Prevent Blood Sugar Fluctuations and Improve Your Child’s Learning

March 28, 2013 by DrDonna

We listed hypoglycemia symptoms that can affect children and adults. If you observe your child with this new information in mind, you may find that some of them are experiencing low blood sugar at different times throughout the day.

Most children do not have diabetes, but could have short bouts of hypoglycemia where they start to show these symptoms. What is causing this hypoglycemia in children?

The answer is actually an easy one and the good news is that your child’s low blood sugar symptoms may be entirely avoidable. This can translate to fewer fights between siblings before mealtime, fewer days where your child misses school, and higher scores in school.

Imbalanced Ratios of Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates Cause Hypoglycemia

The primary reason why many children will experience blood sugar fluctuations is because they are eating too many carbohydrates at each meal. For example, a common breakfast of 5th graders is pancakes with syrup and orange juice.

When you look at the nutritional composition of this meal, you’ll find it’s primarily carbohydrates. One 6-inch buttermilk pancake is about 175 calories and also contains:

  • 22 grams carbohydrates
  •  7 grams fat
  • 5 grams protein

If your child adds a few tablespoons of syrup and a tablespoon of butter, you’re up to 379 calories. Take a look at the composition of these two foods below:

2 tablespoons Syrup

  •   104 calories
  •   26 grams carbohydrates
  •   0 grams fat
  •   0 grams protein

1 Tablespoon Butter

  • 100 calories
  • 0 grams carbohydrates
  • 11 grams fat
  • 0 grams protein

This meal doesn’t include a glass of orange juice, which is an additional 110 calories and composed of the following:

  • 25 grams carbohydrates
  • 2 grams protein
  • 0 grams fat

In total, the meal is 489 calories — and is predominantly carbohydrates.

If your child adds a few sausage links, then the result would be an additional 165 calories (or, 654 calories total). The composition of the links is:

  • 15 grams fat
  • 0 grams carbohydrate
  • 8 grams protein

The totals would be 73 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, and 33 grams fat — or, 45.5 percent carbohydrates, 9 percent protein, and 45.5 percent fat.

After eating this meal, your child’s blood sugar will skyrocket because of the 73 grams of carbohydrate. This is far too many carbohydrates for the body to handle in one meal, especially in a child.

Insulin will be produced from the pancreas in very high amounts to try to get the sugar out of the blood and into the tissues. A side effect occurs with the high insulin: the body starts storing all the calories as fat and the effect lasts for 18 hours.

One other side effect that occurs is the blood sugar level crashes into the low blood sugar zone, approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours after eating. This is when the symptoms of hypoglycemia will start.

A child may get headaches, pick a fight with another child at school, or be so drowsy that he can’t stay awake in class. He misses out on everything that could have been learned during the next 30+ minutes while his body tries to adjust to the blood sugar changes.

How to Stop the Affects of Hypoglycemia

You can prevent hypoglycemia in your children by teaching them how to choose protein-rich meals with fewer carbohydrates. Focusing on kids’ size portions is also important. Boys that eat a meal such as the one described above will start to get pudgy – and obesity opens the door to even more problems with health and socialization.

The solution for a pancake breakfast is to eat one 4-inch pancake, not a 6-inch one; cut the syrup to one tablespoon, cut the orange juice to ½ cup (or replace it with milk), and reduce the sausage links to only one. This would shave off 36 grams carbohydrates and 276 calories from the meal to 378 calories — which is much more appropriate for a child. The carbohydrate level would be 37 grams, which is better for brain function and learning.

Now your child can learn.

The keys are to increase the protein in a meal, have adequate fat (it buffers the carbohydrates), and 30-40 grams carbohydrates as a maximum. At these levels, your child will be able to focus, to make rapid gains in learning and her behavior will improve.

Do what you can to counteract any potential hypoglycemia in children. Get more information about other ways to sharpen focus skills at Gemm Learning.