Nutrition has Been Thrown out the Window! How can we get it back?

We’re doing a Back to Basics Series here on The Whole House. This week we’re focusing on brain development. If you missed the beginning of the series start here.

What does food have to do with brain development? Everything. You’ve heard the old saying, “You are what you eat?” That’s not just for grownups. As teens and children, we are told we have a fast metabolism and we can eat anything. But, should we?

Should you be concerned about what your kids are eating? Or should you just wait until they are old enough to know better?

The value of good nutrition.

“When you child eats regular, balanced meals and snacks, blood sugar levels remain constant and steady. This boosts learning and stabilizes moods. When we cheat ourselves out of meals, however, we’re also reducing our brainpower. Skipping breakfast or snacking on sugary sodas and sweets are just some of the ways that our daily habits can undermine healthy brain functioning.” –The Connected Child

Good nutrition isn’t just counting calories. When my newbies came home through adoption, they had health issues, including rotten teeth and malnutrition. The dentist informed me the rotten teeth were a result of the malnutrition. My kids hadn’t had access to sugary sodas or candy. The kind of calories my kiddos needed were specific and intentional. They needed protein and complex carbohydrates to grow their bodies and their brains. All kids do.

Deficiencies go hand in hand with a variety of health and behavioral problems. ADHD and diabetes have been linked to a shortage of magnesium. I’m not a doctor or a scientist, maybe you are in the same boat, but you want your child to have optimal health and brain function. My advice? Do some research. That’s what I did when my kiddos come home. Don’t take my word for it.

My youngest son, who is on the spectrum ate gluten-free for years because it “calmed his inner hulk” (his words). Children who have health and behavioral problems may need more vitamins and minerals in the form of a supplement. It’s not a cure, just support. It may be the difference between their inner hulk raging all the time and just making appearances.

“A growing and compelling body of research suggests that nutritional supplementation is extremely beneficial for at-risk populations. In one study at a Canadian hospital, two boys with explosive rage and volatile moods showed dramatic improvement – without lithium or other traditional psychpharmacolic agents – when they took a daily vitamin and mineral supplement. When taken off the nutritional supplement, their rage returned, but once the supplementation was restored, their behavior improved again.” – The Connected Child

Maybe your child is neurotypical.  Maybe he doesn’t have any capital letter syndromes or behavior issues. Should you be concerned about his nutrition? YES!

Eight years ago, I watched a Teresa Tapp seminar about health and nutrition. She said something that haunts me to this day. If we don’t change our eating and exercise habits, then this generation will have more serious health issues in their thirties and forties as opposed to their seventies and eighties our grandparents did. I’m serious paraphrasing here, but she said if we don’t start eating God-made (closest to their natural form) foods and moving, our kids could end up in nursing homes in their forties. YIKES! We don’t want that._The food your child eats becomes the building blocks of his or her brain chemistry._

Throw out the myth that because our kiddos have fast metabolisms, they can eat anything and everything. Food is fuel. Food is medicine. We must fuel our kiddos’ bodies with what will grow healthy brains. What they are eating now is building their future body, brain, and immune system.

“The food your child eats becomes the building blocks of his or her brain chemistry.” – The Connected Child

Just a few tips from The Connected Child to end on. You may already have a handle on this, if so, GO YOU! Maybe you just need a restart, some reminders to get you back on track. I need those often!

  • Make sure your kiddos drink lots of water! Dehydration cause mental (cognitive) function to deteriorate. (I notice this in myself. If I have been working at my desk for hours, I start craving coffee and sweets. I get a quart of lemon water instead and feel fresh and ready to go!)
  • Avoid deep-fried foods. They make the brain sluggish.
  • Use yogurt as a healthful snack.  The live cultures improve digestions and intestinal health. The intestines help produce serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter. Get the whole fat kind with lower sugar content. Kids need good fats! Don’t do fat-free! Use probiotic supplements for kiddos who can’t do dairy!
  • Keep a food dairy. I love this suggestion. Sometimes we don’t know what the food offender is until we take the time to write down reactions.

Get your kiddos eating as many God-made foods as can and go you! Every time you get nutrition and water in your kiddos, you are enabling better brain function. You’re building strong bodies and immune systems for a long and healthy life.

 

 

Have the Basics of Brain Development Been Left Behind?

We don’t often think about brain development in our children. Often we just follow the right steps and our kiddo’s brains develop. Until. Something. Is. Off.

I know. With my first child, I had some brain science under my belt from my education degree. I had a skeletal view of the developmental steps she should go through, but that’s as much as I thought about it. Maybe you’re like me. You’re doing some great things to improve your baby’s brain function. If so, think of this as a cheerleading session. I’m cheering you on! Great job! Maybe you are practicing some of these principles to grow you child’s brain and you are tired of doing the right thing. Maybe you are growing weary. Let me encourage you.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6: 9

The truth is most of the hard work you do to grow your child’s brain, no one sees. Not right now anyway. When you keep practicing the principles that grow your child’s brain, it will grow. You can’t open their brains and check it. Just as when you plant a seed in the ground, you water and wait. You don’t dig up the seed every few days and see if it sprouted. You wait and one day, it pushes a tiny green sprout through the soil. Your kiddos will follow suit. One day, your toddler will sign “more.” One day you child will regulate and use her words. One day, your five year old will recognize her need for a snack. This glimpses of brain growth will happen in bits and spurts. You can’t grow a tree in day, neither can you expect your kiddos brain to mature after a few practiced principles.

While genetics play a role in a developing brain in a newborn, scientists now know that relationships and experience shape the brain.

  When an infant is  born he has 100 billion neurons just waiting to connect. They are like loose wires flailing around waiting to connect. Think of your middle school science class and the electricity board, you have a light, a battery and a switch. You have to connect all three with wire. Then you flip the switch. You are the wire. Your babies brain already has the light and switch, just waiting to turn on. How do you connect the wires?

 Relationship grows the brain. 

This is one of the most important parts of brain growth. Relationship has the power to grow the brain. Interactions make the connections. This is why it is so important to engage with your child starting at infancy. The more you interact with your infant in positive ways, the more you grow the brain.

Here are some easy ways to grow an infants brain:

Baby wearing.

Singing to baby.

Comforting.

Soothing voice of mother.

Being on the shoulder of daddy.

Mother holding baby and gazing into her eyes.

Reading to your infant (you can start in utero).

Singing with and to your infant.

Playing music.

“A well-tended child is fed, cradled, and soothed when she cries from hunger or crankiness. This scene plays out hundreds of times in the first month of life alone. Through this exchange, the baby learns to trust that her needs will be met and that she can rely on people.” – The Connected Child

Repeated experiences also grow the brain.

Whatever the experiences are, that is where the brain will grow. If it is fearful, then the downstairs will grow (more on upstairs and downstairs brain here). If a child is soothed and learns how to talk things through and sort out feelings, the upstairs brain will grow.

This is the Hebbian Principle: What fires together, wires together.

An infant who is fed when hungry  regularly expects to be fed every time she is. She develops the belief that her needs will be met.

An infant who is soothed when upset develops the belief that her voice will be heard. She is on her way to healthy emotional intelligence.

An infant who is smiled at, laughed with, spoken to, read to, and sung to (no matter how off key) believes that she is important. She is developing social skills.

The basics of brain development are so basic, they usually come naturally. Maybe they come naturally to you. Think of this post as a booster shot. You are already doing all the right things to enable your infants brain to keep growing -Go YOU!

Want to learn more about this subject? Listen to our latest Podcast, “Baby Intelligence.

 

 

 

 

Back to the Basics – Brain Development

Do you think about your child’s brain development? I didn’t until something seemed to be off. If you said “no” to that question, don’t feel badly. It’s pretty common for us to be reactive instead of proactive.

In our culture, we don’t go to the pediatrician and say, “My child is eating well, sleeping well and generally can regulate his emotions. How do I keep this up?” We don’t notice our child’s brain function until something is off.

What if we could be proactive? What if we Moms knew a thing or two about brain function that we could apply at home?

Are you in the driver’s seat of your child’s neurological future?

Do you have a roadmap?

Are you in backseat?

Do you know how your child is doing?

Is there an area he is struggling with?

Can you work smarter instead of harder?

Are you scrambling because you are plugging in a few things you hear and not making any progress?

Why do so many kiddos struggle?

Brain Development. A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to three—producing more than a million neural connections each second. The development of the brain is influenced by many factors, including a child’s relationships, experiences and environment.

Are you in the driver’s seat of your child’s neurological future_

“We are all shaped by our genetic birthright and by the environment in which we live. To a developing fetus, the mother’s womb is an entire universe. If the mother has a healthful lifestyle, her uterus will share that with the growing child. But if the mom suffers from chronic stress, consumes such toxins such as alcohol and drugs, or doesn’t eat properly, the fetus is exposed to those dangers right along with the mother. An infant’s neurochemistry reflects his or her very first home-the uterus.”- The Connected Child

When my adopted kids first came “home”, they struggled in many areas of development. They weren’t stupid. They had just missed key components of development. When those components were added in, their  brains will grew. It’s absolutely amazing! I am not an expert. I am a Mom who did a lot of research and applied what I learned.

There are many factors in why so many kiddos struggle when it comes to development. Here are four:

The basics have been left behind.

Nutrition has been thrown out the window.

Movement has been replaced by a sedentary lifestyle. 

Relationship has been replaced by entertainment.

I’ll be covering each of these topics in a little more detail over the next week. The good news? There are many practices that you can put in place at home that will grow your child’s brain! Isn’t that amazing? You can have the roadmap. You can know where you need to go next. You can be in the driver’s seat of your child’s neurological future.

 

 

The Upstairs and Downstairs Brain- Adult Edition

My most popular post of all time is “YELLING AND YELLING- THE DOWNSTAIRS AND UPSTAIRS BRAIN” which focuses on the brain and children. Let’s face it friends, children aren’t the only ones who get stuck in the downstairs brain. We adults can get stuck there too. We can end up living in survival mode. It becomes our new normal. We don’t even realize that we are living super stressed. Our cortisol levels are on high alert. We’re exhausted and overwhelmed, all the time.

“Imagine that your brain is a house, with both a downstairs and an upstairs. The downstairs brain includes the brain stem and the limbic region, which are located in the lower parts of the brain, from the top of your neck to about the bridge of your nose. Scientists talk about these lower areas as being more primitive because they are responsible for basic functions (like breathing and blinking), for innate reactions and impulses (like flight and fight), and for strong emotions (like anger and fear).” – The Whole Brain Child

The Upstairs and Downstairs Brain

The downstairs brain is survival mode. No logic is applied. No reasoning. Just illogical responses. The upstairs brain, on the other hand is completely different.

“ It’s made up of the cerebral cortex and its various parts- particularly the ones directly behind your forehead, including what’s called the middle prefrontal cortex. Unlike your more basic downstairs brain, the upstairs brain is more evolved and can give you a fuller perspective on your world.”The Whole Brain Child

It is sophisticated as opposed to primitive. This is where your creative process lives, imagining, thinking, planning. Logic lives here. This is where we want to set up the sectional, hang the curtains, artwork, and settle down with a cup of coffee. How do we live in our upstairs brain when we are constantly faced with circumstances, decisions and interruptions?

We react. That’s natural. Innate even. We need to pay attention to how we feel when faced with unexpected or stressful circumstances.

  • Are your palms sweating?
  • Is your heart beating out of your chest?
  • Do you feel as if you are going to jump out of our skin?

Your amygdala hijacks the brainstem and takes over the neocortex. You are in the downstairs brain. Not the creative, logical, artsy upstairs. We end up being reactive instead of proactive. Our downstairs brain is like a two-year old who says, “I want what I want NOW!” The brain stem only lives in the present. This is what leads us to eat the gallon of ice cream in one sitting. We make decisions based only on how we feel at the moment without regard for the future. We yell at our husbands or children. We don’t take the trip because we are too stressed.

How do we move back upstairs?

  1. Be aware of your feelings. Acknowledge them. Pray about them. Write them down if you prefer that method. “If you bury an emotion, you bury it alive.”- Gary Oliver Get rid of the belief that we must ignore emotions. They are there for a reason. God gave us emotions to protect us. Use them wisely. Don’t ignore them. The best way to be self-aware is to acknowledge your emotions.
  2. Holley Gerth advises us in her book, You’re Going to be Okay, to stop, drop and roll when it comes to calming the amygdala. Stop. Examine your emotions. Drop your expectations. And roll. Be flexible. This is where we stop on a dime. Get ready to pivot. Things happen. A child has an emergency surgery. Our car won’t start. Our schedules are full and we get sick. Pivot. I really wanted _________ to happen, but it didn’t work out, so I will ____________. This is an important step. Don’t skip it. Think these things through.Talk to yourself if you need to. In ETC training, we teach parents to have children tell stories of events in their lives aloud. We adults need to practice this as well. It serves the same purpose- allows us to put things in their place. We walk up the stairs and face problems with logic and creativity.
  3. After we adjust and pivot, we solve the problem for the moment. Crisis averted.Now take some time to be proactive. If your schedule is keeping you stressed, can you eliminate some things? Did you run to your downstairs brain because you didn’t stop and eat or rest (guilty). Are your emotions getting the best of you because of PMS? Do you need to take some time and renew your mind? Listen to some worship music or some uplifting podcasts. We need to feed our brain good food. What we put in our brains will eventually come out. Use this scripture as a guidleine for brain food.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.- Philippians 4: 8,9, The Message

We would all love to live under less stress. We’d like to thrive instead of just survive. Hopefully these simple steps will help us pivot and spend more time in our upstairs brains!

What am I Going to Eat?

I’ve been stuck in panic mode today. What am I panicking about? Food. Yep. That’s right, food. Weird, huh? I’m going on vacation to visit some of my favorite people, but there is always a nagging thought in the back of my head- What am I going to eat? Okay, it’s a shouting thought.

What am I going to eat_.png

My word for the year is “study”. It has been on my heart to study the mind.  God wants me to get my health in line. It’s been a constant learning curve for me since I was diagnosed with CFS and hypothyroidism in 2005, and Celiac disease in 2011.

I’ve read tons of articles on CFS and immune system diseases in general.  There is all sorts of advice for eating right, exercising to your ability level, getting an adequate amount of sleep and drinking enough water. All of those things are good. I need to do all of those things and so do you.

Last week, I talked a little bit on the website about falling back into old mindsets.

Sometimes our battle is not with what is happening to us, but an old mindset that keeps us trapped. The mindset that keeps trying to re-insert itself into my life is- you won’t have food to eat or you will get cross contamination and be miserable. That’s just no way to live. Fear of this sort is about something that could happen, but my body reacts as if it already were true.

Mindsets become strongholds. Strongholds form new pathways within our brains. When the new pathway forms, it eventually becomes a tree. It can become a toxic tree or a healthy tree, depending on what kinds of thoughts built the stronghold.

I’m not staying in that old mindset. I’m moving on.

We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.- 2 Corinthians 10: 5, 6

Are there some mindsets keeping you trapped? Are they stopping you from enjoying your life?