Happy Thanksgiving! As many are staying warm with their loved ones in snowy and cold weather, we are blessed to enjoy a beautiful and sunny day in Orlando. Last night, Dave and I attended my first NBA game at the Amway Center in a suite, cheering on the Orlando Magic as they defeated the Philadelphia 76er while we enjoyed many treats. In addition to the great amenities, seats, foods, and beverages in this suite, everyone was ecstatic when we discovered the personalized “Dessert Cart” service! In fact, several of us had to be sent pouting back to our suite to wait our turn, as we bombarded the staff and cart while it was still two suites away from us! It was worth the wait….with 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, I was the first in line and you can see me holding my peanut butter chocolate stack cake with vanilla ice cream! There was no doubt that it was way too late for me to indulge in this much dairy and sugar, but hey, I was at a fun event with great people, and I wanted to have the “Milk and Cookie Disease (MCD)”! My colleague and friend, an awesome pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steve Frick, took this photo with much enthusiasm and joked about exposing me as I was contradicting my “A Healthier Wei” book and platform. I smiled and quickly reminded him of my blog, “A Healthier Wei – Just Not Today“, inspired by Dave and Claire who keep me grounded in reality that sometimes we simply enjoy life first and worry later.
As we approach this long-awaited holiday season, there will be many nights of late eating, special gatherings, family reunions and celebrations, none of which would ever be complete without dairy and sugar, especially the sugar! An abundance of cheese cubes/cheese trays are likely to be present at every holiday party, and there will be no shortage of Christmas cookies and other amazing treats like Peppermint Bark! Seriously, Santa would surely not bother coming down so many chimneys if there were not the assurance of Milk and Cookies by each fireplace. Speaking of which, we are thankful that it just happened Claire demanded confirmation from us this summer that Santa was not real, and within seconds Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, her beloved Elves on the Shelves Max and Winter, and all other magical childhood traditions were forever changed. Max and Winter will show up in the house tomorrow, but now she knows her parents are the ones responsible for the “magic”. Back to MCD. Every encounter with parents and families, I remind them that milk has pretty neutral pH (non-acidic) when it comes out of the fridge, but as it warms the acidity drops like a lead ball from the top of the empire state building!
Bacteria in milk digests lactose, the natural sugar found in milk which results in lactic acid. As the lactic acid level increase, the pH of milk drops and the cow milk protein casein molecules begin to clump. These small protein molecules normally repel one another in neutral pH and do not clump but once in acidic environment they attract one another and begin to clump. The high level of acidity is what gives that strong sour smell when we open a carton of spoiled milk . Do you ever wonder how yogurt is made? Yogurt is made by adding Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus into really hot milk, so as the temperature increased, the pH decreases, and as described above, the bacteria digests the lactose giving off lactic acid. Basically, you get the picture, the warmer the milk the greater the acidity, the more clumpy and curdled it gets. This is why I tell every family to stop giving any child older than 12 months milk at bedtime, and to avoid excessive dairy and dairy products through the day . I have had several mothers comment to me that when their toddler vomits, it smells so sour and they’ve even seen clumpy milk stuff come up, yet we have been so culturally brainwashed that dairy is good for us, so much so that it’s hard to imagine we may be giving and allowing our children to consume too much dairy.
Please know that I am not telling families to eliminate dairy from their child’s diet, but in general I recommend drinking milk in the mornings, and you can be sure school mandates milk or chocolate milk with lunch, so by dinner time I usually recommend switching to water. Many mothers do not know that once a child is 2 or older, they should go to 2% lowfat milk. Also, if your child enjoys cheese and yogurt, he/she should be getting plenty of dairy without drinking milk 3-4 or more times per day. I always call to parent’s attention the amount of sugar in yogurt packaged in “tubes” which kids love (especially if the packaging has Sponge Bob, Cars, Princesses, Dora, etc). Each tube generally has at least 10 grams of sugar per tube, and many children can eat 2-3 at a sitting. A child who is age 2 or older really does not need more than 14oz of milk, so 2 cups per day is plenty. Don’t forget that Silk soymilk is fortified with even more Calcium and a great source of Vitamin D as well. Read my blog on “Top foods and beverages to avoid for children” if you are interested to find out items that contain high sugar content.
I watched my father-in-law enjoy my homemade lemon and blueberry pancakes this morning, but with much more butter and syrup (thank goodness I only use pure maple syrup at home, not high fructose corn syrup) than I could ever endorse, but all the while recognizing that my pancakes must taste that much better when “dressed” that way. Bottomline, creamy texture, richness in flavor and taste, the intense euphoria we experience as soon as sugar hits our taste buds, are all reasons why it is easy to contract the “Milk and Cookie Disease”. Today was a day of giving thanks, so I made a list of ten things I am thankful for in 2013, listed below in no particular order:
Dave and our marriage
Claire – happy in her new environment and school
New Job/Leadership opportunity – in a culture where I am constantly reminded about how I can behave/lead in an accountable and better way
New home in an amazing setting/community
My own health and health for our friends and families
Ability to continue serving patients/families
Having my parents/sister and opportunity to spend time with them
Opportunities to share my message about diet/dietary health
Enjoy the dairy and sugar, but in small doses, savor slowly, and think about what happens to dairy and sugar once it gets to the warmth of your tummy, where stomach acids act on them to help with natural digestion. If we’re pretty good most of the time throughout the year, then a little “MCD” during the holidays will be embraced, cherished, and fondly remembered.
Dr. Julie Wei is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist and the author of A Healthier Wei. As a mother herself, Dr. Wei is a passionate advocate for improving children's health through better diet and dietary habits. She has been committed to helping parents learn how to eliminate their child's ear, nose, and throat problems simply by reducing excessive sugar and dairy intake, as well as minimizing habitual late night snacking. She hopes to raise awareness for the need for accountability by both medical professionals and parents to ensure that children are not prescribed or take unnecessary medications long term.
When she is not in the clinic, operating room, or conducting research, you will find her in the kitchen preparing food with love along with her daughter Claire. If you sit next to her on the plane, she will likely share with you information about how to minimize choking hazards in young children, and many other tips for improving your child's health.