How’s homeschooling going? How successful have you felt in your efforts to work from home? Does your child have attention issues that are making online schoolwork challenging? Have you also found yourself staring at your computer screen or re-reading the same sentence three times wondering how any of us are supposed to stay focused at a time like this? This working and schooling from home phenomenon is new to most of us and the experience may be highlighting focus issues in you or your family members. Even those of us without an official diagnosis of an attention disorder may feel similarly given that our body’s stress response can make it challenging to have the focus we have may have pre-pandemic.

When I work with kids with ADD and ADHD, I start by getting a full assessment of their nutrition. Proper nutrition is critical to our cognitive operations. Our brain’s neuron’s rely on healthy fats but also use glucose as fuel. And the amino acids that are broken down from the proteins that we eat are the building blocks of the neurotransmitters that pass messages from one neuron to the next. Fats, carbohydrates and proteins, in the proper ratio, are part of the equation but the nervous system also relies heavily on B vitamins (of which there are different types). I often run an organic acid test on my patients who are experiencing difficulty focusing or have other signs of neurotransmitter imbalance. An organic acid test is a urine test and is therefore easy for kids to do. While it does not test the levels of these vitamins directly, it allows us to look at metabolic pathways to see if there is a need for vitamin supplementation based on the individual’s results.

Generally speaking, however, there are some nutrients that can be helpful to support focus and are generally safe. Here are the top 5:

  • Dimethylglycine is a derivative of the amino acid glycine which has a relaxing effect on the nervous system. DMG supports circulating and oxygen utilization, thereby improving brain health and function.
  • Betaine is a component of many foods such as spinach and beets. It can help the body to better utilize amino acids (the same amino acids needed for neurotransmitter production) and thereby has been found to improve focus and and brain function.
  • Vitamins B6 and B12 are two of the B vitamins that are most likely to be low and are most linked to neurological symptoms.
  • Magnesium glycinate is the form of Magnesium that I recommend for calming brain activity. Magnesium is involved in so many reactions in the body and is found in many fruits or vegetables but taking supplemental magnesium is a safe way to support a decreased stress response.
  • The herb skullcap is the first herb I turn to when I’m supporting students with their studies. It promotes relaxation but also focus and clear thinking.
I often hear parents say that they try to keep their kids off of their ADD or ADHD medications when they are at home but when school has come home for the foreseeable future, you may feel conflicted as to how best to support your child’s ability to focus. Remember that there are naturopathic approaches to supporting inattentiveness or difficulty concentrating and while everyone is under the same roof, now may be the time to explore these options.