Sore tummies, allergies, poor immune function and changes in behaviour are just some of the signs that your child may have poor gut health.
We are all aware of the increase in attention (and research) over the past decade of the trillions of bacteria that inhabit our gut and the effect these bacteria have on gut function and our health….. and with good reason!
The gut is the seat of health. It has a direct effect on immune function and the nervous system with the gut-brain connection now well established through research. Many of the common health conditions in childhood such as eczema, food intolerances, constipation and behavioural/developmental conditions require a thorough assessment of gut health with improvement in gut health often being key to long term health and management.
A child’s gut microbiome is established by the time they begin school and is influenced directly through diet, nutrition and the environment. There are many factors that can alter the intricate balance of your child’s gut microbiome, however fortunately there are simple ways to help improve your child’s gut health that you can begin today.
Diversity is important – Including a wide range of foods (particularly plant based foods in the diet) is key to increasing the diversity of gut bacteria, which has been shown to be important for good health.
Important dietary inclusions for improving gut health:
Fibre – different types of fibre are important. If we do not eat enough fibre in the diet it changes the types of bacteria in our gut and this can change the functioning of the gut. Some good sources of fibre to include are: wholegrain foods, legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils), fresh fruit and vegetables.
Fermented foods – such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kombucha are all great inclusions to help with increasing bacterial diversity in the gut. Be careful to avoid these foods that are high in sugar.
It is important to start low and slow with fermented foods as it can cause tummy upsets if introduced too quickly.
Nutrients – Some important nutrients that are important for good gut function and health include: Zinc, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin A. Good dietary sources for some of these nutrients include: pumpkin and sunflower seeds, spinach, quinoa, lentils, bananas, avocados, grass fed organic red meat, eggs, cod liver oil and oily fish such as salmon.
*Often specific nutritional supplementation is required if there are chronic or specific symptoms a child may have.
Most of us now are familiar with the term probiotic but what are they?
Probiotics are the specific strains of different bacteria that can colonise the gut and what we know is that different strains of bacteria (probiotics) have different effects on our gut.
No longer is it always best to take the highest amount of lots of different strains of bacteria but rather considering the right strains of probiotics for particular symptoms and functions.
There are specific formulations now that have different targeted outcomes such as immune health, urinary support or for constipation however, if your child is experiencing ongoing specific symptoms I would recommend to seek the advice of a qualified health professional experienced in gut health as the right strain(s) can have a significant effect on health.
These are the food for the beneficial bacteria that have been shown to have a beneficial effect gut health. There are different types of prebiotics that feed and support the growth of specific bacteria.
The good news is we can source the different types of prebiotics from our diet. To download a quick guide of top prebiotic foods to begin to include in your child’s diet (and yours!) click here. This can be laminated and put in the kitchen to help to include different foods in your diet.
Ensuring your child is drinking enough water can make a big difference to digestive and gut function and overall health. Avoidance of drinks that are high in sugar is recommended as sugar is well known to have detrimental effects on health, particularly gut health.
Water is best and ensuring your child is drinking regularly throughout the day is recommended.
5. Getting outdoors
Kids are designed to play! Getting outside and allowing kids to get the hands dirty is important for exposure to bacteria .Gardening is a great way for children to not only get their hands dirty but also to become involved growing (and eating) foods.Early exposure to pets such as dogs is also known to helping with gut and immune health and prevention of allergies.
Improving your child’s gut health is important for helping your child to grow, develop and have fun! Early intervention is imperative, particularly for the prevention of chronic disease.
Some key things to note when making any changes:
- Start slowly – it is the small changes that make for long term changes
- Be consistent – trial a new food or lifestyle change consistently over a set amount of time (eg. 1 month). A child may have to be introduced to a new food at least 10 times before they have their first taste.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things – you may be surprised at what your child may like to eat or engage in a new activity
The good news is….you can start today!
If you have questions or are concerned with your child’s gut health or behavioural and developmental health you can book here for a free 15 minute health chat about your child’s health or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.