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Condition - Back to School

By Corin Evans DipION FdSc MBANT

It’s that time of year again when many mothers breathe a collective sigh of relief that their children are finally going back to school after the lovely, but long, summer holidays. What we all hope for are happy, healthy children who are keen to learn. So, how can you give your child a head start and make sure that they thrive when going back to school?

Firstly, children need the right fuel for their brains. In order to keep concentration levels high and blood sugar levels stable, nourish them with a good breakfast that combines protein and complex carbohydrates, such as eggs or baked beans on wholemeal toast. Recent research concluded that eating breakfast helped to improve cognitive function and memory in school children and resulted in an increase in test grades. Adopting the same combination for the rest of their meals, including packed lunch, together with cutting out sugary snacks and drinks, can go a long way towards avoiding large drops in blood sugar levels, which can give rise to poor concentration, low mood and, sometimes, aggression. Important nutrients that support healthy blood sugar levels include chromium, manganese, magnesium and vitamin B3. Supplementing a multivitamin/mineral can be a good way to ensure your little one is not running short on these crucial nutrients.

It is well documented that the essential fats, such as omega 3, are needed for healthy brain function and this is never more important than for children whose brains are growing and developing. Supplementing with either fish or flax oil, as well as encouraging them to eat omega-3-rich foods, such as oily fish, walnuts and pumpkin seeds, may help improve concentration and learning. For older children, who may be embarking on exam years, it can be helpful to provide nutrients including choline, arginine pyroglutamate and acetyl-L-carnitine, in order to optimise production of acetylcholine. This is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is central to memory, concentration and learning. Don’t forget to provide them with plenty of water to drink during the day, as this is also vital to hydrate the brain, helping to keep them more alert.

It’s not just looking after their brain function and behaviour that’s important – how about supporting their immune systems to help them fend off the plethora of bugs that inevitably surface once term-time begins? Important nutrients here are, of course, vitamin C and zinc, but don’t forget that probiotics and omega 3 essential fats also help maintain healthy immunity. If your children do succumb to a viral infection, think additionally about supporting their immune system with black elderberry extract.

So, if you do your homework and help support them nutritionally, it may encourage your offspring to feel full of beans and, who knows, maybe they’ll be more inclined to do theirs!

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