Focus and Concentration - Things You Can Change

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

October 24, 2022

Focus and Concentration - Things You Can Change
Being able to focus affects you in all aspects of life. The ability to comprehend, follow directions, to drive, accomplish a task or project, succeed in school, maintain a job, and to read this article requires focus and attention. So many things affect your ability to focus or interfere with it. Despite the advances of modern day living and devices, poor focus and concentration, impulsivity, and changes in cognitive control are affect increasing numbers of individuals of all ages. Learn how you can make small, yet substantial changes to support a healthier brain and improve focus.

Does Poor Focus Affect You?

Some people can focus intently on things no matter their environment or how they feel. Others struggle to focus even in the best of circumstances. (Did someone say “squirrel”?)

An epidemic of poor focus affects kids and adults alike. Nearly 20 % of elementary age children have been diagnosed with concentration and focus difficulties. Statistics for adults with poor focus and other related cognitive concerns are even higher.

Inattention, hyperactivity, fidgety movements, or fatigue and zoning out may occur. Impulsive behaviors, being easily distracted, and difficulty processing new or detailed information may also happen. Anxiety, depression, feeling defeated, loss of interest and low self-esteem often develop as the ability to succeed and complete things is challenged.

Common Things That Affect Your Focus

Numerous things found in your environment affect your ability to focus. Room temperature, lighting, and the ergonomics of your workstation may affect your concentration.

Toxic environments with mold or chemicals off-gassing from new carpets, formaldehydes, perfumes, colognes, air fresheners or cleaning chemicals, etc. affect your nervous system. In addition, heavy metal toxicity, BPA and other plasticizers, and flame retardants in clothing, building materials, and furniture may contribute to brain fog and poor focus.

Noise from traffic, sirens, and loud conversations, etc. can distract you. Even clothing that is too tight or with irritating tags may affect your focus and distractibility. You can modify many of these things with a little adjustment, maintenance, or use of an air purifier, full spectrum light bulbs, and/or white noise.

Health and Physical Factors That Affect Focus and Concentration

Other factors that affect your ability to focus include mental and physical fatigue or exhaustion. Worry, anxiety, depression, chronic stress, a history of concussion or other brain injury, underlying neurodegenerative concerns, or brain fog from poor gut health affect your focus and concentration. Many individuals now suffer from post-Covid brain fog and related poor focus.

Sleep issues, sleep deprivation, sleep apnea, as well as blood sugar dysregulation, poor diet and erratic meal times, lack of hydration, and lack of exercise affect focus and your brain health. Pain, vision difficulties, tinnitus/ringing in the ears and other things that affect sensory processing can affect your focus. Hormonal shifts, especially with pregnancythyroid and adrenal hormone dysregulation, and menopause/andropause also affect your ability to focus, due not feeling well and changes in physiology.

Radiation treatments, chemo-brain, and medication side effects can readily lead to poor concentration, focus, and easy distractibility. These factors are linked with high levels of oxidative stress, mitochondrial impairment, and disturbances in choline levels that cause cognitive changes.

Smartphones and Devices

21st Century tech devices have dramatically changed the world with interruptions and distractions. Beeps, vibrations, dings, and rings send you running to look at your device and respond. This learned pattern has led to adverse changes in your brain and poor focus.

Research demonstrated that “Excessive smartphone use is associated with difficulties in cognitive-emotion regulation, impulsivity, impaired cognitive function, addiction to social networking, shyness, and low self-esteem.” Its use is associated with ADHD, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), reduced cognitive control and excessive alcohol use. MRI reports also show abnormal changes in the gray matter of the brain with excessive smartphone use.

Fundamental Brain Needs

Sustained focus and attention requires several things of your brain. The most fundamental needs include a quality whole foods diet, healthy blood pressureadequate, quality sleep, nutrients, and exercise.

Low Blood Pressure and Poor Focus

Many individuals may blame their poor focus on brain chemistry. This is true, but blood pressure health is also crucial. If blood flow to your brain is compromised, it affects every aspect of brain health.

In children and adolescents, it was found that those with lower blood pressure had more trouble focusing. Low blood pressure was considered a significant and independent predictor of diminished concentration.

Blood pressure stability and autonomic nervous system function are affected by many things like vitamin D, choline, and vagus nerve function, etc. More detailed information about this may be found at:

Low Blood Pressure Causes Fatigue and Brain Stress

Low Blood Pressure Linked with Brain Atrophy

POTS, Chronic Fatigue, and Autoimmune Disorders

Support the Mighty Vagus Nerve

Diet and Nutrients

Diet is the next most fundamental thing to address for focus and concentration. A healthy diet is critical. Children fed a nutritionally poor diet of high sugar and high fat foods have greater difficulties with focus and concentration. Studies showed children had much lower intake of vitamin B6, B12, folate, omega-3 oils, and iron. They also had much higher levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 oils and inorganic phosphorus in their diets.

Omega-6 oils dominate the American food supply and are found in vegetable, canola, rapeseed, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, oils etc. Excess omega-6 relative to omega-3 fish oil greatly impacts brain health. (See below.) Inorganic phosphorus is found in processed baked goods, fast foods, deli meats, canned and bottled beverages and other junk foods.

A systematic review of randomized clinical trials in children and adolescents demonstrated that inadequate zinc and iron intake led to poor focus, decreased memory, inattentiveness, impulsiveness, finicky appetite, and mood changes. Zinc and iron are critical for tissue oxygenation, neurotransmitter (dopamine) function, and numerous other mechanisms involved with cognitive function.

Adequate magnesium is also required for focus and concentration. About 80 percent of the American population is estimated to lack magnesium.

Focus and Neurotransmitters

The neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline/norepinephrine and choline affect your ability to focus and more.

Inadequate dopamine and noradrenaline/norepinephrine may cause poor focus, slowed thinking or slowness to learn new material, boredom, caffeine cravings, feeling chilled or having cold hands and feet, low enthusiasm, low libido, procrastination, easy weight gain, and proneness to addictions. Individuals may be shy/introverted, have low self-esteem and poor decision making skills. They may be sensitive to changes in light, be more tired in the winter and more likely to withdraw. A tendency towards low blood pressure and a low blood sugar may also occur.

Nutrients required for dopamine and noradrenaline/norepinephrine production include the amino acids tyrosine or phenylalanine along with iron, copper, folate, vitamins B3, B6, and C and SAMe or s-adenosylmethionine.

Dietary choline makes the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is vital for neurological development, learning, focus, and memory. Optimal levels of choline are essential for all ages, but is especially crucial during pregnancy. Research demonstrates that mothers who had higher intakes of choline during pregnancy had children with better attention and focus skills compared to those with insufficient intake. Insufficient dietary choline intake is common.

More information including dietary sources of choline may be found in the articles:

Memory Neurotransmitter & Gut Health Linked

Alpha GPC – A Smart Nutrient for Brain Health and More

Choline is Essential for Brain, Nerve, and Liver Health

Dementia Risk Linked with Common Medications

Gut Microbiome

Focus and concentration is also directly impacted by your gut microbiome. Studies showed that dopamine levels in children were supported by supplemental beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium and the prebiotic FOS.

Omega-3 DHA

Omega-3 DHA intake is critical for focus and concentration and the brain-gut-hormone connection. Children with the lowest levels of DHA were found to have great difficulty with focus, concentration, impulsivity, and distractibility. Studies demonstrated that “insufficient omega-3 DHA is linked with inflammation, dysregulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the autonomic nervous system (sympathetic/fight-flight, parasympathetic/rest-relax-digest), and an imbalanced gut-microbiota axis.”

Omega-3 DHA fish oil is required for balance and diversity of gut flora, which directly impacts brain function. DHA also modulates inflammatory responses in the digestive tract and the brain.

More information about omega-3 oils may be found at:

DHA Needs During Pregnancy and Lactation

Omega-3 DHA and Phosphatidylserine: Two Are Better Than One


Exercise is critical for a healthy brain and focus. Exercise supports blood flow, neurotransmitters, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), nerve plasticity, neural networks, and mitochondria vitality in the brain.

Running helps learning and memory and makes new nerve connections. It supports the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and glutamate involved with focus, memory, cognitive effects, and neuroplasticity in young and older adults alike.

Individuals who have undergone radiation therapy and suffer brain fog, poor focus and memory, and overall decline in cognitive health can benefit from exercise. A systematic review showed “exercise decreased radiation-induced DNA damage, oxidative stress and inflammation, while increasing antioxidant activity” in the brain.

Things You Can Change

With all the things that occupy our attention and the various physical factors that stress our brain and body, it is amazing that we can focus at all.

Yet, there are so many things that you can control. Limit screen time. Get adequate, quality sleep. Exercise 30-60 minutes, 3-5 days a week. Clean up your environment of chemicals and mold toxins.

Choose healthier habits rather than relying on stimulants like caffeine, sugar, chocolate, energy drinks, or drugs to give you a boost. Feed your brain and microbiome with a whole foods, organic, non-GMO diet at least 80 percent of the time. Remove things that hinder you and your child’s health and focus.

Supplemental Support

Use supplemental support to enhance your nutrient reserves and vitality required for your nervous system. Start with a multiple vitamin such as Super Mini Multi for children, Daily Energy Multiple Vitamin, or Daily Prenatal Multiple Vitamin for adults to provide highly absorbable, clinically relevant levels of nutrients. These products do not contain synthetic fillers, food colors, or petroleum derived vitamins.

Supplement with omega-3 products such as Daily DHA or Kids DHA. Everyone needs daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids for brain health, no matter your age and abilities.

Support gut health with pre and probiotics such as Super Dophilus. Beneficial bacteria require a variety of foods and lots of fiber. Many individuals fail to get 25-35 grams of fiber per day. Consider the addition of Fiber Helper to help your gut bacteria thrive.

Consider support such as Super Brain Booster as it provides nutrients involved with your focus neurotransmitters and enhances concentration. It can be used in teens and adults alike. Additional support may include RelaxaMag, Fisetin, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, or Grape Seed Extract, etc.

You can take charge of your brain health! You can affect your focus skills with these steps and change you and your child’s future in a positive way. Share this information with others. Make it a goal, not just a daydream about a brighter future. Too many people struggle to get through the day due to poor focus related to nutritional inadequacies. Stimulants in various forms may temporarily enhance your focus, but they do not healthfully build and feed your brain. How are you doing with your focus? “Squirrel”?!

Additional information may be found in the article:

ADHD and Brain Inflammation: Quench the Fire

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