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Foods that Feed the Brain and Improve Behavior

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recognized there is a link between diet and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other neurodevelopment conditions.  In the November 2012 issue of their journal, Pediatrics, entitled Improving Health Care for Children and Youth with Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders they cite, “Many individuals with ASDs have symptoms of associated medical conditions, including seizures, sleep problems, metabolic conditions, and gastrointestinal disorders, which have significant health, developmental, social, and educational impacts.”

It has been found that many children diagnosed with an ASD or other neurodevelopment conditions such as ADHD/ADD, have what is known as a “leaky-gut.”  This means nutrients consumed are not being fully absorbed into the gut and are leaking into the bloodstream.  Thus, these children may have essential vitamin deficiencies.  Leaky guts are typically caused by food intolerance, which results in inflammation in the gut lining.

Simple dietary changes can improve your child’s behavior and optimize their brain’s function.  Foods that help feed the brain include:

  • Protein:  Amino Acids that come from protein make neurotransmitters that help the brain cells to network and communicate.  Foods such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds are all protein rich foods.
  • Fatty Acids:  Many children that have ASD’s or ADHD/ADD often have low blood levels of essential Fatty Acids, particularly the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid EPA.  Fatty acids are needed for the synthesis and function of brain neurotransmitters.  Many children lacking in these, have trouble controlling movement, learning, memory and attention.  Fatty Acids can be found in mackerel, salmon, herring, nuts and seeds.  In some cases a supplement may be needed as well.
  • Vitamins:  Key vitamins that help with brain function include, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin D.
  1. Zinc:  is essential for neurotransmitter function and can be found in wheat germ, liver, beef, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate (very high % cocoa powder).
  2. Magnesium and Vitamin B6:  Studies have found that children given a combination of Magnesium and Vitamin B6 have had improvement in behavior.  Magnesium is known as a mood balancer and facilitates absorption of Vitamin B6.  Magnesium can be found in dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), nuts, seeds, fish, beans, lentils, whole grains and avocados. Vitamin B6 supports serotonin production is found in high quantities in seeds, nuts, fish; yeast extract spread (Marmite), herbs and spices, rice and wheat bran.
  3. Vitamin D:  helps cognitive function of the brain by activating and deactivating enzymes in the brain and helps neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth. In addition, Vitamin D protects neurons and reduces inflammation. Vitamin D can be found in cod liver oil, fish, fortified cereals, eggs, and various dairy and soy products.

Identifying foods causing intolerance can be key to improving your child’s behavior and overall health.  Many nutritionists will recommend trying an elimination diet to determine the food sensitivities.   Certain foods such as refined carbohydrates, gluten, casein, sugar and artificial additives are often the culprits.  These can all contribute to inflammation in the gut lining.  It is important to remember that each individual is different and what works for one child may not work for another, but diet can improve the cognitive function of your child’s brain.





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Autism vs. Awesome-ism©
By Dr. Melodee Loshbaugh, Co-founder & Executive Director of Brock’s Academy, Woodinville, WA

>What if we decided to just open our minds and see things from a wider, more diverse perspective?

>What if we didn't easily label and categorize people that we perceive to be different than us?

>What if we learned to think about people and differences as not right or wrong, but just different gifts?

>What if we fully believed and accepted that there is, and always has been, neurodiversity (i.e. cognitive differences) in the world?

>What if we accepted that neurodiversity is a brilliant achievement of Mother Nature?

>What if we entered each day believing each one of us is uniquely created and here to serve a higher purpose?

>What if we believed our job is to support one another in achieving that higher purpose?

>What if our differences are here to teach us appreciation, compassion, acceptance and to challenge us to stay open to all?

>What would that be like? # # #

Ryan, a 14-year old autistic student, writes:
>Meet me where I am.
>Stop trying to fix me. I don’t try to fix you.
>See my gifts, talents and strengths, not things you think I should have; see the “me” I was born with.
>Learn from me. Sit with me. Try to see the world from my perspective.
>Love me unconditionally and find ways to support me in what I came here to contribute to the world.
>Appreciate me.
>Just because I am experiencing the world in a different way than you are doesn’t mean it’s wrong, so stop judging me.
>I am me and I am beautiful.
>I am happy and I am whole. # # #

Copyright 2017—Dr. Melodee Loshbaugh
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