You are what you eat – a saying that’s been around for generations. But what does that really mean?
For starters, our bodies are complex machines with many integrated parts. The vagus nerve, one of the largest in the body, runs from the brain to the abdomen.
In other words, your gut can affect your brain.
Are you intrigued by the physical and mental connection? So am I.
Here’s a quick lesson in microbiology. Our guts are full of bacteria – good ones that feed the brain and bad ones that make us sick. Society, however, focuses on the bad which has led to the overuse of anti-biotics. And as a result, people think they cure everything – even colds or flu that come from viruses.
Unfortunately, anti-biotics kill ALL or nearly all bacteria in the gut – including the good ones that our bodies need to self-regulate. That’s right. I said self-regulate – a word many parents like to hear .
I said self-regulate.
Good bacterial growth starts with breastfeeding. No wonder breast-fed babies are healthier than bottle-fed. And many kids – including most who are adopted – were not breast-fed.
Fortunately, good bacteria can be found in certain foods – including high-quality organic, unpasteurized yogurt and anything fermented in vinegar like sauerkraut, pickles and olives. Click here for a larger list.
After reading Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health through Diet and learning about good and bad gut bacteria, I changed course. I now feed my kids yogurt smoothies every morning. Not made from Yoplait, Dannon or store brands – but organics containing multiple strains of good bacteria with the names B. bifidus, L. acidophilus, S. thermophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. casei, and S. boulardil.
In very simple terms, these good bacteria create a balance in the gut by destroying the bad bacteria – that are a source of harm throughout the body and the brain.
I also discovered that bad bacteria multiply rapidly, especially when balance is missing in the gut. The bad bacteria – surprise, surprise – feed on sugar and simple carbohydrates (from white bread, white pasta, white rice, white potatoes, white flour) that quickly break down into sugar.
When you think about the snack items that many kids eat throughout the day, they nourish bad bacteria.
Once these facts caught my attention, I become more conscious with my grocery purchases – even though I thought we ate healthy. Today we eat a lot fewer simple carbs and much less junk food.
On days that I stick to the diet – along with being a therapeutic parent, calm usually fills my home. Less sibling arguing and whining. More cooperative play and appropriate responses to reasonable requests.
On days that I let my kids splurge on the wrong foods, chaos reigns.
Moreover, my children are rarely sick. They also need no anti-biotics. In fact, they went entire school years without illness, which is a blessing for any working parent.
Recently, I caught a NPR report about gut health. Click here for story. As the reporter talked about the potential link between probiotics (the good bacteria) and mental health, I hung on every word. It mentions that probiotics may reduce anxiety – which has been a perpetual issue for my sons. And that anxiety eventually leads to depressive moods that trigger their verbal and physical aggression.
Gut Health = Mental Health
I can’t promise the same results as my family, but a similar dietary intervention might help yours. Simply push your cart down the appropriate grocery store aisles. No prescription necessary. The risk is none.
Improved physical health and enhanced mental health may be right around the corner. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
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