I know little about art, but Edvard Munch’s stolen painting “The Scream” has captured my imagination.
We see a figure holding his head, with eyes and mouth opened in anguish. Although the work was completed over a hundred years ago, it expresses perfectly the alienation and isolation of modern life and possibly, a fear of the future. I wonder what today’s teenagers make of it and whether they can identify with the painting?
The plight of many of our teenagers is causing us concern. Doctors warn that addictive, self-destructive and delinquent behaviour is on the increase in young people and record numbers are being prescribed powerful drugs. Whilst much teenage angst is quite natural and no doubt driven by a variety of factors, parents worry that processed food, alcohol and stimulants have an important part to play.
Can diet, lifestyle and environmental factors influence mood and behaviour in teenagers? Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, an expert in Nutrition for Children and Adults, believes a child’s digestive system may hold the key to their future mental development. She says it’s probable that many psychological and psychiatric conditions stem from abnormalities in the human gut, and it is the subject of her new book (see below).
Dr Campbell-McBride explains that our digestive tract is coated with a bacterial layer that provides a natural barrier against undigested food, toxins and opportunistic bugs. Our “friendly” bacteria produce antibiotic-like substances and engage the immune system to respond to invaders. They also neutralise ingested toxic substances and protect and feed the cells lining the digestive tract. The beneficial flora of the gut can be compared to an efficient ‘housekeeper’ and the state of the house (ie your health) depends directly on how good the housekeeper is.
People with abnormal gut flora cannot digest and absorb properly and substances may enter the blood stream, interfering with the brain. Important nutrients won’t be absorbed very well either, causing deficiencies which also affect mental well-being. Dr Campbell-McBride explains that for many with anti-social or addictive behaviour, the digestive system has become a source of toxicity rather than a source of nourishment.
The average teenager’s diet of sugary foods and processed carbohydrates with a low intake of fibre from fruit and vegetables has a profound detrimental effect on their gut flora. So do other factors, such as stress, antibiotics, the pill and exposure to toxic substances. To allow the digestive system to become a source of nourishment again, a nutritional programme, detoxification and lifestyle changes are necessary – not an easy task when teenagers have their own agenda and are influenced by their peers and the media. For those who are prepared to do the nutritional work, the toxic fog lifts from the brain as the digestion and immune system start to work again. Perhaps no need to scream after all?
Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” (GAPS) is available from www.medinform.co.uk or Tel. 01353-723234 (£14.95 plus P&P).
© 2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, First Published Brighton Argus October 2004