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Can a Good Diet Improve Mental Health in Children?

HEALTH

It’s quite common for people to mistake mental illness for simple misbehaviours in children, when in reality something more sinister could be going on. 1 in 10 children between the ages of 5 and 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – which is an astounding average of three children in every classroom. In order to be able to treat these illnesses we must first familiarise ourselves with the symptoms.

Warning Signs

Mood swings: Be aware of severe mood swings that cause problems with relationships at school or at home, or feelings of sadness or withdrawal that last more than two weeks.

Extreme feelings: Look out for overwhelming fear for no reason at all, or worries sever enough to interfere with day to day life.

Difficulty concentrating: Find out if they have trouble sitting still or focusing, which could be indicated by poor performance in school.

Unexplained weight loss: Keep an eye out for drastic loss of weight due to lack of appetite or regular vomiting could signal an eating disorder.

healthy diet

Physical harm: If you notice any cuts or burns that look like they have been self-inflicted, any suicidal thoughts or actual suicide attempts then these are all big indicators of a mental health disorder.
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It’s such an easy mistake to make, to confuse these symptoms with misbehaviour. The first thing that you can do is ask the child how they are feeling, and make them feel safe and protected – never ignore the warning signs and be sure to consult with a professional as this can rule out a problem or highlight the solution.

A question that is often overlooked is whether a child’s diet and eating routine can affect their mental health? Research has shown that diets can have an impact on how people are thinking and feeling. Although having a healthy and balanced diet cannot necessarily cure a mental illness, it can alleviate some symptoms and make them more manageable.

It’s important to focus on the overall nutritional content in your child’s diet. Be sure to feed them a balanced diet or small, frequent healthy means, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and water. Any processed meats and refined sugars, or fast food should be removed from their diet.

If your child has been diagnosed with a behavioural disorder or mental illness, for example if they have been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), some of the symptoms include insomnia, lack of concentration, mood swings and disruptive outbursts – these symptoms can be aggravated and accelerated when excessive amounts of sugar, e numbers and additives are added to their diet.

It’s important to develop your child’s relationship with food from an early age, as this can aid with your child’s development and can even reduce symptoms of mental health.

There are a myriad of factors and indicators that can impact a child’s mental health, although a poor diet cannot be names as the deciding factor, it is a catalyst for sufferers and can alter a child’s behaviour and moods.

The most important thing to do, is to ensure that you are providing a safe and loving environment for your child – never ignore the signs of a mental illness and always be sure to consult with a professional.

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