protect infants. Babies have a very thin outer layer of skin so they can absorb the chemical compounds in sunscreen. Plus, babies don’t detoxify chemicals they absorb as easily as older kids. Babies also make less melanin, the skin pigment that protects cells from UV radiation. So they are highly susceptible to DNA damage from the sun. If you can’t keep a baby in the shade, it’s better to use sunscreen in small areas of skin than to risk direct sun exposure. Look for sunscreens labeled for sensitive skin or babies. Infants over 6 months and toddlers I like sunscreen sticks for this age. Unless you can convince an 18 month old to stand still, sunscreen needs to be super-convenient to apply. Stick forms are easy to smear on the face, neck and ears, won’t drip into the eyes and they won’t inhale the fumes from a spray can. For the body, choose thicker white creams because at least when Phoebe runs away mid-application, you’ll know what areas you’ve missed. Also look for products labeled “no tears” because young kids often rub products into or near their eyes. Elementary-school kids Any sunscreen at all will do for this age. The key issue is to teach children the importance of sun protection since studies show this is when kids tend to stop using sunscreen AT ALL. Also, be aware that many sunscreen ingredients stop working after more than 2 hours in the sun, so if you (or your 4th grader) won’t remember to re-apply, look for “photo-stabilized” products with names like HelioplexTM, Active Photobarrier ComplexTM, AvoTriplexTM, SunSureTM, DermaplexTM, which are all forms of stabilized avobenzone, a UVA blocker. Teach children the important “life skill” of how to use sunscreen correctly and encourage use throughout life.   Tweens and Teenagers Gel-based sunscreens are a good choice for the acne-prone population or to put on hairy places and the scalp. Also, be sure to encourage daily moisturizer with SPF 30.   Choosing the best type of sunscreen is really important, but don’t ignore other methods of protection. Avoid midday sun Avoid direct exposure to the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV rays are the most intense. Encourage your kids’ sports teams to practice early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Wear sunglasses Ironically, your eyes are exposed to the strongest rays in the morning and late afternoon when the sun is lower and its...

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Bedtime snacks help kids sleep

Posted by on 7:59 pm in Babies, Eating, Normal or Not?, School-Age Child, Sleep, Toddlers | 0 comments

Bedtime snacks help kids sleep

If dinner is at 5:30 p.m. it makes perfect sense that your child will be hungry again at 8:30 pm. So, go ahead and give them a bedtime snack. They aren’t necessarily trying to postpone sleep; they might just need some calories to get them through the night. Toddlers who wake up with the sun may have a circadian rhythm that tells them to get up very early (and apparently tells them to wake everyone else!) But these kiddos might wake up early because they are hungry. Twelve hours is a long time not to eat! So if your little one doesn’t ask for a bedtime snack, consider whether they may need one. Some children might not feel the sensation of hunger or recognize they are hungry. But their brain can still send signals that wake them up. Two hormones, leptin and ghrelin regulate hunger. When we eat, leptin signals the body that we are satisfied and suppresses ghrelin, the hunger hormone. If you have enough leptin to suppress ghrelin all night you’ll sleep through the night. But when ghrelin is unleashed, your brain will be signaled to wake up and feed the body. Sometimes that happens at 2am. Consider this: you may not think you are serving breakfast at 5:15am when you give your toddler a big cup of milk. But that is exactly what you are doing. Try giving your early riser a snack before bedtime for a week and see if they sleep just a little later. And keep the bedtime bite to a snack – not a heavy meal. The digestive system slows down when we sleep, so eating too much can be uncomfortable or over-stimulating. Carbs help regulate the circadian rhythm Eating a steady amount of calories throughout the day improves nighttime sleep by regulating the circadian rhythm. Researchers from Japan’s Yamaguchi University found that eating a carbohydrate-rich snack in the evening may help reset your circadian clock. Insulin influences the crucial sleep-regulating gene PER2 (in mice studies). Since carbohydrates (like crackers and fruit) increase insulin secretion more than protein and fat, they also help regulate your body’s PER2 cycles so that you’re drowsy at the right time of day. Bedtime snacking may also help daytime behavior. Snacks definitely improve nighttime sleep, and good sleep improves kids’ behavior. But a bedtime snack can actually make a child more alert in the morning. And that means she may be more cooperative with putting on her shoes. Giving any snack in the hour before bed will suppress hunger all night, though some specific foods may be more sleep-inducing. High fat foods interfere with all aspects of sleep and high protein snacks seem to affect the quality of sleep. So, what should we serve? Pumpkin seeds and almonds – high in magnesium, which can relax muscles Milk, turkey and hazelnuts – high in tryptophan, an amino acid that converts into melatonin, which helps the body sleep Popcorn – carbohydrate-rich foods like popcorn increases tryptophan in the blood. Choose air-popped corn to reduce pre-bedtime fat consumption. Cherries, bananas and pineapples – any fruit is a good choice, they all have complex carbohydrates and are low calorie. Cherries have the highest concentration of naturally occurring melatonin. Kiwi – linked to longer sleep time in problem sleepers, possibly because its antioxidants...

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Righty or Lefty? When will you know?

Posted by on 2:10 pm in Babies, Milestones, Normal or Not?, School-Age Child, Toddlers | 0 comments

Righty or Lefty? When will you know?

Will your child be an accomplished athlete or mathematical genius? We grownups love looking for subtle clues to our child’s future self. Surely you’ve seen your baby reach with his left hand and wondered – could your genius-athlete be a lefty? A preference for one hand can be determined around 6 months. So if you suspect your baby is right-handed, you’re probably correct. However, children’s hand use fluctuates until kindergarten. For example, a completely normal child shifts between picking up objects with only their preferred hand, then a few weeks later using both hands equally. And they often shift from using mostly their right to using mostly their left hand several times before 18 months.   We have a stronger eye and ear; babies even have a preferred side for their leg kicks and head turns. Even unborn babies have a preferred side. In a study of 75 fetuses observed in utero and re-examined at age 12, all 60 right hand suckers were right-handed and 10 of the 15 left hand suckers were left-handed. So hand preference starts earlier than we thought!   There is good reason for this. Our brains are wired to make us ambidextrous during times when we are learning new motor skills. For example, kids who predominantly use their right hand will start using both hands equally when they are learning to crawl. In one study, researchers observed a group of kids in a task of taking a toy out of a box at the time when they were just learning to crawl . Right-handed kiddos used their left as often as their right hand during multiple trials of the task. Just as they were alternating their hands while crawling, they were alternating use of their hands while playing. When these same kiddos started taking their first steps they suddenly began using both arms together to open the box and take out a toy. They used their arms symmetrically for tasks during the time that they were precarious walkers. While walking they held their arms in a high guard position to control their balance. As soon as they became stable walkers, they began to lower their arms along the side of their body while walking and returned to one-handed reaching in the task. Hands look symmetric, yet we choose a favorite. And they look the same, but don’t work quite the same. While a young child will often have a preferred hand, there’s a difference between hand preference and true adult-like handedness – as in the dominant use of one hand, and relative clumsiness with the opposite hand. There’s no consensus about when complete handedness is attained: researchers put it anywhere between ages 3-12. Most studies have shown that a child’s preferred side is set by age 4. Children need time and practice to develop the performance difference that we see between the two hands in adults. Practice using one hand more than the other helps us become coordinated at precise tasks like sewing and holding a pen. So there is a period of several years when kids refine their fine motor skills and they may occasionally use their non-dominant hand, particularly when they are learning new skills including cutting with scissors and drawing. 90% of the population is right-handed. When babies pick a favorite hand there is definitely a genetic influence,...

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The secret to rolling over: an unpredictable milestone

Posted by on 9:58 pm in Babies, Milestones, Normal or Not? | 0 comments

The secret to rolling over: an unpredictable milestone

When and how should a normal baby roll-over and what does it mean? Rolling over is the most mysterious of the milestones. Some babies roll from front-to-back before they roll back-to-front and others choose the opposite order. Some babies roll over once and never again, and some babies log roll to get around rather than crawl. And all of the above are perfectly normal. Four months is the most typical age to start rolling, but anytime between 4 and 6 months is in the normal range. The age when your baby starts rolling over depends on a bunch of things: First, a baby has to develop their leg, neck, back, and arm muscles enough to twist their torso around. That’s why your plump infant might have a harder time rolling her cute little mass over. You can help develop her muscles by providing plenty of tummy time. And speaking of tummy time: babies enjoy it more when you give them some “belly bait.” Place an incentive like a mirror, toy, or your own face nearby to encourage your baby to reach out, arch his back, and exercise his torso. So the second ingredient to encourage rolling over is to keep that bait far enough away that he has to figure out a way to move towards it. Lastly, rolling over can be scary. Plenty of babies scare the poop out of themselves when they suddenly flip over and the entire room changes. It’s like time travel to them. And the scariest experience is when a baby rolls off a piece of furniture. So, whether you have seen your child roll over or not, once they hit about 2 ½ months, be extra careful about leaving a child on a raised flat surface. Babies love to surprise their parents with their first roll when it is most dangerous. And if their first roll is frightening they may avoid the motion altogether. Conditions have to be just right for a baby to roll over, and to keep doing it. So don’t worry if your child rolled over once and then stopped. And also don’t fret over which direction they rolled, or how old they were when they started. Whether your baby rolls over, wiggles, scoots, or jigs, as long as your child is trying to move their body towards objects in some manner they are developing normally . It is very common for a baby who can roll to stop rolling over. Usually non-rollers are busy working on another motor skill and most babies can only work on one skill at a time. So ask yourself what else she’s working on. It might be scooting or even just babbling a lot more. Learning to eat takes a lot of brain-power too, so her intellectual capacity may just be occupied by food. And don’t freak out that your baby will roll over and suffocate during sleep. If she has developed the ability to roll, she has also developed the ability to sense trouble when she’s sound asleep and will move her head to avoid being caught in a blanket. When should you worry? Tell your pediatrician if your child has not rolled over by 6 months and isn’t scooting, sitting, or locomoting in some other way. Another worrisome sign is if your child...

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The bright side of dark chocolate

Posted by on 6:40 pm in Babies, Eating, School-Age Child, Toddlers | 1 comment

The bright side of dark chocolate

Looking for the perfect Valentine’s gift or Easter surprise? Introduce your kids to the taste of dark chocolate and you’ll improve their health for eternity. Dark chocolate has many beneficial health effects on adults including improved cardiovascular health, cholesterol, insulin levels, and it even improves mood. Few studies have looked at these effects on children. However since it is scientifically proven that children grow up to be adults, introducing kids to the unique flavor of dark chocolate is great preventive medicine. Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients, healthy fats and anti-oxidants. One class of compounds found in chocolate, the alkaloids, include caffeine and phenlyethylamine (PEA). PEA is the same chemical that your brain makes when you are falling in love. PEA releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, all of which make you feel happy and relaxed. The powerful antioxidants in dark chocolate are anti-inflammatory and have such effects as protecting blood vessels and improving blood flow in the brain as well as increasing “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Finally, dark chocolate is full of minerals like potassium, zinc, iron and selenium that the body needs to maintain basic metabolic processes. The details of many of these positive effects are pretty well studied in adults with high blood pressure, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Though kids’ bodies are a little different, so these effects may not be as relevant. However, there are a few effects that we know are beneficial in children. The flavonoids in dark chocolate actually protect the skin from sun damage. Eating dark chocolate regularly before sun exposure reduced the redness from ultraviolet radiation by up to 25% in one study. The chemicals in chocolate increased the skin’s density and provided better skin hydration. You’ll still need sun block, but every bit of protection helps. Chocolate also helps regulate your appetite. Melting a small square of dark chocolate on your tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers hormones in the brain to signal that you’re full. Subjects in one study were brought to an all-you-can-eat buffet and ate far less after they had a square of dark chocolate. And a square after dinner prevents snacking later. There is a direct correlation between a country’s annual per capita chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel laureates. And for you pregnant moms who are avoiding sushi, soft cheese, wine and practically every other indulgence: Go ahead and eat dark chocolate! In one study dark chocolate reduced stress in pregnant moms and their babies smiled more than babies of non-chocolate eating parents. With so many important nutrients and health benefits, I advise you skip your child’s multivitamin and replace it with a square of dark chocolate every day! Be sure to look for chocolate with more than 70% cocoa for the most benefits. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it contains and the greater the positive effects. Happy Valentine’s Day!  ...

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