Our 10-year-old daughter is showing signs of anxiety. We’re making sure she feels as comfortable as possible to talk with us and we’re opening up conversations when possible. Do you have any mind-body tips for a child suffering from anxiety?
I think it’s safe to say we all suffer from anxiety, stress, and even depression at some point in our lives. These issues can stem from a childhood experience if not dealt with promptly. That’s why it’s essential to help your child deal with anxiety or trauma as it comes up.
Anxiety can be caused by many different factors: a need to please the teacher, a fear of failing a test or not being “perfect” in the eyes of a well-meaning parent, etc. For long-term stress, such as sadness, this can turn into depression or an anxiety disorder, affecting the immune system.
What does an anxious child look like? Take the time to tune in and be present with your child. Take notice of any changes in behavior from when at school to when at home or on vacation.
He could be jumpy, tearful, or he may just look worried more than usual. She may toss and turn in bed at night, unable to rest. He could be overly concerned for his safety at school, or you may notice a change in his appetite or weight.
Here are some basic guidelines for supporting anxiety nutritionally.
Eliminate sugar from your child’s diet. Refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are highly addictive and can cause huge spikes in energy and huge crashes in mood. Sugar affects your child’s brain by interacting with neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that send signals between nerve cells. Specifically, it interferes with dopamine, a neurotransmitter whose functions include increasing feelings of pleasure and wellbeing, and allowing normal sleep patterns.
Children who regularly consume high amounts of sugar may be at risk for poorer sleep, leading to more daytime fatigue and anxious behaviors. In addition, large quantities of sugar can cause anxiety when dopamine’s activities are suppressed.
Sugar also depletes essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, B Vitamins and Vitamin C (which we cannot make within our bodies and must get from outside sources) – these essential nutrients are required for the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain.
- Increase protein intake. Protein is the key to stabilizing blood sugar levels and should be consumed at every meal. Think organic, grass-fed meats, whole eggs, nuts, and seeds. If your family is vegetarian, choose nuts and nut butters (think raw cashews, almonds, macadamia and only use organic peanut butter), quinoa, beans in moderation (black, pinto, white, kidney) hummus, green peas, chickpeas, leafy greens are a fabulous source (broccoli, spinach), hemp seeds, chia seeds, seeds (sunflower, poppy, sesame), and nut milks (unsweetened). Stay away from tofu and soy, as they are likely genetically modified and will add stress to the body.
- Drink plenty of water. A dehydrated body can induce anxiety. The body experiences the dehydration at a molecular level, and it sends signals to the subconscious that our survival is threatened. Eight glasses of fresh water a day is ideal.
- Start a daily probiotic routine. The gut brain connection has a huge impact on mood, anxiety and depression. By altering the gut bacteria in a positive way, we can support GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric acid). GABA plays a major role in conditions such as anxiety disorders and irritable bowel syndrome.
Choose a probiotic that contains high quality ingredients, not necessarily billions of colony forming units (CFU’s). A therapeutic dose is around 10 billion CFU. Make sure they come in a dark glass bottle and keep them in the fridge.
Increase healthy fats. Studies show healthy young people who increased their Omega-3 fat intake displayed a marked reduction both in inflammation and anxiety. Add more avocados, coconut oil and coconut products, raw nuts, extra virgin olive oil, grass fed organic butter or ghee, and wild fish such as salmon.
Finally, lifestyle factors should be taken into consideration. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep and sunlight. A fun practice to introduce your child to is grounding, or walking barefoot on grass to allow the earth to absorb negative energy from the body. Practice meditation and yoga with your children, this will be important bonding time for both of you. If you feel your child may need an herbal option to help deal with anxiety, chamomile, valerian root, and skullcap are herbal options you can discuss with your Naturopath or nutritionist.
*This article is intended for general use only. It is not meant to treat or diagnose any health condition. This article is not meant to replace medical advice. The ideas and suggestions in this article are intended to supplement, not replace, the advice of a trained medical professional. Consult your physician, Naturopath or Nutritionist before adopting any of the suggestions. The author disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the advice shown here.