Probiotics and How They Help

Probiotics and How They Help

In the human body, one can find more than 500 types and more than 100 trillion bacteria living throughout the digestive, urinary and genital systems.  The predominant bacteria are considered “friendly” and necessary to maintain good health. Friendly bacteria aid in breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and fighting off harmful overgrowth of “unfriendly” bacteria.  Maintaining a balance is essential to good health but the typical American diet includes many processed foods, resulting in the intake of fewer natural probiotics. Probiotics have been commonly used in other developed countries for decades – added to beverages, foods and through supplements – and now the US seems to be catching on. 

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms similar to “friendly” bacteria that will benefit its host.  The first intentional use of probiotics was to prevent spoilage in food preparation. Probiotics are naturally found in yogurt and cheese, as well as fermented foods, including sauerkraut.  Through the demonstrated safety of food preparation, probiotic use has evolved and research is demonstrating the many, many benefits of probiotic intake on health.

Nature’s Mighty MICRO-Minerals

By: Mary B. Hammock, MSN, CPNP

Nature’s Mighty MICRO-Minerals

Last month, the benefits and necessity of macro-minerals were discussed at length. To review, minerals are necessary for the production of vitamins, enzymes and hormones; the maintenance of healthy blood circulation; efficient nerve conduction; muscle growth and contraction; and for the metabolic processes that turn the food we eat into energy. Macro-minerals are necessary in larger amounts and include calcium, iron, magnesium phosphorus, and zinc. Micro-minerals, also called trace minerals, are needed in much smaller amounts but are still very necessary for good health. Micro-minerals include manganese, copper, iodine, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium.

Common Micro-minerals

Manganese, in addition to calcium and phosphorus, is critical in the formation of bone. It is also necessary in muscle contraction and the proper function of the nervous system. Manganese has also been found essential for enzyme reactions, especially those involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates and cholesterol. A deficiency of manganese could result in glucose intolerance leading to increased risk of diabetes or poor healing in the skeletal and cartilaginous systems. Manganese can be found in whole grains, nuts, berries, legumes, vegetables and tea. This micro-mineral can easily be lost in the processing of foods, making fresh foods a much better choice for manganese intake.

Copper acts as an antioxidant, which prevents chemical reactions that can damage tissues within multiple organ systems in the body. Copper, along with iron, is necessary to the production of red blood cells, helping to preserve one’s energy level. While copper is most concentrated in the liver and the brain, it is important for healthy cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems. Whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, and shellfish are great sources of copper.

Iodine is essential for the formation of thyroid hormones. The thyroid regulates one’s metabolism, as well as growth and development of the brain and body, making it extremely important during the fetal period and infancy. The good news is that iodine is extremely easy to obtain. Most of the salt available for resale is iodized. Milk contains iodine because it is used in the sterilization of equipment. Iodine is also found in shellfish, seafood and seaweed. The bad news is that very large of amounts of iodine can result in breathing difficulties or skin irritations for anyone with sensitivities or allergies. A typical diet provides for more than adequate iodine intake.

Cobalt is required for the formation of red blood cells and the proper functioning of some enzymes and the composition of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is important for good health in our DNA and blood. Cobalt can be obtained from liver, kidney, meats and dairy products. Toxic levels of cobalt would be extremely difficult to obtain through dietary intake.

Fluoride is well known for strengthening the enamel on teeth. Too much fluoride can cause permanent spots on the teeth, called fluorosis. Too little fluoride increases the likelihood of cavity formation and tooth decay. For these reasons, pediatric dentists and healthcare providers recommended the intake of tap water or bottled water fortified with fluoride beginning in infancy, as well as a small pea -sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on toothbrushes for those over two years old. Fluoride helps new bone formation or in maintaining healthy bones. Fluoride can be found in seafood and tea, in addition to toothpaste and fortified waters.

Selenium has been discovered to work, in conjunction with vitamin E, as a powerful antioxidant, reducing the risk of abnormal cell growth. It also boosts the immune system, which fights against viruses and destructive bacteria. Selenium is required for healthy heart and thyroid function. Selenium has also been found to be a natural chelation agent, binding with toxic heavy metals, including lead and mercury, and rendering them harmless. Rich sources of selenium include cereals, meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and brazil nuts. Selenium is becoming increasingly uncommon in soil, making legumes, fruits, and vegetables less likely to contain selenium. Too much of a good thing isn’t so good. Toxic levels of selenium cause hair loss, skin changes, nausea and nerve damage. If taking a supplement, limit the intake to 200mcg a day.

Micro-minerals Help

Minerals help the body grow, develop, and stay healthy. A wide variety in a healthy diet is always the best place to start for mineral acquisition but a high quality supplement can make up for what may be lacking. Be sure to check with your child’s healthcare provider if you are considering a supplement. Healthy Steps Pediatrics is helping to grow healthy children one step at a time. Call 678-384-3480 for your child’s nutrition assessment today.

Increasing Threats in the Lunchroom

By: Mary B. Hammock, MSN, CPNP

Increasing Threats in the Lunchroom

Several years ago, when it was recommended to wait until two years of age to introduce peanuts, I reviewed the guidelines with a mother who was eager to give her two-year old son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As this is her favorite food, she made a big event out the situation – checkered tablecloths, fancy napkins and cutting off the crusts. The first bite made John smile and the second bite made him vomit twice (including two doses of antihistamine), turn blue, start with heavily labored breathing, and finally, left him on the floor unconscious. All of this occurred within 8 minutes of his first ingestion of peanut butter. After a panicked call to me, I told his mother to hang up and dial 911. EMS arrived quickly, gave him epinephrine and breathing treatments, and transported him to the hospital, where he stayed for awhile. This mother still tells me it was the worst day of her life. She was frightened by what occurred and felt utterly helpless watching her child nearly pass away before her.

Facts To Know About Food Allergies

More than 50 million Americans are estimated to have some kind of food allergy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 4-6 % of children are affected by some food allergy. An allergy is a hypersensitivity response triggered by the immune system. It can be as mild as a temporary stomachache or as severe as an anaphylactic reaction – which can be life-threatening, and at times even fatal. The response can occur with the first exposure or the thirty-first exposure and it can illicit different symptoms and/or a different severity of symptoms with each exposure. While food allergies tend to run in families, it is impossible to predict whether a child will inherit a parent’s food allergy or whether siblings will have a similar hypersensitivity response. It is more likely that having two parents with food allergies predisposes the child to developing food allergies.

What Food Allergies Do To The Body

WebMD provides a great description of food allergies and the toll it takes on one’s body. Food fragments responsible for allergic reactions are proteins within the food that usually are not broken down by cooking or by digestion, allowing them to survive and cross the gastrointestinal lining, enter the bloodstream, and migrate to target organs. “The complex process of digestion affects the timing and location of an allergic reaction.” The first symptom experienced may by “itching in the mouth as one starts to eat the food. After the food is digested in the stomach, abdominal symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or pain may start. When the food allergens enter and travel through the bloodstream, the can cause a drop in blood pressure. As the allergens reach the skin, they can induce hives, or when they reach the lungs, they may cause bronchospasm, which is wheezing or constriction of the airways.” Any and all of these symptoms can result in anaphylaxis and typically occur within moments or up to an hour after ingestion. Scientists are currently trying to determine why food allergies have become so frequent and prominent in the last decade and what is the best way to prevent or manage them. Eggs, milk, soy, and peanuts are the most common food allergies in children and unlike adults, children can outgrow some of their allergies through avoidance of the offending agents. The exceptions are peanuts, fish and shellfish.

When Is A Food Allergy Happening

Food allergies can be particularly tricky. A cross-reactivity food allergy can occur when one is highly allergic to birch pollen and has an itchy mouth after eating the peel of an apple or one is allergic to latex and simply cannot eat bananas. This is called “oral allergy syndrome.” Food allergies have to be differentiated from possible food poisoning; histamine toxicity, which is common in some cheeses, wines or large fish; lactose or gluten intolerance; sulfite intolerance, from some foods and preservatives and naturally occur during wine fermentation; and there are even cases of unpleasant events in a person’s life resembling an allergic reaction

Ways To Diagnose Food Allergies

Fortunately, there are a few ways to diagnose food allergies. First, one’s healthcare provider should take a thorough history, which may include detailing a food diary of what was eaten, lists of ingredients, and symptoms. An elimination diet may also be suggested in the hopes of removing the offending food or foods and the symptoms resolve. A second way to diagnose food allergies is through skin prick testing. Skin tests are rapid, simple and relatively safe. The downside to skin testing is that anaphylactic reactions should not be skin tested because it could be very dangerous. Secondly, patients with extensive eczema are not good candidates for skin testing as well. Finally, skin testing may reveal more positive reactions that the patient is not responding to. For that reason, determining true allergies relies on testing results and a patient’s food ingestion/reaction history. The third way to diagnose food allergies is to consent to RAST or ELISA testing of the blood, which measures the presence of food-specific IgE in the patient’s blood. This testing can also pick up cross-reactivity or positive results for which patients do not have symptoms. This too should be interpreted, along with the patient’s food ingestion/reaction history. These tests can come back in 1 -7 days depending upon the lab used.

Stay Tuned For Treatments

Next month, I will detail treatment for food allergies. Given that some are severe and life threatening, I feel the more prepared everyone, including the general public, is, the safer our children and families will be. Healthy Steps Pediatrics is helping to GROW healthy children one step at a time. If you have questions or concerns about possible allergies and your children, call 678-384-3480 for an appointment today.

Good Nutrition In Childhood Improves Long-Term Health

By: Mary B. Hammock, MSN, CPNP

Good Nutrition In Childhood Improves Long-Term Health

Heather Morgan, a nutritionist, has been quoted as saying, “Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” Providing good nutrition for a child can be challenging at any age but time and again, is proven to lay the foundation for enduring good health. There are many opportunities to make a positive impact on a child’s health through their dietary habits and those habits formed during childhood will make a lasting impression. Your child is watching your every move. So of course, lead by example and eat a variety of nutrient rich foods for your health, as well. Lean proteins, dairy products, whole grains and fruits and vegetables are the keys to balanced nutrition.

Start At Infancy

Infancy is a wonderful time of exploration. Breast milk and baby formulas are necessary to provide enough calories, calcium, iron, vitamins and minerals to meet a rapidly growing child’s needs. Cow’s milk introduction should be delayed until the first birthday because early introduction of milk has been linked to gastrointestinal bleeding, anemia and diabetes.

Baby Food

Baby foods come in a rainbow of colors and flavors to peak the curiosity of the new palate. And of course, your baby is always watching what is being served at the table. The older infant will be eager to try some table food. Be careful to avoid honey because of the botulism risk. For all children 9 months to four years, be careful of the size and texture of foods to prevent choking hazards.

Common choking hazards include:

  • popcorn
  • peanuts
  • hotdogs
  • raw vegetables and fruits
  • including carrots and apples
  • whole grapes and hard candy.

Baby foods come in a rainbow of colors and flavors to peak the curiosity of the new palate. And of course, your baby is always watching what is being served at the table. The older infant will be eager to try some table food. Be careful to avoid honey because of the botulism risk. For all children 9 months to four years, be careful of the size and texture of foods to prevent choking hazards. Common choking hazards include popcorn, peanuts, hotdogs, raw vegetables and fruits including carrots and apples, whole grapes and hard candy.


Toddlerhood can be especially challenging during feeding times. Toddlers are known for asserting their independence and for the “Me do” mantra. A toddler’s growth is less robust than an infant’s, which explains the typical decrease in appetite and leaves no need for concern. According to the 2002 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study, the most commonly consumed vegetable in toddlerhood is french fries. The same study found toddlers don’t consume enough fiber, potassium or the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Small changes make for big results and can help to reverse this trend. You may have more success feeding a toddler if you involve them in the decision-making. Offer two or three healthy choices and allow them to choose.

Make mealtimes fun by offering interesting shapes and colors

  • Cut ripe apples, pears and even peaches into sticks to allow for self-feeding.
  • Offer sliced strawberries and grapes to dip in yogurt.
  • Cut cucumbers and potatoes into intriguing shapes with cookie cutters. Dress broccoli trees with cheese.
  • Julienne some vegetables into the macaroni and cheese or spaghetti or bake them into whole grain muffins and breads.


When your children become preschoolers, it is easy and fun to get them involved in their own nutrition. Take them to the grocery store or farmer’s market and peruse the produce aisles. Explore new recipes and ask for their help preparing snacks and meals. Think about enrolling your child in a cooking class or grow a garden. Their excitement will be contagious.


School-agers have similar nutritional needs but can come with their own challenges. School success improves with a balanced breakfast with protein. This leads to higher test scores, lasting energy and fewer complaints of headaches, dizziness and fatigue. School-agers are generally a very active group of children. Running from soccer to Boy Scouts and from swimming to ballet can easily lead to an excess of fast food, if there is no planning. Limit fast food to less than twice a week, make healthy choices and avoid sweetened beverages. Being prepared for hunger allows one to offer fresh food that isn’t processed and full of fat, preservatives and artificial ingredients. Be the parent at the soccer field that provides healthy alternatives and watch the children gravitate to your cooler.

Mealtime is a place and time to come together and enjoy food and loved ones. Bon appétit! Healthy Steps Pediatrics is helping to GROW healthy children one step at a time. Call for an appointment today so that we can get your family on the road to nutritional health.