Over the years, while I have focused on how the "Milk and Cookie Disease" cause preschoolers to have chronic snotty noses, congestion, snoring, and symptoms pretty much identical to when they have a real cold, I have also learned a great deal from talking to my teenage patients about their troubles. For teenagers, the most common complaint that bring them in to my office is “throat problems” instead of snotty runny noses that toddlers have. Since I always ask detailed questions like, “What do you drink all day?” “What is your favorite drink?” and then I ask specifically about a teenager’s daily consumption of soda, juice, Gatorade, Powerade, any “–ade,” lemonade, sweet tea, etc. I always ask the patient to list every liquid they drink that is not water. Furthermore, I ask them the frequency and amount that they drink each non-water liquid.
It’s not surprising that most parents or caretakers are quiet during these conversations, as I can tell they had no idea or have not really thought about it. After all, when our children is away from you at school or anywhere but home, no one is “tracking” their diet and dietary habits. After the interrogation on sugary beverages, I spend as much time as it takes to go over their eating, or NOT EATING, habits!
Here is what you can expect from an average high school student:
- They don’t eat breakfast—teenagers will tell me they skip breakfast, and mothers will complain to me with disappointment that their kid does not eat breakfast, but state it as a matter of fact and as if there is nothing we can do about it.
- They frequently skip lunch—why? Because the food is horrible. Yes, it’s true that our public school system may be feeding our students the same processed foods that we use to feed prisoners. (Watch Fed Up on Netflix if you want to learn more about why our public school lunch programs are the way it is).
- If they do eat the school lunch, usually it’s Pizza from Pizza Hut, burgers and fries. Hey, fries belong to the vegetable group according to our government compliance definitions for school lunch programs.
- Majority of U.S. High Schools allow vendors on campus for food and beverages, since vending machines don’t fall out of the sky from outer space and simply land on your child’s school campus. Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and many other food chains get access to your child’s lunch through some type of contract/sponsorship and well, money.
- For the many teenagers who skip breakfast and even lunch, they maintain their “energy” and alert level, while being hypoglycemic, with SUGAR! yes, that’s right. Can’t stay awake through your classes unless there is Monster Energy Drink, Coca-Cola, and any other sugary beverages. Many teenagers will drink that daily during school.
- When teenagers get home, often when working parents are not there, then, after “starving” all day, they will eat whatever they please.
- Teenagers stay up LATE! Many parents can’t even tell me what time they go to bed, but you can be sure they eat/drink all the way up to bedtime.
- Teenagers will eat anything from second dinner, to “pizza rolls,” anything processed that you can heat up in microwave/oven, and plenty of sugars in the forms of cookies, ice cream, snacks, etc.
- Teenagers often drink soda and other sugary and caffeinated beverages throughout the evening.
By the way, the most common “throat problem” teenagers complain of in my office, feeling like something is “stuck” in their throat, which is “globus sensation” due to nightly acid reflux from what’s in their stomach back up to their throat since during what little sleep they get their stomach is full of sugary which breaks down into acid.
I have also met many teenagers with severe and scary “episodes” where they can’t “breathe,” even close to fainting, and these kids have seen many specialists who tell them they have “vocal cord dysfunction.” I am convinced, after meeting them one by one, that most are healthy without risk factors or true asthma, but what they have in common is horrifically unhealthy eating habits and drinking a tons of sugar every day.
I am encouraged that we can make a difference, because every one of these office visits, I explain to the teenager WHY it is so important they become very aware of the food and beverage choices they make. I tell them why they must be in charge and that their body is trying to tell them to stop treating it like crap, else he/she will feel like crap.
Not every patient or every family are motivated or willing to make a change, but for the most part, I find many teenagers very interested in what I tell them, and want to feel better.
We haven’t even addressed their school performance yet…that will have to be a separate blog. You better believe that these kids are generally not our valedictorians since poor nutrition/eating habits do not support high levels of academic performance.
PLEASE, share this blog with any teenager in your life. Help them make a change to A Healthier Wei.