A special diet is critically important for children with autism and ADHD to promote a healthy digestive system and heal the gut. But it is only one part of the puzzle.
Exercise is just as important and the following reasons explain how it can help your child:
1. Immune System - The more active children are, the stronger their immune system. They will have fewer colds, allergies, and other diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. A stronger immune system will help our children with autism and ADHD recover more quickly from leaky gut issues and strengthen the effects of a healthy diet.
2. Stress Reduction - Regular exercise reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body. Children with autism and ADHD live with a greater amount of stress because they must constantly adapt and fit into a world not set up for their needs. Exercise will help decrease the buildup of stress hormones and their negative effects on the body.
3. Hyperactivity and Energy Release - When kids are wound up and have difficulty staying calm, a round of exercise is often the perfect solution. Before sitting to do homework or study, have your child do something physical to release any pent up energy. Request exercise or movement breaks for your child during school if your child struggles with sitting still in class. Be sure that the teacher does not take away recess time as a classroom consequence!
4. Brainpower - Exercise increases the transport of oxygen and nutrients to the brain due to increased blood flow throughout the body. This literally means you can think quicker, with increased focus and concentration. The brain functions optimally with regular exercise.
5. Sleep - The more active children are during the day, the more energy they use and the better they will sleep. It will be easier to fall asleep when they are tired out from plenty of exercise.
6. Mood - Hormones called endorphins give us a "feel good" feeling and are associated with happy, positive emotions. Exercise is known to increase the amount of endorphins in the body and contribute to better moods and emotions.
Neurotransmitters like serotonin are also increased due to exercise. These chemicals act as messengers that transmit signals between brain cells. Low serotonin levels are associated with depression and increased levels maintain calm moods and are known to aid in sleep and learning.
Interestingly, only a very small amount of serotonin is present in the brain. 90% of the serotonin in our bodies is found within the intestines! This is part of what is known as the gut-brain connection and a key to why a healthy digestive system is so important for a properly functioning neurological condition.