Learning disabilities are problems that affect the brain’s ability to receive, process, analyze, or store information. These problems can make it difficult for a student to learn as quickly as someone who isn’t affected by learning disabilities.
There are many kinds of learning disabilities, including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, central auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder, attention deficient disorder, to name a few. Some students affected by learning disabilities have more than one kind. Certain kinds of learning disabilities can interfere with a person’s ability to concentrate or focus and can cause their mind to wander, decreasing overall comprehension in the classroom. Other learning disabilities can make it difficult for a student to read, write, spell, or solve math problems.
The way our brains process information is extremely complex — therefore learning disabilities are very common. Performing simple task like looking at a picture requires the brain to process the information in a complex manner, recognizing the color, meaning, texture, etc., are all processes that one without a disability takes for granted.
Nutrition therapy plays an important role in managing the symptoms of learning disabilities. Nutrition is not intended to cure the disability, but in some cases a learning disability can be prevented with proper fetal and infant nutrition. A pregnant woman who consumes a diet that is balanced and rich in adequate vitamins, minerals, essential fats along with a prenatal vitamin and DHA supplement is decreasing the likelihood of their child developing a learning disability, preventing nutrient deficiencies and promoting optimal brain development. Some theories suggest that those children who were not breastfed, developed nutrition deficiencies, specifically vitamin A and were more likely to develop a learning disability. Breast milk is also rich in essential fatty acids, critical for optimal brain development.
For those children who have been diagnosed with a learning disability and want to manage symptoms through nutritional therapy, they will experience improved function of the brain and ability to focus with mental clarity. Several studies have suggested that eliminating ALL artificial dyes (specifically red, yellow and blue) will increase the brains ability to focus. The common behavior of children with learning disabilities is the mind tends to wander during school, while reading, etc. Avoid dyes by looking on the label in the ingredient list for dyes, they are typically found in sports drinks, juices, candy, cereals, and snacks. There are several healthy alternatives to dyes, responsible companies use beet, carrot and other vegetable juices for color instead of dyes and the product still appeals to children without the dangers of consuming the harmful dyes.
Also limit sugar and artificial sweeteners. Sugar will spike insulin levels resulting in a surge of energy followed by a plummet of insulin and a dramatic decrease in energy. This fluctuation results in hyperactivity and a decreased ability to focus. Instead, encourage your child to consume a diet rich in fiber, protein and healthy fats. Avoid pure sugar foods and drinks like juice, candy, cookies, etc. Low glycemic fruits like berries are a great alternative to processed sugary snacks. “Diet” drinks, juice, yogurts and other foods that are sweetened with non-calorie sweeteners are no better. They have been linked to cancers, specifically brain cancers. Try to only consume sugar from natural sources like fruits and always keep the amounts in moderation.
Incorporate healthy fats into your child’s diet. The brain is fueled and made up of essential fatty acids, so try to incorporate healthy fats into each meal and snack. Add avocado onto sandwiches, walnuts into yogurt or trail mix, coconut oil into oatmeal, and cook with healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Studies have shown that ADD (attention deficit disorder) symptoms dramatically improve when adequate fats are consumed. Healthy fats also improve satiety, resulting in less cravings for processed snacks like cookies, candy and chips. Reduced cravings are beneficial for both weight management and overall brain health.
Lastly, incorporate a high quality multi-vitamin and DHA supplement. The multi-vitamin supplement will decrease the chance of developing any nutrient deficiencies, and the DHA supplement will ensure they are getting adequate fats for brain development. Look for a supplement that does not contain any dyes and that is mercury tested. Remember supplements are supplements and they should not be taken as a replacement of a healthy diet.
- Learning Disabilities and Brain Function: A Neuropsychological Approach By William H. Gaddes
This is a preview to an article that will be featured in Home School Enrichment Magazine. Check back for the full article.
Dr. Kantor’s greatly anticipated new children’s book, The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, is now available. Be sure to order this highly reviewed book, filled with healthy living tips for the whole family. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.