MARYVILLE, Mo. — After their son was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, Zach and Danielle Smith, of Maryville, began finding it difficult to keep his insulin regulated if the family eats at area restaurants.
Zechariah, 3, was recently diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. Since then, his parents have found it difficult to keep his insulin level regulated, due to carbohydrate counts not provided by some food-based businesses.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health website, when people eat a food containing carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which enters the blood stream.
In someone with a working pancreas, as blood sugar levels rise, that organ produces insulin, a hormone that prompts cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage and the sugar level in the blood stream begins to fall.
When this happens, the pancreas begins to make glucagon, a hormone that signals the liver to start releasing stored sugar, thus ensuring cells throughout the body have a steady and healthy supply of blood sugar.
Zechariah’s pancreas stopped working after fighting off a tough illness when he was 2 years old.
“With him being so young it’s really more of an issue because his insulin ratio is so small,” said Danielle Smith.
A few carbs of difference can mean an additional unit of insulin and can be potentially dangerous. Should he receive too much insulin, his blood sugar could be so low that he could fall into a coma.
If he doesn’t receive enough insulin, and his blood sugar becomes too high for a long period of time it runs the risk of hyperglycemia, which can damage the vessels that supply blood to vital organs increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision and nerve problems.
“It’s really just difficult,” Danielle Smith said. “We can’t be the first people that ... have experienced this. When we leave the house essentially, it’s a guessing game.”
She said though there are chain restaurants that provide the nutritional information, and even cellphone apps that offer information, much of that is user-reported and not necessarily accurate.
She explained that even the reliable apps offer such a wide range of possible carb counts it is difficult to keep track. The example she used was a chocolate chip cookie, which on her app can vary from 1 carb to 75 carbs, based on what was put into the cookie.
Starting an online petition at change.org, the family, has begun a local push to require food-based businesses to offer carbohydrate nutritional information on menus and packaging. In just over a week, the family received 156 signatures online and many others in person.
“I feel like it can be beneficial for multiple reasons, Type I Diabetes, Type II Diabetes, Keto diets, whatever the case may be it can be beneficial for a lot of people,” she said. “There’s really no downside to requiring places to provide it.”
She said they ask for that information at every restaurant they go in. They even consider packing him a meal if they’re going out to a restaurant, but she explained that’s frowned upon.
“I’m actually shocked that it hasn’t already become a requirement with all the people trying to be healthy,” said Zach Smith.
Rather than complain about this difficulty, Danielle Smith said she wanted to be active in finding a resolution to the problem.
“I feel like it’s something a lot people would support,” she told Joe Hegeman, local representative for U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, during a meeting last week.
She explained her situation and asked if there was anything else they could be doing to move forward on this topic.
Hegeman suggested she contact her state legislator and continue to gain local support, while he looks into the issue and seeks out any current legislation regarding this topic.
“We’re hoping to just push it through where it becomes mandatory for all restaurants to have to provide that information,” she said. “A lot of them currently provide calorie information. I feel like if you can provide calories, you can provide carbohydrates.”