Essential Nutrition for Dyslexia

Essential Nutrition for Dyslexia

1. Essential fatty acids

The right kinds of fats are needed for cell membrane construction, haemoglobin, digestive enzyme production, helps to regulate the electrical current in the heart, balance the immune system, and needed in repairing body tissues.

More importantly in this case they are required for brain development.  In the brain there are billions of connecting nerve cells.  Messengers called neurotransmitters deliver their message across connective points (synapses) to receptors.  The receptors are inside a myelin sheath, a bit like an electrical cable.  According to Holford (2003), this is approximately 75% fat.  It is composed of saturated and unsaturated fat, the unsaturated portion being Omega 3 and 6. Therefore maintaining the health of the myelin sheath helps to speed up message delivery and maintain brain health.

It also optimises the fluidity of the body’s cell membrane to allow it to receive nutrients.  In short it helps to keeps body and mind functioning effectively.

What foods can we find these good fats in?

  • Salmon , Scallops, Sardines, Shrimp, Cod, Tuna
  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts
  • Cauliflower, Cabbage, Broccoli, Spinach, Kale

These are the most nutrient dense options. However the way we cook our food impacts on the quality of the essential fat as it can be damaged by heat.

Fats are also essential for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Mateljan, G (2007)

Note: supplementation should be avoided in haemophiliacs or those using a blood thinning medication as they act as a blood thinner.

2. Zinc

Research has suggested that Children with dyslexia have a lower concentration of Zinc in their system.  Grant, E concluded that it was 66% that of their peers.

Zinc is an essential nutrient.  The body has no reserve and it is reliant on a regular dietary supply.

It is fundamentally needed for to ensure a healthy immune system, to support an optimal sense of smell and taste, and it helps to balance blood sugar.

Deficiency is linked to several mental health issues such as depression and anxiety according to Holford (2003).  Other signs of deficiency are confusion, blank mind, lack of motivation and poor memory.

Like our essential fatty acids that help to construct the brain, the main site of zinc in the body is found in the brain, it is necessary to maintain a healthy central nervous system.  Research by De Mel (2014) seems to suggest that zinc works with DHA, from Omega 3 to prevent brain cell degeneration.

Zinc RDA Table for childrenWhat foods can we find zinc in:

  • Calf’s liver , Lamb , oysters , crab
  • Spinach , Asparagus ,green peas, Broccoli
  • Pumpkin seeds , Sesame seeds
  • Cashew nuts

Note: When buying a supplement it should also contain a trace of copper as the body has a very sensitive balance of both. Zinc should not be supplemented for over a month. Do not take with Antibiotics as it interferes with absorption, it is recommended that antibiotics are taken 2 hours before or 4-6 hours after zinc. It may also interact with other prescription medications. If in doubt, consult with a heath care professional before use.

3. A good multi vitamin

Holford, P (2009) recommends a high strength multi vitamin to improve your Childs mind stating “All the evidence shows that just eating the recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamins is not enough to really maximise their potential.”

There are numerous reasons why your child may not be getting enough nutrients from their diet, it may not just be they are fussy eaters.  Stress impacts greatly on the way we absorb our nutrients, we are also all biologically different.

The nutrient values for children as stated below are as recommended by Holford, P (2010).

Nutrient Values and RDA for Children

4. Other points to consider


Sleep is an “antioxidant” for the brain in that it repairs any damage done by free radicals as we sleep, put simply we need sleep to maintain a healthy body.

The amount we need varies as we are all individual, new research suggests that there is no magic number.  The sleep foundation suggests we all know what feels right for us.

These are the sleep recommendations as made by the NHS:

  • 5 years – night time: 11 hours
  • 6 years – night time: 10 hours, 45 minutes
  • 7 years – night time: 10 hours, 30 minutes
  • 8 years – night time: 10 hours, 15 minutes
  • 9 years – night time: 10 hours
  • 10 years – night time: 9 hours, 45 minutes
  • 11 years – night time: 9 hours, 30 minutes
  • 12 years – night time: 9 hours, 15 minutes
  • 13 years – night time: 9 hours, 15 minutes
  • 14 years – night time: 9 hours
  • 15 years – night time: 9 hours
  • 16 years – night time: 9 hours


The recommended daily amount of fluids is:

  • 5 glasses (1 litre) for 5 to 8 year olds
  • 7 glasses (1.5 litres) for 9 to 12 year olds
  • 8 to 10 glasses (2 litres) for 13+ years

About two-thirds of the human body is made up of water. Water is essential as it helps control your body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and helps to remove wastes.

Water is lost from the body through sweating, breathing and going to the toilet.  Dehydration can cause headaches, tiredness, crankiness and poor concentration.

Sugary drinks, Tea and juice should be avoided as it loaded with sugar and chemicals and will add to a child’s concentration issues.

Sugar and stimulants

These should be limited if possible. Sugar raises the blood sugar level rapidly and may damage nerves and blood vessels. As a child with dyslexia needs their nerves it is firing correctly sugar will do them no favours.

According to Holford (2010) seesawing blood sugar levels affect a Childs IQ in a negative way.


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