A child’s genetic makeup and hence their individual biochemistry plays a major role in determining the factors that impact their mental health later in life. Certain children may have a disposition to deficiencies in certain nutrients and hormones which can lead to an imbalance of neurotransmitters and the development of mood / mental disorders. Neurotransmitter imbalances can be genetic in nature and involve abnormal absorption, metabolism and / or storage of key nutrients. Individual biochemistry can help to determine which nutrients your child may require to balance health and prevent more serious disorders.
This genetic condition is related to an error in something called, pyrole chemistry. These children have a chemical called kryptopyrrole detectable in their urine, which binds with vitamin B6 and zinc, depleting their body of these nutrients. Symptoms associated with pyroluria include but are not limited to explosive temper, mood swings, poor short-term memory, frequent infections, fearfulness, continuous stress and anxiety.
A high proportion of children are deficient in this vital mineral, magnesium. Magnesium has a calming effect on the body and is required for many of the body’s metabolic processes. Common symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency include anxiety, hyperactivity, poor sleep, tics and twitches, irregular heartbeat, and asthma.
Chronic stress can lead to excessive stress hormone levels circulating within the body and the normal regulating mechanisms may no longer be able to cope. Yes children with ADHD, autism, anxiety, aggression, poor concentration show an elevated “fight or flight” (stress) response. Chronic stress depletes the body of many vital nutrients. Their body cannot begin to cope with chronic stress without these vital nutrients. Some signs of nutrient depletion due to stress include an inability to concentrate, anxiety, fatigue, depression and impaired immunity.
Nutrients which can be invaluable for helping your child cope with stress include: magnesium, vitamin B5, vitamin C, tyrosine, tryptophan, acety-l-carnitine and phosphatidylserine.
Any digestive disorder in your child will affect the absorption of nutrients. Constipation, loose stools, bloating, abdominal pain or discomfort are all signs that something is not right in your child’s gut. Intestinal permeability or a “leaky gut” and inflammatory bowel disease (such as irritable bowel syndrome or gluten sensitivity) can contribute to deficiencies in certain nutrients and promote food sensitivities in your child. This can lead to protein (amino acid) deficiency and directly affect the production of neurotransmitters that affect mood. If the integrity of the gut lining is damaged toxic substances may also be passed through into the bloodstream affecting their mental health.
Children are often picky” or restricted eaters, which will lead to nutritional deficiencies. The lack of fibre from inadequate vegetables and fruit, will adversely affect their gut bacteria. We are hearing more and more about the link between the gut-brain axis, and how important a healthy gut is. Children suffering from mood disorders may be deficient in essential nutrients and should be supported with appropriate nutritional supplementation.
Herbal medicine has a long tradition in treating mood disorders successfully, without the unwanted side effects of prescription medications. Herbal medicines are safe to use in children and can be very effective.
Lemon balm is a mild tasting herb so excellent for use in children. Useful for anxiety, depression sleep onset and maintenance as well as helping improve memory
Chamomile helps soothe irritability, while calming and rebuilding the nervous system. It can help with hyperactivity, language and communication difficulties, anxiety, restlessness and sleep
Saffron has been used to treat ADHD, anxiety and depression
Withania helps with dealing with stress, anxiety, and particularly useful taken at night to reduce cortisol levels and support sleep
Ziziphus jujuba has been used widely in Traditional Chinese Medicine for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety
Scutellaria laterifolia helps rebalance the adrenal (stress) hormones and is therefore useful during nervous exhaustion and depression.
Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. “A dietary pattern characterized by a high intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression. A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression. The results of this meta-analysis suggest that healthy pattern may decrease the risk of depression, whereas western-style may increase the risk of depression.”
Food and Mood: Diet Quality is Inversely Associated with Depressive Symptoms in Female University Students. “Researchers have found support for an inverse association between diet quality and depressive symptoms in middle-aged adults. This association has not been well examined among university students, a population at risk of developing both depression and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Elevated depressive symptoms were associated with consumption of diets of poor nutritional quality in our female university student sample. Thus, healthy eating may correspond with lower levels of depression in young adult females.”
Effects of Acute Blueberry Flavonoids on Mood in Children and Young Adults. Full pdf. “These randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind studies investigated the effects of acute consumption of a flavonoid-rich wild blueberry drink on the mood of healthy children and young adults. In both studies, increased Positive Affect was observed 2 h after consumption of the flavonoid-rich WBB drink (significant drink by session interaction). The flavonoid drink had no effect on Negative Affect. The effect of flavonoids on mood was consistent across two populations, at two different time points (morning and afternoon), and in a between- and within-subject design. Thus, the positive effect of blueberry flavonoids on Positive Affect appears to be robust to variations in experimental design.”
Bread and Other Edible Agents of Mental Disease. Full pdf. “Perhaps because gastroenterology, immunology, toxicology, and the nutrition and agricultural sciences are outside of their competence and responsibility, psychologists and psychiatrists typically fail to appreciate the impact that food can have on their patients’ condition. We present the implications for the psychological sciences of the findings that, in all of us, bread (1) makes the gut more permeable and can thus encourage the migration of food particles to sites where they are not expected, prompting the immune system to attack both these particles and brain-relevant substances that resemble them, and (2) releases opioid-like compounds, capable of causing mental derangement if they make it to the brain.”
The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review. “In the last decade, research has revealed an extensive bidirectional communication network between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system, referred to as the “gut-brain axis.” Advances in this field have linked psychiatric disorders to changes in the microbiome, making it a potential target for novel antidepressant treatments. Ten studies met criteria and were analyzed for effects on mood, anxiety, and cognition. Five studies assessed mood symptoms, seven studies assessed anxiety symptoms, and three studies assessed cognition. The majority of the studies found positive results on all measures of depressive symptoms.”
The Gut-Brain Axis: The Missing Link in Depression. Full pdf. “In the past few years, neuroscientific research has shown the importance of the microbiota in the development of brain systems. Recent studies showed that the microbiota could activate the immune and central nervous systems, including commensal and pathogenic microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. Gut microorganisms are capable of producing and delivering neuroactive substances such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid, which act on the gut-brain axis.”
Gut Microbiota, Bacterial Translocation, and Interactions with Diet: Pathophysiological Links between Major Depressive Disorder and Non-Communicable Medical Comorbidities. “Persistent low-grade immune-inflammatory processes, oxidative and nitrosative stress (O&NS), and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation are integral to the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder (MDD). The microbiome, intestinal compositional changes, and resultant bacterial translocation add a new element to the bidirectional interactions of the gut-brain axis; new evidence implicates these pathways in the patho-aetiology of MDD. In addition, abnormalities in the gut-brain axis are associated with several chronic non-communicable disorders, which frequently co-occur in individuals with MDD, including but not limited to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), obesity, and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Intestinal dysbiosis and the leaky gut may constitute a key pathophysiological link between MDD and its medical comorbidities.”
Peripheral zinc and neopterin concentrations are associated with mood severity in bipolar disorder in a gender-specific manner. “Two peripheral markers of the acute phase immune response, zinc and neopterin, are consistently associated with severity of depression in literature. We found that zinc concentrations were significantly lower in the BD group at baseline, and there was also a significant interaction between gender and zinc, associated with depression severity. Also, we found a significant interaction between gender and neopterin, associated with mania severity. We found that mania severity was associated with neopterin in men, while depression severity was positively associated with zinc in women.”
The Relationship between Fatty Acids and Different Depression-Related Brain Regions, and Their Potential Role as Biomarkers of Response to Antidepressants. Full pdf. “Diet impacts various aspects of health, including depression. The fatty acid composition of the Western diet, which has a high ratio of n-6:n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, is associated with increased incidence of depression. The brain is rich in lipids, and dietary fatty acids act within specific brain regions to regulate processes that impact emotional behavior. This manuscript reviews existing evidence demonstrating brain region-specific fatty acid profiles, and posits that specific fatty acids may serve as predictive biomarkers of response to antidepressants. Furthermore, increasing blood levels of certain fats, such as n-3s, via dietary intervention may serve as an adjunct to improve the efficacy of antidepressants.”
Zinc in the Monoaminergic Theory of Depression: Its Relationship to Neural Plasticity. Full pdf. “Preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that zinc possesses antidepressant properties and that it may augment the therapy with conventional, that is, monoamine-based, antidepressants. In this review we aim to discuss the role of zinc in the pathophysiology and treatment of depression with regard to the monoamine hypothesis of the disease. Particular attention will be paid to the recently described zinc-sensing GPR39 receptor as well as aspects of zinc deficiency. Furthermore, an attempt will be made to give a possible explanation of the mechanisms by which zinc interacts with the monoamine system in the context of depression and neural plasticity.”
Clinical Use of Curcumin in Depression: A Meta-Analysis. “Six clinical trials with a total of 377 patients were reviewed, comparing the use of curcumin to placebo. In patients with depression, the pooled standardized mean difference from baseline Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression scores support the significant clinical efficacy of curcumin in ameliorating depressive symptoms. Significant anti-anxiety effects were also reported in 3 of the trials. Notably, no adverse events were reported in any of the trials.”
Vitamin D and mental health in children and adolescents. “While vitamin D is known to be relevant for bone health, evidence has recently accumulated for an impact on mental health. Overall, results from 25 cross-sectional studies as well as from 8 longitudinal studies suggest a role of vitamin D in the pathogenesis of mental disorders in childhood and adolescence. Randomized controlled trials in childhood and adolescents are urgently needed to support the potential of vitamin D as a complementary therapeutic option in mental disorders.”
Curcumin for neuropsychiatric disorders: a review of in vitro, animal and human studies. Full pdf. “In this systematic review, in vitro, animal, and human studies investigating the potential of curcumin as a treatment for neuropsychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, and autism are reviewed, and directions for future research are proposed. It is concluded that curcumin is a promising, natural agent for many of these conditions, however, further research utilising robust, clinical designs are essential. The problem associated with the poor oral bioavailability of standard curcumin also requires consideration. Currently the greatest support for the efficacy of curcumin is for the treatment of major depressive disorder.”
Clinical use of nutraceuticals in the adjunctive treatment of depression in mood disorders. “Our recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses of nutrient pharmacotherapies in the treatment unipolar depression revealed primarily positive results for replicated studies testing S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), methylfolate, omega-3 (EPA or ethyl-EPA), and Vitamin D; with supportive isolated studies found for creatine and an amino acid combination. Mixed results were found for zinc, folic acid, Vitamin C, and tryptophan; and non-significant study results for inositol. In bipolar depression, omega-3 and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) were found to have supportive evidence.”
Polyunsaturated fatty acids and recurrent mood disorders: Phenomenology, mechanisms, and clinical application. “A body of evidence has implicated dietary deficiency in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA), including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), in the pathophysiology and etiology of recurrent mood disorders including major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder. Meta-analyses provide strong evidence that patients with mood disorders exhibit low blood n-3 PUFA levels which are associated with increased risk for the initial development of mood symptoms in response to inflammation. Collectively, these findings implicate dietary n-3 PUFA insufficiency, particularly during development, in the pathophysiology of mood dysregulation, and support implementation of routine screening for and treatment of n-3 PUFA deficiency in patients with mood disorders.”
Association of Mood Disorders with Serum Zinc Concentrations in Adolescent Female Students. “The main objective of this study was to assess the correlation between serum zinc levels and mood disorders in high school female students. Each 10 μg/dL increment in serum zinc levels led to 0.3 and 0.01 decrease in depression and anxiety scores, respectively (p < 0.05). Serum zinc levels were inversely correlated with mood disorders including depression and anxiety in adolescent female students. Increasing serum levels of zinc in female students could improve their mood disorders.
Food and Mood: How do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? “Healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, are associated with better mental health than “unhealthy” eating patterns, such as the Western diet. The effects of certain foods or dietary patterns on glycaemia, immune activation, and the gut microbiome may play a role in the relationships between food and mood.”
Magnesium and depression. “It [magnesium] plays a vital modulatory role in brain biochemistry, influencing several neurotransmission pathways associated with the development of depression. Personality changes, including apathy, depression, agitation, confusion, anxiety, and delirium are observed when there is a deficiency of this element. Since the extracellular concentration of magnesium ions may not reflect their intracellular level, none of the current methods of evaluating magnesium status is regarded as satisfactory. The mood-improving potential of magnesium compounds have been confirmed by the results of numerous pre-clinical and clinical studies. It seems that magnesium supplementation is well-tolerated and enhances the efficacy of conventional antidepressant treatments, and as such could be a valuable addition to the standard treatments for depression.”
Cytokine Levels in Panic Disorder: Evidence for a Dose-Response Relationship. “Several studies have investigated possible biological correlates of mental disorders. Although some studies have consistently reported elevated levels of serum inflammatory markers in depression, very few have evaluated cytokine levels in patients with lifetime panic disorder (PD). Significantly higher mean levels of serum IL-6 but not of tumor necrosis factor-α or IL-10 , were associated with current PD compared to remitted PD. Our findings support a proinflammatory state in patients with current PD that is independent of possible confounders.
Short-term open-label chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) therapy of moderate to severe generalized anxiety disorder. “Subjects with moderate to severe GAD [general anxiety disorder] received open-label treatment with pharmaceutical-grade chamomile extract 1500mg/day for up to 8 weeks. Chamomile extract produced a clinically meaningful reduction in GAD symptoms over 8 weeks, with a response rate comparable to those observed during conventional anxiolytic drug therapy and a favorable adverse event profile.” Please note that pharmaceutical grade chamomile extract was used in this study. Many retail herbs and those available over the internet are of poor quality.
The brain-gut axis dysfunctions and hypersensitivity to food antigens in the etiopathogenesis of schizophrenia. Full text. “This paper is a review of the literature on this subject which presents factors both involved in the functioning of brain-gut axis and important for the development of schizophrenia, i.e. 1. intestinal microbiome (intestinal microbiota), 2. permeable intestine (leaky gut syndrome), 3. hypersensitivity to food antigens, including gluten and casein of cow’s milk. Research results seem to be very promising and indicate the possibility of improved clinical outcomes in some patients with schizophrenia by modifying diet, use of probiotics, and the implementation of antibiotic therapy of specific treatment groups.”
Association between depression and enterovirus infection: A nationwide population-based cohort study. “Enterovirus (EV) infection is common among children and adolescents. Few studies have investigated the relationship of depression after EV infection. This study explores an association between EV infection and subsequent depression in children and adolescents and assesses the risk of depression after EV infection with central nervous system involvement in a nationwide population-based retrospective cohort. CNS EV infection was associated with increased risk of depression. The results suggested that children and adolescents with CNS EV infection were a susceptible group for subsequent depressive disorders.”
Hepatitis C virus infection, and neurological and psychiatric disorders – A review. “An association between hepatitis C virus infection and neuropsychiatric symptoms has been proposed for some years. A variety of studies have been undertaken to assess the nature and severity of these symptoms, which range from fatigue and depression to defects in attention and verbal reasoning. There is evidence of mild neurocognitive impairment in some patients with HCV infection, which is not fully attributable to liver dysfunction or psychosocial factors. Further evidence of a biological cerebral effect has arisen from studies using magnetic resonance spectroscopy; metabolic abnormalities correlate with cognitive dysfunction and resemble the patterns of neuroinflammation that have been described in HIV infection. Importantly, patient reported outcomes improve following successful antiviral therapy.”
The effects of vitamin B on the immune/cytokine network and their involvement in depression. “Increasing evidence indicates that there are various interactions between the nervous system and the immune system, and that the immune system plays an important role in the pathogenesis of depression. Pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as IL-1, IL-6, TNF-α) have been implicated in the neurobiological manifestations of depression. The immune/cytokine network has a powerful influence on the brain. In addition, deficiency in B vitamins has been linked to depression.
Improvement of psychiatric symptoms in youth following resolution of sinusitis. “Accumulating evidence supports a role for inflammation in psychiatric illness, and the onset or exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms may follow non-CNS infections. 10/150 (6.6%) patients had isolated sinusitis at the time of their neuropsychiatric deterioration. Eight patients received antibiotics to treat sinusitis, three of whom also received sinus surgery. Neuropsychiatric symptoms improved in all eight patients concurrent with resolution of sinusitis per parent report and clinician assessment. Improvement of psychiatric symptoms correlated with resolution of sinus disease in this retrospective study. Identification, treatment, and resolution of underlying infections, including sinusitis, may have the potential to change the trajectory of some neuropsychiatric illnesses.”
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