With back-to-school time fast approaching, kids will be transitioning from the freedom of the outdoors to the confinement of a classroom. This would be a hard transition for anyone, so here are a few tips taken from Dr. Elisa Song, MD to help your kids with their concentration this September.
#1: Take Out the Wrong Foods
Avoid artificial dyes, flavours, and preservatives in processed foods. This will require you to read labels. If you can't pronounce it, don't buy it! And if it says "natural flavours", put it back on the shelf since this can be a code word for monosodium glutamate or MSG. Aim for whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible.
#2: Keep That Blood Sugar Balanced
Think proteins, healthy fats, complex carbs. Start kids off right with a healthy breakfast to avoid blood sugar spikes like seen with simple carbs and sugar (pancakes and maple syrup, cereal, etc.). Try eggs, or pancakes made with a scoop of protein powder and topped with nut butters instead of syrups, greek yoghurt with fruit, or smoothies/protein shakes. Proteins and fats slow down how sugar is absorbed in the body and will even out those sugar/insulin spikes. Healthy whole food snacks like fruit/veg and nuts will fuel the body between meals as needed.
#3: Load Up on Good Fats
Fat is good for the brain! Great sources in our diet can be salmon, eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Consider supplementing your child's diet with an omega 3 essential fatty acid (fish oil). Studies show this can decrease ADHD by as much as 50%!
#4: Boost Dopamine
Children with attention deficit issues have lower levels of dopamine (neurotransmitter or brain chemical that helps us focus, feel motivated, and find pleasure in activities). ADHD meds target dopamine, and behaviours like "thrill-seeking" or addictions to things like video games stimulate dopamine. The amino acid Tyrosine boosts dopamine levels naturally, so include foods like egg whites, meats, cheeses, nuts, seeds, beans, avocados, spinach, bananas, leafy green vegetables, and colourful fruits in your child's diet. Remember to eat the rainbow!
#5: Get Some Sunshine!
Kids with attention deficit are most often deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D affects the brain, immune system, mood, and hormones, so get in the sun when you can without sun screen and supplement in the fall and winter with Vitamin D3.
#6: Daily Exercise
We all need to move, but even more importantly children with attention deficit need to get their wiggles out. Exercise boosts dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, which enhances the growth of new brain cells at any age! Even something as simple as a 10 minute run around the block or a session on the trampoline show significant benefits.
#7: Go To Bed
Lack of sleep decreases levels of neurotransmitters in our brain, including dopamine. Sleep deprivation can impact cognitive and motor performance similar to alcohol intoxication! Children especially need more sleep as they are developing both physically and neurologically. It takes kids longer to settle down and actually fall asleep, so start bedtime rituals early and allow enough time for a good night's sleep aiming for 10 hours by the time that alarm goes off in the morning.
The body is an amazing healing machine, so try these seven tips to naturally boost your child's attention and aim for a successful and happy school year.