Diabetes is a very serious metabolic disease that’s one of the main health problems people face today, and it can be especially harmful to children. Childhood diabetes is usually known as diabetes type 1, but with more and more kids being diagnosed with type 2, it’s raising concerns.
What is Diabetes?
This chronic metabolic condition occurs when insulin, a very important hormone in your body doesn’t regulate or isn’t able to regulate your blood sugar levels. The food you eat gets broken down into carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which further down the line turn into sugars, amino acids, and fatty acids.
In order for your body to be able to regulate blood sugar levels and mitigate large spikes, it starts producing insulin. If it’s unable to do so, sugars stay in your blood for long periods of time and create inflammation, damage cells, and compromise your immune system.
There are two main types of diabetes:
- Diabetes type 1, also known as childhood diabetes – is less common than diabetes type 2, this form of diabetes occurs when your pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little, unable to regulate blood sugar levels. It usually occurs in younger children and teens but it can happen at any age.
- Diabetes type 2 – is usually caused by a variety of different lifestyle factors, genetics, and environmental stress. It starts with insulin resistance and if not addressed, can turn into a full-blown insulin dependency.
Both of these types have been on the rise in children, and the majority of the reasons have to do with current lifestyle habits, poor diet, lack of exercise, and overall saturation with ultra-processed foods that are severely lacking in nutrients.
Childhood is the time of your life when you grow and develop the most. Following poor lifestyle habits and eating a processed, sugar-filled diet is contributing to inflammation, impairing the function of your immune system, and compromising your health for years to come as it’s making you prone to infections, diseases, chronic conditions, and cancer.
Factors That Impact Childhood Diabetes
Some of the most common factors that contribute to the rise in childhood diabetes, both type 1 and type 2 include:
- Obesity – childhood obesity is one of the greatest health concerns in the United States (and worldwide), and it seems like it’s only getting worse. It’s linked to a variety of reasons, from socioeconomic status and race to simply poor lifestyle choices and lack of exercise.
- Poor nutrition – the ever-growing industry of ultra-processed and sugar-filled foods is severely destroying young kids who opt for these kinds of foods due to their low prices, convenience, and quick satisfaction. Fast-food chains are on every corner and ready-meals are filling up 75% of shelves and fridges in supermarkets.
- Lack of exercise – children are living more sedentary lives than ever before, with everything available at their fingertips. And it’s not just about screen time, it’s also about the lifestyle habits of their friends and family, traffic, and overall lack of educational aspect on the importance of movement and exercise for their health and wellbeing.
- Nutrient deficiencies – many children deal with nutrient deficiencies they aren’t addressing. Whether it’s due to genetics or their poor diet and lifestyle, they are rarely encouraged to visit a physician or a naturopath and get tested so that they can start supplementing and improving their quality of life.
- Stress – children are under more stress in the last decade than ever before and even though most reasons are out of their control (world pandemics, recessions, and the overall fast-paced lives everyone leads), no one is teaching them how to cope and deal with it. Stress is called a silent killer for a reason and it can seriously harm young kids who are still in their developmental phase.
- Medication – many kids are dealing with autoimmune and other chronic conditions that require a medication from a very early age. Many parents are scared to try alternative, less toxic options, and opt for Big pharma. And although there are cases where medicine might be the best solution, in most cases their symptoms could be dealt with by simply changing their lifestyle habits and routines.
How to Prevent and Manage Childhood Diabetes?
If your child is developing diabetes, there are things you can do to help support your pediatrician’s therapy and recommendation. Here are some of the most important things to focus on.
Clean, Nutritious Diet
Diet plays such a huge role in everyone’s overall health and well-being, and focusing on what’s on your children’s plate is probably the best approach you can take to help monitor their weight, change their body composition, and help lower their inflammation levels. As parents, your greatest job is to help support your children who are dealing with a health condition, and getting educated on all things diabetes is your ultimate goal.
There are many resources like the Diabetes Research Institute with plenty of resources to help you learn how to best support your child and help them on their healing journey.
Cleaning up their diet from inflammatory, processed foods, known and unknown allergens, and any toxins is your first step in helping them get back on their health track. Focus on including wholesome, real foods that will nourish their bodies from the inside out and promote optimal function of all of their systems.
Teach your children about the importance of regular exercise and movement and help them stay consistent. Enroll them in classes, support them through every activity, and if you can join them so that they feel motivated and inspired to stay on schedule. The vast benefits of exercise have been reported and studied thousands of times and it’s just as important to implement good movement habits as it is to eat nutritious foods.
Learning how to cope and deal with stress is crucial in helping your children keep inflammation at bay. If you’re unable to provide them with tools that will help them do so, find a professional or a support group that will make them feel less alone and inspire them to find an outlet that will reduce their stress levels and leave them feeling better.
And as parents, you need to work on your own stress-management techniques as getting a diagnosis of childhood diabetes can severely impact your mental health and the overall dynamic in your family.
In collaboration with your child’s pediatrician, talk about potential herbal and multivitamin supplements that can further support their treatment. Many kids who have diabetes are also deficient in vitamin D and other important micronutrients. If your doctor doesn’t already recommend doing a micronutrient paneling, ask about the test yourself and get a deeper insight into your child’s health condition.
Teach your children about the importance of sleep and recovery. Due to the advancements in technology, many kids go to sleep with their phones in their hands or staring at the TV screen. Help them implement good sleeping habits so that they can really reap the benefits of repair, rest, regeneration, and relaxation.
Research shows how childhood diabetes is indeed on the rise, and not just the juvenile, type 1. Parents need to play a larger role in the prevention as well as management and treatment of this chronic condition and stay in close contact with their pediatrician. This is the only way to help improve their quality of life and prevent more serious diseases down the road.