Three Supplements for your Child with Down Syndrome

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

Our children are amazing! I look at my two little ones and become filled with such love and admiration that I am overcome with joy. I'm sure that most parents feel this way but as those of us who have children with special needs know all to well, sometimes our looks of admiration become thoughts of worry when we think about our child's future.

As parents, we always want what is best for our children especially when it comes to their health. This is no different for those of us raising children with Down syndrome but we often feel that since Down syndrome is a genetic condition, there is nothing that we can do. That's just not true!

Genes have a huge impact on our health especially in the way they are expressed (turned "on" or "off") but that doesn't mean that we are helpless when it comes to doing our best for our little ones.

We can help our little ones reach to their full potential by helping to mitigate any damage done by having that extra chromosome 21. These three supplements help to do just that in a number of different ways.

1. Bacopa monnieri. Bacopa, sometimes called Brahmi or water hyssop, is an herb traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for mental health disorders and enhancing cognition.

Bacopa is considered to be a nootropic herb, one which increases intelligence, focus, concentration, and memory.

Bacopa also has a powerful but gentle effect on the thyroid by increasing thyroid hormone levels, especially T4. Your thyroid gland produces a number of different hormones with the most important ones being thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

The thyroid produces T4 in greater quantities than T3. T3 is the more active form of the thyroid hormone and T4 becomes T3 through a removal of an iodine.

Your thyroid is responsible for normal fetal and childhood growth, central nervous system development, heart rate, metabolism, gastrointestinal motility, and many other of the body's functions. Clearly the thyroid gland and its hormones are very important for optimal growth and health.

Unfortunately, children with Down syndrome are more likely to have hypothyroidism, low thyroid function, than children without Down syndrome. This means that the thyroid may not be producing as much thyroid hormone as needed for proper body function.

This is where bacopa can be very helpful. Bacopa helps the thyroid gland to produce more T4 naturally which can be converted into T3 and used by the body. Bacopa also functions as an antioxidant, raising levels of antioxidant enzymes in the blood.

This can be helpful in combating reactive oxygen species (free radicals) as well as increasing conversion of T4 to T3 in the peripheral tissues of the body. Bacopa has been shown to improve nervousness, concentration and memory in adults.

In children, bacopa has been shown to increase learning skills, decrease reaction time, improve perception, and memory without any side effects [1].

2. Epigallocatechin gallate: Green tea extract. Green tea has been consumed for centuries not only for it's pleasant taste but for its many health benefits.

Camilla sinensis, the plant that our tea is derived from, has health benefits ranging from being an antioxidant to being beneficial for heart health (cardioprotective).

Epigallocatechin gallate is a polyphenol (a plant compound) found in high amounts in green tea. While epigallocatechin gallate, affectionately known as EGCG, has recently been touted as a weight loss supplement by the weight loss industry, it's real strength to those with DS lies in it's ability to inhibit the gene DYRK1A.

DYRK1A (dual-specificity tyrosine-(Y)-phosphorylation regulated kinase1A) is a gene found on the 21st chromosome that encodes an enzyme responsible for regulating multiple signaling pathways and normal brain development. [2]. It is involved in brain volume and cell (neuron) density of specific regions of the brain [3].

Overexpression or an increased amount of gene dosage of DYRK1A has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease which is increased in adults with DS. EGCG is an inhibitor of DYRK1A. This means that EGCG can help to stop the harmful effects of having an increased dose of the gene DYRK1A in a safe and specific way. [4].

3. Zinc.

People with DS tend to have lower serum zinc levels which have been linked to increased inflammation and possible bone abnormalities like short stature.

Low zinc status may be due to amino acid abnormalities like lower histidine in the brain and protein changes, specifically metallothioneins, which have an affinity for binding zinc thereby reducing its availability in the bloodstream [6].

The recommended dietary intake for zinc varies with sex, age and weight usually with 11mg/day for adults males and 8mg/day for adult females.

Your child's zinc needs may be significantly different. The foods that contain the highest amount of zinc are certain shellfish (oysters), red meat, legumes, and whole grains [6].

Since people with DS tend to have a higher rate of illness due to lowered immune function, especially respiratory illness [7], zinc supplementation may be helpful in increasing immune response, decreasing inflammation, and improving overall health.


1. Mathur, Deepali et al. “The Molecular Links of Re-Emerging Therapy: A Review of Evidence of Brahmi (Bacopa Monniera).” Frontiers in Pharmacology 7 (2016): 44. PMC.

2. García-Cerro, Susana et al. "Normalizing The Gene Dosage Of Dyrk1a In A Mouse Model Of Down Syndrome Rescues Several Alzheimer's Disease Phenotypes." Neurobiology of Disease 106 (2017): 76-88.

3. Guedj, Fayçal et al. “Green Tea Polyphenols Rescue of Brain Defects Induced by Overexpression of DYRK1A.” Ed. Leslie B. Vosshall. PLoS ONE 4.2 (2009): e4606. PMC. Web. 24 July 2017.

4. Lott, Ira T. “Neurological Phenotypes for Down Syndrome across the Life Span.” Progress in brain research 197 (2012): 101–121. PMC. Web.

5. Gammoh, Nour Zahi, and Lothar Rink. “Zinc in Infection and Inflammation.” Nutrients 9.6 (2017): 624. PMC.

6. Saghazadeh, Amene et al. “Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Shows a Specific Micronutrient Profile in People with Down Syndrome: Lower Blood Calcium, Selenium and Zinc, Higher Red Blood Cell Copper and Zinc, and Higher Salivary Calcium and Sodium.” Ed. Jacobus P. van Wouwe. PLoS ONE12.4 (2017): e0175437. PMC.

7. Ram, G, and J Chinen. “Infections and Immunodeficiency in Down Syndrome.” Clinical and Experimental Immunology 164.1 (2011): 9–16. PMC.

I'm Dr. Candace Mathers, a naturopathic physician,helping you repair, restore, and renew your health and life to new heights! I'm a Christian, a mother, and lover of the outdoors.

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