Better Body Clinical Nutrition


Teen Mental Health

Monday, January 10, 2022 1:14 PM

This article covers the topic of Nutritional Support for teen Mental Health.  It focuses on six areas for improvment, including, digestion, Fat balance, Sleep, Vitamin d levels, Iron status, and Blood Sugar management.  Sarah saved the most important of these for last because when blood sugar is off then it can have dramatic effects on our emotional and mental health.  The increase in sugar in our food supply as well as starchy foods has really made this a true epedimic.  The good news is that by just reducing the amount of sugar and carbohydrates in general this can be done relatively easily.  

Digestion is a key factor because, "If there are signs your child isn’t digesting their food well, then they may not be able to process all the nutrients from their diet.” This could lead to malabsorbtion or just not getting the different vitamins or minerals that help keep us healthy.

Fat balance is a huge factor because our hormones, brain, and nervous system require fats to operate.  There are different kinds of fats and specifically a needed balance between Omega 3, 6, and 9.  Sarah points out that, "Although omega 3 fats can be found in walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds, some people struggle to convert these to the longer chain omega 3 fats, found in oily fish. If your teenager isn’t keen on salmon, mackerel, or sardines, it might be worth considering a good quality omega 3 fish or algae oil supplement."

Sleep might seem kind of obvious, but between smartphones and overnight texting and staying up late to play video games or bing a new show this can get overlooked.  I know my own mental health and emotional well being are very sensitive to this factor.  The needs of sleep vary, but in general 8 - 12 hours is needed to be at ones peak.

Vitamin D helps move calcium from the gut to blood and this is a huge aspect of ones immune status, but also of the ratio of magnesium and calcium as well.  This allows muscles to relax and can be a big part of mental health.  Also Sarah points out, "Low levels of this vitamin have been linked to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions."

What Sarah says about Iron is so true:

"Low iron levels have also been linked to anxiety and depression. Teenage girls are at risk of iron deficiency anaemia if they have very heavy periods, or follow a poorly balanced vegan diet. You may also notice other signs of low iron, which include fatigue and pale skin. You can ask your GP to check the levels of the iron storage protein ferritin. Iron from animal sources, like red meat and eggs, are generally better absorbed than plant-based sources. However, pairing beans, dark green leafy vegetables, dried apricots, pistachios, or other high iron plant-based foods, with foods rich in vitamin C (think berries, peppers, and oranges) can enhance absorption of iron."

The topic is teen mental health, but the truth is that these are important for our mental health at any age.  So keep these six points in and lets see if you don’t feel better  :)