Tag Archives: Depression

The Brain Boosting Benefits of Vitamin D

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a not only a vitamin, but a hormone as well.  As a hormone, it helps with the absorption of calcium, which supports strong bones and muscles. It boosts your child’s brain by activating genes that release brain chemicals that play a role in mood and cognitive processing such as dopamine and serotonin. 

Why is it important?

Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including major organs, such as the brain and heart. Our immune system also needs vitamin D to function.  It fights diseases and even reduces the likelihood of developing the flu. When vitamin D is deficient your child’s brain functioning is compromised, which may result in psychological disorders such as depression and ADHD. 

How does it boost my child’s brain? 

Vitamin D is linked to serotonin.  Serotonin is referred to as the “happiness hormone” for a reason.  An optimal level of serotonin is of significant importance for the brain and mood.  If serotonin is low depression and mental health issues may occur.  Research has also linked vitamin D with executive functioning (higher level cognitive skills needed to regulate behavior), memory, and cognitive impairment.

Ways to naturally boost vitamin D:

  • Spend time in the sunlight. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because the sun is one of the best ways to receive this nutrient.  Science tells us vitamin D from the sun is present twice as long in body than vitamin D from supplements. 
  • Eat fish.  Wild-caught fish is rich in vitamin D.  Salmon is especially great for the brain and contains about 50% of the daily recommended intake.  Other types of fish also contain vitamin D such as shrimp and tuna. 
  • Eat free-range eggs.  Chickens who have access to sunlight produce eggs with more vitamin D. 
  • Exercise. Harvard recently showed that vigorous exercise can boost vitamin D. Aerial yoga can be vigorous…

A healthy diet and plenty of sunshine are always the best ways to derive vitamin D. However, if your child is deficient, talk to your doctor about whether a supplement is needed. It’s always important to have levels checked with a blood test to confirm a deficiency and talk to medical professionals about the risks and benefits of supplements before giving your child any kind of supplement. Sunshine and running are free brain-boosting ways to increase vitamin D and best of all, they don’t require blood tests!

References

Hogberg G, Gustafsson SA, Hallstrom T, et al. Depressed adolescents in a case-series were low in vitamin D and depression was ameliorated by vitamin D supplementation. Acta. Paediatrica 101(7), 779-783 (2012).

Tolppanen AM SA, Fraser WD, Lewis G, et al. The association of serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 and D2 with depressive symptoms in childhood-a prospective cohort study. J. Child. Psychol. Psychiatry 53(7), 757-766 (2012)

Holick MF. Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Am. J. Clin. Nutr 80(6 Suppl), 1678s-88s (2004).

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Children

Girl playing in the sun

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS-BASED STRESS REDUCTION FOR CHILDREN? 

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teaches children how to self-regulate their behavior through guided instruction. Each session includes mindfulness of the breath, mindfulness of the body (body scan), and mindfulness of movement (calming yoga postures).  Children  learn to identify thoughts and emotions and relate them to experiences. These simple mindfulness practices help children deal with anxiety, improve concentration, and handle difficult emotions.

IS IT SUPPORTED BY RESEARCH?

  • A study at Standford University confirmed that  8-weeks of mindfulness training in fourth through sixth graders led to significant decreases in anxiety and improvements in attention.  The children in this study were less emotionally reactive and better able to handle daily stress (Saltzman, 2010)
  • A study with adolescents under psychiatric outpatient care showed significant improvements in stress, anxiety, and several psychopathological symptoms. The study also found that more time spent in sitting meditation predicted improved functioning and a reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms (Burke, 2009).

Sign up for a 8-week mindfulness based stress reduction course at 913-660-8219.

References

Burke, C.A. (2009) Mindfulness-Based Approaches with Children and Adolescents: A Preliminary Review of Current Research in an Emergent Field. J Child Fam Stud. pmid:20339571 doi: 10.1007/s10826-009-9282-x

Saltzman, A. (2010). Mindfulness: A teacher’s guide. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/theBuddha/teacher’s/guide/

EMPowerplus To Improve Mental Health

apple

Research has shown that adding vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, iron, and omega-3 supplements to the diets of children with ADHD, depression, and autism, improved their social emotional functioning (Kaplan, Fisher, Crawford, Field, & Kolb, 2004; Shaw, Rucklidge, & Hughes, 2010).  Wait, say what?  How does that work?  Vitamins and minerals are precursors to neurotransmitters ( (brain chemicals that transmit information throughout our body and brain).  If our body is deficient in vitamins and minerals it can’t make neurotransmitters.  Neurotransmitters regulate our moods so not having enough can affect our mental health.

This is great information, but children won’t always eat their fruits and vegetables. Also, some children prefer a “sameness” of food items that limits their nutrient intake. This is where EMPowerplus can help. EMPowerplus contains 14 vitamins, 3 amino acids, 16 minerals, and 3 antioxidants and has been proven to improve psychological symptoms. And no, I do not work for EMPowerplus, I have just read the research.

The EMPowerplus website lists a multitude of research studies supporting it’s use for different disorders. Since not everyone enjoys reading scholarly research I’ve summarized a couple of the studies for you.

Kaplan et al. (2004) reduced psychiatric symptoms in children with behavioral disorders by introducing EMPowerplus for eight weeks. Six out the eleven children given the broad-based nutrient formula showed significant improvements. The findings of the study demonstrated improvement on attention, anxiety, delinquency, mood, and aggression. However, it should be noted that the sample size was small and parents gave ratings on all the outcome measures.

Rucklidge, Gately, and Kaplan (2010) found similar significant improvements in 120 children (7-18) with both pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) and ADHD, and an alternative sample of 41 children with just ADHD, who were given EMPowerplus for 6-months. The symptom decrease for the entire sample (120 children) was a 59% reduction on the symptom checklist. Wow, a 59% symptom reduction!

As with any supplement if your child is on a psychotropic medication do not stop taking it or start any supplement without first discussing it with your physician. Also, it is best to obtain vitamins and minerals from whole food sources. Supplementing should only be considered when your child will not eat a wide variety of whole foods. The two supplementation solutions that are backed by the most research are Juice Plus+, which is a whole food, not a supplement, and EMPowerplus. Finally, don’t expect results to occur right away vitamin and mineral deficiencies can take months to correct.

Reference

Kaplan, B. J., Fisher, J. E., Crawford, S. G., Field, C. J., & Kolb, B. (2004). Improved mood and behavior during treatment with a mineral-vitamin supplement: An open-label case series    of children. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 14(1), 115-22.

Rucklidge, J. J., Gately, D., & Kaplan, B. J. (2010). Database analysis of children and adolescents with bipolar disorder consuming a micronutrient formula. BMC Psychiatry, 10doi:10.1186/1471-244X-10-74

Shaw, I., Rucklidge, J. J., & Hughes, R. N. (2010). A Possible Biological Mechanism for the B Vitamins Altering Behaviour in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Pharmaceutical Medicine, 24(5), 289-294.