Air Quality, Foods Impact Health
11/29/10 by Kathy Chaffin
Growing up in New York, Dr. Christopher Magryta said his family never talked about whether to go outside or not.
"My mom rang a cow bell for us to come home for lunch, breakfast and dinner," he told the more than 100 people gathered at the Center for the Environment facility for his talk on "Asthma, Allergies and the Environment" Nov. 18. "Other than that, we were outside rain, snow, sleet, midnight.
"Nowadays we have to worry if kids can even go outside. How sad is that? Purple (ozone alert) days. Red days. Orange days. This is a direct effect of what's happening in our environment."
The bottom line, Magryta said, is that it's time to do something about it. "It should have been done 20 years ago."
Hands went up across the room when he asked how many at the event suffered from asthma and allergies. Magryta, who joined Salisbury Pediatrics Associates in 1999, treats children with asthma in the practice's Asthma Clinic and offers an annual summer asthma camp for children.
In introducing him, Dr. John Wear, executive director of the Center for the Environment, said a 2003 report by the American Lung Association ranking Rowan County as having the 16th worst air quality of counties monitored, led to the creation of the Center's Campaign for Clean Air.
Today, the American Lung Association lists Rowan as the 13th worst county in the nation for ozone pollution based on three-year averages.
Magryta said asthma affects 150 million people worldwide. The disease -- which obstructs and restricts airways of patients -- is more prevalent in children. It's also more common in African Americans and slightly more common in females.
Asthma causes wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and coughing, especially in the mornings and at night. "The hallmark I teach all of my kids," he said, "is 'If you're coughing in the morning or you're coughing at night, you need to worry. You've got asthma or your asthma is out of control.' "
Salisbury Pediatrics' Asthma Clinic treats between 600 and 800 children, and the numbers are continuing to grow. Magryta said the key to reducing the number of cases is to educate mothers on the importance of healthy pregnancies.
Asthma is a disease that starts at the beginning, he said, "and then it waits for the right trigger to turn it on." Studies show lower incidences of asthma in children who are delivered naturally and breast-fed.
Magryta said he has heard mothers say they are looked down on for breast-feeding in public. "We should be applauding them for breast-feeding in public," he said. "We're not teaching stuff that's just based on willy nilly tree hugger beliefs....This is science."
One thing parents are doing to protect their children is actually putting them more at risk. Babies tend to lick everything, he said. They put their fingers in their mouths and their toes in their mouths.
"That's God's way of teaching them immune tolerance," he said. "He's teaching their systems right from wrong. We stop that. We Purell everything."
Magryta spoke passionately about the role of food in maintaining good health. Referring to a study in Normandy comparing famine years with non-famine years, he said people who lived through the famine years had a six-year longer life expectancy.
Excess food is actually bad, he said.
Magryta said returning to nature can restore the health we were meant to enjoy. "Go back to what God intended," he said. "Start doing this, and everything changes back to normal."
Meat, for example, didn't become unhealthy until cattle farmers began feeding them grain, he said. Food dyes and other additives also pose a risk.
Magryta said other countries use natural substances such as paprika instead of the red dye used by American food companies. "What a novel idea."
Going outside in the sunshine is the best way to get Vitamin D, he said. "I tell my staff everyday at lunch time, 'Go for a walk,' " he said.
Magryta said the government could help more than it does. Why not subsidize farmers to grow healthy vegetables to make them more affordable? he asked.
By teaching children under his care and their parents about the healing benefits of proper nutrition, Magryta said he is helping them get off prescription drugs for asthma.
"Food will not cure your asthma, true," he said. "It will not change your book of life, but it will change how you read it."
Magryta said proper nutrition and healthier living can transform people's lives. "You want to live, live, live and drop dead," he said, "instead of live, live, live, cancer, diabetes and all these other problems."
One way that Magryta hopes to help people live healthier lives is by writing a blog on the Salisbury Pediatrics website. Log onto www.salisburypediatrics.com to receive his blogs.
The Center for the Environment at Catawba College was founded in 1996 to provide education and outreach centered on prevalent environmental challenges and to foster community-oriented sustainable solutions that can serve as a model for programs throughout the country.