Brain Chemistry and Bad Behavior in Children


By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

When children act out, misbehave, or engage in an activity that puts them in danger, parents often respond with an impulsive punishment.  They may yell, tell them to go to their room, or even spank their child in the hopes to get them to hear, and feel, that the actions that he or she did were “bad.”  Interestingly enough, most of these consequences don’t work, and the brain is partially to blame.

Recent research from Southern Methodist University discovered that spanking was far more common than parents admit, and that children who were hit, misbehaved within 10 minutes of being punished. Indicating that even with intense pain, their brains rewire back to impulsive decision making.

Why is it that kids misbehave so quickly afterwards? The spanking, the yelling, the removal of rewards and privileges, doesn’t encourage them to behave differently.   In fact, in many cases it scares them.  The brain goes into survival mode, triggering them to act aggressively or impulsively, because their neurological underpinnings are driving the behavior.  Ever heard your child say “I didn’t mean it, I don’t know why I did it.” Many times they are right.  The brain turned on before they even realized their bad action was occurring.

Parents and parenting are not to blame completely either, not at all. The problematic behaviors that get the child punished in the first place are due to their environment and their brain chemistry. Next time your child does something that you have told them 20 times to not do, before acting on impulse yourself, and raising your voice or threatening to take away X, Y, or Z, think about what else could be at play.  Certainly a new approach to communicating and also a look into their noggin.

3 Ways to Change Bad Behaviors in Your Child

brain chemistry1) Balance Brain Chemistry - In many cases where a youngster acts impulsively, lashes out, or doesn’t listen, it isn’t due to just anger or frustration, their brain chemistry is also to blame.  Extensive research and thousands of neurotransmitter tests have revealed, that frequently an imbalance in neurotransmitter levels (brain chemistry), is a key contributing factor to the child’s bad behavior. Often times their excitatory neurotransmitters are running the show, leading to them having difficulty controlling themselves.  Correcting brain chemistry can be a huge piece in healing the bad behavior puzzle. Neurotransmitter testing is easy, can be done in the comfort of your home, and provides an all natural solution to balancing brain chemistry.

brain chemistry2) Change Communication - You are the parent and role model, so get cracking on a more effective approach to communicating concerns and consequences to your child. In the bestselling book If I Have to Tell You One More Time…: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling parenting expert and Today Show contributor Amy McCready shows you how to. McCready is a “recovering yeller” and the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions. She is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Her Toolbox strategies have empowered tens of thousands of parents.

brain chemistry3) Gain and Teach Skills - It is important for parents to learn how to control their own emotions and be able to teach these skills and techniques to their children. Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts and Aggressive Behaviors by Pat Harvey, is a great book that can help with this. As a world renowned expert in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Harvey uses DBT Skills Training in working with parents whose children (of any age) have intense emotions/emotional dysregulation or mental illness. The nonjudgmental and accepting aspects of DBT have been well received by parents who are often blamed for the problems of their children. Feeling accepted enables parents and others to learn new, more effective skills.

Adjusting your child’s brain chemistry, and possibly your own, will be the glue that holds any parenting method together.  Skills and therapy can be effective, and with a brain that’s onboard with these new approaches, you have benefits that will last a lifetime.

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Procrastination – Is Dopamine to Blame?


By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Could your Candy Crush addiction be due to more than your lack of willpower? Perhaps you put off that project until the last minute or feel lazy instead of motivated at the thought of another monotonous task.  Your brain chemistry, not laziness may be to blame.   Dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure, has been found to be a major component in procrastination, motivation, and impulsivity.

Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder published a recent study in The Journal of Psychological Science showing that procrastination and impulsivity is genetic, and link dopamine levels to one’s avoidance or impulsive responses to tasks. Pleasurable activities or pushing away the things that top your to-do list are ways dopamine effects your life. Whether you are addicted to instant gratification activities, such as refreshing your Instagram feed, or avoiding your taxes like the plague, your dopamine and your genes are to blame.

If a task has a higher historical likelihood (or perceived future likelihood) of producing dopamine, our brain becomes addicted to reproducing these activities… and avoiding the others. We’re a society that’s addicted to dopamine.

We also consume too much of addictive stimulants: chocolate, caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, tea), sugar and cigarettes, which further impact the production of this neurotransmitter. Almost all abusive drugs and addictive substances influence it. Alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, even prescription medications such as amphetamines alter our dopamine balance.

Why do smokers eat more when they are trying to quit? Or video game junkies consume soda and sugary snacks when they are not glued to the screen? Because both food and nicotine share similar dopamine reward pathways, their brains are wired to crave pleasure. When less dopamine is stimulated as nicotine or the pleasurable activity is reduced, food and sugar cravings naturally kick in to overcompensate.Unfortunately, stimulating dopamine consistently, with medication, foods, nicotine, or any unnatural substance, can cause a depletion of dopamine over time.

How to Balance Your Dopamine

1.      Test Your Levels of Dopamine. Without testing it is difficult to know which neurotransmitter is out of balance and, making it a guessing game to treat. According to Dr. Oz’s, Alternative Health Expert Bryce Wylde   the best way to know if your dopamine levels are imbalanced is to have your neurotransmitters tested. The way to do this is easy and uses cutting edge science. Urinary neurotransmitter testing – a simple pee-in-a-cup test – is reflective of total-body neurotransmitter activity.

2.     Create a Dopamine-Friendly Environment. Setting small goals, breaking up tasks and rewarding effort can help rewire the brain.  A 5-1o minute Facebook feed session after an hour of doing that dreaded task, can stimulate the reward center.  Turn off distractions – for example television, or put your cell phone ringer on silent while working on a task.

3.      Positive feedback. Allow yourself to experience frequent positive feedback as you work towards goals. Dopamine will flow as a result of your brain’s positive reinforcement every time you complete a step and meet a challenge. People who provide positive reinforcement can help you to push through the blocks that keep you stuck in your behaviors.  A trainer, nutritionist, AA sponsor, therapist, or anyone to help push you along the way.

4.      Embrace a new goal and take small steps toward it every day. That may be saving money or stopping the nicotine. Putting a dollar away every day and watching the jar grow, creates incentive.   The less puffs you take and the less frequent you stop to pick up a new pack the more your brain rewards itself. With dopamine each time you take a step. The repetition can help reinforce new behaviors by assisting in building the dopamine pathway until it’s big enough to compete with the habit you are trying to get rid of.

To learn more about dopamine and balancing your neurotransmitters please visit

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Why Sleep Deprivation Is Killing You & 6 Ways to Solve It

sleep deprivation

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

This is your wake-up call—literally. For years we have known that sleep deprivation is bad for our health, but a new study shows it actually destroys brain cells.  A study published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience found that staying awake kills brain cells in mice, and researchers suggest it may do the same in humans. It’s the first study to show that sleep loss can lead to irreversible damage.

So, what do we do? 7-8 Hours of sleep sounds fantastic, but for many Americans it’s nearly impossible.  Not only is it a time an issue, but getting our brains to shut off can be easier said than done. Stress and hectic schedules make it hard to get the zzz’s one needs. Overtime, cortisol elevations cause shifts in other hormones (such as DHEA, Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone), as well as depletion in neurotransmitter availability.  This often leads to sleep cycle disturbances, which then causes more stress on the body and the cycle continues.

sleep deprivation

We need sleep almost just as much as we need oxygen and food. Recent studies show that sleep may “detox” the brain, flushing out waste products linked to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Sleep deprivation wears down our normal capacity to deal with daily aggravations and challenges, causing the cycle of stress to wear us down emotionally and physically.  Unfortunately, this can’t be fixed with good vibes alone.

One night alone of disrupted sleep lowers the threshold for “stress perception.” When you’re dead tired, or have had weeks of restless nights, just running an errand or getting stuck in traffic can seem dreadful and daunting.  It is a huge contributor to irritability, mood swings, and interpersonal relationship troubles (as you can imagine).

6 Ways to Solve Sleep Deprivation

1. Testing your neurotransmitters and cortisol levels is a natural way to balance your sleep cycle. It can be helpful to pinpoint what type of support will provide the fastest relief.  Results show what supplementation is needed—and will help work to adjust your sleep cycle. Neurogistics makes this easy with in home testing kits, and customized Brain Wellness Reports.

2. Wind down for 1 hour before bedtime. Ideally this would be unplugged, restorative time (e.g., relaxed reading, bath, or mediation practice). Something to induce the relaxation response. Sleep mediations are all over YouTube and can be listened to as you are lying in bed.

3. Don’t use electronics, even the Nook, an hour before bed.  Avoid TV, phone, tablet, emails, Netflix, Hulu, videogames in bed.  The light, and the activity stimulates excitatory neurotransmitter activity

4. Decrease Caffeine – it exacerbates anxiety and can create disturbances in your sleep patterns. If you drink coffee, tea or soda and you have anxiety, consider getting off caffeine or stopping before 12PM.

If your aim is to get off the caffeine kick, do this gradually:

  • Go from 2 coffees per day to 1.
  • Go from having a large coffee to having a small.
  • Go from a small coffee to a small half-caf.
  • Go from half-caf to black tea.
  • Go from black tea to green tea.
  • Go from green tea to no caffeine. You can have herbal or decaf tea.

5. Stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. Even on the weekends, try and wake up within 90 minutes of when you do on weekdays.

6. Keep your bedroom dark and cold; even nightlights can keep you awake. Make sure your dreaming den is chilly, this helps you stay under the covers and hit hibernation mode.

Other ways to get your sleep back on track involve taking control of your stress during the day.  Delegate tasks, make time for mindfulness and meditation, and practice deep breathing.  Grab the good pillows, comfy sheets and get ready for a good night’s sleep.  Your body and brain depend on it.


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The Dementia Epidemic

This infograph courtesy of MBA Healthcare Management highlights the concern for the growing number of cases of Dementia.


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Chia Seeds: The SUPER Seed

super seed

The month of March is National Nutrition Month (#NNM). The awareness and education campaign is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (known previously as the American Dietetic Association). Its’ purpose is to promote good nutrition by spreading awareness and education about nutritional choices, and to challenge people to make the healthiest food choices they can. This month we are blogging, posting, and tweeting about #NNM.  We will share our delicious & nutritious recipe ideas and nutrition-packed foods for you and your family to try.

The Super Seed: 10 Benefits of Chia Seeds

If you haven’t tried chia seeds you are missing out!  Chia seeds are the hottest super food and phenomenally rich in health benefits. One serving has:

  1. 5 x more calcium than milk
  2. More than 1/3 of your daily fiber intake
  3. 27% of your daily value of phosphorus
  4. 4.4 grams of protein, nearly 10 percent of the daily value
  5. They are the richest plant source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 (the vital fats that protect against inflammation) & contain more Omega-3 than salmon!
  6. 3x more antioxidant power than blueberries
  7. Helps to regulate insulin
  8. Cleanses the colon and absorbs harmful toxins
  9. Contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to improve mood and regulate appetite and sleep
  10. Combat diabetes by helping to control blood sugar

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant salvia hispanica, grown in Central America dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. “Chia” means strength, and serves as a perfect name for this super seed, because they are filled with nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and healthy fat. Chia seeds are popular for weight loss, energy, and make a great healthy substitute for those with food allergies. They reduce food cravings by preventing some of the food that you eat from getting absorbed into your system – making you feel full. This is because they absorb 10 times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel.

chia seedsChia Seed Pudding

This tasty treat is nutritional and remarkably simple – All you need is one bowl! (serves 4 – 6)

  • 1 cup chia seeds
  • 3 cups nut milk, coconut or hemp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp of birch sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon (optional)
  • Pinch of sea salt

Place the chia seeds and dry ingredients in the bowl, add in milk (almond is my favorite) and then vanilla. Stir well, so that there are no clumps and the chia seeds are coated in milk. Let sit at room temperature for 20 – 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate. Within one hour you should have a delicious pudding (similar to tapioca). If it isn’t sweet enough feel free to add a bit of agave nectar or a handful of fruit.

Chia Seed Gel

Easy and energizing!

  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1 cup coconut water

Add two tablespoons of chia seeds to a cup of coconut water and let sit for ten minutes. Like recently-introduced products from energy and sports drink companies, you’ll have a thick hydration and energy gel that’s great for runners’ recovery or other athletic activity

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Parent to Prevent Eating Disorders

Parents are the most influential role models in a child’s life, they must be careful with their words and actions, especially around food and body image. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, bringing awareness to the public about the over 24 million eating disorders in the US alone. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any identified mental illness, education is imperative. » Read more..

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ADHD Linked to Mothers Use of Acetaminophen During Pregnancy

acetaminophen during pregnancy

JAMA Pediatrics recently published a landmark Danish study suggesting ADHD in children is linked to acetaminophen taken during pregnancy. Findings report that moms who used pain relievers to treat things like headaches or to reduce fevers saw a 37% increased risk in their kids receiving an ADHD diagnosis and a 29% increased risk in the chances that their kids needed ADHD medications compared with moms who didn’t use the over-the-counter medication at all. Suggesting that acetaminophen may increase the risk of ADHD by interfering with maternal hormones that play a role in fetal brain development. » Read more..

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Healthcare Spending: Failure to Increase Life Expectancy

Shocking new infograph from Best Nursing Masters on how the US is failing in Healthcare compared to other countries.  Take a look and give us your thoughts.


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My Daily Health Planner #OlympicMoms

OM-Health-Planner (1)



This is a repost from our fantastic and creative colleague Dr. Lynne Kenney, The Family Coach. We are participating in the #OlympicMoms campaign. International food and family experts join together to bring you daily meal plans, recipes, activities and exercises for 14 days inspiring a total transformation during the Olympics. Join us each day as we create a 14 day online gathering of motivated moms who want to eat better, exercise more and enjoy meaningful moments with family during the Olympics #OlympicMoms #OM and #OlympicDads are the hashtags to follow on all your social media sites. It’s fun, free, and full of expert advice.

My Daily Health Planner


About three months ago I started working out with my friend Dina 5 days a week and we feel great! Dina is approaching 50 and looks like she’s 30. In fact, she needs a new promo video cause she is totally ripped. Me, I’m still eating too much Pirate Booty at night but with all the recipes from our friends, my clean eating habits are improving:).

One thing that really helps us is our daily health planner, so I’m sharing it with you to use as well. Let me know how you are doing.

OM-Health-Planner (1)

Here is the 12 Page Guide With Recipes


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Gluten Free Valentine’s Day Candy

Tomorrow is a scary day if you’re a parent with a child who has a food allergy. Nuts, gluten, lactose, and dyes will be stuffed into their heart shaped boxes along with valentines from their classmates.  Here is what you need to know about gluten-free candy this year.Gluten Free Valentine's Day Candy

Please note, that we are not condoning the consumption of candy, but the likelihood is your child will have access to something sweet during the day.  Keep yourself and your child informed on what they can eat and what is off limits, especially for those children who have Celiac or a gluten sensitivity.

 Gluten-Free Goodies 


  • Dove Chocolate (which also makes M&ms) – is almost always gluten free when it is milk chocolate. Therefore, you can feel reasonably confident buying Dove chocolate products for Valentine’s Day, provided you check the label. Mars Corporation labels wheat, barley, or rye sources if they are in the product. However, Mars’ seasonal items may be problematic according to’s Gluten & Celiac expert Jane Anderson .
  • Hershey’s Kisses - Hershey’s reports that plain milk chocolate Kisses are safe
  • Junior Mints
  • Lifesavers Candy
  • M&Ms
  • Peeps 
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups - These peanut-y treats appear on Hershey’s current gluten-free list and come in a variety of Valentine’s Day-specific wrappers. However, the heart shaped ones are NOT considered gluten-free.
  • Starburst Candy
  • Sweethearts Conversation Hearts - Conversation hearts made by Necco, and are considered gluten-free. When buying conversation hearts, make sure to AVOID of Brach’s or Mayfair’s versions of the same candy, as those are not considered gluten-free.
  • Tootsie Rolls

Valentine’s Candy That’s Definitely Not Gluten-Free


The following candies marketed specifically for Valentine’s Day are not gluten-free. Look on the label if it was made in a facility that could have cross contamination. 

  • Balmer Cuddly Cuties chocolate teddy bears and dogs -made on shared equipment
  • Air Heads -“Manufactured in a facility that processes wheat flour.”
  • All Brach’s candy (including conversation hearts) – Packaged on equipment that also packages products containing traces of milk, egg, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts and/or soy protein.”
  • Bubblicious Bites - “Manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, milk, wheat and eggs.”
  • Dove milk chocolate Rose on a stick – no gluten listed in ingredients; however, it does state “Allergy Information: May contain peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat.”
  • Dove dark chocolate raspberry Truffle Hearts – no gluten listed in ingredients; but it does state “Allergy Information: May contain peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and eggs.”
  • Elmer Chocolate boxed Valentine’s candy - made on shared equipment
  • Ghirardelli boxed chocolates - contains wheat and barley ingredients
  • Godiva chocolates including the Gems – All Godiva packaged products I have found, as well as the chocolates displayed in their stores, have a warning: “May contain tree nuts, peanuts and wheat.”
  • Guylian chocolates – “May contain traces of nuts and gluten.”
  • Jube Jel Cherry Hearts (Brach’s cinnamon jelly hearts) – “Allergen Information: “Milk, egg, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy may be present in the manufacturing or packaging area.”
  • Lindt Lindor truffles -they contain barley
  • Mrs. Field’s assorted chocolates in a heart-shaped tin – contains wheat flour
  • Nerds, boxes and ropes (Wonka) – “Made in a facility that also processes wheat and egg.”
  • Russel Stover chocolates – “Products have been produced on shared equipment with peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat.”
  • Sassy Hearts treat packs (Brach’s) – “Allergen Information: Milk, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and fish may be present in the manufacturing or packaging area.”
  • Spongebob Squarepants Heart Shaped Gummy Krabby Patties & Lollipops – “Manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts, almonds, wheat and eggs.”
  • SweeTart Hearts (Wonka) – “Made in a facility that also processes egg and wheat.”
  • Treat Street Google Critters – “Processed in a facility which also processes milk, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy protein, eggs.”
  • Whitman’s Chocolates – “Products have been produced on shared equipment with tree nuts, eggs, and wheat.”
  • Wonka Valentine Mix Ups – Bottle Caps and Laffy Taffy seem to be gluten-free, however the Nerds in these packages have a cross-contamination statement that states “Made in a facility that also processes wheat and egg.”
  • Wild About You Chocolate Decorative Hearts – “Made in a facility which also processes wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, and egg.”

Gluten Free Valentine's Day Candy

Any chocolate candy with “crisps” “crunch” or “cookies on the label is likely to have wheat flour or barley malt, so check carefully.

  • Crunch (Nestle) – snack-size and hearts contains “barley malt“; “Made on equipment that also processes peanuts, nuts and wheat.”
  • Ferrero Rocher – contains “wheat flour.”
  • Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Premium Assorted Chocolates in a heart box – contains “barley malt
  • Harry London assorted chocolates – contains “wheat flour, gluten
  • Hershey’s Miniatures – “contains malt.”
  • Hershey’s Cookies ‘n Crème snack size treats – contains “wheat flour
  • Kit Kat – contains “wheat flour
  • Lindt chocolate candy – contains “barley malt powder
  • Reese’s peanut butter filled chocolate hearts (this refers only to the small, individually foil-wrapped hearts) – Contains “wheat flour.”
  • M&M’s pretzel candies – contain “wheat flour, malt
  • Spongebob Squarepants Crispy Chocolaty Hearts – contains “malt extract“; “Manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts and wheat.”
  • SweeTart Hearts Gummies – contains “wheat
  • Twix – contains “wheat flour
  • Twizzlers cherry pull ‘n peel candy – contains “wheat flour
  • Whoppers – contain “barley malt and wheat flour”.”


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