It is not uncommon for a naturopath to encounter children who are struggling at school, with behavioral problems and lack of focus being a common presentation in clinical practice. In these situations, it is important to lay the nutritional foundation for optimal brain function, with specific neurotransmitter support providing additional help to improve concentration and focus. However, it is also essential for the higher executive functions, therefore required for cognitive processes such as memory, reasoning and problem solving, all necessary for academic achievement. Supporting dopamine( feeling good neurotransmitter) production and transport along with providing the nutrients required for healthy nervous system structures is therefore a key strategy when helping children to achieve their full potential – being equally as important for the ‘high achievers’ as for the ‘easily distracted’.
Every Child Needs a Solid Nutritional Foundation
Australia’s children are meeting less than 70% of the RDI for most vitamins and minerals; micronutrients essential for healthy growth, development and brain function.1 In particular, the focus on sun smart practices and an increasing amount of time spent indoors has led to vitamin D deficiency becoming a significant health issue in Australian and New Zealand children 2,3 Vitamin D is important for neuronal structure, synaptic plasticity and neurotransmission.4 It also promotes healthy neurodevelopment by reducing inflammatory cytokines and increasing glutathione levels in the brain. 5 This said, optimising vitamin D status via testing and supplementation may help improve brain function, learning capacity and protect neurons from oxidative damage.
Another nutritional deficiency affecting industrialised countries is iron deficiency anaemia.6 Low iron has been associated with the development of behaviourally-related disorders including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with improvements in symptoms reported after supplementation7,8 Researchers suggest the association is due to the role of iron in neurotransmitter production, particularly dopamine,9 as alterations in dopamine function have been strongly implicated in these cases.10 When presented with a child client struggling to focus and concentrate, assessing iron status may reveal a contributing deficiency.
Fortunately, multivitamin and mineral supplementation in Australian and American children has been shown to improve brain function, verbal learning and memory,11 whilst reducing behavioral problems such as antisocial behavior and even violence.12 There are safe children multivitamins containing therapeutic levels of a range of bioavailable vitamins, including vitamin D, iron, zinc and iodine, to help support healthy cognitive function and development. Therefore providing the nutritional foundation children need in order to grow in all areas of life.
Support Normal, Healthy Brain Development
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is present in fish oil and it is essential for neurotransmission, growing brain membrane integrity and synaptic plasticity,13. However, the importance of phospholipids for brain health are often overlooked. A pilot study of children with ADHD supplemented 200 mg phosphatidylserine daily for two months, at the end of which the participants showed significant improvements in attention and visual perception, along with a reduction in hyperactivity, impulsiveness and learning disorders. The trial authors suggest that phospholipids are of likely benefit to all children to support healthy brain function. Phospholipids facilitate the incorporation of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA into cel membranes, thus improving membrane integrity and fluidity. Therefore phospholipids enhance neurotransmitter signaling via improved membrane function.15 In addition, phospholipids reduce body’s activation in response to stress and increase cerebral activities such as attention and memory,16,17 helpful for any child of school age.” Practioner’s only” range guarantees a potency, and safety of fish oil. This combination may be used to help support the development of a normal healthy brain and healthy synaptic function in children; all essential elements conducive for learning.
Remain Calm and Focussed
Zinc is required for normal dopamine( feeling good neurotransmitter) transport,18 making zinc assessment important for any child struggling to focus at school. For example, correlations have been drawn between lower zinc levels and behavioural symptom severity in children,19,20 with clinical improvements noted upon supplementation.21,22 In addition, low magnesium status has also been associated with children exhibiting hyperactivity and distractibility.23 As magnesium supplementation has been shown to reduce distractibility and, when co-prescribed with vitamin B6, hyper-excitability in children, 24 Therefore a naturopathic practitioner can offer a simple strategy to help support a child client who is ‘easily distracted’.
Each child might need a different approach to nutrition
From an adult perspective it may seem that children have it easy, however academic expectations and modern day challenges lead to increased pressures and more distractions. In these instances children may need an extra nutritional strategy to help them excel. Practitioner’s only range of childrens’ multivitamin and mineral and fish oil support a solid foundation for optimal brain and nervous system health that is appropriate for all children, a strategy for those needing additional help to improve their concentration and focus. By prescribing therapeutic levels of key nutrients appropriate for each presentation, a naturopath can help support a child’s cognition and therefore learning capacity, and in doing so allow them to shine at school and at play.
to find out more please contact Danuta Hulajko
Danuta Hulajko is a holistic practitioner, international speaker, founder of the DH Natural Medicine Clinic and www.healingremedies.com.au , Sydney. She specialises in anti-aging, autoimmunity, thyroid conditions, digestive disorders and heavy metals chelation. For more information please go to our website. You can follow Danuta Hulajko work, events, seminars, expos, latest health research, her health tips and advice on Facebook and LinkedIn