The Importance of a Healthy Gut

This week I want to get back on the integrative medicine track. If you haven’t been keeping up these past few weeks be sure to check out these articles, Autism and Integrative Medicine, Blood Draws, and Oral Medications and Supplements. Now that you are all caught up, lets dive into another big part of integrative medicine: GUT HEALTH.

Have you ever had a gut-wrenching experience? Has a bad feeling every made you literally sick to your stomach? It is probably no surprise to you that your mind can control your stomach, but did you know it can work the other way around too? It doesn’t take much searching online to find very reputable sources and peer reviewed studies that talk about a “gut-brain” connection. A very dumbed down explanation would be that there is a connection between our gut and brain beyond what people first understood.  The two systems in our body are intimately connected. Our gut health can play a big role in energy, behavior, sleep, mood, you name it. This concept is a somewhat newer one for my lifetime. I mean, when I was a kid, I had never even heard the term probiotics, now you hear about them all the time. The world has opened its eyes to the importance of gut health, and I have seen first hand just how much of an impact gut health can have on an autistic child.

 When I was in search of a doctor to investigate any biomedical causes for some of my son’s issues, it didn’t surprise me that a big part of what they spoke about was gut health. Looking up some of the qualifications for the MD who ran the practice we were going to; I was fascinated to find an article discussing some of his past experiences working with an adult patient with autism. He noted that the patient never slept through the night. Upon giving the patient an enema, and clearing out the gut, he slept through the night for the first time in years. Having a child who never slept through the night myself, I found this very intriguing. I was pleased and hopeful for results when I found out that gut health was a big part of the discussion during our first appointment with the practice.

We got down to the nitty gritty for sure. I mean I’m a mom, so I know talking about my child’s poop occasionally comes with the territory. She mentioned signs of constipation such as pushing his belly against things, which he did often, and I never realized why. We talked about it all and planned on how to move ahead. Next steps for formally identifying the problem included stool sample collection, oh joy (sense the sarcasm please), and an X-ray of his bowel. No doubt that the X-ray came back showing a large bowel impaction. The stool sample showed plenty of issues as well such as high levels of yeast.

First order of business was to remove the bowel impaction. They gave me plenty of instructions on how to do this including a clean out protocol which involved giving a series of suppositories. The less difficult part of the cleanout included things such as guided belly rubbing and making sure he drank plenty of liquids every day. Once the cleanout procedure was complete it was time to move to maintaining a healthy gut.

There are multiple factors in maintaining a healthy gut, and we already knew from stool sample results that his flora was suboptimal. This work is more of an ongoing effort. First steps for us were a 10-day antibiotic cycle to kill off the bad bacteria. Then we introduced a few supplements, such including a probiotic given right before bed to help establish growth of good bacteria. Another big part of gut health comes from a healthy diet, we were personally given the suggestion to go on a specific diet (which I plan to talk about more in depth at another time). Long story short, we implemented all the instructions given, and I have to say that the results we saw were well worth the effort.

The changes we saw in Damion after only a few weeks were noticeable, measurable even. We saw large improvements in his day-to-day mood and behavior, and my boy who almost never slept through an entire night without waking up, became one of my best sleepers. Maintaining a healthy gut for Damion will likely always be a continuing effort on our part. But we have seen firsthand the large role that a healthy gut can play in mood, behavior, focus, and so many other things that play a huge part in our child’s day. Gut health is not only an issue for children on the spectrum but can play a big role in anyone’s health. If you have a child with behavioral concerns, sleeping issues, or just general belly distress that happens more than just occasionally, then I would urge you to talk to your doctor and find ways to help improve their gut health. The work is well worth the rewards on this one.

Disclaimer: I am a mom, not a doctor. The advice that I am presenting through this blog is not meant to be medical advice but just a first-hand interpretation of advisement we had through our son’s doctor and the results that followed.