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Natasha Dunn

Senior embryologist at Primary IVF, Yoga teacher, Nutritionist
Natasha Dunn

Latest posts by Natasha Dunn (see all)

Do you get butterflies in your stomach when nervous? Or heard someone say “follow your gut intuition”? Have you experienced a “carb coma” after eating a heavy carb based meal?  Why do we we feel this? And how does it affect the way we think? Your gut and brain communicate with each other, via the vagus nerve, which is the direct line of communication with your primary brain and your second brain (the gut).

 

What aspects of life do the gut brain relationship impact?

Because of the communication your gut and brain have, this can affect;

  • Mood
  • Sociability
  • Mental health
  • Foggy brain/decision making
  • Human connection/interaction
  • An affect on children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

 

What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

ASD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder. There is no conclusive cause for ASD but genetics and environment play a major role. The connection between gut bacteria and the brain also affect ASD.

ASD affects the brain in the areas of social interactions and communication skills. Recently there has been a big interest amongst researchers around the bacteria called Lactobacillus reuteri, which is found in the gut and is also used as a probiotic.

Recently an article by the economist, looked at the works of Costa-Mattioli. In this mouse study the researchers took into consideration the different causes of autism and mirrored the different aspects of ASD, just as it would be seen in children.

Costa-Mattioli and his team were looking at a way to improve symptoms for ASD. They did this by introducing Lactobacillus reuteri to the mice in their drinking water. They found that this started to correct social behaviour.

To test this theory further, the researchers knew that gut and brain interaction played a role. By cutting the vagus nerve and therefore cutting the connection between the gut and brain and oxytocin-dopamine system (dopamine has a widespread affect on the brains function, oxytocin is needed for the function of mood with dopamine. If there is a disruption in the system this will have an affect on mood and behaviour such as those found in ASD). This showed that with the introduction of Lactobacillus reuteri there was no change in social behaviour, proving the connection.

More research is needed in humans but, this theory with Lactobacillus reuteri has only shown increasable promise to restore social deficits. There are many more strains of bacteria and behaviour changes to be tested in future research.

 

What can I include in my child’s diet and life to help with their ASD?

You may find that your child is picky with tastes, colours, smells and textures. Some ways to tackle this is;

  • Take your child to the supermarket with you to choose a new food they would like to try
  • Go home and research this together so your child develops an interest in the food
  • Prepare the food together so they can interact in the preparation and talk about how you both want to prepare the food
  • Make meals and routine as predictable as possible to avoid extra stressors
  • Talk to a nutritionist or dietician about a safe controlled diet for your child
  • Change to a gluten free and casein free diet under the supervision of a professional
  • Foods that support treatment for ASD are broccoli, kale, cabbage, collards, cauliflower also know as cruciferous vegetables.
  • Cruciferous vegetables produce sulforaphane which helps with the clearing of free radicals that are formed in the brain and relieves mitochondrial dysfunction which leads to the free radical production

 

If you feel that you would like to discuss any of this further, and work through a tailored diet for your child please make an appointment with one of our friendly nutritionists today.

 

References

Eat right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Kids eat right, Autism spectrum Disorders (ASD) and diet, sited 22nd of January 2019 https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/autism/nutrition-for-your-child-with-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd

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