By now all the first day of school pictures have been posted on social media and families are trying to adjust to the new normal for the next 9 months. The battle to get up in the morning and get homework done at night has begun along with little ones trying to just stay awake through the day.
Some kids will find it easier than others but many will struggle. No parent wants to see their child struggle and will turn to what seems like an easier and maybe better solution to handle the issues that come with being a child and growing up.
What am I talking about more specifically? The children who struggle to pay attention will be newly diagnosed with ADD/ADHD or after a summer off, back on their meds with the start of school. Some will struggle with stomach pain (most likely due to stress) and might be medicated with an ant-acid or an acid reducing medication…or experience frequent illnesses that seem to require anti-biotics. And finally, many adolescents will struggle with social pressure, changing hormones, school pressure and will feel very over whelmed and anxious. This will result in medications for many of them as the number of adolescents on SSRI’s continues to climb.
NONE of these medications were ever meant for children when they were developed. Children’s bodies and brains are still developing! How can we believe that there won’t be consequences from these medications? Aren’t we missing the bigger question? Instead of looking at “what” they are doing and how they are behaving, we should be looking at “why”.
I believe one of the main areas we need to look at “why” our children are struggling goes back to the diet and their overall gut health.
Our gut manufactures over 90% of our neurotransmitters. In fact, 80-90 percent of serotonin is mediated from the gut! It is CLEAR that our gut health is related to our mood.
Approximately 70% of your immune system lives in your gut. It is a known fact that humans have a lot more bacterial cells than they do human cells… Let that sink in for a moment. You are more bacteria than you are anything else. And your bacterial blueprint is unique to you. What happens to your body every time you take an anti-biotic? Get stressed out? Feed it garbage?
If we are not feeding our body well and there is a constant burden on it from poor dietary choices and excess sugar there will be consequences! Doesn’t it seem possible that a lot of the issues children or ourselves could be experiencing could be tied back to our overall gut health?
All diseases begin in the gut… Hippocrates, 460-370 BC
I understand that it isn’t easy to raise children and mornings along with meals in general can create a challenge. But it is still our job as a parent to provide the best possible nutrition for our children. Many children will start the day with no breakfast or one that is full of sugar leaving them ramped up and unable to concentrate and later too tired. Ever witness a child that is too tired? Not exactly pleasant… After school will often times result in a lot more of the same. (Please feel free to think about your own habits and not just those of your children or children you know!)
And while a poor diet can lead to obesity, there will be some that despite poor dietary choices, no weight is gained. THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT OK!!!! If you are experiencing mood, energy and concentration issues, you have a problem!
I remember one afternoon when my son was about 9 years old and I went to pick him up from his grandparents after work one day. His grandfather was complaining that my son was bouncing off the walls and he didn’t understand why… So, I asked him what he fed my son after school. He goes on to tell me that first he gave him waffles with syrup on them (which will mean drenched in syrup) and that was followed by a lotof fruit juice. Basically, it was an after-school snack of massive amounts of sugar! Of course, he was going to be bouncing off the walls!!!!! Just because he wasn’t handed a candy bar and a soda, it didn’t make it any less bad for him. Now think about how many kids and adults reach for sugar in the afternoon. It could be a soda, sugary coffee drink or maybe a huge lemonade or fruit juice…the result is still the same. Too much sugar!
The sugar is just one example. There are other foods that will hijack our gut. The bottom line is that we all get to choose what food we buy. Food does not fall out of the sky. We don’t live in the movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”. Which means every single person could make better choice for themselves and if they have children, for their children.
So, let’s go back to the beginning. Children in school having issues. Take a moment and stop to look at their diet. Does their morning begin with some protein and healthy fats? Or is it mostly sugar? Remember carbohydrates break down into sugar. Refined carbohydrates like white bread/flour and cereals turn into sugar even faster! What are they having for lunch that will help them get through the day? We have to look at the gut and that means starting with their diet.
Children (and adults) who have been on a lot of anti-biotics will most likely require extra support. Immune support along with nutrients that rebuild the gut lining will be especially important. Fiber is absolutely essential and it is something most of us do not get enough of in our diet.
There are fantastic herbs and minerals that can be used as an alternative to ADD/ADHD medications and anti-depressants. Working with a qualified practitioner to make sure you are getting the right ones along with high quality is extremely important. But starting with good essential fatty acids, like cod liver oil or tuna oil, is a great starting point.
Remember the body wants to be well. Chronic symptoms are a sign that something isn’t functioning optimally. Do not cover it up with a medication! I promise there are better ways to look at the body and figure out why it is doing what it is doing!
P.S. If you would like to learn more, here are a few recommended books: Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride; Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., CCN, CHN; Little Sugar Addicts by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D (She also wrote Potatoes Not Prozac) and Fat Chance by Robert H. Lustig, M.D. (He has a great YouTube video called Sugar the Bitter Truth)