How do you keep yourself organized and remember all your to-do items? If you’re anything like me, you obsessively read productivity hacks, have about 10 million notebooks and digital tools and post-its and other random to-do lists floating around your purse, your gym bag, and your desk.
I’ve been trying for years to organize myself via all these tools, and it wasn’t until recently that it occurred to me that maybe there was a way to address the underlying issue: my terrible memory. No notebook or online task list was going fix that; they were just bandaids over the original problem.
Funnily enough, it was through #momlife that I discovered a way to potentially improve my working memory. I recently had a chance to take an at-home test for DHA levels in your breastmilk. From what I understood, DHA was essential to brain health, though to be honest I didn’t know much about it.
So while I waited for results (it’s only a five day wait, but hey, I was curious and looking for more information!) I chatted with a friend and fellow nursing mom who also happens to be a nutritionist, about just why DHA matters. Turns out it’s not just important for nursing moms, but that everyone can benefit from maintaining healthy DHA levels, and getting my DHA up to a healthy level might help my brain as well as my daughter’s.
Here’s what Nikki—a veritable wealth of knowledge—had to share.
1. Why should we be concerned about getting enough DHA in our diet?
DHA or Docosahexaenoic Acid is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain and retina. Everyone should be conscience of maintaining adequate levels of DHA since it has so many health benefits, especially related to the aging process. If you are vegan or vegetarian, I would be especially concerned about getting adequate amounts of DHA since it mainly comes from fish/seafood. Supplementation is often necessary to support to brain while enjoying the other benefits from vegan/vegetarian lifestyles.
Optimal levels of DHA has been related to better performance on tests of nonverbal reasoning, vocabulary, and working memory.
2. Why is DHA important for nursing moms specifically?
DHA is an essential part of all cell membranes in the body but especially important in the make up of the myelin sheath around nerve cells, which affects brain development, coping skills, and later learning patterns. During the first few years of life, baby’s brain and nervous system are developing at an amazing pace. By age 3, 80% of brain volume is established so it is imperative that ample amounts of DHA are provided as the building blocks of these neuro-networks.
3. What are the benefits to getting the recommended amount of DHA?
DHA modulates the transport of choline, taurine, and other amino acids important for neurotransmitter communication. DHA deficiency has been associated with cognitive decline, while optimal levels of DHA has been related to better performance on tests of nonverbal reasoning, vocabulary, and working memory.
4. What are the best dietary sources of DHA?
The best dietary sources of DHA are from fish and seaweed. Our body is able to make small amounts of DHA from EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), however EPA also comes from fish and seaweed, and the amount of DHA we make from EPA is often not enough to produce a therapeutic effect.
5. Is there a DHA supplement you would recommend?
I recommend taking a pharmaceutical-grade Omega-3 supplement (or Fish oil) from a reputable company that guarantees its product is free of excipients and heavy metal contamination. The companies I recommend will all provide a third-party assay of their products to the consumer to ensure its potency and purity. These brands are typically only sold to licensed healthcare professionals or wellness pharmacies. My favorite brands are Designs For Health, Xymogen, and Numedica. For breast-feeding moms I recommend 500-1000mg of DHA daily, and for non-nursing adults I recommend 300-500mg of DHA daily.
Austin native Nikki Drummond is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) specializing in the field of neuroscience. As the founder of NeuroFit Nutrition™, she is known for her expertise in the field of clinical nutrition and neurochemical physiology. Since 1998, Nikki has become known as a speaker, instructor and educational writer in the healthcare field. She has held various leadership roles teaching the public, patients, professionals and physicians how to utilize leading-edge nutritional techniques in the treatment and prevention of various conditions that originate at the cellular level. Nikki believes that many health problems and behaviors reflect an unidentified endocrine imbalance rather than a lack of willpower. Consequently, she develops customized nutrition-based protocols for adults and children suffering from fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, ADD/ADHD, memory problems and other brain-related issues. Several milestones distinguish Nikki’s career including: the creation of therapeutic lifestyle education programs, leading an esteemed practitioner network by providing interpretation of laboratory data and consistently empowering individuals looking for the “missing link” on their journey to better health when other options have failed them. Her philosophy is to be a proactive advocate for wellness through nutrition and lifestyle modification, relying on long-term pharmaceutical drug therapies only as a last resort. In addition to her private practice, she has developed corporate wellness plans, complete with on-site testing, for local companies and has given seminars for organizations such as Whole Foods Market and the Texas Department of Health, and was a speaker at the 2012 Texas Conference for Women hosted by Texas first lady Anita Perry. She has also been a featured guest on several Austin area radio shows.
Here’s the reveal—and my plan—of my DHA levels, and if you want to find out the DHA levels in your breastmilk, use code ALYSE15 for 15% off the at-home test I took. You can also save 10% on any test from Everlywell (food sensitivity, metabolism, sleep, and more!) with the code FitApp10.
1. Gilmore JH, Lin W, Prasatwa MW, et al. Regional gray matter growth, sexual dimorphism, and cerebral asymmetry in the neonatal brain. Journal of Neuroscience. 2007;27(6):1255-1260.
2. Matthew, Muldoon; Christopher M. Ryan; Lei Sheu; Jeffrey K. Yao; Sarah M. Conklin; Stephen B. Manuck (2010). “Serum Phospholipid Docosahexaenonic Acid Is Associated with Cognitive Functioning during Middle Adulthood”. Journal of Nutrition. 140 (4): 848–53. doi:10.3945/jn.109.119578. PMC . PMID 20181791.