Children’s Mental Health. Why is this so much as issue today? What impact can it have? and what can we do about it?
Firstly, it’s a big issue; according to the Mental Health Foundation, mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. The term mental health is thankfully becoming more accepted and understood as is the variety of issues that come under the general term of mental health.
These include; #anxiety, #depression and #conductdisorder. In children it can be understandably difficult at times to recognise and identify #behaviour triggers that may require intervention but it’s important to remember (as trying and frustrating as it may be at times) that many behavioural traits, sleep problems or mood changes could be as a result of anxiety rather than misbehaving
How does Nutrition alter mood?
The role that nutrition has in balancing our mood and emotions is quite a complex one biologically so I won’t go too science-y else I may lose you!
In my work on my food channel, book and in my family health consultations I talk a lot about ‘Brain Foods’. Brain foods come into two categories (nutrients for concentration, memory, IQ etc) but the other category, which we are focusing on today is the link between food and mood.
There are many general factors we can consider when it comes to the food and mood link:-
Breakfast – if a child goes without or has a high sugar breakfast this will cause a blood sugar fall, the behavioural traits of this can be; irritable, aggressive (hangry), tired, restless, lacking in concentration, fidgety, daydreaming.
Essential Fatty Acids – quite complex to summarise but I do a number of assessments in my work to look at behavioural and developmental traits that would pinpoint to a deficency in Essential Fatty Acids. These are essential for a reason, they make up 40% of our brain and in a growing child with rapid brain development any deficiency can have a big imapct.
The real link between food and mood is the relationship between the food we eat and the brain-chemicals they help to produce. These are the things that naturally manage our emotions and mood. Awake, relaxed, alert, motivated, calm, happy, excited. Food has a role to play in all of this – this is how:
Certain foods (amino acids, vitamins and minerals) combine or act alone to create a pathway in the body resulting in a neurotransmitter. Take the amino acid Tryptophan – eat some cottage cheese containing this and that tryptophan will go on to create the neurotransmitter seratonin. Seratonin helps to regulate your mood and at the right time helps the body switch into the sleep cycle.
Every day steps
The role of food with our mood and mental health is huge but every day steps can make a big difference: -
Ensuring that certain nutrients are included (like the ones listed below)
Reducing sugar intake
Limiting the amount of trans-fats (artificial fats found in processed or re-heated fast food) consumed
Ensuring children are properly hydrated (preferably with water not artifical sweetener laden drinks)
Looking after their gut health by making sure live yogurt and other pre and probioltics are included daily
Nutrients associated with mood (there are many more these are just a few!)
#Omega3’s – as mentioned already, these essential fatty acids really are essential! There’s increasing research into the role of these and depression and stress.
#Iron – low levels of iron can lead to fatigue and fluctuating mood
#Magnesium, I often refer to magnesium as the relaxation mineral for its’ role in helping us to relax but it has many roles and is also involved in the development of seratonin
#VitaminB6 – essential for our brain function and influencing our emotions
#Calcium – not just associated with the health of our bones but I mention it as calcium is paired with vitamin D and vitamin D helps to regulate mood.
#Zinc – has numerous roles in the body and is a big factor in our immunity – a zinc deficiency can result in increased violence, depression and anxiety especially when coupled with low serotonin levels
#Iodine – stimulating to brain tissue – more linked with the IQ side of things but a deficency could potentially lead to frustration which could result in stress/anxiety
Vitamins B5, B1, B12, these are all needed to make acetylcholine a brain chemical involved in memory – a deficiency could present itself as someone Lacking concentration, inability to focus, mind wandering (day dreaming)
It doesn't have to be this way.
There’s many reasons why physically display signs of stress, anxiety, frustration if they had any/multiple deficences in the above. Many people talk about a brain fog where it is confusing to try to think/plan/remember things. In a child this is hard to articulate and if the information isn't processing well, they may easily get bored/switch off/become disruptive.
As with anything to do with food – please never underestimate the role it has in our overall health.
How can I help?
I love showing people how amazing they are and how much of an impact food has on overall health.
The theme on #EarlyYears TV Food Channel this month is all about supporting children's mental health via nutrition and lifestyle. We have my nutrition video, expert interviews and 2-weeks worth of recipes linking foods to mood.
You can sign up here or take a look for more information on our membership options and academy CPD bundle.
Family Health, Nutrition Support Course
For more of a 1:1 service I do have a modular family health online course. There's more information on this below.
Once you join a course you then get access to a closed Facebook group and a monthly webinar with me.
I look forward to supporting you & hope to see you soon.
Presenter on Early Years TV Food