Guest Post: MENTAL HEALTH AND OUR DAUGHTERS
Tweens and teens. Full of contradictions. Pushing you away one minute, then screaming “don’t leave me” in the next. No interest in parental opinion when they have the peer brain trusts to base their decisions on. When you add their suspicion of any adult agenda…well, you may agree it’s a recipe for pretty painful discord. I will save my teen the embarrassment by not sharing a few head banging on wall (yes, my head) moments. Fodder for future blogs and certainly stories for her wedding day.
Our daughters navigate a landscape that whether you are a Baby Boomer, Gen X or Millennial, raising a Gen Z girl is completely different than when we were a teenagers. We parents are the digital immigrants. Our daughters the digital natives. Crap. There really was no time for us to catch up, because believe me that is how I feel. Playing catch up with the new trends, the new slang, the new dangers.
Back when...ugh, I know, I sound like my parents...life was smaller. Life was more of a mystery held protectively...for me, at least...in a cull de sac with vanilla brand tv shows, a phone that was attached to a wall, and innocent exploration. It was hard enough to have the affirmations and judgements from our locational peers, can you imagine having these same affirmations and judgments bombarding us 24/7 in lightning speed by not just friends but people that we don't even know. AND you are 11,13,16 years old trying to develop your own identity.
Imagine knowing what you want to know a swipe and a click away. Yep. They do not need us. AT ALL. Or so it seems some days.
So, if we can't control the trickster units aka iPhones that are attached to our kids hands, how can we control the resulting depression and anxiety that go hand in hand with that technology and is on a hideous rise in our kids?
I do not profess to have the magic bullet, but one thing I can still control in my daughter's life is Nutrition. I can control the food I offer my family that stimulates the feel-good brain chemistry and feed those crazy hormones, not just in my daughter but in me.
And, because of this, I am so thankful for my dear friend, Melissa Sorge...creator of Body Fuel Nutrition, who has given you and I the best gift EVER! A guest post!!! About just that. Nutrition and mental health.
Put your hand up if your daughter suffers from depression. Anxiety?
Did you answer yes?
How is your daughter supposed to help the planet, solve world problems, and be a powerful, badass woman when they can’t even make it through the day? The amount of girls and young women I see that suffer from anxiety and depression is astounding. And the numbers are only continuing to grow.
So why are our youth suffering from mental health issues at such a young age? Is it normal? I believe a large part of it is the food they are eating. Or not eating. 100 years ago fruits and vegetables were full of nutrients and life supporting goodness providing us with everything we need. These nutrients are no longer found in adequate amounts in our foods. Our soil is depleted, our foods are depleted and as a consequence, our bodies are depleted. Add the fact that we (and consequently our children) aren’t eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables and are eating way too many over processed foods (which changes the structure of the food) just contributes to more nutrient deficiencies.
We live in a society of overabundance but we are literally starving ourselves.
Let’s take sugar. Nutritionists call white sugar anti-nutritional. That’s because it contains no nutrients and actually depletes the nutrients we have in our bodies. Sugar spikes your energy quickly and then creates a very fast and sudden drop in energy and mood. That’s why we feel tired and cranky after sugar bingeing. It also increases the amount of magnesium that is excreted.
Magnesium is an important mineral for relaxation and helps us deal with stress. It becomes flushed out of our body very easily through sweating and caffeine and sugar intake. Along with calcium, it is an important mineral needed for nerve conductivity.
Other vitamins that become easily depleted from excess sugar intake?
Why are B vitamins so important? B vitamins help maintain a healthy nervous system. Without them, a nervous system imbalance is created which can cause nervousness, lack of concentration, burn out and depression. B vitamins help us combat stress. When we don’t have enough B vitamins in our body we have a very hard time combatting stress which can become overwhelming.
A B vitamin that makes the myelin sheath that envelops a nerve and acts as insulation. Without choline there is not enough protection and problems start to arise with the nervous system. I often wonder how many kids with depression would be helped by getting in a good dose of B vitamins, both with food and supplements.
Children and adults are also quite often deficient in Essential Fatty Acids. We cannot make these in our body and must obtain EFA’s (omega 3 and omega 6) through food. In order for them to be effective in our body they need to be converted to longer chain fatty acids. This process gets slowed down however, by stress, viral infections, alcohol, illness and eating saturated fats.
Not only are EFA’s important for brain health but they are building blocks to hormones and a lack of EFA’s can have a direct correlation to PMS. So getting more EFA’s can help improve PMS in your teenage daughter as well.
So what can you do as a parent to help your daughter?
Vegetables. Lots and lots of vegetables. Your child needs to be eating green vegetables every single day to get a variety of nutrients they need. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, swiss chard and kale are full of B vitamins and magnesium.
Also rich in B vitamins are whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and brown rice. Brown rice has lots of Magnesium as do nuts (especially almonds) and various seeds. Magnesium is also abundant in bananas, avocados and beans.
One of the best sources of EFA’s is organic flax seed and its oil. Cold water fatty fish (salmon, halibut), avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pecans are also good sources.
Other really important foods for fighting brain inflammation are apples (specifically red), berries, mango, celery, turmeric, liquorice root and lemon balm. Lemon balm is incredible because it can calm nerve receptors in the digestive tract, is high in trace minerals, is antibacterial, helps detox the liver and conserves vitamin B12. You can get lemon balm as a tea.
Taking a B-complex supplement of 50-100mg daily is recommended. Calcium, magnesium and potassium supplementation is also recommended. The best time to take magnesium is before bed as it can help the body relax and prepare for sleep.
What else can you do for your child?
Get them off the sugar. I know that they will eat it when they are out with friends and you’re not around nagging them but when they are at home try to only provide healthy, whole foods. Read the labels of the food you buy. Sugar is in everything.
Encourage them to eat a little something every 2-3 hours. This helps to keep blood sugar stable which keeps their mood and energy stable.
Teach them how to practice mindful breathing. When they find they are becoming anxious, emotional or are having trouble coping, focusing inwards on the breath can bring them back to their centre. Practicing mindful breathing throughout the day even when they are not having a meltdown is important as well.
Our nerves are facilitators of communication. Sometimes a need for better communication and listening is what is needed in your child’s life. Perhaps this is a skill they need to work on, or perhaps this is something they need more from you as a parent. Take the time to put down your phone and really be present, connect and listen to your child. If your child is having trouble coping I encourage you to look at the food they are eating, how much sleep they are getting, how much water they are drinking, what kinds of chemicals are in their environment and what their social environment is like. Speaking with a professional, or a variety of professionals to help your child is important. What is going on inside of them is very real and they need all the support they can get.
Thank you Melissa!
Melissa Sorge is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant with a focus on Fertility Nutrition. She created Body Fuel Nutrition, where she offers Family Nutrition Consultations, Personalized Meal Plans, Pre and Post Natal Nutrition Consultations, and the much celebrated Making Babies Fertility Program.