Monday's With Maria

Monday's With Maria

Trusting Your Child's Gut
*This post originally posted on Mom Dishes It Out 

By Maria Sorbara Mora, MS, CEDRD, PRYT, RYT

My friend and colleague Joe Kelly recounted a story to me one day about his children. He told me that when his kids started school he noticed that both children complained about their stomachs hurting constantly. After ruling out illness and allergies he sat them down and asked them what they noticed when they would get stomach aches. His children told him that their stomach’s started to hurt before going to school and would feel better when they got home. He realized that his kids were not comfortable in the school system and were having a body reaction. His neighbors were home schooling their children and he decided to do the same. He was faced with others telling him it was a bad idea, that children whom are home schooled lack social skills and that the children would eventually adapt to their environment if he kept taking them to school. Joe did something really, really smart. He trusted his children’s guts and went ahead with home schooling. Both children’s excessive and consistent stomach problems disappeared never to be seen or heard of again. Several years later, Joe says both his children, adults now, are well adjusted, successful and happy.

I wondered to myself how often our children’s body’s communicate to us via their guts and how difficult it might be for a parent to trust them as accurate. But most of us have felt at least once in our lives, something in our guts to be true before our brain could process the situation. Because I’m a nutritionist and a yoga therapist, I am always considering the mind-body connection. I realized that the answer to why Joe’s children’s guts should be trusted lie in the relationship between the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) and the 3rd Chakra.

The Enteric Nervous System is located in the digestive track and is known as the gut’s brain or the second brain. It comprises an estimated 500 million neurons! The ENS was first only thought to control digestion but now we understand that it plays an important role in our physical AND mental well-being. Just like our brain’s in our heads, this system sends and receives impulses, records experiences and responds to emotions. The first brain and the second brain interact and react with each other. However, the ENS can work independently from the brains in our head meaning that information that the gut sends to the brain doesn’t have to come from consciousness. The ENS helps you sense environmental threats and then influences your response. In addition, the gut’s brain is reported to play a role in good and bad feelings. Over 30 neurotransmitters are produced that are identical to those found in the first brain-one of which is serotonin. A whopping 90% of serotonin is located in the gut. Serotonin is the ‘fee-good’ hormone that regulates sleep, appetite and mood. So now we know why Joe’s kids had stomach aches! Their Enteric Nervous system was communicating, from a subconscious place, that something in their external environment was creating stress. Joe’s kids, 5 and 6 at the time didn’t have knowledge of why their tummies ached but their Enteric Nervous system did!

The 3rd Chakra gives us even more information about why Joe’s kids were having this reaction. The word Chakra means wheel or disk. In yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, this term refers to the wheels of energy throughout the body. There are seven main Chakras which align the spine starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head. The 3rd Chakra or the Solar Plexus Chakra is located between the navel and the solar plexus. This Chakra governs among other things, the digestive system. The solar plexus chakra regulates how centered we feel during the day in relation to our cognitive emotions. This Chakra, also called Manipura Chakra is all about sensing your personal power, being confident, responsible and reliable. It is the center of self-esteem and governs our sense of self, the power that we have within and over our destinies. When there is injury to the 3rd Chakra, we feel powerless. Our bodies respond to this tension by developing digestive distress or disorders.

Manipur or Solar Plexus Chakra represents ages 6 years to adolescence. This is the time frame when a child begins school and interacts with others such as teachers and friends but their primary influence is still their home. During this time, children must find their own identity within the family. If they are able to develop a sense of self while living in a family system they are able to develop confidence. So now we know why Joe’s children’s stomachs ceased hurting when Joe began home schooling. When Joe’s kids first entered school they may have felt that something wasn’t quite right but remained powerless to change their destinies thus digestive distress ensued. When Joe acknowledged, trusted and acted on what their children’s guts was telling him, his children gained a sense of personal power even though they didn’t cognitively know what was needed. Furthermore, they had space to begin developing the all the confidence and reliability needed to move into their adulthood.

What an amazing example of why it is so important to trust your child’s gut. Next time your child has a stomach ache, suffers from gastric distress or digestive issues, consider that their body is trying to communicate something important that they may not be aware of.