Sugar sensitivity is the notion that some people have a more severe bio-chemical response to sugar than others. I quoted Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons in my recent post on The Toxic Cocktail: What Soda is Actually Doing to Our Kids as she was the pioneer researcher on sugar affecting the way we think and act. Dr. DesMaisons found that when someone has lower-than-average serotonin, blood sugar, and beta-endorphin levels, they are more likely to be negatively affected by sugar.
Having twins has been a great example of this. One of our twins appears immune to sugar while the other one is deeply affected by it. You could give Liam enough candy to put him in a sugar-induced coma and you’ll barely see a change in his demeanor. But his brother? Well now…if you decide that you’d like to see how far you can be tested before snapping and locking a child in a closet, then just give Jack some apple sauce on an empty stomach and wait for the sparks to fly. This child is so sensitive to sugar that if he has even a piece of fruit with no other food to go with it, he begins lacking all form of common sense, has emotional melt-downs for no good reason, and can’t focus on any one thing. Give him so much as a juice box in his lunch and I’ll be getting phone calls from the principal’s office….guaranteed. But on days where we have very limited amounts of sugar, Jack is the most obedient, respectful and well-intended child.
Unfortunately, they don’t make it easy on us. Yogurt, fresh fruit, trail mix, granola, “natural” cereal bars, and many other seemingly healthy foods are loaded with sugar which can play a drastic role in the mood and mental stability of our children. Even if apple sauce is 100% apples, the sugar content is still hitting their system just as hard as a sugar-drenched donut. And for those with sugar sensitivities, this can drastically affect mood, patience level, energy, and more.
If you find that you have one of these sugar-sensitive people in your life (they don’t always have to be kids!), here’s a helpful hint: make sure you pair sugary foods with a high-protein source. The protein will actually help stabilize their über-sensitive blood sugar.
If you can relate to the feeling of one minute thinking your child is a precious sweetheart and the next minute the same child is giving you major attitude, being defiant, going a mile a minute or not showing any self-control whatsoever, you may want to consider taking a careful look at what they are eating to see if there is a pattern.
Of course, it’s a good idea to be mindful of how much sugar our children eat, sensitive or not. But if you have a child that is anything like ours, and you discover the angel that was hiding behind all that sugar, I guarantee you will never view sugar the same way again!