Do blood sugar levels impact the conduct of children? This is a highly debated subject in pediatrics. The battle is over whether diets high in sugar and simple carbohydrates can drastically affect behavior. I look at it one step further and also consider the link to school performance. Does fluctuating blood sugar influence what I like to call FFF (fidget focus factor)? In other words can they sit for a short lesson and focus long enough to grasp the concepts being taught?
I watch what students are eating in the cafeteria and in classrooms. If I had to put a number on it, I would say that at least 85% of them are eating a standard American diet (SAD). The SAD diet is known for being highly processed and high in simple carbs and sugars.
Would you give them sugar from a spoon?
Unfortunately, there are still many people who don’t realize eating simple carbohydrates like white bread or waffles has the same effect as eating sugar from a spoon. So, kids who eat breakfasts consisting of a pastries and a glass of juice, or a waffle with syrup, experience a rapid rise in glucose . Their bodies react by creating insulin and other hormones that drive sugar back down to very low levels. This spike and dip often also causes the production of hormones that make them feel anxious, have a headache, or become very sleepy. This breakfast would have a high fidget, low focus factor. This is obviously not great for school performance.
What is the outcome for these students? By mid-morning, the kid is hypoglycemic, irritable, and worried. This can compound the effects of already present conditions such as ADHD or cause some youngsters to act like they have the condition. Having a lunch consisting of high simple carbs and low-protein with little to no healthy fats will bring about the same side effects toward the late afternoon and evening.
Now can you see how low learning ability, focus problems, and behaviors could be brought about by blood sugar imbalances?
Fix it now to avoid future problems
Studies report that hyperactive behavior occurs as well as decreased cognitive function when highly refined carbohydrates are ingested. As already stated, this is due to rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. What goes up must come down right? Adrenaline is one hormone that is produced as the body responds to falling levels of blood glucose.
Low and high glucose spikes in kids is shockingly common and can be a cause of weariness or irate tantrums that are not helpful for learning. So let’s take a quick peek into the future of students who continue to experience the side effects of blood sugar imbalances in the form of behavior and concentration problems. They cannot keep up in class, they may not have friends if their behavior is annoying or disruptive to others. Further on down the road if they do not pass classes, they may be labeled as learning disabled unnecessarily or be unable to hold a steady or decent job.
How to avoid blood sugar spikes/dips
To keep balanced glucose levels, feed them low glycemic foods that are healthy and packed with nutrients. For example, two eggs cooked in olive or coconut oil with a small serving of a whole, high fiber grain(if tolerated) and low sugar fruit would be a good breakfast. Pack their lunches with your dinner left-overs. Furthermore, send the kids to class with low-sugar snacks. For example, vegetables with hummus or guacamole, natural plain yogurt (if not sensitive to dairy), perhaps an apple (with the skin) and cheddar cheese. Older students may appreciate a salad of mixed greens and beans with extra chicken or fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Include coconut oil and other healthy fats as often as you can.
*Disclaimer: The information provided in this website is for informational purposes. It is based on my own personal experiences and opinions. I am not a medical doctor and what is written should not be used to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. The product links are not meant to be construed as medications or treatments and you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements, herbal products, or starting exercise programs.
Sources: Dunn, Paul, MD. “Hypoglycemia Inn Children’s Behavior Problems.” American Nutrition Association. N.p., 1998. Web.
Greene, Alan, MD. “The Relationship between Sugar and Behavior in Children.” Drgreene.com. N.p., n.d. Web. Sept. 2016.