This is a question that has been plaguing me since my daughter entered high school four years ago.That’s when I started hearing stories about kids who were so anxious that they couldn’t go to school. Teen anxiety seemed to be an acceptable new condition that many high schoolers were experiencing. At the time, it seemed so illogical.
But as my daughter progressed through her high school years, the stories kept coming. Kids from great families with thoughtful, loving parents were dealing with anxiety levels so high that their parents were resorting to drastic measures like taking them out of school or sending them to boarding schools that specialized in teen anxiety.
It didn’t make sense. We never saw this when we were kids. What is causing all this anxiety? Why is it affecting so many of our teens? And wasn’t there a better solution than removing them from school?
These questions burned in my heart and led me down a very long research path.
Here’s what I have discovered.
Currently, 25% to 30%of our 13- to 18-year-olds have mild to moderate anxiety. In fact, teen anxiety is growing at such a fast rate, Time magazine dedicated a whole issue to the crisis.
In that November 7th2017 cover story, titled “The Kids Are Not All Right,” it stated:
The number of kids who are struggling with these issues is staggering. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than three million adolescents aged 12-17 reported at least one major depressive episode in the past year, and more than two million reported severe depression that impeded their daily functioning.
And the impact of this depressed and anxious generation is not just affecting individual households, it’s affecting entire school districts. In the Time article, they stated:
California’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, tallied more than 5,000 incidents of suicidal behavior last year. That’s a huge increase since they began tracking these issues in the 2010-2011 school year when just 255 incidents were reported.
We have a HUGE teen anxiety problem! And it’s growing.
Like many of the health problems families are struggling with in my community, I see a very clear nutritional and toxin-related connection to teen anxiety that needs to be talked about.
When it comes to any mental challenge, it’s always easy to point fingers at adverse circumstances or the slow burn of stressful events. And yes, our kids are under more stress than ever before. Stress and pressure from parents, school, and social media are all major players in this anxiety equation.
But it’s more than that. There are many pieces to the teen anxiety puzzle. The best way to understand all that’s at play here is to understand what your children’s brains are going through.
I can’t emphasize this enough…
Our children are being born into the most toxic time in human history.
They are NOT born into the world we were born into. At a very young age, our children are exposed to toxins our brains never had to contend with.
Yet, the human body is miraculous. We come prepared to handle a small load of toxins. We are built with protective barriers to keep harmful toxins out of the critical organs of our body. The mucosal lining of the gut is a good example of this.
You have a thin mucosal layer in your gut that is made up of good bacteria. This mucosal layer determines what enters your bloodstream and what needs to be excreted out. Sadly, this healthy barrier is compromised by toxins – including the ones that are sprayed on our foods, like glyphosate – and the overuse of antibiotics. Once this mucosal layer is destroyed, conditions like leaky gut syndrome begin to appear.
In fact, many of you (including your kids!) already have a leaky gut. Statistics are proving that over 90% of our population has a leaky gut due to these toxins. Perhaps what is the most dangerous about a leaky gut situation is that harmful toxins now have direct access to our brains.
Remember how well designed we are?
Well, guess what? Your body comes with a second line of defense against these toxins: you also have a protective barrier around your brain.
The sole job of this barrier is to protect the most important organ in your body. But there is something that is really critical to understand about this barrier. It doesn’t fully close until the age of 7-years-old. That means that any toxin a child comes into contact with before the age of seven will gain direct access to the brain, live in the receptor sites of the brain, and damage nervous tissue.
These toxins are known as neurotoxins and, unfortunately, we have more of them in our environment than ever before. And the damage caused by these neurotoxins can open the door to teen anxiety.
You may be asking yourself…
What neurotoxins are the most harmful? And how would your child get exposed to the toxins at such an early age?
Unfortunately, the list of neurotoxins is long. And for some of you, the list will be startling.
So, as you read the next section, I’ll ask you to do two things:
1. Do your research
Google these toxins by name and read the research. There’s a ton of information out there.
2. Empower yourself but don’t beat yourself up!
I’m a mom, I get it. You wish you’d known this before they were born. Please, this is not the time for mommy guilt, okay?
This is the time to tell yourself,“I know better now, so I can do things differently for my child from this point forward.” There are many ways you can detox these neurotoxins from the brain. I will be going over that in future articles and at my Teen Anxiety workshop on March 15th.
So, no feeling bad! Deal?
With that in mind, here are the neurotoxins that are the most damaging to the growing brain:
- Fluoride (water, toothpaste)Methylmercury (fish, soils, dental care)
- Lead (paint, old pipes, soils, lipsticks, inherited from mom/grandmom)
- Glyphosate (GMO foods)
- Pesticides (non-organic foods)
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) (plastic lids, meats)
- Toulene (paint, glue, and gasoline)
- PBDEs (flame retardants found in furniture, carpets, rugs, clothing, and fish)
- BPA plastics/phthalates (plastic containers, dental care)
- PERC (dry cleaning)
Now, unfortunately, I have to tell you that neurotoxins are not the end of the story about what’s harming your child’s brain and creating a situation that could lead to teen anxiety.
The brain requires a proper supply of neurotransmitters to function normally. Neurotransmitters are the building blocks of your child’s moods and emotions. Neurotransmitters are primarily made in the gut, so anything that damages the gut will stop the production of these incredibly useful chemicals.
What could be damaging your child’s gut?
- Antibiotic and hormone-filled dairy products
- Antibiotic and hormone-filled meat products
- GMO foods, especially sugar, wheat, and corn products
- Processed oils like canola, vegetable, safflower, sunflower oils
- Fast foods with synthetic ingredients
Can you see why we have a teen anxiety epidemic? These are toxins our kids are exposed to every day. Over and over again.
And when you take these toxic brains and you give them a smartphone, you expose them to social media, you make them sit in a classroom all day, and then you put them in a high stress environment like school? You’ve got yourself a teen anxiety problem.
So what can you do?
There are seven strategies I use with my teen patients to detox the brain and the gut, and to rebalance the nervous system. I will be going over these seven strategies in detail at my Teen Anxiety workshop on March 15th. Join me! I will be live streaming it from my Dr. Mindy Pelz page as well for those of you not local to the San Francisco Bay Area.
I am on a mission to give families real solutions to the problem of teen anxiety!
Getting your teen to eat right and live a healthy lifestyle is challenging. I totally get it… I have two teens at home myself. But I think you will see that the seven strategies I map out for you will be easier to follow than you expect.
See you on March 15th!