Nemours doctor blames 'milk & cookie disease' for childhood congestion, sinus trouble

Doctor claims excessive sugar, dairy mix troublesome to children


ORLANDO, Fla. – Milk and cookies. It's a common after-school or before-bed snack.

But an Orlando Nemours Hospital doctor says that combination may be to blame for a new illness, which she calls the "milk and cookie disease."

Becky Giambrone said her 5-year-old Jonathan is full of life, but she began to see symptoms that were starting to make him sluggish and moody.

"He was very uncomfortable. He didn't sleep well. He was restless and woke up every morning with black underneath his eyes because he wasn't sleeping well enough," said Giambrone.

She said at night her kindergartner sounded more like an old man snoring.

"The sound was like an adult man pulling paint off the walls," said Giambrone.

After a number of allergy tests, doctor's visits and prescriptions they went to visit ear nose and throat surgeon, specialist Dr. Julie Wei at Nemours Children's Hospital.

"Maybe it's not a cold, it's not allergies especially when you have already had allergy testing. Maybe your kid has the milk and cookie disease," said Wei.

Wei said she asked Giambrone what she was feeding Jonathan. She told Wei her son had a glass of milk before bed.

And there it was, the common denominator of hundreds of patients telling the same story. They were congested at night with a stuffy and runny nose, a sore throat in the morning, nighttime coughing, constipation, and there was a lot of dairy and sugar in their diet, especially in the evenings.

Wei explained that sugar turns the stomach into a highly acidic environment and all their diary builds a layer of mucus.

"It was hard for him to breath. It was like yogurt. It thickens it was coming back up when he was trying to breath," said Giambrone when she finally understood what was happening to Jonathan.

Wei now advises parents to keep a food diary and keep track of the amount and timing of dairy.

"So total amount of milk they drink, cheese sticks, yogurt. Because we have been told dairy is very good," said Wei. "It's not that I am anti-diary, but kids who consume a lot of it, we see constipation and nasal symptoms."

She also gives families, like the Giambrone's, a lifestyle prescription. The golden rule to follow is no sugary snacks and no milk 90 minutes before bed.

"If the child has to eat again because they are hungry, and we don't want to send a child to bed hungry, maybe some dry crackers, half a banana, honey dew, those fruits are less acidic," said Wei.

"Since I have stopped with dairy and given him water before bed, we've seen a huge difference," said Giambrone.