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Gut Health In Kids: What Every Parent Should Know

Posted on May 24 2022

A child’s gut health reflects a lot about his/her overall internal health so it’s no wonder that there’s a wide range of literature addressing this topic. Parents far and wide are always on a journey towards searching for the best way to maintain a healthy gut, officially known as microbiome, in their child. Emerging research has shown that a healthy gut is related to a wide range of benefits including supporting your child’s immunity and maintaining skin health. Looking after your child’s gut health should be top priority as approximately 70% of the immune system is in the gut, where diverse bacteria is best[1]. Here’s all you need to know about microbiome and ways to maintain your child’s healthy gut.

Making wise food choices helps to maintain your child’s healthy gut and simultaneously promotes immunity and brain development.

 

What Is A Microbiome?

 

The microbiome is made up of trillions of living bacteria, viruses and fungi in the body that interacts with our immune system[2]. The gut microbiome is established by the time your child is four or five years old. While the gut’s main function is to aid digestion, remove waste, and help in the absorption of nutrients, it also influences the immune system and communicates with the rest of the body, especially the brain[3]. Everyone’s microbiome is unique and your child’s diet is also responsible for the variation in the microbiome. In short, maintaining ‘good bacteria’ in your child’s stomach helps to maintain good gut health.

 

How Do You Build A Healthy Gut In Kids?

 

Maintaining a healthy gut in your child starts with simple, intentional dietary changes in your everyday life. A little goes a long way and this not only helps to build your child’s immunity but also support their overall well-being.

Yoghurt smoothies are perfect for a mid-day snack and are packed with essential probiotics.

 

Offer Probiotic-Rich Foods

 

Probiotics are good live bacteria that make up your child’s gut microbiome and work to maintain health as well as immunity. They also fight inflammation and disease. You can boost the good bacteria in a child’s gut by feeding them probiotic rich foods. Good bacteria can help to form a strong, healthy microbiome. You can also include a probiotic supplement in your child’s diet especially if they’re picky eaters or need extra probiotic support. Multiple strains of probiotics can have different health effects and help to expand the bacteria that make up your child’s microbiome so look out foods that contain this.

 

Some great child-friendly probiotic-rich foods include:

  • Yoghurt: When buying yoghurt for your child, look on the label for brands containing ‘live cultures’. You can also blend it into a smoothie or offer frozen yoghurt as a treat.
  • Kefir: This fermented milk drink may not appeal to some kids as it tastes a bit tangy with a thicker consistency than milk. Mix it with fruit and blend into a smoothie to make it more appetising.
  • Tempeh: Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and readily available at the wet markets and supermarkets. This high protein meat substitute is great as a snack especially when fried till crispy.

 

There are also off-the-shelf convenient snacks packed with probiotics that are great to pack into your child’s school bag or your bag when you are out and about. These come in ready-to-eat pouches like the Only Organic Banana, Berries & Yoghurt Brekkie Pouch or KiwiGarden Yoghurt Drops, that are available in various flavours.

Keep the skin on for fruits and veggies as it contains insoluble fibre which helps your child’s bowel movements.

 

Feed Them Foods That Are High In Fibre

 

Fibre is essential in everyone’s diet, including your child’s. There are actually a range of fibres found in different types of food.

  • Insoluble fibre: This fibre helps with promoting regular bowl movements. It is found in wholegrain breads and cereals as well as the skin of fruit and vegetables. HiPP Organic’s 7 Grain Cereal Flakes is a great way to introduce wholemeal cereal into your little one’s diet.
  • Resistant starch: Resistant starch is found in wholegrain cereals, legumes and starchy vegetables like potato. It travels to the large intestine where it feeds good bacteria in the gut.
  • Prebiotics: These are a type of non-digestible carbohydrate that’s found in foods such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, some nuts like cashews and pistachios, oats, bran, and barley[4].
  • Soluble fibre: Soluble fibre is found in fruits, vegetables, oats, barley and legumes. It helps to slow the emptying process in the stomach, meaning it helps your child stay fuller, longer.

 

If you’ve got a picky veggie eater, entice him/her to snack on delicious green peas and corn by KiwiGarden! More healthy food snack options are available on Motherswork here.

 

Ensure They Do Not Overeat

 

While there’s always a tendency to overfeed your child for fear that they may go hungry, ensuring that your child doesn’t overeat is also crucial. Monitor your child’s diet closely and ensure that they are getting enough food at meal times so that they do not keep having the urge the snack throughout the day. Overfeeding and overeating causes problems in their digestive system and a deterioration in their gut health.

 

Say ‘No’ To Processed And Fast Food

 

It is so easy to head off with your kids to the nearest fast food joint to get a quick meal especially when you’re pressed for time. However, the journey towards a healthy gut in your child needs to be without this option. Processed and fast food contains an exorbitant amount of salt, sugar and other preservatives which lead to a whole host of gut and intestinal diseases in future.

A child with difficult bowel movements will naturally feel uncomfortable so ensure that they stay hydrated throughout the day.

 

Keep Them Well-Hydrated

 

Keeping your child well-hydrated throughout the day is just as important as ensuring they have a balanced diet of foods rich in probiotics and fibre. Plenty of fluids help to assist your child’s bowel movements which in turn promotes a healthy gut.

 

Help Them Stay Active

 

Aside from dietary changes, getting your child to regularly exercise is a great way to keep them healthy and promote good bacteria in their bodies. Endorphins or ‘feel good’ hormones are released when kids exercise and this helps to alleviate stress, which also has a direct effect on gut health. Exercising in the early hours of the morning just when the sun is up is also beneficial as your child will be able to absorb vitamin D that’s essential for bone, skin and hair health[5]. Learn a new skill, take up a new sport and keep your kids’ gut health flora at its peak.

Make Sure They Get Sufficient Sleep

 

The correlation between gut health and adequate rest in children is often overlooked. Your child’s nervous system depends on consistent sleep to rebuild and repair tissues, and manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters.

 

We’ve all experienced gastrointestinal issues in one form or another and clearly eating properly plus maintaining a healthy lifestyle help keep everything in good working order. So if you’re looking to improve your child’s mental well-being, the first place to start is the gut. Focus on a healthy diet with fermented foods, get plenty of fibre, add a quality probiotic, keep fit and get adequate sleep, these are all crucial in maintaining your child’s healthy gut-brain connection.

 

[1] Adapted https://connect.uclahealth.org/2021/03/19/want-to-boost-immunity-look-to-the-gut/

[2] Adapted https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-microbiome-and-health#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2

[3] Referenced from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22968153/

[4] Adapted from https://www.oac.edu.au/news-views/the-importance-of-good-gut-health-in-children/

[5] Referenced from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/06/13/321355377/exercise-and-protein-may-help-good-gut-bacteria-get-their-groove-on

 

Credits : Alexander Dummer, @ourlittlemoi in Instagram, @the_healthy_journey on Instagram, @omielifeinc on Instagram, @raisinghealthfulkids on Instagram,  

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