Research on the connection between trauma and brain development has gained massive traction over the past decade. More recently, scientists are discovering the undeniable link between the brain and gut health. While I'm not a math expert, I have not forgotten the popular equation:
If A = B, and B = C, then A = C!
In similar fashion, we are finding that trauma not only impacts brain development, but also alters gut health. Since the brain and gut were designed to work harmoniously, when one is unbalanced, it effects the other. When both have been impaired by trauma, we have to be intentional in supporting healing so that the body, and mind, do not continue to suffer.
So, here's the thing: I'm not a scientist. Not even close. In fact, our kids are already taking science at co-op because I know science and mathematics are not my forte.
However, I am a mom. And moms want what's best for their kids. That's probably why you're reading this --- searching for answers, explanations, solutions to help your kiddo. That I totally get. I have spent countless hours researching, googling, reading, and praying for wisdom. So, I'm going to share with you what I've learned. Not in research journal prose, but as one mom to another. At the end of this post I'll link some research studies and articles for those who enjoy a more scientific approach! (Also, necessary disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this information is not intended to diagnose or treat anyone. Please speak to your child's healthcare provider prior to making any changes or additions to their wellness routine.)
Quick background, for those new to the blog - I am a mom of six. We have adopted twice through the foster care system. I homeschool our tribe, work from home, and love spending days with my beautiful family.
Learning about, and truly understanding and accepting, the impact of trauma has been a game changer in my parenting. It has allowed me to address and confront things with compassion, while being able to seek the supports our children need to heal.
trauma and adoption.
Every child that has been adopted has suffered trauma and loss. The very process of being separated from the womb which carried you is traumatic. Children who are adopted at birth, and leave the hospital in their parents arms, are still experiencing the soul-wrenching loss of their birth family.
There is a misconception that runs rampant, even among adoptive and prospective adoptive families. And that is, the younger the child at the time of adoption, the easier the process will be. Let me reiterate, if your child was not born of your womb, even if they have experienced nothing but love and compassion from you as you raise them, they have experienced trauma and loss. The significance in recognizing this loss is, it enables us to give voice to our children's pain.
Many times, the hurt, trauma, abuse, neglect, and loss our children have experienced is tucked in the recesses of the mind, where it broods. Brooding loss festers and causes more trauma, which continues to effect our child's quality of life by causing alterations to the chemistry and physical state of the brain and gut. Truly, to see our children experience the healing, this is critical.
the gut connection.
When our good-bad gut bacteria is unbalanced, the body's ability to absorb nutrients is impaired. Lack of nutrients can put the body in survival mode - something many adoptive parents are aware of in the emotional and psychological realm. If you're familiar with the terminology of survival mode, you know it's something to avoid! This state of mind and body eliminates our children's ability to reason and use logic. It impacts learning and processing. It puts their mind and body back to the most basic state - one that is focused solely on surviving.
In addition to nutrient absorption, the gut is where the majority of our hormones are produced. In fact, the very hormones responsible for 'feel good' (oxytocin), 'rest' (melatonin), and 'stress' (cortisol) are all produced in the gut. An unbalanced gut can result in the overproduction of hormones that negatively effect our body and mind, and an underproduction of the ones that are of great benefit!
When we realize the important role the gut plays, we can see how the cycle of trauma, impact, and gut damage can perpetuate. We have to break the cycle to allow our children the opportunity to heal.
the microbiome defined.
When I began researching the connection between trauma and gut health, I had never heard of the microbiome. The microbiome is essentially all the microorganisms that make something up: bacteria, fungi, viruses - it sounds just lovely, doesn't it?!
In reality, our microbiome effects every aspect of our body - making it essential to address. The following video is what helped me finally understand what the microbiome does, and it's importance. I know it's a little lengthy, and she does address diet (which is also so important!), but it is worth the 18 minutes to grasp the significance of this element of our kiddos' healing!:
(I am not endorsing Mind, Body, Green - the organization that Dr. Chutkan partnered with to do this video. Dr. Chutkan's research is phenomenal, and I appreciated her explanation that was easy to understand, but informative!)
the mark of trauma.
Research indicates that trauma suffered at any stage of life can cause physiological changes in the body. Trauma not only assaults the brain, but the microbiome. It can rewrite the microbiome, causing a disturbance not only in the gut, but in the very genes of a person.
Combating these physiological changes can be a beneficial first step in supporting our children through the process of healing. Addressing imbalances and deficits in their body allows them the freedom to process emotionally and spiritually the healing that is needed following trauma, grief, and loss.
breaking the cycle.
We cannot undo the trauma our children have experienced. But we can give voice to their grief, and walk through the journey of healing with them! We can also break the cycle of hormone imbalance, lack of nutrients, and microbiome damage. By equipping our children's bodies to do what they were created to do, they can interrupt the body's physical contribution to sustaining trauma in the brain and gut.
Restoring the good-bad gut bacteria balance can be done through quality probiotics. Probiotics restore the body's good bacteria, which is essential to the gut being healthy and doing it's job! Taking care of the overgrowth of yeast and bad bacteria is the natural next step. Finally, nutrients in their purest, most absorb-able form, are critical to our children's growth and development!
One of our sons has a very complex medical history. For the first 18 months following his coming home to our family, he grew taller but was not gaining weight. We had numerous appointments with specialists to address developmental delays, as well as his failure to gain weight. We were reaching the point of needing additional medical intervention. They prescribed a number of pharmaceutical "vitamins" as a last-ditch effort to assist him.
Thankfully, just before starting them, a friend told me about the plant-based, non-gmo supplements and probiotics she had started using. Since we are purposeful about doing things as naturally as possible, we decided to give it a try. Within 2 months, our son had gained a healthy 5 pounds and blown 3 developmental milestones out of the water! His GI disturbances were greatly reduced and his communication improved.
It wasn't a cure-all, but it definitely gave his body the support it needed to find balance and begin to heal. Several of our other children have seen benefits such as reduced seasonal allergies, less skin irritation, and chronic tummy aches for one child disappeared. Again, equipping the body to do what it was created to do resulted in symptoms not just being masked, but it treating the root causes of those symptoms!
Would you like more information on the supplements we used to support healing in our kiddos?
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links to research articles.
I do not support or endorse any of the following sites in their entirety. I am linking the following articles for your convenience in further researching the topics covered in this post!
Please use discretion regarding clicking through additional links, subscribing to sites, etc as this is at your own risk! (<--- another necessary disclaimer in this age of super-information!)
Healthy Gut Found to Reduce Effects of Trauma
Childhood Trauma? Your Gut Remembers.
Mental Health May Depend on the Health of Your Gut Flora
20 Gut Health Tips for Kids with ADHD
Mental Health May Depend on Creatures in the Gut
Role of Gut Mircobiome in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: More Than a Gut Feeling
I hope you have found this post helpful in your search for ways to help your child heal! I would love to hear from you in the comments, or have you join me on one of my social media platforms where I share about faith, family, and adoption!
Here you will find the musings of a homeschooling, work from home, adoptive Momma of 7! Adventures in faith, family, adoption, and training up a tribe to follow hard after Jesus are spilled into these posts --- most often written with a cup of coffee in hand. I hope you'll stick around a while and find something - more likely SOMEONE! - that brings you hope!
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