When we look at children’s behavior, it is often viewed in two ways, behaviors that can be controlled and those that cannot, with the latter of those being due to some type of behavioral disorder of which the cause is typically unknown.
Now what if I told you that as our understanding of the human body develops, the scientific community has come to realize that many behavioral disorders may actually stem from the digestive system? Would you believe it?
Today I’m diving in to better bring to light the true relationship between your child’s gut health and their behavior. This topic has been in my heart and on my mind for nearly a month now and the concepts I am going to share with you today are truly life changing.
Ready to dive in?
Let’s start with the basics:
What is the Purpose of Our Micro Flora?
Scientists are continually proving that microflora (groups of beneficial bacteria, specifically those living in our digestive tract) are responsible for so much more than ever imagined. This intricate ecosystem is responsible for between 60% and 80% of your immune function (with the ability to reduce the growth of harmful bacterial pathogens) and up to 90% of crucial neurotransmitters used to send messages to and from the brain, regulating mood and mental health.
On top of that the microbiome paves the way for every function in the body, especially in the realm of nutrient absorption and digestion.
Why is this so important?
Because science is clearly demonstrating a relationship between gut health and certain neurodevelopmental symptoms, so taking care of our children’s microbiome can literally transform their behavior and perception of the world.
Result of Using Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are designed to destroy harmful bacterial infections (this is basically and over colonization of bad bacteria). Major issues arise because the antibiotics get to work and cannot differentiate harmful from helpful bacteria, so they inevitably eliminate all types. This catalyst disrupts the entire ecosystem all the way through to the nervous system.
Impact on Behvior:
Genes that make up our microbiota greatly outnumber our actual human genes, giving them the incredible ability to produce a plethora of neuro-active compounds (they send and receive messages with the nervous system all on their own, and more often than our human genes do!). As we know, the nervous system is responsible for every function in the body, so this relationship is one of the most critical for total health.
According to the journal of psychiatric behavior: “Gut microbes are part of the unconscious system regulating behavior. Recent investigations indicate that these microbes majorly impact on cognitive function and fundamental behavior patterns, such as social interaction and stress management. In the absence of microbes, underlying neurochemistry is profoundly altered. Studies of gut microbes may play an important role in advancing understanding of disorders of cognitive functioning and social interaction, such as autism.” Read more of this fascinating paper here.
So what does this all mean? The digestive system is the foundation of our children’s nervous system, it’s the soil that nourishes and protects these vital functions. When we do not properly care for this “environment”, nutrient depletion and other areas of stress and damage alter a child’s brain chemistry. Every child is different, but these disruptions typically manifest through the child’s behavior. Healing the gut is the first step to providing them with a sound mind to better control their bodies and participate in their relationships / everyday life.
Can the Disruption Be Corrected?
The short answer is YES! (You can even start today!).
Antibiotics were designed to save lives and there are many instances that you might find yourself face to face with the decision of putting your child on antibiotics to prevent a potentially life threatening infection.
When that happens, DONT PANIC. While it isn’t ideal, especially for children already struggling with a disrupted gut, there are many things that you can do to help them heal once the antibiotics have done their job and are out of the picture.
As I said before, the great news is that healing, especially for children, is very realistic and attainable provided there is not continual depletion through antibiotics, use of antibacterial products etc.
Foods that Help Repopulate and Repair:
Fermented Foods:(watch out for “pickled” products that are soaked in vinegar, you will want to instead opt for fermented foods that have gone through the natural fermentation process, usually with water and salt as a brine. Homemade is much easier and more affordable and are loaded with naturally occurring probiotics.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables:
Raw and locally grown are best. If you have to wash the dirt off of it yourself, even better.
There are thousands of microbes that live naturally in the soil that are destroyed during conventional farming practices, radiation treatments from shipment and so much more. Gently washing local fruits and veggies helps preserve these crucial bacteria (including those rich in vitamin B12).
Fiber is also the food source for healthy bacteria, so while you introduce it into their system, you’re also feeding it and allowing it to thrive.
Prebiotics (PRE, not PRO):
That’s right, PREbiotics! I’ve already listed two groups that are rich in PRObiotics but the use of a great prebiotic is often overlooked and underestimated. Prebiotics are fiber rich and provide an amazing source of fuel for micro flora to thrive and sustain life.
When they consume / ferment fiber they produce short chain fatty acids that provide energy for our organs, produce peptides necessary to properly regulate appetite (reduce cravings and feelings of hunger) and support hormone production and pathways.
Studies show that after rounds of antibiotics, the use of inulin, pectin or acacia powder can drastically improve the colonization of micro flora within 30 hours of use once antibiotics are no longer in use! This is an incredible thing to know for those times in our lives when these drugs are a MUST.
Today I’ve broken down the basics in hopes that this is a great jumping off point for so many of my beautiful families who are searching for information on the Gut / Brain Axis.
As always, I encourage all of my Warrior Mamas to explore the sources I’ve provided to get a better, in-depth understanding of the information I’ve summarized for you today. Feel free to shout out your favorite articles or any other pieces you’d like to share with our community, in the comments below.
Health and Happiness,