Sugar Rush? Or Adrenaline Rush?

In a study, kids were given a breakfast of instant oatmeal with sugar. Their blood sugar went too high, then it went too low. Their bodies released adrenaline to bring their blood sugar back to normal. 

Adrenaline. We all know what it is. We’ve all felt it. In times of stress, excitement, and fear, adrenaline steps in to help us get through those moments. Your heart races, you get shaky, your blood pressure goes up. 

Sugar rush/sugar high. We have all used those words to describe kids at a birthday party or after Halloween. Whether or not we believe it to be a real thing, we’ve said those words.

The sugar crash is real too. The blood sugar dips down to levels that the body perceives as dangerously low so it releases adrenaline to raise it again.

It’s not the initial “sugar rush”, the dumping of glucose into the bloodstream, that gets the kids amped up. It’s the adrenaline response to the crashing blood glucose levels.

And we allow this process to happen to our kids all day long. We are not talking about candy and straight sugar here. Obviously those are huge offenders and I believe most people are aware of how they affect the body. We are talking about things like whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers, chips, oatmeal, cereals, and so many other processed carbohydrates. Foods that are viewed as healthy because they contain whole grains, but these foods can raise blood sugar even more than a tablespoon of white sugar.

Eat oatmeal or cereal for breakfast. Blood sugar raises, crashes, adrenaline is released. Eat whole grain crackers, fruit, and cheese for a snack. Blood sugar raises, crashes, adrenaline is released. Eat low-fat turkey breast, low-fat cheese, low-fat mayo (made with rancid vegetable oil) on 9-grain bread for lunch. Blood sugar raises, crashes, adrenaline is released. Eat a couple low-fat packaged cookies for a snack because you’ve hit that afternoon slump and have no energy. Blood sugar raises, crashes, adrenaline is released. Dinner is a lean meat, whole wheat pasta or brown rice because it’s “healthier”, and green beans. Blood sugar raises, crashes, adrenaline is released. Do we see the pattern? Do we see the problem?

Back to our kids. This is the process they go through day after day. The high, the low, the ensuing adrenaline rush. ALL DAY LONG. And yet, we expect them to sit still for 8 hours a day, concentrate on their school work, not be hungry until the clock tells them it’s time to eat again, not have negative thoughts, use their indoor voices, not fall asleep in the afternoon, don’t fidget, don’t wiggle, don’t talk to your friends. So many restrictions that they are working hard to fight with every ounce of their being, as they go through the physiological effects of blood sugar dysregulation and adrenaline. Next time you feel an adrenaline rush, (maybe after a close call in your car) you try doing all those things and see how well you do.

Behavior change starts with what we feed our kids. Your kid can’t pay attention? Maybe it’s the continual dose of sugar and carbs he/she is being fed throughout the day. I don’t say this with ignorance. We saw it with our own son. When we drastically cut his carbs and sugar last year, we saw a huge difference in his focus and ability to pay attention. Not to mention his energy levels greatly improved. Wouldn’t it be nice, if instead of resorting to prescription medications for our kids who struggle, we tried starting with food first?