July 15, 2020

Deepa Kannan talks on how food and learning disabilities as a connect cannot be ignored.

Mums and Stories under Meet the Experts column brings this time one of the insightful experts on food and abilities and disabilities that is connected. We are of course more than what we eat and why and how does it affect us –let’s understand better with the expert.

Meet Deepa Kannan who is a yoga expert who has also taken up the role of a Functional Nutritionist, Functional Nutritionist Educator and blogger, Founder and Executive Director at the Magic Foundation –India and she blogs at https://phytothrive.com/

Sharing with Mums and Stories, she shares on the distinct connect that needs our attention on Food and the deep connect on the abilities in life.

What is an inflammatory menu? And why do you say most schools are providing these? What changes can parents do? Should they make the efforts to cook themselves or ask for a change in menus?

Inflammatory foods are those that create an inflammatory response in your body. An inflammation is a response by your immune system to anything which it considers a danger, in this case, a particular food and reactions can come as heat, redness, swelling, pain, disturbed function and excessive secretions. These reactions can be deep within your body, where it cannot be seen, keeping your body in a state where you could be prone to more complex health challenges, physiologically or mentally, as long as you keep eating those foods.

It is your Immune system which is most sensitive to nutritional status and changes, however subtle they might be. To explain this better, think of how most people who go on a vacation and eat a lot of sweets, come back and catch a virus. Compromising your immunity puts you at risk for further infections, and depletes critical vitamins and minerals. In a sensitive body, inflammation can quickly be seen as brain inflammation, from which symptoms like ADHD, Autism and learning issues emerge. These are not diagnosis, but symptoms of which the root cause is inflammation.

Multiple schools today, serve food to children which are primarily the top inflammatory foods of gluten or even worse processed flour, dairy in the most processed forms, refines sugar, corn, soy, food colouring and MSG.  These include pizza, pasta, noodles, pastries, muffins, puffs, cheese sandwiches and worse.

Parents need to ask their children on a daily basis and stay updated with what they ate at school. I’ve constantly had reactions from parents when I’ve given talks at communities, where they’ve told me that what I’m talking about is ideal but not practical and no child will listen. It takes time.

It is not a magical moment when everything is perfect and as parents we need to accept that before we even try to make changes to our child. We need to talk to them, educate them on what can go wrong and most importantly find options for favorite foods which are anti-inflammatory and tasty too. It is possible. It takes effort and time and patience.

(Deepa Kannan -Functional Nutritionist, Yoga expert)

Also parents need to get their kids involved in the kitchen occasionally, and get them thinking about colours and recipe ideas within parameters. If as parents you can succeed in reducing the inflammatory load on your child, you are well on your way to helping them through life in very powerful ways! While many parents may think that their child has no problems and wonder why they need to make any changes, the very bitter reality today is that Autism, ADHD and all learning disorders are rapidly increasing, and as a society we have done to this to our kids with how we’ve altered our traditional eating methods and adopted those from the West.

If every parent makes an effort to talk to their respective school and at least have them reduce pastries with colours, puffs, muffins, pastas and pizzas, we can reduce the rate at which learning disorders are growing worldwide. As parents we can also start educating our child on how to choose food from a school buffet.


2) How is sugar one of the prominent causes in learning disabilities?

Sugar is one of the top most inflammatory foods. It creates severe blood sugar imbalance setting the stage for mood disorders and every kind of addiction, including alcohol later in life. Multiple studies have proven that white blood cell function is severely depressed when there is more sugar.

In fact, just one teaspoon of sugar can depress your child’s immune system for five hours later!

When your child’s body is robbed of crucial minerals like calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, chromium and zinc from eating sugar, their immune system is weakened.

Sugar releases opiates in your child’s brain, which stimulate dopamine, which is associated with pleasure and euphoria. This makes them seek out sugar in every form. It can make your child feel good, but it is not sustained, and can actually deplete neurochemicals, leading to behaviour issues as time goes along.

Sugar also creates gut dysbiosis leading to increase in pathogenic bacteria. When this happens, the good bacteria which behave like soldiers, decrease and this can lead to anything from gut inflammation to gut permeability. That then leads to brain inflammation. The gut brain connection is very real and more and more research is coming out proving the link between brain related problems and gut related problems. Sugar can also cause genes to express in ways we don’t want them to express. I want to stress again that learning disorders including ADHD are only symptoms not the diagnosis. The root cause or causes exists in multiple places deep within the child’s body.


3) What are unresolved gut issues? How can a parent identify and get it resolved?

Gut issues can be gas, bloating, undigested food in the stool, acidity, burning in the throat, inability to break down a food group, nausea, vomiting and much more. The mistake most parents make is to ignore something as small. Thinking your child has just gas can result in compromised digestion, lack of nutrient absorption, chronic inflammation, pain, fatigue, improper sleep, lack of attention, learning disorders and much more.

Never ever neglect these as just small digestive issues or worse to think that this is the way your child is. The fact that the gut is the backbone of all health means that neglected gut issues can end up as much more complex diagnosis later. As a parent always watch how your child eats, if their appetite has increased or decreased, if the child’s stomach is bloated or distended, if the fall ill all the time or if they have any other symptoms of health. Take the time to see that you reduce the inflammatory foods they eat, that they are not deficient in vital nutrients and that they do not eat watching television.

If they do show signs of digestive distress, and no simple home remedy helps, do get them tested for parasites and if needed treat them.

Make children aware of their bodies and teach them to let you know if they have pain or discomfort.


Are you saying we have been ignoring the growing incidence of autism and other disabilities and the connect with food in our lives?

 The fact that we are rapidly growing worldwide in Autism, ADHD and every kind of learning issue is proof that we as a society have done this to our kids.

We’ve moved away from traditional ways of cooking and eating, and this includes eating more processed foods to sitting on chairs.

Even if we ate one meal a day sitting cross legged on the floor, we will improve our digestion.

A large number of families today actually think that it is uncool to eat dal and rice and sabji.

Again so many teenagers live on pizzas. Of course schools have contributed to this by serving mostly processed foods. Discussions with many principals ends in them telling me that the kids like that food! The same person then gives parents a hard time talking about their child not paying attention. Well of course they are not going to pay attention if they eat pizzas for lunch, which contains the world’s top three inflammatory foods of gluten, dairy and refine sugar!

Start changing your child’s food habits at home slowly. Begin with introducing more colour and making them excited about choosing the day’s colour. Add good quality protein and see that your child gets enough protein. The way I see it today, children are just not getting adequate protein. Begin their day with enough protein so they don’t have blood sugar imbalance the whole day.

Avoid packing snack boxes with anything from a packet or a can.

Iron deficiency is a big one out there today. See that your child is not Iron deficient.


5) How important it is for kids to play outside? Lastly what is it from ancient times that we have forgotten in our food habits that should be or recommended to be brought back.

Movement is a major part of a child’s physical health and mental clarity.

What is really important to note is that play time has been replaced largely by screen time. Multiple children eat meals in front of the television or have their own IPad.

Electro Magnetic Frequency or EMF from these can harm kids in dangerous ways. Children absorb more EMF than adults because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner and their relative size is smaller. EMF can mess up your child’s brain mitochondria, the powerhouse of energy in the brain, leading to brain inflammation. The brain needs sound sleep to clear out cellular waste. EMF can alter sleep rhythms and prevent this glymphatic drain, or brain cleanse, leading to neurodegenerative diseases in children. The good old fashioned outdoor play before the days of television and technology was a time when learning issues were far less. We had two televisions. We did all of this and found our child spaced out and engrossed in the world of make believe. One fine day, we removed both our cable connections and are now happily without even one. Parents do not need to go to that extreme, but can definitely restrict screen time drastically, and definitely not while eating!

It’s about appreciating simple foods and giving your body time to start the digestive process, for digestion does not begin in your child’s body, it begins in your child’s brain.

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