How a stuffy nose can lead to diabetes

A lot of attention has focused on the recent rise in cases of diabetes.

But most of what you hear is about type 2 diabetes, since it represents almost 95 percent of the diabetic population.

While type 1 (formerly known as "juvenile") diabetes affects a far smaller percentage of diabetics, it's also been on the rise over the past few years. Based on the most current statistics, it hits one out of every 300 kids; and if there's a family history, that risk goes up 20 times.

At first, that doesn't make any sense. We usually think of type 1 diabetes as something you're born with.

Type 1 diabetes doesn't develop as a result of poor lifestyle choices; it affects children and young adults whose bodies can't produce insulin and need help turning sugars and starches into energy.

But the latest research shows that there may be something we're doing to our kids and grandkids that's actually giving them diabetes.

Researchers from NYU found that laboratory mice had an "accelerated and enhanced rate of type 1 diabetes"... after just three rounds of antibiotics.

The average American child could easily have taken that many rounds of antibiotics -- before their first birthday!

And we're not talking about particularly high doses of exceptionally powerful antibiotics. The study used amount equivalent to those typically given (and usually overprescribed) for common childhood infections of, say, the ear.

In the study, the antibiotics caused a snowball effect, first by upsetting the gut bacterial balance in the mice, and then throwing off their T-cell count.

As a result, the mice's immune systems went haywire and started attacking healthy cells -- and, in this case, that meant the insulin-making cells of the pancreas, which became inflamed.

Of course, we know that healthy gut bacteria being wiped out by antibiotics has also been linked to a steep increase in type 2 diabetes in adults.

But the kicker here is that a young body's immune system is still learning how to fight -- and these antibiotics kill off gut microbes that train the body NOT to attack itself.

Remember: antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections. These drugs will do absolutely nothing for cold or flu viruses, allergies, or even many infections that may actually be caused by a fungus.

If the infection is relatively minor (no fever), there are a number of natural cures you can try first:

  • Hay fever: Sneezing and other symptoms can be cleared up by probiotics, which boost immunity and are safe to give to kids.
  • Nasal congestion: Fill a sink with hot water, drape a towel over the youngster's head, and have them breathe in the steam.
  • Ear infections: Topical oil of basil may help -- but if the little one seems to be constantly getting ear infections, it may be a sign of something else going on, like a food allergy.

To be safe, check with a doctor who's well-versed in integrative medicine. If the munchkin truly needs an antibiotic, the doc can prescribe one.