Nutrition and the developing brain

How does the daily nutrition we feed to our children affect the function of their developing brain? Does this affect their overall happiness? And at what stage do we judge the results of their present diet?  Bearing in mind, as with weight gain, one does not wake up after a meal obese. It is the same with chronic disease, symptoms show up many years after the initial decline in health had began.

Important for all of us, but especially for our children, (as their growth leads them to have particular need for specific nutrients), nutrients are vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates - basically anything that the body takes in and uses as a ‘signal’ for growth, repair or energy. The majority of ‘nutrients’ have to be found from nutrition. Providing a diet dense in specific nutrients supports the child's brain development and function, which in turn benefits their learning, memory, sleep and overall health, which leads a happy contented child.

Looking deeper into the possibilities of optimum brain function, leads us to consider who controls who?  Does the gut control the brain or the brain control the gut? On a biochemical level, the vagus nerve runs from the gut to the brain and signals are sent both ways. These signals cover a vast array of bodily functions that go way beyond the obvious of increasing and decreasing appetite.

The brain is mostly made up of fat and has a very efficient protective ‘customs-style border control’ which governs the entrance of its fuel supply, (yes I'm talking about the blood brain barrier). This protects our most vital organ from toxins and contamination that will hinder its function, but it does not have such a tight regulation system on limiting excess glucose, which in itself is causing a ‘glycation’ process (a process of a sticky build up of protein, glucose and or fat). This activates the immune system and leads way to the development of unwanted deposits in the brain. 

Points to consider:

  • Limit sugar, simple carbohydrate intake and bear in mind a bowl of commercial cereal is often a bowl of sugar. As are, children’s 'special' yogurts and of course squash and juices.
  • Include good quality essential fats, such as sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring, avocados, raw nuts, seeds, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, and raw organic coconut oil.
  • Develop a good sleep routine, this will come easier when the nutrition is in place.
  • If you see memory decline, behavioural changes, low mood, no motivation or any other issues always consider a nutritional approach before looking for a 'magic pill' to change the chemical balance in the brain. Medication should not be the first port of call, especially for chronic disease, though for some conditions of course, thank goodness for the advances we have in our health care system.

Rounding this up, I hope I have drawn your attention to the fact that if we could ever achieve optimum gut function, that would come hand in hand with optimum brain function.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Clelia Gwynne-Evans

Clelia Gwynne-Evans is a qualified nutritional therapist registered with BANT and CNHC practising in St Ives Cambridgeshire. She has great expertise in digestive disorders, hormonal imbalances and the area of nutrition that supports optimum brain function.… Read more

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