Gut-Brain Connection and Supporting Emotional Maturity: Back-to-School with BIORAY and Dr. Olejak

 

QuestionMy daughter seems a little more emotionally immature compared to her friends. Do you have suggestions on how to support children’s emotional maturity?

Dr. OlejakDear Emotions:

Emotional maturity varies from child to child and culture to culture. My girls are 8 and 12 and even between the two girls I’ve noticed a difference in maturity. Oddly, the one that got the most attention has acted less “grown up” and our number two seems to be the responsible one. We’ve also traveled quite a bit to Europe to visit family there and one thing I’ve noticed is how Europeans seem to drive kids sooner to mature. One example is the educational system. Early on kids are asked to do much more in Europe than here in America.

The good and bad news is that a brain directed too early is one that gets narrow and very good at certain tasks. A brain allowed to foray into many areas is one that has the ability to discern and think creatively.

My initial reaction to your question is don’t be too concerned. Research points to the human brain taking a very long time to mature. Up to 25 years.[1] This time to mature is actually a good thing because it allows kids certain advantages. Let me give you one example: Children typically overestimate their own abilities, which may maintain their motivation in the face of failure and lead to eventual success. Teens or even more mature tweens will give up too soon on tasks and skip important steps for mastery.[2]

Without knowing the age of your daughter I can say that some of the things that factor in to brain maturity are:

  • The kinds of responsibility you give your child. 
  • How much opportunity is she offered to make her own decisions and deal with effects of those decisions?
  • Are you in an inquiry with your daughter about her feelings? Are only certain feelings allowed? 
  • Has there been any family trauma that has impacted your daughter such as the loss of a spouse, close friend or family member. 
  • What is your parenting style? Do you micromanage everything in your child’s life or is she given the autonomy to make her own decisions and make her own mistakes? 
  • How much contact with older children does she have? If her life experience is too sheltered she may not have enough role models to compare and contrast her own behavior. 

Physiologically, there may be changes to the endocrine system that can affect emotions. I have a girl in my practice that was literally growing up too fast. She had a pituitary problem (too much GnRH -- Gonaditrophin Releasing Hormone). Before she was diagnosed and treated with drugs to block the actions of this hormone she exhibited fits of anger and lashed out at other kids for what would be considered minor “childhood offenses.” These kinds of pituitary tumors are very rare, but a sign of it would be fast growth, breast buds too early for age, early pubic hair, menstrual bleeding (spotting typically) body odor, and lability of emotions.[3]

Acupuncture is the best way to balance the emotions, by balancing Qi. And a blended approach of traditional Western medicine and Oriental medicine worked for this little girl.


Sources:

[1] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=141164708

[2] http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/the-benefits-of-a-long-childhood

[3] http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/endocrine_disorders_in_children/precocious_puberty.html

QuestionI keep hearing about the gut-brain connection and my son struggles with comprehension. What do you recommend to support his gut and increase his ability to learn?

Dr. OlejakDear Ability To Learn:

Your question has two parts. Supporting the gut and increasing learning ability. Let’s take them in turn.

Supporting the Gut:
You can think of the gut like a garden. You have cultivated plants, weeds, good bugs and bad bugs. To the extent that the garden is nurtured, the garden will bear fruit. Ignore it and it goes to weeds.

How does one ignore the garden in the gut? By choosing fast or ready-made food. A great nutritionist once wrote, “…the only thing a food manufacturer can do to food is diminish it …” and he was right.

The complex nature of whole foods provides 5 important things to our bodies that no processed food can deliver:

  1. Fiber
  2. Vitamins and minerals
  3. Enzymes
  4. Phytonutrients
  5. And most importantly … the unknown factors

The fact is we need everything whole foods have to offer. Eating more foods that support your blood type benefits the metabolic processes even further.

If a CDSA (comprehensive diagnostic stool analysis) reveals an imbalance in gut flora or your child has the following signs:

  1. Burping, hiccuping, or stomach discomfort after eating
  2. Itchy rectum
  3. Bad breathe
  4. Biting nails

Then, Artemisia & Clove along with CytoFlora is the best way to restore balance.

Increasing Learning Ability:
When the gut is supported, natural curiosity is restored and learning is easier. Learning is a function of perception and integration, and not all children learn the same way. The most important thing a parent can do is to discover their child’s perceptual recipe. A perceptual recipe is your child's natural pattern of intelligence that determines how s/he thinks, processes sensory information, learns and communicates.
 
There are 6 types of perceptual recipes that combine the three main modes of sensory information (auditory, visual and kinesthetic) with the three aspects of the mind (conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious). No child is only influenced by one type of sensory information – we are dominant in one area and typically have to work on developing awareness and control of the other areas. 
 
Example: I am a visually dominant learner with auditory sensitivity.  When teachers talk I go to sleep.  Show me a video and I’ll grasp the material.  I also process best when given the chance for kinesthetic stimuli.  Show me a video of woodcarving and I understand it, but hand me wood and some tools and that will generate powerful body-centered learning.
 
Integration is a matter of bringing all the elements together. The auditory learner needs to be able to ask lots of questions. The visual learner needs pictures. And the kinesthetic learner needs to be given the opportunity to touch and move.  Children who are afforded this kind of integrative, multi-sensory learning model do quite well.  The ones that don’t frequently get frustrated-- and stop learning fully.
 
The book How Your Child IS Smart, written by two educators, not only helps parents identify their child's perceptual recipe but also teaches them how to maximize their child's ability to learn well, particularly in school.


Sources:
[1] David R. Jacobs, Jr., PhD, and Linda C. Tapsell, PhD, FDAA. Food, Not Nutrients, Is the Fundamental Unit in Nutrition. Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 65, No. 10 Special Article October 2007: 439–450
[2] The Open Mind by Dawn Markova http://www.amazon.com/Open-Mind-Exploring-Patterns-Intelligence/dp/1573240648/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347302190&sr=1-1&keywords=the+open+mind
[3] How Your Child Is Smart by Dawn Markova http://www.amazon.com/How-Your-Child-Smart-Life-Changing/dp/0943233380/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347302509&sr=1-1&keywords=how+your+child+is+smart

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