A Gut Feeling

With a virtual visit from Dr. Alycia Leiby – a pediatric gastroenterologist at Goryeb Children's Hospital in Morristown – seventh graders learned about the mind-gut connection, how to diagnose gastrointestinal diseases, and the importance of meditation. The thought-provoking discussion for science classes taught by Dr. Vasquez-Grinnell and Ms. Evangelina Peña proved a highlight for the Digestive System Unit.

"Dr. Leiby spoke about the connection between the brain and the intestinal track, two of the most interconnected organ systems in the body," said Dr. Vasquez-Grinnell. "She shared some of the ailments her patients face, like Crohn's and Celiac diseases, and how she reaches a diagnosis through conversations, X-rays, MRIs, endoscopies, and biopsies through collaboration and communication with families, nurses, and other physicians." Other topics she touched on include a general overview of her profession and how she helps children with a variety of gastrointestinal issues.

With research showing that stress plays a role in triggering flare ups for Crohn's patients, Dr. Leiby's talk also focused on the benefits of mediation to reduce pain and instill calm. She instructed students about the Square Breathing technique, also called Box Breathing, through the following steps: First, inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four and feel your lungs filling with air. Next, hold your breath for a count of four. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of four. Then pause for a count of four, before beginning again.

"My students talked with Dr. Leiby about the benefits of meditation, and how it can help them relax," said Dr. Vasquez-Grinnell. "They also asked lots of questions about the different things that young children swallow accidentally."

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