develop and grow both physically and mentally. With 1 in 16 school-
aged children now being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD), and 1 in 91 being diagnosed with autism, we must
begin asking “Is there something more that we can do?” Even without
a diagnosis, many children struggle with various aspects of cognitive
function and learning, including memory, judgement, problem
solving, and language development. Poor learning or behaviour
needn’t be an inevitable part of life. With some simple strategies, you
can help your children achieve their full potential.
Keeping Your Kids Focused and Alert
A child’s education forms the foundation from which they learn about
the world around them and develop social and behavioural skills.
A poor start in life can have lifelong effects on learning and social
development. Given the impact that education can have on shaping
our children’s future, it is important we give them the best possible
start in life.
For some kids, getting the brain to quieten down and switch off from
distractions can be a huge challenge, both in the classroom and at
home. This can contribute to poor concentration, decreased focus,
and learning difficulties. The good news is that there are certain
nutrients and herbs that work together to improve concentration and
cognitive function, reduce background ‘noise’ or distractions and
stop our children from being left behind at school.
Good Fats for a Great Brain
Supporting your child’s brain health can be as simple as starting
with omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as those found in fish.
Unfortunately, many children are not eating enough oily fish such
as salmon, tuna, and sardines, and are deficient in these healthy
fats which are crucial for brain development. Deficiencies in EPA
(eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the
active components in fish oil, have been associated with behavioural
symptoms in children. DHA in particular comes under the spotlight,
as higher doses of DHA have been found to significantly improve
attention and cognition in children. Supplementing with highly
purified and concentrated fish oils containing therapeutic levels of
EPA and DHA is therefore vital to support the developing brain.
Build a Healthy Brain
Phospholipds are another type of healthy fat that plays a key
role not only in nervous system function, but also lays a sound
structural foundation for growing brains. Phospholipids, such as
phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine, are building blocks in
the structure of every cell membrane in the body, including those in the
brain and the nervous system. As a result, these lipids are important
for brain and nervous system health, as well as supporting memory,
learning and behaviour. In fact, phosphatidylserine supplementation
has been shown to yield positive results in reducing symptoms of
inattention and hyperactivity in children with ADHD.
Boosting Brain Power – It’s all in the Herbs!
Herbs, such as green tea (Camellia sinensis) and brahmi (Bacopa
monnieri), have proven clinically effective in improving children’s
cognitive function. Green tea contains a rare amino acid known as
L-theanine. At therapeutic doses, L-theanine made children more
calm but alert, with an increased attention span and improved
memory – all important for maximising learning potential. Brahmi
is another herb that is particularly beneficial for supporting mental
performance and nervous system function. Studies have found that
when used for a period of 12 weeks, brahmi significantly enhanced
memory and information processing, and reduced anxiety.
Nourish Those Nerves
Along with essential lipids and herbs, a number of nutrients are also
valuable in supporting cognitive function in children. Iodine and
Vitamin D are essential nutrients for healthy brain development and
function which are commonly deficient in children in Australia and
New Zealand. Healthy brain and nerve signalling is also supported
with nutrients such as activated vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium.
The best way to ensure your children are getting the nutrients they
need is to provide fresh, healthy food including fruit and vegetables,
and quality protein at every meal. Healthy kids also need plenty of
play and physical activity, and adequate rest and sleep.
Watch Your Child Thrive
Impaired cognitive function and behavioural development can greatly
interfere with a child’s ability to learn about the world around them
and function fully. Talk to our healthcare practitioner if your child
struggles with concentration and lacks the focus required for optimal
learning, or exhibits signs of hyperactivity or other behavioural
issues. By encouraging a healthy diet and lifestyle, and providing
the essential nutrients required for healthy brain development and
function, you can truly give your child the best possible start in life.