Tag Archives: Exercise

The Brain Boosting Benefits of Vitamin D

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a not only a vitamin, but a hormone as well.  As a hormone, it helps with the absorption of calcium, which supports strong bones and muscles. It boosts your child’s brain by activating genes that release brain chemicals that play a role in mood and cognitive processing such as dopamine and serotonin. 

Why is it important?

Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including major organs, such as the brain and heart. Our immune system also needs vitamin D to function.  It fights diseases and even reduces the likelihood of developing the flu. When vitamin D is deficient your child’s brain functioning is compromised, which may result in psychological disorders such as depression and ADHD. 

How does it boost my child’s brain? 

Vitamin D is linked to serotonin.  Serotonin is referred to as the “happiness hormone” for a reason.  An optimal level of serotonin is of significant importance for the brain and mood.  If serotonin is low depression and mental health issues may occur.  Research has also linked vitamin D with executive functioning (higher level cognitive skills needed to regulate behavior), memory, and cognitive impairment.

Ways to naturally boost vitamin D:

  • Spend time in the sunlight. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because the sun is one of the best ways to receive this nutrient.  Science tells us vitamin D from the sun is present twice as long in body than vitamin D from supplements. 
  • Eat fish.  Wild-caught fish is rich in vitamin D.  Salmon is especially great for the brain and contains about 50% of the daily recommended intake.  Other types of fish also contain vitamin D such as shrimp and tuna. 
  • Eat free-range eggs.  Chickens who have access to sunlight produce eggs with more vitamin D. 
  • Exercise. Harvard recently showed that vigorous exercise can boost vitamin D. Aerial yoga can be vigorous…

A healthy diet and plenty of sunshine are always the best ways to derive vitamin D. However, if your child is deficient, talk to your doctor about whether a supplement is needed. It’s always important to have levels checked with a blood test to confirm a deficiency and talk to medical professionals about the risks and benefits of supplements before giving your child any kind of supplement. Sunshine and running are free brain-boosting ways to increase vitamin D and best of all, they don’t require blood tests!

References

Hogberg G, Gustafsson SA, Hallstrom T, et al. Depressed adolescents in a case-series were low in vitamin D and depression was ameliorated by vitamin D supplementation. Acta. Paediatrica 101(7), 779-783 (2012).

Tolppanen AM SA, Fraser WD, Lewis G, et al. The association of serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 and D2 with depressive symptoms in childhood-a prospective cohort study. J. Child. Psychol. Psychiatry 53(7), 757-766 (2012)

Holick MF. Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Am. J. Clin. Nutr 80(6 Suppl), 1678s-88s (2004).

Four Ways to Reduce ADHD Symptoms

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex disorder that can affect individuals across the lifespan. In recent years, ADHD has been on the rise in children. Neuroscience has shown us that Dopamine, a neurotransmitter important in mood regulation, is lower in the brains of children with ADHD. Additionally, the brains of individuals with ADHD are structurally different with reduced volume in regions responsible for focus and attention such as the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum.

The good news is…

The good news is the brain has neuroplasticity, which means that it can grow and change with stimulation and the right nutrient intake.

Enhance your child’s well-being using these strategies:

  1. Limit processed foods. Children should eat real, whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and seeds.  Whole foods are full of nutrients that your child’s brain and body needs to function correctly.  A whole food diet can aid in neurotransmitter production, cognition, and enhance health.  You do not need to eliminate all packaged and processed foods, but significantly reducing processed foods is the best thing you can do for your child’s health.
  2. Reduce sugar intake. Sugar is harmful to all kids, but it is especially harmful to those with ADHD. Research has found that sugar can dysregulate levels of dopamine, which are already lower in children with ADHD. Added sugar, that is processed and doesn’t occur naturally in whole foods such as fruits, is harmful to the brain and body. One can of soda contains 10 teaspoons or more of added sugar, which is more than the daily minimum, not to mention the other harmful artificial ingredients such corn syrup.
  3. Load up on healthy fats. Healthy fats are good for the brain and nervous system because both, are mostly made up of fats. Omega-3s are an example of healthy fats that reduce inflammation. Healthy fats can be found in nuts, salmon, and avocados. These fats keep your child’s brain healthy by helping neurotransmitters function properly.
  4. Exercise regularly. Exercise helps dopamine functioning. It is not only important for physical health, but mental health as well. Movement promotes the release of “feel good chemicals” such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Our favorite form of exercise is aerial yoga. Other forms of exercise such as running, biking, swimming and karate are also good for the brain and body.
  5. Be Mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose. When your child practices mindfulness it trains their brain to slow down and focus.

In Summary,

If your child has ADHD, you can reduce symptoms naturally by exercising regularly, eating healthy fats, reducing sugar, practicing mindfulness, and limiting processed foods.

References

Schnoll R, Burshteyn D, Cea-Aravena J. Nutrition in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a neglected but important aspect. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2003;28:63–75. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Kim WK, Cho S. Sugar and cognitive performance. Korean J Nutr. 2007;40(Suppl):50–65. [Google Scholar]

Christiansen, L., Beck, M. M., Bilenberg, N., Wienecke, J., Astrup, A., & Lundbye-Jensen, J. (2019). Effects of Exercise on Cognitive Performance in Children and Adolescents with ADHD: Potential Mechanisms and Evidence-based Recommendations. Journal of clinical medicine8(6), 841. doi:10.3390/jcm8060841

Action for Healthy Kids

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Action for Healthy Kids is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity, undernourishment, and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places. The development of lifelong habits that promote health and learning is of the upmost importance with the current rise in obesity rates. It is a significant concern, especially in children due to the higher risk of not only medical issues, but psychiatric problems as well

Action for Healthy Kids guiding document, Commitment to Change, provides schools with a blueprint to transform schools into healthier environments by:

  • Ensuring schools have an updated wellness policy
  • Providing all students, with physical activity and healthy eating educational programs
  • Ensuring children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily
  • Making sure all school foods meet nutrition standards

I ran the Chicago marathon with Action for Healthy Kids in 2012 and 2013 and have been a volunteer and fundraiser for this organization since 2012.  Without the help of Action for Healthy Kids, 1,000’s of children would not have a nutritional breakfast, lunch or physical education program, which would, in turn,  hinder their physical and mental development.

On December 6th, Mindful Child Wellness will host an 80’s yoga fundraiser along with a silent auction at Radiant Yoga + Wellness, 4431 W. 119th Street, Leawood, KS 66209. Please consider joining us for this fun event benefiting Action for Healthy Kids.  Unable to attend, consider making a donation to support this amazing organization. Ready?…