In a review published last month in Beneficial Microbes, researchers investigated the potential neurobehavioral benefits of probiotics through the gut-brain axis in children and adolescents.
This review included seven randomized controlled trials published between 1990 and 2018 that met inclusion criteria with an assessment of cognitive function. As a result, only one study demonstrated a positive result in patients with ADHD or Asperger syndrome. This was in a study supplementing with Lactobacillus rhamnosus at 1 billion CFUs per day. Supplementation was given to pregnant women for 4 weeks prior to delivery and was continued for 6 months after birth. ADHD or Asperger syndrome was diagnosed at the age of 13 in 17.1% of the children in the placebo group and none in the probiotic group. In addition, this study identified significant differences in commensal bacteria specifically related to Bifodobacterium between the children that later developed ADHD or Asperger syndrome and the children in the supplementation group. The 6 other studies included various strains, different lengths of duration, and the outcomes did not show a difference in cognition after probiotic supplementation.
This study demonstrates that probiotic supplementation during pregnancy and the first year of life may reduce the risk of developing ADHD or Asperger’s syndrome by its effects on the gut microbiome and commensal bacteria via the gut-brain axis. This makes sense as the microbiome undergoes the most significant changes during infancy as well as old age, and the immune system is also its weakest and most unstable during these two stages of life.
Previous research has indicated the presence of bacteria in the placenta, amniotic cavity, and umbilical cord, suggesting the development of the microbiome may start in-utero. These factors may be influenced by type of delivery, diet, antibiotic exposure, maternal diet and microbiome, as well as the environment.
It is also essential to optimize every child’s nutrient and essential fatty acid status. Previous research has demonstrated that a multivitamin can improve emotion, attention, and general functioning in children with ADHD. Addressing insufficiencies can optimize brain function as well as possibly help prevent or alleviate some of the symptoms associated with ADHD without harmful side effects. Additional nutrients to consider include carnitine, choline, DHA, and phosphatidylserine. Optimal nutrition is important for brain health, as this influences emotions and behavior which can impact ADHD symptoms. Gut dysfunction, food sensitivities, food dyes, processed foods, and low intake of fruits and vegetables can also play a role.
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS
Source: Rianda D, Agustina R, et al. Effect of probiotic supplementation on cognitive function in children and adolescents: a systemic review of randomized trials. Benef Microbes. 2019 Dec 9;10(8):873-882.