Back to school! Learning issues and nutrition

Helping your child to stay focused and mentally sharp throughout the school year can be a challenge. If your child struggles with reading, processing, memory, focus or motivation, you might feel they will never reach their full potential. This is where the right nutritional programme can give their learning a significant boost.


I’m going to throw it out there and say that I think nutritional deficiencies and imbalances have a major impact on a child’s learning and development. There, I’ve said it! I know this because I’ve seen the progress that can be made when you understand the root of the problem.

When it comes to a child's learning and development, it’s not necessarily about the food they eat from day to day (although, sometimes it is!). Often, deficiencies and imbalances are long-standing; perhaps they were inherited or are due to health issues early on in life, or maybe from long-standing digestive issues or metabolic imbalances. This is why a full health history is important when deciding on the right nutritional protocol for a child.

If you feel your child needs a little support, it’s worth considering the following questions:

Are they eating regular amounts of protein?

Protein is vital for keeping focus and supplying amino acids (needed for good brain function). Tyrosine in meat and fish is important for focus and motivation, which can help your child to stay on task.

Do they like oily fish?

If they don’t, then chances are they are not getting enough omega-3 fats in their diet. These fats help signalling between neurons, making learning and memory easier. Some children who were born prematurely may have been deficient in omega-3 from birth, making this a priority for them.

Do they like fast food, crisps, and chips?

It’s possible that your child eats crisps or chips more often than they eat sardines or salmon. If this is the case, the omega-6 vegetable oils from these foods can affect the uptake of brain-boosting omega-3 fats which can affect the way the brain processes information.

Do they struggle with diarrhoea, constipation or tummy aches?

These are signs that all is not well digestively and if this is the case it’s likely that they are not absorbing all they need from food. This can affect learning and development, too.

For more help and advice on back-to-school nutrition, read:

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Birmingham, B13 8JP
Written by Sarah Hanratty
Birmingham, B13 8JP

Sarah is an experienced practitioner at the Brain Food Clinic specialising in the link between gut function and cognitive well-being.

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