Feed their focus, development & positivity
This is the month that teenagers head back to school. School poses many challenges; new timetables, new teachers, a whole new routine, long days, exam challenges, interaction with many peers again etc. Self-confidence, positive mental health and good coping mechanisms increase a teenager’s resilience and ability to embrace it all. Anna Land, teacher and CNM Nutritional therapist, tells us how we can really help our teenagers through good nutrition and good gut health!
Gut health is fundamental in wellness. Our language contains many references to the gut; ‘to have the stomach for something’, ‘to have guts’, ‘go with your gut’. Our ability to take in goodness from our environment is dependent on the ability of the gut to digest, absorb and assimilate. The microbial balance in our gut can affect both digestion and absorption but it can also affect our elimination and immunity. Gut dysbiosis is an imbalance in the colonies of the bowel flora and can be caused by stress, excess sugar, low fibre intake, antibiotics/various drug therapies and decreased immunity.
Eating regularly throughout the day is very important to sustain a student’s energy levels to cater for their busy schedules.
As a teacher, I see what many of my students eat on a regular basis. It is great to see some students bringing in their packed lunches comprising of wholemeal bread sandwiches, salads, fruit, left-over vegetable stir-fries from the previous evening’s dinner and water. I do see a lot of students who eat white baguettes packed with processed meats, sugary carbonated drinks, packets of biscuits and crisps. Excessive consumption of these processed foods can cause an inflammatory response in the gut. It can also have an effect on a student’s ability to focus in class, concentration levels and overall personal ability to perform effectively in school. So to ensure your teens feel their best in school, keep their lunches wholesome.
A student’s mental health may also be affected by what they consume. The brain and gut develop from the same part of the human embryo and therefore share many nerve endings and chemical transmitters to which it remains linked through a large nucleus. This collection of nerve cells is partly responsible for controlling anxiety and fear. In animal studies, low grade gastrointestinal inflammation results in anxiety like behaviours. But supplementation with probiotics is associated with a reduction in these behaviours.
Serotonin is a happy hormone associated with wellbeing. 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal tract. It is manufactured in our bodies from the amino acid tryptophan; this is derived from the food we eat. Serotonin influences not only mood but can affect memory and mental clarity and is dependent on good gut health.
Students and their parents can follow these simple steps to begin re-balancing the gut flora and optimise mood and mental clarity.
Steps You Can Take
Eat a fibre–rich, whole foods diet—it should be rich in beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—all of which feed good bugs. Raw foods are also excellent for nutrients and have serotonin boosting properties.
Limit sugar, processed foods, animal fats, and animal protein—these provide food for unhealthy bacteria.
Avoid the use of antibiotics, acid blockers, and anti-inflammatories—these all have a negative effect on gut flora.
Take probiotics daily— these healthy, friendly floras can improve your digestive health reduce inflammation and allergy and help increase correct absorption.
To support the growth of probiotic bacteria, also choose foods known as prebiotics that naturally contain lots of soluble fibre, such as bananas, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, honey, leeks and onions.
Help the good bacteria in the gut by including yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso, garlic and onions, probiotics which include lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, keep the lining of the colon healthy and improve gut motility.
Add anti-parasitic herbs into your meals, such as thyme, oregano, garlic and cloves, help to destroy worms and parasites in the gut.
Include foods rich in tryptophan; almonds, bananas, beans, cheeses, chicken, eggs and oily fish, turkey and yoghurt.
To find out more about training at CNM, see www.naturopathy.ie or call 01-2353094.
To contact Anna Land ring 086-0524580. Anna is the administrator of the Irish Association of Nutritional therapy (IANT) which has members practising all over the country.