Laila is a type 1 diabetic, which means she is insulin dependent. She also falls into the "intensive treatment" category, which means she receives more than three insulin shots per day-in her case, she uses two types of insulin to control her sugar levels. She receives a fast-acting insulin, NovoLog, with each meal to help break down what she's eating, and to correct her sugar levels if they are high. This type of insulin she needs five to six times a day. The second type of insulin she receives is a 24-hour controlled release insulin, Lantus, to help her highs not be so high.
The reason Laila needs insulin is because her body doesn't produce enough on its own to help break down the foods she eats. The sugars and starches (carbohydrates) in the food we eat are broken down by digestive juices into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose circulates in the blood as the major energy source for the body. For cells in muscles and other tissues to use glucose for energy, the hormone insulin must be present. Insulin is produced by the pancreas gland located behind the stomach. When the right amount of insulin is present, glucose is either used as fuel for energy or stored in the liver for future use.
On a regular basis, Laila and I get asked questions about what she's "allowed" to eat. Just to clear the air, she's allowed to eat whatever I approve for her as a mom, which means technically she can eat an entire bag of cookies if she wanted, but I'm not going to let that happen. She eats regular meals throughout the day-breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and sometimes dessert. I often find she gets more "treats" than other children, if her sugar is low she gets a free juice box or piece of candy, it's still a struggle for me at times to accept these parts of her diabetes. I am relatively strict when it comes to my children and the things I allow them to eat or drink, so Laila always feels like she's getting away with more than she's ever been allowed. She loves to eat fruits, vegetables, meats, pasta, and treats, just like everyone else, only instead of eating whatever she's hungry for whenever she wants it, she combines it into stable, healthy meals throughout the day and "carb free" snacks in between.
Laila takes her insulin through a syringe, or a "pen". The fast-acting insulin, or NovoLog, comes in a little vial and fits right into the pen, complete with a dial for dosing on the end. It makes life so much easier for everyone involved, the needles are very small and attach right on to the pen, and twist right off after use. Without an insulin pump, Laila's snacks are limited throughout the day. She prefers to eat her meals around the same time each day, and when she's hungry in between, she has a few favorite "carb free" staples she turns to. Because certain foods don't contain carbohydrates for her body to break down, they don't affect her sugar levels, and are considered a free snack for her. Today after school she chose one of her all time favorites, meat and cheese.
So when you hear someone is a diabetic, there's no need to ask, "Should they be eating that?" or, "What are they allowed?" Laila, like all other children, is allowed all the healthy, tasty foods I'm willing to give her. The toughest part for her? Getting me to agree that cookies are healthy.