Chances are you know someone with a child who has been diagnosed with some sort of brain disorder, or you may be parenting one or more children with a diagnosis that falls into the spectrum of brain or psychological disorders. Supporting these children through diet is an often overlooked method of reducing symptoms, but it is one that is gaining popularity as people see the drastic changes it can produce.
School programs and the various therapies that exist to help children are primarily geared towards adaptive strategies that help the child to work around their area of weakness. An example of such an adaptive strategy might be giving a child who has extreme fine motor issues a computer with a voice activated program so that the child is able to have the computer transcribe for him or her.
But what if, instead of giving your child the adaptive strategy, you could address the underlying reason. As a nutritionist, when I am considering brain health, I have to consider gut health as an underlying reason for brain dysfunction. It seems like a strange connection if you haven’t heard of it before, but the connection is well documented and researched, especially in the area of autism.
Restoring digestive and intestinal health is a cornerstone to good brain function. When families make the decision to change their children’s diets to support the gut, then changes that can be seen include a reduction in undesirable behaviours (ie stimming, self-injury, anxiety, aggression), improved communication skills and a better ability to focus, make eye contact and keep attention on a task. Some of the other symptoms that may also be reduced are an improvement in toileting issues (potty training, bed-wetting), rashes, eczema or other skin conditions, and dark circles under the eyes may disappear.
If a dietary approach is one that you think you might be interested in for your child, then a good place to start is by educating yourself about the dietary protocols available to you. The first of those protocols is called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and a good place to find out about it is by reading Breaking the Viscious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall. The second protocol is called the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, which builds on the first diet, but is more specifically geared to autism, ADHD and other learning disorders. Read Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Websites and on-line communities exist for both of these protocols, and Calgary has several GAPS certified practitioners who can guide and support you through dietary changes. Support groups are also locally available through GAPS practitioners. Accessing these sites or practitioners is an important component to ensure you have the support you need to succeed.
Diet is one more approach you can add to your child’s program to help them succeed!