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How Your Birth Shapes Your Brain

The story of who we are doesn't begin at birth - it's written long before we take our first breath.

The way we enter the world can have profound, lasting effects on the very foundations of our health and wellbeing. In fact, research reveals that the conditions surrounding our birth process may be the first and most formative influence on our mental health by disrupting the delicate relationship between our gut and our brain.

Emerging research is revealing how the trillions of microbes living in our digestive system profoundly influence the development and function of our nervous system. This gut-brain axis holds the key to everything from healthy brain development and mental wellbeing to building resilience against the impacts of trauma and adversity.

Statistics paint a sobering picture. Children born via cesarean section, for instance, face up to a 20% higher risk of developing asthma, allergies, and other autoimmune disorders compared to those delivered vaginally. They are also 20% more likely to become overweight or obese later in childhood.

But the impacts extend far beyond just physical health. Mounting evidence suggests that C-section delivery can also increase the risk of neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions. Children born via C-section have up to a 33% greater chance of being diagnosed with ADHD, autism, and a 17% higher risk of developing depression.

The reason? 95% of the body's serotonin - a critical neurotransmitter for mood, sleep, and digestion - is produced not in the brain, but in the gut.

Gut microbes play a vital role in producing a symphony of other neurochemicals as well, forming an intimate two-way communication highway between our inner terrain and our cognitive capacities.

Tragically, the impacts of these early life disruptions don't stop there. Individuals who experienced childhood trauma, neglect, or other adverse experiences have a staggering 400% increased risk of developing mental illness as adults. They are also significantly more prone to chronic physical health problems, from heart disease and diabetes to autoimmune disorders.

Understanding and addressing these foundational imbalances is essential for cultivating resilience, optimizing mental and physical health, and breaking the intergenerational cycle of suffering. By nurturing the delicate microbial and neurological foundations of our children's lives, we invest in their - and our collective - flourishing.

How C-Sections Disrupt the Gut-Brain Connection

One of the most significant contributors to microbiome disruption is our birth process.

Babies born via cesarean section miss out on a crucial microbial transfer that occurs during a natural vaginal delivery. Asthe baby passes through the birth canal, they are exposed to a diverse array of microbes. This enables them to safely seed their gut with healthy microbiome.

However, babies delivered via C-section bypass the vital microbial inoculation. Instead, they acquire a microbiome that reflects impersonal hospital environment the sterile mother's skin. The foundational microbiome are critical, because they create the conditions for other microbes to multiply and be created in. Think of them as the master builders of the brain. They establish the correct pH, produce essential nutrients and generate the metabolites that nourish a wider range of gut bacteria. Without the foundational microbes, the delicate balance of the microbiome is either compromised or collapsing.

Studies have shown that children born via C-section have a 40-60% increased risk of developing asthma, allergies, and other immune-related disorders later in life. They also have a 20% greater chance of becoming overweight or obese as they grow older.

Alarmingly, the impacts of C-section delivery on the microbiome can even extend across generations. Research has found that the children of women born via C-section have an increased risk of developing certain health conditions, suggesting that the disruption to the microbiome can have epigenetic effects.

How Your Microbiome Affects Your Nervous System

The story of who we are doesn't start at birth - it's written long before we take our first breath. The circumstances surrounding our entry into the world can have profound, lasting impacts on the very foundations of our health and wellbeing. Emerging research reveals that the delicate interplay between our gut and our brain may be the first and most formative influence shaping our lives.

This intricate gut-brain connection, known as the microbiome-nervous system axis, holds the keys to everything from our mental wellbeing to our resilience against the impacts of trauma and adversity. It's here, in the trillions of microbes inhabiting our digestive tract, that 95% of the body's serotonin - a critical neurotransmitter for mood, sleep, and digestion - is produced, not in the brain itself. Gut microbes play a vital role in synthesizing a symphony of other neurochemicals as well, forming an intimate two-way communication highway that sculpts our cognitive capacities and emotional resilience from the earliest stages of development.

In fact, the microbial makeup of a mother's gut during pregnancy can have a direct impact on fetal brain structure and the child's future risk of developing conditions like anxiety and depression.

Prenatal exposures to stress, infections, or other disruptions can alter the delicate balance of the maternal microbiome, with cascading effects on the infant's emerging nervous system.

Furthermore, the birthing process itself is a crucial seeding event for the newborn's microbiome. Babies delivered via cesarean section, who miss out on exposure to the diverse microbes lining the birth canal, have been shown to have less diverse gut microbial communities - a lack of diversity that can increase vulnerability to a range of health issues, from allergies and autoimmune disorders to mood and cognitive problems.

Traumatic birth experiences, whether due to C-sections, birth complications, medical interventions, or separation from the mother, can further disrupt this critical microbial transfer, setting the stage for long-term nervous system dysregulation, compromised immunity and chronic health conditions.

By understanding the profound, lifelong implications of how we enter the world, we unlock the secrets to cultivating optimal health and wellbeing - not just for ourselves, but for generations to come.

How In Utero and Childhood Trauma Impacts Your Mental Health

When serotonin, the key neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation, becomes imbalanced, the consequences can be far-reaching, impacting both our mental and physical wellbeing. This neurochemical imbalance is often rooted in early life experiences, from in utero trauma to birth complications and disruptions to the developing microbiome.

The impacts of serotonin dysregulation are extensive. On the mental health front, low serotonin levels are strongly associated with conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, manifesting as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and lack of motivation. Conversely, excessive serotonin can lead to mania and hyperactivity.

However, the effects extend well beyond the realm of mood disorders.

Imbalanced serotonin can also contribute to sleep disturbances, digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome, heightened physical pain sensitivity, cognitive impairments, hormonal dysregulation, and even cardiovascular problems. It's a cascading symphony of symptoms, all rooted in the delicate dance of this crucial neurotransmitter.

Tracing the origins of serotonin imbalance often leads us back to the earliest stages of childhood development, when in utero and birth-related trauma can disrupt the fragile foundations of the nervous system and gut microbiome. These traumas, if left unaddressed, can reverberate throughout the nervous system for decades, contributing to a myriad of chronic health challenges.

Here's a closer look at what can happen when serotonin levels are not in balance:

  • Mood Disorders: Serotonin imbalance is strongly linked to conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Low serotonin levels are associated with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and lack of motivation, while too much serotonin can lead to mania and hyperactivity.

  • Sleep Disturbances: Serotonin plays a crucial role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Imbalances can contribute to insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and disrupted sleep patterns.

  • Digestive Issues: Since 95% of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut, serotonin imbalances can manifest as gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhea, and nausea.

  • Heightened Pain Sensitivity: Serotonin helps modulate pain perception. Insufficient serotonin can lead to increased sensitivity to physical pain and heightened discomfort.

  • Cognitive Impairments: Serotonin influences memory, learning, and cognitive function. Imbalances have been linked to difficulties with concentration, decision-making, and overall brain fog.

  • Hormonal Imbalance: Serotonin interacts with other critical hormones like cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone. Disruptions in serotonin levels can throw off the delicate hormonal balance.

  • Cardiovascular Issues: Serotonin plays a role in regulating blood pressure, heart rate, and blood vessel function. Imbalances may contribute to hypertension, heart palpitations, and circulatory problems.

Rebalancing Your Microbiome

What can you do for yourself and your child to support a healthy gut-brain connection? Here are a few key steps:

• Health the birth trauma or in utero trauma that is trapped in your nervous system and start a deeper healing process. Addressing the underlying nervous system patterns needs to be done along side diet changes and supplementation.

• Aim for a diverse, whole-foods diet rich in prebiotics (fiber that feeds gut bacteria) and probiotics (the beneficial microbes themselves).

• Consider probiotic supplements, especially if you or your child child was delivered via C-section or experienced antibiotic use early in life. • Avoid antibiotics which lowers microbial diversity, allowing opportunistic pathogens to thrive and inhibits the species responsible for producing critical neurochemicals.

• Expose your child to a variety of safe microbes through activities like playing in nature, petting animals, and so on.

How To Introduce A Microbiome-Friendly Diet

Onions and garlic are dietary superstars when it comes to nurturing gut health. They contain prebiotic fibers that act as "food" for the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome, helping them thrive. In fact, studies show that compounds in garlic can selectively promote the growth of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus - two of the gut's most prized microbial residents.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir are microbiome MVPs. They're teeming with live, active cultures of probiotic bacteria that can help diversify and strengthen your gut flora. Research suggests these foods may even aid in the production of vital neurotransmitters like serotonin.

In addition to gut-friendly foods, herbs can be powerful allies in nourishing a healthy microbiome. Many common culinary herbs contain antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and prebiotic compounds that selectively promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Rosemary, for example, is rich in carnosic acid, a compound shown to inhibit the growth of harmful bacterial strains while leaving probiotic species unharmed. Thyme, another kitchen staple, contains thymol - a potent antimicrobial that may help ward off pathogenic invaders in the gut. Here's a list of foods that support healthy microbiome.

Prebiotic-Rich Foods:

  • Onions

  • Garlic

  • Leeks

  • Asparagus

  • Bananas

  • Whole grains (oats, barley, quinoa)

  • Jerusalem artichokes

  • Chicory root

  • Dandelion greens

Probiotic-Rich Foods:

  • Yogurt (look for live active cultures)

  • Kefir

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kimchi

  • Miso

  • Tempeh

  • Pickled vegetables

  • Kombucha

  • High-Fiber Foods:

  • Lentils and beans

  • Chia seeds

  • Flaxseeds

  • Berries

  • Broccoli

  • Pears

  • Apples

  • Whole wheat bread and pasta

  • Fermented Foods:

  • Sourdough bread

  • Fermented cheeses

  • Fermented vegetables

  • Kvass

  • Apple cider vinegar

  • Healthy Fats:

  • Avocado

  • Olive oil

  • Walnuts

  • Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel)

  • Chia seeds

  • Flaxseeds

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