What Can Cause an Unhealthy Gut Flora
Understanding what causes an unhealthy gut flora in your child is the first step in learning how to heal brain disorders related to the brain-gut axis. This will also help to prevent future imbalances so that you can ensure your child has optimal brain health and function.
Gut Health and Childbirth – Where it all Begins
Before a baby enters the birth canal their gut is sterile. A baby’s gut becomes inoculated with immune building microbes as they come through their mother’s birth canal. A mother with a healthy gut flora will pass these health-building microbes onto her child. However, if she herself has an overgrowth of bad bacteria or is lacking healthy bacteria then her baby also receives the same compromised gut culture. Of course the baby is still getting some great immune-building bacteria as well, but any bad bacteria and imbalances are passed onto the baby. Essentially, a baby’s gut flora is only as healthy as its mothers!
Why More than One Child in a Family May Have a Brain Disorder
In her book, Dr. Campbell-McBride explains that it is not uncommon to see several children in a family have different ‘expressions’ of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome brain disorders like dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADHD and even autism. Our natural inclination when this happens is to assume it is solely genetic–and genetics certainly may play a role, but do not explain how autism has sky-rocketed from 1/10,000 to 1/60 in a few decades or how prescriptions for Ritalin have increased 300% in twenty-five years.
As mentioned in a previous post, there are many factors that contribute to the rise in childhood disorders that extend beyond gut health. However, researchers acknowledge that genetic expression alone cannot account for the dramatic spike in brain disorders in recent decades. One factor that siblings do tend to share is a similar gut flora which they all received from their mother. One child in a family may have ADHD and another may be dyslexic or have Asperger’s and there may even be overlap of these disorders.
This is why Dr. Campbell-McBride found that the best results occurred when the entire family did a gut healing protocol. Oftentimes, mothers and fathers and other siblings who may not have an obvious cognitive disorder, also benefit from gut healing protocols; they find that another child in the family is no longer prone to mood swings, or that their chronic ear aches or eczema will have disappeared. Remember most of your immune system is in your gut. Often other siblings and parents will test positive for yeast, bad bacteria and/or parasites as well.
Dr. Campbell-McBride as well as other Gastro-Intestinal Specialists have found that other factors that compromise gut ecology in mother and/or her children are:
- multiple courses of antibiotics throughout the mother’s life
- multiple courses of antibiotics for the child for ear or throat infections (especially at an early age)
- antibiotic use during pregnancy or delivery
- the use of hormonal contraceptive such as ‘the pill’ or Depo-Provera
- regularly drinks chlorinated water
- bottle-fed instead of breast fed for both the mother and child
- does not eat foods with pre and probiotics
- regular use of aspirin, ibuprofen and many other types of medication
- diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods
- chlorinated water
- Stress alters gut ecology
As a culture we have removed many of the regular, daily or weekly nutrition and lifestyle habits that were part of our ancestors lives for centuries.
1)Bone broth – Our ancestors consumed this regularly in soups and stews. Bone broth is packed with minerals, L-glutamine, collagen as well other nutrients all of which are essential for maintaining the integrity and health of the gut lining. Bone broth is essential in healing leaky gut (those little holes in our intestines that result from our modern diets).
2)Fermented Food – We regularly consumed fermented food, particularly throughout the winter months. Grandma didn’t eat everything pickled in vinegar. Their food made their own ‘vinegar’ through fermentation. She didn’t take probiotic capsules, she ate the real deal.
3)Dirt – Our over sanitization has led to less exposure to microbes that build our immune system and gut flora. We literally breathe in bacteria everyday which contributes to a healthy and diverse gut ecology. Allergies are more common among children who live in more sterile homes. Children and adults like were once exposed to all kinds of healthy bacteria through gardening and working outdoors.
4)Diets- Much of our food is now irradiated and sterilized for fear of serious bacteria such as E.coli. This is due to the fear of E.coli and other harmful bacteria as a result of mass production. Our food is processed and loaded with sugar and chemicals which all kill our beneficial bacteria.
5)Antibiotics – the over use of antibiotics has become such a concern due to antibiotic resistant superbugs that are no longer responding to even the strongest antibiotics. These antibiotics are killing off our bad and good bacteria and while they are ABSOLTELY necessary at time to save lives–most researchers are acknowledging that antibiotics are being used even before tests are given and in situations when there are alternatives. My daughter had an ear infection only once and our naturopathic doctor treated it with St. Francis Ear Oil. She never had a recurrence since.
Always contact your doctor or naturopathic physician if you suspect infection in you or your child and ask about alternatives.
6)Chlorine – The chlorine in city water is necessary to kill off harmful bacteria. The problem is that it also kills off the good bacteria in your intestines. Drinking filtered water, investing a reverse osmosis machine are all excellent ways to reduce your chlorine intake.
C-Sections and its Life Saving Side Effects
An even more complicated matter are children who are delivered C-section. For some time, it has been known that these babies are more likely to experience various health issues that accompany a compromised gut flora. Autism rates are much higher among babies who are delivered via C-section.
Research out of University College Cork in Ireland looked at a number of existing studies linking Caesareans to autism. They found that on average C-sections increased the risk of autism by 23%. This is because babies were not exposed to the immune-building (and brain altering) microbes that vaginally born babies are. To circumvent this challenge, experiments have been done on babies who were born via C-section. Directly after birth these babies were swabbed with their mother’s vaginal fluids (sounds gross, I know), but not surprisingly the babies who were swabbed had gut floras that more closely resembled that of the vaginally born babies.
In order to prevent brain and body health problems related to an unhealthy gut flora, many women are preparing their gut flora before birth by ensuring they are getting adequate probiotics and starving out the bad bacteria. Some women who have a history of either gut health or auto-immune problems are even undergoing testing to diagnose and treat any harmful bacteria or parasites that they could otherwise pass onto their own children during delivery.
Breastfeeding – The Next Line of Defense
The next way that babies are inoculated with immune-supporting microbes and antibodies is through their mother’s breast milk. These babies tend to have better immunity and improved cognitive function compared to non-breast-fed babies and are less susceptible to asthma, allergies and obesity.
The good news is that this is not the only chance to build immunity. A 2017 study from the University of Alberta found that children are less prone to developing asthma and allergies if they have pets because the microbes to which they are exposed helps to build a healthier immune system. Playing outside and in the dirt, owning animals and not over-sanitizing are all examples of how immunity is also created.
It is also important to note that while breast milk is always the best option because it passes on immune-building bacteria and antibodies, mothers can also transfer such problems as systemic yeast overgrowth to their children via the breast milk. I breastfed for nearly two years and unknowingly passed on my own undiagnosed systemic yeast overgrowth to my daughter. The good news is that yeast is treatable and for nearly two years my daughter received all the other amazing immune-building antibodies from being breast fed and as a result is rarely sick.
Enough Already! No Mother Guilt
Mother guilt is as abundant as oxygen in the forest–we don’t need more. I know I blamed myself for my daughter’s yeast overgrowth. I was a nutritionist and figured I should have known better, I figured. I should have seen the signs sooner, but like most mom’s–the first few years were a hurricane. Being a mom, an employee, a wife, a daughter as well as some semblance of a human had me running on auto-pilot.
Guilt is wasteful. Awareness and action is not. Blaming yourself for a C-section is like blaming yourself for your child breaking a leg on a ski trip. Blaming yourself for not breast-feeding is the same. You made the right choice for you and your baby at the time.
Healing the GAPS Child
The most hopeful aspect about learning that you may have a GAPS child is that the gut and the human body is incredibly resilient and is hard-wired to continuously return to a state of balance and health. There are countless stories of children and adults who have healed or circumvented cognitive disorders like dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and even autism through diet and lifestyle changes.
It is not only children with cognitive disorders that often have compromised gut health, but many people struggling with mental illness. You can read more about that in my post, Mental Illness—It’s Not All in Your Head. In a future post, I will write more about a gut healing protocol.
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