Our children’s health and well-being are always a parent’s top concern, now more than ever. It can be especially difficult when a child is having difficulties or health issues that are not easily explained. A leaky gut can be the cause of a slew of symptoms and is actually a lot more common than you may realize. Understanding some of the common causes of a leaky gut as well as the remedies to try and fix it, you will likely relieve a lot of symptoms you may have thought were unrelated and finally get your kid back to feeling 100 percent.
What does leaky gut mean?
It can be really alarming to hear that something inside you is “leaky,” but leaky gut syndrome does not mean anything in your child’s stomach or intestines is actually leaking into the rest of your body. Leaky gut refers to the intestines ability to seamlessly digest and absorb food, as a result of inflammation. The normally selective process has become overly permissive about the size of molecules that are allowed to permeate the intestinal wall. This means that important nutrients and proteins are not being broken down properly and are allowed to “leak” into the blood stream. The body’s immune system recognizes these as foreign and responds to it in a similar way as it would a bacteria or virus. This in turn can set off a chain reaction, and present as many different symptoms. Similarly, to when the body responds to a chronic infection the brain is affected. Our intestines do more for us than digest our dinner, they are responsible for a huge portion of the success of our immune system. Prolonged trouble in a child’s gut can lead to serious autoimmune issues as well as be responsible for frequent infections.
What are common causes of leaky gut?
There are a wide range of issues that can trigger a leaky gut, especially in children:
- A bad reaction to antibiotics even if they are prescribed to the mother during pregnancy or during delivery
- Gastrointestinal viruses
- Bad reaction to routine vaccinations
- Chronic stress & sleep deprivation
- Traumatic brain injury or concussion
- Radiation therapy
- Food intolerances and sensitivities can develop, most commonly to lactose, soy, gluten, and eggs
- An imbalance of gut flora, essentially the good and bad bacteria. i.e. an overgrowth of candida
- Nutritional deficiencies
Many of these occurrences are not uncommon, and many kids likely have at least one of the issues on the list. The biggest concern is if your baby or even teenager is underweight the likelihood of a leaky gut becoming permanent is significantly higher. This is because there just isn’t enough resources or energy for the body to spare and repair the tissue while also trying to grow.
How can a leaky gut affect the brain?
Symptoms of leaky gut can go unnoticed because they are so diverse and can either present abruptly with no warning or begin gradually making it hard to pinpoint a cause. Naturally stomach and digestive issues top the list, but the consequences of a leaky gut can be far reaching throughout the body. It can cause joint issues, frequent colds, headaches and pains in other parts of the body. Similarly, to when the body responds to a chronic infection, the brain is noticeably affected. If your child seems to be duller and more unfocused than usual, in addition to other health issues, you may want to speak to a pediatrician.
What are some tips to improve my child’s gut health?
Excess stress and sleep deprivation play a significant role in adult health and even more so when it comes to your child’s health. Take notice of potential sources of stress in your child’s life and act quickly in an effort to reduce them. Change can be difficult, frustrating, and stressful even for adults. Try framing new activities, dietary restrictions and/or additions as positive and fun so as not to add an additional amount of stress. Ensure your child is getting the right amount of protein and nutrients throughout the day. Increasing the amount of quality sleep your child is getting is one of the most important and most challenging remedies to enforce. The body uses the time spent sleeping to recharge and repair, and this is especially important for healthy growing children and even more so if the body is in distress.
A sick child that may not be able to effectively communicate how they are feeling, and this can be scary and stressful for any parent. While a leaky gut sounds like a scary problem, know that many other parents are stressing about the well-being of their child and the diagnosis of a leaky gut is quite common and fixable even if it takes a little bit of trial and error. It’s important to reach out to healthcare professionals to help you determine the main sources and how to best implement a recovery plan that works for you and your child.