The prevalence of gut disorders and problems is on the rise. In fact, nearly 20 percent of all doctor visits are due to gastrointestinal complaints. Also, on the rise are childhood neuropsychiatric disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), dyslexia, and other learning disorders. Could there be a connection? The answer is yes.
There is a strong connection between gut health and brain health. After all, the gut is the means by which our gastrointestinal system - with its trillions of microbiota and hundreds of millions of neurons - and our brain communicate with each other.
Scientists have found that many neuropsychological disorders - such as ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning disabilities - can be caused by problems with the gut microbiota. There is a strong link between a "leaky gut" (also known as intestinal permeability) and a "leaky brain". When the gut becomes permeable, which can be caused by poor diet, stress, taking antibiotics, etc., toxins and pro-inflammatory substances can be absorbed into the bloodstream. The result is inflammation of the brain. When the brain becomes inflamed, the blood-brain barrier becomes "leaky", allowing toxins to enter the brain.
One study found that 43 percent of children with autism spectrum disorder had permeability of the gut and damage to the mucous membranes.
In addition, nearly 70 to 80 percent of the immune system is located in the gut. In people with ADHD, dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders and other learning disabilities, the immune system is often weakened. When the immune system functions poorly, harmful pathogens can easily enter the body and potentially affect the brain.
People with ADHD also have low levels of serotonin - a substance made in the gut. Serotonin has a variety of roles, from regulating the sleep cycle to feelings of happiness and well-being. People with ADHD often suffer from sleep problems, stress, and anxiety.
The bottom line
Gut health is a crucial factor in human health. The gut itself is so important that some researchers refer to it as our "second brain". So when you improve the gut microbiome, it helps the whole body.
Ways to improve the gut microbiome include eating garlic, green tea, kefir, and taking high-quality probiotics. Eating foods rich in antioxidants - such as berries, nuts, and beans - can also help. For adults, and especially children, it is also important to avoid overuse of antibiotics (which kill the 'good' gut bacteria). Finally, reducing stress and anxiety and improving sleep can also improve gut health.