Can’t focus? Hyperactive? Anxious? Depressed? Look to the gut, not the brain.
Updated: May 12
When children present with any of the difficulties above, we are quick to conclude that ‘it must be a problem with the brain’. They are given labels such as Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, Autism or Anxiety disorder or Depression. While it is true that these difficulties manifest themselves in altered brain functioning, the brain is not necessarily where the problem originates.
For example, we now know that some 80% of the neurotransmitters in our brain are actually manufactured in our gut, so if the gut is not functioning well nor will the brain. The delicate ecosystem which exists in our bodies is critical to healthy brain functioning. ‘Good’ bacteria help us digest food, releasing important precursors for Serotonin (the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter) and Dopamine (the ‘reward/concentration’ neurotransmitter). If children don’t have enough of the good stuff, they will not be able to concentrate and do well at school. Conversely, if they have too much of the ‘bad’ bacteria/fungi growing in their guts, neurotoxins are released which can negatively affect emotions and behaviour.
It is as though the great Berlin wall which once separated the study of Medicine from that of Psychology has come down, and we people are now realising that brains do not exist in isolation, as though pickled in a jar, but are actually housed within our bodies!!
The healthy functioning of each is completely interdependent. For example, the Psychiatrist Ed Bullmore recently showed that inflammation in the body (eg arthritis, or after some dental work) causes inflammation of the brain and results directly in depression.
The science is becoming ever more advanced, when we consider recent breakthroughs in epigenetics (ie the ability to switch on and off certain genes). We are all born with different genetic propensities to absorb certain nutrients or to kick out certain toxins from our systems. Imbalances caused by this genetic inheritance can result in too much adrenaline being produced (making you anxious/hyper) or too little Dopamine/Serotonin (making concentration difficult or creating depression).
Reaching for medication to suppress these imbalances is looking increasingly old school, as we are now able to rebalance neurotransmitter levels in the brain using highly targeted vitamins and minerals, with far greater accuracy than the ‘role of the dice’ that is often involved in drug prescriptions for mental health.
At The Key Clinic, we work from the ground up, ensuring the body is giving the brain what it needs in order to be able to function at its best.