Is Your Child’s Gut Starving and Polluting Their Brain?

If your child is struggling with any kind of brain disorder, a compromised gut health can also cause nutritional deficiencies, toxicity in the brain and even contribute to food allergies which create inflammation in the brain and can lead to cognitive disorders. Often times, it is not one, but several of these factors which contribute to the development of brain disorders. When gut health is lacking it can affect every other area of the brain and body.

The Gut-Brain Connection – Past Wisdom Now Proven

The more that we are discovering about the gut-brain connection, the more hopeful advancements in both mental and cognitive health becomes as well as finally discovering a plausible explanation as to why brain related disorders are rising. The science of the gut-brain connection is in its infancy, though traditional medicine has known for centuries that gut health is the holy grail of overall health and naturally brain health is a part of that.

2000 years ago, Hippocrates said, “All diseases begin in the gut”. Centuries later Phillipe Pinel, a French Psychiatrist in the 1700’s stated that “the primary seat of insanity generally is in the region of the stomach and the intestines.”

You may be wondering how physicians decades ago knew what we have only just proven in recent decades. How did it takes us so long to finally understand this connection scientifically?

The Flaw of Modern Medicine

The challenge and blessing of science is we don’t rely on case studies or anecdotal evidence and so until we have a way of actually studying, measuring or proving in the existence of something, we cast it aside. It also started in modern medicine’s need to divide the body into different systems as if they act independently of one another. This was not deliberate mal-practice but an attempt to create areas of specialty since the human body is as complex as the night sky and cannot be wholly understood by one physician.

In Eastern medicine, we often hear of the mind-body connection as if it is something esoteric–even spiritual, but mind-body medicine is as simple and logical as understanding that because the brain is attached to the body then it is part of the body and therefore body health is brain health! I know. What a concept!

An unhealthy body cannot have a healthy brain. The brain is as much an organ and part of the body as the heart or the thyroid. Furthermore, like other organs, the brain is affected by other organs and the imbalances taking place in the body.

Bacterial Overgrowth in the Gut and Nutrient Deficiencies

Just like you and me, bad gut bacteria needs to eat too and often that means your child’s vital nutrients. Even if your child is eating a healthy diet, they may be nutritionally starved due to gut dysbiosis (poor gut culture). It is hard to imagine that any child in these modern times of over-abundance of food could in fact be nutritionally staved, but many children (and adults) are.

When we think of deficiency we often think of starvation, but there are many average to even overweight children or adults who are in fact seriously deficient in nutrients that are crucial for proper cognitive and self-regulatory functions in the brain. When your gut microbiome is unhealthy you also become nutrient deficient because your digestive system cannot properly break down, assimilate or absorb nutrients. Furthermore, bad bacteria and parasites eat YOU or YOUR child’s dinner.

Leaky Gut and Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiency is common among children with cognitive disorders because of a compromised gut ecology as well as a condition known as ‘leaky gut’. This is where tiny holes that develop in the intestinal lining. Children with autism often have signs of anemia that appear both on blood tests and can be quite easily detected even with the naked eye; they often have pale and pasty skin. However, iron tablets will rarely remedy this type of anemia because it is due to malabsorption in the gut as well as the ‘iron-loving’ bad bacteria. (Campbell-McBride, 24)

Many vitamins such as vitamin K, as well as B vitamins are synthesized by your gut flora and many minerals which are acquired through food alone are also not absorbed due to leaky gut. Dr. Campbell-McBride states that every GAPS child she has seen has tested for multiple nutritional deficiencies in nutrients that play key roles in brain function.

The Connection Between Leaky Gut, Poor Immunity and Allergies

The problem with leaky gut doesn’t stop at nutrient deficiencies. In a previous post I mentioned that auto-immune problems like allergies, hay fever, asthma, eczema and ear aches went hand in hand with brain disorders. This happens because when the gut lining is permeable (leaky), undigested food particles, bacteria and other toxins are able to seep into the bloodstream. This sends off alarm bells to your immune system and contributes to food allergies as well as poor immunity.

Poor immunity results from an immune system that is chemically over-loaded, nutrient deficient, over-stressed from dealing with too many threats that are entering the blood stream and that is essentially exhausted. In fact, children with brain disorders have often been found to have antibodies to their own tissue as a result of an over-burdened and poorly functioning immune system.

Brain Health and Toxic Over-Load

When there is an excess of toxins, your liver becomes overburdened these toxins. As you likely already know, we are bombarded with toxins in our environment today from the laundry soap to the air freshener, to the pesticides and off-gassing of flooring and carpets. The list is endless.

When the liver is overloaded, toxins that should have been eliminated through your stool or urine accumulate in your body, circulate into your blood stream and cross the blood brain barrier. Exhaustion, mood changes as well as a heightened stress response can result from gut dysbiosis, leaky gut and an overloaded liver. In a nutshell, leaky gut creates toxicity and contributes to inflammation in the body and since the brain is connected to the body–that means brain inflammation as well. A leaky gut is a leaky brain.

The Good, The Bad and the Brain Disorder Link

Creating brain-body balance and health is not usually as simple as adding one strain of bacteria. What one experiment by Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian’s has revealed is just how influential your gut bacteria is on your nervous system and brain. Recent studies has determined that the microbiome of autistic children is significantly different from non-autistic children—there was an absence of various strains of healthy bacteria (as well as overgrowth of toxic bacteria). Microbiologist, Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian, at the California Institute of Technology, found that when mice were fed the bacteria B. Fragilis (a bacteria that was often absent or quite low among children with autism) they displayed less autism-like symptoms; they communicated with other mice, engaged in less repetitive behaviour and were less anxious.

Good bacteria, or its lack thereof can have detrimental effects on the brain and body of not only autistic children but anyone with a brain disorder. Likewise, bad bacteria can be problematic because it prevents the good bacteria from flourishing and also because it produces its own neurotoxins (let’s not even talk about all the neurotoxins that we ingest from all the chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis). The presence of bad bacteria has been noted to produce neurotoxins which affect not only individuals with autism, but also individuals with ADHD, learning disorders, depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia. Healing the gut ecology can produce marked changes in learning, behaviour and even thought-processes.

References:

The Gut and Psychology Syndrome – Dr. Natasha Campbell

Missing Microbes: How The Overuse Of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plaque  by Martin Blaser

Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior: The Groundbreaking Story of the Gut-Brain Connection by Martha Herbert, Teri Arranga, Claire I. Viadro