I know what you are thinking- those cookies look really good right now. And I would agree. Something about a chewy chocolate chip cookie makes me happy. Well, guess what? It may not all be in our head. There is a sneaky little reason why we feel happy when we eat comfort foods like pizza and cookies. Scientists call it, dopamine. I call it, heaven.
Dopamine is our happy place. Dopamine dictates pleasure in the reward area of our brain. Trigger dopamine release with cookies, donuts, and candy and you trigger happiness. See the connection? Pretty straight-forward. Give your kids a sweet treat and they feel good in the moment but they will be waiting and looking for their next dose.
Not only do food choices directly influence the release of brain chemicals, food choices impair or repair your child’s gut. According, to Dr. Mercola, “I simply cannot overstate the importance of your food choices when it comes to your mental health. In a very real sense, you have TWO brains—one in your head, and one in your gut—both of which are created from the same tissue during fetal development. These two systems are connected via your vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. It is now well established that the vagus nerve is the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain. Maintaining optimal gut health is therefore paramount when trying to address your mental state.”
In very none-clinical terms, I will break it down for you. If your child’s gut health is out of whack it lends itself to the idea that his/her brain health may be out of whack too. What creates chaos in gut health?
Kelly Brogan, M.D., trained at M.I.T, Cornell and N.Y.U, is a board-certified psychiatrist, who utilizes a nutrition-based approach to brain healing, states the following, “Where is the best place to begin when we consider how to modify inflammatory states in the body, naturally? You guessed it, it’s the gut. Housing >70% of our immune system, the gut is our interface between the outside and inside world, separated by one-cell-thickness. Disruption to the balance of bacteria through medication exposures, gluten, herbicides, stress, and infection can set the stage for the innate immune system to prepare for attack. Depression, associated with compromised integrity of this intestinal barrier, becomes the swirling storm of inflammation, impairment of cellular machinery (i.e. mitochondria), oxidative stress, and inflammation in a carousel-like forward rotation. Specifically, depression is associated with elevated levels of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a nutrient-binding, inflammatory toxin produced by bacteria that are intended to remain in the gut.”
Dr. Brogan continues, “If depression is a downstream collection of symptoms, and inflammation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction are driving these symptoms, what is at the source? It appears, from data in animals and humans, that disruption to our gut ecology may be a major player, and the microbiome has stepped to the forefront of cutting-edge psychiatric research.”
What is today’s take-away? Food has everything to do with your child’s health. Food impacts your child’s mood. A healthy gut means a healthy brain. Food doesn’t simply toy with cholesterol levels or heart disease or diabetes. It defiles the whole body system if not cared for properly. We have to take ownership for the choices we make for our children. Mainstream medicine is finally calling for nature to restore. What has nature provided that our children need to feel whole and functioning at their finest?
- Whole foods and organic whenever possible
- Probiotic-rich foods (fermented foods and drinks- kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled vegetables, kombucha) * In addition, I make a personal choice to give my children Garden of Life probiotics almost daily especially in the winter months.
- Daily exercise preferably outdoors
- Less sugar, less processed foods, less caffeine
- More connection
- More free play
See…sometimes less is more!