Could the Terrible Twos Start in their Tummies?

Could the Terrible Twos Start in their Tummies?

Erin Burt

Tantrums. Every toddler has them--there’s no way around it. Every kid goes through the terrible twos. Part of it has to do with a growing baby realizing they are actually a separate person from mom and exercising their right to make their own decisions, even if it’s just to refuse their favorite food.

But a recent study from The Ohio State University has a tiny ray of hope, and that is that tantrum behavior may be linked to something we can control. They studied toddlers and determined there’s a link between their temperament and their gut bacteria. This article had some great quotes from the study’s authors explaining their findings.

The concept is that by age 2, toddlers have a reasonably developed “gut microbiome” and so it’s pretty reliable to study at that point. So they gathered some stool samples and asked their mothers a plethora of questions about their personalities, eating habits, how they were born, whether or not they were breastfed, etc.

They determined that generally speaking, more extroverted toddlers generally have more diversity in their gut bacteria. So why does that matter?  Lisa Christian, PhD, a researcher with Ohio State's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research explained, “A toddler's temperament gives us a good idea of how they react to stress. This information combined with an analysis of their gut microbiome could ultimately help us identify opportunities to prevent chronic health issues earlier."

So they’re trying to understand more about how our bodies react to stress, and how that impacts our long-term health. Which is pretty fascinating. Currently, science just knows that there’s a large number of factors that are part of the huge equation that makes up our kids moods, temperaments, and long-term health.  But we already knew that. 

The bad news is that there isn’t much to do on a parental level right now. Someday they may show us how to alter our kids’ diets to keep them healthy and avoid some chronic illness in the future. So, after reading these studies I think I’ll try to give my sensitive and sometimes shy toddler more yogurt. I’ll hope that perhaps because her gut microbiome is healthier she’ll someday be a happy, well-adjusted teenager. A mom can hope right?

Jenny Ditch lives in Illinois with her husband and toddler and thinks the terrible twos started early in her house.

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