Healthy Q & A: Improving Children's Concentration in School

Q:  My son has started first grade this year, and he’s been having a terrible time.  His teacher has a system of warnings that they get and then they have to stay inside for recess.  He’s already had to stay in for recess now a couple times, which I really think just makes things worse.  He’s not a bad kid, he just has a difficult time concentrating I think.  Is there anything you’d recommend?  I feel horrible about this whole situation.

 

A: Transitioning from kindergarten to first grade is a huge step, and many children, particularly boys, have a difficult time. As a young child (or person of any age!), sitting in a desk all day can be really hard.  I wonder if you might be able to speak to his teacher about the punishments in her class, since staying in for recess seems like the last thing that a child who has trouble paying attention needs.  Free play and being outdoors has been shown to increase concentration and behavior in the classroom, which is exactly the goal you’re looking for.

There are a number of supplements which have been shown to help with brain function and concentration in children.  The first I’d recommend is omega 3 fish oil.  The body cannot manufacture omega 3 fatty acids, and fatty acids which are essential to the body and play a large role in brain function, so if a child isn’t eating fatty fish multiple times a week (and few are), it is likely they’re deficient in those nutrients.  Omega 3 fatty acids have been studied extensively for their role in proper brain functioning, and are safe and beneficial for people of all ages.

Omega 3 fish oil can aid in concentration as well as helping with improving learning and behavior.  Science Daily has reported on a recent study which found, “From a sample of nearly 500 schoolchildren, we found that levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood significantly predicted a child's behavior and ability to learn. Higher levels of Omega-3 in the blood, and DHA in particular, were associated with better reading and memory, as well as with fewer behavior problems as rated by parents and teachers.”

Correcting an omega 3 deficiency can go a long way in improving school performance in children, especially for kids who are having a difficult time.  There have even been positive results for children suffering from ADD/ADHD and autism as well. 

I have personally had a number of our customers have very impressive results with omega 3s for their children.  I remember one woman who came back in tears because she was so happy with the change in her daughter’s behavior after taking fish oils.  She said it was like night and day.  I won’t try to suggest that that is a typical response, though I do truly believe that fish oil does make a difference for the brain functioning, especially in children.

Most parents can’t picture their children being willing to take a fish oil, though we do have several great, non fishy tasting omega 3 supplements.  The one I would most recommend is Barlean’s Omega Swirl It comes in a variety of flavors- my daughter likes the lemon best- and it’s made in a way that it has a creamy consistency, rather than an oil, similar to yogurt or custard.  I don’t tell her its fish oil, just a “liquid vitamin”, but she absolutely loves the taste, and would literally drink the whole bottle if I let her.

Next, I’d suggest phosphatidyl serine, also known as PS.  PS is a type of fat which is very prevalent in brain tissue.  It’s been researched with impressive results for enhancing memory, but has also been found more recently to help children with ADD/ADHD, not only with memory, but also attention and impulsivity.  In the study, children were given 200mg a day of PS.  The results of the study found significant improvements in each of those areas in the participants.  The abstract of the study is here if you’d like to read about the study in more detail.

Jarrow has a new chewable phosphatidyl serine called PS-100 Gummies.  I’d recommend doing 200mg a day, which were the amounts used in the research study.  Often you can reduce the amount of PS after an initial period of a higher dose.

 

I’d very much recommend both supplements, and they work in different ways, so they could be taken together if desired.