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Condition - Dyslexia

By Jackie Newson BSc(Hons) MBANT

Dyslexia is a fairly common condition and experts believe it is closely related to dyspraxia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Around five per cent of the population is severely dyslexic, although milder forms of the condition affect many more. 

WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that is neurological in its origin. It is characterised by poor spelling, poor working memory and difficulties with accurate word recognition and fluent pronunciation. Those with dyslexia usually experience secondary consequences, which may include poor writing skills and difficulty in reading. 

WHAT CAUSES DYSLEXIA?

The causes are still not entirely clear but studies have shown that some types of dyslexia may be due to a missing or inactive connection between parts of the brain. The differences in the way the brain of a dyslexic person functions leads to the learning difficulties mentioned. Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels. There also appears to be a genetic pre-disposition, as it tends to run in families. 

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

Poor nutrition and a lack of essential fatty acids in the diet may exacerbate the concentration and behavioural difficulties frequently associated with dyslexia. 

USEFUL SUPPLEMENTS

  • Omega 3 fish oils – the long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids are important components of retinal and brain membranes and studies of supplementation with a docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-rich fish oil have shown improvements in movement skills and dark adaptation (a problem among dyslexics). Individuals with dyslexia, dyspraxia and learning difficulties are very often deficient in essential fatty acids and/or the nutrients needed to properly utilise them. The benefits of increasing the intake of these fats, for brain health, have been clearly documented in many studies. Flavoured fish oils are available, to encourage children to take them.
  • DMAE – dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), which is especially prevalent in oily fish, converts to the important brain transmitter acetylcholine. This valuable nutrient is recommended to support learning, concentration and memory, so it would be particularly helpful for individuals with learning difficulties. Not suitable for children under eight or in cases of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or epilepsy. 
  • Multivitamins and minerals­ – vitamins and minerals are vital for all metabolic functions within the body and the release of energy from food. If the diet is generally poor, a deficiency in vitamins and minerals may affect brain function. There are special, chewable multi nutrient formulations available, for children who don’t like tablets. 
  • Ginkgo biloba – this is thought to aid healthy circulation and blood flow to the brain, helping to enhance memory and improve concentration. Suitable for adults and children over 12.

Dietary Advice

  • Reduce sugar intake, as fluctuating blood sugar levels may affect concentration. Avoid biscuits, cakes, chocolate and processed foods which may contain sugar.
  • Eat oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies, once to twice a week. Flax seeds and flax oil are an alternative source of omega 3s if fish is not an option.
  • Ensure five portions a day of fruit and vegetables, to support healthy brain function.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, which may lead to headaches.

Lifestyle Advice

  • Regular exercise can increase oxygen to the brain, improving function.
  • A lack of sleep can affect concentration. Magnesium can help to aid restful sleep, if taken at night. 

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