Written By: Sarah Wilson
Dietetic Intern, Acadia University
Recommendations in Canada:
Infants can be exclusively breast fed for the first six months of their lives, after 6 months infants require other methods of feeding to ensure they are receiving proper nutrition. Breast feeding can continue up to the first two years of a child’s life, if they are receiving other forms of food to provide additional nutrition that is not provided through the breast milk.
Breast feeding: Fed is Best
Although breast feeding is recommended in Canada, only ¼ babies are exclusively breast fed for the recommended 6 months. A baby who is fed is best, regardless of if that is breast fed or formula fed. Some women have a hard time producing enough breast milk or any at all, this causes a lot of stress on mothers and can lead to postpartum depression and sleep deprivation. In these cases, formula fed would be more beneficial than breast feeding as it is causing more harm than good to both mother and baby.
Breast feeding: Benefits
Breast feeding is a natural process where the mother can feed their baby from their own breast. The mother’s body creates milk with sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and micronutrients for the baby to develop properly and healthy. Breast feeding has many benefits associated with it.
Breast milk provides “colostrum” this substance is the first of the breast milk just after the baby is born, it provides numerous antibodies to the baby, which help to fight off infections. Although, the entire time the baby is being fed by breast milk, the baby is being provided with antibodies via the regular breast milk as well. This will continuously help the baby to have enough antibodies to prevent and fight off various infections.
Breast milk also has probiotic factors, some will help to protect the immune system, and others will at as probiotics to help create a healthy gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome helps prevent obesity, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, and other chronic diseases.
Benefits for the mother:
Breast feeding provides benefits to the mother as well, it has been shown to protect against breast and ovarian cancers and chronic diseases like diabetes and coronary heart diseases. Breast feeding can also help with urinary tract infections for women. Breast feeding will also help the mother to lose pregnancy weight. Breast feeding also causes the body to produce good hormones, like prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin allows the mother to be at ease, relax and focus on breast feeding and the child and oxytocin promotes a sense of attachment between the mother and child.
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia (PoTS), and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)
Written By: Hannah Chapeskie
Dietetic Intern, Acadia University
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia (PoTS), and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) are three conditions that commonly occur together and affect women more often than men. These rare conditions can go mis- or undiagnosed as their symptoms can overlap with other conditions and many physicians are unaware of their existence. Keep reading to learn about these conditions.
Have you been diagnosed with one of these conditions and are seeking dietary guidance? Book with one of our dietitians today!
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (or MCAS) is a rare condition that involves repeated episodes of allergy symptoms or anaphylaxis, often without a known trigger. Mast cells are cells that are a part of our immune systems and are responsible for allergy symptoms. When a person encounters their allergy trigger(s), these cells release chemicals (called mediators) that cause inflammation and allergy symptoms. In MCAS, a person’s mast cells produce these chemicals in excess or in response to unharmful triggers such as foods, emotions, pain, fatigue, heat, smells, hormonal changes, and even the sun. A person with MCAS can have multiple triggers that change over time making it very difficult to identify exactly what is causing their symptoms.
The symptoms of MCAS can be different for every person. Symptoms can range from mild to anaphylaxis and can change over time. MCAS symptoms can affect many parts of the body including:
It is unknown what causes MCAS, but it is thought to be genetic. 74% of patients have at least one first degree relative who also suffers from this condition.
Hyperthyroidism? Hypothyroidism? Hashimoto’s? When it comes to thyroid health, it can get confusing. With 1/10 Canadians having a thyroid condition and 50% going undiagnosed, it is important to know what these conditions are, and how they can show up in our bodies. Keep reading to learn about why your thyroid is so important and the common conditions that can impact how it functions.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the front of the neck, above the collarbone. An endocrine gland is a gland that produces hormones that regulate different body systems and functions. The thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) regulate multiple body functions including your:
Sometimes, this careful system of hormone regulation doesn’t work properly, and the cause is likely a thyroid condition. There are multiple thyroid conditions including Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s Disease, Hyperthyroidism, Graves’ Disease, Thyroiditis, and Thyroid Cancer.
Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Disease
"Hypo" means under or below. If diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you have an under-active thyroid gland that does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism causes many body systems to slow down, resulting in symptoms such as:
Hashimoto’s Disease (or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the body is attacking itself. In this condition, antibodies abnormally attack and damage the thyroid, leaving it unable to produce enough thyroid hormones. The symptoms of Hashimoto’s can take years to appear and can include all symptoms of hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s is often genetic and occurs more commonly in women, but can also be caused by hepatitis C, various medications, and exposure to nuclear radiation.
To diagnose hypothyroidism, a blood test is completed to assess the thyroid hormone levels in your blood. If your doctor suspects that your hypothyroidism may be caused by Hashimoto’s, they will also test for antibodies in your blood. If diagnosed, doctors will prescribe thyroid medication that contains the thyroid hormones your body is not producing enough of.
Have you been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease or Hypothyroidism and are looking for nutritional support? Our dietitians can help you!
Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease
Hyperthyroidism is the exact opposite of hypothyroidism. Hyper – means over or in excess. If diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you have an overactive thyroid gland that produces too many hormones. In hyperthyroidism, many body systems speed up, resulting in symptoms such as:
Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune disorder where antibodies abnormally attach to the thyroid gland, causing it to produce more thyroid hormones than normal. It is unknown what exactly causes Graves’ Disease, but it may be genetic. The symptoms of Graves’ Disease can include all symptoms of hyperthyroidism as well as Graves’ Eye Disease (eyes that are red and bulging, swollen eyelids and double or reduced vision) and/or Graves’ Dermopathy (red, thickened skin on shins and tops of feet).
To diagnose hyperthyroidism, a blood test is completed to assess the thyroid hormone levels in your blood. If your doctor suspects that your hyperthyroidism is caused by Graves’ Disease, they will also test for antibodies in your blood and may ask you to complete a thyroid ultrasound, or a radioactive iodine test (radioactive iodine is ingested, and the thyroid is scanned to see how much iodine it absorbed). If diagnosed, doctors will prescribe anti-thyroid medication to block thyroid hormone production and often beta blockers to treat symptoms. In some cases, thyroid cells are destroyed using radioactive iodine or the thyroid is surgically removed.
Have you been prescribed a low iodine diet for a radioactive iodine uptake test? Book with one of our dietitians today for guidance.
Postpartum Thyroiditis is when the thyroid becomes inflamed after delivering a baby. 5-10/100 women will experience this condition and it is more common in women with a history of thyroid disease. Women diagnosed with Postpartum Thyroiditis experience two stages: hyperthyroidism 1-4 months after giving birth and then hypothyroidism 4-8 months after giving birth. The symptoms typically subside within 12-18 months, and few women remain hypothyroid for life. For treatment, women may be given anti-thyroid medication to block thyroid hormone production in the hyperthyroid stage, and then thyroid hormone medication when they enter the hypothyroid stage.
According to CDC, 12,000 men and 35,000 women are diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. Thankfully, the majority of cases are always curable. Thyroid cancer is often genetic and can also be caused by head and neck exposure to radiation. It does not usually cause any symptoms but can lead to neck pain in severe cases. Most people don’t even know they have thyroid cancer until a lump (or nodule) on their neck is found during a routine exam. Doctors will suggest an ultrasound and a biopsy to determine if the lump is cancerous. For treatment, the thyroid is partially, or fully removed in surgery along with the lymph glands in some cases. Occasionally, radioactive iodine may also be used post-operation to destroy thyroid cells. After surgery, patients are prescribed thyroid hormone medication for life as the body is no longer able to produce any, or enough thyroid hormones.
How do I Keep my Thyroid Healthy?
One of the best ways to take care of your thyroid is to take care of your overall health through eating well, exercising, and managing your stress. Consult your physician if you notice any enlargements or bumps at the base of your neck, or if you are experiencing any unusual symptoms. If you are female, older than 60, have a family history of thyroid conditions, and/or have an autoimmune disease such as type one diabetes, ensure your family doctor checks your thyroid regularly.
Looking for nutritional guidance? Our team of dietitian’s can help support you!
Thinking of getting your kids started in the kitchen? Children can begin helping in the kitchen as early as age two, and before this, can be worn in a sling when preparing cold foods or can watch from a highchair. Getting children in the kitchen as early as possible can have major benefits for both kids and their families. Not only do children learn food skills, but they can also learn what it means to eat healthy and how to put together a balanced meal. For picky eaters, cooking encourages children to try new foods. For the youngest kids, helping in the kitchen develops fine motor skills, and helps with learning math and reading. It can be messy, but with some patience, letting your kid chef help you cook can help your child grow and spend quality time with family.
May is Celiac Awareness Month
By: Hannah Chapeskie, Dietetic Intern 2021
Did you know that 1 in 133 people live with celiac disease? It affects people of every age, sex, and ethnicity and is not the same as a gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disorder that impacts the digestive system. For people living with CD, consuming gluten (a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye) triggers the body to attack the lining of the small intestine. This damages the intestinal villi that line the small intestine and are essential for absorbing nutrients. As a result, people with unmanaged CD can become deficient in many vitamins and minerals. Have you or a loved one recently diagnosed with celiac disease? Are you looking for nutrition support?
Are you struggling to understand the in’s and outs of food allergies for yourself or your kiddo? If you are wanting more individualized support you can book with one of our dietitians. Read along for an in-depth explanation of IgE mediated allergies, the common allergens associated with this, food labelling info and tips, and the new recommendations for introducing common allergens for infants!
What is an IgE Mediated Food Allergy?
IgE mediated food allergies are a specific immune reaction to food proteins that results in the production of the antibody immunoglobulin E (also known as IgE) being produced. This creates a series of reactions and symptoms which can all trigger an anaphylactic response - which is a dangerous whole body allergic reaction.
IgE Mediated Symptoms may include the following:
What are the symptoms?
Are you feeling overwhelmed and anxious when thinking about how to properly balance your or your child’s diet? You’re not alone you can book with one of our dietitians to help with making sure your little one is getting the proper nutrients they need.
There have been identified foods that are commonly associated with these reactions also known as the priority food allergens. Priority food allergens are foods that are associated with 90% of allergic reactions in Canada.
Beans, Chickpeas, Peas, and Lentils!
Pulses have been proven to help reduce blood cholesterol levels, control blood sugars, and aid in weight management.
These nutrient packed pulses are extremely versatile. They can be used in breakfast, dessert, main meals, and snacks.
Halloween is often thought of by costumes, and candy! Now imagine you have a child or children with a food allergy, or multiple food allergies! For parents of kids with food allergies Halloween can be a terrifying night! As a registered dietitian that works with families with food allergies the Teal Pumpkin Project is an important initiative!
Milk and Milk Alternatives have become quite the hot topic over the past few years. The purpose of this blog post is to explain the difference between each type of milk and educate you on why full fat milk is recommended for little ones under the age of 2 once transitioned from breastmilk or formula.
0% milk fat
1% milk fat
2% milk fat
3.25% milk fat
Lactose free milk -
Ultra-Filtered Milk (lactose free)
Fairlife - 1%, 2%, 3.25% and chocolate milk
Joyya milk - Canadian based ultra filtered milk products higher protein, lower sugar
Vegetarian Milk Sources
Made from water and almonds typically soaked overnight and then pulsed and strained
Coconut milk is made by grating the white inner flesh of the coconut (meat or the kernel) and mixing it with the shredded coconut pulp with a small amount of hot water and blending it followed by straining out any pieces so it is smooth.
Milk and Milk Alternatives Nutritional Content Chart
What is FPIES?
FPIES stands for Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome. FPIES is a rare non-IgE mediated food allergy and the symptoms are different than other IgE food allergies. An FPIES diagnosis can be extremely overwhelming, confusing, frustrating and taxing. It is important to know you are NOT alone! You need a good team of professionals to help you through the next year or more of your little one’s life to ensure they are healthy and well supported. If you’re looking for more individualized support for your child click here to book an appointment with our paediatric dietitian.
FPIES symptoms are often misdiagnosed as acid reflux, gas, food poisoning or the stomach flu. Common symptoms can include: repetitive vomiting (severe/projectile), repetitive diarrhea, blood pressure changes, dehydration, lethargy, and extreme paleness which many parents call shock syndrome. Often infants and children struggle to meet weight and height goals while dropping percentiles until a non-reactive baseline diet is found.
One common risk factor for FPIES is a family history of allergies. 40-80% of children with FPIES have a family history of allergies, which may be food allergies, environmental allergies, hay fever, and/or eczema.