browse by topic
Searching for a way to relax? Need a way to distress? Could you benefit from mindfulness? Do you have a child with ADD or ADHD that could use some help focusing? Have you ever considered yoga? Did you know that recent scientific research is focusing on how yoga could help kids in school. I look forward to the day that my children can practice yoga not only at home, but at school as well.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years, where it originated in India. Many people all over the world practice yoga. The Indian definition of yoga is union. So if you are practicing yoga, you are uniting the mind and your physical body. When you are able to complete this union, you should feel an overall sense of well-being, or happiness.
According to PBS.org, “There are many aspects to yoga. In short, yoga is a system of physical exercises or postures (called asanas). These asanas build strength, flexibility and confidence. Yoga is also about breathing (called pranayama), which helps calm and refresh the body and mind. We are going to focus on these basic two aspects of yoga, but there are many other parts to practicing yoga. Yoga is about exploring and learning in a fun, safe and playful way. Yoga and kids are a perfect match. Here is what children (and adults!) can learn from yoga:
- Yoga teaches us about our bodies.
When we practice the physical postures or exercises (called asanas), we learn how to move more freely and with greater ease and awareness. These postures help our bodies become strong and flexible.
- Yoga teaches us how to breathe better.
When we breathe deeply and fully (called pranayama) and become more aware, we can bring peacefulness or energy to our bodies.
- Yoga teaches us how to use our energy more effectively.
When we practice yoga, we learn how to use the life force energy in our bodies (called prana) to feel more relaxed, focused, or motivated.
- Yoga teaches us how to quiet the mind.
When we practice yoga, we learn how to be still. This helps us to listen with attention and make good decisions.
- Yoga teaches us about balance.
When we practice yoga, we learn to be more aware about the need for balance in our lives. This could mean equal stretching on the left and right sides of our bodies or making sure we balance our very busy time with equal quiet time and relaxation.
- Yoga teaches us to be the “boss” of our bodies.
Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies by modifying or changing poses that are too hard or cause pain. (We will talk about how to modify poses in a later section.)
- Yoga teaches us about taking care of ourselves.
Yoga is a great way to move our bodies and feel healthy, and teaching children how to take care of themselves is one way to show love. As with all forms of exercise, a good yoga practice can mean a good night’s sleep!”
As I previously stated, I cannot wait for the day that a mindful course of yoga is taught at my children’s schools. The pleasure I see in their eyes and the calmness I see and feel in their bodies, when they practice yoga at home…is indescribable. To see that taught as a daily practice at school would open doors and minds to learning. Once that union between the mind and body is met, it will only make retaining the information being taught, that much easier. I honestly believe that if children can find that mindful connection, they will love to learn, and be truly happy doing it. Lets all encourage yoga in schools, and at the very least, practice it at home with your children! It’s an incredible connection.
As previously discussed, a balanced diet is good for us all, but especially important for those with ADHD. Making sure that the brain gets the key vitamins and nutrients it needs to function at its prime, comes from diet. Here are some breakfast ideas for ADHD sufferers, that focus on starting the day with key nutrients.
According to ADDitudemag.com,
“Children need more calories and protein per pound of body weight than adults do, to ensure normal growth and development and to maintain good health. The average daily amounts of calories and protein recommended by government health experts for normal-weight children and adolescents are as follows:”
- Ages 1-3: 1300 calories, 16 grams protein
- Ages 4-6: 1800 calories, 24 grams protein
- Ages 7-14: 2000 calories, 28 – 45 grams protein
With these protein numbers in mind, here are a few brain boosting breakfast ideas to try:
Whole grain waffles topped with natural peanut butter and apples, with a glass of milk
Oatmeal with honey and fresh fruit, topped with nuts, add a side of milk
Organic eggs, scrambled with whole wheat toast and a glass of orange juice
Yogurt, with granola, topped with nuts and a glass of milk
Ham and cheese breakfast sandwich on a whole wheat english muffin, side of orange juice
Make a homemade power granola with flax seed, (kids can help); serve on yogurt or with milk
Organic, nitrate free sausage, with scrambled eggs, and cheese, all wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla
Fruit smoothie with bananas, favorite berries, yogurt and a splash of 100% fruit juice (could add flax seed or protein powder)
Grilled almond butter and banana sandwich with a glass of milk
Keep a balanced diet in mind at each meal. Feed the brain to keep it working at its prime!
There are studies that suggest that there are certain foods to avoid with ADHD. The first is an obvious one, sugar. Studies have shown that sugar could make children who are hyperactive more hyper, destructive . The larger amounts consumed could make that hyperactivity worse. They simply get amped up and cannot sit still. The more hyper children get, the harder it will be to pay attention. A double whammy for those with ADHD. Our bodies crave sugar since we rely on glucose, but studies have shown that ADHD can make those cravings even stronger. Sugar in moderation is best for everyone, period.
Sugar is in nearly everything today. Sugar can be disguised in its many forms as well. This makes finding it tricky. Read the labels and look for some of these sugar disguises: high fructose corn syrup, sucralose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, cane sugar, molasses, dextrin, rice syrup, saccharose, sucrose, maltose, and corn sweetener. Sugar by any other name, is the same! Remember that!
The next items on the list of foods to avoid include artificial dyes and preservatives. Studies have shown that these ingredients could also increase the level of hyperactivity in those with ADHD. These artificial dyes and preservatives are in nearly all processed foods. Keeping the amount of processed food consumed in the diet to a minimum is key. This is for those with or without ADHD. These chemicals are not good for our bodies. The chemicals I speak of are things like Red #3 (Carmoisine), Red #40 (Allura red), Blue #1 (Brilliant blue), Blue #2 (Indigotine), Yellow #5 (Tartrazine), Yellow #6 (Sunset yellow), Green # 3, and Orange B, as well as the food preservative, sodium benzoate. So the fun fruity cereals like Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms are filled with a ton of these colors and preservatives. Try cereals that are free of dyes like Cheerios or oatmeal. Serve 100% fruit juices instead of sodas and fruit cocktails. Read the labels and you will find more options to chose from.
Foods that cause allergies should be avoided as well. Reading the labels in this situation will help you avoid the common culprits in this area. This includes wheat, gluten, corn, and soy. Here again, studies have shown that these food allergens could cause the inattentive and hyperactive symptoms to increase. You can speak to your doctor about testing to see what foods your child might be allergic or sensitive too. A process of elimination will be necessary to give you the best ADHD diet.
There are theories that say the presence of certain substances, rather than the absence, in one’s diet could lead to exacerbation of symptoms associated with ADHD. Talk to your doctor and find out if an elimination diet could be an option to improve health. A well-balanced diet with the fewest amounts of processed foods may improve health and have a positive effect attitude.
Could diet and brain function go hand in hand? Have you ever considered that the food you eat is having debilitating effects on how well your brain could be functioning? What if there is an argument to explain why parents of children with autism, ADD, ADHD should consider looking at all options to help their children. Think outside the pharmaceutical box (or bottle), when you search for ways to improve brain function for your child.
Diet and nutrition are critical components of the overall treatment plan when you are searching for answers. However, there is no one cause for ADD, ADHD or autism. I am learning that there is a trilogy to consider when seeking treatment for these disorders. You have to look at therapy, medication and diet as options for treatment. Food can be medicine, but you have to consider that we are more than just what we eat. Our bodies are optimized through what we eat, digest, absorb and how the body utilizes said food, nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The body can have a reaction to the foods we eat. The reactions can include allergies, sensitivities to food, and sometimes an intolerance to foods. A close look at digestive health is important. If the body has digestive problems, food is not utilized correctly, and that can lead to the brain not functioning correctly, thus contributing to symptoms of ADHD/ADD and autism.
A child needs an adequate diet in order to have healthy growth. To ensure that proper nutrition is being met, parents must include an array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. To support brain development and prevent certain neurologic disorders, this is particularly necessary in the first few years of life. When children are older, these important nutrition standards are still important. A lack of certain dietary components, such as protein, or an insufficient number of calories can negatively affect a child’s learning and behavioral abilities. As well, if your child has a vitamin or mineral deficiency, that too can certainly interfere with learning and behavior over the course of a school year.
Another idea regarding the causes of, and treatment for, ADHD/ADD and autism, have grown from the thought that certain substances that are present, rather than absent, in a child’s diet may lead to or worsen the condition or symptoms. The suspected harmful substances include artificial food additives, preservatives, sugar, or other elements that can cause allergic responses or yeast infections. According to these theories, eliminating such elements may eliminate or lessen the symptoms of ADHD. That can be a further topic of discussion later. For now lets focus broadly on what foods matter when searching for ways to diminish ADHD/ADD and autism symptoms.
When you look at what has been discussed so far, you see that dietary deficiencies can make the symptoms of ADHD/ADD and autism worse. So lets look at what those foods could be. First , an important contributor to optimal brain function is protein. Protein-rich foods help the body create neurotransmitters, which are chemicals the brain releases in order to communicate with brain cells. Foods that are high in protein can include lean beef, poultry, pork, eggs, fish, beans, nuts, dairy and soy. Starting your day with a high protein meal can get the brain functioning early, but you should still add more protein through out the day. Make sure that meals are balanced include vegetables. complex carbohydrates, fruits, and protein. Protein and fiber can help prevent a surge in blood sugars, which when elevated, can cause symptoms to be worse.
I have also learned that doctors recommend that children with ADHD/ADD may want to be tested for nutritional deficiencies. Knowing what needs to be focused on, will make treating much easier. Some common deficiencies can include zinc, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and omega 3 fatty acids. Zinc regulates dopamine in the brain, iron is important for making dopamine, and magnesium helps with attention and concentration and has a calming effect on the brain. You can find zinc, iron and magnesium in lean meat, nuts, poultry, and seafood. B Vitamins also work to increase the levels of dopamine in the brain. When dopamine levels are improved, there can be a reduction of aggression and anti-social behaviors. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for proper brain and nerve cell function. According to ADDitudemag.com, “A new study, conducted at Göteborg University, in Sweden, concluded that daily doses of omega-3s — found in cold-water, fatty fish, such as sardines, tuna, and salmon — reduced ADHD symptoms by 50 percent. Dr. Sven Ostlund followed a group of ADHD children aged 8-18 who took fish oil daily. Within six months, there was a noticeable decrease in ADHD symptoms in 25 percent of the children. Another study showed that omega-3s tend to break down more readily in the bodies of patients with ADHD than in those without the condition.”
Overall, the importance of diet in assessing and treating ADHD/ADD and autism is very important. Think about what is on the plate of those affected by ADHD, ADD or autism. Optimize the benefits of the foods, so that the body can utilize the foods and give the brain a boost. A healthy diet might reduce symptoms of ADHD by reducing exposure to artificial colors and additives and improving intake of omega-3 fats and other nutrients. However, no matter what motivates you to eat better, it will improve ones chances at a healthy and long life.
Time can heal, and time can give you the opportunity for growth. Growth that is needed to stabilize your life and wellbeing as a whole. During that growth, and discovery period, learning what makes you tick and tock, is the most important element. Time for me has allowed growth in many areas, and a healing process continues. Not every step has been easy, but was necessary.
As a parent, setting a good example for your children is a key element to being an effective or good parent. One of the big influences in this period of growth and healing has been counseling. Finding a safe place to explore and expose the things in life that can be inhibiting growth and fulfillment, is scary but necessary. You can learn so much about your self, good and bad. Counseling is where those areas can be addressed and corrected over time. In our most recent period of growth, it was noticed that small traits in one of my children, may have grown into a larger issue. Its scary, but the issue is being met with an open mind, and a positive approach. One of the most common childhood disorders today, which can continue through adolescence and adulthood, is ADHD. What is ADHD? Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) includes symptoms such as difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity).
Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.
Children who have symptoms of inattention may:
- Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
- Have difficulty focusing on one thing
- Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
- Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
- Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
- Not seem to listen when spoken to
- Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
- Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
- Struggle to follow instructions.
Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:
- Fidget and squirm in their seats
- Talk nonstop
- Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
- Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
- Be constantly in motion
- Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may:
- Be very impatient
- Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
- Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
- Often interrupt conversations or others’ activities.
Being in the early stages of exploring this possibility, I can see that there is a lot of research to be done. Treatment for ADHD varies, and the options all have risks associated. The healthiest and safest route will be taken, no doubt about that. Time will guide us to the right options and will continue to stabilize this journey.