Addressing Behavioural Issues Naturally

*The following is part of a Facebook series on How to Address Behavioural Issues Naturally

Behavioural issues are one of the most prevalent issues facing children and teens today. They can also follow us into adulthood with symptoms manifesting slightly differently.

ADD- Attention Deficit Disorder as well as ADHD- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, are two of the most common. ADD and ADHD are found in approximately 5-15 percent of school age children and diagnosis is continuing to skyrocket.

There is about a 2:1 ratio for boys vs. girls being affected. Typical signs are hyperactivity, emotional instability (such as mood swings and outbursts), clumsiness, and disordered attention (short attention span, poor concentration, or easily distracted).

Behavioural issues generally start around age 3; however most are diagnosed once the child starts school and the behaviour becomes more apparent, around age 7.

The causes of these behavioural issues are of course multifactorial and while there is a genetic component, like most conditions, environmental and dietary factors play a significant role in determining how these genetic factors are manifested in the child.

The main “treatment” used for behavioural issues are pharmaceutical drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, and Vyvanse.

These medications reportedly improve behaviour by up to 75% in placebo controlled studies, however in clinical practice it is seen to be much lower. Follow up studies have failed to show long term benefits, and have actually shown many adverse side effects such as anxiety, aggressiveness, agitation, and loss of appetite. Long term effects of these drugs can be extremely detrimental to brain function and behaviour.

These drugs work by pushing an increase of dopamine in the brain to stimulate attention and energy. However, an excess of dopamine can be just as harmful as a deficiency.

Non-stimulant drugs such as Atomoxetine also known as Strattera have been promoted as a safe alternative. However, it comes with it’s own set of side effects including an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. The risk for addiction and abuse of these drugs is also high.

Overall, it’s clear we would benefit from finding more natural solutions that don’t involve scary side effects.

In this post I’m going to focus on foods to avoid in cases of behavioural issues.

Our gut is the foundation of our health and is interconnected to our brain via something called the gut-brain axis. 80% of serotonin (our ‘happy’ hormone) is made in our gut.

The foods we eat and don’t eat influence this directly.

The irony of Ritalin being used to treat behavioural issues is that the non-medical ingredients of Ritalin include Yellow No.10, and Green No.3 which are food dyes known to contribute to behavioural changes.

Researchers focus on 10 food dyes, however, there are over 3000 different food additives that are of concern. There is conflict of interest in the studies done in the US, as most of the negative studies (stating these additives are safe to use) have been funded by Coca-Cola, Nabisco, and other major food corporations using these substances.

Sugar of course is next on the list for its effect on the brain and our blood sugar. Sugar acts as an opioid in the brain giving a similar reaction as heroin, increasing dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for energy, memory, and focus.

The following list of foods to avoid is taken from this article by Dr. Josh Axe, I have added information to the points where I felt necessary.


ADHD Foods to Avoid

Sugar – This is the primary trigger for most children, and some adults with ADHD. Avoid any forms of concentrated sugar including candy, desserts, soda, or fruit juices.

Sugar also causes blood sugar spikes and crashes also known as hyper and hypoglycemia or “hangry” as we all probably know. Blood sugar can have a huge impact on our mood and behaviour causing aggression, anxiety, depression, crying spells and more.

Gluten – Some researchers and parents report worsening behavior when their child eats gluten, which may indicate sensitivity to the protein found in wheat. Avoid all foods made with wheat such as bread, pasta, and wheat cereal.  Look for gluten-free or even grain-free alternatives.

Gluten also docks opioid receptors in the brain causing us to “crave our poison” most people find the thing they’re most reactive to is what their body craves most. Gluten can also cause autoimmune reactions (the body attacks itself) in the brain.

I would say if your child or anyone is severely suffering to ditch the grains completely at least for a while as many find just going gluten free not entirely helpful. I know for myself I only noticed a drastic change in my health when removing all grains. Also be aware of gluten free products and their ingredients as many can be full of modified and unhealthy ingredients. Choose naturally gluten free foods such as brown rice and gluten free oats. My favourite option is organic lentil pasta, its full of fibre, protein, and healthy carbs.

Conventional Dairy – Most cow milk dairy contains A1 casein that can trigger a similar reaction as gluten and should be eliminated as well. If problematic symptoms arise after eating dairy, discontinue use. Goat’s milk however does not contain the protein, and is a better option for many individuals with ADD/ADHD.

I would recommend eliminating dairy altogether for a while in order to let the gut heal. Other dairy free options are almond milk, and coconut milk. Always check for additives in store bought versions of these as well (they are both super easy to make at home).

Food Coloring and Dyes – Children with ADHD can be sensitive to a variety of food dyes and colorings, therefore all processed foods should be avoided. Coloring and dyes appear in nearly every commercially processed food. That’s how they market it to kids! Food dyes can be found in sports drinks, candy, cake mixes, chewable vitamins, and even toothpaste!

CaffeineWhile some studies have shown that caffeine may help with some ADHD symptoms, it is wise to minimize or avoid caffeine, as these studies have not been validated. In addition, the side effects of caffeine, like anxiety, and nervousness, can contribute to the symptoms of ADD/ADHD.

MSG and HVPThese two additives are believed to decrease dopamine levels in both children and adults. Dopamine is associated with the brain’s pleasure and reward systems. For individuals suffering with ADD/ADHD, balanced levels of dopamine are essential.

Nitrites – Commonly found in lunchmeat, canned foods and many processed foods, nitrites are linked to an increase of childhood Type 1 Diabetes, certain types of cancer, and IBS. In addition, it can cause rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, and restlessness which worsen ADHD symptoms.

Artificial Sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners are just bad for your health, but for those living with ADHD, the side effects can be devastating. Artificial sweeteners create biochemical changes in the body, some of which can harm cognitive function and emotional balance.

Soy – Soy is a common food allergen and can disrupt hormones that cause ADHD.

Personal Food Sensitivities/Allergens – Eliminate the top 7 allergens, including soy, wheat, and conventional dairy mentioned above, as well as peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and shellfish. In addition, eliminate any foods or beverages that are personal allergens. This might include papaya, avocados, bananas, and kiwis (for those with latex allergies), and/or coriander, caraway, or fennel (all from the same family), and/or chocolate.

Overall, it’s clear there can be so many triggers for behavioural issues. It’s so important to eat food without labels (like vegetables, fruit, organic meats etc.) whenever possible. When eating food with labels, carefully check ingredients to ensure you’re getting the highest quality food without fillers and additives like those listed above.

Good guidelines and elimination diets to follow include the GAPS diet (the gut and psychology diet) which has helped so many people reduce or eliminate symptoms of behavioural issues by addressing food allergies and healing the gut. The Specific Carbohydrate diet is similar, removing all suspected allergens from the diet.

The SCD diet is the one thing that helped me when I was suffering so much from digestive/hormonal/completely unexplained issues, I had whole body symptoms that no one could piece together which is what started me on this journey and I have only just figured out that my liver and gallbladder are the root of all of these issues recently by working with one of my teachers. This is most likely from very harsh medications I took as a teen for acne, 10 years later I’m working my way out of the damage. This is why I’m so passionate about finding the root cause of these issues and working naturally to eliminate them rather than turning to medications to mask symptoms, because pharmaceuticals have had a severe impact on my life.

I still mostly stick to a paleo type diet which eliminates grains, dairy and processed foods. Once you start supporting the body with what it needs and heal the digestive system, the brain and the rest of the body thrive. If issues are serious I always recommend working one on one with a holistic nutritionist to address diet and it’s role in behavioural issues.


As a dental hygienist I see countless teens on harsh medications to control their behaviour (plus more to control symptoms from the original medication). However, as a yoga teacher, teaching kids, I see first hand the impact of yoga on behaviour and hyperactivity. Finding an activity that can help your child relax, as well as bring the focus to their own breath and body can be extremely helpful in working with behavioural issues where the majority of focus is on external stimuli.

A List of Resources:

Dr. Doris Rapp

Book: Is This Your Child?


Specific Carbohydrate Diet

Book: Breaking the Vicious Cycle


Mind Body Decision Making

How do you go about making decisions? Do you do things because you feel you “should”? Do you need other people’s opinions before you decide? Or do you go with what your body tells you?

Most people know about the “gut feeling”. But what about whole body decision making? Life coach Martha Beck calls this her “shackles on, shackles off” approach.

Start by closing your eyes, take a deep breath, and begin to think of a memory or a period of your life that was very unhappy. Focus now on your physical body, where do you feel this memory in your body? Tight chest? Tense jaw? A pit in your stomach? Notice the places in your body that you feel the sensations.  This is your shackles on sensation.

Now take a deep breath and let go of that memory and those sensations.

Close your eyes again and begin to think of a happy situation or  your favourite memory. What sensations do you feel in your body? Goosebumps? Relaxation? Lightness? Make a note of the sensations you feel and where you feel them in your body. This is your shackles off sensation.

Shackles on refers to feeling trapped, uncomfortable, and constricted. A clear NO from your body. Shackles off is a feeling of freedom and lightness. Or simply, A HELL YES!

The difficulty lies in the decisions that bring up fear. Some decisions aren’t a clear yes or no! The truth is, some of the best yeses for us, scare us the most. So how do you know the difference between shackles on and shackles off? If there’s an underlying feeling of excitement and freedom about the decision that’s your clue it’s a yes! If under the fear is still more fear and dread, it’s pretty clear that’s a no.

Of course we all have some aspects of our lives that are shackles on. Maybe your current job is shackles on because you need to pay your bills while you fund your dream ‘shackles off’ career. Our suffering comes from lack of acceptance, so if this is the case, accepting where you are, while working toward where you want to be can make a huge difference.

The goal is to make as many decisions that are ‘shackles off’ as possible. One step at a time right?

xoxo Heather

Grain & Dairy Free Creamy Pasta + Sauce

Okay so what do you do when you feel like a creamy pasta but you don’t eat grains or dairy? I found the answer!


The pasta that I used here is chickpea and lentil pasta but you can use whatever you want depending on your dietary needs/what you have on hand.

The sauce:

This recipe makes enough for two large servings of pasta, adjust to your needs and taste buds!

  • half of a ripe avocado
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (more or less depending on how thick you want the sauce to be) of almond milk
  • 1 clove of garlic (roasted or raw if you can handle it 😛 )
  • salt + pepper to taste

Throw all ingredients in food processor and mix into pasta! Yum, I added broccoli and chicken to my pasta, pictured above. Enjoy!

Stop Playing Small

What is it that you really want? Not what your parents want, or you think society wants for you, what do YOU want?

You may not even know, because you spend so much time worrying about what other people want. Or maybe you’re in a time of transition, you know what you DON’T want, yet aren’t sure what you do want. That’s okay, because awareness is the first step of change!

One of my amazing friends, who I refer to as my life coach because I don’t know where I would be without her 🙂 , is leaving this month on the adventure of a lifetime. She’s traveling Central America for at least 6 months, checking so many things off her bucket list! If you want to follow her journey across Central America (and feel inspired & encouraged) check out her blog here. I am so excited for her, this is something she has wanted to do for years, but like the rest of us, has struggled to commit to her dream because she was afraid of the impact on others.

Life coach Martha Beck says that we each have our “everyone”. This is a group of no more than five or six people that we hold the opinion of and generalize as everyone. For example- “everyone thinks I should stay at my job”, or “no one supports what I want”. These generalizations keep you feeling stuck and powerless. We feel as though we need permission and everyone to support us before we make the change that we want. The truth is that conditions will never be perfect, you need to leap anyway. If you find you really need support, find it! Figure out who your “everybody” is, and look outside those people, I guarantee you will find at least one person who supports you.

We also “mind read” and assume that our ‘everybody’ isn’t supporting us. We’re afraid they won’t, so we don’t even bother discussing our dreams. I did this for a long time and used it as an excuse to not move forward. Give people more credit! The more I started speaking about what I wanted, the more support I got and the more I would hear about people being inspired to go after what they want.

We play small too much, nothing fun happens in your comfort zone. The world needs what you have to offer, plus as I just mentioned, when we stop playing small, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. Stop waiting for all the stars to align, for everyone to support you. Everyone has their own fears that hold them back, and we’re pretty darn good at pushing those fears on other people and calling it love (it’s not). If you’re waiting for things to be perfect, you’ll always be waiting. Do it now. If you still need permission, this is it! No one benefits when you play small and hide your gifts.

The last 6 months have been a game changer for me, prior to that I had been keeping myself stuck in fear, avoiding creating my own yoga business because I was afraid it would ‘fail’ or I wouldn’t know what I was doing. Fortunately, I’m happy to say I’m leaving that behind! I ordered business cards and launched my yoga business and have a class for dental professionals, which I will post about next! I am so excited to see where it takes me and how it evolves when I graduate as a holistic nutritionist.

I’ve challenged myself to stop playing small, you in?



Grain and Dairy Free Nice-cream Sandwiches!

I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post! I’ve been enjoying my summer and had an amazing vacation in Tenerife, Spain last month. I’ve still been cooking/baking and mess making 🙂 These copycat ice cream sandwiches are perfect for this summer heat. The idea was inspired by Holistic Nutritionist Miranda Malisani, when I saw her version on Instagram.

The cookies for these are ones I’ve already posted from detoxinista. Super simple grain free diary free chocolate chip cookies! Always the option to switch it up and use your favourite cookies (peanut/almond butter, vegan cookies, etc.)

The filling for these is really simple as well. On it’s own, it makes a great pudding, and frozen in the middle of two chocolate chip cookies is even better 🙂

Ingredients (makes enough for 12 sandwiches):

  • 2 ripe avocadoes
  • 1/3 cup raw organic cocao powder
  • 1/4 cup organic maple syrup (more or less depending on your taste)
  • 1 tsp organic vanilla extract
  • pinch of Himalayan sea salt optional

Add all ingredients into food processor and mix until combined.

Once the cookies have cooled, spoon the filling onto one cookie, top with second cookie. Once you have used up all the cookies, (I doubled the cookie recipe and got 12 sandwiches out of it). Place in the freezer!

The sandwiches taste best when they are slightly thawed, so I recommend taking them out 10 minutes before serving.



When Nothing is Sure, Everything is Possible

Do you love to plan? There’s a big difference between having goals you’re working toward, and trying to control every detail of a situation (or your life). The first is healthy striving to create a life you love, while the latter is a fear-based response in an attempt to avoid pain and suffering.

In case you haven’t noticed in your own life, trying to control does us no good. Shocking right?! If you’re like me and you’ve heard time and time again, to “just let go”. All you think is “yeah, that’s a great idea, but HOW?” Like most things, easier said than done. My best friend showed me a picture that says “Never in the history of calming down, has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down.” I feel the same way about letting go of control. Telling people to let go is pretty useless (and if they’re really overwhelmed about a situation it can even make it worse because they could feel discounted and as though their feelings aren’t valid.)

I’ve been a planner ever since I can remember. My career especially, I had picked out by the time I was in third grade. Sure I checked out all of my options throughout high school, but I was sure I was going to be a dental hygienist for my whole life. I had a huge fear of the dentist as a kid (cavity prone) and my hygienists and the assistants always worked wonders at helping me feel comfortable and helping me overcome my fear. I knew I wanted to do that for others. While I absolutely love that part of my job and LOVE teeth (I know, it’s weird to people not in the dental field), I had absolutely no idea I’d go through the major struggles with my health that I have in the last 3-4 years. This completely altered my path. I became so passionate about holistic health through this process and it has opened my eyes and continues to change my life for the better, every single day! Now that I’m back in school part time studying holistic nutrition, I’m continuing my passion of helping others (and myself!).


I love this quote by Joseph Campbell, it really encompasses how we can live our best lives. When we try to control, we are limiting ourselves. Margaret Drabble said “When nothing is sure, everything is possible”. Think of all the amazing possibilities you could be closing yourself off from by controlling!

So the little question is, how does one begin to let go?

The thing that has helped me over the last year to let go of expectations about my health especially, has been to ask myself “has there been a time when things haven’t worked out the way I planned- a time when I tried to control the outcome, that ended up working out even better than what I had planned?” and to that, there are countless situations where the answer is a massive YES. I truly believe things in life happen FOR you, not TO you. If, in times of feeling we need to control, we can instead remind ourselves of the times things worked out better than we could have imagined, we can begin to shift our belief that we need to control everything. This will open us up to the mindset of trusting that everything is happening for our highest good.

Homemade Fruit & Nut Bars (3 ingredients!)

Hey lovelies!

March has been crazy busy. I am absolutely in love with my current course at school, Psychology of Disease. I will definitely be writing some blog posts about the things we’ve discussed because it’s fascinating. My teacher is also amazing and guides us through meditations in class, so needless to say I will miss it!

Despite the busy schedule, there’s always time for food 🙂 This super simple recipe (like most of my recipes) can be modified with whatever you like. It’s a base of dates and nut butter and you can mix-in your favourite things. You can make these paleo and vegan! They’re dairy & grain free and can be nut free if you opt for sunflower seed butter. They’re higher in (natural) sugar because of the dates, however they’re a great option for on the go snacks. My version of fast food 😉IMG_7679 (2)

Ingredients (makes about 12-15 bars)

  • 2 cups organic dates
  • 4 cups organic peanut butter (or almond/sunflower etc.)
  • 3/4 cup organic dark chocolate chips
  • option: pinch sea salt

I made a large batch of these and my sister even froze a few! The dates and nut butter are the base, and of course chocolate chips are just a necessary ingredient in everything…


  1. process dates into paste in food processor (tip: to soften dates you can place them in a bowl for a few minutes with boiling water)
  2. add in peanut butter, mix until incorporated
  3. option to add a pinch of sea salt
  4. manually mix in chocolate chips/other mix-ins
  5. scoop mixture onto parchment paper lined tray and press down evenly
  6. refrigerate for 30 minutes
  7. cut into bars of desired size

This is a very basic bar that you can completely customize to your liking! Instead of using all dates, try using some raisins or other dried fruit. Add in some cinnamon or other spices! You can even add different types of nuts. If you use whole nuts rather than nut butter, you’ll likely need to add some water to get the consistency right. The options are endless!