This week two of our staff participated in a webinar in which we learned that our digestive system produces 85-95% of our serotonin, 40-50% of our dopamine (both neurotransmitters), and 40-50% of our oxytocin (a hormone)! To sum up our learning: Happy belly, Happy life!
This new knowledge prompted us to do some additional research around what causes our brain chemistry to be imbalanced and how to maintain healthy brain chemistry. As we already knew from our TBRI® training, a healthy attachment cycle is built from getting our needs met on a consistent and loving basis. When a person has an unmet need, the body and brain go into distress, and our excitatory neurotransmitters come online. When the need is met, then the inhibitory neurotransmitters come online to help our brains and bodies calm. For our children who have suffered abuse and neglect, the need was not met and so the inhibitory neurotransmitters never came online to relieve the stress. This puts their brains and their bodies into a constant state of distress.
How do our bodies produce neurotransmitters? Neurotransmitters are made from amino acids that must be obtained from protein in the diet. Additionally, the amino acids, vitamins and minerals eaten in food are required for the creation of the neurotransmitters. A neurotransmitter deficiency can develop if only junk food with no nutritional value is eaten. We also know that exercise increases endorphins and serotonin in the body. Exercise also lessens anxiety (helping our pesky stress problem), improves our moods, and helps us focus better.
What can we do to keep our parenting brains and our kiddos’ brains in balance? Honestly, the answer is no big secret (you may even wonder if it warrants a blog post). Since we know large amounts of sugar and stress deplete our stores of neurotransmitters, we know it is important to limit our sugar intake and to address our stress. In order to keep our bodies and brains in balance, we need to keep a regular schedule, eat food we buy on the outside edges of the grocery store, model good self-care our children and get enough sleep. We hear this list all the time, but in the training this week, understanding hit home again with the brain connection.
For me, the breakdown happens in getting distracted by all the things that need fixing and all the training I’ve had jumbling up into a myriad of things to do. Sometimes the simple answer is the answer. Sometimes we need to make our worlds a little smaller and get back to the basics. Happy belly, Happy Life!
What is TBRI®?
TBRI® is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI® uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI® is connection.
TBRI® is designed for children from “hard places” such as abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Because of their histories, it is often difficult for these children to trust the loving adults in their lives, which often results in perplexing behaviors. TBRI® offers practical tools for parents, caregivers, teachers, or anyone who works with children, to see the “whole child” in their care and help that child reach his highest potential.
Want to know more? Visit TCU’s Institute of Child Development http://child.tcu.edu/.