A Gut Feeling

The idea that what you eat can affect your mental health and emotional responses has been widely accepted among parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder for years. Many of us have made modifications of our children’s diets (and sometimes our diets) accordingly. Some of the things ASD parents have restricted include gluten, GMO foods, certain dyes, overly processed foods, dairy, yeast, soy, ect … it depends on the child and what we notice helps if removed and escalates their ASD behaviors when included. Many parents with ‘normal’ kids, or kids with ADHD, have done the same. Food sensitivities are discussed far and wide among parents in the know.

We have, as a collective group, endured a certain amount of scoffing over this. Some people will feel free to outright smirk if you explain why your kid cannot eat regular bread or snarf the Skittles.  Even friends who are scientists have pooh-poohed some concerns – including avoidance of GMO foods – as anti-science hysteria. Why? Because a lot of the research into the phenomena about the link between the gut’s healthy bacteria (enteric microbiota) and effects on the brain occur in Europe and are reported in European medical/science journals. GMOs are largely banned (or labeled) in the EU. Certain dyes that remain in kid’s food in the US are not allowed in the EU. The reporting European studies and funding for America studies has be largely squashed in the US as well. Why? Because companies who make boatloads of money from GMO crops or cheaper food dyes have powerful lobbyists.

However,  thanks to the open-source peer-reviewed journals making information widely and easily available more people are hearing about the connection between enteric microbiota and their mental health. It’s starting to become common knowledge thanks to places like LiveScience.com and IFLScience.com, both of which recently featured an article about a European study showing how gut bacteria affect the brains of humans.

The study found that when the forty-five human volunteers ingested something that increased the proliferation of “good” enteric microbiota there was a “suppression of the neuroendocrine stress response and the increase in the processing of positive versus negative attentional vigilance”. In short, good gut bacteria means your brain makes less cortisol and you feel less upset, stressed, and depressed.

More and more information about how the “second brain” in the gut influences our metal wellbeing is becoming readily available. I know from firsthand experience that eliminating gluten, GMOs, overly processed food, and anything with dyes in it has helped with ASD issues. I have also found that the probiotic offered by Plexus has been extremely efficacious in my family.

When the understanding of the connection between enteric microbiota and the brain has become uniformly accepted by the America public, I intend to be mature and reasonable to those in my circle of friends who rolled their eyes at my insistence that GMOs needed further study and that many learning/behavioral problems in children were actually worsened by – or even the result of — food sensitivities.

I will say “neener neener neener” in a very adult way.

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