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Lynda Griparic ND

Naturopath and Nutritionist

Advanced Diploma of Naturopathic Medicine, Diploma of Nutrition

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NUTRITION

Changing Behaviour with Food

By Lynda Griparic ND

Posted  May 20 2015 | 0 Shares

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Since ancient times, the gut has been referred to as “the second brain.” Now, science is coming up with more and more research that supports this. Researchers have found that the gut is lined with neurons, those specialised cells found in our brains. Additionally, gut bacteria secrete a large amount of chemicals, some of which include the same substances that regulate our mood, like dopamine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid. Since our gut bacteria are, in large part, determined by the food we eat, changing behaviour with food is certainly a plausible undertaking.

Children can be ultra fussy with food, however. Similar to adults, a “one size fits all” approach to diet certainly does not suit all. However there are a few dietary tips that I would like to share with you which can help to avoid or reduce behavioural problems in children. Essentially our most important goal is to nourish gut health.

Did you know that the parents, the mother in particular, pass onto their child their unique gut microbiome (gut flora)? The gut microbiome, put simply, is the trillions of microscopic bacteria that live within your gastrointestinal tract. They play a huge role in physical and mental health.

The difference in gut flora between a bottle fed and breastfed baby is significant. A bottle-fed baby tends to have a compromised gut flora from early on which leaves it prone to many health problems. Also, if mum has had a series of antibiotics or the oral contraceptive pill growing up, chances are, the good bacterial strains in her gut have been damaged. As you can see, by the time a mum is ready to have a baby she may already have a compromised gut flora which she then passes on to her child. In the first 20 or so days of a baby’s life, the baby’s gut gets a mixture of bacteria, mainly from the mum. This gut flora will influence the health of the child for the rest of their life.

What is commonly seen in children with learning disabilities, psychiatric problems, and allergies is multiple deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, essential fats, amino acids, and other nutrients. Some of these nutrients are essential for brain development and the immune system. If the gut microbiome balance of baby is poor, the child will not digest and absorb foods well and they will not produce many nutrients essential for good brain health.

Restoring and renewing healthy gut flora is essential for improving these deficiencies. In other words, changing behaviour with food boils down to nourishing the gut. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) / Attention-deficit disorder (ADD), obsessive compulsive disease (OCD), depression, bipolar disorder, and other neuropsychological problems commonly present with abnormal digestion. Often they have had gut symptoms from childbirth.

Such an imbalance can open up the doors for invasion by bacteria, fungi, and parasites. The most common one seen in children with behavioural conditions are yeasts, particularly Candida. Yeasts ferment carbohydrates and produce alcohol and acetaldehyde. These by-products can be very harmful and lead to impaired digestion and absorption, poor detoxification, elimination, impaired brain function and behavioural problems. Repeated antibiotic use and vaccinations can damage the gut flora further and again lead to digestive problems, allergies, and eczema. A naturopath may suggest further testing to establish whether any bacteria, fungi or parasites are present, what the child’s gut flora looks like and if there are any allergies or sensitivities to food.

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that changing behaviour with food can mean something as simple as removing intestinal discomfort. Gut illnesses often present with gas, bloating, excess water, and diarrhoea, which can be painful. Eliminating these issues can be a big step in having a happy, healthy child.

The following are a few tips to consider in changing behaviour with food:

Avoid known food sensitivities, allergies especially gluten and milk.
Gluten is a protein present in grains, mainly wheat, rye, oats and barley. Casein is a milk protein, present in cow, goat, sheep, human and all other animal milk and milk products. Where there is gut flora imbalance these proteins are not digested properly and can cross the blood brain barrier, blocking certain areas of the brain and causing a whole host of neurological and psychological symptoms. Establish if there are any particular allergies and sensitivities present which may be disrupting gut function and causing inflammation within the body, such as amines, salicylates, and glutamates which are found in many common fruits and vegetables. Removing these from the diet for a period of time will give the body a break and the space it needs to restore itself to good health.

A poop every day
If your child does not poop every day, they are recycling their own toxic garbage. When poop leaves the body it takes with it inflammatory toxins. If they are constipated and not completely emptying their bowels every day, chances are the toxins are having some fun, hanging out in the colon or are being re-absorbed by the body. A buildup of toxins in the body can cause a wide range of issues from impaired brain function (foggy mind, poor concentration), hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, such as leaky gut and all of the problems that come with that. Making sure that your child gets adequate fibre and water can help their bowels move more easily.

Sources of fibrous foods include:
Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, pears, apples, guava Cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, turnip, acorn squash, avocados, artichokes, green peas Gluten free grains: amaranth, quinoa, lentils (in moderation) Chia seeds with lots of filtered water

Get off the sugar and processed foods
Aside from sending the blood sugar to sky rocket levels, sugar is the fuel that nourishes your disruptive gut bacteria. A diet rich in sugar is inflammatory and affects the hormones that keep your child feeling full and satisfied. Shop on the perimeter of your supermarket, where food actually looks like food and buy whole, fresh food that you can recognize. Sure whole, fresh, real foods may not have a shelf life as long as your packaged and processed foes but they will not stress the liver and kidneys. Leaving them to carry on with more important things such as filtering toxins out of the bloodstream. Processed foods also often contain hidden sugars and additives (colours, preservatives, flavour enhancers, glutamates etc) which have been known to affect digestion, cause headaches and allergic symptoms. Go organic, grass fed wherever possible to avoid any hidden harmful, toxic chemicals that can affect brain function and disrupt gut flora.

Avoid fruit juices
Fruit juice contains a similar amount of sugar as a sugar-sweetened beverage, not to mention a heavy “cocktail” of fruit-flavoured chemicals. Fruit juice can contain more sugar than a can of Coca Cola, up to 12 tsp per glass. Err on the side of caution with beverages labelled 100% fruit juice. While they may contain “only” fruit they are without the fibre found when we eat the real thing. In essence you are getting a big dose of fruit sugar (fructose), which messes with blood sugar levels and leaves your child feeling ungrounded, hungry and anxious. Most manufacturers add additional sugar to these already naturally sweet beverages. The danger here aside from the blood sugar spike is that your child will develop a taste for sweet foods which leads to cravings, excessive food consumption and weight gain. They are better off eating a piece of fresh fruit instead as one glass of fruit juice contains much more sugar than the whole fruit and much of the fibre is lost. Fibre helps to keep the digestive and elimination systems working well and slows down the absorption of sugar. Strip away the fibre and cram multiple fruits into a bottle and what you get is a sugary drink which absorbs quickly and leaves your children feeling hungry.

Probiotic-rich foods
Probiotics are the living bacteria that restore and renew our microbiome. They reduce inflammation in the intestines, improve the quality of the gut and reduce absorption of toxins. 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut. Serotonin is affected by the health of your microbiome and is responsible for a healthy mood, sense of calm, optimism, sleep and appetite. Gut bacteria produce and respond to other chemicals that the brain uses which regulate sleep, stress and relaxation such as melatonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine and GABA. As you can see, maintaining a healthy microbiome balance is essential for a healthy mood and brain. Fermented foods, such as kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchee, fermented vegetables, kefir are natural probiotics. They contain their own living cultures of bacteria, which nourish the healthy bacteria in your microbiome. Start with small amounts to begin with while the body adjusts. Getting some of these strong flavours into your child may prove to be a challenge so you may want to start with Kombucha or kefir.

Healthy fats
Your intestinal cell walls are made up of fat so in order to do their jobs they need healthy fats such as nuts, nut butters (almond, cashew, macadamia), seeds, seed butters, avocado, oily fish, flaxseeds, coconut and olive oil. Having healthy cells ensures that you are the best version of your inherited genes because whatever enters your cells affects your DNA. Unhealthy fats such as vegetable oils feed the harmful bacteria, the microbes that ignite inflammation, encourage the body to produce toxins and affect brain health. Omega 3s, particularly from oily fish reduce gut inflammation and repair the mucosal cells of the digestive system.

No breakfast
Having a nutritious breakfast is ideal for a healthy metabolism. If your child misses breakfast they may lack focus, feel lethargic and unable to concentrate. They may also reach for packaged, processed, convenience meals mid morning or even over consuming during lunch. Missing breakfast leads to unbalanced cravings. Those who skip breakfast tend to consume 40% more sugar during the day. Cravings, high sugar and lack of nutrients will compromise overall health. Your child may experience low mood, a foggy mind, poor memory, concentration, weight gain, morbid obesity, digestive issues and chronic long term illness. The body thrives on good nutrition soon after you get up because it has essentially fasted during the night. Choose your food wisely. Avoid processed carbohydrates and sugar. Meals that are rich in fibre, fat and moderate protein are best. Organic eggs, avocado and sweet potato is one example that will give the body the ammunition it needs to control hunger, cravings and to function well. Finding alternatives and imaginative ways to increase the uptake of fibrous vegetables can be a challenge. Have you tried cauliflower mash? It is delicious alternative to regular potato mash, is easy to make and has an almost identical texture.

 Cauliflower Mash

Ingredients
1 medium cauliflower head, chopped in chunks
1 tsp himalayan salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp coconut oil (olive oil or ghee can be used)
2 tbsp water

Method
Steam cauliflower chunks until soft.
Using a hand held blender or food processor blend all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. You can add various spices to your liking such as cajun, garlic etc.

Written by Lynda Griparic

Reviewed by Lynda Griparic ND 20 May 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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Changing Behaviour with Food

NUTRITION

Since ancient times, the gut has been referred to as “the second brain.” Now, science is coming up with more and more research that supports this. Researchers have found that the gut is lined with neurons, those specialised cells found in our brains. Additionally, gut bacteria secrete a large amount of chemicals, some of which include the same substances that regulate our mood, like dopamine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid. Since our gut bacteria are, in large part, determined by the food we eat, changing behaviour with food is certainly a plausible undertaking.

Children can be ultra fussy with food, however. Similar to adults, a “one size fits all” approach to diet certainly does not suit all. However there are a few dietary tips that I would like to share with you which can help to avoid or reduce behavioural problems in children. Essentially our most important goal is to nourish gut health.

Did you know that the parents, the mother in particular, pass onto their child their unique gut microbiome (gut flora)? The gut microbiome, put simply, is the trillions of microscopic bacteria that live within your gastrointestinal tract. They play a huge role in physical and mental health.

The difference in gut flora between a bottle fed and breastfed baby is significant. A bottle-fed baby tends to have a compromised gut flora from early on which leaves it prone to many health problems. Also, if mum has had a series of antibiotics or the oral contraceptive pill growing up, chances are, the good bacterial strains in her gut have been damaged. As you can see, by the time a mum is ready to have a baby she may already have a compromised gut flora which she then passes on to her child. In the first 20 or so days of a baby’s life, the baby’s gut gets a mixture of bacteria, mainly from the mum. This gut flora will influence the health of the child for the rest of their life.

What is commonly seen in children with learning disabilities, psychiatric problems, and allergies is multiple deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, essential fats, amino acids, and other nutrients. Some of these nutrients are essential for brain development and the immune system. If the gut microbiome balance of baby is poor, the child will not digest and absorb foods well and they will not produce many nutrients essential for good brain health.

Restoring and renewing healthy gut flora is essential for improving these deficiencies. In other words, changing behaviour with food boils down to nourishing the gut. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) / Attention-deficit disorder (ADD), obsessive compulsive disease (OCD), depression, bipolar disorder, and other neuropsychological problems commonly present with abnormal digestion. Often they have had gut symptoms from childbirth.

Such an imbalance can open up the doors for invasion by bacteria, fungi, and parasites. The most common one seen in children with behavioural conditions are yeasts, particularly Candida. Yeasts ferment carbohydrates and produce alcohol and acetaldehyde. These by-products can be very harmful and lead to impaired digestion and absorption, poor detoxification, elimination, impaired brain function and behavioural problems. Repeated antibiotic use and vaccinations can damage the gut flora further and again lead to digestive problems, allergies, and eczema. A naturopath may suggest further testing to establish whether any bacteria, fungi or parasites are present, what the child’s gut flora looks like and if there are any allergies or sensitivities to food.

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that changing behaviour with food can mean something as simple as removing intestinal discomfort. Gut illnesses often present with gas, bloating, excess water, and diarrhoea, which can be painful. Eliminating these issues can be a big step in having a happy, healthy child.

The following are a few tips to consider in changing behaviour with food:

Avoid known food sensitivities, allergies especially gluten and milk.
Gluten is a protein present in grains, mainly wheat, rye, oats and barley. Casein is a milk protein, present in cow, goat, sheep, human and all other animal milk and milk products. Where there is gut flora imbalance these proteins are not digested properly and can cross the blood brain barrier, blocking certain areas of the brain and causing a whole host of neurological and psychological symptoms. Establish if there are any particular allergies and sensitivities present which may be disrupting gut function and causing inflammation within the body, such as amines, salicylates, and glutamates which are found in many common fruits and vegetables. Removing these from the diet for a period of time will give the body a break and the space it needs to restore itself to good health.

A poop every day
If your child does not poop every day, they are recycling their own toxic garbage. When poop leaves the body it takes with it inflammatory toxins. If they are constipated and not completely emptying their bowels every day, chances are the toxins are having some fun, hanging out in the colon or are being re-absorbed by the body. A buildup of toxins in the body can cause a wide range of issues from impaired brain function (foggy mind, poor concentration), hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, such as leaky gut and all of the problems that come with that. Making sure that your child gets adequate fibre and water can help their bowels move more easily.

Sources of fibrous foods include:
Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, pears, apples, guava Cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, turnip, acorn squash, avocados, artichokes, green peas Gluten free grains: amaranth, quinoa, lentils (in moderation) Chia seeds with lots of filtered water

Get off the sugar and processed foods
Aside from sending the blood sugar to sky rocket levels, sugar is the fuel that nourishes your disruptive gut bacteria. A diet rich in sugar is inflammatory and affects the hormones that keep your child feeling full and satisfied. Shop on the perimeter of your supermarket, where food actually looks like food and buy whole, fresh food that you can recognize. Sure whole, fresh, real foods may not have a shelf life as long as your packaged and processed foes but they will not stress the liver and kidneys. Leaving them to carry on with more important things such as filtering toxins out of the bloodstream. Processed foods also often contain hidden sugars and additives (colours, preservatives, flavour enhancers, glutamates etc) which have been known to affect digestion, cause headaches and allergic symptoms. Go organic, grass fed wherever possible to avoid any hidden harmful, toxic chemicals that can affect brain function and disrupt gut flora.

Avoid fruit juices
Fruit juice contains a similar amount of sugar as a sugar-sweetened beverage, not to mention a heavy “cocktail” of fruit-flavoured chemicals. Fruit juice can contain more sugar than a can of Coca Cola, up to 12 tsp per glass. Err on the side of caution with beverages labelled 100% fruit juice. While they may contain “only” fruit they are without the fibre found when we eat the real thing. In essence you are getting a big dose of fruit sugar (fructose), which messes with blood sugar levels and leaves your child feeling ungrounded, hungry and anxious. Most manufacturers add additional sugar to these already naturally sweet beverages. The danger here aside from the blood sugar spike is that your child will develop a taste for sweet foods which leads to cravings, excessive food consumption and weight gain. They are better off eating a piece of fresh fruit instead as one glass of fruit juice contains much more sugar than the whole fruit and much of the fibre is lost. Fibre helps to keep the digestive and elimination systems working well and slows down the absorption of sugar. Strip away the fibre and cram multiple fruits into a bottle and what you get is a sugary drink which absorbs quickly and leaves your children feeling hungry.

Probiotic-rich foods
Probiotics are the living bacteria that restore and renew our microbiome. They reduce inflammation in the intestines, improve the quality of the gut and reduce absorption of toxins. 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut. Serotonin is affected by the health of your microbiome and is responsible for a healthy mood, sense of calm, optimism, sleep and appetite. Gut bacteria produce and respond to other chemicals that the brain uses which regulate sleep, stress and relaxation such as melatonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine and GABA. As you can see, maintaining a healthy microbiome balance is essential for a healthy mood and brain. Fermented foods, such as kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchee, fermented vegetables, kefir are natural probiotics. They contain their own living cultures of bacteria, which nourish the healthy bacteria in your microbiome. Start with small amounts to begin with while the body adjusts. Getting some of these strong flavours into your child may prove to be a challenge so you may want to start with Kombucha or kefir.

Healthy fats
Your intestinal cell walls are made up of fat so in order to do their jobs they need healthy fats such as nuts, nut butters (almond, cashew, macadamia), seeds, seed butters, avocado, oily fish, flaxseeds, coconut and olive oil. Having healthy cells ensures that you are the best version of your inherited genes because whatever enters your cells affects your DNA. Unhealthy fats such as vegetable oils feed the harmful bacteria, the microbes that ignite inflammation, encourage the body to produce toxins and affect brain health. Omega 3s, particularly from oily fish reduce gut inflammation and repair the mucosal cells of the digestive system.

No breakfast
Having a nutritious breakfast is ideal for a healthy metabolism. If your child misses breakfast they may lack focus, feel lethargic and unable to concentrate. They may also reach for packaged, processed, convenience meals mid morning or even over consuming during lunch. Missing breakfast leads to unbalanced cravings. Those who skip breakfast tend to consume 40% more sugar during the day. Cravings, high sugar and lack of nutrients will compromise overall health. Your child may experience low mood, a foggy mind, poor memory, concentration, weight gain, morbid obesity, digestive issues and chronic long term illness. The body thrives on good nutrition soon after you get up because it has essentially fasted during the night. Choose your food wisely. Avoid processed carbohydrates and sugar. Meals that are rich in fibre, fat and moderate protein are best. Organic eggs, avocado and sweet potato is one example that will give the body the ammunition it needs to control hunger, cravings and to function well. Finding alternatives and imaginative ways to increase the uptake of fibrous vegetables can be a challenge. Have you tried cauliflower mash? It is delicious alternative to regular potato mash, is easy to make and has an almost identical texture.

 Cauliflower Mash

Ingredients
1 medium cauliflower head, chopped in chunks
1 tsp himalayan salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp coconut oil (olive oil or ghee can be used)
2 tbsp water

Method
Steam cauliflower chunks until soft.
Using a hand held blender or food processor blend all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. You can add various spices to your liking such as cajun, garlic etc.

Written by Lynda Griparic

Reviewed by Lisa Kelly 20 May 2015
references
  • current version

  • PEER REVIEWER

  • Doc id

  • next review

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

make a comment

0 comments

more articles by Lynda Griparic ND

view more

latest articles

view more

MEET THE EXPERTS

view more