The thought of back to school can be tough when you have an anxious child. I have 4 daughters. My first three are adventurous go-getters who can’t wait to meet their new class members and teachers, and my 8 year old baby is timid and at times anxious. Back to school means that she wants to be by my side and sleep in my bed ALL THE TIME. My youngest daughter is smart, in fact she is in the gifted stream at school, so it does not have to do with academics, AND she also has plenty of good friends. She has always been clingy but our latest international move triggered an increase in her anxious behavior.
My daughter is not alone. It is estimated that 1 in 8 children suffer from anxiety disorders. As kids get older, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old…..and it is estimated that in 80% of these kids that the anxious condition is not addressed. Untreated anxiety in children with anxiety disorders tend to perform lower in school, miss out on important and fun social experiences, and participate in substance abuse more often.
Anxiety problems look different in kids than in Adults. Important behaviors to look out for include:
- Sleep problems: reluctance to go to bed, difficulty staying asleep, not wanting to sleep in their bedroom
- Physical signs: Shortness of breath, clammy hands, flushed face, persistent stomach ache, feeling sick before school or a social situation, crying
- Avoiding social interactions: not wanting to go to school, school field trips, birthday parties, play dates, sleep overs. Lack of participation in class, irritability.
Please note that this is just a rough guideline and that any anxiety disorder must be diagnosed and managed by a professional. ALSO it is normal for everyone to feel anxious or jittery at times, it becomes a problem when it affects normal functioning at school, with friends or with family.
Specific therapies and medications can help relieve the burden of anxiety. However, many people don’t realize how much of an impact diet can have in helping to manage and relieve anxiety symptoms.
TIP 1: EAT A BALANCED DIET
We are what we eat. Therefore, what we eat affects how we feel, and if we have anxiety, what we eat can affect the severity of our anxiety. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is predominantly made up of refined carbohydrates; it also lacks healthy fats, nourishing proteins, as well as antioxidant, non-starchy veggies. Consuming the SAD distresses the body and reduces the production of essential mood stabilizing and anti-inflammatory compounds. Eating a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein, wholegrains (if tolerated) and healthy fats is a first big step to start reducing inflammation and decreasing anxiety and depression symptoms.
TIP 2: DECREASE INFLAMMATORY FOODS
Having a healthy gut is by all means key in order to balance hormones and create a system that addresses anxiety. Food matters when it comes to managing anxiety!
In Ali Miller’s book “The Anti-anxiety Diet,” she highlights the top five potentially inflammatory foods: gluten, corn, soy, sugar, and dairy that can upset gut health. Inflammatory foods causes destruction to our body, until inflammatory chemicals build up so high that disease or a dynamic symptom strikes us. When our bodies get overwhelmed with inflammatory foods and processed ingredients, our body responds with imbalanced and excessive inflammatory reaction, such as anxiety, depression and digestive issues. These foods can be eliminated and slowly added back into your child’s diet to see what foods your child reacts to.
TIP 3: REDUCE SUGARY AND HIGH GLYCEMIC FOODS
Sugar is by far the most addictive inflammatory food. Did you know that brain scans have demonstrated that people who eat lots of sugar and high-glycemic foods show similar addictive patterns to those who take cocaine? Refined sugar and excessive refined carbohydrate intake can cause symptoms of brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, panic, and a loss of control. It’s also linked to hypertension, hypoglycemia, depression, headaches, nervous tension, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety and more.
TIP 4: AVOID GMO FOODS
The two main GMO corn crops contain a gut wall-destroying protein that can contribute to leaky gut. Soy is another big GMO food, bearing similar consequences to that of corn in regard to glyphosate toxic residue. Furthermore, soy’s high phytate concentration can block nutrient absorption, depleting the body of mood-stabilizing nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
With treatment and support, your child can learn how to successfully manage the symptoms of an anxiety disorder and depression and live a normal childhood.
There are also specific foods and vitamins that have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. It’s valuable to know which foods help promote wellness, improve sleep, and elevate your mood. For example, serotonin is a feel-good hormone that uplifts your mood and helps you sleep better. Chickpeas are rich in tryptophan, which is a precursor of serotonin. Hummus for the win! Other good sources of tryptophan include: salmon, nuts, seeds, spinach and eggs. As discussed before, a healthy gut is key! A healthy gut is vital for the production of serotonin. Prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods can help promote a healthy gut. Think lots of fresh fruits and veggies, plant-based yogurts, and fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickled veggies.
Newsflash! Our KIDZSHAKE PLUS contains 1 billion probiotics in 14 strains! Vitamin B12 and folate are known to prevent mood disorders. Some foods high in folate include beetroot, lentils, almonds and spinach. Some foods high in B12 include chicken and fish. And guess what?! Our KIDZSHAKE PLUS contains methylated B12 and methylated folate. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for cognitive and behavioral function. Thus, low levels of omega-3 fats can lead to mood swings and depression. Foods high in omega-3s include fish, such as salmon, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts are great additions to KIDZSHAKE smoothies! Magnesium-rich foods are also shown to reduce anxiety symptoms. Some foods high in magnesium include avocado, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, leafy greens, bananas and pumpkin seeds. And these foods are also all yummy additions to some KIDZSHAKE smoothies! Furthermore, as KIDZSHAKE is a multi-vitamin, it contains many important vitamins and nutrients, such as magnesium, iron, calcium and biotin. Furthermore, don’t forget that KIDZSHAKE is gluten-free, soy-free, GMO-free and rBGH-free. There are ZERO grams of added sugar, as well as no artificial sweeteners or preservatives. Plus, our KIDZSHAKE PLUS even contains 12 amazing superfoods! And if you’re lactose-intolerant, our KIDZSHAKE classic is free of lactose. Furthermore, if you’re looking to completely cut out dairy, our KIDZSHAKE VEGAN is for you!
A diet rich in many different vitamins and minerals coming from whole, unprocessed foods has shown to decrease anxiety and depression symptoms. Load up on fruits and veggies, lean protein, whole grains (think brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, or buckwheat), and healthy fats like nuts, seeds and avocado. KIDZSHAKE can help you fill any of those nutrition gaps caused by an unbalanced and incomplete diet. And you won’t need to think twice about you and your kids not liking KIDZSHAKE, because it’s the tastiest, we promise! Not to mention, there are various ways to incorporate KIDZSHAKE in your diet. Check out our blog for yummy ways to add Kidzshake to bars, cookies, smoothies, waffles, pancakes, popsicles and more!
Written by Doctor Rach
Ali Miller’s book “The Anti-Anxiety Diet”