Question: Are there certain natural supplements that can improve focus, concentration and memory for my struggling 11-year-old?
Answer: Lacking in energy in general affects mental energy. Providing the brain with the right fuel will go a long way in optimizing your child’s learning ability.
Look at them as a whole and consider all factors that can take away from their well-being such as digestive discomfort, allergy symptoms, recurring infections, headaches, vision problems, hearing difficulties, poor sleep, too much sugar, not enough protein and nutrient deficiencies.
B vitamins include B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid and B12. Deficiencies in B3, B5, B6, folic acid and B12 are especially common. Adequate B3, B6 and B12 are particularly important in producing brain chemicals. Vitamin B6 assists in the production of dopamine and adrenaline from tyrosine and serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan.
I recommend starting with a multivitamin mineral formula that has at least 10 mg of B6 which is a general indicator that the other nutrient doses are also good. Higher doses of Bs can be used therapeutically under supervision.
Magnesium deficiency can manifest as poor sleep, hyperactivity, anxiety, restless legs, muscle cramps and constipation along with many other signs and symptoms.
Magnesium in an amino acid chelate form in powder or capsule is the preferred form due to absorb ability and magnesium citrate would be a second choice. Vitamin D is very important for overall health and growth so I do recommend 1000 iu per day for children-under-12.
Low hemoglobin, that which carries oxygen in the blood, delivering it to your tissue, also affects mental energy, sleep, immunity and growth. This makes sense because the whole body needs oxygen to produce energy and support all functions in the body. It is best to have hemoglobin and ferritin (iron stores) checked before supplementing as some can have a genetic tendency to excessively store iron and therefore it would be dangerous to supplement iron. Telltale signs are very pale individuals without pink in their cheeks, complaints of being tired and cold and dull eyes with darkness underneath. But a child can also be purple under the eyes, which is allergies, although this is not to say they couldn’t have both problems.
If you determine your child is one of the estimated 40 per cent of children who are iron deficient then I recommend iron amino acid chelate and nothing else as iron’s absorption is inhibited by many dietary factors and this form ensures maximum absorption.
Omega 3 from fish oil contains EPA and DHA. A randomized, double blind, study in Sweden of 82 children with ADHD ages seven to 12 years showed significant teacher evaluated improvement in ADHD symptoms, with the use of Minami Plus EPA 500 mg 1 capsule per day. Serum and red blood cell levels of EPA were measured and improvement was seen in those who were deficient in EPA. This type of EPA is processed without damage from oxygen and 400 per cent less heat both of which can damage fish oil. Fish oil companies who do not use this process cannot apply the results of this study to the use of any source of EPA.
All of the previously mentioned supplements are available in powders or liquids for children who cannot swallow capsules or caplets.
Kali Simmonds, ND, is a doctor of naturopathic medicine who practises in Charlottetown. The information provided is not intended to diagnose or substitute the advice of your health-care professional. Please consult with a health-care provider before making any changes. She welcomes questions for this column, which is published every second Tuesday in The Guardian. She can be reached by mail at 34 Queen St., Charlottetown, C1A 4A3 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.