By Deedee Zibara
These days, more and more of our children are experiencing feeling down and depressed. Frequently reported symptoms of depression, mood disorders, hopelessness, fatigue, sleep difficulties, weight gain, social withdrawal and even mania, are becoming so common they’re almost the norm. There’s a multitude of factors as to why this is, but what is making us feel helpless is that we wish there was more we could do about treatment and prevention.
Whether their mood coincides with the shift to cooler weather (Seasonal Affect Disorder or ‘SAD’) or your child has clinically diagnosed depression all year round, the experts are more and more convinced diet and lifestyle plays a role in mood, specifically inflammation. Dr Adrian Lopresti, a clinical psychologist who has conducted his own research on teenage mental health, is particularly convinced just how much food and lifestyle improve mood. So what have the experts come up with? What else can you do if your child is someone suffering with low mood?
Alongside talking therapy and in some severe cases medication, a natural approach can heavily influence our children’s mood. Here’s what you can do:
1. Get Them Outside In The Sun Sunlight is important for Vitamin D creation but being outside (even if it’s cloudy) is specifically important for their body clock to ensure your child can produce sleep chemicals when it comes to bedtime.
2. Get Them Moving Their Body It doesn’t matter what it is – walking, swimming, playing with the dog or dancing, exercise is foundational for lowering inflammation and improving resilience. Even better if they do it outside.
1. Use Vitamin D We get so caught up in making sure they don’t get burnt that babies and children are surprisingly susceptible to low Vitamin D. Almost every human cell has a Vitamin D receptor, which means it’s important for overall cell functioning. It’s well established we need Vitamin D for babies, children and teens for their rapid bone and muscle development. However more recent research is revealing how essential the neurological impact of inadequate Vitamin D is on brain development and behavioural difficulties with a link to mental health disorders. Rickets (a Vitamin D deficiency syndrome) are common in children with dark skin, so if you’re child is darker skinned be especially mindful of their levels. Supplementing with a Vitamin D liquid is an easy option. You can also provide them food sources of Vitamin D i.e. fish, meat and mushrooms.
2. Try a Mediterranean Diet Being a Nutritionist I know there is no one diet that fits an entire cohort but eating the types of foods that are high in the well-known Mediterranean diet like salmon, olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts (nut butters too) and fresh vegetables are very good at reducing inflammation and decreasing oxidative cell stress while supporting growth and development e.g. creating and stabilising sex hormone fluctuations during puberty.
3. Consider Magnesium
Magnesium is an incredibly calming mineral. It gets used up very quickly in times of stress and for active kids. It helps reduce perceived overwhelm and exhaustion and allows deeper, more refreshing sleep. It’s a mineral that is very important for children experiencing family issues, exploring new emotions and interacting with different personalities at school.
Gut health can play a huge issue here too, as the gut and brain are directly linked via the longest nerve in the body.
These are wonderful foundations to begin with, but as we know children live very different lives and what is appropriate and enjoyable for one is near impossible for another. Mood can severely influence our children’s quality of life and deeply affect those around them. If you feel natural, multi-layered approaches may help your child become their true self again, please reach out.
Dee Zibara Adv. Dip. Nut. Med. ANTA.
0403 791 752