A Holistic Approach to Children’s Mood: Understanding and Addressing Underlying Causes

As parents, we want our children to be happy and healthy, but sometimes they can experience mood imbalances just like adults. It’s important to look out for signs of mood issues such as sadness, guilt, loss of interest in activities, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, hypersensitivity to failure, irritability or aggression. These symptoms may indicate an underlying cause that needs to be explored.

Gut-Brain Axis and Mood

One aspect to consider is the gut-brain axis, which describes the communication between the gut and the brain. The microbiome of the gut is involved in this process, and it influences mood concerns such as depression and anxiety. Children who complain of stomach aches associated with mood concerns may benefit from probiotics and herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm, slippery elm, licorice, fennel, and St Mary’s thistle.

Sugar Dysregulation and Diet

Sugar dysregulation may also be associated with anxiety and depression. Studies suggest that consuming a diet high in refined carbohydrates is associated with mood changes, including depression. On the other hand, a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and whole grains is protective against these symptoms. It’s important to pay attention to what our children are eating and make sure they have a balanced diet.

Poor Sleep

Sleep problems can also contribute to mood disturbances in children. Insufficient or poor quality sleep is linked to gastrointestinal disturbances, poor blood glucose regulation, and varying nutrient levels. Children may benefit from herbs such as lemon balm, passionflower, and chamomile to assist with sleep.

Food Intolerances, Immune System, and Inflammation

Food intolerances may increase histamine levels, which have been associated with brain inflammation and mood disorders. There is also an association between allergies, low-grade inflammation, and depression. Supporting effective histamine metabolism may be beneficial to balancing histamine levels.

Pathogens and Infections

Pathogens may also affect mood. Research suggests an association between streptococcal infections and neuropsychiatric disorders such as acute obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s important to review possible infections and consider antimicrobial and antiparasitic herbs that are suitable for children, such as calendula, cinnamon, echinacea, elderberry, garlic, and thyme.


Methylation is an important biochemical process in the body, and poor or imbalanced methylation may affect mood. Low folate and vitamin B12, which are important cofactors in the methylation cycle, are associated with low mood.

Other Considerations

It’s also important to consider the impact of environmental factors when reviewing children and mood. Lead and mercury levels are particularly associated with depression, anger, and anxiety. Additionally, gene variants may play a role in mental health concerns, and reviewing single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with biochemical pathways or systems may aid in the prioritisation and initiation of further pathology testing if required.


A holistic and functional approach can be helpful to understanding the underlying cause of mood changes in children and how to address them. By paying attention to gut health, diet, sleep, food intolerances, immune system, inflammation, pathogens and infections, methylation, environmental factors, and gene variants, we can optimize our children’s health and well-being.

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