Food is supposed to make you feel better, not worse. If you haven't eaten in a long time and get a headache, eating usually makes you feel better right away. If eating food is making you or your kids feel lightheaded, some underlying problems -- both minor and serious -- could be the culprits. Changing eating habits slightly can be the key to improving both your and your children's lives.
Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, can affect children as well as adults. Sometimes it's related to other problems, such as both types of diabetes, a hormonal imbalance or a medication that you or your child might be taking. Other times, it happens after eating -- but for no other apparent reason. If you or your child has diabetes and lightheadedness occurs after eating, it's time for a blood glucose level test. If it's below 70mg/dL, a snack can help raise blood glucose levels and reduce lightheadedness. Appropriate blood glucose-raising snacks include 4 ounces of fruit juice or regular non-diet soda, 8 ounces of milk or several pieces of hard candy. If neither you nor your child have diabetes but experience lightheadedness after eating, change eating patterns to include small meals or snacks every three hours, across a wide variety of healthy foods. Also, limit the intake of high-sugar foods -- especially if you and your child haven't eaten something wholesome first.
Low Blood Pressure
Postprandial hypotension, or low blood pressure after eating, is more common in older adults than it is in children. Because genetics and traumatic accidents can be a cause, however, it's still a childhood possibility. If your doctor tells you that this is affecting you or your child, drinking plenty of water prior to meals can help. The Harvard Medical School recommends 12 to 18 ounces of water 15 minutes prior to eating a meal. Keep meals small, because larger meals are more likely to trigger lightheaded feelings. Avoid very refined carbohydrates, such as foods with lots of white flour, sugary drinks and potatoes. While there's no guarantee this will prevent the problem, it helps in most cases.
Exercise and Dehydration
Being healthy and active is extremely good for everyone, regardless of age. Extreme exertion, however, can make even the fittest athletes lightheaded. Eating prior to exercising helps avoid this problem, so in theory, your child shouldn't find that going out to play after lunch makes him lightheaded. If exercise 30 to 60 minutes after a meal seems to bring on lightheadedness, that can be a sign of low blood pressure. You or your child should sit or lay down for half an hour after eating to prevent the problem. After that time, you and your child can safely resume regular levels of post-lunch activity. Even moderate dehydration can cause dizziness, both before and after meals. If you or your child is dehydrated prior to exercising, the exercise will only make the dehydration worse. Make sure you and your child drink plenty of fluids -- especially when it's hot and the two of you are very active.
Both low blood sugar and low blood pressure can be relatively benign, and may not signify that something else is medically wrong. Because it's possible that these conditions can indicate undiagnosed problems, however, see a doctor and inform her of the problem. That way, if either symptom is a sign of something more serious, you can start proper treatment sooner. The doctor may also recommend a consultation with a nutritionist to design an appropriate meal plan to address the problem.
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