Healthy and Halloween don't really belong in the same sentence do they? I can even see the eye role and the sigh when healthy is even mentioned when it comes to certain holidays that are centered around candy.
Now don't get me wrong. I absolutely love Halloween. The costumes, the community, and the CANDY! Yes, I dress up and I even plan my Halloween costume at the beginning of the year.
This is me in Halloween of 2022. Bonus points if you can guess who I was!
Now that we've established that I don't hate Halloween because I dare mention healthy in the same sentence, maybe you can hear me out.
It's been studied and documented that there may be an increase in the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in individuals under the age of 30 that is decided seasonal.
The study found that there was an increase in insulin dependent diabetes specifically during autumn. Winter came in at a close second.
Further research showed that type 1 diabetes diagnoses increased in children 0-14 years of age during the months of October through January in the northern hemisphere.
Why is that?
Link Between Diabetes and Autoimmunity
Loads of research links new type 1 diabetes diagnoses to a viral origin. Studies indicate that type 1 diabetes is actually an autoimmune response that destroys the beta cells of the pancreas.
The way it is thought to work is that the body becomes susceptible to a virus which then triggers the body to mount an immune response that then becomes directed at the body itself, instead of the virus.
The beta cells of the pancreas secrete insulin which helps to bring glucose into the cells to use for fuel.
I like to describe diabetes in the terms of a pizza delivery man and a neighborhood. The houses are the cells. The person inside the house is the cellular mechanisms that require glucose to function. The pizza delivery man and the pizza are the food that you ingest.
Finally, the roads represent the bloodstream and insulin represent the lock on the door of the house.
If the front door of the house remains locked, the pizza man can try to enter the house to deliver the pizza all he wants but it'll never get in.
And the people in the house will remain hungry.
This is what's happening with diabetes. Glucose in unable to enter the cells and stays around in the bloodstream wrecking havoc.
Back to why there seems to be an increase in diabetes diagnoses in the autumn and winter months.
Since diabetes is linked to an autoimmune response caused by a viral infection, it stands to reason that there is often an increase in viral infections during the cooler and colder months of the year.
What does this have to do with Halloween?
Sugar and the Immune System
Well, while many people love Halloween because of the costumes and the fun, kids love Halloween because of the candy.
Do you know what's the main ingredient of most if not all candies?
Sugar! Depending on the type of candy it might even be worse, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, dye, and flavors... you get the idea,
While, I'll definitely touch on Halloween candy and healthier alternatives in another post, I want to focus on the insane amounts of sugar in this one.
Some public health officials estimate that kids living in the US eat 3 cups of sugar on Halloween!
What does that do to the immune system?
Excess sugar intake has been proven to alter the gut-microbiome and harm the immune system. After all, 70% of your immune system is in your gut.
Is it any wonder that the majority of new autoimmune diabetes cases occur during the fall and winter months where we gorge on sugar and disrupt our immune system?
Studies confirm that high amounts of dietary simple sugar intake cause inflammation in the immune system which is linked to autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
So what can you do to prevent the 3 cup sugar insult to the immune system this Halloween season?
Limit the amount of candy that your kids eat during the night. Make a deal that they can eat a handful of candies instead of the whole stash. Make sure that your kids eat a full healthy meal before going out to trick-or-treat so that they're less likely to want to scarf down candy the second they see it.
You can also bring along some healthy treats that might be a little tricky that will tempt your kids to eat more healthful than the candy.
Check back for our next blog post where we'll go over some healthy Halloween treats and tips to help you enjoy the holiday without the headache.
If you're looking for a personalized approach to health from a naturopathic perspective, get in touch with us. We'd love to help you and if you have any questions or comments, let us know below!
Dr. Candace Mathers is a Christian, naturopathic doctor, and mom of 2 amazing kids, one of who has Down syndrome. If you want to learn how to boost your immune system naturally, check out her newest book Fight The Flu, Colds, and RSV Naturally: Vitamins, Minerals, and Natural Substances that Boost Immune Health on Amazon today!
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Moltchanova EV, Schreier N, Lammi N, Karvonen M. Seasonal variation of diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes mellitus in children worldwide. Diabet Med. 2009;26(7):673-678. doi:10.1111/j.1464-5491.2009.02743.x
Op de Beeck A, Eizirik DL. Viral infections in type 1 diabetes mellitus--why the β cells?. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2016;12(5):263-273. doi:10.1038/nrendo.2016.30
García-Montero C, Fraile-Martínez O, Gómez-Lahoz AM, et al. Nutritional Components in Western Diet Versus Mediterranean Diet at the Gut Microbiota-Immune System Interplay. Implications for Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2021;13(2):699. Published 2021 Feb 22. doi:10.3390/nu13020699
Ma X, Nan F, Liang H, et al. Excessive intake of sugar: An accomplice of inflammation. Front Immunol. 2022;13:988481. Published 2022 Aug 31. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2022.988481