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Hypoglycemia in Children
Does it affect academics?
Do swinging blood sugar levels really impact children’s conduct and grades in school? Well, we can probably agree that this is a controversial subject in pediatrics.
The real battle has been over whether or not high sugar diets drastically affect behavior.
Let’s look at this one step further and also consider the link between blood sugar swings and performance in school.
The question becomes, does fluctuating blood sugar influence what I like to call FFF (fidget focus factor).
In order for kids to do well academically, they have to be able to focus and comprehend the lessons right?
In other words do children need to rely on fidget toys for anxiety and focus? Or, can they sit for a short lesson and focus long enough to grasp concepts being taught?
I see many of them getting in trouble or sleeping through classes; especially late morning and after lunch.
Fidget Toys for Anxiety
No doubt you’ve seen all the fidget toys for anxiety and focus floating around school! The spinners, and squeezers, and such are flying off the shelves.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and pose the question, could this be at least partly due to dietary related hyperactivity and focus issues?
I’ll leave that to the experts and doctors and just share what I observe.
Most students are hitting up the chips, candy, and soda more than once per day. If I had to put a number on it, I would say at least 85% of them are eating a SAD (standard american diet).
This 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 has the same effect as eating sugar from a spoon.
So, kids who eat breakfasts consisting of pastries with a glass of juice, or waffles with syrup, may experience a rapid rise in glucose. Their bodies react by creating insulin and other hormones that quickly drive levels back down to extremely low levels.
So this breakfast would have a high fidget, low focus factor. This is obviously not great for good grades.
If you know any diabetics, you know that they strive for balance and do all they can to prevent extreme highs and lows in blood sugar.
Low blood sugar is known to affect the brain and ability to problem solve and think clearly. And nobody wants that going on especially not in the middle of Algebra class.
Other effects of hypoglycemia in children
Not only do they suffer the brain effects of a poor diet, but the spike and dip in blood sugar often causes the production of hormones that make them feel anxious, have a headache, or become very sleepy.
What is the outcome for these students? By mid-morning, the kid is hypoglycemic, irritable, and worried. They’ve got that fidget toy for anxiety going at full speed. It may even fly across the room.
Could this blood sugar imbalance and SAD diet compound the effects of present conditions such as ADHD? It sure seems as if it can make some youngsters act like they have the condition even if they really don’t.
What about lunches? Well, lunches that consist 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.
Although school lunches are slowly improving, there’s a long way to go.
I can remember taking a student through the line who needed help with carrying the tray and setting up. It went like this:
Pizza and Potatoes
Oh wow, they piled on this huge piece of pizza with the thickest white crust I’d ever seen and then added mashed potatoes! On the side they gave her broccoli but seriously it was like a mouthful and no more. Lastly, she grabbed a juice drink and a cup of fruit with 3 grapes and 2 chunks of apple.
Now, can you see how issues with focus and school performance could be brought about by blood sugar imbalances? This student couldn’t keep her eyes open for the next hour after lunch at least.
Fix hypoglycemia in children now to avoid future problems
When highly refined carbohydrates are ingested, hyperactive behavior occurs. Studies support that this happens as well as decreased cognitive function.
As already stated, this is due to rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. What goes up must come down right? As the body responds to falling levels of blood glucose, adrenaline is produced.
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. Don’t forget they have to have that fidget toy for anxiety with them at all times too now.
And 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
One way to help avoid the issue is to feed your children low glycemic foods that are healthy and packed with nutrients to keep balanced glucose levels.
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.
This is all well and good, but what happens when they get tired of eggs or don’t like eggs? Well, you can find some other low carb breakfast ideas like muffins and berry omelets.
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 hypoglycemia in children/fidget toys for anxiety: 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.