Whilst putting together the puzzle of what has caused my 8-year-old son Bailey’s ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome I found that oils are a large piece of the picture. For the majority of children with ADHD and autism, they don’t have the correct balance of oils in their brain. In particular, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are needed to optimize brain function and decrease inflammation.
So how do we control this inflammation fire?
Adding fuel to the brain inflammation fire is the presence of too much Omega 6 oils. The change in society’s diet and an overabundance of takeaway food, cooked in vegetable oil, which is high is Omega 6 oils, has caused major health issues. The healthy ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 oils is 1:4. That is, we need to be taking 1 part of Omega 3 oil per 4 parts of Omega 6 oil every day. Most people though, have a ratio of 1:10 or even 1:20. Recent blood tests showed my son has a ratio of 1:8 and we need to get it lower. It’s time to put away the margarine, and start using butter again!
Adding Omega 3 oils into a child’s diet, mostly with fish oils, not only decreases inflammation, but it also has been proven to increase cognitive, social, language and behavioural development. Omega 3 oil is also important for brain and sensory maturation. My son’s brain simply hasn’t matured. It hasn’t had the oils it needs to run smoothly. And the problem started even before he was born.
During the last trimester of a pregnancy the brain goes through a rapid period of growth. Without the right nutrients during this “brain growth spurt” the child’s brain function is compromised. Each of my pregnancies was different but one thing I do remember from Bailey’s was that the smell of fish made me dry reach! There were very few fish oils swimming around my blood stream whilst he was being baked, and even less when he was born.
Thankfully there are great pregnancies vitamins now available that have the right balance of Omega 3’s. One of the “Gold” formulas has 125g of DHA and 32mg of EPA to create the perfect fetal brain growth environment. I would recommend them to everyone thinking of growing a small person.
The brain growth spurt continues, and needs to be well nourished, until two years of age. Bailey’s older brother was anaphylactic to fish and so for a long time we ate very little seafood. Although Bailey was breastfed for his first year of life, there was very little, if any, Omega 3 in his diet. So without Omega 3, or specifically the DHA in Omega 3, the brain doesn’t develop optimally. The neurons, which are continually forming axons and dendritic extensions with accompanying cell membranes, need DHA in them. Even synapses are made from membranes enriched with DHA.
As we improve Bailey’s healthy oil ratios we’re hoping to mature his brain. By making sure the squeaky cogs get the right oils we should start to see cognitive and behavioural improvements. Studies have also shown that increasing Omega 3 levels can help improve the symptoms of other illness such as depression, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. It can also slow the decline of cognitive function for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Having the right oils in my boy’s diet is just another piece of the puzzle that is coming together to help my boys think and function clearer. We are all thinking clearer since becoming a gluten free house and even though the collection of daily supplements has outgrown its Tupperware container, I’m still pushing on. It’s taking a lot of dedication and research but I feel like we’re starting to see some change.
One step at a time….just keep swimming!