Natural and effective treatment strategies for children with autism, ADHD and behavioural problems.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can begin at birth and continue in some form throughout life. In Australia, approximately 11% of Australian children aged 4-17 have an ADHD diagnosis, a number that has steadily increased over the past couple of decades. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by persistent behavioural patterns that can include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, all of which can create significant academic, social and emotional problems for those affected.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (simply termed Autism or ASD) is another persistent developmental disorder; often first identified in children and currently affecting 1 in 150 people in Australia. Though the spectrum is diverse, common symptoms include impaired social interaction and communication, restricted interests and repetitive behaviours.
Even in the absence of many neurodevelopmental problems, a child’s overall health, wellbeing, and their developing brain can all impact their ability to concentrate, learn and regulate their behaviour in ways that support healthy social, emotional and academic development. Fortunately, there are a number of Natural Medicine approaches that can be used to help support health and nervous system function in children.
THE ROLE OF THE GUT FOR HEALTHY BRAIN FUNCTION:
Emerging research is showing there is far more to gastrointestinal tract function than simply absorbing nutrients from the food we eat. The gut is now known to contain many billions of beneficial microbes (mainly bacteria) referred to as the gut microbiota, that collectively helps support healthy immune system function, mood, weight and can also help regulate behaviour.
If the gut microbiota become disrupted (e.g by infection, some medications or an unhealthy diet), it can cause gut inflammation, which has been linked to excess weight, allergies and issues with brain function. If your child has any digestive disturbances, or is showing signs of mood and behavioural disorders, speak to Tiaan Bennett today, a naturopathic physician, specialising in autism, ADHD and children’s health.
MAKE EVERYDAY COUNT:
Taking a holistic approach to childhood development includes complementing any existing treatments with specific recommendations for dietary changes, lifestyle adjustments and some key nutritional supplements. To support healthy brain function, learning and behaviour begins with:
- 1 – Feeding the hungry brain: Eating a wholefood diets gives the growing body and brain the nutrition it needs to support optimal development. Your child needs a nutrient-rich diet, containing essential fatty acids, fibre, quality protein, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Ensure your child eats plenty of vegetables and fruit each day, and protein-rich foods at every meal. Avoid processed, refined foods, additives and sugars.
- 2 – Adopting a healthy lifestyle: Getting regular exercise and fresh air encourages a healthy body, as well as a healthy mind. Equally as essential as a good night’s sleep, remembering that younger children need more hours of sleep than older ones.
- 3 – Encouraging activities: Identify your child’s interests and support them to actively participate in team sports, martial arts, dance classes, music or whatever social activity they love. Studies show that regular participation in structured social activities is linked to low levels of antisocial behaviours.
SMART SUPPLEMENTS FOR A BETTER BRAIN
Along with incorporating every day healthy lifestyle strategies, Tiaan may recommend some key nutritional and herbal supplements to further support your child, depending on their specific needs.
- Multivitamin and Minerals. A children’s formula will provide the foundational nutrients to support optimal brain function and can be helpful in situations where a diverse diet is difficult to maintain every day.
- Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids: Adequate levels of the Omega-3’s known as EPA and DHA, when combined with phosphatidylserine, help support the nervous system function by providing the building blocks for healthy brain development and cognition.
- Vitamin D: Low levels of sunshine vitamin has been linked to mood and behavioural problems.
- Gut supporting herbs and nutrients: Gentle liver detoxifying herbs, along with glutamine, zinc and larch arabinogalactans, can be formulated to support gut healing. This can be helpful where there are signs of disturbance in either gut function or mood.
- Probiotics: Maintaining healthy gut microbiota contributes to overall health and can influence behaviour and mood.
- Calming herbs and nutrients: Herbs and nutrients such as passionflower, chamomile, and magnesium may help to assist with restlessness, irritability and nervousness in children. These herbs and nutrients may also help to support a more restful sleep.
FOUNDATIONS FOR BUILDING A HEALTHY BRAIN STARTS IN CHILDHOOD
Childhood is a time of immense social and intellectual development. Ensuring healthy brain and nervous system development in this vital stage of life can set the stage for healthy cognitive function, memory and learning well into adulthood.
Issues with brain function and learning during childhood can lead to long-term social, psychological and behavioural problems. If your child suffers from learning, behavioural and developmental issues such as ADHD, or is on the autism spectrum, Tiaan can help.