Is your teen unmotivated, depressed, irritable, or full of anxiety?
Teens are going through a lot of changes at this stage and their hormones and body chemistry greatly determine their mood, behavior and outlook on life.
So what goes wrong...why aren't they happy?
It can have a lot to do with what they eat. ‘Neurotransmitters’ are a variety of chemicals that affect their thinking, feeling, behavior, memory, and coordination. Neurotransmitters are the conversion of Amino Acids extracted from the nutrients in our food.
Food—> Nutrients—> Amino Acids—> Neurotransmitters
So, considering the nutritional deficit in our food supply these days, and the average teen diet, it is not hard to see where some of our teen's struggles might start.
Your teen's particular struggles can be an indicator of which neurotransmitter they may be deficient in. The main neurotransmitters are Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, GABA, and Acetylcholine, and they affect specific areas.
Serotonin- Serotonin deficiency plays a role in depression, the blues, and insomnia.
Norepinephrine- Norepinephrine deficiency leads to depression, impaired memory and concentration, cognitive/thinking problems, irritability, worry, and insomnia. Norepinephrine deficiency leaves people feeling mentally exhausted.
Dopamine- Dopamine is our ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter. It is where drugs and chocolate work on the brain to give a pleasurable experience and leave a person wanting more. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that must be within a specific range…too little and you don’t feel good…too much and you will feel fearful or even paranoid.
GABA- GABA is our calming, relaxing neurotransmitter. If we are deficient in GABA we experience anxiety.
Acetylcholine- Acetylcholine is required for learning and memory. People with an Acetylcholine deficiency have memory problems. Moderate to severe deficiencies make people feel as if someone has pulled the plug on their brain, they can not receive or retrieve information.
So how do we fix it?
Proteins are chains of 1,000 or more amino acids, which can then be converted into the neurotransmitters we need. Because our food supply is incredibly nutrient deficient the best and easiest way to get protein into our kids it through protein powders and shakes.
Have your child drink a protein shake every morning with a good breakfast to effectively increase their daily amino acid intake. Kids love morning shakes so this is a very easy thing to implement.
Teenagers especially need lots of protein because both their brain and body are experiencing huge growth spurts during this time, so add a second shake after school.
Also, get them moving, exercise or an activity of any kind is excellent for improving a bummed mood.
Note- Be sure to pick a protein powder that does NOT have Creatine. Creatine is used to increase muscle mass and because children are still in a growing phase, this may impact the muscles and bones as they grow. Creatine is not recommended for anyone under 18.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended as medical advice, if your child suffers with depression or anxiety I would strongly urge you to consult your physician or nutritionist for a more thorough solution.
References used for this article include:
-Gersten, David, Nutritional Medicine and Integrative Psychiatry
-Alba, Deanne, "Balance Your Neurotransmitters"