When a child is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, their parents or caretakers must assume some extra responsibilities and take measures to ensure that their blood glucose levels are well maintained.
Although there are numerous strategies, tips, and tricks to manage blood glucose levels, a very practical strategy that can complement diabetes management is to ensure adequate water intake. As we all know, adequate water intake has numerous health benefits – in fact, you can’t live without it! But did you know that it’s also an important factor in glycemic control?
In this post, we will go over how it may work in reducing hyperglycemia, how it can be practically implemented with ease, and how much water intake is typically recommended for a child with type 1 diabetes.
Our comprehensive diabetes management app, Gluroo, allows you to log all sorts of things that can help with building consistent behaviors so you can worry about diabetes less and live life more. Logging meals, insulin boluses, exercise, and even water intake can all be done with the tap of a button or a simple chat message. You can download it for free today on both Android and iOS.
How Does Water Affect Blood Glucose Levels?
While there are many factors that affect blood glucose levels, an often overlooked one is hydration. A research paper in 2011 followed 3000 individuals for over a 9-year follow-up period. Though the diabetes incidence in the study was low, the conclusions may still be valid across both diabetics and non-diabetics. The results showed that drinking more water was associated with a lower risk of developing hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels. But the question is, how does water reduce blood glucose levels?
There are several theories regarding the mechanism. For starters, having more water in the bloodstream would naturally reduce the concentration of glucose. It would also increase the amount of urine produced, hence more glucose will be excreted from the body via urine. While this is logical, it may only have a very minor effect on overall blood glucose levels.
Although water intake is good at reducing blood glucose, it’s only a “helpful” measure and should be used alongside others to avoid hyperglycemia. The things that most directly affect blood glucose management are insulin administration, carbohydrate intake, dietary changes like restricting refined carbs and sugar intake, and exercise frequency and consistency.
(The study mentions another mechanism which may be at play, which is the fact that “water intake alters vasopressin secretion”. They go on to explain that vasopressin has an association with the risk of diabetes onset.)
Dehydration and Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) Readings
Continuous Glucose Monitors measure glucose levels by reading interstitial fluid. If a CGM user is dehydrated, the amount of interstitial fluid in their body may be lower than normal. If this happens, the user may get readings that are falsely low. To ensure that dehydration does not inhibit CGM readings, monitor your child’s water intake and make sure that they’re getting enough.
Why Is It Important to Avoid Hyperglycemia?
Since children with type 1 diabetes have reduced or no insulin production within the body, there is no release of insulin in the body after meals. If insulin is not administered, it can lead to high blood sugar levels, also called hyperglycemia. In this state, the body will try to get rid of the excess glucose from the bloodstream via urine, leading to excessive water loss and dehydration.
Another complication of hyperglycemia is an acute and life-threatening condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA happens when there’s excess glucose in the blood that isn’t absorbed by the cells due to low levels of insulin. When this happens, the body starts breaking down fats for energy and releases ketones. It then tries to remove the ketones and the glucose from the body via urine. This can result in severe dehydration and a chemical imbalance in the body.
It’s essential to pick up on symptoms of hyperglycemia as quickly as possible to avoid short-term and long-term complications.
A few signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia are:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Blurry vision
- Feeling lethargic.
If your child also develops vomiting or becomes unconscious alongside these symptoms, it may be a sign of DKA, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
How Much Water Should Your Child Drink?
The amount of water needed varies from person to person. It depends on many factors, such as age, activity levels, weight, and even the climate you live in.
The best thing to do concerning your child’s water requirement is to contact your healthcare provider or nutritionist, as they can give you a better estimate after evaluating these factors. Oftentimes the correct answer to the question of how much water you should drink is simply – “until you’re not thirsty anymore”. But here is a general idea of a child’s daily water requirement:
|Age & Gender
|Girls & boys 4–8 years
|1.2 liters (about 5 cups)
|Boys 9–13 years
|1.6 liters (about 6 cups)
|Boys 14–18 years
|1.9 liters (about 7–8 cups)
|Girls 9–13 years
|1.4 liters (about 5–6 cups)
|Girls 14–18 years
|1.6 liters (about 6 cups)
It’s especially important for children with T1D to adhere to these recommendations because, as we’ve seen, water can have an important role in helping control blood sugar levels.
Tips to Encourage Water Consumption
To be honest, the biggest challenge here is probably getting your child to drink enough water.
Here are some tips you might find helpful for this purpose:
- Use flavored water to play to your child’s taste. You can add things like mint, lemon, or cucumber to entice them to drink more water.
- Kids love to feel special, so get them their own cup. If it helps, get them involved in the choice. Perhaps if they choose a cup they really like, it’ll make them more excited to use it.
- Just like designated cups, you can also get them fun bottles they can carry around with them when they go out to play or go to school.
- You could also look into creating meals with high water content ingredients, such as celery, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables.
- You can also simply remind your child to drink more water regularly or even set up hourly alarms. You can also ensure they have a glass of water with their meals.
As you can see, increased water consumption is a safe, practical, and effective way to help manage blood glucose levels and reduce, on some level, the frequency and severity of hyperglycemia. As a caretaker or parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, you are sure to be on the lookout for simple things you can do to maintain your child’s blood glucose levels in a safe range.
Adequate hydration is not only beneficial in diabetes but is also generally good for the overall well-being of your child. Supplementing it in your child’s diabetes management plan alongside proper diet control and insulin use can make sure that your kid is healthy and happy.
Simple things such as hourly reminders, cute water bottles, and increased use of fruits and vegetables can help you achieve this goal.