In the realm of children’s health, few journeys are as intricate and challenging as those families navigate when dealing with conditions symptoms of autism, PANDAS (Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections), and PANS (Paediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome). Recent insights, offer a guiding light by uncovering the fascinating world of the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Let’s embark on this journey and explore how this research can shed light on the well-being of these remarkable kids.
Imagine the human body as a vast interconnected road network, where different systems communicate and influence each other’s well-being. In this analogy, the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), the enteric nervous system (ENS), and the central nervous system (CNS) are like highways that intersect at different points. Think of these intersections as vital communication hubs where the microbiome-gut-brain axis operates. This intricate system involves the microbiome using neural, endocrine (hormonal), and immune signals to communicate with the brain. Moreover, it can even have a say in the functioning of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) – the protective checkpoint that allows only certain substances to enter the brain.
Children with autism, PANDAS, and PANS symptoms, often face unique challenges, and these challenges can be likened to navigating a maze. The microbiota-gut-brain axis plays a significant role in shaping this maze, affecting how children process their surroundings and emotions. It’s as if the microbiome is a guide that can influence mood, behaviour, and cognitive function. This is made possible through a series of intricate tunnels (communication pathways) that link neurotransmitter metabolism, CNS circuitry, stress responses, and immune functions. Just as expert navigators can help someone through a maze, understanding and supporting the microbiota-gut-brain axis can help children traverse their unique challenges.
Think of the microbiome as a conductor in a symphony orchestra, orchestrating various instruments (bodily functions) to play in harmony. When the microbiome is in balance, it contributes to children’s mental health, cognition, and overall well-being. However, when the balance is disrupted, it’s like a dissonance in the symphony, leading to potential issues. For instance, changes in the gut microbiota can affect the gut barrier, leading to inflammation and immune responses, much like when a wrong note disrupts the flow of a melody.
In the endeavour to nurture children’s mental well-being, understanding the microbiota-gut-brain axis is pivotal. Yet, it’s equally crucial to consider the impact of synergistic nutrients on their cognitive and emotional growth. In this journey, nutrients like magnesium, B vitamins, NAC, and zinc emerge as vital allies.
Magnesium, like a composer, modulates brain biochemistry, influencing pathways tied to depression’s development. Clinical trials show magnesium’s potential in addressing depression. Just as a conductor steers an orchestra, magnesium could support mood regulation and cognitive function in children. Ideal types of magnesium for brain health include magnesium glycinate and threonate. These are the only two types of magnesium that can cross the blood-brain-barrier. Highly bio-available food sources of magnesium include: of magnesium include various types of fish such as salmon, mackerel, and halibut, as well as dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Poultry such as chicken and turkey also provide magnesium, although in relatively smaller amounts. Additionally, some meats like pork and beef contain magnesium.
B vitamins act as mood elevators, harmonizing emotional and cognitive function. They facilitate cellular processes tied to mood regulation and neurotransmitter synthesis. With dopamine and serotonin as key players, B vitamins play a crucial role in the mental orchestra. Recent research suggests they could benefit children navigating emotional challenges. B vitamins can be a double edged sword. Not all kids can handle the captive form of B vitamins and as part of the work we do at Brainstorm Health is to nail the process of introducing these essential nutrients in the correct form, at the correct time and in the correct order. Some of the the most bioavailable and richest sources of B vitamins are organ meats (liver kidneys, heart and so on). Meats such as poultry (chicken and turkey), fish like salmon and tuna, and various types of red meats like beef and pork are good sources of B vitamins. However, organ meats like liver, heart, and kidney are particularly exceptional when it comes to B vitamins. These organs are rich in nutrients, including vitamin B12, riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), and folate (B9). Organ meats provide a concentrated and valuable source of these vitamins that play essential roles in energy metabolism, red blood cell formation, nervous system function, and overall health. In addition to organ meats, eggs are also rich in B vitamins, particularly B12 and B7 (biotin). Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt contain B vitamins too, including riboflavin (B2) and vitamin B12.
N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) wields the conductor’s baton, influencing neurogenesis, inflammation, and neurotransmitter balance. In individuals with depressive symptoms, NAC shows promise in ameliorating issues. For children with autism, PANDAS, and PANS, symptoms, NAC could potentially harmonise brain functions, easing their struggles. NAC does not suit everyone and it’s important to work with a skilled professional to help guide you. While NAC is not commonly found in foods, cysteine, as the precursor, is present in various protein-containing animal foods. These include meats such as poultry (chicken, turkey), red meats (beef, lamb), and seafood (fish, shellfish). Organ meats, like liver, are particularly rich in cysteine. Eggs and dairy products also contain cysteine.
Zinc guards brain functions, regulating endocrine (hormonal), immune, and neuronal processes. Lower zinc levels are linked to depression, underscoring its importance. Evidence supports zinc supplementation for depression. Elevated zinc intake even associates with reduced depression risk. For children navigating unique neurodevelopmental paths, zinc might safeguard balanced brain functions. Zinc picolinate has been shown to be the most bioavailable form of zinc when supplementing. The most bioavailable food sources of zinc include red meats like beef and lamb, as well as poultry like chicken and turkey. Organ meats like liver are particularly rich in zinc, providing a concentrated source of this mineral. Seafood, such as oysters, crab, and shrimp, also contain notable amounts of zinc. Eggs, especially the yolk, are another source of zinc. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt also contribute to zinc intake.
Similar to a symphony’s blend of instruments, children’s mental well-being thrives on essential nutrients. Integrating these nutrients into their diet mirrors the art of tuning instruments before a performance. This nutritional symphony encompasses saffron, adaptogens, curcumin, and more, forming a harmonious melody of support.
While this discussion unveils nutrient potential, care and consultation with healthcare professionals are essential. Much like a musical ensemble’s success depends on skilled musicians, children’s well-being demands balanced nutrient intake guided by expert insight. The journey of supporting these remarkable young minds requires a collective effort, uniting research, clinical wisdom, and personalised care. Please remember that we offer a free chat to help you feel confident about your journey with Brainstorm Health. To book a free call please use the link here.
Nurturing children with autism, PANDAS, and PANS symptoms, is a profound journey. Weaving microbiota-gut-brain axis insights with nutrient potentials, families can embark on a comprehensive path toward mental well-being. Just as a symphony thrives through conductor and musicians, children’s mental health flourishes through the intricate gut-brain connections and the synergy of vital nutrients.