Many Common Childhood Conditions Stem From Gut Issues
Research has shown that a healthy gut is crucial for our overall health. Many of the common childhood conditions seen in kids can be traced to a dysfunctional digestive tract which can lead to inflammation of the gut as well as systemic inflammation.
How Does Gut Dysfunction Cause Systemic Inflammation?
A healthy intestinal lining has tight junctions that control what passes through. When the junctions become damaged or loose, it allows undigested food particles, toxins and bacteria to pass through into the bloodstream. This is known as leaky gut or gut permeability. If the body doesn’t recognize these substances, the immune system kicks in sending signals that there are invaders. This signal causes inflammation and a full immune response.
The Function of The Gastrointestinal Tract
The Gastrointestinal Tract is responsible for the whole digestive process. Though there is much truth to the expression “you are what you eat,” the other component to consider is “you are what you absorb.” In order for our body to function optimally, we need to absorb the nutrients from the foods we ingest. Our digestive tract is in charge of many functions to keep the body healthy and maintain homeostasis throughout.
The 5 Primary Functions of the Digestive Tract Include:
- Digestion — breaking down of the food to be easily absorbed.
- Absorption — digested food is delivered to the body for utilization of energy, nutrients and other cellular function.
- Exclusion — barrier to exclude substances from entering the body.
- Detoxification — toxins are metabolized by the liver for elimination from the body.
- Elimination — removal of waste).
Each process is equally important and if any process is faulty it effects our overall health.
Common Causes of Leaky Gut
Genetics can certainly be a factor in leaky gut though diet and lifestyle factors seem to be a greater contributor. The Standard American Diet is certainly a big contributor.
How Kids Diets Contribute to Leaky Gut
Foods to Avoid
- Processed foods, sugar, dairy, wheat and gluten all can be very damaging to the intestinal lining, especially for those with a genetic predisposition to gut issues.
- Preservatives, food dyes and artificial ingredients can play a role as well.
Foods to Include
- Fruits and vegetables because a diet that is lacking in essential nutrients can also be a trigger. Without fruits and vegetables, kids lack the important vitamins and minerals that help the body to function properly.
- Fiber in kids diets is also a concern. Fiber is necessary to feed the healthy bacteria in the gut and to help with the passage of stool.
How Lifestyle Contributes to Leaky Gut
In addition to the foods we eat, lifestyle factors play a role too.
Medications such as antibiotics, steroids and antacids or proton pump inhibitors are often prescribed to treat some of the most common childhood conditions. These medications greatly interfere with the balance of good bacteria in the gut and can lead to dysbiosis or overgrowth of bad bacteria.
Other culprits include toxins from pesticides, routine household cleaning products, chemicals used in fabrics, aerosols, skin products, the list goes on.
And we cannot forget about the affects stress has on our gut. Think about the knots in your stomach or churning you feel when you are feeling stressed. Kids too experience stress though because of the age may not understand or be able to express what they are feeling hence they suffer in silence.
Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Leaky gut causes a buffet of symptoms including but not limited to the following:
- Food intolerances
- Food allergies
- Behavior conditions such as ADHD
- Mood imbalance
- Celiac disease
- Irritable bowel disease
- Autoimmune disease
Though many doctors consider these to be conditions, they are really just symptoms stemming from an underlying cause.
Functional medicine focuses on getting to the root cause of the symptoms, most often generating from the gut.
How to Heal The Gut
Healing the gut takes time and patience. There are several steps in the process. It is best to work with an integrative or functional medical practitioner to help restore the digestive tract and bring the body back to optimal health.
The Foundation of the Treatment Protocol is the 5 Rs…
- Remove anything that is irritating the gut.
- Replace what is missing to help the digestive process.
- Repair the gut lining with food, herbs and high quality supplementation.
- Reinoculate with good bacteria.
- Rebalance through lifestyle management.
Once the gut integrity is restored, many if not all the symptoms your child may be experiencing should dissipate.