Is your child having a hard time maintaining concentration, general mood and behavior at a consistent level at school? Are your child’s teachers complaining about lack of focus or focus that seems to cycle throughout the day? Is your child suddenly exhibiting signs of fatigue, dizziness, irritability, confusion or oddly timed cravings of sweets at certain points in the afternoon or late morning? All the above could be due to reactive hypoglycemia.
Reactive hypoglycemia is a condition that has become associated with some of these symptoms – and seems to occur in higher numbers in boys. The condition consists of recurrent episodes of symptomatic hypoglycemia, in someone who does not already have diabetes, within about two hours or so after meals. It is brought on by excessive insulin release triggered by the meal but continuing past the digestion and disposal of the glucose derived from the meal. What this means in laymen’s terms is that your child’s ability to function normally may be affected by an occurrence of low blood sugar between meals.
A common pattern looks like this: your child is prone to crave large amounts of carbs and sugars more than other foods. In the mornings they will start out totally engaged and energized in whatever they are doing and by ten or eleven a.m. the energy starts to wane to the point where they may become drastically disengaged with a decrease in emotional acuity. Then at lunchtime they seem to spike up again until a few hours pass and by the end of the school day they’ve returned to a slump.
Although testing is available for this condition, it can be difficult and imprecise. Testing has to take place at certain times to accurately read the sugar levels and often the testing has to be administered over periods of time to get an idea of what’s really happening within the body.
Once diagnosed, there are concrete ways to combat these episodes from occurring with such severe results like making sure your child eats a protein snack every two hours like beef jerky, cheese sticks, etc. to help curb the energy roller coaster from guiding the show.
Bottom line is that if your child is exhibiting these symptoms and having trouble at school, try making these small changes. Monitoring his or her eating cycles and diet may make all the difference.
Dr. Dan Peters, Ph.D., is co-founder of the Summit Center (http://summitcenter.us/), which provides educational and psychological assessments, consultations, and treatment for children, their parents, and families. Summit Center works with all kids, including those who are highly gifted and those with learning disabilities.