I don’t know about you, but if I eat too closely to the time when I go to sleep, I have very vivid nightmares. Before I give a presentation and share my thoughts with others, my stomach does somersaults and the butterflies come out. Before a job interview? Forget it, my stomach is incredibly hard to deal with. Doctors are prescribing anti depressants for stomach and gastrointestinal issues. Clearly the mind and the stomach have some sort of connection, but what is it? Why does it exist? And what does this mean for Autism?
When we’re not much more than an expected baby, and our different body systems are forming, our stomachs and our brains develop from the same clump of tissue. One section becomes the central nervous system, and the other becomes the enteric nervous system that controls the gastrointestinal system. It can be thought of a similar instance as when twins are born, and as they grow older, some report being affected by situations that the other is going through.
The brain and stomach are connected by the vagus nerve. So, not only is there a “twin-like” relation, there is an actual physical connection between the brain and the gut. It is also important to note that one half of all of our nerve cells are located in the gut.
The Gut: The Other Brain:
The stomach itself has it’s own brain, also known as the enteric system, which is located in the lining of the esophogus, intestine, and colon. Containing neurons and neurotransmitters, the enteric system is often firing messages to support cells. No wonder people trust their guts! It has it’s own brain afterall.
Many dieticians often recommend people eat slowly so that the stomach has a chance to tell the brain that it’s full. Otherwise, you run the risk of over stuffing your stomach and causing indigestion.
Did you know that both the brain and the stomach have a sleeping cycle? It’s true, as our brain goes through the 90 minute cycles of Rapid Eye Movement, etc., the gut also goes through cycles of muscle contractions. The REM cycle of sleep is also likely affected by contractions of the stomach muscles, since these two ‘brains’ are connected.
Many people who are diagnosed with depression are also given the diagnosis as not producing serontonin, or “happy juice” in the brain. A little known fact is that the stomach also produces serotonin. In fact, the stomach produces more serotonin than any other part of the body.
What does the gut-brain connection have to do with Autism?
Though the gut is often an overlooked part of the body, it really does hold a lot of power. Since this is where digestion takes place, if the gut is not functioning properly, then our body cannot take the nutrients that it needs from the food we’re eating. Even if your child’s diet is one of great nutrients and proper vitamins, if the gut isn’t extracting the nutrients, then the body isn’t getting what it needs.
On the same token, our bodies are designed to filter out toxins from the body and reject unknown infections. However, if the gut isn’t working, and not filtering out toxins, an toxic overload can occur. It is very important that the gut be in working condition.
Conditions such as Anxiety, ADHD, ADD, and Autism are believed to originate partly in the gut from poor gut flora.
Every doctor may tell you to do something different. First thing’s first, a body detox is essential in order to get the body clean again. After that, your doctor can talk to you about different diets (many that we’ve spoken about here), that may assist in retraining and reclaiming the body’s health.