NBC-2 Interview of Dr. J. Brian Thornburg on the Appropriateness of BMI Screenings at School

BMI ChartWatch the NBC news video by clicking here.

By NBC-2

An 11-year-old’s weight is now the talk of the country after her story aired on the “Today” show and “Good Morning America.”

Lily Grasso is a star volleyball player, and by looking at her picture you can tell she’s far from obese.

But when school started last month, Lily brought home a letter from the Collier County Health Department that included results from her health screening.

Those results labeled her body weight “at risk.”

“I was crying when my parents told me the news was going to come, and I just didn’t know what people were going to say at school,” said Lily.

Her parents labeled it a “fat letter” that destroys a child’s self-esteem.

“I don’t think anyone will look at a letter and feel better about themselves,” said Lily’s mom, Kristen Grasso.

Doctor James Thornburg is a local Naples pediatrician. He says the body mass index can easily be off for athletes like Lily, adding that parents should follow up with their primary physician.

“It’s like any other static mark, you have to go find out what it really means because just a number on a piece of paper doesn’t really explain you as a person,” said Dr. Thornburg.

The Collier County Health Department says it has conducted the screenings for years, and has never received any complaints other than this incident.

“I was surprised because we don’t really get any complaints about this program” said Dr. Joan Colfer, with the Florida Department of Health and Collier County.

The department says whether the letters are sent home with children or mailed home is up to the school itself.

Department officials add the tests do more good than bad.

“These are important things that you need to find out about children early in life so you can make those corrections if needed,” said Colfer.

When asked if the department was considering a change in light of the incident, officials firmly said no.

“Absolutely not! This is a mandated by state law,” said Colfer.

Massachusetts is one state where representatives are trying to ban those screenings. Grasso’s mother wants the same push here in Florida.

“If we can change the law and get the tests out of schools even better,” said Lily’s mom.

Go with your gut. Stop problems before they start.

Gut healthBy Siri Carpenter

Once you’ve polished off a meal, you probably don’t give it much thought. But when you push away from the table, your gut’s work is only beginning — it will take between 9 hours and a day or two for the food you just ate to be fully digested. During that time, your stomach and small intestine break your food down into molecules that the small intestine’s thin lining can absorb, allowing essential nutrients — the energy stream that fuels every cell in your body — to enter your bloodstream. The lower part of your small intestine then wrings out the water remaining in your meal and ushers it into your colon, which funnels it into your bloodstream to help keep you hydrated.

As straightforward as this process sounds, the seemingly simple chore of digestion depends on a finely orchestrated series of muscular contractions, chemical secretions and electrical signals all along the 30-foot-long gastrointestinal tract. But there’s also plenty you can do to keep this operation running smoothly.

Follow its pace 
A rushed meal is out of sync with the creeping pace of the gut. Savor your meal. In a neat bit of mind/body magic, the thought, sight and aroma of good food jump-start the digestive process, signaling the stomach and salivary glands to secrete chemicals that will help break down food. Chew your food well so your gut doesn’t have to work as hard to break it down. Eat slowly to avoid gulping air, which will make you gassy, bloated and — thanks to the mind’s payback to the body — irritable.

Nurture its residents 
Gut-friendly bacteria use fiber, an indigestible carbohydrate, as their main food source, so eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, such as oats, barley, whole wheat and popcorn. Fiber also aids the passage of food and waste through the gut. Most adult women should aim for over 20 g of fiber a day; men should get at least 30 g. But again, go slowly: Increasing your fiber intake too quickly can cause gas and bloating.

Respect its opinions 
Even the most finely tuned machine has its quirks — if certain foods trigger GI problems for you, avoid them. Common heartburn culprits: acidic, spicy and fatty foods; caffeinated and carbonated drinks; chocolate; and onions.

Notorious gas producers include beans, onions and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage and radishes. (These veggies are loaded with vital nutrients, so don’t shun them altogether, but enjoy them in small doses.) The same goes for packaged low-carb treats and other foods containing artificial sweeteners — especially the sweetener sorbitol.

Lighten its load
People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from GI problems. Whatever your weight, though, regular exercise can help alleviate digestive distress. In a study involving 983 people participating in a weight loss program, the more physical activity people got each week, the fewer GI symptoms they had. Aim for at least 20 minutes of moderate activity each day.

It’s your second brain 
Your gut is also intimately involved in some intensely emotional business: We rely upon our gut instinct to tell us the right thing to do. We have a gut reaction to people who offend or delight us. We do a gut check when facing a challenge and congratulate ourselves when we display the intestinal fortitude, or guts, to take it on.

When you think about it, you won’t be surprised to learn that your gut, or “second brain,” is synced up with your real brain. Just think about how a bout of intense fear or panic can liquefy your innards — or, more commonly, when a cramp or brief wave of nausea alerts you to a nagging anxiety your mind had been working so hard to suppress. There’s a good reason your gut and your “first brain” communicate so seamlessly: Every class of neurochemical produced in the first brain is also produced in the second.

Another kind of chemical is the primary go-between for these two brains: stress hormones. When the brain detects any kind of threat — whether an impending layoff or a dustup with your spouse — it shoots stress hormones to your gut. Sensory nerves there respond by adjusting acid secretion and shutting down both appetite and digestion — a throwback to more dangerous times in our past, when we needed to summon all our resources to stand and fight, or flee. The result may be a nagging stomachache or a full-blown bout of GI distress.

Tummy trouble is the body’s way of saying, “Pay attention to what’s bugging you!” says clinical nutritionist Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, CCN, author of Digestive Wellness and Digestive Wellness for Children. “If my gut doesn’t feel right, my job is to figure out what’s out of balance.” Although resolving work or personal problems requires long-term strategizing, you can tamp down the symptoms of a troubled gut with these tried-and-true anxiety-reducing techniques:

Breathe into your belly 
Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and other practices that encourage mindful relaxation make the body less sensitive to stress, research suggests. Deep breathing, using the muscles of your diaphragm (you should feel your belly expand and deflate with each inhale and exhale), can also help calm your mind and release tension in your abdominal muscles, easing indigestion. Another way to calm the body’s autonomic nervous system — which regulates digestion, among other things—is through progressive muscle relaxation, tightening and then relaxing small groups of muscles beginning in your toes and working your way up to your face.

Go for easy workouts 
Moderate exercise is a known enemy of stress. (Whenever you can, exercise outdoors — natural settings help calm frayed nerves.) Start slowly and increase activity gradually — even a 20-minute stroll will help soothe nerves, improve digestion and reduce bloating, gas, and constipation by optimizing the passage of waste through your bowels.

Remember: Your ultimate goal in soothing a troubled tummy is to get clearer intuitive signals. When something really bugs you, your second brain will let you know loud and clear.

It’s your shield against germs 
If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know your gut is an uncompromising vigilante. When a nasty microbe hitchhikes a ride into the body on the back of real food, the gut quickly recognizes the interloper and strong-arms it to the nearest exit. To make the ID in the first place, it calls upon a reliable army of sentries, millions of immune system cells residing in its walls.

If the fact that the gut plays a major role in immunity sounds surprising, consider that the whole purpose of the immune system is to differentiate what’s you from what’s not you. Then consider that every day, you introduce pounds of foreign material — your daily bread — into your gut. The immune system has to decide what’s okay to let through and what’s not, so it makes sense to headquarter that process right where the food comes in.

This powerful system gears up from day 1. A newborn’s gastrointestinal tract is entirely germ free, but immediately after birth, pioneering bacteria begin to colonize it. The first few years of life, everyone’s gut develops a unique extended family of bacterial species, determined in part by genetics and in part by diet, hygiene, medication use and the bacteria colonizing those around us. Perhaps bacteria’s most important job: stimulating and training the body’s immune system and, by its overwhelming presence, crowding out more harmful critters.

The specific microbial mix (your gut contains thousands of species of bacteria) you wind up with has a big impact on your health. Besides making you more resistant to disease, the balance (or lack thereof) of microbes in your gut may lower your risk of obesity or influence your risk of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease. Clearly, this extended family deserves coddling. Just in time for cold and flu season, here are immune-boosting ways to protect it:

Steer clear of detoxes 
Colonic “cleansers” rid the colon of good bacteria and can cause overgrowth of bad bacteria.

Avoid overusing antibiotics 
They kill not only pathogens causing your ailment but also good bacteria.

Consume foods with probiotics
Look for yogurts and soy milks that contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. In addition to protecting against colds and flu and promoting healthful bacteria, probiotics can help relieve diarrhea caused by infection or antibiotics, irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohn’s disease.

Vitamin D supplementation prevents seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren

Vitamin D and fluSeasonal oscillation of influenza is prominent, its epidemic is explosive, and it ends abruptly. To explain this peculiar pattern, Cannell et al (1) hypothesized that the seasonal oscillation of serum vitamin D concentrations, which was recently discovered to up-regulate innate immunity, may affect the epidemic pattern of influenza. Vitamin D is mostly obtained from sun exposure; thus, serum vitamin D concentrations can be affected by season. In fact, serum concentrations of vitamin D have been shown to decrease in winter, the season when influenza occurs, to concentrations half those during the summer (1). In a post hoc analysis of side effect questions asked during a randomized controlled trial performed to determine whether vitamin D could prevent osteoporosis (2), cold and flu symptoms were reported 3 times less often in the vitamin D group than in the placebo group (3). However, although the authors conducted an additional randomized trial in 162 healthy adults, they could not reconfirm the benefit of vitamin D supplementation for the prevention of symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections (4). On the other hand, a significant inverse association between serum vitamin D intake and recent upper respiratory tract infections was seen in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (5). However, no rigorously designed clinical trials have evaluated the relation between vitamin D and physician-diagnosed influenza or delineated the necessary changes to prepare for an influenza pandemic (6). We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing vitamin D3 supplements with placebo in schoolchildren to elucidate whether preventive intake of vitamin D supplements during winter and early spring seasons can reduce the incidence of seasonal influenza A.

In this randomized clinical trial, daily supplementation with 1200 IU vitamin D3 in school children between December and March showed a significant preventive effect against influenza A, although no significant difference was observed for influenza B. A 10-d course of postexposure prophylaxis with zanamivir or oseltamivir resulted in only an 8% decrease in the incidence of symptomatic influenza in children (7). In contrast, daily dietary probiotic supplementation was a safe effective way to reduce fever and other symptoms in small children (8). Moreover, a significant preventive effect of a product containing echinacea, propolis, and vitamin C on the incidence of respiratory tract infections was observed in children (9).

In conclusion, our study suggests that vitamin D3 supplementation during the winter season may reduce the incidence of influenza A. This effect was prominent in specific subgroups of schoolchildren. Moreover, asthma attacks were also prevented by vitamin D3 supplementation.

© 2010 American Society for Nutrition

Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren1,2,3

Adding zinc, prebiotics to oral rehydration speeds diarrhea recovery

Gut healthChildren with acute diarrhea recover more quickly when treated with a hypotonic oral rehydration solution containing zinc and prebiotics than those given standard oral rehydration, an Italian group reports in The Journal of Pediatrics online September 9, 2010.

For parents, this meant less time off work — 1.49 vs. 0.39 days in the two groups, respectively.

“No adverse events related to the use of the ORS were observed in the study groups,” the researchers report.

Efficacy of a New Hypotonic Oral Rehydration Solution Containing Zinc and Prebiotics in the Treatment of Childhood Acute Diarrhea: A Randomized Controlled Trial
J Pediatr 2010.

Why We Choose Cloth Diapers

Cloth Diapersby Stephanie of “Mama and Baby Love”

I got Penelope’s size large cloth diapers this week and I thought I would take a moment to explain why we cloth diaper in the first place.

Surprisingly, cloth diapering has actually been a very pleasant experience. I thought it was going to be much more work. It is more laundry, but other than that, its pretty convenient. I do a load of diapers about every two days. About once a month, I hang the stained diapers outside on a clothes line to dry and it magically gets all the stains out. I have about twenty diapers in my stash. I do a dry pail system where I just throw the dirty diaper into a trashcan with a pail liner. When its time to wash them, I put everything in the wash, liner included and do one rinse cycle on cold and then a wash cycle with detergent on hot. I have to do two cycles in the dryer to fully dry them. We use a diaper called Dream Eze by the Natural Baby Company and they are a type of diaper that are called an All In One or an AIO. That means I don’t have to stuff any additional inserts to use the diaper. These types of diapers are most like disposables in that way, but they are also some of the more expensive cloth diapers on the market. I just put them on, snap her up and Penelope is ready to go. Even Peter is a pro at putting them on her. I used a Pocket diaper when she was a newborn, until she was about three months old. It was a diaper called Pocket Change by the same company, but they don’t make them anymore. I really liked those diapers, even though I had to spend extra time stuffing the inserts, because they were so trim. But I have really grown to love the Dream Eze diapers, and even though they are a bit bulkier than the Pocket Change, it’s not that bad, the only thing that she has a hard time fitting into are jeans. The company has discontinued the Dream Eze style as well, but has come out with a similar style and it’s a one size fits all. That means you have snaps in the front and the diaper ‘grows’ as your baby grows. The concept seems great, especially considering you save lots of money by buying only one size diaper. But I am glad I have three different sizes. I hate big bulky cloth diapers and the one size diapers seem like they would be pretty bulky, especially on a newborn, but I don’t speak from experience. I also use cloth wipes and make my own wipe spray, which is a piece of cake to make. I spray the solution on a cloth wipe and wipe her like normal. We bought all our diapers locally from a business called Ecological Babies. The owner, Jen, was super helpful and helped me picked out the diaper that was right for me. I never once felt overwhelmed.

Ok, so back to what I was originally wanting to write about: why we cloth diaper. My biggest reason is not because of the environment or to save money, I am most concerned about what touches my daughter’s skin. I have done no real research at all, but to me, the chemicals that a disposable diaper has in them to make them so absorbent just can’t be any good. Now, those chemicals may or may not give her cervical cancer or exzema, but they sure aren’t doing any good to her skin, so I want to avoid it. I like knowing that what is touching her skin all day and all night is organic cotton. Makes me sleep better. Well, not really, since Penelope gets up every hour but you know what I mean. And she has never had a diaper rash in her life and that is always great.
The next biggest reason we cloth diaper is for the environment. We are greatly reducing our carbon footprint by choosing to cloth diaper. Even when you calculate in the washing and drying of the diapers (this is not the case if you use a diaper service). I saw a great article the other day that said it takes nearly 3.5 billion gallons of oil to produce the 18 billion throwaway diapers that Americans toss each year. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the amount of crude we import annually from Kuwait. The article went on to say that it takes 2/3 cup of petroleum to make just one disposable diaper. Pretty nutty, huh? To that, I say NO Thank You, this is not OK and I will not participate in that much petroleum consumption.

The third reason we cloth diaper is to save money. Now, we have already spent almost a grand on about 64 diapers, two pail liners, 36 cloth wipes and a shower sprayer that connects to our toilet (this is for later when her poo is solid and I have to dump it in the toilet before putting it in the pail). So we are not seeing any savings this first year, as that is about the amount that we would have spent on disposables her first year, but next year we will see some ROI. And when we use all the same diapers again for baby number two, that’s when the savings will really add up!

I will use a disposable here and there, I am not a Nazi about it. If all my diapers are in the wash, on goes a disposable. If I am running a bunch of errands, then I will take one cloth diaper and a couple of disposables because the cloth diapers take up so much room in my diaper bag. I also never use cloth wipes when I am out, I don’t want to deal with the hassle of pre-soaking my wipes then forgetting about them and having a mold issue. The wipes and disposables that we do use in a pinch are from Seventh Generation have the least amount of chemicals possible.

Has anyone wanted to try cloth diapers but felt overwhelmed? The Natural Baby Company has recently come out with a really great product that has flushable liners that would be a great cloth diaper with training wheels.