5 Supplements to Help Childhood Anxiety
Anxious Toddlers invited Jennifer Owens, LCSW, LMT a holistic and wellness expert from bridgemindbody.com to educate our readers on what supplements for anxiety may help child anxiety. She provided us with a wealth of knowledge!
child anxiety affects 1 in 8 children and if untreated, it can lead to increased risk of poor school performance, substance abuse or other mental health concerns such as depression.
The good news is that an anxiety diagnosis does not have to cause permanent issues and can be reduced significantly using a variety of interventions. Conventional treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy and medical interventions: most commonly Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft and Paxil.
Many parents are hesitant to give their young children medication and are looking for alternatives. Supplements are one such complimentary or alternative treatment option that according to research, anecdotal reports and clinical experience, shows promising results.
At our integrative mental-health counseling center we use conventional and complimentary approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy, nutritional and diet counseling, mind-body techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, breathing techniques and supplement recommendations.
We also work closely with other health care providers such as pediatricians, massage therapists, herbalists and nutritionists. We recommend a blend of treatments that address the whole person including the physical, social, mental and environmental influences. Nutritional and herbal supplements can be a very helpful addition to reducing anxiety in young children.
Supplements are vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids or parts of these substances. Makers of dietary supplements cannot legally say that the products cure, prevent or treat diseases and at this time the FDA does not regulate supplements. So, it is important to choose high quality supplements that have been shown in research to be effective and safe for children. For more info on how to select a supplement click here.
Working with an integrative medical professional who has experience with supplements could also be helpful.
Always consult with your primary care physician before starting any new supplements or herbal remedies with your child.
There are several studies over the last 10 years that have linked Magnesium deficiencies with anxiety as well as the reduction of anxiety after taking Magnesium supplements. Increasing Magnesium in your child’s diet is relatively easy. Foods high in Magnesium include rice, wheat and oats but unfortunately, when these foods are processed they lose much of their Magnesium content. Some seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, flax and sesame are high in Magnesium and can be added to children’s food or as a snack.
magnesium supplement, talk to a trusted medical professional especially if your child has an allergy to magnesium salts, kidney disease, heart disease, intestinal (bowel) disease or neuromuscular disease. For more information on Magnesium supplements for children read this article from About Kids Health.
2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown in countless studies to have tremendous health benefits as well as mental health benefits. Multiple studies have shown that a deficiency in Omega 3’s have been linked to depression, anxiety and ADHD.
When choosing an Omega 3 supplement for your child make sure it contains EPA and DHA (vitamin D aids in the absorption of fatty acids, so look for a supplement with added D for an extra boost). Barlean’s makes an excellent fish oil for children. Vegetarians can take an algae form of Omega 3.
This supplement is relatively safe when given at the appropriate dose for children, as it is a substance found naturally in fish or algae, however watch for any intolerance or allergy.
3. B vitamin Complex
Vitamin B Complex deficiencies have been well studied and linked to problems with the nervous system including anxiety. While the research has not focused on children, it is generally safe to increase B vitamins in your child’s diet or the addition of a vitamin supplement to help decrease anxious symptoms.
Food sources of B complex include:
• Pork, berries, legumes, lean meats. Nuts, soy milk ( Vitamin B1)
• Eggs, dark green vegetables, fish, grains, lean meat, mushrooms ( B2)
• Sunflower seeds, tuna, poultry, potato, cottage cheese, liver (B3)
• Organ meats, avocados, broccoli, mushrooms ( B5)
• Green beans, whole grains, spinach, fish, bananas ( B6)
• Soy products, egg yolks, fish, organ meats, cheese, sweet potatoes ( B7)
• Green leafy vegetables, citrus juice, legumes, tofu, tomato juice ( B9)
• Milk, fish, fortified breakfast cereal, eggs, shellfish ( B12)
Passionflower is commonly used for sleep issues, anxiety or issues related to GI upset. Passionflower is seen as safe with very few reported side effects, although there have been no studies on its effects for children. Dr. Weil, an integrative medical doctor and co-founder of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, recommends using the tincture form of passionflower (using a non-alcohol tincture for children under 4 and using half the recommended adult dosage for children under 10).
5. Lavender, lemon balm and chamomile
These three herbs have long been used for their calming properties and have been shown in some studies to benefit mild to moderate anxiety. A specific lemon balm product, Cyracos has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety in adults.
Lavender, lemon balm and chamomile makes excellent herbal teas and is more tolerated by children if sweetener is added such as stevia or honey (for children over 1 year old). Alternatively, you can use diluted essential oils in your child’s bath or on their pillow at night for calming effects.
Using supplements to treat anxiety is only one piece of the puzzle. There are many causes of anxiety in children such as environmental, physiological, family dynamics, trauma, life transitions or a combination of factors. Relying on only one method of treatment is not adequate.
Instead focus on a holistic approach applying methods for the body (i.e. supplements, diet, yoga), mind (i.e. counseling, biofeedback, mindfulness techniques) and environment (i.e. family dynamics, spending time in nature, living space modifications).
Jennifer Owens, LCSW, LMT is a holistic therapist and wellness expert with Bridge Counseling and Wellness in Louisville, KY. For more information on integrative mental health and wellness resources please visit www.bridgemindbody.com
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