“Milk and cookie disease” was created, or rather was formally termed, in 2012 by Julie L. Wei, MD, a Pediatric Otolaryngologist, to describe what she says is an epidemic brought on by too much dairy and sugar.

Overconsumption of dairy and sugar can lead to acid in the stomach which, in turn, causes acid reflux. Acid reflux can also present itself as a sinus infection or runny nose. Thousands of people are taking medication, Dr. Wei argues, when they aren’t sick. They are simply suffering from milk and cookie disease.

Acid in the body

Cold milk itself is not acidic. The pH is seven. But as the temperature goes up, the acidity increases and the pH level drops. Sugar breaks down first into alcohol and carbonic acid gas, and then into acetic acid and water, which is what makes vinegar. So both dairy and sugar become highly acidic in the body.

Dr. Wei explained in her TED Talk on the subject that physicians are not trained to ask what patients eat and drink, only what symptoms they are presenting. So while you may go to the doctor with symptoms of sinus infection or acid reflux, they should be aware that diet could actually be the culprit.

The time it takes for food to break down and digest before entering the intestines is called gastric emptying time. But dairy, sugar and fat cause food to break down more slowly. The more acid sits around, the more likely it is to come back up, especially if you eat close to bedtime.

What you can do

Dr. Wei doesn’t suggest a restrictive diet of no sugar and dairy. She advises that you look out for sodas and sugary drinks and to drink more water instead.

You can still have your milk and cookies, but not right before bedtime. By cutting down on sugar and dairy you will not only feel better, but you may save money on over-the-counter medicines you’ve been using to treat the symptoms of milk and cookie disease.

Read Next: 5 things you can do to improve your gut health

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