The Hidden Dangers of the “Milk and Cookie Disease” | Julie Wei | TEDxWilmington

Translator: Mirjana Čutura
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Good morning. May I see by a show of hands
who here likes milk and cookies? Alright. How about those of you
who have young children in your lives? Are many of them drinking milk
every night at bedtime or having a bedtime snack? Please raise your hand. Excellent. I’m here today to talk to you
about the “milk and cookie” disease. It’s a disease that I “created”
or formally termed in 2012 to describe an epidemic
I have observed for over 10 years on how too much dairy and sugar
is hurting our health, but, in particular, it’s hurting
the health of our children. Here are my takeaway points. First, too much dairy and sugar
simply leads to acid in our stomach, that causes acid reflux. And in children, it comes across
as symptoms of colds and allergies. Second, thousands of children
right now, today, in America may be taking medications, many of them, to treat symptoms that are actually
from the “milk and cookie” disease. And finally, everybody here and especially doctors
who care for children, we need to be asking every single child,
What are they eating and drinking? So, as my husband likes to say, I’m “ruining” childhood every single day (Laughter) by telling the parents to cut out
excessive dairy and sugar in their kids’ diet. Well, why am I such a killjoy? Well, you see, my career epiphany
is based on three questions. Why are thousands of babies born
every year completely healthy, but within the first five years of life,
they’re so “sick” all the time? They’ve got chronic runny noses
that won’t go away. They cough for weeks and months. They also have sore throats
and a whole host of other problems. Second, what do these kids have in common? And finally, well, if they’re on all these medications,
why are the symptoms not going away? Okay, so those are the reasons
that I started on this journey. I want to tell you a story
about a patient of mine. So, several years ago,
I met a boy who’s three and a half. I was, like, their fifth or sixth opinion. Parents come in. They’re very nice. They show me a video. This boy will wake up once
or twice per week in the middle of night during sleep. And when he wakes up,
he’s struggling to breathe, and it’s very scary. He sounds like this. (Gasping for air) This will last sometimes 10, 15 minutes. Most of the time, it will go away. They’re afraid to go to bed at night. About once a month, they would take him
to the emergency department. And the year that I met them,
they had to call 911 twice. It got that scary. But it usually goes away. And by the time I met them, he was seeing the pediatric GI doctor,
the allergist, the pulmonologist, and he was on five or six medications – he’s three and a half – flovin, flonase, singulair,
zyrtec, prevacid, albuterol. Does anybody here recognize
what these medications are? And despite the medicines,
he kept having the episodes. So I did with his parents what I do
every single day when I meet a patient. I ask, “What is he eating and drinking?” The mom says, “Oh my gosh,
he’s an incredibly picky eater. He’s a terrible eater.” I look at him. He’s not starving. He looks pretty healthy. I said, “Well then, what is he drinking?” “Oh, chocolate milk. In fact, he loves it so much he wakes up
every morning and has chocolate milk. Then again at lunch, then at dinner. Oh, but every single night, he can not go to bed unless he
has his glass of chocolate milk. I looked at the parents, I said, “You know, these attacks that he’s having
are actually called laryngospasm. It’s like a charlie horse
in your calf, like a cramp. You can’t stop it. And what’s happening is the chocolate milk is turning into
so much acid it’s coming back up. So when it comes up into the throat
and touches the voice box, the body says, ‘Hey, that chocolate milk is not coming
down my windpipe to give me pneumonia. So I’m just going to close it
to save your life.’ That’s called laryngospasm. He’s sucking air
through a closed vocal cord or larynx.” (Gasps for air) That’s what makes that scary sound. So I looked at the parents, I said,
“Hey, I’ve got great news for you. We can stop these episodes. All you have to do
is cut out the chocolate milk.” The mother looked at me, and she said, “Hmm, excuse me.
I don’t think you understand. I brought a very sick child in here today. We’ve been going
to many doctors for over a year. You’re telling me
the problem is chocolate milk?” Perhaps they were desperate,
and I was convincing that day. So they said, “You know what?
Fine, we’ll give it a try.” I always encourage them. I said, “You know, if it doesn’t help,
it’s okay – I’m crazy. That’s okay. But what do you have to lose?” So they decided to go cold turkey. They cut out the chocolate milk
that night and every day after, and he stopped having those episodes. That’s just one of thousands of stories
I can tell you about. Okay, milk comes out of
the refrigerator non-acidic. The pH is actually seven. But, you see, as the temperature goes up,
it becomes more and more acid – the pH drops like a ton of bricks. Anybody here that doesn’t believe me, please go home tonight,
pour a glass of milk. You can leave it out for several hours. Better yet, put it at 98.7 degrees,
or our body temperature, and then go drink it later,
and tell me how it tastes. Sugar, as it turns out, breaks down into a form of alcohol
and carbonic acid gas. The alcohol further breaks down
in the body into acetic acid and water, which is what makes vinegar. Okay, so you see,
the things our children love – you know, the reason I call it
the “milk and cookie” disease – it’s for dairy and sugar. It’s because, well, acid plus acid
equals more acid. So, the reason I discovered
the “milk and cookie” disease is that over 10 years ago,
I finished training, I’m a big-time doctor now – surgeon. I became a surgeon so I can offer
surgeries to fix problems. One after another, I meet these kids
who are not better. How am I going to use
surgery to fix cough? I had to come up with another solution,
but I didn’t know what to do at first, so every single time I ask the parents,
“What is your child eating and drinking? Take me through their day.” And that’s how I found out
what they have in common. They have the “milk and cookie” disease. As I then thought about, “Well, how come
they’re on all these medicines by the time I meet them,
but they’re not better?” And here’s what I discovered. Medications will not work if they’re treating a condition
the patient doesn’t have. Hey, so, interestingly,
if you’re two or three years old, and you’ve got yellow, runny, snotty nose, and you’re on zyrtec, claritin, flonase, it’s not going to work
if that symptom is not from allergies. It’s the same with antibiotics. If it’s not a true
bacterial sinus infection, the medicine’s not going
to work there either. So tonight when you’re home,
brushing your teeth, please go a little further,
and make yourself gag. Count for me how many seconds
until your eyes are watery, and your nose is swollen shut. So it turns out something
called a parasympathetic system – there’s two: sympathetic
and parasympathetic – parasympathetic
is responsible for digestion, but it’s the same system
that causes the nose to be runny. Okay. So, we as physicians, we’re not trained in medical school,
residency, and fellowship to ask every single patient,
“What do you eat and drink?” as a part of our interview,
our diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses. We were taught to ask
about alcohol use and nicotine because, you see,
those are risk factors for cancer. But I’m here to tell you today that sugar
is the nicotine and alcohol addiction that has already occurred in America
to very, very young children. And this is a problem
we have to save our children from. Okay. When I start asking families
one after another what their children eat and drink, I have learned –
now thousands of interviews – what parents think. “Well hey, if milk is good for them,
the more, the better, right?” And if a child is a horrible eater – “Just give them all the milk they want
because that’s good nutrition.” And when it comes to juices – “Well, if the label says organic or 100% – better yet, there’s all this fruit
and vegetable juice – that’s good for them. I mean, which kid eats enough vegetables? At least they’re not drinking soda.” What I have learned through talking
to families over and over is this critical importance
of telling them what is too much. Okay. So when I meet a three-,
four-year-old, you know what? We do this recall. They’re drinking
12 to 40 ounces of juice a day. I’m not even counting the sweet tea,
the lemonade, the fruit punch, all this other stuff,
the pouch drinks, the sports drinks. We haven’t even gotten to the food yet. So when I tell them the American Academy
of Pediatrics has a guideline – it actually makes suggestions. By the time you’re two, you don’t need more than 12 ounces
of low-fat, non-fat, unflavored milk. When it comes to juices,
between ages one and six, you don’t need more than four
to six ounces a day. But our children are drinking
way more than that. So once I tell the parents –
by the time I do a little math and I say, “Johnny here just pretty much eats
50 teaspoons of sugar a day,” they are horrified. And it motivates change because of that. There’s something
called gastric emptying time. It’s the amount of time it takes
food and liquids to digest in the stomach and get out into the intestines. So it turns out that dairy, sugar, and fat cause things to stick around longer. So the more acid that sits around longer,
the more it’s likely to come back up. Oh, and by the way, babies and kids have very short distances
between the stomach and the mouth, so when they have that milk
at the bedtime and lay down, there’s not very far for it to go before it comes up and causes
all these problems up high. Next time you’re at a grocery store, please pick up any item, turn it around,
read the nutrition label. Under sugar, just take
that number, divide it by four because every four grams
is about one teaspoon equivalent. So that’s how you can tell how much sugar
you might be unknowingly consuming. Now, you might be sitting
out there saying, “Alright, what’s the big deal? I’ve got acid reflux. So does my mom, my friend, my neighbor. I take that pill, you know,
that nexium, prevacid, prilosec.” Well, the pills, yeah, they can block
natural stomach acid secretion. But I got to tell you I don’t think
it works against the Niagara Falls of acid that we’re allowing
in our human diet today and what’s going into our children. I don’t tell people to go on some freaky,
completely dairy- and sugar-free diet. We’ve got junk at my house. Okay. What I do do is talk
about common sense stuff: Cut out the sugary crap. Drink more water. Okay, let’s have dessert
right after dinner, not before bedtime. Okay, you can have your milk and cookies
just not at bedtime and in moderation. And it is through that that I have found
that parents are actually open, they’re willing, but that’s just one person,
so I need help, and you’re all going to help me fight
the “milk and cookie” disease, okay? So, I believe that we have to do
something different because are we going to allow young children who are on four,
five medications every day just keep taking medicines
for the next 10, 20, 50, 70 years? Who’s going to take them off
of medication and why? Or and when, excuse me. Well, we know why now. I truly believe we can improve
the health of this nation. And we do that through conversations
in a great form like this, through education, collaboration,
and policy change. The “milk and cookie” disease
is completely curable, and it costs nothing! That’s the best part. But imagine if we saved millions
in healthcare expenditure by getting rid of unnecessary
doctor’s visits. Stop taking medicines we don’t need, and most importantly, make ourselves healthy,
and make our children healthy. Thank you so much. (Applause)