Hypoglycemia in children can occur for many reasons. If you have a toddler or very young child, they could be suffering from a form of reactive hypoglycemia called Ketotic hypoglycemia. In older children, sometimes the problem is that they use blood sugar too quickly. There are other causes for hypoglycemia in children, but intelligence should be taken into account.
I don’t usually tell people that Leo is academically gifted, for risk of sounding boorish. My close friends and family know, but it isn’t the kind of thing I’ll bring up in general conversation, let alone post in a blog. However, it looks like Leo’s giftedness may be the reason he’s reactive hypoglycemic.
Our Bipolar Child
For years we thought Leo (now ten years old) had cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar disorder). He would have mood swings and highs reminiscent of my mother’s menopause: doors would slam, dishes would break, and then an hour later, Leo would (puzzlingly) make tea for me, give me a hug, and apologize in the sweetest way you could imagine for being a “toad.” At the time, I didn’t notice that his mood improved after a snack.
Sometimes he would come home from school and go to bed for a two hour nap. We knew better than to disturb him–it was either let him sleep or put up with a miserable, grumpy Leo.
Leo’s schoolwork was haphazard–sometimes brilliant, other times nothing but scrawl and misspellings. His teachers were as puzzled as I was. Another thing that didn’t make sense: Leo would crave sweets and carbs so much that he would often raid the kitchen late at night for cookies, chips, and crackers (we no longer keep those items in the house!)
An Unquiet Mind
While Leo seemed to fit the definition of bipolar, his puzzling seizures (two Grand mals) didn’t quite fit the profile. Neither did his spells of feeling nauseous and looking pasty-faced before he passed out.
After he was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia (for more on that see my post How to Get Diagnosed), the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. However, we wanted to know the cause. Wouldn’t any parent?
I may have found my answer in a book by James Webb, called Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children
About six percent of highly-gifted children, says Webb, suffer from reactive hypoglycemia. The children who fall into this category are usually slender and exhibit intense behavior. Leo is definitely intense, and very slim. Why is reactive hypoglycemia seen in these children? As the brain runs on glucose alone, it’s thought that highly gifted, energetic children simply use up available brain fuel quickly.
Reactive hypoglycemia in children isn’t uncommon. If your child is a good student but exhibits puzzling mood swings, especially in the late morning or late afternoon, reactive hypoglycemia could be the cause.