Functional Nutrition and Learning considers the whole child – gut health, learning channels, movement and nutritional status.



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Disclaimer: The information in this Podcast is for educational purposes only. Vaishnavi Sarathy, Ph.D. is an educator, not a doctor, specifically not your child’s doctor. Please consult your physician before implementing any supplement or diet recommendations.


Functional Learning specifically looks at your input channels, your senses, and your output channels, motor, before labeling your child. It talks about teaching disabilities, inadequacies, school setting inadequacies, and the importance of Presuming Competence.

My TEDx talk was about understanding Functional Learning.

  1. Food, the single most frequent intervention, can reduce inflammation, help seizures, and more. Through sensible dietary restriction comes deep freedom.
  2. Sugar – biochemistry of addiction and nutrient deficiency that comes about. Pciky Eating and Hyperactivity
  3. Movement is the language of the brain. The value of slow movement and how variation in movement make a difference.
  4. Snacks and Blood Sugar – symptoms of low and high blood sugar mimic symptoms of hyperactivity and low attention.
  5. Boredom – intelligence is hard to assess.
  6. Constipation is not a Miralax deficiency. MIralax is just a bandaid
  7. Genetics get blamed for a whole host Epigenetics are very important – digestion, environmental triggers, inflammation.
  8. Traditional Foods – Fat/Fiber/Protein/Color – antioxidants, flavonoids, different superchemicals for different organ systems and disorder
  9. Picky Eating – behavioral approach.
  10. Anti-inflammatory eating with Andrea Livingston
  11. Micronutrients in ADHD
  12. Importance of the Microbiome – the connectivity of the microbiome is a microcosm of the connectivity of life.

Let’s a take a brief look back at the 12 key learning points on our journey in Functional Nutrition and Learning. And so, the podcast gets gently renamed. So much more to learn …

Audio Transcription:


Welcome to functional nutrition and learning for kids. Did you know I can’t count.

So yes, two weeks ago, I told you that we’ve done 13 episodes in our season about focus, hyperactivity, and picky eating. But unfortunately, they were mislabeled. We have 12 episodes so far. And therefore today instead of moving on to a new season, this will be lucky number 13. In our newly relabeled, functional nutrition and learning for kids,

I was having a hard time deciding how to fit the excellent learning-based interviews into the framework of functional nutrition for kids, and then had a flash of realization that my passion has not been limited to nutrition. I’ve always had one foot in the nutrition box, and one in learning and education in my businesses. Do you know that my parallel business is called Plum Pudding Chemistry and that I am a Math and Chemistry tutor, and tutor all levels of chemistry and math up to AP Chem and calculus?

Well, just as Functional Nutrition not only considers what you eat but what your body can do with what you eat. Functional learning considers your input channels, your senses, basically, and your output channels, which is your motor, before labeling your child as an inadequate learner. In fact, you would never label a child or anybody as an inadequate learner, right?

I should just say before labeling or assigning boxes to a child. Functional learning talks about teaching disabilities or inadequacies, school setting inadequacies. The most important in my mind is the assumption of innate competence and ability. It isn’t a term I have come across in the past. And if I’m mistaken, please let me know. It’s a term that I have coined right now because it seems to go so well with functional Nutrition. In this context, I might say that my TEDx talk was about understanding functional learning.

Having given this context, I would like to summarize our 12 outstanding podcasts so far. And here we go…

Food, Movement, and Respect

In Episode 1, we learned that food, the single most frequent intervention can reduce inflammation, resolves seizures, reverse diabetes, and so on. Isn’t that amazing? I reference an article that says so importantly, and I’m quoting,

“…viewing food as a hormone could substantially influence how we make dietary recommendations to promote health or treat specific diseases…”

And this is huge: viewing food as a hormone, right? At the risk of quoting myself again: “through sensible dietary restriction comes deep freedom.”

Sounds like a spider man quote, but I love it.

Episode 2 has been the most listened to so far. Remember? Sugar, hyperactivity and surprise, picky eating! Some of the interesting things about sugar that we uncovered in that episode were the biochemistry or addiction that sugar is so deeply associated with and the nutrient deficiency it brings about. And lastly, but not leastly, blood sugar imbalances, all of which all of these things end up deeply making this vicious cycle of picky eating and hyperactivity, more and more deeply entrenched.

This is a good one, go check it out if you haven’t.

Episode Three, with Kathy Shane Jones is my personal favorite, Kathy’s an ABM  practitioner and she says something that has become my personal mantra.

Movement is the language of the brain.

Kathy talks about the value of slow movement, something we’ve completely dismissed as a culture and about variations and movement and how they can help with learning. I so love this episode, because who talks about the value of slowness these days anymore?

And then it was bad to snacks and blood sugar. Now the reason I had to say this again was: blood sugar is so missed as a causative factor of behavior. I truly believe that if blood sugar fluctuations were addressed, many many children with diagnoses of ADHD would simply lose their labels. If you check out this episode, it is staggering how the symptoms of both low and high blood sugar so closely mimic those of hyperactivity and sometimes aggression.

This is where we changed direction and enter the world of functional assessment of learning. And I gave a kind of a mini version of my TEDx talk about how much of a lack of focus is pure boredom, especially in children that don’t speak at poor motor skills to it and you have a child whose intelligence is very hard to assess, and therefore I believe it is our duty to not assess it at all.

I have a model of a three phase or a three layered pyramid of function. Nutrition forms the base layer movement, the second, and respect is the third layer.

Respect without nutritional support sets the child up for a very hard time. And nutrition without respect is for what purpose?

Constipation, Epigenetics and Color

When Dr. Erica Peirson joined us for the hugely popular two episodes, we discuss constipation like never before, famously that constipation is not a Miralax deficiency. Now the use of Miralax is hotly debated and it must be recognized that it is not a solution, just a bandaid. And it is really bad practice to use a band aid for months and years as it is often.

Now, the main reason that a lot of kids don’t get the care they deserve, especially if they come with a diagnosis of Down syndrome, or autism. CP even ADHD is that somehow genetics get blamed.

And you know, this is genetics get blamed for a ton of other stuff. I’ve already said ADHD, focus, hyperactivity, obesity, even picky eating sometimes. This is why it is so important that we get the message of epigenetics out to society. When we talk about digestion, environmental triggers, inflammation, there are components to be considered that are often as important and many times more important than genetics. There are foods that can affect the very expression of our genes. This is why I love episode seven and our talk about the huge food superpowers. Green tea and fish oil.

Yes, it remains an ongoing battle to get my daughter to drink her morning matcha that I drink but I’m trying all sorts of things. My son on the other hand loves his morning matcha. (News Flash, as of 2021, Matcha is no longer a struggle, Hello Ice Matcha Latte!)

I had made loud initially my intention about bridging the gap in this podcast between ancestral traditions and modern research. It was only in episode eight that Deepa Kannan, my colleague and I discussed the role of traditional foods. I also love her mantra for a healthy meal, fat fiber protein and color. And I would suggest that this is a mantra that you never forget print it out or write it out and stick it on your fridge maybe may have your child draw on it.

Organize meals based on this concept -fat, fiber, protein, color. Deepa has trained with Deanna Minich, and  I love Dr. Minich’s focus on colors, and how different colors different naturally occurring colors in foods bring in. antioxidants, flavonoids, different phytochemicals in general that are specific to organ systems and disorders.

Picky Eating and Anti-inflammatory Diet

Now throughout this podcast, one of the things that keep popping up is picky eating. And my focus and binge eating is very biochemical, very physiological.

But there are other approaches sensorial and behavioral. I have never been a fan of treating a disorder that is so rooted in physiology, in my opinion through a behavioral approach. But it was amazing talking to Katherine Jeffcoat : nutritionist RD based in Portland. I loved her emphasis on respecting intuition and the compassion she brought to the process. She also introduced me to a term I hadn’t heard about before ARFID.

Now sometimes behavioral support can be the key bridging gap. I do think I do still think that anti-inflammatory work is essential. And therefore a functional medicine lens is key to resolving eating disorders, especially long term. In this context, I’m very excited about a conversation coming up in about three to four weeks with another colleague do stay tuned.

Jumping on the famous Portland chef, Andrea Livingston, who has inspired me in so many ways in my recipes that I’ve used with said she was so easy and casual about anti-inflammatory eating. For her, it wasn’t a big deal. This is how we eat period, right? We don’t make it an issue. We just don’t cook with gluten, dairy, or refined sugar. For me. It’s very normal for me in my home now. And it’s so normal that I’m surprised that other people think wheat and dairy are necessary. Just listen to Andrea for the ease that she brings for the casual tone in which she talks about this.

Micronutrients and the Microbiome

In our final two episodes, we dug deep. I talked about micronutrients in ADHD in one episode, an intervention so well proven, yet so rarely used.

How many doctors will try and micronutrient capsule before a drug for a child with ADHD. This is going to be the trend these days with soil nutrient depletion with the use of non-organic non-sustainable methods of farming, even perhaps with increased GMO foods with reduced diversity of seats.

Finally, in one of the most passionate appeals on this podcast, Dr. Valerie La Rosa a naturopathic physician, also from Portland, talked about the intense importance of the microbiome.

If you are suffering from infections, autoimmunity, etc, know that your microbiome is dysbiotic.

The microbiome is the queen of all diseases, it’s the queen of all health that is the queen of all treatment. bacteria from obese mice make the mice obese. In human beings, when this happens, no amount of diet or exercise could help the newly obese person lose weight.

The power of our bacteria that outnumber us 10 to 1 with respect to cells, is profound. And everything in a way comes down to this.

That connectivity of the microbiome is a microcosm for the connectivity of life. We know that skin bacteria talk to gut bacteria, and also to bacteria that live on every surface of your body. Just this awareness to the enormity of life that we host is a reminder enough that the more our existence is symbiotic with the rest of nature, the easier health becomes.

You’re listening to Functional Nutrition and Learning for Kids.


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