In Gut Health Part 1, we learned of the importance of gut bacteria. In Part 2, we discussed how to avoid what can compromise this micro-system. Now we will learn about its crucial connection with the brain, learning, and memory. If you have a child struggling in school, this may be of special interest to you.
The gut is known as your second brain, and is made of the same tissue. In fact, in utero, one part is made into the central nervous system, and the other part into the enteric nervous system, which directs your stomach and intestine. Connected by the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain stem to your abdomen,1 the enteric system contains 100 million neurons—even more than the spinal cord.1
This quote from the article, “Our Second Brain” says it well: “In recent years the link between the nervous system and the digestive system has been recognized. There is a constant exchange of chemicals and electrical messages between the two systems. In fact, many scientists often refer to them as one entity; the brain-gut axis. Therefore, what affects the stomach will directly affect the brain and vice versa.2
We can easily see how they are connected. How often have you been nervous and had butterflies in your stomach? Or been afraid and had loose stools? What about the phrase, “I have a gut feeling about this”?
This gut nervous system produces dopamine and seratonin, two neurotransmitting chemicals that greatly affect the brain. These chemicals are known for imparting a sense of calm and well-being, regulating mood/depression, appetite, and sleep and also playing a part in learning and memory.
If your gut is unhealthy, the production of the many chemicals which come from it are going to be negatively affected. These chemicals affect how we think, feel, focus, and learn.
It’s easy then to see how a sick gut affects the brain and therefore can affect children in school.
In his article, “New Discoveries About how Gut Bacteria Can Have Profound Implications for Your Health” Dr. Mercola writes, “So truly, your gut flora influences both physiology and psychology. As explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with a postgraduate degree in neurology, toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders. She believes the epidemic of autism and other learning disorders originate in the gut, and manifest as a condition known as Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS).”1
Dianne Craft, whom I mentioned in connection with healing Molly’s gut, says in her article “The Biology of Auditory Processing and Memory Problems” that there are chemical and biological connections in children and adults with dyslexia and auditory processing issues. She states, “In my experience, when those biological areas are addressed, hearing, remembering, and processing auditory information can be vastly improved. I have personally worked with 3,000 families in my consultation practice. While working with families of bright, hard working children and teenagers who have to work too hard to learn, I have found the following common conditions:”3 She goes on to list several things, including yeast infections and dairy allergies.
In another article, “Ear Infections: Impact on Learning and Behavior” she points out that 90% of hyperactive children have had 3 or more ear infections.4 Recalling what we have learned about antibiotics and gut health in Part 2, is this surprising?
Here is a big quote from her article. She said it so well, I just want to include it so you can read it yourself…”We are very grateful for the discovery of antibiotics. Their timely use has saved many lives. However, repeated usage of antibiotics—particularly the use of the broad spectrum antibiotics such as Septra and Ceclor—sterilize a child’s intestines which eliminates the good bacteria while feeding the naturally-occurring yeast in the intestines. This causes an upset balance in the ecology that directly affects a child’s nervous system. Some books that explain this process in more detail are Help for Your Hyperactive Child by William Crook, M.D. and Superimmunity for Kids by Leo Galland, M.D. Most often we see this upset ecology manifesting itself as problems with learning or with behavior. The learning problems associated with this condition are: poor memory, difficulty with sustained attention (often seeming “spacey”), and difficulty understanding new concepts. The behavior problems that we see are hyperactivity, anger, moodiness, irritability, or inappropriate behavior, often talking too loudly, or regularly invading other peoples’ space.”4
It’s very clear that the gut and the brain are integrally connected, with many ramifications including learning, feeling, and focusing. The 4th post in this series on Gut Health will include the gut’s connection to food sensitivites and steps to heal them.
1 “New Discoveries About How Gut Bacteria Can Have Profound Implications for your Health” http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/29/probiotics-for-good-digestive-health.aspx?e_cid=20121229_DNL_art_1
2 “Gut Health: Our Second Brain” http://www.pointofreturn.com/gut_health.html
3 “The Biology of Auditory Processing and Memory Problems” by Dianne Craft http://www.diannecraft.org/the-biology-of-auditory-processing-and-memory-problems/
4“Ear Infections: Impact on Learning and Behavior” by Dianne Craft http://www.diannecraft.org/ear-infections-impact-on-learning-behavior/