Evaluation and Treatment for Childhood Obesity and Naturopathic Medicine
Despite our best efforts, childhood obesity is still a growing concern. Statistics Canada reports that 31.5 % of 5 to 17 year olds are becoming increasingly overweight or obese and the numbers are expected to continue to rise. Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term health consequences. Overweight and obese children are now being diagnosed with a range of health problems that are usually seen only in adults, like hypertension (high blood pressure), Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. Being overweight and obese in childhood can also have a significant impact on a child’s psychological development and can negatively impact self-esteem and self-confidence.
Top 3 Culprits to Screen For
- Processed foods, frozen dinners, chips, boxed goods, candy bars, hot dogs, deli meat – highly addictive because they are high in fat, sugar and salt which stimulate the pleasure and reward center of the brain, just as opiates and drugs do
- Casein (a protein naturally found in dairy products) – casein contains opiates, and as it is digested, it breaks apart to release tiny opiate molecules called casomorphins which stimulates over consumption of food.
- Caffeine-found in sodas – caffeine blocks a chemical responsible for calming the brain which in turn causes the release of stress hormones. This leads to insulin resistance activating fat storage.
Risk Factors for Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity can be brought on by numerous factors. Assessing common risks should be an important part of screening and need to be evaluated at all doctors visits.
Poor food choices including high fat, high sugar and processed foods are partly to blame for the rising trend in childhood Type 2 diabetes. Keeping a daily log of a child’s meals and snacks is helpful.
Children who fail to engage in regular physical activity are at a greater risk of becoming obese. Many children ignore exercise in favour of watching television, surfing the internet or playing video games.
A number of studies have examined the link between reduced sleep in children and an increased risk of obesity. Reduced sleep sets up a vicious cycle that leads to fatigue, reduced physical activity and increased appetite. Researchers found that lack of sleep affects the levels of ghrelin and leptin in the body, both of which regulate hunger, appetite and cortisol – a factor in insulin resistance and higher BMI. It’s difficult to enforce a strict bed time but it’s important to be consistent. Maintaining close to the same hours of sleep every night is a healthy habit to enforce for life.