This past month the numbers of e-mails I have received concerning children and hypoglycemia have once again increased significantly. Therefore, I am including some of what I wrote in the chapter – “Children and Hypoglycemia: An Area of Growing Concern” – taken from my book, The Do’s and Don’ts of Hypoglycemia: An Everyday Guide to Low Blood Sugar.
For the complete chapter and book, please consider giving it as a gift this Christmas or Hanukah. Not only can the information save a life but the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support the HSF and allow us to continue our work. You can order your copy here…
Since the HSF’s website premiered in 1998, I have received an alarming number of e-mails from parents, teenagers and teachers who openly shared their fears, frustrations, and concerns about hypoglycemia. I am including a few of the most notable here so you too can read what these children have been going through. Some of their names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Although their messages are similar, one from Sandra of Cumming, Georgia, stands out. Dated October 25, 2000, it opened with this warm acknowledgement of the support we are providing and a request for more information.
“Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and providing a superb web site. There is an area, however, that I found extremely little information and education on and perhaps you can provide enlightenment for those in need. It’s in regards to children and hypoglycemia.
“My ten-year-old daughter is intelligent, bouncy and happy most of the time. But over a period of several months, she began to experience significant mood swings, excessive grumpiness, lack of concentration, headaches, etc. Her teacher, my adult friends, and my family related her behavior to “a phase,” a lack of sleep, or to the onset of puberty. I finally understood she had hypoglycemia while we were on vacation. One episode in particular was a telltale sign. She was having a major emotional breakdown, which was completely out of character and unsolicited, but within ten minutes of BEGINNING to eat, she turned into a person. Suddenly, the light bulb went off in my head! I am so grateful that I did not simply brush off her complaints and symptoms as just life stress or her maturing process.”
Sandra had already ordered my book—a good place to start since it is easy to read and understand, even for someone as young as her daughter. I stressed the importance of keeping a diet/symptom diary and working with a healthcare professional knowledgeable in treating hypoglycemia and sympathetic to her daughter’s needs. I suggested several other books, particularly Feed Your Kids Right by the late Dr. Lenden Smith and Is This Your Child? Discovering Unrecognized Allergies in Children and Adults by Dr. Doris Rapp. Both of these authors, leading pediatricians, talk extensively about children, diet and behavior in these books. I also recommended Food & Behavior: A Natural Connection by Dr. Barbara Reed Stitt and Lick The Sugar Habit by Dr. Nancy Appleton.
Sandra continued to keep me informed about her daughter’s progress over the next year and a half and provided insight into what it’s like to be a parent struggling to deal with a child who has hypoglycemia. She sent me the following e-mail on March 17, 2002. No book or author on hypoglycemia could have worded it more poignantly, for this comes from the heart and soul of a mother.
“My daughter is doing very well. We are extremely grateful for discovering the root of her problems. There are children struggling physically, mentally and emotionally, and parents are not aware that their food intake is the cause. I grieve to think of all the children being misdiagnosed or medicated that are truly suffering from a blood sugar disorder. I personally believe that because America is addicted to carbohydrates and refined foods, there exists a huge mass of the population that suffers from intermittent or permanent blood sugar disorders. I encourage parents to modify their child’s diet as the first line of action to correcting any physical or behavioral problems they see in their children. It may not be the only answer, but will most certainly have a positive affect.”
A quick recap…mood swings, severe fatigue, insomnia, sudden outbursts of temper, failing grades, sleeping in class, and fainting spells are all possible warning symptoms or signs. The message is loud and clear. Parents, teachers, and community leaders must all band together to help our children. To understand and learn more about the food/mood connection, start with the following simple do’s and don’ts.
The Do’s of Hypoglycemia:
Do open up lines of communication with your child concerning their food habits and possible associated signs and symptoms. Let them know also that wrong choices, even in diet, may produce negative consequences.
Do EDUCATE yourselves! Parents, it is your responsibility to be educated in this correlation between diet and behavior. What your child eats and doesn’t eat directly relates to how he thinks, feels, and acts.
Do search the internet, local library, and bookstores, and attend any seminar on this or related subjects. The more you know, the better able you will be to make an informed decision.
Do work with a healthcare professional who is knowledgeable about hypoglycemia and sympathetic to your child’s needs. Reread the section “How To Find a Physician.”
Do work with local schools, teachers, counselors and community leaders. Share the information in this section with all of them.
Do cultivate an ongoing relationship with your child’s teacher concerning diet and behavior. Open, honest communication is crucial.
Do review your child’s dietary habits before administration of any medication, especially Ritalin. Share your findings with his/her physician. Often a change in a high-sugar diet will eliminate the need for such hyperactivity medications or minimize the dosage required. A few weeks or months of trying a diet change first could save years of unnecessary medication.
Do monitor the amount of junk food your child is eating. A parent said that his child hid candy wrappers all over the bedroom—under the beds, in his dresser drawers, and pants pockets. This is a sure sign of a junk food/candy addict.
Do evaluate your child’s eating habits, keep a diet/symptom diary and eliminate the big offenders: sugar, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol. A good place to start is by reading the section “How To Individualize Your Diet.”
Do make shopping for food, planning meals, and cooking a family affair. Do read labels carefully. Eliminate any foods or drinks with a high sugar and caffeine content.
Do opt for organically grown and pesticide-free products, especially if your child is known to have food allergies. You can even help children start their own vegetable garden. If you live in a city or an apartment, encourage an herb garden, which is smaller and much easier to keep.
Do encourage your child/adolescent or teenager to share any physical symptoms with you. Naturally, if you have a family physician, he/she should also be the first person made aware of severe fatigue, insomnia, panic attacks, fainting spells, etc.
Do eat breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day.
Do be aware of the harmful dangers in water fasts or diet pills, especially if the latter is taken without a doctor’s supervision.
The Don’ts of Hypoglycemia:
Don’t ignore lack of self-control, angry outbursts, hysteria, inability to handle changing or stressful situations. This applies to both adults and children.
Don’t assume that children’s junk food habits are something they will outgrow.
Don’t assume that children understand the importance of good dietary habits. They learn from what they see and hear from other family members.
Don’t put your child on any medication for behavior, particularly for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) without talking to a healthcare provider, evaluating their eating habits, checking for food allergies and food sensitivities.
DO NOT STOP ANY MEDICATION WITHOUT THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN.
Especially for teachers:
Do have information about diet and behavior available for your students and parents, including specific organizations, support groups, and toll-free numbers.
Do provide in-house educational programs that include students, parents, and teachers.
Do evaluate the food, snacks and soda that are available to the children, whether in the school cafeteria or vending machines. Challenge their presence and lobby to have any offending food or drink product changed!! Involve other parents and teachers.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy New Year! May God bless you abundantly with health, happiness, peace and prosperity!