Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sugar and | Caffeine: The Deleterious Effects | on Your Anxious Child

As any expectant mother can tell you, avoiding caffeine and sugar while pregnant is one of the most important dietary decisions you can make. Why? Because both substances have powerful effects on the human body – effects that cross the placenta and reach the baby as it develops in the womb. It should come as no surprise or shock then, that these same substances continue to have a powerful effect on children after they are born. While adults often develop a tolerance to both sugar and caffeine and can consume larger quantities, children remain hypersensitive to them throughout their formative years.
If your child suffers from anxiety, you should take a careful look at his or her diet. Monitor the sugar and caffeine intake. Cutting back on both of these substances can help ease the anxiety and reduce stress more effectively. Want to know more? Let’s take a look at how sugar and caffeine work within the human body.
The Effect of Caffeine on the Body
You have your morning coffee for a reason: it wakes you up. This is because coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. Caffeine speeds up the processes of the central nervous system; in fact, just 15 minutes after your morning coffee, adrenaline floods your being. This means that your heart rate increases, your respiration rate increases, and the production of stomach acids goes up. You even create more urine. All of these processes have the effect of “waking” you up.
Children are more sensitive to caffeine than adults, and the same process occurs in a kid who has a Coke with lunch as it does in mom who drives by Starbucks on the way to work. The adrenaline rush, increased respiration and heart rate, and stomach acid production all take place in kids as they do in adults. Caffeine also communicates with the adrenal glands, getting them to release additional sugar stored in the liver. This leads to increased sugar cravings in both kids and adults, which leads us to our discussion of sugar and its effect on the body.
The Effect of Sugar on the Body
Just as kids are more caffeine sensitive than adults, they are also more easily affected by sugar. Although the research varies on what exactly sugar can do to the human body, they have proven that sugar compromises the functions of the immune system. This means that sugar interferes with the white blood cells’ ability to ward off germs. This leads to an overall suppression of immune function, which can be problematic for developing kids who are exposed to a host of germs on a daily basis.
It seems, too, that sugar can wreck several other areas of your child’s life. Kids who eat excessive amounts of sugar have more behavioral issues, lower attention spans, and problems with their ability to learn than kids whose sugar consumption is limited. Sugar can also spike highs and lows in the blood stream, which can lead to both physical and emotional issues. Excess consumption of sugar can also lead to childhood obesity, which is a growing epidemic in the United States.
Dietary Measures to Reduce Anxiety
Now that we have a clearer understanding of how caffeine and sugar can affect the human body, let’s take a look at how anxiety works in your child. When your child feels nervous about a given situation – like an upcoming exam or riding the bus – a panic response is triggered in his or her body. Adrenaline and cortisol begin coursing through the veins. The heart rate and respiration increases as he or she begins begins to shake and sweat. Moreover, may experience racing thoughts, or may feel like  he or she is losing control or dying.
Does this sound familiar? The anxiety response is highly similar to the effect that caffeine has on the central nervous system. So if your child is already feeling nervous, caffeine will simply magnify this response. Sugar doesn’t help – with the rapid highs and lows it sparks in the blood sugar as well as the behavioral and learning issues that come along with it – which can all contribute to the symptoms of anxiety.
As a parent, it is up to you to step in and reduce your child’s consumption of both substances. Experts agree that children should never exceed 50 mg of caffeine per day, which is the amount contained in one can of soda. Sugar consumption should be strictly monitored, and this includes consumption of fructose, sucrose, and other types of sugars. Until your child can handle the anxiety, limiting the access to these substances is one of the best things you can do to help. One of the most powerful ways to do so is to set a good example. Show solidarity by scaling back your consumption of these substances too, until your child can master the anxiety.
Reducing Stress Levels Through Self-Help Methods
In addition to making some judicious dietary changes, you should also take a look at your child’s stress level and find ways to help reduce or cope with stress effectively. A self-help regimen can be purchased online to help you incorporate techniques that both reduce the overall amount of stress in life, as well as give the coping tools to deal with panic attacks as they flare up. Some of these techniques include yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, laughter therapy, meditation, visualization, and cognitive behavioral techniques.
As with reducing your sugar and caffeine intake, you can set a good example by making use of these practices in your own life. Make stress reduction a family priority and you help on two levels. First, making everyone in the family participate reduces the stigmatization of anxiety disorders – it’s no longer the “elephant in the room” and your child no longer feels ostracized, weird, or alone. Secondly, stress reduction can profoundly reward everyone in your family as you learn to deal with life’s issues with grace.
Helping your child combat anxiety is one of the best gifts you can give... By changing the diet and helping  learn techniques to handle it effectively, you are giving your child the tools they need to live a happy and healthy life. Click here to learn more...

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