Addicted to sugar?
As a mum on a journey to discover what could be causing my child’s health issues, I did extensive research on the effects of sugar on children. I found that according to many experts, sugar intake has profound negative effects on the body and not in a good way. Your child’s negative behavior might be because of their diet.
Sugar consumption in the USA & the UK is more than 30 teaspoons per day. The UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends that children age 4-6 should consume less than 19 grams (5 teaspoons) of sugar per day and children age 7-10 less than 24 grams (6 tsp). Age 11 to adults should consume less than 30 grams (7 tsp.) per day.
Sugars include both refined and fruit sugars, labeled as fructose, glucose, lactose, sucrose, white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup and fruit juice concentrate, etc. High fructose corn syrup, also known as maltodextrin, has the highest hypoglycemic index with of 80% of its sugar being fructose, as opposed to an orange that is 30% fructose. All sugars are metabolized differently.
A child’s juice bottle often has more than 30 grams of sugar, a can of cola has 39 grams, and orange soda has 44 grams. A sugary snack or a baked good can easily have more than 30 grams of sugar per serving. Check your cereal boxes. High sugar intake makes you still feel hungry and you can consume large quantities before you feel full.
According to Nancy Appleton, PhD, author of Lick the Sugar Habit, “Sugar so upsets the body chemistry that it doesn’t matter what else you put in your mouth; neither healthful food nor junk food will digest properly.”
Sugar intake causes your body’s naturally occurring minerals to become imbalanced, these are required for your digestive enzymes to function properly. Without proper enzyme function, undigested proteins are able to escape into the blood stream through the intestinal walls, which leads to allergies, “leaky gut”, neurological dysfunction, behavioral problems, auto-immune conditions, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, skin rashes, etc. High sugar intake has also been linked with many chronic illnesses caused by chronic inflammation such as arthritis. (See previous article in past issue about eating gluten and dairy free.)
From what I’ve read, there is no question that sugar is addictive. It affects the brain in the same way that heroin and morphine does, although not as intensely. Sugar acts like an opioid drug in your child’s brain. It spikes your blood sugar. Then you crash. It zaps your energy and your brain does not function properly. There is a biochemical reason for this which is outlined in detail by author Kelly Genzlinger, in her book titled ‘Sugar... Stop the Addiction’. She goes on to explain sugar addiction as it relates to brain chemistry and how it is similar to alcohol addiction.
Kathleen DesMaisons, author of ‘Potatoes Not Prozac’ and ‘Little Sugar Addicts’ - End the Mood Swings, Meltdowns, Tantrums, and Low Self-Esteem in Your Child Today, explains in her books how children are affected by sugar in three major areas: behavior, general health and emotions.
Blood sugar levels go crazy, the neurotransmitters serotonin (which calms the brain) and Beta endorphins (related to self- esteem) and dopamine are affected so dramatically that the brain does not function properly. This makes it very difficult for sugar sensitive children to learn or even cope after consuming sugar, making them feel tired and easily frustrated. They have trouble concentrating and this accounts for unexpected anger. They might be impulsive, have a short attention span, become depressed, emotionally overwhelmed or even suicidal. They might also have a low pain
How can I know if my child is sensitive to sugar?
If they crave sweet foods and are very fond of bread, cereal and pasta, they are likely sensitive to or addicted to sugar.
Here are some general questions that Kathleen DesMaisons, asks in ‘Little Sugar Addicts’.
• Does your child ask for sweet foods?
• Do they have meltdowns that turn into tantrums or tears?
• Are they impulsive, wildly dramatic or have a short fuse?
• Are they restless or moving all of the time?
• Do they have difficulty sitting still and focusing in school?
• Does your child have allergies, wet the bed, have persistent • ear infections or diagnosed with diabetes?
• Are they overweight, exhausted or diagnosed with ADD,
• ADHD or oppositional defiance disorder?
• Does your child cry at the drop of a hat or go from being
• charming to pouty and moody?
• Do they have low self esteem even though they are smart, • skilled and capable?
• Does your child feel alone, isolated, not part of the in-crowd • at school or on the playground? These are all signs.
Our family tried a six week elimination diet and was shocked by what we saw. When we removed allergens such as gluten, dairy, soy and sugar from our diet and replaced them with whole foods full of nutrients, our bodies became healthy, happy and full of positive energy. Meltdowns disappeared. Sleep and focus improved. Our bodies are able to fight off infections in days not weeks. We now always eat protein with breakfast, lunch and snacks. We tend to eat small meals often to avoid “falling off the cliff”.
Take one step at a time. Eliminate big sugar items first such as soft drinks, pure juice, candy, ice cream, cereal and baked goods. Find acceptable substitutes such as water, diluted juice, almond or rice milk, nuts or seeds, eggs and breakfast meats, raw veggies and whole grain rice crackers. Refer to my previous article titled ‘Strategies to Eat Clean’, this walks you through the steps you have to take to make the transition easier.
Be sure to become aware of your child’s sugar intake and gain more knowledge about the effects of foods on their behavior and general health.