Calm the Mind, Enhance Focus
It is important to realize that our diets contribute greatly
to difficulties with focus and concentration. Sugar and processed carbs create
an inflammatory and excitatory state that makes concentration more difficult.
Combined with a lack of key nutrients, a sense of agitation and confusion is
The importance of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), especially
when it comes to clear-headed thinking and skillful social behavior, can’t be
overestimated. DHA makes up more than 90 percent of the fatty acids in the brain,
and is an essential component for building healthy brain cells and keeping
brain signaling active and clear. DHA is also a precursor to a compound called
synaptamide, which helps develop and protect brain cells, and positively
affects mood. When it comes to learning and behavior, the earlier that omega-3s
like DHA are incorporated into a child’s diet, the better.
Clinical research with supplemental DHA shows it can make a
big improvement. For example, a Dutch study found that higher DHA levels in
children up to age 7 corresponded with better reading and spelling scores.
Another clinical study of boys aged 8 to 10 showed DHA
supplementation improves attention span and may help rewrite cortical attention
networks in the brain in just eight weeks.
Other clinical research with children ages 7-9 found that
DHA supplementation improved reading scores for students in the lowest
percentile. The parents of children in this study also noted an improvement in
I think this shows how much of a dramatic difference a
single nutrient can make.
Closely related to healthy dietary fats are phospholipids,
and one of the most critical for learning, memory, focus, and concentration is
phosphatidylserine (PS). In the brain, this nutrient works in harmony with DHA.
Unfortunately, like DHA, it is often lacking in the diet.
Phosphatidylserine is easily absorbed and readily crosses
the blood/brain barrier, so it is highly effective at preventing and reversing
oxidative or inflammatory damage to the brain. It has also been shown to keep
mental abilities sharp, even under pressure. For anyone looking to help improve
their child’s state of calm, ability to learn, and sense of resilience, it is a
Increase Ability to Learn
Aside from DHA and phosphatidylserine, another nutrient that
helps your child enjoy a sense of calm and improves their ability to learn is
dimethylaminoethanol, commonly known as DMAE. This precursor to choline helps
the brain utilize acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter compound in the brain, and
is essential for learning and memory.
DMAE fights the effects of free radicals in the brain and
nervous system – which some people may simply be more susceptible to than
others. DMAE works well in tandem with an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
diet to reduce the excitatory impacts of processed foods that may have previously
been a barrier to clear thinking and learning potential.
Bolster Social Engagement and Mental Resilience
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is well-known as an herbal
adaptogen. It has been clinically shown to boost concentration and focus,
reduce fatigue (even for people on overnight shifts, when the mind and body are
naturally prone to sleepiness), and promote resilience in the face of hectic
schedules or social settings.
For example, one well-known clinical study showed that
rhodiola improved total mental performance in young physicians on night duty.
Other work has shown the ability of rhodiola to improve test-taking and to help
reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Rhodiola appears to act on
noradrenalin, dopamine, serotonin, and cholinergic receptors, so it has a
direct, positive action on brain chemistry and the way it affects mood and
focus. It also may boost the expression of neuropeptide-Y (NPY), a
naturally-occurring amino acid peptide that calms the central nervous system
and is reported in higher levels in individuals with a great degree of
And this points to the way that we’re all wired a bit
differently. Some people simply have a stronger reaction to a social setback or
academic challenge than others. It may take them longer to recover and rebuild
a sense of confidence. In this case, rhodiola can strengthen a natural sense of
energy, motivation, and ease.
Boost Focus and Concentration
Each of the nutrients I’ve discussed so far can help with
all aspects of calmness and concentration, but I’d like to mention one more –
oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) from French grape seed.
Grape seed OPCs have been available for some time as
nutritional supplements, but they haven’t always been effective, because they
are often either highly adulterated (meaning a cheap ingredient like peanut
skin is substituted for authentic grape seed) or their OPC content is not
absorbable in the intestines, and thus ineffective, because the extract is high
That’s why I recommend French grape seed that has been
scientifically studied and provides only small molecular weight OPCs for
virtually complete absorption. While OPCs are well-known for heart-protective
abilities, they are also potent cancer fighters and can also help reduce symptoms
A placebo-controlled, double-blind study published in the
journal European Child & Adolescent Psychology found that after just one
month, OPCs boosted attention span, caused a significant reduction of
hyperactivity, and improved motor coordination. The researchers noted that the
symptoms returned one month after stopping the treatment, so OPCs would need to
be part of an ongoing regimen.
Grape seed extract OPCs have great potential to enhance
focus and reduce behaviors associated with ADHD, in part, because of their
anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions that preserve glutathione and other
natural compounds in the brain and nervous system. But again, I have to stress
that OPCs need to be absorbed in order to be effective, and must be from a trusted
source. Look for French grape seed extract OPCs that are free of tannins and
small enough to be absorbed.
Effective, Natural Alternative for ADD/ADHD
With the help of supportive teachers and parents, a healthy
diet, and the nutrients I’ve outlined here for improving focus and attention,
children with this trait can lead a more relaxed, comfortable, and productive
Stimulant medications such as Ritalin or Adderall can have
significant side effects, such as sleep interference and growth retardation, so
it is understandable if that is an option you’d rather not explore. If you’d
prefer to avoid drugs altogether, or find alternatives when school is not in
session, there really is an effective option.
The best way to gauge how well these nutrients work for your
child is to start off with a low daily dose, working up gradually until you
start noticing a calmer attitude and more focused attention. Once you see the
result of ADHD behavior being refocused, your child will be free to be what
they are meant to be!
To help improve focus and attention, bolster social
engagement, and increase ability to learn, I recommend taking a
combination of DHA, vitamin B6, DMAE, phosphatidylserine, rhodiola (Rhodiola
rosea) root extract, French grape (Vitis vinifera) seed extract, and amino
acids (l-tyrosine, l-taurine, and N-acetyl cysteine) daily.