When I am comprehending the relationship between the gut (small intestine) and your brain, I think of the old nursery rhyme, “Jack and Jill went up the hill to carry a pale of water. Jack fell down and bumped his head, and Jill came tumbling after…” These two are connected and working together. They go up together, and fall down together. Medical professionals describe the gut and brain as communicating with each other.
Continuing on the pattern of how toxins can affect children’s behavior, the health of their gut (meaning intestines, bacteria ratios and digestion) has been proven to affect their behavior as well. Adults are also affected mentally by the health of their gut, but children even more so because their brains are still developing. Connections in personality traits and behaviors have been linked to the amount of bacterial microbes present in the gut. For example, Scientists have always knows that the brain talks to the gut. So if a person is under stress, suffering lack of sleep or a number of personal issues. that can affect digestion.
Experiencing constipation, diahrea, pains and more can all result from stress. But, scientists are now learning that issues can go the other way. Imbalances in the gut flora can cause anxiety, lack of energy and depression. Discovering the two-way street has resulted in a number of studies to discover the in-depth affects of the gut on the brain.
The New York Times even recently reported the connection between your gut and your mood in adults, which still correlates to children, if not more. The piece that I found most profound in the article stated, “Micro-organisms in our gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, and researchers like Lyte have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety.” You can read more here, and it is well worth the read to further understand the research and testing proving the gut’s influence on the brain.
Dr. Andrew Wakefield is just one of many who have investigated the connection between developmental disorders and bowel disease. He has published about 130-140 peer-reviewed papers looking at the mechanism and cause of inflammatory bowel disease, and has extensively investigated the brain-bowel connection in the context of children with developmental disorders such as autism.
A large number of replication studies have also been performed around the world, by other researchers, confirming the curious link between brain disorders such as autism and gastrointestinal dysfunction. For a list of more than 25 of those studies, please see this previous article.
What are some common symptoms to look for when determining if your child may have some imbalances in their gut? Does your child have trouble communicating or lack motivation to initiate typical kid activities like going outside to play? Do they get angry at the little things, have unprovoked emotional outbursts that are outside the norm? These are common symptoms that arise with gut imbalances and unwanted organisms.
Focusing on providing nutrition for your child to promote healthy bacteria in the gut is a positive direction to go, to help encourage positive behavior and healthy bacteria in the gut. Mercola discusses here how a lot of our food has been completely sanitized, to a point where the good bacteria is removed with the bad. Also discussed in a previous article is the impact of antibiotics killing the good bacteria with the bad as well. Maybe we are over sanitizing our bodies. We can add naturally fermented foods to our children’s diet — if they’ll eat it!
Adding probiotics to their daily routing is a simple and feasible way to encourage a healthy gut. Fox News reports on probiotics for children specifically and states, “Can probiotics make your kid healthy?
“The more of the good probiotics we have in our bodies, the better our overall health is,” said Brooke Alpert, a registered dietitian, founder of B Nutritious and author of “The Sugar Detox.” Dr. Kevin MD discusses how he is also jumping on the probiotic bandwagon for children. There hasn’t been as much research in the US on probiotics and children, but he points out a study we can learn from in Italy. “An Italian study in a recent Pediatrics evaluated the benefit of probiotics for fussy or colicky babies. Researchers found positive results in breastfed infants receiving dailyLactobacillus reuteri. “