Research has discovered a link between your gut bacteria as a child and either increased or decreased risk for mental health issues as an adult.
I practice gastroenterology every day and I’m passionate about gut health! I focus a large percentage of my time helping patients heal from gut-related disorders like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and Celiac Disease. Even with patients who are not complaining of gut health problems, I still inquire about their digestive health and work to create a plan to optimize it.
Your digestive system, aka your gut, is the core of your body and your well being. When your gut is functioning optimally and your microbiome is thriving, good health ensues. When your gut is in poor condition and your microbiome is weak, your health will decline as a result. It is amazing how the state of your gut literally affects every other area of your body, including:
- Skin health
- Energy levels
- Cognitive function
- Immune system strength
- Mental health
The research connecting mental health to gut health is piling up. Doctors and psychologists around the world are beginning to understand how vital a thriving microbiome is to strong mental health. The health of the body and the health of the mind are not separate anymore, but intimately connected. For true physical and mental healing, the two must not be separated during treatment.
Adult Brain Function Depends On Childhood Gut Health
Recent research has discovered that one’s mental health as an adult is greatly affected by how healthy their microbiome was as a child. During important developmental phases in a child’s life, healthy gut microbes help to support proper nervous system development and function, as well as the production of happiness-inducing hormones such as serotonin. If the gut microbes aren’t present or are in poor shape, this important development is delayed or happens sub-optimally, resulting in poor mental health as an adult. (1)
Neuroscientist Professor John F. Cryan said of the study’s findings, “As a neuroscientist these findings are fascinating as they highlight the important role that gut bacteria play in the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, and opens up the intriguing opportunity of developing unique microbial-based strategies for treatment for brain disorders.”
Gut Health And Depression
Many studies have found a strong link between gut health and symptoms of depression. Most scientists now categorize depression as an “inflammatory disease”, meaning depression is a symptom of chronic inflammation in the body. The most vulnerable system to inflammation is the digestive tract, because there is only a one-cell layer between what you eat and your bloodstream. The standard American diet is an inflammatory diet because it is full of so many processed foods that are unrecognizable to the body and trigger an inflammatory response. This inflammation has been linked to depression. The same foods also have potential to hurt the microbiome, which plays a strong role in good mental health. (2,3)
Research has found that a healthy gut is vital to a healthy brain. It’s incredible the success that my patients experience when they do things to heal their gut. They come back feeling more alive and mentally clear than they have in years. It takes time, but healing the gut is one of the most effective ways to heal the body. (4)
- Garden with your family. Allowing your children to go outdoors and get dirty is one of the best things you can do for their gut health. There are millions of microbes in the dirt that help to diversity the microbiome.
- Cook at home. Cook organic meals at home using foods from your garden. Fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds support good gut health and boost immunity.
- Eat fermented foods. And teach your kids to like them too. Fermented vegetables, fermented dairy products, kefir, and kombucha. These are all things your kids can learn to enjoy and will help support the gut.
- Encourage natural movement. Hide the TV. Open the windows and doors. Allow your kids to explore the outdoors and move as much as possible.
Good gut health can make a world of difference for your kids and for you. Take the time to learn about the microbiome and how to create an environment where it will thrive. Your health will thank you.
- G Clarke, S Grenham, P Scully, P Fitzgerald, R D Moloney, F Shanahan, T G Dinan and J F Cryan. The microbiome-gut-brain axis during early life regulates the hippocampal serotonergic system in a sex-dependent manner. Mol Psychiatry, June 12, 2012 DOI: 10.1038/mp.2012.77