Having a child who has difficulty concentrating can be challenging for everyone- teachers, parents, and of course the children involved. While the terms “hyperactive” and “ADD” may be applied too loosely in some instances, there are many children who truly struggle to focus and pay attention. The incidence of Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder continues to rise with an average 1 in 10 children affected.
It is very difficult to learn when you cannot sit still or concentrate on tasks. By taking a whole body approach to treatment and addressing underlying factors, ADHD symptoms can improve. Nutrition is always a good place to start as we want to ensure adequate intake of brain building nutrients. Research has shown that children with ADHD or ADD frequently are deficient in vital components such as Omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and vitamin D. These all play critical roles in the body’s normal development.
Supplementation with Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish, improves attention, cognitive function, and language. It is very important to use good quality fish oil, free of toxins commonly found in fish such as mercury and dioxins. The family of B vitamins are involved in many biological functions, with vitamins B5, B6 and B12 being especially important for regulating neurotransmitters. These are the chemical signals in the brain and nervous system, such as serotonin and adrenaline. Boosting intake of these B vitamins helps with focus and attention, and reduces hyperactivity.
Iron deficiency can cause anemia with symptoms such as fatigue. In children iron deficiency can manifest as hyperactivity, poor focus, learning problems, and sleeping difficulties. Getting a simple blood test can assess the body’s iron levels and determine if supplementation or diet changes are needed. Magnesium is called the “anti-stress mineral”, since it calms the nervous system and relaxes muscles. It is useful to help with anxiety, irritability, sleep, concentration, and learning. An easy method of increasing magnesium for a child is to give Epsom salt baths. These contain magnesium that is absorbed through the skin, and have a relaxing effect, great for use before bedtime.
Vitamin D is well-known to support the immune system, but it is also acts as a brain hormone which affects sleep and behavior. Deficiency of Vitamin D in mothers during pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of ADHD and autism in their children. Our largest source of vitamin D is from skin conversion with UV light exposure, a process blocked by sunscreen. Ensuring optimal vitamin D levels in moms and kids makes sense as good preventative medicine to reduce rates of conditions such as ADHD.
Children need to get the fuel their brain’s need to function properly, and the result is a healthier, happier child. By evaluating an individual child’s nutritional status and correcting deficiencies, we can get them back on track towards a healthy future meeting their true learning potential.