Does your child have learning difficulties? Issues such as dyslexia, inability to concentrate and conditions like ADHD are increasingly common in kids.

One commonly overlooked link to brain function and learning is gut health. By addressing this link and improving gut health, you may be able to relieve and even correct some learning difficulties.

Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about the link between learning difficulties and gut health.

How Learning Difficulties Can Begin In The Gut

The link between learning difficulties and the gut comes down to the gut-brain connection.

What is the gut-brain connection?

The gut and brain communicate with each other via a nerve called the vagus nerve. They work together to run many essential functions throughout the body.

What happens in the gut can influence the brain and vice versa. This is why the food that we eat can have an almost instant effect on our mood and behaviour.

Now the gut is known as the second brain due to the powerful influence it can have throughout the body. A healthy gut supports a healthy body, but any gut imbalance can lead to issues with brain function.

There are several key areas where we can see the gut-brain axis at play when it comes to your child’s learning, memory and concentration.


One of the major roles of the gut is the production of brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters. Although they act on the brain, most are produced within the gut.

The balance of gut health can have a significant influence on brain function, particularly learning, concentration and memory.

Some of the neurotransmitters that play a role in learning and concentration include:

  • Serotonin
  • GABA
  • Glutamate
  • Dopamine
  • Acetylcholine
  • Norepinephrine

When your child’s gut is not functioning optimally, the production of these vital chemicals can be affected. So if your child has learning difficulties or an inability to focus, it’s important to address their gut health.

Brain nutrients

The brain requires nutrients to function properly. A good intake of nutrients is one step, but we also need to consider absorption.

When the gut is inflamed or imbalanced, the absorption of nutrients can be affected. If the gut is not optimal, it doesn’t matter how good your child’s diet is or how many supplements you give them – they can still become deficient.

Some of the key nutrients for brain function include:

  • Omega 3s – essential for brain development and function
  • Zinc – involved in learning, memory, overall role in neurological health
  • Iodine – involved in cognitive development and function. Low iodine has been linked to learning disabilities
  • Selenium
  • B vitamins

To ensure that your child is absorbing these key nutrients, we want to boost their gut health.

In some cases, supplementing one or more nutrients may help to bridge the gap. Working with a practitioner can help you to decide the best supplements and nutrients for their needs.

To book an express consult with one of our naturopaths, click here.

Gluten & casein

Gluten and casein are two proteins that can be problematic for some children. Many kids are intolerant or sensitive to these, but for some, the effect is more subtle.

In some people, these proteins are not properly digested and enter the bloodstream only partly broken down. They can then make their way across the blood-brain barrier and into the brain.

This leads to effects on mood, behaviour, cognition and pain tolerance. This issue is particularly common in children with autism or ADHD.

If your child has learning difficulties, it is worth considering a trial elimination of gluten and casein products. Unfortunately, these substances can be quite addictive due to their impact on the brain, so you may need to seek professional guidance.

By removing these inflammatory proteins, you can potentially help to minimise gut symptoms as well as improving brain function.

The microbiome

A big piece of the gut health puzzle is the microbiome – the microbes in the gut. The microbes in our gut have been linked to many of the body’s systems, particularly the brain.

One sign of a healthy microbiome is diversity – lots of different healthy species in the gut. Unfortunately, the modern world and lifestyle have reduced our gut diversity significantly since the hunter-gatherer days.

When the balance of the gut is thrown off, this can lead to dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is where there are too few good bacteria and too many unhealthy bacteria.

Dysbiosis is common these days thanks to factors such as antibiotics, too much sugar in the diet and lifestyle habits. These can deplete good bacteria and allow the unhealthy species to take over.

There are many varieties of microbes that can overgrow if left unchecked. When they overgrow, they can produce toxic substances that can have a negative effect on the brain.

To minimise this issue, it’s important to work on gut health and promote diversity.


Want to reduce the symptoms of learning difficulties by supporting your child’s gut?

Download our FREE Kids Gut Health Ebook here.