Back-to-school season means new friends, new classes and new experiences for kids of all ages. Heading back to school can also be an excellent time to take stock of your child’s overall health and well-being – and their gut health is a great place to start. New pediatric care research shows that your child’s gut health may play a larger role in behavior than you might think. Studies are showing that the trillions of microbes in your child’s gut microbiome can have a major influence on their behavior.
Why Does Gut Health Matter?
Researchers at Ohio State University recently conducted a study exploring the connection between human gut microbes and behavior in early childhood. They studied 77 children between the ages of 18 months and 27 months, and the results were clear. For both girls and boys, greater microbial diversity correlated directly to higher extraversion scores. While extraversion in toddlers might not seem significant, it led the researchers to determine that healthy gut microbes have a definite impact on social and mental health.
This makes sense, given that several key neurotransmitters are produced in the gut, including serotonin and dopamine. Additionally, healthy gut bacteria is essential to maintain a healthy blood–brain barrier. A compromised barrier allows unwelcome particles to enter the cerebrospinal fluid encasing the brain, leading to neuroinflammation and altered behavior.
Signs of an Unhealthy Gut in Children
Your child’s microbiome begins to diversify as soon as they’re born. A lot of this depends on diet, lifestyle and environmental factors. Ultimately, by about age two, a toddler’s microbiome resembles that of an adult. No matter how old your child is, their gut health is closely tied to their overall health. Keep an eye out for these signs of an unhealthy gut in children:
- Bowel Movements: If your child isn’t having frequent bowel movements – or their bowel movements are urgent, frequent or uncomfortable – it’s a sure sign of gut dysfunction.
- Belly: If your little one’s belly is bloated, distended or hard to the touch, they’re likely experiencing suboptimal gut health.
- Skin: The skin is our largest organ, making it an excellent representation of what’s going on inside the body. If your child is prone to rashes, facial redness, eczema or early childhood acne, it might be time to assess their gut health.
- Behavior and Mood: Is your child exceptionally irritable? Don’t write bad behavior off as a series of normal tantrums – they could be struggling with a microbial imbalance. While healthy gut bacteria produce calming chemicals like serotonin, unhealthy gut bacteria can have the opposite effect, leading to foul moods in kids of all ages.
Assessing Your Child’s Gut Health
Worried that your child might be struggling with an unhealthy gut? At Kare Health and Wellness our pediatric care in Springfield Missouri can help you to determine if a gut microbiome imbalance is contributing to your child’s behavior. We’ll start by performing specialty lab tests to investigate what bacteria – both beneficial and harmful – may be in your child’s gut.
Overall, we’re passionate about helping you determine if there are any underlying issues that may be contributing to your child’s symptoms. Of course, our gut health assessments aren’t just for kids. If you’re concerned about your own gut health, schedule an appointment today.
If you’re ready to get your child’s gut honor roll-ready, reach out to Kare Health and Wellness in Springfield, Missouri at 417-881-4994. Our goal is twofold: to improve your immediate health and prevent future health issues through functional medicine. Our patient-centered approach and innovative solutions – like personalized gut health testing and treatment – will set your child up for lifelong health.