Home-Grown Help for Anxiety
Is your child feeling anxious and having difficulty falling asleep? You’re not alone. According to recent research done through the Hospital for Sick Children, this past year has seen worsening mental health in many children and youth. If you’ve already talked to your child’s doctor and are on a waitlist for a therapist, then you are definitely embracing the team approach, which is fantastic! Turning to a naturopathic doctor for adjunct support can help round out the team even more which can go a long way to improve your child’s situation! They can offer support specific to your child’s needs by considering their lifestyle, sleep cycles, stress management, nutrition, and so much more! And the knowledge you can glean from your ND means you can be a part of the team too by implementing a few simple nutritional changes, encouraging more movement, and supporting your little one needs. Go team!
FOOD IN FOCUS
As a naturopathic doctor, one of my first lines of treatment is through nutrition. What and how we eat every day can have a significant impact on our health.
Is your child super stressed? For symptoms to watch out for visit ecoparent.ca/anxiety-in-kids
Fresh produce is where we get the bulk of our vitamins and minerals, and helps support the production of anxiety-balancing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Try this green-packed smoothie—it’s kid approved! ecoparent.ca/green-smoothie
Protein breaks down into amino acids, which form the backbone of those balancing neurotransmitters and can have a big impact on mood.
Protein comes in many forms. Surprise! ecoparent.ca/protein-foods
The brain is literally made of fat, as are the hormones that contribute to feeling generally well. Healthy fats are required for overall brain health, and the standard Canadian diet is often too low in these important nutrients.
For healthy fat ideas to incorporate in your child’s diet visit ecoparent.ca/healthy-fats
Refined dietary sugar contributes to unstable blood sugar levels, which can absolutely have a powerful effect on mood. This of course is a big one for kids.
Swap out that sugar for something just as (naturally) sweet! Visit ecoparent.ca/sugar-substitutes
It’s important to consider how often your little one eats. Going too long between meals can cause dips in blood sugar which can trigger worsening anxiety.
Stoke those digestive engines with these breakfasts at ecoparent.ca/make-ahead-breakfasts
When optimized, nutrition can make a big difference in mood. It can be difficult to convert kiddos to a healthier diet, but the goal isn’t perfection: even small changes can go a long way. And when it comes to quelling anxiety, working on the diet is a great place to start!
IN THE GUT
Since we know that nutrition and mood go hand-in-hand, it also makes sense that how our body digests what we eat can have a direct impact on our ability to recover from mood disorders. The majority of serotonin (our happy hormone) is built in the gut, and when there is an abundance of inflammation, damage, or imbalances in the gastrointestinal bacteria, it is difficult to repair the mood.
How often is your child having a bowel movement? And what is the nature/quality of these movements? The answers to these questions (which most kids think are hilarious) are very revealing in terms of the GI tract’s health, and in turn its capacity to make serotonin. Constipation is a common complaint in kids (and adults) and, like a clogged drain pipe, when we’re constipated we’re impeding flow to the area, which means a reduced ability to produce and release the optimal amount of serotonin. That clogged pipe needs to be cleared in order to balance mood.
Ease off the Gas
Is there gas and bloating on a regular basis? How much gas, and how often we experience it, are indicators of the health of the gut microbiome: the collection of good, neutral, and harmful microbes that live there. Research connecting mental wellness and the health and diversity of the gut microbiome continues to grow, highlighting the importance of optimizing our digestive system to help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Erase digestive disruptions with advice at ecoparent.ca/healthy-gut
How kids spend their time will either fuel or calm their anxiety. As difficult as it can be, especially with constantly changing restrictions and guidelines for who they can interact with, when, for how long, and whether they also need to mask up first, keeping your kids busy, engaged, and providing opportunity for exercise can go a long way to easing those anxious feelings.
Insufficient sleep negatively impacts brain neurochemistry and creates cravings for things like sweets, which can also have adverse impacts on sleep. To further compound the issue, when those suffering with anxiety can’t fall (or stay) asleep their anxiety increases—both out of frustration from not being able to sleep and from exhaustion due to lack of sleep. It’s a vicious cycle! Sleep recommendations based on age, and ensuring that your child has a dark, cool, and quiet space to encourage sleep is a great place to start.
To find out how much sleep your child needs visit ecoparent.ca/how-much-sleep
Fresh Air Fun
Sometimes bumping up a child’s activity level makes all the difference in their mood. Exercise stimulates endorphins to feel better and can rid the body of excess anxiety. Making sure your kiddo gets enough exercise and fresh air while doing it will certainly help!
Get active with the kids in tow with these tips! ecoparent.ca/work-out-with-kids
Even kids need breaks! Whether it’s taking a few minutes from a stressful task, like virtual schooling, or even a “fun” activity, like a favourite video game, research has shown that taking breaks to engage in mindfulness practice can help balance mood. There are a number of mindfulness tools geared toward kids: short yoga sessions, meditation, or simply taking a few minutes to centre their breathing are incredibly beneficial (it’s great for us big people too!).
It’s the year of the ox: try out this fun, kid-friendly yoga ox-stravaganza at ecoparent.ca/ox-yoga
How much, how often, and what type of technology is the child using? Screens are a huge part of life right now for many families, but a balance needs to be struck—especially if your child is experiencing anxiety.
For more on screening screen-time visit ecoparent.ca/screen-screen-time
There are many vitamins, nutrients, herbs, and supplements that benefit anxiety. Some of my favourites include L-theanine, GABA, magnesium, vitamin B12, chamomile, lavender, hops, and passionflower. Because both the dosage and the suitability of these depend on your chid’s age and individual situation, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional before including them in your child’s routine. Naturopathic doctors are always working to individualize treatment plans and choose therapies based on a full history, physical exam, and potentially lab test results as well (so I don’t recommend Dr. Google for this one!).
Whether or not your child is dealing with symptoms of anxiety, implementing a few at-home changes will give our kids the support they need to encourage resilience and wellbeing to face whatever lies ahead!