Learn to Recognize the Difference between Malnourishment and Mental Disorders in Children

     If you’re like me, you’re probably alarmed to hear so much about the prevalence of “mental disorders,” particularly among children. It seems that every year there are more and more disorders are emerging, along with psychotropic medications to treat them. However, as the mother of three grown-up, mentally healthy children and with a strong background and experience in nutritional research, I counsel mothers to be careful before mistaking your children’s odd behavior with a mental illness. It turns out the symptoms of malnourishment and mental disorders are actually quite similar in children.

     Even just the signs of a deficiency in B vitamins will sounds familiar to you as the symptoms of childhood mental disease. Deficiency in Vitamin B1 can result in fatigue, poor memory, irritability, and insomnia. A B2 deficiency can cause depression. Deficiencies of B3 may begin as depression, but untreated may progress to psychosis or even dementia. Deficiencies in Biotin may cause a variety of problems, including skin disorders and eczema, dandruff or hair loss, fatigue, depression, even hallucinations.

     Children can also suffer from a classic case of low blood sugar. Studies show that breakfasts rich in protein keep the body’s blood sugar level higher and more stable than breakfasts such as, say, the American breakfast staple of sugar-packed cereals. Kids are bound to peak in the morning and then crash later in the day, exhibiting hyperactivity and lethargy during the school day.

     The consequences of improperly diagnosing a mental illness instead of treating malnourishment in a child can be severe. If you care about your child and children in general, it is imperative that you and your child’s teachers learn the crucial difference between children’s mental disorders and inadequate nutrition.

Tina Turbin

Posted in Advice, Children's Author, Children's Health, Education, family, healthy eating, moms, parenting, Research, women
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20 Responses to Learn to Recognize the Difference between Malnourishment and Mental Disorders in Children

  1. Judy says:

    This is absolutely spot-on. I was a teacher in the public school system for over thirty years, and not only is malnourishment an issue, but lack of sleep, and even just not being able to understand schoolwork. There are so many issues contributing to symptoms of mental illness that can be handled without any drugs at all. Really, Tina, thanks for this information.

  2. Jackie says:

    So true! A great resource is Adelle Davis, the nutritionist, who writes books like Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit and another one on children.

  3. Meredith says:

    I’m so happy to come across this! So many parents seem to give in so easily to the “expertise” of doctors without second opinions. Why do we give children drugs when we fight so hard to keep them away from drugs? It makes no sense. So glad you offer this other perspective.

  4. Ginny says:

    Great post thanks tina xoxo Ginny

  5. Georgette says:

    Yeah drugs for kids is not the answer. How about breakfast, people? It’s pretty insane. I was a TA (teacher’s assistant) about ten years ago, and this one kid just went crazy every day, so hard to control. We finally found out his mom was feeding him Snickers bars every morning as his breakfast! Once that was corrected, he was actually able to sit down and learn.

  6. Madison says:

    Great post. It seems to be there should be some standardized test done regarding malnutrition or improper eating before kids ever go to see a doctor about mental illness.

  7. Monica says:

    I never really considered this before, but it makes sense. I think teachers and administrators need to hear this message too especially.

  8. Kim says:

    I think looking to nutritional supplements or perhaps even homeopathy is a safe way to handle children’s behavioral problems.

  9. Mel says:

    I am so pleased to find this on your website. I really do notice in my own kids a huge difference between when they’re being fed well or not. Ever since I’ve been packing lunches for them, they are so much easier to handle! I don’t believe in drugs for kids. There has to be a better solution.

  10. Frederique says:

    Thanks Tina for these articles like this that think outside the box about really important issues facing our children.

  11. Frederique says:

    Yes we need to learn to (especially with kids) “think outside the box” as far as health goes and not be so accepting of “mainstream” medicine. We have a long way to go in medicine before we’ve figured things out.

  12. Kimberly R. says:

    This is really helpful information, and it really makes sense. I’m going to be picking up some B vitamins for my son and daughter!

  13. Montana says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It seems to make a lot of sense.

  14. Leigh Anne says:

    And even if your children don’t seem to have a mental disorder but they are difficult to handle and not doing that well in school or playing with others, I think you should look at nutrition first. Are they eating enough, too? You don’t have to wait until your child is diagnosed with a mental disorder to change their diet.

  15. Kenneth says:

    Hi Tina. Thanks for sharing this perspective with your readers. I think this is a highly valid theory. I’d like to see the school systems adopt this way of handling children’s behavioral issues.

  16. Janice Sterling says:

    This is really interesting and I’m glad to see so many other readers interested in this too. It’s really an issue that needs to be dealt with in our school systems and in the medical community.

  17. Corby says:

    Thank you Tina for this information. It definitely needs to be considered.

  18. Sandy says:

    I agree with this very much and also, even for kids who do eat a fairly healthy diet, if they still exhibits signs of depression or ADHD, I think they can be treated nutritionally for it. Medications tend to cause more problems, can cause liver damage, and can cause vitamin deficiencies. I’m not a professional doctor, but I’m a professional mom, and I really believe this.

  19. Carrie says:

    I agree with you on this 100%. I’m glad so many others agree too! I kind of felt like a minority on this issue, but apparently that’s not so.

  20. Deanna says:

    Well, obviously this has generated a LOT of comments. I really appreciated hearing your viewpoint on this, and get my kids some better nutrition now!

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