For any condition, there is usually more than one factor that contributes to it.
Genetic predispositions, various triggers (such as infections, dietary factors,
environmental exposures, lifestyle choices,stress), and other factors
including hormonal balance, gut health, one’s microbiome, and social and
emotional health are just some considerations for a functional or integrative
doctor in compiling any health protocol.
For this reason, a thorough wellness history should be done in order to
uncover one’s unique susceptibilities, triggers, and perpetrators which may be
blocking current wellness goals.
In this blog, I present an environmental, social, and microbe link to brain health
in order to demonstrate how more than one factor can contribute to it.
Pesticides Linked to ADHD
The impact of how chemical exposures can negatively affect our health in a variety
of ways is now becoming well accepted. Several studies in the past have shown
correlations to pesticide exposure and brain health. Furthermore, a recent
study supported previous evidence that exposure to a household pesticide was
linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the young:
There’s evidence — but not proof — of a link between a commonly used household
pesticide and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and
young teens, according to a new study. Specifically, researchers found an
association between exposure to pyrethroid pesticides and ADHD, as well as ADHD
symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulsivity.
The Social Connection
Interestingly, I recently posted an article on Facebook that went absolutely viral. It was
entitled, “Why French Kids Don’t Get ADHD,” and explored the social
implications of this “disorder”:
Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question
depends on whether you live in France or in the U.S. In the United States,
child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological
causes. The preferred treatment is also biological–psycho stimulant medications
such as Ritalin and Adderall.
French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress–not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child’s brain.
I’ve provided the full link in the sources section if you want to dive into this
The Gut-Brain Connection & Psychobiotics
Of course, when we talk about the brain, we can’t ignore the 100 trillion tiny friends that reside in our insides. “Psychobiotics,”
is a term to explain how the balance of the critters that live in our guts relate to our mood and behaviors. For example, Pscyhology
We are never truly alone. On our skin, in our gums, and in our guts live 100 trillion organisms, altogether
known as the microbiome. These beasties comprise 90% of the cells of our bodies, though these cells are so tiny in size that it appears our own human
cells predominate. It is only recently that we have begun to study these organisms with any depth. Most of them live within the gut, and cannot be
cultured, and only with the advent of advanced genetic testing have we been able to have a better understanding of the variety and numbers of microbes
we’re dealing with. They are Bacteria, Archaea (link is external), and even some eukariotic (link is external) parasites, protozoans, and fungi.
What do they have to do with psychiatry? It turns out way more than we might have suspected. The gut and brain have a steady ability to communicate via the nervous system, hormones, and the immune system. Some of the microbiome can release neurotransmitters, just like our own neurons do, speaking to the brain in its own language via the
This last abstract was really cool! It showed a link between eating fermented foods (diet + happy bugs) and a decrease in neuroticism in young adults:
Animal models and clinical trials in humans suggest that probiotics can have an anxiolytic effect. However, no studies have examined the relationship between probiotics and social anxiety. Here we employ a cross-sectional approach to determine whether consumption of fermented foods likely to contain probiotics interacts with neuroticism to predict social anxiety symptoms. A sample of young adults (N=710, 445 female) completed self-report measures of fermented food consumption, neuroticism, and social anxiety. An interaction model, controlling for demographics, general consumption of healthful foods, and exercise frequency, showed that exercise frequency, neuroticism, and fermented food consumption significantly and independently predicted social anxiety. Moreover, fermented food consumption also interacted with neuroticism in predicting social anxiety. Specifically, for those high in neuroticism, higher frequency of fermented food consumption was associated with fewer symptoms of social anxiety. Taken together with previous studies, the results suggest that fermented foods that contain probiotics may have a protective effect against social anxiety symptoms for those at higher genetic risk, as indexed by trait neuroticism. While additional research is necessary to determine the direction of causality, these results suggest that consumption of fermented foods that contain probiotics may serve as a low-risk intervention for reducing social anxiety.
In my latest blog on my homepage, I provide any factor, proper supplementation, can also impact brain health.
Therefore, there’s not necessarily one right protocol for everyone, but it’s nice to know that engaging in healthy lifestyle factors (avoiding toxins, eating healthy for our gut bugs, and social support) can combine to positively impact our brain!
Pesticides Linked to ADHD, Study Says. Health Day. June 3, 2015.
Pediatrics. 2010 Jun ;125(6):e1270-7.
Organophosphate Pesticide Exposure and Attention in Young Mexican-American Children: The CHAMACOS Study. Environmental Health Perspectives.
Pesticides and oxidative stress: a review. Med Sci Monit. 2004 Jun;10(6):RA141-7
Pesticide-induced oxidative stress: perspectives and trends. Rev Environ Health. 2001 Jan-Mar;16(1):1-40.
Role of oxidative stress in organophosphate insecticide toxicity – Short review. Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology.
October 2010; 98(2): 145-150,
Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD. Psychology Today. March 8, 2012. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd
Deans E. The Gut-Brain Connection, Mental Illness, and Disease: Psychobiotics, immunology, and the theory of all chronic disease. Psychology Today. April 6, 2014.
Psychiatry Res. 2015 Aug 15;228(2):203-8. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.04.023. Epub 2015 Apr 28.