Brain starvation: nutrition needs for our kids.
What is brain starvation and what causes it?
I recently learned how an easily corrected deficiency in diet can actually cause active brains to function poorly –especially in boys.
I had the privilege of listening to seminars by Dianne Craft, who is a special education teacher and a nutritionist. Dianne Craft MA, CNHP shares some information that I had never heard before. Sixty percent of our brains are made of fat. Thirty percent of that fat is in the forebrain, which is made of DHA, an essential fatty acid. We all need healthy fats in our diets to make our brains function properly. The corpus callosum, which is the bundle of nerves that connects the right and left hemispheres, is made of fat. The myelin sheath which coats the nervous system is also made of fat. The good news is brain starvation can be corrected.
Boys have a 3 times higher need for essential fatty acids than do girls.
Our modern diets are deficient in good fats. We are told to eat margarine (which are nasty trans fats) instead of butter, egg beaters instead of eggs, skim milk instead of whole milk, and to stay away from nuts because they are high in fat. A lack of essential fatty acids causes our bodies to become deficient in serotonin.
Serotonin has the following beneficial mental effects:
Creates a natural, antidepressant release in the body
Relaxes the mind
Instills a sense of well-being
Helps us handle stress
Keeps our mind focused
Promotes good sleep patterns
Helps us to have a positive outlook on life
Helps us control our impulses
Our society is becoming more and more deficient in serotonin. There are more people on anti-depressants than ever before. Children are being put on Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs at an alarming rate. Dianne informed us that Ritalin works by releasing serotonin in the body. If parents knew that they could help to positively affect their child’s body chemistry in a more natural way, do you think they would elect to put their child on drugs which may have harmful side effects? I think not.
Signs Of Brain Starvation
So, how do you know if your child is deficient in DHA? Mental symptoms of DHA Deficiency include the following:
Physical symptoms of DHA Deficiency include the following:
Cracks in ends of fingers
If your child exhibits any of the above mental and/or physical symptoms, they would be a great candidate for trying to increase their intake of essential fatty acids.
The left hemisphere of our brain is where our judgment resides. It is the logical part of the brain. Our right hemisphere is where our emotion resides. When boys aren’t using good judgment, they are having a difficult time accessing their left hemisphere. Sometimes, this is due to a lack of essential fatty acids, esentially brain starvation. Information can’t travel across the corpus callosum if it isn’t nourished properly. The solution is for us to fatten up their brains!
Correcting Brain Starvation
Dianne Craft MA, CNHP recommends the following nutritional regimen:
EFA stands for essential fatty acids, which are also known as polyunsaturates or “good fats.” There are two types:
Omega-6, which is found in raw nuts, seeds, legumes and unsaturated vegetable oils such as sesame.
2. Try to increase protein
Be sure your children eat protein throughout the day to help stabilize their mood. Try to make breakfast high in protein. These are good, higher protein choices:
Nuts and seeds (hemp seeds are loaded)
Use real butter, especially grass-fed
Use whole organic milk
Fatty fish including anchovies, salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna and halibut
Smoothies with protein powder (no additives) in them
Use real peanut or almond butter (natural so it isn’t loaded with sugar)
Cheese and crackers (avoid GMO corn if you think they are allergic to it!!!)
Have dinner for breakfast
3. Try to limit sugar and sugary carbs
Sugar tears down the adrenal gland which drains our energy and causes us to go into fight or flight mode much too easily. You don’t want to become the food police; however, try to do what you can to lessen the amount of sugar they’re eating. Fill them up on the protein rich, fatty foods instead and they won’t have as much room for the sugar. By the way, carbs such as cereal, waffles, pancakes, etc. make us tired so it is best to eat them at night.
Dianne Craft MA, CNHP has many other excellent suggestions as well! For more information, check out Dianne Craft’s Biology of Behavior CD set from our HCA Library.
And if you have a child who struggles with focusing, paying attention or has sensory issues, she has nutritional advice for helping with those problems as well.
This article was written with the help of Dianne Craft MA, CNHP "Struggling Learner Seminar" and Jacqueline's "Deep roots at home" article.