Have you noticed that recently teenagers have been experiencing more and more different mental problems? Perhaps your child may have symptoms of depression like sadness, irritability, frustration, loss of interest in things he/she liked before, extreme sensitivity, trouble thinking or concentrating?
Nowadays, at a time when our children seem to have nearly everything that we as children could have only dream of you would think they should be very happy and healthy. Hovewer, the official statistics (CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) actually show that suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds. It’s also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide. But WHY???
We may not recall how it felt to be a teenager, on age when you are trapped between childhood and adulthood, a sort of “ugly duckling” period. Of course it is a time of huge possibilities and opportunities but at the same time it can also be a period of a huge stress and worry. Children experience pressure to fit in socially, to perform academically and to act responsibly.
In this situation young people with mental health problems — such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or insomnia — are at much higher risk of suicidal thoughts. During the last fifty years more and more teenagers have reported symptoms of mental illness in general. Just think about it – 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every school class! Depression affects about 20% of teens by the time they become adults and anxiety disorder affects 25% of teenagers. And this number nearly doubled between the 1980s and 2000s. So, what has changed during this period of time that has had such huge impact on our children’s behavior and health?
It has been shown that the gut and brain have a certain way to communicate and influence each other. This happens via the nervous system, hormones and the immune system. Certain gut bacteria can release neurotransmitters and have a direct effect on the brain.
Furthermore, recent scientific research has proven that mental disorders are associated with chronic inflammation and increased oxidative stress in the human body. But where this inflammation coming from?
Among the main well known environmental risk factors of depression like stress, trauma, exercise, sleep, smoking, obesity, scientists have also listed diet, gut permeability or leaky gut and the microbiome.
So, what is a leaky gut and why is it important for mental health? In our body, gut cells are normally kept tight to each other and nutrients from the gut are absorbed into the blood stream via the intestinal lining. However, different factors like stress, infections, drugs, toxins, gluten and other molecules can cause a destruction of the intestinal lining causing a leaky gut. As a results some bacteria and their toxins, incompletely digested proteins, fats and other waste may “leak” out of the intestines into the blood stream. This stimulates immune cells and in turn leads to inflammation causing depression and other mental disorders and health issues.
Many different factors may contribute to leaky gut but most important is the disturbance in the balance of gut bacteria (microbiome) that can cause lots of harmful reactions leading to many health problems. And this is the reason why it is important to avoid anything that may cause such misbalance, including over-usage of antibiotics, drinking chlorinated water, exposing yourself to potentially toxic chemicals, eating processed food and drinking sugary sodas. They all play major roles in changing the dynamics of the gut, increasing leakiness that correlates very strongly with neurological conditions. One of the biggest causes in unbalancing microbiome in children is an unhealthy diet; the junk food, all the processed carbohydrates that kids consume all the time nowadays feed bad bacteria in the digestive system allowing them to grow and cause the disturbance in the balance of microbiome. At the same time, our diet is missing fermented foods that are essential for supporting the good bacteria and a healthy gut.
Therefore, it is evident that the mental health of our children is significantly contributing towards the threatening number of suicidal cases among teenagers and can be largely influenced by eating habits and life stile changes. Just imagine how huge an impact we can make together by reducing the amount of processed foods full of sugar and toxic additives in the diet of our dearest children!
Do you have a story to share? Or perhaps you have a question? Do you need more guidance on how to change your family eating habits in order to help your child?
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