Did you know that aggressive behavior and frequent meltdowns can be the result of physical imbalances in the body and brain? The possible underlying physical causes of intense behavior might surprise you.
These imbalances can be complex and difficult to detect and can certainly affect your child’s brain development and behavior – in both subtle and serious ways.
Each child is unique, and you’ll need to put on your detective cap and look for clues and triggers to determine what might be going on.
Here are some of the issues to consider:
- intestinal (gut) dysbiosis and gastrointestinal problems
- neurotransmitter imbalances
- metal and chemical toxicity
- impaired detoxification
- nutritional deficiencies and imbalances
- allergies and immune dysfunction
- food reactions and sensitivities
- chronic inflammation
- methylation issues
- chronic stress
You can get help from a qualified licensed practitioner who understands how to detect and work with these imbalances. In my coaching program, I will help you to determine how to work with these issues in your unique child. Let’s go into a brief description of some of these issues in which you can make a big difference.
Intestinal or gut dysbiosis is an imbalance in the flora (bacteria, fungi) in the intestines. Imbalances occur mostly in the lower intestine or colon, but there may also be an issue in the small intestine that can cause inflammation leading to allergies and other health and behavior challenges. Science is continually unfolding to show that our gut flora or microbiome is vital to many processes in the body as well as the brain. Healthy bacteria in the gut play a significant role in the production and metabolism of the important neurotransmitters needed for brain function. Optimizing your child’s microbiome (gut flora) is the most important thing you can do to keep your child healthy, and it might even begin to resolve the behavior issues.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals between nerve cells and other cells of the body. They work constantly to keep our brains and body functioning well. When neurotransmitters are out of balance and not working correctly, many issues can develop, including depression, attention deficit, anxiety, aggression, and intense behavior.
Serotonin imbalances are common in children. Whether your child has too high or too low levels can affect mood and behavior. Serotonin regulates and stabilizes mood, impulse control, anxiety, sleep, and appetite.
Dopamine and norepinephrine are other important neurotransmitters. Too much dopamine can cause intense anxiety, inappropriate thinking, and even psychosis. Too little dopamine can look like lack of motivation. Too much norepinephrine can cause manic episodes.
An excess of excitatory neurotransmitters can cause angry, aggressive behavior, mood swings, hyperactivity, insomnia, tics or even seizures.
These are just some of the neurotransmitter imbalances that are possible. You can have your child tested to find out if they have an imbalance.
The most important thing you can do to balance your child’s neurotransmitter activity and brain chemistry is to provide the right nutrients and take steps to get the gut flora back in balance.
Numerous studies have associated toxic chemicals with learning disabilities, behavior problems, low IQ, developmental delays, ADHD, autism and many other illnesses in children. The body has significant detoxing capability, but some kids have a difficult time detoxing due to specific genetic impairments or other issues. When toxins accumulate in the brain and body, and your child is near or past their tipping point, this toxicity can result in health issues as well as mood, brain and behavior disorders.
Everyone living in this world is exposed to numerous toxins every day. There is no escaping exposure, but you can certainly reduce your child’s exposure to the most harmful substances.
The first thing to do is to detox your child’s home environment so that your home is a safe haven from the most harmful chemicals in common products and household furnishings. The most important room in the house to focus on first is where your child sleeps. During sleep, our bodies work to recover from the accumulation of toxins and stress from our day. The cells attempt to regenerate, and the body tries to eliminate toxins. This is one of the reasons why sleep is critical, and the bedroom should be a place with the fewest toxins possible.
It’s also vital that your child’s food is organic and clean – free from pesticides, herbicides (especially glyphosate) and GMOs. Only about 5% of the food in typical grocery stores is clean. The good news is that the prices of organic food are lower now than ever before and becoming more affordable.
Metals such as mercury, lead and aluminum are the most concerning. These are toxins that are known to cause significant issues, even at low levels of exposure. They can cause imbalances in neurotransmitter functioning and will affect behavior and mood. For instance, high levels of lead in children has been shown to be associated with high aggression.
Exposures that are often overlooked are through vaccines. Many vaccines contain aluminum, and the multi-dose flu vaccines contain mercury – both in substantial amounts in relation to a small, developing body. Injecting a substance directly into the body bypasses normal routes of detoxification and has uninterrupted access to the brain. This is very different from ingesting these substances in food that must go through intestinal defense barriers and other detoxification processes. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
You can have your child tested for levels of metals, pesticides and other toxins.
Detoxing Your Child
Here are some of the reasons why kids might have a difficult time detoxing:
- gut dysbiosis
- methylation and/or sulfation impairments
- depleted nutrients required to support detox pathways
Methylation and sulfation are biochemical processes that manage important functions of the body. Both must work properly, and if there are genetic mutations that affect these processes, it will affect the body’s ability to detox.
This might seem alarming, but there is good news! We inherit our genes, but the science of epigenetics shows us that nutrition and environment can change the way our genes express. There are foods and nutritional supplements that can normalize and enhance your child’s detoxification pathways.
In detoxing heavy metals, it’s important to have a knowledgeable professional experienced in working with children in detoxification.
Nutritional Deficiencies or Nutrient Overloads
A developing brain and body needs nutrients. Your child needs key nutrients for making neurotransmitters, for antioxidant protection against toxic metals and chemicals, for gene regulation, and for many other processes in the body/brain.
If there is a deficiency or an overload of any nutrient required for neurotransmitter activity, there can be behavior issues. The good news is that normalizing nutrient levels can make a huge difference. Nutrient therapy can correct neurotransmitter imbalances and normalize brain chemistry without the side effects of drugs.
Each child has unique biochemistry and diverse nutritional needs. It can take some detective work to determine what’s going on with your child, but it can be completely amazing how quickly behavior can change when pinpointing the imbalances and making some changes in diet and supplementation.
Your child can be deficient in any nutrient, even if they eat a healthy whole foods diet. Some deficiencies can be minor and not significantly affect the way a person functions, but other deficiencies can lead to mental illness.
Here are some of the signs of nutrient deficiency. Note that there can be many other reasons for these issues, and it’s important to look into other causes as well as nutrient deficits.
- Regular mood swings
- Frequent tantrums
- Restless sleep
- Poor attention span
- Impulsive outbursts or behavioral issues
- Diagnosed or labeled with a Disorder: ADD, ADHD, BPD, OCD, ODD, etc.
- Learning difficulties
- Frequent infections
- Dry, flaky, bumpy skin
- Intestinal problems (reflux, abdominal discomfort, constipation, diarrhea)
- Vision problems
- Dry, brittle hair
- Brittle, thin nails
- Very pale skin
Here are some of the reasons for nutrient deficiencies:
- Gut dysbiosis
- Poor nutrient absorption
- Picky eater
- Depleted soils and poor nutrients in the food
- Exposure to heavy metals depletes nutrients
- Stress depletes nutrients
- Some medications deplete nutrients
When certain missing or low levels of nutrients are provided from diet or supplementation, it can have a powerful impact on your child’s mental, emotional health and behavior.
What might be surprising is that certain nutrient overloads can cause bigger issues than deficiencies. This is why some people get worse when taking certain supplements. You need to be careful about using supplemental vitamins, minerals, and amino acids without first knowing what’s going on with your child’s biochemistry.
If you have a child with extensive challenges, it’s best to do lab testing for nutrient levels, heavy metals, and organic acids. And work with a doctor or professional who understands all the underlying issues. The wrong supplements may make existing issues worse or can create new problems.
Be careful with following general protocols that say kids with “this” diagnosis should take “this” amount of “this” supplement. It’s best to know specifically what your child is deficient in or what is in excess and work with a qualified practitioner to normalize the levels.
A word about medications – nutrient therapy, detoxing, diet, etc. can be used in conjunction with prescription medications, if that’s what you are choosing. The medications may eventually be reduced or phased out altogether as the biochemistry is balanced. Don’t stop medication without consulting your child’s doctor. Remember to tell all the doctors on your team about all of the medications and supplements you are using.
What Your Child Eats
You can make a huge difference with food! There are a lot of biochemicals in food, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytonutrients that affect your child’s health, mood and behavior. There’s a synergistic process that happens with nutrients from whole foods that can produce the right amounts of serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters. Changing the diet is the place to start. Some behavior issues can change dramatically after changing the diet.
Food Reactions and Sensitivities
Food sensitivities can cause frequent tantrums and other negative behaviors. It’s possible that your child has hidden food sensitivities that can be related to many symptoms of health and behavior. Detecting and removing these foods from your child’s diet can profoundly impact the intensity and frequency of symptoms and behaviors.
If your child is not obviously allergic, it can be difficult to pinpoint what your child is sensitive to because symptoms are often delayed. Unlike the obvious and immediate reaction you get with an allergy, food sensitivity reactions are delayed and can be more mild.
In addition to behavior issues, what are other signs of food sensitivities?
- Red cheeks/ears after eating
- Dark circles or bags around the eyes
- Chronic runny nose or cough
- Dry scaly skin or eczema
- Constipation or digestive issues
How to navigate the complicated issues in your unique child
Many pediatricians are not educated in nutrition, detoxing, gut dysbiosis, and nutrient therapy to balance neurotransmitter activity. But there are qualified doctors who are working with parents and kids and getting astonishing results.
As a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, I can help you navigate these complicated waters. I can help you determine what you can do on your own regarding diet and lifestyle changes. I can help you find a qualified health practitioner for your child, and help you determine the right questions to ask regarding your unique child. I can help you to implement the sometimes difficult to manage treatments and protocols your doctor prescribes, and I can help you make it as easy as possible to integrate the changes into your busy family life.
Keep in mind that emotional stress affects all the issues and imbalances that I mentioned. Reducing your child’s stress is the first step to begin the healing. In my Calm Connected Parenting Program, in addition to supporting you in dealing with the physical imbalances, I support you in a positive approach to reduce stress and permanently create the positive interaction you want with your children.
Above all, I can help you get buy-in and compliance from your child in eating the right foods or taking the supplements prescribed by your doctor. That’s a huge issue, particularly if your child is having intense meltdowns and behavior issues.
Addressing both the emotional stress and the underlying physical imbalances can make a big difference in your child’s mental/emotional health and the stress level of the entire family. My Calm Connected Parenting Program will help you with all of this. Schedule a free call with me and let’s talk about what’s happening in your family.
(1) Exley C, An aluminium adjuvant in a vaccine is an acute exposure to aluminium, Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology (2019), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtemb.2019.09.010
(2) Shaw CA, Tomljenovic L. Immunol Res. 2013 Jul;56(2-3):304-16. doi: 10.1007/s12026-013-8403-1. Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23609067
(3) J Inorg Biochem. 2011 Nov;105(11):1489-99. doi: 10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2011.08.008. Epub 2011 Aug 23.
(4) Aluminium in brain tissue in autism, Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, Volume 46, March 2018, Pages 76-82 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtemb.2017.11.012
(5) Infants’ exposure to aluminum from vaccines and breast milk during the first 6 months, Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology volume 20, pages598–601 (2010) https://www.nature.com/articles/jes200964
Read next . . .
Read all of the posts in this series . . .
Read Introduction What’s Causing Your Child’s Meltdowns
Read Post #1 Is Your Angry Child Purposefully Defiant or Emotionally Stressed?
Read Post #2 What Causes Stress in Children?
Read Post #3 Underlying Physical Imbalances May Cause Aggressive Meltdowns
Read Post #4 ADHD Meltdown: Get to the Root Cause of the Explosive Behavior
Read Post #5 4 Steps to Help Your Kids Through Their Worst Meltdowns
Read Post #6 How to Prevent the Meltdowns and Create Peace in Your Family