I am a digestion junkie. Most of my research and education focuses on how to improve digestive function and correct the many ways that our digestive processes can go awry. For children with special needs, we must focus on creating the most optimal digestive system possible.
Why am I so focused on digestion?
Digestion is how we obtain nutrients from our food. When even one step in the digestive process is compromised, nutrients are not correctly assimilated into the body, and other parts of our physiology such as our nervous and immune systems suffer. We are losing out on valuable building blocks that are especially needed by children with autism, aspergers, schizophrenia, ADD, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD states in her book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” that she has “yet to meet a child with autism, ADHD/ADD, asthma, eczema, allergies, dyspraxia or dyslexia, who has not got digestive abnormalities. In many cases, they are severe enough for the parents to start talking about them first.” She renames all of the above conditions “Gut And Psychology Syndrome,” or “GAP Syndrome.”
Dr. Campbell-McBride finds that children suffering from GAP Syndrome tend to have a very limited diet, craving only starchy or sweet foods. Through testing she finds compromised gut flora (a lack or imbalance of beneficial intestinal bacteria), damage to the small and large intestine, and compromised immunity. Ultimately, she creates the most telling link between developmental issues and digestion by explaining the ‘gut-brain connection.’ She states:
“…a GAPS person’s digestive system becomes a major source of toxicity in the body. An unknown number of various neurotoxins are produced by abnormal flora in the gut of these children and adults, these are absorbed through the damaged gut wall into the blood and taken to the brain.”
How do I improve digestion?
Below I’ve listed some ways to dramatically improve digestion. However, for children with developmental issues, even extreme cases, beginning to implement the GAPS diet can lead to cases of profound recovery. The high mineral and gelatin levels found in homemade bone broth soups, the digestive aids of fresh ginger, chamomile, and mint teas, and high probiotic foods such as real fermented sauerkraut, kimchee, beet kvass, and real pickles are the first stepping stones to begin healing the digestive system, and reversing life long developmental problems.
1. Eat as slowly and calmly as possible. While this can be daunting for busy families, it is important to sit and eat in a relaxed state.
2. CHEW CHEW CHEW Reminding your child to chew as many times as possible creates less work for the stomach and small intestine.
3. Eat something bitter before meals. I often recommend a bitter tincture to clients. Taste a few drops before meals to begin the hormonal process of digestion. Any bitter foods create this response, however, and you can begin eating foods such as arugula, steamed dandelion greens, burdock, and herbs such as fenugreek or turmeric.