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The Gut Brain Connection - Why a Healthy Gut is Good for Brain Development

By Dr. Nicole Avena

Microbiomes, better known as our gut bacteria, have been studied for decades. We hear about probiotic supplements, green juices, and gut cleansing diets for adults all the time in social media and online. The question remains as to why so many suddenly care about their gut health- and why everyone should.

The gut microbiome is composed of billions of bacteria, some good, some not so good. Most of the not-so-good bacteria gets killed off during digestion, which is a good thing! Others tend to live their lives in our gut making our digestion sluggish, our mental health lag, and our wellbeing suffer. This is mostly caused by poor dietary and lifestyle choices, which is then correlated back to continued poor gut health. Research has shown that the types of bacteria in our gut have an immense effect on our immunity and metabolism. (1)

Our vagus nerve connects our body to our brain, which in turn sends signals from our brain to our gut, and vice versa. The “home base” of our nervous system runs up and down our spinal cord. Everything is connected! So, no wonder those who eat a poor diet, struggle with diseases of lifestyle, and mental health disorders have poor gut health. In children, this can manifest as stress, anxiety, and depression if not taken control of at a young age.

Children physically grow at a rapid rate, along with their brains, immune systems, and digestive system. In turn, if we do not take care of their gut microbiome starting at a young age, we can no longer take control of their growth and development due to the gut-brain axis. This axis has gained traction within the past few years regarding its role in age-related disease, metabolism, and gut health. (2) The axis basically controls what we want to eat and the choices we make based from our brains, but that decision is also affected by the bacteria in the gut. If the gut is filled with “bad” bacteria, they scream up to the brain that we want more unhealthy foods. The unhealthier foods we eat, the more they grow. In turn, if we switch the bacteria in our gut to be mostly healthy and good bacteria, they scream to the brain that they want more fibrous fruits and vegetables, not French fries and ice cream. This has become an issue with children because children mostly prefer fries and ice cream because their gut is accustomed to consuming those types of things! Their cravings are expressed as being picky eaters, essentially.

The gut microbiome stays with us our entire lives, unless we make a big change to allow it to revolve. If your kids are the ones that only eat grilled cheese, they need an intervention prior to becoming adults, or else their unhealthy gut will be forever used to getting exactly what it asks the brain for. Begin Health Growing Up Prebiotics are here to help change your child’s gut. They are specially formulated for children to feed the “good” bugs in their digestive system. References

1. Sampson, T. R., & Mazmanian, S. K. (2015). Control of brain development, function, and behavior by the microbiome. Cell Host & Microbe, 17(5), 565–576. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2015.04.011

2. Cryan, J. F., O'Riordan, K. J., Cowan, C. S., Sandhu, K. V., Bastiaanssen, T. F., Boehme, M., Codagnone, M. G., Cussotto, S., Fulling, C., Golubeva, A. V., Guzzetta, K. E., Jaggar, M., Long-Smith, C. M., Lyte, J. M., Martin, J. A., Molinero-Perez, A., Moloney, G., Morelli, E., Morillas, E., … Dinan, T. G. (2019). The microbiota-gut-brain axis. Physiological Reviews, 99(4), 1877–2013. https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00018.2018

Summary Our gut microbiome is present for our lifetime, composed of billions of bacteria. Feeding the good bacterial with prebiotics helps to replenish the beneficial bacteria that are the foundation from everything from our mental health to immune health.

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