I know there is a lot to consider: their ages, the setting, the timing, who tells them, and how much to tell. Let me offer four pertinent reasons to disclose to children. Disclosure validates what the children know. Having their unspoken perceptions validated takes away the craziness of knowing but at the same time not knowing. It diminishes the additional shame and anxiety that comes with secrecy. Children may find out anyway. Often other family members, particularly a sibling, or other children in the neighborhood or at school know and may deliberately or inadvertently tell them. Thoughtful disclosure can be offered in a healthy manner to counteract a mean-spirited or otherwise simply thoughtless act. Slow motility would suggest slow processing of food and can be witnessed as visible food contents in our stool. As we discussed previously, when we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous systems become activated. Our senses become more acute. We see more clearly. Our hearing is more defined. We think more clearly. Blood pressure increases and blood flow improves to the brain. Simultaneously, pain sensitivity is blunted, and bladder and gut motility slow down. When we are relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. Our heart rates slow down and gut motility increases. When she proposed the idea to friends and family members, she was met with animosity and skepticism. Here's how her own husband was the first to question the validity of this project:

I don't really get it, Jamie said as he lay on the floor to do his daily back and knee exercises. You're already pretty happy aren't you? If you were really unhappy, this would make more sense, but you're not. You're not unhappy, are you? Gretchen appeases her husband by responding that yes, she is happy. She explains as well that, apparently, 84% of Americans ranked themselves as very happy' orpretty happy. Since she's just proposing the idea, she has a difficult time explaining why she needs to do it. Here's her attempt: In some cases children stumble upon information about the behavior by reading about it in a newspaper or on the internet, or even seeing it on television. It is always the responsibility of adults to protect the interests and welfare of children. While every child needs to be educated on how to protect him- or herself and what to do in the case of suspected or known molestation behavior, this discussion is even more warranted when you believe your partner has an orientation toward children. But do not automatically equate sex addiction with child molestation. The word addiction can mislead some people to believe that this person has no control over any aspect of his sexuality. That is not true. Addicts tend to act out in ways that are directly related to their own childhood wounding. If your partner has been engaged in child pornography or known to sexually act out with minors, your children are at risk, and this warrants asking your children whether or not they have ever been inappropriately asked to do something sexual for or with your partner. But I say this with caution. It is very easy to take your outrage and fear and distort the situation. This makes sense because if we are being chased, we need faster heart rates and elevated blood pressures. We need heightened senses and don't want to worry about having to urinate or being hungry.

We can't worry about pain. When we are relaxed, our heart rates and blood pressures go down, and we become hungry. Our bowels and bladders work. We can focus on pain and deal with it. This is an important concept in gut motility, but it also becomes relevant when we talk about day-to-day stresses and ways to recharge. How does acute stress affect your thinking? Consider how excess stress makes you feel. Have you ever felt like a deer caught in headlights? I am happy--but I'm not as happy as I should be. I have such a good life, I want to appreciate it more--and live up to it better. I complain too much, I get annoyed more than I should. I should be more grateful. I think if I felt happier, I'd behave better. She's never done anything like this, nor has, really, anyone else. How can she know how successful this will be? She's also similarly confronted by one of her longtime acquaintances with this response: You're not a regular person. You're highly educated, you're a full-time writer, you live on the Upper East Side [New York City], your husband has a good job. I strongly suggest you allow a qualified helping professional to assist you with this discussion, including the words to use and the timing. This professional needs to be associated with a reputable, licensed agency to ensure that he or she will be able to respond to the needs of the children.

If your children are at risk, then it is appropriate for limits to be set in place that preclude the addict from being with the children or having supervision when they are together. These boundaries remain in place and are renegotiated with suggested oversight of a professional. At this stage, state, social, and health services and courts are often involved and will be making the decisions about parental access to the children. Breaking the Generational Cycle An age-appropriate, open, honest discussion and education on the basics of addiction and recovery will help you end the generational repetition that occurs in addictive family systems. Addiction thrives in secrecy so it is important to model healthy sharing of information in your family. You are showing your children that when something happens and you are scared, ashamed, and confused, the best thing to do is talk about it. When openly discussed, almost any problem can be solved. While the link between the gut and brain has long been established, it is not entirely clear how the vagus nerve actually interacts with the microbiota. The link is likely related to neurotransmitters, hormones, and short-chain fatty acids that are produced by the gut. Neurotransmitters and hormones are chemical signalers or correspondents that come from the brain and travel to the gut, or vice versa. Tryptophan, for instance, is produced by the gut; Serotonin, which is involved in mood, is produced in part in the gut. Most antidepressants are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI), which means they prevent serotonin from breaking down. With serotonin, our moods are stabilized. Likewise, without serotonin, we suffer from depression. Only with more recent studies and ongoing research are we able to increase our understanding of the vagus nerve's true impact. How many people are on an SSRI, which is an antidepressant whose sole job is to increase serotonin in the body? What do you have to say to someone in the Midwest? This is often a trap many skeptical people fall into.

If your life doesn't exactly fit my situation, how can it apply to me? This thinking is so narrow-minded. So, you're saying that because someone wasn't poor out of their mind, didn't have an abusive background or wasn't wasting away part of their life, their story doesn't matter? It's not inspirational? Well good, have fun trying to find someone who fits your exact expectations. In fact, I find Gretchen's ambition quite inspiring (and so do the millions of readers that purchase her articles or read her blog). When someone who's up at the top of the earnings pyramid says that they want their life to be happier, this should elevate us normal people to a higher expectation. Gretchen's critics propose that she should be thrilled to have the life she has! A healthy discussion conveys the message that In this family we can talk about the hard stuff, and you will be supported and heard. Appropriate Age At what age is disclosure most appropriate? My judgment is that a minimum age of mid-adolescence is advised. Children who are pre- or early adolescent should only be told in situations where the children's safety is at risk or their exposure to the information via another avenue, such as at school, from a sibling, or from the media, is possible. Even though the pre- and early adolescents in our research said they were aware of their parent's acting-out behavior, developmentally their greatest need is a belief in the stability of their family. It is the children's own sense of security that is most challenged at this moment. To have sexual data about their parent prior to mid-adolescence is too confusing for them to be able to derive positive meaning or value from having that information. Certainly, maturity of children varies greatly so the professional involved in your situation needs to individually assess the maturity level of your children. By mid-adolescence, as much as children don't want to be told, the information will validate their perceptions and help them better cope with the family stress. Imagine if you healed your gut how much more serotonin you would have. These studies on the gut-brain axis, usually done with mice, rely on a concept called a germ-free host, an animal that theoretically has no microbiota (no gut bugs).