Science is pretty clear. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees: There is a strong connection between brain function, behaviour, and the digestive system. Scientists have specifically drawn a connection between gut health and many disorders, including autism and ADHD.
We know that the stomach – and specifically, the millions upon millions of bacteria within it – interact with the brain in multiple ways, including the immune system and the nervous system.
We also know that your stomach actually has its own complex network of neurons that is referred to as the Enteric Nervous System (often called our “Second Brain”).
When they say “complex” they mean it! Here are just a few fun facts:
- There are actually more neurons directly surrounding your child’s gastrointestinal tract than in their entire spinal cord!
- 90% of your child’s serotonin levels (an essential neurotransmitter) are housed in the stomach – not the brain in your head!
- Those food allergies so many people talk about – you know, gluten, dairy, dyes, artificial sugar, etc.? At the most basic level, allergies generate histamines. Histamines compete with dopamine, another essential neurotransmitter. More histamine means less dopamine and more mental health dysfunction.
It’s no wonder we see significantly increased levels of digestive problems in children with ADHD.
It appears to me that this really should be the beginning of the end for the stigma-ridden term “mental health”. I mean really, if all of our depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, and other general craziness is being caused or exacerbated by the physical state of our bellies, shouldn’t we really start recognising it, treating it, and talking about it as just a plain old illness?
Exactly how our Second Brain interacts with those little bacteria critters in our stomah is still a bit of a mystery.
However, the prevailing medical position is that optimising gut health will positively impact mental health (and vice versa – eat crap, feel like crap).
Increasing stomach health means altering the bacterial environment (i.e., the “microbiome”) with pre- and probiotics.
You can do this through real food, supplementation, or both. But either way, the science is pretty clear: get good bacteria into your kids’ bellies. Stat!
7 You CAN Do To Improve Your ADHD Child’s Stomach Health
I have listed a number of 7 interventions you can use in the order of easiest to most difficult.
- Supplementation: Begin your child on high-quality pre- and probiotics.
- Diet: Begin feeding regularly your child foods that contain both pre- and probiotics.
- Talk to Your Doctor: Visit your doctor to discuss any bowel issues your child may be experiencing. If you are having no joy – consider visiting a more holistic practitioner, like a chiropractor, nutritionist, or ADHD coach/therapist.
- Monitor: Keep track of your child’s behaviour before and after certain foods. Use a journal or food diary to connect the food to how your child feels and acts after eating. If you notice any correlations, take that information with you to see an immunologist or gastroenterologist.
- Testing: Get your child tested for food allergies or sensitivities, and see what pops up. Obviously, if there is something you confirm as a food to avoid, eliminate it from your child’s diet.
- Restrictive Diets: Try the GAPS diet or Feingold Diet. Experts and acquaintances claim these diets heal many issues related to poor stomach health and restores health.
- Elimination Diets: As a last resort, go for a full-fledged Elimination Diet. Before embarking on your journey into Elimination Land, talk to a physician or nutritionist to ensure that you continuing to provide your child the nutrients he or she needs during this time period.
Finally, do your own research and get educated. The science in this area is constantly evolving. Find a physician who is staying on top of the medical research, and seek out nutritionists, physicians, or ADHD coaches that can help develop better stomach health for your child!