What kid doesn’t love devouring a bowl of ice cream or a slice of pizza?
If they’re among the 30 million to 50 million Americans who are lactose-intolerant, a moment of dairy indulgence could lead to unpleasant outcomes: nausea, cramps, bloating and diarrhea.
Ridgewood, N.J., psychologist Dr. Frank Sileo’s newest illustrated book, “Hold the Cheese Please! A Story for Children About Lactose Intolerance,” is his second that educates children about gastrointestinal problems. People who suffer from lactose intolerance lack the enzyme that breaks down lactose, or milk sugars.
In 2006, Sileo debuted with “Toilet Paper Flowers: A Story for Children About Crohn’s Disease,” teaching about the chronic illness that causes inflamed intestines.
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Talking about bathroom-related illnesses is still a taboo in our culture, Sileo said. “People laugh at those things,” he said. “By acknowledging it, I’m promoting awareness and providing education to kids, siblings and their friends.”
Diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in his early 20s and also lactose intolerant, Sileo is both a role model and empathetic therapist for his young patients who are struggling with the emotional toll of chronic illness. “Kids can feel guilty,” he said. “They feel, ‘Did I do something wrong in life to get this illness?’”
In his children’s story, Danny, a lactose-intolerant schoolboy, goes on a dairy binge after being teased by classmates for his dietary differences. He ends up in the nurse’s office with a bellyache, but makes a comeback with the encouragement of the nurse, teaching classmates about his condition.Sileo uses the books in his child practice as a therapy tool. “Disease can take power away from us,” Sileo said. “I want them to feel more comfortable and more powerful.”