The gut/brain connection may be a buzzword, but it’s an important part of the health journey for you and your family. This is particularly true when looking at how a healthy gut can support a healthy brain. As scientists continue to find more evidence, it’s important to realize how our diets can affect the gut/brain connection.
THE POWER OF THE GUT/BRAIN CONNECTION
While our gut and our brain may not seem to be related at first glance, they are both an important way to can optimize our health! This is especially important for children as they learn and grow. Nutrition can affect your child’s brain in three ways:
- Cells need proper nutrition to function optimally.
- Myelin sheath covers each cell’s axon, which acts as insulation. Nutrient deficiencies can weaken this insulation, which can delay nerve-impulse transmission.
- Neurotransmitters are affected by the foods we eat, as some nutrients become a part of the neurotransmitters. This includes serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This is likely the biological explanation for how food affects our mood.
If the gut isn’t efficiently digesting food and absorbing nutrients, the cells, myelin sheaths, and neurotransmitters will weaken. You can think of it like a garden hose. When a garden hose is in good working condition, water flows through freely and with ease. The hose helps focus and flow the water stream in its intended direction.
When a myelin sheath starts to break down from lack of nutrients, it is like the hose having a kink in it that impedes the flow of the water through the hose (or in this case the nerve impulses through the cell axon).
THE GUT/BRAIN CONNECTION HAS AN INCREASING FOCUS ON NEUROSCIENCE
As a mother, you’ve probably already spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to improve your child’s health. There are so many considerations that it can get very overwhelming, very quickly.
At some point, you have to start choosing certain aspects to focus on, and the microbiome should be at the top of the list. So, is the microbiome really that important? Absolutely!
The gut/brain connection isn’t just hypothetical. Neuroscientists have been uncovering numerous connections between the microbiome and proper brain development. One of the most important connections are the neurohormones that are produced in the gut and then sent to the brain.
These hormones can help the brain function better and can even make us smarter. Researchers writing for the National Institute of Health have found that regulating brain chemistry and influencing neural endocrine systems associated with stress response, have positive results.
Because of these interactions, the gut/brain connection can have a more significant influence. In order to balance these hormones, and to ensure that the body is getting proper nutrients, your children need to have a healthy and balanced microbiome.
NUTRIENT DENSE FOOD SUPPORTS A HEALTHY BRAIN
A healthy and sharp brain requires a healthy diet and an optimized microbiome. This is especially true for growing children. This growth begins before they’re even born!
When you think of nutrition, you may think of eating dark, leafy greens for eye health, or eating the proper balance of protein, fat, and carbs to build muscle. While nutrient-dense foods are certainly important, you need a healthy gut in order to absorb these nutrients and experience the benefits!
Let’s Break It Down
- Diet will have a large impact on your child’s microbiome.
- The right diet can assist with brain development.
- A healthy microbiome will positively influence other systems, such as your child’s immune system.
They say that a butterfly flapping its wings in London can cause a hurricane in China. That might be a touch dramatic, but what the bacteria do in your digestive track can have a huge impact on what happens in your brain.
WHAT DOES “NUTRIENT DENSE” MEAN?
Nutrient dense food is whole foods that are filled with healthy nutrients like vitamins and minerals. When we fill our bodies with these nutrients, we’ll power our brain (and the rest of our body!) throughout the day.
This means meals filled with different colored veggies, high-quality meat (if you choose to eat meat), and whole grains. If you like something sweet after dinner, have some fresh berries or try making banana “nice” cream. The less refined sugar, the better!
ENCOURAGING YOUR KIDS TO EAT BRAIN-BOOSTING FOODS
We understand picky kids; we have them ourselves! But encouraging them to try new foods and incorporating them into their favorite meals can help increase their veggies intake to keep them ready to play, learn, and grow.
Try swapping regular pasta for Banza chickpea pasta, and blend spinach into homemade pesto. Another great way to encourage your kids to eat brain-boosting foods is to include them while preparing meals. It’s going to get messy and will probably take longer, but they’ll be more interested in the food because they helped make it.
A healthy gut can support a healthy brain, which means nutrient dense meals are a must. When we eat nutritious meals, our brains are better equipped for the work we put them through every day. These foods don’t need to be boring! Incorporating veggies into favorite dishes and having them help during meal prep can help get them excited about these healthy meals. Our brains depend on it!