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Nutritional therapy for children

Nutritional therapy is a holistic approach to making dietary changes that support the gut health and change the messages to the brain. Harley Row Clinic uses a range of diagnostic tools, treatments, and assessments to explore genetic, biochemical, and environmental factors in your child’s lifestyle, the role of these factors and the microbiome. The Harley Row Clinic creates health plans that supports nutrition for mental health problems in children in any age.

A young girl eating an apple.

Nutritional and functional medicine for children

There is a great deal of evidence which links brain function to gut health and what we eat and drink. For example, caffeine is a well-known stimulant that prevents adenosine – the neurotransmitter responsible for making you sleepy – from interacting as efficiently with the receptors in your brain.

In the same way that caffeine is digested in the gut and is commonly known to impact on the neurochemicals in our brain, it makes sense that other foods that we eat can also affect the brain.

What a child eats and drinks can also impact on ADHD and autism. While nutrition is not necessarily the cause, it can change mood, behaviour and learning.

Research has shown that children with ADHD may have lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These neurotransmitters help with memory, motivation, mood, and attention. By making changes to your child’s nutrition, we can support the gut to change the messages to their brain. For example, if we can increase the amount of fibre fruit and vegetables in your child’s diet, this will help the microbiome to diversify and help your child to focus more and improve their mood and memory.

Children with ADHD have also been shown to have more trouble digesting gluten. When the gut cannot digest gluten, found in wheat or even casein from milk effectively, it creates a substance called Casomorphin. This has a similar effect to opiates on the receptors in the brain which can impact on behaviour and learning.

So, if your child is eating foods for breakfast that are for example wheat-based cereals in milk just before school, it’s more likely that they will experience a surge in hyperactivity and lack of attention just as the school day begins.

New research in this area is consistently informing therapeutic practice. With this knowledge, practitioners can treat individuals in an integrative manner.

For example, a nutrition plan for your child may include a suggestion to swap their breakfast to a simple meal of bacon and eggs, which means lots of protein. This reduces the impact of an insulin surge and helps balance blood glucose, all of which can improve symptoms of ADHD.

So, how does the food that we eat impact how we think and feel? Our food is information for every single cell and tissue in our body and the brain is no exception. The process of digesting and absorbing our food is complex, meaning even if we are putting the right fuel in, it doesn’t always mean our brains can use it. Our brains use electrical and chemical signals to communicate, and if the foundations of this chemical mix are lacking, this can alter how we think and feel. Our brains are also affected by the immune system, hormones and how well our gut can absorb food. Indeed, our bodies communicate 80% up to the brain and just 20% down from the brain to the body.

The gut is home to its own nervous system, a network of millions of neurones that form part of the gut wall. The gut bacteria, within their microbiome, regulate digestion, take the nutrients from food and keep the immune system functioning. They also work hard to create many of the neurochemicals that your brain uses, such as serotonin and dopamine. A food intolerance can cause an inflamed gut, which then interferes with the production of those vital neurotransmitters.

The digestive system and brain are directly linked via the vagus nerve. So, if you have ever had a ‘gut feeling’ – it really could be your gut sending messages directly to your brain. With such an important job, it’s A varied healthy diet leads to a varied and healthy gut microbiome, sending clear messages to the brain. A more restricted diet can lead to a less healthy microbiome – and that can lead to those messages becoming more confused.

Simple nutritional changes create a big impact. At Harley Row Clinic, our specialists will work with you and your child to introduce small, manageable changes that can be enjoyed by the whole family, without need for separate menus. By working to create healthy habits you can create an inner sense of balance and wellness through dietary changes and supplements, helping your child to feel calmer and more confident and improve their memory function and learning.

At Harley Row Clinic, the team is governed by strong professional principles when it comes to the practice’s young patients, insisting on seeing children face-to-face in the clinic for an assessment. This ensures each child is assessed comprehensively, with their behaviour, attention and how they function in various settings taken into consideration.

There are many nutritional approaches we can use to improve mental health; it is about providing a bespoke plan of support to suit your child’s individual needs. It is worth noting that "healthy" is unique to each person's diet, and a one-size "balanced diet" does not fit all. For example, with nutrition for ADHD we are not seeking to cure ADHD but find ways that nutritional therapy can help a child to cope and feel better through different eating habits, focusing on certain foods, other nutrients and vitamins. It's important that we each find our own version of a healthy lifestyle and understand that nutritional therapy can help with the prevention and management of symptoms.

Nutritional therapy falls under the functional medicine pathway. We encourage a threefold comprehensive treatment path for mental health intervention, considering both allopathic and naturopathic treatment – alongside psychological intervention and, if appropriate, medications.\

Functional medicine practitioners treat the whole person in an integrative approach to mental health. This approach addresses the root causes of mental health issues.

"I took my 6 year old to see Florence 3 months ago because he was falling far behind with his reading and writing. He struggled to focus on anything he didn't like doing, such as reading, so I wasn't sure if he wasn't progressing because he simply wasn't practicing enough or if there was an underlying issue. I could see how tiring he found reading, and doing his homework would always turn into a battle. Within 2 weeks of following Florence's program, we started to notice an improvement in his attention span and so did his teacher. We're now 3 months in and are really turning a corner. His improved concentration means he can read an entire school book so is getting so much more practice. He went up a reading level last week and I wouldn't be surprised if he goes up again shortly because he's already reading the new level books well.  His teacher said he's volunteering to read in class (something he would never have done before) and she told us, "Whatever you're doing, keep doing it because it's working!". She's also interested in Florence's program after seeing such an improvement in our son in a short time. I can't recommend Florence highly enough.  In an ideal world, every school would have a Florence."

-Verified Patient


What Are The Symptoms of

Nutritional Therapy

What Are The Benefits of

Nutritional Therapy

Looking to get help and move forward?

Our team specialises in private help for children and young patients. We are here to support you in taking that first step towards receiving help. Please get in touch.

Frequently asked questions

Haven't found the answer you were looking for? Perhaps our FAQ's could help. If you're still needing help, please get in touch.

What does a nutritional health plan look like?

It will consist of a diet plan, which supports any other therapy you are undertaking. it it individual and based on your needs (according to your diagnosis, lifestyle, allergies).

How long does the nutritional assessment last for my child?

The length of the plan depends on the results of the assessment. Yuu can speak to one of our team to find out more.

What happens in the nutritional assessment?

During the nutritional assessment, we’ll discuss how the food your child eats can impact on their brain. We will discuss your child’s diet and medical history and undertake allergen testing if appropriate and agreed.

Want to know more?

Nutritional changes should be introduced gradually through ongoing consultations so that you can make changes that suit your child’s lifestyle and have a positive impact on their behaviour and mental health. To discuss your child’s unique nutritional needs, contact nutritional therap

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