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Teen life can be extremely stressful. Between sports, studying and social activities, a teenager’s life is full and this can cause anxiety and stress.

We all have good days and we all have bad days and when you are a teen, it may feel like there are way more bad than good. At Bioteen, we’ve made sure to focus on helping your teen feel more supported and balanced by not only offering expert advice but also through formulating a variety of supplements that have been clinically proven to support emotional regulation.

FAST FACTS

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One of the most studied forms of L-theanine is a branded ingredient known as Suntheanine®. In several human clinical trials, L-theanine has promoted relaxation by increasing alpha brain waves and decreasing beta brain waves.

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Serotonin in your brain regulates your mood. It’s often called your body’s natural “feel good” chemical. When serotonin is at normal levels, you feel more focused, emotionally stable, happier, and calmer. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression.

Fast Fact

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter made in your brain. It plays a role as a “reward center” and in many body functions, including memory, movement, motivation, mood, attention, and more. As humans, our brains are hard-wired to seek out behaviors that release dopamine in our reward system. When you’re doing something pleasurable, your brain releases a large amount of dopamine.

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Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that help nerve cells communicate with each other. They include serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and acetylcholine. Neurotransmitters serve several functions, such as regulating appetite, the sleep-wake cycle, and mood.

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GABA is a natural chemical produced by the brain. It is a valuable anti-anxiety neurotransmitter. When we experience stress, the adrenal glands are triggered to produce hormones that trigger what we know as fight-or-flight responses. GABA counteracts these natural stimulants by relaxing the brain.

Fast Fact

The brain communicates with itself by transmitting chemicals from one neuron, or nerve, to the other. And this regular, rapid-fire messaging plays a big role in how you feel and function each day. These neurotransmitter chemicals are classified into two basic categories: excitatory, meaning they stimulate brain activity, or inhibitory, meaning they have a more calming effect.

Fast Fact

GABA is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it blocks, or inhibits, certain brain signals and decreases activity in your nervous system. When GABA attaches to a protein in your brain known as a GABA receptor, it produces a calming effect. This can help with feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear.

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We all have good day’s and we all have bad days and when you are a teen, it may feel like there are way more bad than good. Being a teen is a full-time job and the extreme emotions that go hand in hand with this time of change can be difficult to manage. That’s why at Bioteen, we’ve made sure to focus on helping your teen feel more supported and balanced by not only offer expert advice but also formulating a variety of supplements that have been clinically proven to support emotional regulation which is an important skill to master now for long term mental health benefits. All of the Bioteen products are designed with your teen in mind. Founded by a parent, probably not unlike yourself, who wanted only the best for his teen’s but struggled to find the right information, in an easy-to-understand format together with safe and suitable products to make this happen.

 

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Why do teens have such extreme emotions?

If you think that your teen is overly dramatic, you are not alone but it’s not really their fault, it all boils down to the development of the brain. As we have mentioned before, the teenage years are a time of great change and the brain is no exception. In the simplest terms, the brain is split into the emotional side (the limbic system) and a rational side (prefrontal cortex) and as luck would have it, these systems are not on the same developmental schedule and the connection between the two is not very strong (yet) (1).

 

Because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, your teen’s brain relies on the limbic system to make decisions and solve problems, specifically the amygdala. The problem with this is that the amygdala is also used to respond to threats, and whether they are real, imagined, or exaggerated the brain responds in virtually the same way (think of it as a knee-jerk reaction). In your teen’s case, this may be in the form of a fight or flight response (which manifests as heightened levels of anxiety) coupled with intense emotions. In general, because of this hyperreactivity, the brain starts to interpret neutral stimuli as threatening ones (2) and this is why your teen reacts to everything you say, even when you say it in the nicest way, and is also the reason why so many teens struggle with anxiety.

 

Understanding teen anxiety

According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 1 in 3 teams between the ages of 13-18 will experience an anxiety disorder. The cause of these increased levels of anxiety is multifaceted, in younger children anxiety is often external for example they may fear animals, insects, the dark, or even monsters. On the other hand, the anxiety teen’s general experience is internal. They worry about their performance at school or sports, their changing bodies, and how they are perceived by others. These worries are magnified by high expectations and pressure to succeed, social media, and increased access to world news playing pivotal roles. Bearing in mind that the teen brain reacts very emotionally, you can see why these factors can increase your teens anxiety levels.

 

It’s important to remember that some anxiety is normal and is a typical, usually transient, part of development. Problems arise when anxiety becomes an exaggerated, unhealthy response. If this is the case, early management is key because not only does it interfere with focus and learning, but in the long run can be a precursor to lifelong mental health problems.

 

One of the most important things that you can do as a parent is to be vigilant of signs of anxiety in your teen. Some teens may verbalize that they feel anxious, but many don’t (and in reality, some may not even realise that the feeling that they are having is a feeling of anxiety.

 

Signs of exaggerated anxiety include (5, 6)

  • Excessive fears and worries

  • Feeling of inner restlessness

  • Tendency to be excessively wary or vigilant

  • Avoiding school, activities or social gatherings

  • Drop in grades

  • Trouble sleeping or concentration

  • Substance abuse or other risky behaviours

  • Chronic physical complaints like fatigue, headaches or stomach aches

 

How anxiety affects your teen’s life

School avoidance is a biggie because so much of what teens are focused on happens at school. From learning to sports, other activities, and social events. All the things that happen at school can have a twofold effect, firstly, with everything happening there are many different things to feel anxious about (i.e. it’s not always related to school or school work). But on the other hand, because there is so much happening there is also a lot that they will potentially miss out on, and as a result, they may not reach their full potential. Leading this kind of anxious life can be so distressing or limiting that it leads to depression. If your child is struggling with this specific problem, the focus should be around trying to understand why. What is triggering them into avoiding school and then go from there (6).

 

In addition to losing out on all these great activities, teen’s who are anxious may also start to use alcohol and/ or recreational drugs as a coping mechanism. These kinds of substances help to numb the brain, and so in the short term, do seem to help teen’s deal with their anxiety. But, they’re very poor coping mechanisms because they don’t tackle the anxiety head-on, they just dull it, and in the longer term the anxiety persists (or gets worse) and teen’s develop a dependency on the substance (6).

 

How to support an anxious teen

This is where we step in. At Bioteen we believe in the ‘5 Pillars of Health’, namely nutrition, movement, rest, support, and self.

 

Read about the 5 Pillars of Health here

 

When you support all 5 pillars, you are placing emphasis on the key areas that need to be balanced in order for your teen to have optimal wellness. Nutrition is the core of these 5 pillars and with good reason. You genuinely are what you eat and at Bioteen we recognise that. Encouraging your teen to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet will go a long way to helping them manage their anxiety. This is because there are many ways that food can affect how we feel, just like how we feel has an influence on what foods we choose. Some of these effects can be related to the actual nutrient content of the food (i.e. correcting nutrient deficiencies and or providing nutraceuticals with proven clinical results), but other effects include the positive associations we have with foods relating to pleasure or deprivation (7).

 

Supporting your teen’s schedule to encourage fun ways to move their bodies and get enough sleep are also incredibly important. In these cases, work with your teen to figure out the best choices for them. Although encouragement and motivation can go a long way toward helping them choose the right path, it’s vital that parents acknowledge that ultimately their teen’s will be the ones making the final decision about who they are and who they want to be. What we can do though, is give them the right tools to empower them to make informed ones.

 

One of the tools to tackle anxiety is a type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT). This method teaches teen’s how to think differently about stressful situations and respond differently when they happen. It teaches teen’s to tolerate their anxiety, rather than hide away from it and in time, most teen’s find that that anxiety goes away (6).

 

The bottom line

The way that a teen’s brain develops leaves them at the mercy of their emotions. Understanding that these emotions are normal and that in most cases they are transient will give some parents (and teen’s) a bit of relief. There is nothing we can do to speed up this process, but we can support them in a number of ways and in doing this we may help to reduce their risk for long-term complications like worsening anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. At the end of the day, remember that ‘this too shall pass…’ and with your support and the right tools on their side, your teen will be all the better for it.

 

References

  1. Konrad K, Firk C, Uhlhaas P. Brain Development During Adolescence. Deutsches Ärzteblatt international. 2013.110(25): 425–431.
  2. Baxter M, Croxson P. Facing the role of the amygdala in emotional information processing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012;109(52):21180-21181.
  3. Gross J. Emotion Regulation: Current Status and Future Prospects. Psychological Inquiry. 2015;26(1):1-26.
  4. Johnstone N, Milesi C, Burn O, van den Bogert B, Nauta A, Hart K et al. Anxiolytic effects of a galacto-oligosaccharides prebiotic in healthy females (18–25 years) with corresponding changes in gut bacterial composition. Scientific Reports. 2021;11(1).
  5. Your Adolescent – Anxiety and Avoidant Disorders [Internet]. Aacap.org. [cited 2 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.aacap.org/
  6. How Anxiety Affects Teenagers – Child Mind Institute [Internet]. Child Mind Institute. 2022 [cited 2 September 2022]. Available from: https://childmind.org/article/signs-of-anxiety-in-teenagers/
  7. Food and mood [Internet]. Bda.uk.com. [cited 2 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/food-facts-food-and-mood.html

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