Children’s Mental Health - blood sugar and mood

It's UK National Children's Mental Health Week 3 - 9 Feb 2020

Caring for your child’s blood sugar balance is fundamental when we are thinking about preventing anxiety and mood issues. I’m sure there will be some parents out there who have experienced their child throwing a real ‘incredible Hulk-like’ moment at one time or another, usually fixed by giving them something to eat and they miraculously calm down.

Blood sugar imbalance can impact the brain and is often the cause of irritability, anxiety, mood swings and lack of focus in children. The aim is to keep a balanced amount of glucose circulating in your blood, so it provides a balanced amount of energy. The reality is, the standard Western diet provides us with high amounts of simple carbohydrate foods which are quickly digested and can rapidly raise blood sugar (bread, cereals, pasta, rice, fruit, sweets, sugar) which will then rapidly drop leading to a noticeable change in mood and energy levels.

A simple way to combat these highs and lows (spikes) is to combine carbs, protein and fibre at each meal and snack.

Protein takes longer to breakdown in your stomach and will slow overall digestion so avoiding sugar spikes. Add in lean meat, fish, beans, lentils, eggs and peas to meals. Fibre also takes longer to digest. Choose green leafy vegetables and whole fruit, whole brown grains rather than white and as many different types of vegetables as you can.

Simply drinking more water throughout the day will also have a beneficial effect on mood.

Encourage your child to start the day off with a varied breakfast eg. Egg and wholegrain toast, or rye bread, sliced tomato and/or baked beans.

A positive outcome:

One of my clients told me her daughter (9) was becoming moody at home and disinterested in schoolwork. After our discussion about balancing blood sugar, she encouraged her daughter to start eating an egg with toast for her breakfast instead of her usual bowl of cereal. She also included some added protein to her lunch box (chicken/egg wrap instead of jam) - she was amazed to see almost an instant change in her daughter’s mood, focus in class, overall energy levels and general return to a happy child.

Please consider the importance of the connection between balanced blood sugar and your child’s mental health. It may not be the only issue but please start looking there.

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© 2020 by Louise Brind