As adults, we know that stress can have a major impact on our behaviour, so imagine how much it can affect kids? In the last instalment of our Hyperactivity in Kids series, we discuss how ‘stress foods’ can increase unwanted behaviours and learn some insightful, actionable steps parents can take to reduce hyperactivity.
The Fight or Flight system that we have is an amazing mechanism! This system helps us to survive dangers, gives us courage when we need it, gives us strength to run, and ramps up our muscles with blood to run for the hills! The Fight or Flight mode is our body’s response to stress. However, it is only meant to be activated infrequently and in times of emergency, because the Fight or Flight system leaves us drained and exhausted.
In modern society, people go into Fight or Flight daily, and this gives our body systems a beating. The actual stress response is not the problem – we need it. The problem occurs when the body reacts when there’s no physical danger, there is no outlet for the energy, and it turns inwards. A traffic jam is no reason for one to go into stress, but we do so every, single day.
Now, what does this have to do with kids and hyperactivity? There are foods that are known to induce stress, and a lot of these stress-foods are what kids love! Being under stress can make kids go hyper and being hyperactive can lead to stress responses.
The top 4 stress inducers are: caffeine, sugar (as we learned in Part 2), refined carbs and fast food. Caffeine is a stimulant and can make a child hyperactive.
A study in 2016 discovered that even low doses of caffeine (under 100 mg) can have a marked effect on a child, such as slowing heart rate to compensate for increasing blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, headaches, stomach aches and nervousness. Higher doses of caffeine cause the heart to speed up. Chocolate, hot chocolate, chocolate-flavoured cereal, tea, Vitamin water, and pop drinks all contain caffeine. Surprisingly, while Coca-Cola has a bit of caffeine, it’s the other soft drinks that have way higher amounts of caffeine, such as Barq’s Root Beer, Sunkist Orange, and Mountain Dew.
The refined carbs (white pasta, white rice, white bread) have similar effects as sugar – spike and crash of blood sugar levels, which can induce major mood swings. We know that fast foods are not great for kids because of the preservatives, high salt and fat. But because it’s also low in vitamins and minerals, this makes it difficult for a child to cope with stress and therefore, acts out.
Vitamin C is the anti-stress vitamin. When experiencing high levels of stress, the body uses your Vitamin C stores to regulate itself. So that means, it can use up most of your stores, leaving you depleted after your stress event. If you don’t eat nourishing foods that contain Vitamin C, your body has nothing to use to combat your next stress events, and you won’t be able to cope with it better. A child needs every kind of help he can get!
If you find that your child tends to lash out quickly, and can’t settle down… y’know, hyperactive? Make sure he’s eating something colourful at each plate!
So, What To Do?
Start simple and go back. What do I mean by that?
Dr. Michelle O’Neill, a Naturopath from Barrie, Ontario, had this to say about hyperactivity in children: “I definitely see more hyperactivity now than 10 years ago. Definitely more prevalent, and I think that electronics and video games have a huge impact. Ten years ago, we didn’t have so many electronics. The number of hyperactive kids and electronics both have grown in the last decade. But I also find that a lack of person-to-person contact, lack of good foods, lack of reading, lack of outdoor activities all have to do with creating a hyperactive child. Over-medicating is also unnecessary. To medicate a child that doesn’t go outside, that doesn’t read or play board games, has no real person-to-person contact, has a very poor diet, is unnecessary. Work on the inside first, fix the diet, limit the electronics, let the kids outside. Then if all that fails, absolutely medication should be next, but it should never be the jumping-off point.”
A good way to start would be to begin eliminating foods you know are making your kids hyper and have them tested for food sensitivities/allergies. You can do it through your medical doctor or a naturopathic doctor. Cut back on the sugary drinks, and replace with water, and vegetable juices. Start including more colourful vegetables or fruits on to your child’s plate, if you notice all she’s eating is WHITE.
Include foods that contain essential fatty acids, and foods that include more natural ingredients, less artificial colours, fewer dyes. Anything in the ingredient list that has a number, or weird initials, put down. Finally, reach out to a health practitioner that can help you with therapeutic supplementation.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to help create well-adjusted, competent children that grow into well-adjusted, competent adults. It’s tough parenting nowadays, constantly fighting with our kids to unplug, working hard to pay for their activities, helping them achieve what we want them to achieve.
We want to give them the world. But we don’t need to give them the world; we just need to give them our strength and our love, and the world will naturally become theirs.
Disclaimer: None of this information is a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any of these conditions, make sure you’re being monitored regularly by a licensed healthcare professional.
Rebecca Ramdeholl is a great wife, a weird Mom to two interesting girls, and a mediocre domestic goddess. She loves steampunk, science fiction, and fantasy, learning how to do things off-grid, and communing with Nature. She’s a Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant and loves to teach others through writing about how to polish and shine their innards and add extra years and quality to their lives. She directs most of her focus on guiding women 35+ in properly managing their stress, depression, and anxiety, and kicking life in the balls by getting a little bit stronger. She works full-time on her blog and is the author of The Little Book of Ass-Kickers: 5 Ways to Get Your Health Back on Track Naturally, which you can download for free by subscribing to her website, Earthy Fix.
You can reach Dr. Michelle O’Neill at:
Elements Naturopathic & Wellness Centre
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