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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Relationship of Instincts and Gut Microbiome in Human Development and Personality

Studies are now being conducted on the analysis of the gut microbiome of infants at Ohio State's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research to assess how intestinal bacteria interact with stress hormones. The importance of these studies by Lisa Christian, PhD, and microbiologist Michael Bailey, PhD, is to discover how stress hormones that have been found to relate to chronic illnesses later in life like obesity and asthma might start and impact the gut at an early age, and specifically how gut microbiome impacts personality and toddler temperament. The hope is to learn how to identify and prevent chronic health issues at an early age and to make positive effects upon personality and healthy development of the child. In this article, we would like to look at the development of personality in early childhood as it relates to gut instincts, all of which we see having an impact upon well being, including healthy gut microbiome. We will also touch on the new field of psychobiotics in our discussion of the relationship of the development of the child's instinctual awareness to gut microbiome and mental health.

While researchers are finding that there is a communication between bacteria in the gut and the head brain at an early age, still much is unknown about which starts the communication — gut brain or head brain — or exactly how this communication functions. We have worked with hundreds of people in counseling, reflecting back in time on their gut feelings and the impact of early childhood, and it is our belief from this experience that for the researchers to understand the relationship of the gut to stress, we need to look at the instincts of the infant and how this effects early childhood development. So let’s look at the maturation of the child from the point of view of the child and his/her gut feelings, instincts.

Given the genetic inheritance, the quality of life in which the child is born, and the furnishing by the parent or caregiver of the needs of human nature — both the need for freedom and for acceptance — a foundation is provided for the newborn to use and develop her instincts to feel good about herself as she matures throughout life. 

We know that the gut is developed in the womb and is fully functioning at birth with gut instincts that the infant will use to survive. If we watch a newborn cry at feeding intervals, we can all agree that it is practical to assume that the infant is experiencing hunger feelings of emptiness (as do adults) from the beginning of life. And we see that the infant also stops crying when her need for food and holding is nurtured, so we also assume the infant experiences a feeling of fullness when this satisfaction takes place. We may also then assume that the infant (as we have also found with adults) is feeling the emptiness and fullness in the gut that relates to the more psychological needs of acceptance (attention) and control (freedom). (See our book What’s Behind Your Belly Button? to read our research and clinical studies on these two instinctual needs connected to the gut responses of empty-full). And without the logic developed yet, nor the language necessary for thinking, the infant is close in awareness to her pure feeling responses. So from the very onset, the infant is developing a sense of whether she has the ability to have her needs (both physical and psychological) met or not, and this affects her personality. The infant learns that communication is useless if she cries and no one comes to feed her and hold her, and she will then eventually withdraw and has learned a powerful lesson that becomes part of her sense of self and personality. On a positive note, if she cries and her parent or caregiver picks her up and holds her, feeds her, smiles and gazes at her, she learns that communication is worth it and this greatly affects her personality development. We could see how the introvert-extrovert personality is influenced from the very beginning. And without the gut responses of emptiness and fullness, this important time of learning could not take place for there would be no way to discriminate by the infant if needs are met or unmet.  

Although it may seem that an infant is doing very little besides eating and sleeping in the first few weeks of life, she is developing new skills and learning to deal with many new sensations that are felt throughout the infant’s body. It is through holding the infant and showing reassurance by a caregiver that the infant learns to accept these new feelings she is having, and to feel safe and thrive. 

When an infant is born, she has an automatic grasp reflex, gripping anything in her palm, and other reflexive movements in response to the world, with no real control over her movements. But within about three months, these reflexes are replaced by abilities to move. These abilities take much effort and determination to develop. One of the first abilities that is learned and occurs at only a few weeks old is the infant’s ability to control her head and neck muscles. Within a couple of months, the infant learns finer motor skills like hand control and begins reaching with her hands and fingers for objects. 

From the very beginning of life, the infant attempts to communicate with her parents through first crying to express needs and then from gazing at the parents. The newborn infant is watching movements and listening to the tone of voice of her parents as a first attempt to understand and communicate, and later will copy these sounds, tones, and facial expressions. It is from being held and loved that the infant begins to make connections in her brain cells, developing pathways between the 100 billion brain cells she is born with. While some pathways are already hardwired and the newborn has a set of reflexes like turning her head, sucking and swallowing, there are others that need to be formed by experiences through sensing. So everything that the infant smells, hears, feels, sees and tastes builds these important pathways. If, for example, she sees her mother’s face over and over gazing at her and saying her name, that neural pathway will be strong for recognition of the mother and her voice, as well as the infant‘s name. During the first two years of life, the infant goes through the discovery process about her environment and begins to imitate and copy what she sees and to practice many new skills daily. So the infant is working very hard from the very beginning of life to develop and each of these learning experiences has an impact upon how the infant feels about herself, thus is part of the process of developing the personality. 

How this all effects gut microbiome is an easy stretch to make. We can see that positive gains toward the child’s instinctual need satisfaction will give the child what she needs to deal with stress and thus help produce the inner environment for a strong immune system and healthy gut flora. To be clear, we are saying that the instincts of the infant are set to guide learning such that the child develops intelligence, and when this is nurtured properly in an environment that gives the child the acceptance and freedom she needs, the child’s gut microbiome are affected in positive ways. In this way, the use of the instincts at birth and early childhood sets the foundation for the health and satisfaction of the entire life processes.

We conclude that researchers who are studying the head-gut connection and the affect of the gut microbiome on childhood development and on both physical and mental health (particularly the new study of "psychobiotics" or changes in the gut microbiome that effects mental health), must look at the psychological needs that our gut feelings monitor. We feel certain that this approach will collaborate with a combination of medical and psychological approaches to gut health.

We thought it might be useful at this point to share with you an excerpt from our recent book Increasing Intuitional Intelligence about the infant’s use of instincts to develop a healthy personality and full human intelligence.


Excerpt from Increasing Intuitional Intelligence, Chapter Part two: “Instinctual Awareness and Its Affects Upon Longevity,” page 102.

A Life of Instinctual Awareness

Instinctual awareness has little credibility as long as the animal instincts in Humans are under pressures from the outside world, because the animal instincts are essential to the functional health and intelligence of Human life and cannot be consciously used if suppressed. This statement does not mean that instincts are ever not available or un-useable. It does mean that the Human instincts are subject to control (may be suppressed) by outside pressure of civil law and are highly influenced by religious dogma. In modern cultures, they are generally allowed to be free only until the sensory brain of the newborn matures, enters the culture, and begins to think for his/herself. We have spent much space in this book describing the importance of the newborn being free to use its instincts to develop the sensory brain—with a minimum of outside world interference. The reason for this lengthy discussion about the newborn is because it is the time that there is a clear display of the Human instincts and because that time of life sets the foundation for the health and satisfaction of the entire life processes. 

The newborn infant is our purest living model of Human instincts that we have to observe. If we want to understand the essence of who we are as Human beings, it is the baby that we need to focus our attention upon and observe. In our observation, we might ask ourselves, if for the infant to grow up properly then do we need to change it by manipulating it into what we think it should be? Or can we concentrate upon nurturing the infant and assisting it to be what it already has the capacity and will to regulate itself to be? This is a big question, perhaps bigger than life itself. Much in politics, religion, education, and even medical and natural sciences throughout history, from era to era, has been an extension of the answer we have decided upon either one way or the other to this question. 

Since we have never had a full understanding and definition of what our Human Nature truly is, we propose that even in eras that were more supportive of our inner nature, we have never had a culture that fully and consciously supported our Human instincts. 

Presently, we have far too many people not supporting full Human intelligence (which includes instincts), therefore not helping us go forward as a Human species. However, we feel that it is both imperative for our species’ survival and also that it is the right evolutionary time in Human history for us to explore once again this fundamental question of who we are instinctually. Modern technology has made it possible for Human beings to now be far more global community-minded than ever before. Thus, many people are beginning to embrace an inclusive view of the entire Human family, with common instinctual needs. 

In order to answer the important question of whom we basically are inside, we must fully understand that society has never answered this question before with any depth or true accuracy from the point of view of life in the process of being lived, as a feeling experience. It has always defined our instincts by observing Humans from an external point of reference, from what behavior we see. We are saying that we cannot possibly understand whom we are inside through observation but instead must define our Human Nature and instincts through inner feeling reflection. We have suggested that we begin by looking at the “baby” to see what the infant is capable of and knows at birth, but our perception in this observation needs to be with the eye of understanding how the infant feels and what needs the infant indicates that they have. 

Of course, this type of observation of need has been done already by every parent who ever had an infant and also attempted by some scientists, such as developmental, child, and social psychologists. Yet, we have missed just what these instincts are other than the will to physical survival and have not make a substantial claim to our most Human instincts, that which drives us throughout life, other than the biological ones. For this reason, we began our discussion in this book by redefining what these unclaimed Human instincts are, or at least what we have found them to be with the many people we have somatically reflected on gut feelings with in counseling sessions and who have reported awareness of early feeling memory. 

Now that we have defined these Human instincts (freedom/self-control and acceptance/attention), then we shall look to see how we might best honor them and begin to nurture Humans as they age to be all that they can be and to live a full and long life. Of course, aging begins the second we are born (and some would argue from the moment of conception), so our Human story of instinctual aging begins there!
 End of Excerpt

Click on a book cover below to go to Amazon to Buy:

"What's Behind Your Belly Button?" is available on Amazon USA and Amazon UK
as well as Amazon,de and and Amazon.CA and other international Amazon sites
and it is on The Book Depository with free international shipping.

"Increasing Intuitional Intelligence" is also available on Amazon USA and Amazon UK
as well as Amazon,de and  other international Amazon sites

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