Search

The Way to BE

Top 3 Foods That Impact Learning and Behavior

Products that may interest you:

  • Veggie Culture Starter

    Veggie Culture Starter

    Resist Infections, Enhance Digestion

    • Ideal for appetite and weight control
    • Ideal for pregnant women
    • Ideal for children with Autism and ADD
    • Curbs cravings for bread, sweets and dairy

Are you aware of how food affects your brain?

Studies continue to link your brain to your gut and dietary deficiencies to imbalances, such as:

Studies show that children can be sensitive to artificial food coloring and preservatives.
  • Moodiness
  • Drowsiness after meals
  • Sleepless nights
  • Violent outbursts
  • Scattered attention
  • Difficulty learning
  • ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)

All of these behaviors are part of a constellation of disorders that often involve the brain, the immune system, and the gut. (1)(2)(3)

Brain experts like Dr. Eric Braverman and Dr. Daniel Amen point to diet as a crucial component to brain health. While many medications are effective, researchers are still trying to understand their impact on a child’s development. (4) For example, in terms of ADHD, researchers have not yet determined if medications are merely short-term solutions to lifelong imbalances. (5)

The foods that you choose can enhance or diminish cognitive function. (6)(7)(8)

Top 3 Trouble Foods That May Alter Learning and Behavior

Certain foods can directly affect brain health to negatively impact learning and behavior. An increasingly common disorder like ADHD could be related to the health of the brain, the immune system, and the gut.

Whether improving your diet or supporting your children or students with the right foods, once you know what the big offenders are—and why they are so toxic to your brain or child’s development—you might find it easy to replace problem foods with positive foods!

If you are looking for more inspiration and ideas, check out the weekly Body Ecology Meal Plans.

Here are some simple tips to follow:

1. Avoid Food Additives

Does your food contain added coloring, flavors, or preservatives? If the food you give to your child contains additives, research shows that it may contribute to learning and behavioral problems! (9)

Studies show that children can be sensitive to artificial food coloring and preservatives. (10)(11) The research is so sound that food manufacturers are under increasing pressure to avoid these additives—or, if additives are used, to include a warning on the packaging about the noxious effects of additives in a child’s body. (12)

The reality is that additives contribute to disorders like ADHD, which is characterized by impulsive behavior and hyperactivity. (13)

ADHD affects roughly 5% of children and adolescents. (14) ADHD is often paired with other problems, such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), dyslexia, poor motor coordination, and anxiety.

Solution: Instead of foods that use additives to mimic sensational taste and color—go for the real thing!

Fermented vegetables and kefir are both intriguing to the palate.

Fermentation is a traditional method of preservation that is 100% natural. Foods like kefir and fermented veggies introduce good bacteria (probiotics) and protective yeast to the gut. These beneficial microbes help clean up a lot of the mess left behind by toxic foods. In fact, studies even show that kefir is healthier for your immune system than yogurt.

When looking at brain function, recent research proved that the probiotic bacteria found in fermented foods influences how we process emotions and sensation. (15)

2. Avoid Gluten

Gluten is a blend of proteins that gives food its structure, chewiness, and texture. Gluten is found in most cereal grains. This includes wheat, rye, and barley.

It used to be that only people diagnosed with celiac disease were warned to stay away from gluten. Those with celiac disease have developed an immune response to gluten that triggers the destruction of their own cells.

However, more people are now found to be gluten sensitive than those that actually have celiac disease. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness reports that as many as 18 million Americans—including children—are affected by something called non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity has all the symptoms of celiac disease—which on a behavioral level includes mood swings, angry outbursts, anxiety, and depression. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot be diagnosed by standard celiac testing, yet patients only respond to a gluten-free diet.

Other studies show that the proteins in gluten are pro-inflammatory.

In other words, these proteins destroy the lining of the gut and make it “leaky,” or permeable. (16)(17)(18) Leaky gut is linked to nutrient deficiency. When the digestive and absorption processes are impaired, the brain and body are unable to get the nutrition they need.

For example, in order to focus or recall information or feel happy or calm, your brain requires your body to convert amino acids in your food into the four major neurotransmitters—serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and acetylcholine—yet this process is sabotaged by impaired digestion.

Solution: Instead of grains that contain gluten, try grain-like seeds!

Grain-like seeds or pseudo-cereals are similar to cereal grain in taste and texture. But, botanically, they are different. On the Body Ecology Diet, we encourage the use of four grain-like seeds—quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and millet.

Grain-like seeds are naturally gluten-free and provide a good blend of protein, minerals, and amino acids. When properly prepared, they are easy to digest and act as an important prebiotic that feeds good bacteria in the gut.

3. Avoid Added Sugar

Added sugar is everywhere. Foods marketed to people on the go and children—like breakfast cereals and bars—often contain large quantities of added sugar. The science is clear on the deleterious affects of high fructose corn syrup on the body and its link to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, ADHD, and autoimmune conditions.

However, the convenience foods that many of us eat are still too sweet.

Research into soda and its effects on mood brings up some interesting material. A paper called “The Twinkie Defense” looked at the relationship between non-diet soft drinks and violence in high school children. Researchers found that heavy soda drinkers (more than 5 cans a day) were more likely to have a history of violence. (19) Other studies also suggest a strong relationship between non-diet soda consumption and mental health. (20)

As it turns out, extreme swings in blood sugar affect mood and levels of aggression. (21)(22) That’s not all. Research also tells us that high glycemic foods—or foods that drive levels of blood sugar up—negatively affect the attention span and memory of children. (23)

Optimal cognitive function requires balanced blood sugar. Simple carbs, fruit juices, soda, and most pre-packaged snacks can be the root of blood sugar imbalance.

Solution: Looking for a way to ditch the added sugar without noticing? Use stevia! 

Stevia is plant that is native to South America. Stevia has all the sweetness of sugar, but it naturally contains no sugar! This means it does not affect levels of blood sugar.

In fact, research shows that stevia may be one answer to the rise of metabolic disorders that affect children today. (24) These metabolic disorders—like obesity and type 2 diabetes—put children at risk for heart disease. Currently, over 17% of children are obese and at risk. (25)

Stevia does more than replace the sweetness of sugar. It fortifies glucose tolerance. It enhances your ability to metabolize sugar. In other words, it helps the body adapt to fluctuations of blood sugar. (26) Lakanto, a zero glycemic sugar substitute recommended by the Japanese Ministry of Health, is also great for cooking and baking.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Your favorite foods can directly affect the health of your brain. Research has linked the brain to gut health and other imbalances like moodiness, sleeplessness, difficulty learning, and even ADHD. These are just a few disorders out of many related to the brain, the immune system, and the gut.

The foods that you or your child eats play a major role in cognitive function.

Here are 3 problem foods to avoid that could impact learning and behavior:

1. Food Additives: Research has confirmed that children are sensitive to preservatives and artificial food coloring. Additives may even trigger disorders like ADHD that affects roughly 5% of children and adolescents. ADHD may be further linked to issues like conduct disorder, anxiety, dyslexia, and autism.

2. Gluten: You don't have to have celiac disease to benefit from a gluten-free diet. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, up to 18 million adults and children in the US may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can trigger a number of issues, including angry outbursts, mood swings, and anxiety.

3. Sugar: Sweet treats may not be as innocent as they seem. Even worse, added sugar can be found in countless convenience foods and has been associated with a higher risk of ADHD, diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. Optimal brain function requires balanced blood sugar; extreme blood sugar fluctuations may also be related to mood swings and aggression.

Brain function can be improved with foods like fermented vegetables and kefir, as well as stevia and lakanto as sugar substitutes. For more guidance on a brain-friendly diet, take a look at our weekly Body Ecology Meal Plans.

  • Veggie Culture Starter

    Veggie Culture Starter

    Resist Infections, Enhance Digestion

    • Ideal for appetite and weight control
    • Ideal for pregnant women
    • Ideal for children with Autism and ADD
    • Curbs cravings for bread, sweets and dairy
  • Kefir Starter

    Kefir Starter

    Better Digestion, Boost Immunity

    Kefir has many benefits, including better digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It has been known for thousands of years for its anti-aging and immune-enhancing properties.

    Kefir is an ancient cultured food, rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Kefir means "feel good" in Turkish, and that's just how you'll feel after drinking a glass in the morning! Easy and fun to make at home, it is superior to commercial yogurt. An absolute must after antibiotic use!

    Unlike yogurt, kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract and is simple and fun to make at home. To make kefir: Mix one packet with 1 quart of warm milk, cover and set at room temperature for 18-24 hours. Refrigerate and enjoy!

    Each packet yields 1 quart of kefir, and can be reused up to 7 times. This means you can create 10 ½ gallons of kefir from one box!

    • Digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates
    • Has anti-aging and immune-enhancing properties
    • Rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins
    • An absolute must after antibiotic use
  • Stevia Liquid Concentrate

    Stevia Liquid Concentrate

    Sweet-tasting Herbal Extract Dietary Supplement

    • Zero Calorie, Zero Carbohydrates, Zero Glycemic Index
    • 985 servings in every bottle
    • Bitter-free, refreshingly sweet, smooth-tasting
    • Minimal processing for highest purity
  • Lakanto Sweetener (800g)

    Lakanto Sweetener (800g)

    The Healthiest Sugar Substitute Available

    LAKANTO is the only zero calorie, zero glycemic sweetener that is just like sugar.

    Lakanto is the only zero calorie, zero glycemic sweetener that is just like sugar. Lakanto Golden’s mouthwatering aroma and delicious flavor tastes like brown sugar. While Lakanto Classic’s clean and crisp sweetness tastes like plain white sugar.

    Lakanto looks like, tastes like and works just like sugar. Unlike most fruits, whose sweetness comes from fructose, Monk Fruit’s sweetness comes from natural mogrosides that are 300 times sweeter than sugar.

    Plus, Monk Fruit extract does not elevate blood sugar or insulin, making it a perfect sweetener for maintaining health blood sugar levels and weight management.

    • Ideal sugar substitute for baked goods
    • Safe for Diabetics
    • Zero Calories

    Now available in two flavors: Golden or Classic. What's the difference?

    Taste.
    Golden has a flavor similar to brown sugar or molasses.
    Classic has a flavor more similar to table sugar.

REFERENCES:

  1. Obregon, D., Parker-Athill, E. C., Tan, J., & Murphy, T. (2012). Psychotropic effects of antimicrobials and immune modulation by psychotropics: implications for neuroimmune disorders. Neuropsychiatry, 2(4), 331-343.
  2. Waly, M. I., Hornig, M., Trivedi, M., Hodgson, N., Kini, R., Ohta, A., & Deth, R. (2012). Prenatal and postnatal epigenetic programming: implications for GI, immune, and neuronal function in autism. Autism Research and Treatment, 2012.
  3. Hornig, M. (2013). The role of microbes and autoimmunity in the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric illness. Current opinion in rheumatology, 25(4), 488-795.
  4. Graham, J., Banaschewski, T., Buitelaar, J., Coghill, D., Danckaerts, M., Dittmann, R. W., ... & Taylor, E. (2011). European guidelines on managing adverse effects of medication for ADHD. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 20(1), 17-37.
  5. van de Loo-Neus, G. H., Rommelse, N., & Buitelaar, J. K. (2011). To stop or not to stop? How long should medication treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder be extended?. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 21(8), 584-599.
  6. Blanchflower, D. G., Oswald, A. J., & Stewart-Brown, S. (2012). Is psychological well-being linked to the consumption of fruit and vegetables?. Social Indicators Research, 1-17.
  7. Jama, J. W., Launer, L. J., Witteman, J. C. M., Den Breeijen, J. H., Breteler, M. M. B., Grobbee, D. E., & Hofman, A. (1996). Dietary antioxidants and cognitive function in a population-based sample of older persons The Rotterdam Study. American journal of epidemiology, 144(3), 275-280.
  8. Wärnberg, J., Gomez‐Martinez, S., Romeo, J., Díaz, L. E., & Marcos, A. (2009). Nutrition, inflammation, and cognitive function. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1153(1), 164-175.
  9. Feingold, B. F. (1975). Hyperkinesis and learning disabilities linked to artificial food flavors and colors. AJN The American Journal of Nursing, 75(5), 797-803.
  10. Bateman, B., Warner, J. O., Hutchinson, E., Dean, T., Rowlandson, P., Gant, C., ... & Stevenson, J. (2004). The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 89(6), 506-511.
  11. McCann, D., Barrett, A., Cooper, A., Crumpler, D., Dalen, L., Grimshaw, K., ... & Stevenson, J. (2007). Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet, 370(9598), 1560-1567.
  12. European Parliament and Council of the European Union. Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on food additives. Dec 31, 2008. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:354:0016:0033:en:PDF (accessed July 28, 2013)
  13. American Psychiatric Association (Ed.). (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR®. American Psychiatric Pub.
  14. Polanczyk, G., de Lima, M., Horta, B., Biederman, J., & Rohde, L. (2007). The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: a systematic review and metaregression analysis. American journal of psychiatry, 164(6), 942-948.
  15. Tillisch, K., Labus, J., Kilpatrick, L., Jiang, Z., Stains, J., Ebrat, B., ... & Mayer, E. A. (2013). Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology.
  16. F Pineau, et al. Intestinal translocation capabilities of wheat allergens using the Caco-2 cell line. J. Agric. Food Chem. May 2007; 55 (11): 4576–83.
  17. SN Vogel, et al. Gliadin stimulation of murine macrophage inflammatory gene expression and intestinal permeability are MyD88-dependent: role of the innate immune response in Celiac disease. J. Immunol. Feb 2006; 176 (4): 2512–21.
  18. J Brownley, et al. Gliadin Induces an Increase in Intestinal Permeability and Zonulin Release by Binding to the Chemokine Receptor CXCR3. Gastroenterology. Mar 2008; 135 (1): 194–204.e3.
  19. Solnick, S. J., & Hemenway, D. (2012). The ‘Twinkie Defense’: the relationship between carbonated non-diet soft drinks and violence perpetration among Boston high school students. Injury prevention, 18(4), 259-263.
  20. Lien, L., Lien, N., Heyerdahl, S., Thoresen, M., & Bjertness, E. (2006). Consumption of soft drinks and hyperactivity, mental distress, and conduct problems among adolescents in Oslo, Norway. American Journal of Public Health, 96(10), 1815-1820.
  21. Benton, D., Kumari, N., & Brain, P. F. (1982). Mild hypoglycaemia and questionnaire measures of aggression. Biological psychology, 14(1), 129-135.
  22. Donohoe, R. T., & Benton, D. (1999). Blood glucose control and aggressiveness in females. Personality and Individual Differences, 26(5), 905-911.
  23. Ingwersen, J., Defeyter, M. A., Kennedy, D. O., Wesnes, K. A., & Scholey, A. B. (2007). A low glycaemic index breakfast cereal preferentially prevents children's cognitive performance from declining throughout the morning. Appetite, 49(1), 240-244.
  24. Gregersen, S., Jeppesen, P. B., Holst, J. J., & Hermansen, K. (2004). Antihyperglycemic effects of stevioside in type 2 diabetic subjects. Metabolism, 53(1), 73-76.
  25. Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Curtin, L. R., McDowell, M. A., Tabak, C. J., & Flegal, K. M. (2006). Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, 1999-2004. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association, 295(13), 1549-1555.
  26. Curi, R., Alvarez, M., Bazotte, R. B., Botion, L. M., Godoy, J. L., & Bracht, A. (1986). Effect of Stevia rebaudiana on glucose tolerance in normal adult humans. Brazilian journal of medical and biological research= Revista brasileira de pesquisas médicas e biológicas/Sociedade Brasileira de Biofísica...[et al.], 19(6), 771.

  • Comment with Facebook
  • Comment as a Guest
Community Poll

What Health Topics Are You Most Interested In?

Newsletter

Information and statements regarding dietary supplements/products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is a result of years of practice and experience by the author. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your healthcare provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website.

Please wait...

Continue shopping
View cart & checkout
Continue shopping
View cart & checkout