Healthy Beginnings

Beyond Bad Behavior: Nutrients and Your Child’s Brain Function

By Van Harding, LAc

Being a parent sometimes requires being a detective. It’s not so much about the question, “What did my kid do that was bad?”, but, “Why?” It’s only when we answer the why that we can do something about it. Today when a child’s behavior seems problematic, the investigation begins with psychoanalysis, often causing an unrewarding journey down a rabbit hole leaving parent and child stuck in frustration. If psychoanalysis and cognitive behavior modi cation does not have the solution, what does? Get ready, the answer is a mouthful: psycho-neuro-endocrine- immunology, audio processing, sensory integration, neuron timing and brain region synchronization. Whew – that’s a lot, but what does this mean? Is my child going to be in a research laboratory? Fortunately no, and a simpler name for this is neurotherapy for the brain, mind and emotions.

Let’s step away from the scientific jargon and look at what can be contributing to the bad behavior. Think of a car – when it does not start we ask: Does it have gas? Is the battery charged? Is the starter working? Is there a problem with the ignition key? All of those components have to be working in a specific sequence in order for the car to start. The same is true of the brain so that it can support our mind and emotions. Let me lay some ground work so we can understand how behavior and emotions arise from poor brain function absent of a disease process or injury. As well, there is an important intersection of neurophysiology and self-image at the basis of many frustrated and angry children, which has a solution.

Energy: Moodiness, Depression and Lack of Motivation

The brain needs energy. Most of us know that when blood sugar drops, we become irritable. So, you eat and within a few minutes you become calm and more rational. However, a continuous influx of energy due to inconsistent food intake (or intake of the wrong foods) can significantly impair brain function, particularly during a child’s growth years. This can cause mood swings and mental fatigue, which has the appearance of depression or lack of motivation.

Neurons Need Nutrients to Switch O ADD, ADHD and OCD

Nutrients are critical for proper neuron function and some brains need more than our regular diet can provide. Many neurons are hanging around waiting to be activated and then something happens in our body or mind: we move a hand, recall a memory, read words or solve a math problem. If the neuron does not switch o , our hand might stay clenched or we may remain hypervigilant after being startled by a loud noise or the fear of failure. The medical labels are ‘hand spasm’ and ‘anxiety’ respectively and the medical treatment is a medication to alleviate the symptoms. The real diagnosis of what’s occurring is “failed methylation” meaning the neuron was activated but its ‘on switch’ is stuck in the ‘on’ position and the treatment is the administration of the necessary nutrients (methylators like vitamin B and magnesium, to name a few) to switch the neuron ‘o ’ and the result being a relaxed hand and alleviation of anxiety. Might your child’s lack of attention/focus be labelled ADHD, which is a symptom of failed methylation? How about OCD?

Neurons Need to Switch ON: Lack of Self-Control

Again, nutrients are critical for proper neuron function because our brains need them to manufacture neurotransmitters (NT) like GABA. Kids having difficulty with self-control may be missing the nutrients for their brain to produce enough GABA. Both the switching on and o of neurons can be interfered with or prevented by inflammation on the brain. Today, our processed foods are filled with additives and preservatives that can cause inflammation. Another source of brain inflammation are new food sensitivities and intolerances such as gluten and dairy. MSG can cause neurons to be hyper-excitable and remain on until the neuron dies – hence you’re stuck in that action until its death.

Neuro-Networks are the Roadway of Repeated Behavior

We’ve all done it… practice, practice and more practice to learn how to do something. The hours on the piano keys, pitching mound, golf tee or math equations are necessary to connect the neurons that build the ‘neuro-network’ so we can do things on autopilot, or exactly repeat the action.

To build neuro-networks the neuron must be able to ‘switch on’ to connect to each other, hence learning anything can be very di cult if there are nutrient de ciencies. Building memories requires the construction of neuro-pathways into speci c regions in the brain dependent upon the brain’s ability to manufacture the NT acetylcholine. Could your child’s di culty learning – placing information into memory – be due to a lack of acetylcholine?

All automatic repeated behaviors have neuro-networks, along with our emotional states. A child that repeats an emotion will build that neuro-network and have the propensity to repeat that emotion when under duress. No need to think that your child is doomed to a destiny of bad behavior or dysfunctional emotional states. The reason is this – those neuro-connections can be lost – “If you don’t use it, you will lose it!”

For more information, about neurotherapy contact Van Harding at Tahoe Neuro Healing at 530-536-5084 or