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My name is Samantha I am a child and youth student at Keyin College.
I’m currently working on a project for one of my classes and there isn’t a lot of information about it online. I was wondering about people's thoughts and opinions on the following topic:
It’s for a class called Health Safety & Nutrition. I have an assignment on teens living with anxiety and I want to list some special dietary needs for this group. Also, what may prevent this group from fulfilling their dietary needs?
Thank you very much,
Nice assignment and an important one too; nutrition can make a big difference for teens' general well being and functioning.
I think that the first consideration is that it is not unusual for teens to tend to eat a lot of "junk" food and snack items like chips and so on. They do this most particularly whilst watching TV or entertaining themselves on the internet, so an important consideration would be to gauge how much processed food they are eating and how this might dampen their appetites for nutrient dense foods. Another important consideration is that teens with anxiety might also have a higher tendency to snack on carbohydrate dense junk food like french fries and chips because these carbohydrate laden foods have an effect on brain serotonin. When they eat these, serotonin levels increase in the brain; making them feel temporarily uplifted and in a better mood (there are some research articles about this in Google Scholar). The problem with this is that these foods might make them feel better in the short term, but they are very unhealthy in the long term if eaten in excess and teens put on weight from these. Too much weight gain could potentially increase some teens' anxiety. Additionally, too much carbohydrate consumption could lead to some forms of malnutrition if the teens are not consuming enough protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Too much carbohydrate consumption also sometimes plays a role in de-regulating sleep patterns; not a very good thing for teens with anxiety! Sleep is very important for any teen but particularly for a teen with anxiety. You might also want to gauge how much sugar they are consuming since chocolates and sweets are also teen favourites. Too much sugar can interfere with sleep patterns (depending on what time of the day they eat them) and could potentially contribute to weight gain. Too much sugar might also have an impact on dampening teens' appetites for nutrient dense foods. Teens should be encouraged to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure that they are consuming all their daily nutritional needs. They should also be encouraged to eat more protein since they are going through a rapid growth period.
Some vitamins which would be essential for teens with anxiety are the full range of B vitamins (especially B6, B12 and foliate). B vitamins are essential for the central nervous system to function properly and there is research available (try Google Scholar) about how B vitamins play a role in mood disorders.
Most of all, try to encourage moderation and balance. Some junk food is okay, as long as they are eating other healthy nutrient dense food.
There is a lot more information about this subject but I hope this has given you a start!
All the best with your project.
You could look into the book 'The chemistry of Joy' By Dr Emmons that applies a holistic approach to living a full life. Not all related to anxiety but there is a large segment on feeding the body to feed the soul.
Also a barrier to fulfilling dietary needs, and it came up when I did the training provided by Dr. Emmons, was poverty. No one is eating grass finished beef at 12.00lb to feed yourself for a couple days when you can buy a can of spagettios and ramen noodles and feed yourself for 4x's as long.
Absent poverty is education and cooking lessons. I had a friend raised by her father who did not know how to cook. She was brought up on pre-cooked boxed foods, so when she moved out that's all she knew how to cook, although again poverty played a role in that. She knew how a boxed lasagna would taste, if she took the time to cook it herself and it ended up being 'bad' then she just wasted all that time and money on something she can’t eat (her words not mine). Since she has reached her 30s she has started to try to cook more at home (but she's also in another tax bracket now).
The relationship between nutrition and mental health is profound. I'll start by recommending a book called "Brain Maker" by David Perlmutter. This book provides really valuable information on our enteric nervous system....that is, our gastrointestinal tract. The gut is filled with BILLIONS of bacteria (some say they outnumber our human cells 10:1). But these bacteria play a critical role in a wide range of our functioning. In fact, they guide over 70% of our immune system function. They are also closely involved in issues related to inflammation (and there is a lot of research coming out about the relationship between inflammation and mental health issues).
But specific to anxiety, serotonin is believed to play an important role in the experience and treatment of anxiety. (For example, Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitor antidepressants are a preferred treatment for anxiety...). Guess what percentage of your body's serotonin is generated from the gut?....a staggering 90% of your serotonin comes from the gut. Other neurotransmitters are influenced as well...dopamine, GABA, etc...
Bottom line...If your gut is not healthy...we will not be healthy. Stress interferes with all sorts of dysfunction in our systems, but more and more research is re-establishing that good diet, good sleep and good exercise makes an important difference in our ability to manage stress and live a healthy life.
Dr. Bob Foltz