How To Get Started
Kids do better when they feel better.
And they feel better when they do better. It's a feedback loop.
This is a principle we hold at the core of our work with kids.
It means that when your child isn't doing great -- if they're getting in trouble at school all the time, feeling lethargic and tired, feeling anxious and revved up, feeling angry and frustrated... whatever it is for them -- the question for a caring adult to ask is, "what's making them feel so uncomfortable?"
So here's where you start...
First, you make sure they're eating more real, whole food than processed food.
I'm a busy mom too and yes, we have bars and packages in our pantry. But my advice here is to make sure that the bulk of what's in your kitchen is real, whole, and free of nasty ingredients.
There are nuances around getting the right foods and the right nutrients into your child to meet their growing needs, but we're keeping things broad in this article. The bottom line is that nutrients from real, whole food make the body run. Without them, processes slow down.
So we need to ensure sufficient nutrients are coming in so the body has the building blocks it needs to function well.
Try this: start by self-assessing.
- Have the processed and packaged foods inched their way into the house? Or is your child eating mostly real, whole food?
- Do you think your child eats too much sugar?
- Do you know which fats you should have in the home?
- Do you know what to look for in a food label?
TIP: Try the YUKA app to help you analyze food labels. It's a good start to getting unwanted ingredients out of your home!
Make sure your child has a sleep environment conducive to restorative sleep. A lot goes on when a child is sleeping! Without sufficient sleep, they won't grow well, integrate learning, detoxify, or reset hormones.
Even 30 minutes more sleep can help them focus, learn, and better regulate their emotions.
Try this: Start by sticking to a consistent bedtime and avoiding screens in the hour leading up to sleep.
We're going to talk more about sleep on this season on the Feeding Families podcast.
Make sure your child is drinking water. Water is to the body what oil is to your car or bike... it keeps things moving.
Try this: Aim for about 1/2 your child's body weight in oz per day at least. For example: a 50 lb child = 25oz water… roughly).
They'll need more if they're an athlete, more if they're constipated, more if you live in a very hot climate.
Herbal teas can count, but juice does not. They need pure, clean water. Avoid water with chlorine, chemicals, sugar, additives, or any other junk.
Connection with caring adults is key for our nervous systems to feel safe.
This topic deserves a whole post in and of itself but suffice it to say (for now), a child's need for strong attachment is also a key aspect of the work we do.
Try this: Make sure your child is getting focused, quality time with a caring adult - preferably a parent - every single day.
Move and Play
Movement is not only important for physical health but also important for mental wellness as well. So is laughter.
In younger kids, this may look more like free play as they learn to use their bodies. In older kids, it might take the form of working out or partaking in team sports.
Try this: See what your child is into. Start by getting them outside into fresh air for walks - at least a little.
If you're doing all this and they're still struggling, here's what to do next...
If you think they're doing all that or, if there are elements that you just can't get a handle on (like, they just never seem well rested no matter how much sleep they get, or they're just too tired to move their body) then it's time to dig a little deeper.
My experience has taught me that when basic nourishment needs are being met but a child is still struggling there's usually one or several of the following things at play...
1. They lack certain crucial nutrients.
Maybe this is due to poor intake, or maybe it's due to increased genetic need or poor absorption. There is a list and explanation of the most crucial and often lacking nutrients in my book. Or work with us to run some genetic and nutrient testing to see what's going on.
2. They are having reactions to foods.
I don't mean allergy... I'm referring to sensitivity. And it's usually temporary. But it could be that food is causing inflammation and robbing them of crucial nutrients. A Wheat Zoomer or food sensitivity test or an elimination-type diet can help shed some light.
3. They are not effectively managing the toxins in their environment.
We have remarkable built-in detox systems but we can only handle so much. Some kids, due to their genetics or their exposure, have particular trouble with toxins. As they accumulate they cause damage to cells and this shows up as all kinds of symptoms. Getting the toxins out of the home is a key aspect here but you can also use genetic and toxin tests to see what the body's burden is.
4. They have disturbances in their gut ecosystem.
Ahhhhh.... the gut-brain connection. Are you new to this remarkable highway that travels from the gut to the brain and back to the gut? Read this post. You need to know about this.
5. They have an underlying infection you don't know about.
Infections create inflammation and sap energy by putting pressure on the immune system. If that inflammation is affecting the brain, it can be a major contributor to anxiety, depression, rage, poor sleep, and more. Blood testing is really the only way to assess this piece.
Kids do well when they feel well and they feel well when they do well. The connection between physical health and mental health is robust and well-established.
If your child is struggling, the question to ask is "what is making them feel so uncomfortable?"
At this point, if you're still reading, you probably have more questions than answers. That's ok. The point is, now you are asking the right questions. This article was meant to be a 30,000 foot overview so you can orient your thinking and start getting strategic.
Use this framework to find your questions and your answers. If you'd like our help, please go through this form to see what we can offer you.
The Gut-Brain Connection: https://www.jesssherman.com/blog/3-Things-Every-Parent-Needs-To-Know-About-The-Gut-Brain-Connection