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Hello, and welcome to Parenting News Online! I originally started this website in order to bring you, a parent, newsworthy articles about parenting, health, nutrition, and coping skills. What it has morphed into is a collection of articles based on new medical research related to kids. And I hope you enjoy paging through the articles as much as I enjoy writing them.

But I do need some help from you. I would ask you to submit ideas for topics on the form below. Otherwise I’ll just keep writing about whatever tickles my fancy. And that’s not really the point. Please take a second and tell me what you want to know, and I’ll do my best to bring it to you.

And thank you again for coming!

Ed





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When Can Kids Have Gluten?

Gluten-free

One of the many problems that parents face is that there is so much information out there. Some of that information is really good, while a lot of it just isn’t. Getting advice from your favorite tabloid magazine, your next door neighbor, or your sister-in-law is risky, since you don’t really know if they know what they’re talking about. One example of this is the idea that giving gluten to babies will cause them to have celiac disease.



Celiac disease is one of the many names for an intolerance of gluten in the diet. Gluten is a protein in wheat that gives bread its structure, gives pasta is chewiness, and basically helps hold wheat products together. About 1% of people are allergic to this protein, though, and can have problems like diarrhea, gassiness, and eczema. Celiac disease is also called gluten enteropathy. Many people tell young parents that, if they give their baby or toddler anything with gluten in it that child will go on to develop celiac disease. Well these authors challenged that idea in an excellent article this month in the AAP News.

They reviewed the recent literature and had this to say about two recent studies looking at the relationship between Celiac Disease (CD) and breastfeeding::

Results from two recent European studies indicate that it is very unlikely that the timing of gluten introduction into the diet makes a difference on the incidence of CD. The studies also call into question any relationship between CD and breastfeeding.

I think this is great news. You can lose the idea that you did anything wrong by introducing gluten “too early”. You can tell your neighbors to calm down. You can breastfeed your baby even if you have a piece of bread. It’s genetics, not diet, that sets people up for CD. So go ahead, give them spaghetti!


 

Reference: Greer, Frank R., and Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg. “Does timing of gluten introduction with or without breastfeeding prevent celiac disease?.” AAP News36.1 (2015): 1-1.

Juvenile Fibromyalgia?

Child painWell here’s one I’ll bet you never heard of! At least I hadn’t. Juvenile fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a poorly understood condition that affects about 2-8% of the population with females outnumbering males by about 9 to 1. It apparently can be seen in kids as well, and this paper shows that the diagnosis is often delayed because we just don’t think about it.



This was a paper done out of Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, CA. They implemented a new questionnaire called the SORE scoresheet to screen for undiagnosed fibromyalgia. In only 4 months of use they found 22 kids with juvenile fibromyalgia syndrome. The whole purpose of the paper was to test out this new scoresheet, not so much as to tell us how to treat it. I guess it also points out that this new condition is probably more common than we thought.


 


We still don’t know exactly what fibromyalgia is, why it affects certain people and not others, why it’s worse in some than others, why women seem to have it more than men, how best to treat it, what the natural history of the disease is, and so on. Particularly for our kids it would be nice to know if it will eventually go away. It seems that one of the biggest problems facing those who have fibromyalgia is that a lot of it goes unreported and untreated. Maybe a screening tool like this can help for our kids.

Reference: McLeod, Judith D. “Juvenile fibromyalgia syndrome and improved recognition by pediatric primary care providers.” Journal of Pediatric Health Care 28.2 (2014): e9-e18.

Depression and inflammation

Sad kid
Readers of this website (both of you) know that I have a fascination with the relationship between inflammation and depression. It just makes sense to me that people who are chronically ill are more likely to be depressed, and people with chronic depression are more likely to be ill. Many studies have shown excellent results treating depression with anti-inflammatory medications like Celebrex® and naproxen. Other studies have shown that Zoloft® is a pretty decent anti-inflammatory medicine.



These researchers set out to examine blood markers of inflammation in patients with hepatitis C and depression. They compared the results to a similar group of people without hepatitis C. They found that people with hepatitis C have sky-high markers of inflammation and a higher incidence of depression. Surprisingly, the control group patients, some of whom happened to be depressed, had similar profiles. These scientists were able to identify specific blood profiles that seem to be associated with depression, information that may provide more specific targets for treatment down the road.


 

One interesting side note is that this helps to “medical-ize” depression. It helps us to understand it as an illness rather than just an attitude. We can see it as a condition that should be covered by insurance like any chronic disease, and prescription costs for treatment should be similarly covered. Insurances shouldn’t look at this as “six sessions with a social worker and a pat on the back”. There is so much interplay between depression and systemic illnesses, and clearly treating one helps the other. We have a long ways to go before we understand all of this, but we’re learning fast!

Reference: Huckans, M., Fuller, B. E., Olavarria, H., Sasaki, A. W., Chang, M., Flora, K. D., Kolessar, M., Kriz, D., Anderson, J. R., Vandenbark, A. A. and Loftis, J. M. (2013), Multi-analyte profile analysis of plasma immune proteins: altered expression of peripheral immune factors is associated with neuropsychiatric symptom severity in adults with and without chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Brain and Behavior. doi: 10.1002/brb3.200

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I Want To Be…A Mentor?

Father converses with son on top of wall, mtns

Father converses with son on top of wall, mtns

Mentor (men-ˌtȯr, -tər): someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person

Who ever said that when they grew up, they want to be a mentor? Not very many people, I’d guess, except for those in the teaching profession or perhaps the clergy. And yet as parents, that’s exactly what we are. We are mentors, teachers, disciplinarians, counselors, nutritionists, cab drivers, cheerleaders, and so much more. Mentors have had an important role in all of our lives, teaching us the ways of the world, the rules of the road, and the keys to success (to mix metaphors unapologetically). Finding a mentor is a real gift. Being a mentor is a challenge.



One can find mentors in unlikely places. It’s not like you can order one from Amazon. I’ve been fortunate to have several people in my life that I’ve looked up to, and have most recently found one working in a hardware store. I work nights there, and he was my boss. The humbling thing is that he’s younger than me, and younger than my son. Yet he’s wise beyond his years. He’s reminded me of the value of honor and integrity and hard work (part of the reason I’ve resurrected this web site). He’s reminded me that we are more than the sum of our mistakes, bad judgements, and stupid decisions. He’s reminded me to “adapt and overcome”, to “eat that frog”, and to never quit.

I’m not sure if mentors are only relevant temporarily, like “I needed a mentor to help me figure out my finances”. As parents, many of the things we teach our kids are relevant at the time such as how to tie one’s shoes or ride a bike. But I do believe that once a person is seen as a mentor, they must always stay “on point” in that role. You can’t stop being a supportive parent because your child has learned to tie their shoes. You are still teaching and mentoring when you light up a cigarette or get drunk in front of your child. It’s a lot of responsibility, and a responsibility that never goes away.


 


Parents, we are all mentors for our children and their children. Our children are blessed to have us, and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to mentor. Take that responsibility seriously, and you will be rewarded. And maybe you’ll be lucky enough to meet your next mentor on your next trip to the hardware store!

-E

Scoliosis, Bracing, and Quality of Life

ScoliosisScoliosis, or curvature of the spine, is a relatively common condition in kids, affecting 2-3% of the population. Most cases are mild and asymptomatic. The usual age of diagnosis is between 10 and 15 years of age, times of rapid skeletal growth. The cause is not known in the vast majority of cases, and only a few occur due to another underlying condition. Most people have no symptoms, no limitation of activity, no change in their lifestyle, and no long-term complications.




There are a few kids, however, that go on to develop more significant curvature of the spine requiring some kind of treatment. While exercise and physical therapy are important, they are not likely to change the course of scoliosis. Telling your child to “sit up straight” when in fact they can’t doesn’t help either. Surgery and bracing are indicated in significant and symptomatic scoliosis.

This study looked at how wearing a brace affected the curvature and the quality of life in kids with scoliosis. They looked at a correlation between wearing a brace, how effective the brace was at correcting the curvature, and the quality of life of the patient in 55 kids. What they found was that wearing the brace improved these girls’ (they were all girls) quality of life, regardless of any change in the curvature. In fact, the correction of the curvature had no impact on their quality of life.


 


It makes you wonder, what does the brace actually do to help these kids feel better? The amount of straightening didn’t seem to matter, just whether or not they wore the brace. Maybe it acts as a splint and relieves pain. Maybe it helps them look straighter, sit up taller, feel more confident. I’m not sure, but it seems to work. That’s what is most important!

Reference: Chan, Siu L., et al. “A correlation study between brace compliance, in-brace correction and quality of life (QoL) of patients with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS).” Scoliosis 10.Suppl 1 (2015): O77.

The Power of Motherly Love

Happy Mother’s Day, all of you moms out there! We here at Twenty Poms Publishing hope you have a wonderful day. Your love for your children is more powerful and effective than any pharmaceutical or diagnostic test out there. As a matter of fact, I have a study to prove it!



In this study out of Iran, about one hundred people who presented to an addiction treatment center were asked about their relationships with their mother. What they found was that most of those who sought treatment for their addiction had more positive affection and nurturing from their mothers than those who did not. People who had supportive mothers – moms who would teach them how to handle adversity, mothers who set a positive example – were more likely to be successful in treatment of addiction.


 


This is pretty huge, since treatment for addiction is often not that successful. It seems like motherly love and support provided people the survival tools they needed to get through a difficult time in their life. The study also showed that negative mothering tactics had the opposite effect, inducing anxiety and lack of the innate ability to handle stress.

This day is for you, moms! Happy Mother’s Day, and thank you for the love – and the tools for success that come with that love – that you’ve given us!

A mother holds up her child.

A mother holds up her child. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reference: Tahmasebian, Hojat Alah, et al. “Relationship between Affection Styles and Addiction Approaches: a Case Study among Addiction Treatment Clinics in Kermanshah, Iran.” (2014).

Soybean Extract and Period Cramps

I love it when we study the medicinal value of certain foods (besides chocolate) (and coffee) and find effective, food-based treatments of common maladies. I did a search on menstrual cramps in teens and came across this article. What could be safer than using a food to treat something, while at the same time avoiding expensive pharmaceutical co-pays and higher toxicity? And if we could use this medical food to treat something as debilitating as menstrual cramps for our teenagers, that would be even cooler.



These folks looked at the use of an oral combination N-palmitoylethanolamine (PEA) and transpolydatin given the last 10 days of the menstrual cycle in 110 girls, then compared the self-reported effectiveness against placebo in 110 girls. The combination was very effective, with over 98% of the girls reporting improvement compared to half in the placebo group (an interesting point in and of itself).


 


I did some poking around to see what these unpronounceable molecules were. The first one, PEA, seems to be derived from soybean or egg lecithin. The other one is related to resveratrol, another medical food used for treating inflammation. PEA has been used in the treatment of childhood eczema and depression.

I’m going to ask my friend Andrew Lessman of Procaps Laboratories about this stuff. It’s news to me, but that doesn’t mean much!
Reference: Tartaglia, E., et al. “Effectiveness of the association N-Palmitoylethanolamine (PEA)–transpolydatin in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea.” Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (2014).