Katie McKilligan on Managing Diabetes

Diabetes Awareness

Katie McKilligan led a Nutrition Education Session on using food to manage diabetes for youth in the Eastside After School Program at the East Side Boxing Club.

With our Nutrition Education Sessions, Good Food aims to educate and empower youth to lead healthy lives and inspire others to create the same change.

Diabetes rates have spiked across Canada in the last 20 years, disproportionately affecting Indigenous people and low-income populations. Diabetes rates are 3 to 5 times higher among the Indigenous community compared to the rest of the population. Indigenous and low-income populations are most commonly affected by type 2 diabetes.

Youth at the Eastside After School Program have friends, family and community members with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Our goal with this session was to empower youth with information on how to manage diabetes.

Nutrition, Education, Involved youth, diabetes
Katie McKilligan at the Eastside Afterschool Program.

About Katie

Katie McKilligan grew up in Vancouver. Her passion for soccer started at a young age and led her to play for the University of Calgary. During this time Katie started experiencing symptoms including hormonal imbalances and energy crashes which affected her overall quality of life and ability to play soccer. Doctors failed to diagnose Katie for the first year she experienced symptoms. She was eventually diagnosed at age 22 with type 1 diabetes.

Katie has overcome many challenges with diabetes.Through these challenges she’s learned how to properly manage the disease for herself and still plays soccer. She’s inspired by helping others understand how to manage the disease for themselves. She’s driven to spread awareness amongst a variety of communities to broaden the overall understanding of the diabetes epidemic and its need for support.

Katie now works for Roche – a leading medical research company. She’s passionate about advocating for reliable access, knowledge and support for people suffering from diabetes.

Katie created a website that is dedicated to supporting Jamaican youth suffering from type 1 diabetes as well as advocating for awareness of the disease. Katie has committed to raise $63,000 over the course of three years for Life for a Child. Life for a Child is a program supporting the medical needs of children in developing countries living with diabetes.

Key Points

  • Diabetes is a terminal and metabolic disease.
  • Diabetes can affect people in different ways.
  • Ask the diabetics in your life, what symptoms they experience when they have low or high blood sugar. Understanding their symptoms helps you identify when they happen.
  • Living with diabetes means managing a chronic illness 24 hours a day. You must understand how much insulin you’ll need for everything you ingest, and consider the symptoms in everything you do.
  • Diabetics need more self-care in order to maintain their mental and physical health.
  • Diabetics need to administer, test and monitor insulin throughout the day. There are different methods of doing this and it depends on the individual’s needs for the most effective option.
  • Make yourself aware of foods that spike blood sugar levels.

Understanding Diabetes: The Basics

During Katie’s session, one of the youth asked a very important question:

‘How can we support members of our community who have diabetes?’

Katie said one of the biggest ways to support people with diabetes is by understanding it.

Nutrients and Absorption

In order to understand diabetes, we must first understand insulin and its relation to how food is processed in our body.

Image 1.

Nutrient Groups

Breaking down the different nutrient groups to a molecular level helps us understand how it affects our body. Youth in our programs have already been introduced to different nutrient groups from past sessions.Taking the next step to understanding how nutrients are  processed was a smooth transition.

We started by collectively identifying foods that belonged to each group. For instance, chicken is a healthy protein and avocados are a healthy source of fat. When it comes to carbohydrates quinoa, yams and brown rice were all shouted out. It’s important to understand carbohydrates contain three different molecules; sugars, starch and fiber. Most carbohydrates have all three however, contain different levels of each.

Nutrient Processing

The next steps to understanding nutrients is understanding how the body absorbs them. Image 1 represents how proteins, fats and carbs are absorbed and used for different bodily functions.


Proteins

Protein molecules attach to enzyme molecules and are carried throughout the body for the purpose of muscle growth as well as providing the energy needed for bodily functions, especially healing injuries.


Fats

Fat cells attach to bile acids and transmit a long-term energy source to our brain and entire body.

Foods with high amounts of fat take longer to digest, resulting in your blood sugar progressively spiking at a slower pace.


Carbs

Sugar and starches

Sugar and starch start off as different molecules, our bodies break them down before they can absorb them to use as an energy source. After our body breaks them down the end result for both molecules is sugar.

As the sugar we process enters our blood stream for energy and travels to every part of our body, our pancreas goes to work to produce insulin. Insulin is what naturally lowers are blood sugar in order to keep a healthy balance. High blood sugar causes damage to blood vessels, nerves, organs and vision. High blood sugar is a leading cause of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Fibre
For more information about the magic of fibre check out Fibre Fundamentals.

Fibre is the other part of a carbohydrate. Our bodies don’t absorb fibre for bodily functions, but rather use fibre as a bodily function.

There’s two different types of fibre and they both help us out through the digestive process.

Soluble Fibre

When trying to understand soluble fibre, think about chia seeds.When it’s exposed to water in our intestines, it swells up like a chia seed and forms a gel.This gel maximizes the health benefits of food by slowing down nutrient absorption.

Insoluble Fibre

Insoluble fibre benefits the digestive process by helping digested food move through the intestines proficiently.

How Diabetes Affects Us

Diabetes is a disease that impairs the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin.

Insulin is used to process and manage the sugar in our bodies. Our bodies cannot function properly without it.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Food hangover (feeling groggy, tired and uneasy after a meal)
  • Physical and mental anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Rage blackouts
  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Tingling in the hands and feet

Insulin

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both caused by issues with insulin.

Insulin Insensitivity

Insulin insensitivity happens when your cells become less or non-reactive to insulin.This makes your body less effective at processing sugars, resulting in high blood sugar, resulting in diabetes.

How it works

If your body has to produce and process an excessive amount of insulin to make up for excessive sugar intake, the cells eventually become desensitized to insulin’s effect on them, resulting in high blood sugar. When your body becomes desensitized, it needs more insulin than your pancreas can produce.

Exhausted pancreas

If your diet demands a large amount of insulin to break down the sugars, eventually your pancreas will get tired.

How it works

When your pancreas gets tired, it lowers or stops its ability to produce insulin. Which results in high blood sugar leading to diabetes. This issue is typically what type 2 diabetics experience.

Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is more likely to stem from one’s diet and habits. Enough exercise, a healthy diet and managing stress levels are important factors when it comes to protecting yourself against it.

The reason why people get Type 1 diabetes is not clear but scientist, believe it stems from genetic and environmental factors such as viruses that trigger the effect.

Affects OF Diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetics have a 40% greater chance of developing clinical depression.
  • Food hangover.
  • Blindness.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Coma.
  • Limb amputation.
  • Physical and mental anxiety.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Rage blackouts.

Awareness and Advocacy

It’s important to note that although type 2 is affiliated with lifestyle choices, many people who suffer from it don’t have access to healthy food or activities, resulting in a lower quality of physical and mental health. We as a community must stop stigmatizing type 2 diabetics for being at fault for having a chronic disease. Advocating for justice when it comes to access and education of proper nutrition and physical activities is what will make the biggest impact.

Managing Diabetes

Cost

Managing diabetes is expensive. It can be extremely difficult for a large number of individuals and families living in Vancouver to maintain on a constant basis.

Vancouver General Hospital has youth programs aimed to educate youth around insulin maintenance.

The cost of managing diabetes on a daily basis is not the same for everyone. How much insulin needed and how many times one needs to test their blood sugar differs from person to person.

PharmCare supplies free insulin for BC citizens if they’re covered by the following programs

When it comes to the testing and monitoring process, resources are more limited. Pharmcare supplies needles and test strips and insulin pumps for the following plans.

There is no coverage available for nutritional food or physical activities.

 Impact On the Eastside After School Program.

Youth greatly appreciate having a more in-depth understanding of the disease and how to support their community.

Donate here to help grow our Nutrition Education and resources.

Donate here to help support youth with diabetes.

Your contribution creates a difference in their lives.