Ah, the dreaded Terrible Twos. It’s that time in your child’s life when nothing seems to go quite right and tantrums are frustratingly common. The Terrible Twos are enough to leave any parent weary – but what about when the Terrible Twos turn into the Terrifying Threes or the Frightful Fours?
Behavioral issues in young children are indisputably on the rise. While many parents turn to prescription medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there’s another culprit that could be changing your child’s behavior: inflammation.
Why Kids Are Vulnerable to Inflammation
We’re all vulnerable to chronic inflammation. However, due to their size, physiology and behavior, children are even more vulnerable than adults. Children under the age of five breathe more air, drink more water and eat more food per unit of body weight than adults do. That means more exposure to inflammation-causing environmental toxins like pathogens and pollutants.
Those hazards are especially dangerous since kids’ nervous, immune, reproductive and digestive systems are still developing. Typical childhood behaviors – crawling or munching on foreign objects, for example – can also lead to increased risks. Finally, as children become old enough to help out around the house, they can also suffer from exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Diagnosing Inflammation in Kids
We often think of inflammation as an outward, physically noticeable occurrence like a swollen ankle or bloated gut. However, inflammation can manifest in a variety of different ways. For example, when inflammation occurs in the lungs, this can manifest as a wheeze or cough.
Additionally, inflammation in the gut can cause a variety of issues including eczema, allergies, constipation, diarrhea or mood dysregulation. If your child is suffering from any of these issues, there’s a chance that inflammation could be the source.
Trust Your Gut
You’ve probably heard the term “microbiome,” which refers to the community of microorganisms that inhabit our digestive tract. A healthy microbiome is much more important to your overall health than you might think. If your microbiome isn’t functioning properly, it’s common to experience issues including immune system malfunction, poor digestion – even behavioral changes.
While the latter may be surprising, it makes sense: More than 90 percent of your body’s serotonin and 50 percent of your body’s dopamine are produced in your gut, along with about 30 other neurotransmitters. Overall, the gut microbiome is essential for the maintenance of the selectively permeable blood–brain barrier, preventing hazardous molecules from impacting the brain.
A compromised blood–brain barrier can easily lead to neuroinflammation and altered behavior. That, in turn, leads to issues like ADHD. Your child’s neurotransmitters also dictate characteristics like introversion and extroversion, self-control, adaptability, intensity and mood.
Treating Inflammation in Kids
An ill-tempered little one can lead to more than frustration on your end. Ratings of temperament in early childhood are good predictors of personality and behavior in later childhood, adolescence and adulthood. If you’d like to help your child feel and behave better throughout their life, there are several treatment options. The first step is analyzing your child’s gut health and eliminating any potential stressors.
Ready to bid farewell to the Terrible Twos, Threes and Fours? Recent research suggests that your child’s microbiome may play an important role in behavior. Promoting your child’s gut health as part of your family medicine in Springfield Missouri may improve his or her behavior in the short term while reducing the chance of mental health issues later in life.
If you have more concerns about inflammation in kids, reach out to Kare Health and Wellness at 417-881-4994. Our goal is twofold: to improve your immediate health and prevent future health issues through functional medicine.