What is brain starvation and what causes it? I recently learned how an easily corrected deficiency in diet can actually cause active brains to function poorly – especially in boys. Please join me as we explore something every parent should know. Updated May, 2017.
[I share this critical guest post by homeschool mom Michelle Caskey (with her permission) because we want your sons to thrive.]
Most of us are aware that boys and girls are different. They see things differently, they play differently and they think differently. I was surprised to find out recently that boys also have different nutritional needs than do girls. Is your son’s brain starving?
I recently had the privilege of attending several seminars by Dianne Craft, who is a special education teacher and a nutritionist. Dianne shared some information with us that I had never heard before. She told us that sixty percent of our brains are made of fat. Thirty percent of that fat is in the forebrain, which is made of DHA, an essential fatty acid. The only sources of DHA are fish oil and mother’s milk.
Diane told us that we all need healthy fats in our diets to make our brains function properly. The corpus callosum, which is the bundle of nerves that connects the right and left hemispheres, is made of fat. The myelin sheath which coats the nervous system is also made of fat. The good news is brain starvation can be corrected.
Boys have a 3 times higher need for essential fatty acids than do girls. Dianne believes this is because estrogen is a fatty carrier where testosterone is not. This also explains why it’s so much easier for men to lose weight than women. What is an asset for weight loss, however, is not an asset for their brains. Some of our sons are suffering from brain starvation.
Our modern diets are deficient in good fats. We are told to eat margarine instead of butter, egg beaters instead of eggs, skim milk instead of whole milk, and to stay away from nuts because they are high in fat. A lack of essential fatty acids causes our bodies to become deficient in serotonin.
Serotonin has the following beneficial mental effects:
- Creates a natural, antidepressant release in the body
- Relaxes the mind
- Instills a sense of well-being
- Helps us handle stress
- Keeps our mind focused
- Promotes good sleep patterns
- Helps us to have a positive outlook on life
- Helps us control our impulses
Our society is becoming more and more deficient in serotonin. There are more people on anti-depressants than ever before. Children are being put on Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs at an alarming rate. Dianne informed us that Ritalin works by releasing serotonin in the body. If parents knew that they could help to positively affect their child’s body chemistry in a more natural way, do you think they would elect to put their child on drugs which may have harmful side effects? I think not.
So, how do you know if your child is deficient in DHA? Mental symptoms of DHA Deficiency include the following:
- Sleep problems
Physical symptoms of DHA Deficiency include the following:
- Dry hair
- Dry skin
- Cracks in ends of fingers
- Chapped lips
- Excessive thirst
- Glare sensitivity
- Poor vision
If your child exhibits any of the above mental and/or physical symptoms, they would be a great candidate for trying to increase their intake of essential fatty acids.
The left hemisphere of our brain is where our judgment resides. It is the logical part of the brain. Our right hemisphere is where our emotion resides. When boys aren’t using good judgment, they are having a difficult time accessing their left hemisphere. Sometimes, this is due to a lack of essential fatty acids, esentially brain starvation. Information can’t travel across the corpus collosum if it isn’t nourished properly. The solution is for us to fatten up their brains!
Correct Brain Starvation
Dianne Craft recommends the following nutritional regimen:
1. Increase their intake in EFA – EFA stands for essential fatty acids, which are also known as polyunsaturates or “good fats.” There are two types:
- Omega-6, which is found in raw nuts, seeds, legumes and unsaturated vegetable oils such as sesame.
- Omega-3, which is found in fish oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and cod liver oil. Use these right up before 6 months. Coconut oil is another highly beneficial healthy fat, but does not actually contain Omega-3 fatty acids. Coconut oil is, rather, one of the best sources of medium chain fatty acids.
If your children don’t eat any of these foods, as mine don’t, you will want to get these nutrients from supplements. Exact supplements and dosages are detailed in Dianne’s Biology of Behavior CD set.
2. Try to increase protein – Be sure your children eat protein throughout the day to help stabilize their mood. Try to make breakfast high in protein. These are good, higher protein choices:
- Nuts and seeds (hemp seeds are loaded)
- Eggs and sausage
- Use real butter, especially grass-fed
- Use real mayonnaise
- Use whole milk
- Tuna and salmon (I get my salmon at Trader Joe’s)
- Protein shakes
- Smoothies with protein powder (no additives) in them
- Use real peanut or almond butter (natural so it isn’t loaded with sugar)
- Cheese and crackers
- Have dinner for breakfast
Boys usually love to have lots of butter and mayonnaise on their food because they’re craving the fat. These condiments help to balance their body chemistry.
3. Try to limit sugar and sugary carbs – Sugar tears down the adrenal gland which drains our energy and causes us to go into fight or flight mode much too easily. You don’t want to become the food police; however, try to do what you can to lessen the amount of sugar they’re eating. Fill them up on the protein rich, fatty foods instead and they won’t have as much room for the sugar. By the way, carbs such as cereal, waffles, pancakes, etc. make us tired so it is best to eat them at night.
While some children do require medications in order to change their body chemistry, there are also children who do not. Try making one change per week to your son’s diet and watch the results. Having the right essential fatty acids in your child’s brain will literally change their body chemistry. You may be amazed at the positive changes that you observe in your son.
Our family has been following these and other tips from Dianne for several months and we’ve definitely noticed a difference in all of us. We are all calmer, we are sleeping better, and there seems to be a lot less anxiety around our house.
And if you have a child who struggles with focusing, paying attention or has sensory issues, Dianne has nutritional advice for helping with those problems as well. And she also taught us some great advice for if we have a smart child who absolutely hates the physical act of writing! Be sure to check out those blog posts as well.
Hi, I’m Michelle. Being a mom to boys can be hard! Homeschooling boys can be even harder, but I’m here to tell you that having sons is a blessing – and it is possible to connect with them and to enjoy spending your days with them. My desire is that Homeschool-Your-Boys will be a place where parents can be inspired to teach their sons in an environment which will most engage their minds and their hearts.
Click on Michelle’s profile photo to go to Homeschool-Your-Boys! This insightful blog is a treasure trove!
Question: Have you tried any of the above suggestions? Were you able to see a difference in your son’s behavior?
Thanks for reading!