Occasionally, a subject comes up that is so wide-reaching in its impact, that everyone should know about it. The effect of fish oil supplementation for the brain and nervous system of struggling children holds immense positive implications for these children and their families.
Like scurvy developing without adequate Vitamin C, research shows a very high correlation between struggling to learn, speech and language disorders, behavioral issues, and ADD/ADHD with a lack of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in the diet. When EFAs are given, we see that malfunctioning, undernourished brains can be corrected!
Good Fats (EFAs) For the Brain
EFAs are specific fats and oils that cannot be produced by the body. You can get Omega-3s in fish, flaxseed oil, wheat germ, nuts and seeds, but the primary source is fish oil. The most exciting research concerns the DHA component of fish oil. The best sources of DHA are mother’s milk and fish oil.
And remember, cod liver oil is fish oil, too!
Also, brain synapses require long chain fatty acids (DHA) to be efficient. If a child is not getting enough EFAs (or for some genetic reason needs more than average) his brain simply will not function properly. This is why so many formula companies tout the presence of DHA (one of the omega 3’s) in their products.
The corpus callosum, the area which connects the two hemispheres of the brain, is 60% DHA. If it’s not getting enough DHA to function, and the two hemispheres will not work together. This creates a host of learning problems including transferring information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
Does your child know something one day and the next day is unable to even recall the material? If the information a child learns does not pass from one side of the brain to the other, learning doesn’t happen. The child is still concentrating on the process.
Our great-grandmothers must have known of fish and cod liver oil’s value to give it to their children, but somehow we’ve lost the understanding and the practice.
The incidence of children diagnosed with Asperger’s, ADD, ADHD, Asthma, Autism, Depression, Dysgraphia, and Dyslexia has increased greatly in the past 15-20 years.
Dianne Craft’s Wisdom
Dianne Craft, a special education teacher and a nutritionist, has been sharing her wisdom on this topic at our state homeschool conventions for many years and helping these children and their families to a better life. She brings forward just some of the reasons why we cannot ignore this information for these children:
Speech and Language Disorders
“A simple fish oil supplement may be the key to dramatically unlock the voices of children with speech and language disorders.” That’s the conclusion of scientists who reviewed a study of children, ages 2-8, suffering from various speech problems. The children were given a fish oil supplement containing essential fatty acids (EFAs).
Speech-language pathologists who monitored the children reported significant improvements within just a few weeks. They were noted not only in the children’s ability to talk, but also in their ability to focus, their behavior, and in maintaining eye contact.
Fish Oil For Depression (& Postpartum Depression)
The incidence of depression has skyrocketed in children and adults since World War II.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 take anti-depressants. What is going on?
Researchers report that blood levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein are frequently elevated in those diagnosed with depression.
Could inflammatory changes in the brain be one of the main drivers behind our epidemic of depression? This may also explain why anti-depressant medications often don’t work for people with depression.
Emory University in Atlanta confirmed the depression/inflammatory connection.
Dr. Michael Norden, a practicing psychiatrist in New York, uses essential fatty acids, and particularly fish oils for his patients who are suffering from depression. Using fish oil, with and without medication, Dr. Norden reports impressive relief from depression among his patients in his book Beyond Prozac.
Likewise, Dr. Andrew Stall, a physician from Harvard has found that the DHA in fish oil has proven to be extremely helpful in patients suffering with postpartum depression, bipolar, ADD and ADHD outlined in his book The Omega-3 Connection.
For Autism & Gaze Aversion
Many studies implicate inflammation of the white matter of the brain as a common thread in children diagnosed on the Autism spectrum.
However, one very unique aspect of fish oil, is its effect on the gaze aversion that afflicts so many children with autism. The rods in the retina of the eye are very responsive to the supplementation of DHA.
Dr. Mary Megson, a developmental pediatrician in Richmond, Virginia has found that the reason that children with gaze aversion will seem to look away from a parent’s face is because, when looking directly at the face, all they see is a white block.
Thus, they use their peripheral vision to at least get a glimpse of what they are looking at.
Gaze Aversion Reduced
With proper amounts of naturally occurring Vitamin A and D in Cod Liver Oil, this gaze aversion disappears, or is greatly reduced.
Dr. Megson states strongly that it is important that synthetic Vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate not be used.
“Interestingly enough, I have found this also to be the case in the children in my consultation practice who come to me with gaze aversion. I have always found that with the proper amounts of DHA, for which I use a specific Cod Liver Oil, the gaze aversion is eliminated or reduced by 85 percent.” It contains non-synthetic Vitamin A.
“In fact, in the Autism Conferences at which I speak, I have “before and after” pictures of children with Autism, showing the lack of gaze aversion after giving this vital nutrient.”
Besides affecting gaze aversion, parents report increased socialization, speech, bladder control and sensory processing after even a short while of this supplementation.
It has also helped many children struggling with ADHD, Dyslexia, and Bipolar. (6)
For Traumatic Brain Injury
Probably the most dramatic healings reported after the introduction of high amounts of fish oil, have come from the healing of traumatic brain injuries that were not responding to other treatments.
When Peter Ghassemi’s son was lying in a coma after a severe car accident, the doctor’s reported that while his son had survived the accident, but he likely would be a vegetable the rest of his life.
This dad reached out to an Army colonel, Dr. Lewis, for help. Dr. Lewis, founder of the Brain Health Education and Research Institute urged him to talk with his son’s doctors about using the same protocol that was used for a young man who had experienced this same type of traumatic brain injury.
In that case the young man, Randal McCloy, was the sole survivor of a mine disaster in West Virginia. McCloy, 26, had been trapped in the mine for 41 hours while the air around him filled with noxious methane and carbon monoxide.
His brain was riddled with damage from these potent toxins. McCloy’s doctors were looking for ways to stem the tide of inflammation and cell death occurring in his brain.
His doctors embarked upon an unorthodox treatment regimen that included high doses of fish oil.
Dr. Julian Bailes, one of McCloy’s doctors said that “The concept was to attempt to rebuild his brain with what it was made from when he was an embryo in his mother’s womb. High doses of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), since they mirror what is already in the brain, would facilitate the brain’s own natural healing process. These fats are literally the bricks of the cell wall in the brain.”
Dr. Bailes referred to the National Institutes of Health research that suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may inhibit cell death and could help in reconnecting damaged neurons.
Worthy of note is that, in addition to massive cell death, the protective sheath around McCloy’s nerve cells had been stripped. The sheath, called myelin, allows brain cells to communicate with one another.
Amazingly, three months after saturating his brain with high doses of fish oil, McCloy was walking and speaking.
Armed with this success story, Peter Ghassemi urged his doctors to try this same, safe protocol with his son.
Back To High School
Three months after his accident, Bobby Ghassemi was well enough to attend his high school graduation.
Bobby said, “The whole place was cheering for me…I took my graduation cap off and waved it around.” Peter Ghassemi said, “His brain was damaged, and this was food for the brain.”
Dr. Lewis concluded, “The message that I’m trying to get across is, there’s more you can do. If you add the fish oil, we can then begin to let the brain heal itself a little more efficiently.”
Watch astounding video of this true story and fish oil’s starring role:
In 2000, Dr. Jacqueline Stordy began to research the connection between DHA and dyslexia. She performed a double blind, placebo controlled study in which she studied children with ADD, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia.
She found that when a protocol amount of DHA (from fish oil), was given over a three month period, that statistically significant improvements were made in these children’s focusing ability, reading ability, and coordination and balance. (7)
Dr. Stordy recommends 500 mgs. a day of DHA for children with ADHD and dyslexia.
Dianne Craft’s Fish Oil Supplement & Dosage Info:
- Fish Oil Supplements – The FDA considers up to 3 gms. daily (EPA plus DHA) to be regarded as safe.
- Many people take Max DHA by Jarrow Formulas. There are 500 mg. in 2 softgels. For a child, a minimum according to Dr. Strody’s study, would be 2 softgels a day to equal 500 mgs. of DHA. These can be punctured with a pin and squeezed into a child’s mouth or applesauce. Some adults take 4 softgels a day, some more.
- Cod Liver Oil – Dropi Pure Icelandic Cod Liver Oil – Extra Virgin (my choice)
Dosage for Kids (you don’t need much):
- 2-5 years old: 1/2 tsp per day (2,500 IU Vitamin A/day)
- 5-10 years old: 3/4 tsp per day (3,750 IU Vitamin A/day)
- 10-12 years old: 1 tsp per day (5,000 IU Vitamin A/day)
- 16-18 years to adult: while healthy 1-2 tsp per day. In crisis, can take much more.
And Other Foods
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil is said to be more potent, but there are questions.
- Pro-Omega (as shown in the video above) is therapeutic grade.
- For the severe brain injuries mentioned above, 20 grams of fish oil was used through a feeding tube, of course, with doctor supervision. Specifics in original CNN article. For athletes (preventative) at risk for concussions, see Dr. Barry Sears research.
- Use real butter, or best, pasture fed butter such as Kerrygold.
- Use real mayonnaise made with eggs and olive oil.
- Put flax oil in smoothies.
- Put avocados in all sandwiches, eat on salads, or eat drizzled with olive oil.
- Snack on nuts and seeds between meals.
- Eat fresh salads and fresh vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (replace white flour and pasta).
- Reduce or eliminate processed foods (where fats have been denatured to keep product from spoiling).
**If you have a child who has suffered some brain injury, to find an Integrative Physician who can help you figure out the high doses the doctors used in these cases, just Google “Functional Medicine Physicians” in your state. Here you will find a list of MDs who have studied nutrition. They are a great help to families. It is worth traveling to see them.
The information in this article should not be construed as a diagnosis or medical advice. Please consult your physician for any medical condition and before adding supplements or changing a child’s diet.
Dianne Craft has a Master’s Degree in special education and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. She has a private consultation practice, Child Diagnostics, Inc., in Littleton, Colorado.
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