Managing Stress and Cognitive Function: Back-to-School with BioRay and Dr. Olejak

Question: Back to school is stressful for me, just as much as my child. (IF NOT MORE!) What would you recommend for parents who are overwhelmed as well?

Dr. OlejakDear Overwhelmed, 

The most commonly missed cause of fatigue is something called adrenal depletion. Most medical professionals do not recognize it because as long as adrenal hormones are within normal limits in the blood they assume everything is fine. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Stress is a major contributing factor to adrenal depletion. Stress activates the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis and the adrenal glands respond with hormonal secretions such as adrenaline and cortisol; which have the effect of making you feel run down.There are two strategies to employ to manage stress:

  1. Take care of you
  2. Take care of your adrenals

Taking care of you: By definition a parent is one who puts children first and their needs last. Don’t do that! Make time for rest. Sleep loss actually increases cortisol [1] and exercise decreases cortisol. [2] Get 8 hours of sleep per night and get some aerobic exercise (brisk walk, jog, bike, swim, XC ski, or cardioglide machine) and at least three times per week. If you can’t sleep consider valerian root.The liver also degrades cortisol with an enzyme called CP450. Liver Life supports this natural pathway and clears the unused hormones out of your system.[3]

Take care of your adrenals: Ease up on the caffeine. Double shot espressos, iced vanilla lattes or just drinking coffee all day is an adrenal assault. Try green tea if you can’t live without some caffeine, but mint or chamomile tea is way better. Breathe! Yes, breathing is a reset for the CNS and yoga breathing is a wonderful daily practice even if you just stick to one restorative pose such as corpse pose for 15 minutes. [4]Loving Energy provides adrenal support too. Numerous research studies support the effect of adaptogens like solomon seal root, eleuthro root, reishi mushroom, licorice root, polygonatum root, and schizandra berry on the adrenal glands. Here’s how:

  •  An adaptogen is nontoxic
  • An adaptogen produces a nonspecific response in the body— an increase in the power of resistance against multiple stressors including physical, chemical, or biological agents
  • An adaptogen has a normalizing influence on physiology, irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by the stressor. [5]

In order to give you have to keep a reserve of vitality inside of you. Pull back a little, take care of you and make requests for help if you need to.


Sources:
[1] http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1997-38275-003
[2] http://joe.endocrinology-journals.org/content/62/2/341.short
[3] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/096007609390325Q
[4] http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/482
[5] http://www.adaptogens.org/adaptogen/observing-adaptogens/169-references


 

QuestionI have two friends that have utilized both structural adjustments and dietary supplements in their children. One of them experienced a huge boost in their ability to learn and function- so much so that he was mainstreamed. The other child improved, but it was a more subtle improvement in moods. I realize all kids are different and any progress is good, but how can I maximize my child's results?


Dr. OlejakDear Mom Seeking Better Results,

In previous posts we’ve mentioned the primary value of detoxification using the Detox Trio. Other supports could also include Gingko for blood flow to the brain, DHA/EPA for improved nerve function, and for retention and short term memory -- Bacopa monierri. [1]In terms of maximizing learning the places you want to be looking at are:

  • Supporting executive skills 
  • Managing your child’s word instead of their actions

Executive skills: Executive skills are so named as they oversee and manage
the cognitive functions of the brain. They play a major role in information processing, abstract thinking, problem solving, initiation and inhibition. The executive skills organize, sequence, sort, group, relate, differentiate, combine, separate and many other operations with the data and information taken into the brain through the senses. Children trained in these skills can use this information to plan, reason, make decisions and initiate/inhibit responses. This allows for cognitive flexibility and better information processing.

Difficulty with initiation and inhibition is undesirable as it can interfere with responding or cause one to be impulsive and inappropriate in behavior. The executive skills interplay with the attention skills in determining the target of focus and keeping track during attention shifting and divided attention.[1]

There are a number of places parents can take children for training in executive skills. Help may be found through national organizations.[2]

Managing your child’s word: Many parents make the mistake of managing
behavior. I think this is a mistake because it betrays the most basic relationship that the child has to language. What does that mean? It means creating agreements and honoring the words in those agreements. I had a situation once in the office where I treated a child that had some bruises. I’m obligated to ask about such things because of child abuse. As it turned out it was an older sibling bullying the younger one. The natural impulse of the older boy was to control the younger one, but we sat down and hashed out an agreement between the boys and the parent to use words instead of violence to solve disagreements. When the agreement was broken a time out ensued.

At first the boys were always in the time out, but after about a week they began to honor their word and the behavior stopped. You could apply the same technique to learning by setting up agreements (with rewards and consequences) keep the spirit of the agreement alive until it is fully implemented. It could be something as simple as limiting screen time during the school week or an agreement to sit down and help with homework at a specific time. My second daughter had a reading delay and we were advised to have her read out loud. I have an agreement with her about bedtime reading. She reads to me while I rub her back. We’ve done that for 2 years. She loves it and reads great now.


Sources:
[1] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.2537/abstract
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_functions
[3] http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-executive-functioning/basic-effacts/executive-skills-and-your-child-with-ld

 

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