Supporting Attention Span

By Claire Bacon, ACN, CNC

It’s normal for children not to listen sometimes, to act without thinking, or to be fidgety at times. Yet inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can be signs of ADD and hyperactive disorders. These children may struggle with low self-esteem, poor performance in school, and/or troubled relationships.

ADD and hyperactive disorders are typically diagnosed in young children and are estimated to affect millions of children worldwide. These disorders typically appear before the age of seven.

Recent studies indicate a 330% increase in psychotropic drug use in people under twenty over the past 10 years. Meanwhile, holistic therapies are effective for children, but these services are sadly underused. It is vital to try the more conservative measures BEFORE medicating a young child in their developmental years. This helps prevent interrupting the subtle mental, emotional, and social evolution occurring within your child. 

Children pay better attention when they can see the fun in a task

Symptoms Of Inattention:

It’s not always that a child with a hyperactive disorder doesn’t want to pay attention. Children who suffer from inattention will often tune out or skip steps when they are not thrilled about a topic or task. Usually, children with hyperactive disorders show six or more signs listed below for six months or more. The symptoms of inattention include:

  • Inability to pay close attention to detail
  • Difficulty with sustaining attention to tasks or play
  • Trouble with organizing tasks and activities
  • Not listening when spoken to
  • Not following through on instructions and failure to finish tasks
  • Losing the things necessary for a task
  • Avoiding tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Easily distracted
  • Forgetful in everyday activities

Signs Of Hyperactivity And Impulsivity:

Whereas children are normally very active, children with hyperactive symptoms are literally always moving. They may try to do several things at once and bounce from one activity to the next. On the other hand, impulsivity can cause problems with self-control. Signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity include:

  • Constant fidgeting or squirming
  • Difficulty standing still, playing quietly, or relaxing
  • Moving constantly
  • Talking excessively
  • Having a quick temper
  • Acting without thinking
  • Interrupting others
  • Intruding in other people’s conversations or tasks

Good Nutrition

Good nutrition works! Therapeutic nutrition can improve brain function and perhaps can make drug intervention unnecessary. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important for children, especially those with ADD or hyperactive disorders. The key is to avoid the high glycemic foods that can stimulate the brain too much, and then cause energy crashes.

Years of research show a connection between the American high glycemic diet and ADD and hyperactive disorders. Our typical diet includes sugary foods and drinks, white bread, white potatoes, and white rice. However, when you understand how to upgrade the diet, doing so may significantly enhance cognition and attention span in your child. 

Top Nutrient-Dense Foods to Provide Your Child:

  • Hard-boiled pastured eggs
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Avocado with sea salt
  • Veggies and superfoods hidden in a smoothie (spinach, chlorella, spirulina, beets, blueberries, and/or bee pollen)
  • Chicken & vegetable soup made with homemade bone broth
  • Homemade pizza on a cauliflower crust
  • Meatballs with hidden veggies
  • Nut butters made of anything besides peanuts (almond, cashew, sunflower seed butters)
  • Everything cooked in grass-fed organic butter or coconut oil.

Notice that we want to include lots of foods from the produce section, and a variety of plant and animal proteins. Don’t be scared of a healthy fat! It’s the protein and fat you consume that really turn the brain on and provide lasting energy, too.

Easy Swaps

Shall we take a look at our kids’ beverages, too? It’s quite alright for a child to drink milk (if it’s tolerated well and not causing rashes or mucus). But we can upgrade the quality of our milk by choosing either raw (unpasteurized) straight from the farm or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We could also try goat’s milk or sheep’s milk, if cow’s milk seems to be an issue. The majority of our kids’ remaining beverages should be water – filtered water preferred. If your child tends to drink a good bit of Gatorade or soda, you might try switching to coconut water (diluted with water is best).

Is your child accustomed to drinking orange juice? Then you may like to start making fresh fruit or vegetable juice yourself and forego all the added preservatives and flavor enhancers. The reason your store-bought orange juice has such a consistent flavor has more to do with chemistry than nature. Remember, store-bought fruit juice is essentially just sugar-water. That’s why they have to “enrich” it with synthetic vitamins!

Food allergies and sensitivities could also be a culprit, as they rob the body of its vitality and over-stimulate the immune system. These processes can create a cascade of behavioral disturbances. Statistically, the most common food sensitivities for children are: wheat, dairy, corn, soy, and food colorings. If you don’t know what foods might be problematic, keeping a daily food diary is helpful. Then be sure to document what type of behavior happens later. You may start noticing patterns that can reveal valuable clues!

And by the way, we are now offering the York Junior Food Sensitivity Test. It’s a finger-prick test that checks for 100+ IgG reactions. Let us know if you’d like more info!

Supplements To Assist Your Child’s Attention Span:

We like to add in herbs and nutrients through supplementation when we can’t readily get these things in the diet. Of course, we have a few favorite supplements to support your child’s attention span. These are Calamari Oil, Bacopa Complex, and OPC Synergy.

  1. Calamari Oil is a liquid fish oil containing a high concentration of EPA and DHA. These fatty acids promote cognition and emotional balance by reducing inflammation.
  2. Bacopa Complex is an herbal blend that supports healthy cognitive function, memory, and mental clarity – especially when stressed.
  3. OPC Synergy provides antioxidant activity to combat inflammation and fatigue in the brain. If you feel you reach a point in the day when your brain just can’t think anymore, OPC Synergy may be what you need. It supports microcirculation, so can be very helpful following a concussion, too.

Final Thoughts

We understand how parents sometimes feel backed into a corner. You want to do the right thing and help your child, and you want assurance that the solution will be helpful NOW. Let’s try to not make these decisions under pressure, or without knowing all your options. Remember, Nature has given us everything we need to be truly healthy. We just have to open our eyes to the variety of solutions before us!

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