Managing Nutritional Contributors To Mood And Behaviour

In my book, Raising Resilience, I posit that a child’s troubling behaviour – from temper tantrums to aggression and anxiety – is always triggered by something; we just have to figure out what it is.

In the book I draw parents’ attention to social, environmental and biological stressors that contribute to behaviour concerns and outline ways to assess and reduce those stressors. Of the three types, the biological stressors are the ones that I spend most time with my clients trying to figure out.

Biological stressors are issues relating to genetics, nutritional deficiencies, bacterial infection, digestive trouble... they are powerful contributors to behaviour and they are too often missed.

I know how stressful and troubling it can be to see your beautiful child express some less-than-pleasant behaviours like aggression, anxiety, picky eating, violence, or struggle in school due to poor attention, hyperactive or antisocial behaviour.

The good news is that when you start to pay attention to these biological stressors you can help your child.

It has been my experience that once we figure out the trigger, a child’s behaviour will settle down. Then, if medication is still needed, it typically works better and has fewer side effects and less is often needed.

Here are a few of the common biological contributors to behaviour that I see in my clients. Is it always this clear cut? No. A child often does not fit into only one of these categories nor fit all of the descriptors.

This is a simplified list, meant to provide a snapshot to help you understand what might be some of your child’s biological triggers and the steps we can take to resolve them. This list can IN NO WAY be used to diagnose anything….



Common Contributing Factors

hyper, excitable, irritable, mood swings, poor memory,  poor attention span, inappropriate behaviour, poor sleep, “giddy”, self stimulation, looking “drunk”, sugar addiction, pressure-seeking, anxiety

Candida overgrowth, low iron, food sensitivities, poor blood sugar control, low magnesium and B6


aggression, violence, depression, suicide/ideation, jekyll-hyde behaviour, 

Low cholesterol, poor fat absorption, skewed zinc-copper balance, gluten intolerance/celiac, poor methylation and vitamin B deficiency

anger, aggression, constant irritation, temper, argumentative, inappropriate, hostile, hyperactive, explosive, addiction, family history of substance abuse,   oppositional (ODD)

Low levels of lithium,  MTHFR genetic mutation, zinc and B6  deficiency


agitation, aggression, anxiety, hyper, often lots of allergies, chronic fatigue,  depression, tics, tourettes, OCD,

Clostridia overgrowth, fatty acid deficiency, poor blood sugar balance

stimulant medication made things worse or didn’t work, headaches, hairloss,  poor appetite (particular aversion to meat), nausea, hyper, impulsive, aggressive, sensitivity to gluten, anxiety, jekyll-hyde, oppositional, defiant, explosive, highly distractible, short attention span, impulsive

Skewed zinc-copper ratio, gluten, pyroluria, low GABA, interrupted tryptophan metabolism


highly intelligent but spacey and daydreamy, good behaviour/socialization but poor academics,

General nutritional insufficiencies including folate, zinc, choline, B12; blood sugar instability


No matter what deeper testing may reveal about biological stressors, the following steps are important for all behaviour symptoms

  • assess and relieve constipation and general stress
  • assess and improve sleep using nutritional sleep aids if needed
  • eat for blood sugar balance (more fibre, protein, healthy fats, consistent eating throughout the day)
  • optimize nutritional intake of protein, minerals and antioxidants while reducing sugar, additives, refined carbs
  • generally reduce exposure to environmental chemicals

Bottom Line

A child’s behaviour is always triggered by something. If there’s a biological contributor like one or several of these at play, it’s likely being missed.

More resources to help you use nutrition to influence your child's behaviour...


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