When "Attitude" Comes From Low Blood Sugar

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What has made a BIG difference for us: detecting hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar.

Did you know that blood sugar, or glucose, is the only fuel the brain uses?

Recently, our 16-year old boy entered 9th grade in public high school where every teacher said what a delightful boy he was. Suddenly, as I proactively maintained contact with his teachers, I started getting hints of poor behavior which included belligerence, talking back, disrupting class, and generally ugly and unacceptable "attitude". He got two detentions.

Then I put two and two together and realized that under the school-day schedule, he is eating breakfast (IF he actually eats it) at 6:45 a.m., and not eating lunch until almost 1:00 p.m. Five hours without food!

This boy is having hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) reactions. I would, too, if I didn't re-fuel for five hours.

I am familiar with hypoglycemia, because I have had it myself. It is a condition where (for various reasons) the level of glucose, or blood sugar, drops to a low level where the brain is not able to function correctly. [Remember, glucose is THE ONLY energy supply for the brain.] The brain is not receiving any fuel, so it goes on low pilot or goes haywire.

Symptoms of low blood sugar

When they start to "fall apart", we know they are hungry (or tired - or both; low blood sugar makes you tired!)

When our son is hypoglycemic, the ugliest things come out of him: hatred, nonsensical accusations, profanities, illogical gibberish, anger, etc. - things that people out of the family cannot imagine from him. Until, that is, these few teachers who, I realized, he had during the hours prior to having his lunch. No complaints from the teachers in the first two periods, or the two after lunch, just the classes where his brain was starving,

Hypoglycemic reactions can be triggered by other types of activity: e.g., stress, feeling threatened. Of course, not having fuel for the brain and all the other metabolic functions of the body.

Our tactic

I was able to explain this to our son, and he began to see for himself that eating affected his behavior. I spoke to the school about his need to eat midway through the morning, and I now send him with cheese and crackers every day for this purpose.

(Important Note: Raising the blood sugar with actual sugar, fruit, etc., is not so good, because it can set in motion the insulin reaction, which may lead to low blood sugar again. (Contrary to what the school nurse may say, protein foods are better than any sugars.)

Also, he realizes more how important it is for him to eat his breakfast before school. At home, though, I still have to be vigilant about his fixing his breakfast and lunch, and not stretching himself too thin.

End of vignette: all the teachers' reports improved, and no more belligerence in school. Also, when my boy is "losing it" at me at home, he realizes he may need to eat. He sees he is a new person when he has eaten.

I share this because, while I am still very much struggling to parent our son, recognizing this condition has helped both of us, and the rest of our family, dramatically. Recognizing this physical aspect of his being helps me to try to remember that the ugly things he says to me are not really his "working" self , but come out of a compromised brain struggling under its lack of fuel. I have a way to go to be able to not take what he says personally, but it's getting better.

I feel that supplying the brain with sufficient fuel to help them deal with everything they face is crucial. They will feel so much better if their brain has sufficient fuel - it's a given. Not that it erases all problems - just that at least the metabolic basis is in place for healthier feelings,

From a mom named Maria.