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Healthy LivingBehavioral Disorders in Children tied to Gut Bacteria, Study Shows

Behavioral Disorders in Children tied to Gut Bacteria, Study Shows

Young children are not afraid to express how they feel. They enjoy life, playing, and exploring. They love to be happy and to be loved. This is what we all want to see from our kids, and what we want for them.

Although we may want this, and relish it when it happens, children can also be disrespectful, disobedient, or have explosive tantrums. 

Behavioral meltdowns can be due to a combination of many factors in reaction to everyday environments and circumstances. Searching for recognition, pushing limits, levels of fatigue, or even power and control can all contribute to destructive actions. There may also be depression or unhealed trauma, pure boredom, and negative peer factors.

Recent research out of the University of Oregon and Oregon State University has concluded behavioral disorders in children could be tied to children’s gut health.(1)

Gut Feelings As Data Points

Research worldwide is conducted every year to analyze the behavior of children. This recent report comes courtesy of a published 2020 study from mBio, journal of the American Society for Microbiology. (1)

A critical period of child development (between the ages of 5 and 7) was the focus of the study, and the goal was to understand the links between gut health and behavioral development.

Much of our understanding of children’s gut microbiome comes from studies of the earliest years; the majority of reports focusing on perinatal and postnatal. Not only that, but most of the data is from animal models, not humans.

This study set out to look at 40 kids in the Pacific Northwest. The parents had active roles, including collecting data, self-reporting on home dynamics, and collecting stool samples.

Scientific reasoning pointed towards tummy happiness and children’s overall demeanor being tied. As anticipated, the published results confirmed this gut instinct. Perhaps more unexpectedly, no obvious link to diet and children’s gut health was found. (1,5)

Parents were instructed to obtain a small stool sample from their child. Samples had to be 2-4 weeks following any antibiotic use or illness, with no stool irregularities. No anticipated stressors were to be included and collection was to be during a week with a typical diet. 

To ensure the children understood, a visual representation of the study (coloring book) was used, and during home visits parents filled out questionnaires.

Parents were asked to fill out a diary of food categories eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner in the week prior to collections. The categories of food included: grains, vegetables, fruit, meat, other protein types, dairy, yogurt (other than dairy), beans/nuts/seeds, sugars/fats/oils.

The questionnaires collected information on household poverty (based on an income-need ratio), any stressors or chaos in the home, family disease, crime in the community and any division of families. An overall total ranking was tallied.

Self-recordings from parents on the children’s temperament characteristics included the positives:

  • Positive Anticipation
  • Smiling/Laughter
  • High-Intensity Pleasure
  • Activity Levels
  • Impulsivity

Negative behaviors they were asked to record were:

  • Shyness
  • Discomfort
  • Fear, Anger/Frustration
  • Sadness
  • Soothability
  • Inhibitory Control
  • Attentional Focusing
  • Low-Intensity Pleasure
  • Perceptual Sensitivity

They discovered kids with behavioral issues had different microorganisms in their guts than those who did not. Not only were there significant associations between household socioeconomic status and gut health, but the quality of the parent-child relationship and parental stress had statistically moderated the results. 

The next step for the researchers is to expand the study to more children and then track those children for several years to see if changes in their intestinal bacteria are connected to changes in behavior over a period of time. The hope is to find ways to alter micro-organisms in the G.I. tracts of children using what’s already inside their young bodies naturally, not by using any drugs. (1)

How To Help Children’s Gut Health

Feeding children a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes is often a sensible idea, ensuring that the developing gut microbiome has lots of nourishment. (2,3)

Eating good bacteria or consuming live and active cultures such as those found in yogurts, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, etc., is also extremely beneficial. (4)

Unfortunately, some foods can be particularly challenging. Not only can children be picky eaters, but certain flavors and textures may not appeal to young palates. 

A clever idea is getting kids more involved in the planning, preparation, and presentation of meals. Letting them be mini chefs goes a long way in teaching them that they are what they eat. On other days, for a nutritious meal to please all tummies, the final food order may have to include some imaginative disguising or hiding of certain foodstuffs.

If this is too much hassle, or if family life gets in the way, specific probiotic formulas with prebiotic nutrients can be an easier solution to help make a positive shift in family gut health.

ecoProbiotic contains 8 different cultures of living lactic acid bacteria, organic acids, and herbal extracts. It’s a natural, certified organic probiotic formula, containing no preservatives, sugar, or dairy. It provides advanced microbiome support, with digestive and immune health benefits, all in a family-friendly liquid form.

Happy Insides For Happy Families 

With children, it is prudent to keep an eye on ‘unusual’ behavior, especially if any are new occurrences, occur regularly, or if children exhibit behavior that looks like it may grow into a behavioral disorder. 

When we see a child acting up destructively, it’s hard not to be judgmental; Simultaneously it can be easy to sympathize. 

Our stance, as adults, depends on how we are feeling and therefore acting on any given day. As has been illustrated, conditions and stressors seem to have intrinsic, connective links in family gut health. It may be the right time to find intestinal heaven for all ages, for a happy and healthy family unit.

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