My health-conscious friend Kevin shops almost exclusively at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. He has a lot of specific guidelines he likes to follow when picking out food. Kevin is concerned about getting the proper nutrients to provide energy throughout the day, and also must be very careful when selecting food for his six-year-old daughter. His daughter, Amy, has eosinophilic esophagitis. If she eats the wrong thing, it can result in a serious health risk.
Eosinophilic esophagitis affects both children and adults. A person with eosinophilic esophagitis has an allergic white blood cell (the eosinophil), which results in a swelling of the esophagus. The following may be symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis: poor weight gain, heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and food impaction. Those who suffer from eosinophilic esophagitis usually have a family history of allergic diseases, such as hay fever, food allergies, and asthma.
A food allergy is usually the cause of eosinophilic esophagitis in children. In order to treat the disease, it is crucial for the child to avoid the food that is causing the problem. The child may also be given a bolus feeding as a way to consume nutrients and gain weight. In a bolus feeding, a powder containing nutrients is mixed with water, and then pumped into the stomach. If a child has a dairy allergy, the mixture may contain a soy-based fatty protein, as well as vitamins and minerals. In Amy’s case, she generally has a bolus feeding twice a day (one in the morning and one at night).
Parents have to be very cautious with a child who has eosinophilic esophagitis. Kevin recalls an instance in which a friend gave some homemade bread to Amy. The friend said the bread did not contain any dairy products, but she was wrong. The bread was made with one tablespoon of butter. Butter is not commonly thought of as a dairy product, but even in miniscule amounts, it can be dangerous to someone with eosinophilic esophagitis. In this instance, Amy did have some trouble breathing after eating the bread.
The Mayo Clinic is currently a leader in eosinophilic esophagitis research. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center are also making efforts to find a cure for eosinophilic esophagitis.