What can we do to enhance their brain function and thought processes? What are the factors that will enhance memory, stabilize moods and activate intelligence?
Fish Oil – by now we all know about Omega 3 fish oils and how good it is for our brain, body and health. Omega 3 contains DHA which is found in the grey matter in the brain. Adequate amount will ensure that brain cells are fluid and influences communication between the cells. In other words it is vital for brain function and acuity; memory and concentration. Natural sources are seafood, mackerel, salmon, anchovies, trout and sardines. If you can’t find a way to get fish into your child’s diet you can supplement with fish oil or flaxeed oil. Fish oil has a better absorption rate.
Hydration, hydration, hydration – water is so important for brain function because our brain is about 80% water. It needs water for the neurotransmitters to be able to communicate properly. When our children are acting up, being difficult and/or don’t seem to be thinking clearly try giving them water. If that is all you have on offer then you have a better chance that they will be hydrated. The blood is about 83% water and is an important transport system. Blood delivers nutrients and removes toxins from the brain and all our organs. Water is essential for concentration and mental alertness.
Trevor Brocklebank of the Academic Unit of Pediatrics and Child Health, St. James’s University Hospital, Leeds, UK discovered that children achieved the best results when drinking eight glasses of water per day. (8 glasses can really mean anything. A good barometer is to drink enough water until the urine runs clear. The only wee that should be yellow is possibly the first of the day. For children about 1- 2 litres depending on the size of the child.)
Avoid refined sugars and carbohydrates- (white flour, rice and pasta) as these have been shown to “turn off” the brain.
Physical activity – this increases blood flow to the brain, and to the rest of the body as well. So instead of going straight home to do homework get out into the fresh air and run around the park. Not only will the blood be flowing well to the brain but the endorphins will be brightening up your families mood making them in a better mood to face their homework after a tiring day at school. Some schools even allow the kids to have a run around first thing in the morning so that they may commence their day in a settled, calm manner.
Sunshine – the all important vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for bone strength but also for our immune systems. Adequate amounts have also been shown to have a correlation with cancer prevention. Melatonin levels are achieved when sunlight hits the pineal gland by a pathway through the eyes. (No you don’t have to look directly at the sun.) This in turn lifts mood and encourages excellent sleep which brings us to the next point.
Sleep – Did you know that every hour of sleep before midnight is worth 2 after! Kid’s bodies and brains are constantly growing so they need their sleep to allow for regeneration. With our kids I have noticed that even the loss of 1 hour can result in moodiness and lack of concentration and mental acuity the next day. If I give in to the call for “can’t we stay up just a little longer?” I always regret it the next day! They are moody, difficult and unable to concentrate.
Motivation – Are they interested in the content? What do you remember? Do you remember everything or mainly information that you find interesting? Kids are expected to learn a sometimes insurmountable amount of information that they may have absolutely no interest or natural ability for. Whilst of course there needs to be some expectations in place we need to be mindful as parents that they may not be, what we want them to be. In the long run they will be far more successful both professionally and personally when they are allowed and encouraged to follow their passion.
Sirkka Wolke ND is a clinical Naturopath and Nutritionist at Health, Herbs & Healing Clinic in Oatley, Sydney.
Wolke is the highly acclaimed Author of FitKid7- 7 Simple Steps for a Fit & Healthy Child and produced the Sleep Easy CD – Helping Kids & Adults Get To Sleep. Available on Amazon and http://www.fitkid7.com
Wolke is also the Editor of Tribe Magazine- Empowering Parents/ Inspiring Kids. http://www.tribemagazine.com.au