brain health children's health deficiencies Depression Vitamin D zinc

3 nutrients to help your teenager with low mood

Teenagers are particularly prone to developing low mood. It’s not just the external pressures that affect them but internal ones too. Correcting nutrient status and biochemistry can help a teen conquer low mood without the need for medication.

The increased nutrient demands of puberty put a teenager at risk of mood disorders both at the time and in the years that follow.  Lifestyle changes can also affect nutrient status. They might be eating more processed food, or following a vegetarian/vegan diet or maybe they are skipping meals. It is possible that they might be drinking alcohol or smoking which can also compromise nutrient status at a time when reserves may already be low.

Here are 3 special nutrients that will help your teen overcome low mood from the inside:

1. Zinc. Levels can be really low in those suffering with mood issues. It helps reduce neuro-inflammation which we now believe to be a key component in the development of depression. It is also needed to convert tryptophan to serotonin and serotonin is that key brain chemical that helps us to feel happy. Zinc also helps us to think clearly and have sharper thinking. Here are just a few of the signs of zinc deficiency:

Heartburn, reflux or bloating.

IBS or digestive issues.

Stretch marks

Clicking joints

Anxiety

Lack of appetite or limits diet through choice

Often deficient in those with anorexia or a history of it

A deficiency of zinc will affect the absorption of other nutrients and so could lead to a deficiency of other nutrients further down the line including iron and B12.

2. Omega 3 fatty acids. These are vital for fighting low mood and your teen might not getting enough if they don’t eat oily fish. Some people eat flax or other seeds to try to get omega 3 into the diet, but this is not always effective if you have a zinc or magnesium deficiency (and both of these are incredibly common). If this is the case, then converting the fatty acids we get from seeds to the longer chain fatty acids that we get from fish isn’t efficient. The long chain fats that we get from oily fish are vital for brain signalling. Without it the messages from brain chemical, like serotonin and dopamine, just wont be effective. So instead of feeling happy, relaxed and smart we end up feeling depressed, mentally dull and reliant on stimulants like sugar and caffeine to trigger dopamine release.

Omega 3 is also vital for lowering inflammation and the latest research suggests that depression is actually an inflammatory disorder – inflammation of the brain. So using omega 3 as an anti-inflammatory agent is really a no-brainer – it’s simple and it’s effective. Here are some of the common deficiency signs:

Easily sunburnt

Pain in joints

Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease

Painful periods

Low mood or depression

Eczema

Cardiovascular disease

Lack of concentration

3. Vitamin D. If you live in the northern hemisphere and have just come through the winter months you are most likely super deficient in vitamin D. Unless you were lucky enough to get some winter sun. Vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic levels it is from a combination of lack of sunshine and the use of sun blocks. This is a problem because there is a huge amount of information linking vitamin D deficiency to depression and low mood. This is most likely because, vitamin D is hugely anti-inflammatory. In the UK where sun is sparse in autumn and winter months deficiency peaks around February – our last exposure to the sun was in August or September and our body stores can’t last for more than a few months.  This is the main reason we struggle to fight off infections in the winter months and why people suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it can also contribute to the development of serious illnesses and to cognitive decline in general so I recommend testing. Your GP can test your child’s vitamin D levels for you or you can order a blood spot test through us.

Signs of deficiency include:

Tendency to inflammatory or auto immune disorders

Crohn’s disease, colitis and arthritis

Lupus or psoriasis

Bone and or joint pain

Head sweating

Lingering colds or flu

Low mood or SAD.

Low mood and depression are signs that there is something out of balance in your teens body. There is a system or system that is not functioning as well as it should – resulting in low mood or depression.

It could be that digestion isn’t optimal leading to nutrient deficiencies through absorption problems. If your teen suffers with IBS or reflux or bloating then this could be the case for your child.  Or maybe a really stressful period has left their adrenal function compromised. If you find your teen is particularly susceptible to stress then this could be the case. It is possible that your teen might have an imbalance like pyroluria or MTHFR deviation these can create metabolic imbalances that create a higher need for certain nutrients which can develop into depression.


    Sarah

    Sarah is a clinical nutritionist specialising in mental wellbeing and the gut-brain connection.

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