By Sarah Appleford
‘Gut health’ may seem like a buzz word, but nurturing your child’s gut could be one of the most valuable things you can do for their overall wellbeing now and into the future.
The gut microbiome not only affects your child’s digestion but also their immunity and mood. In fact, every system in the body has a connection to the gut which is why it’s now considered our ‘second brain’.
Unfortunately, our modern day lifestyle and dietary habits can negatively impact the microbes in a child’s gut, resulting in persistent health problems.
Ways to improve your child’s gut health
Up until about 3 years of age, the gut microbiome is relatively adaptable. As children get older, their microbiome is fairly established resembling an adults and is much harder to change.
As parents, we have a golden opportunity to influence our children’s health by supporting their gut microbiome.
We can do this by:
- Breastfeeding, if possible, as breast milk contains probiotics and prebiotics that will assist with the diversity and robustness of the gut.
- Avoiding introducing food too early as a child’s digestive system is too immature to produce many of the enzymes needed to break down food. It’s recommended to introduce foods from 6 months of age or when the child is physically and emotionally ready.
- Nourishing your child with a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables which are a good source of prebiotic fibres to feed the gut microbiome.
- Introducing a range of probiotic-rich foods that will increase your child’s microbiome diversity such as live natural yoghurt, kefir and fermented veggies.
- Reducing the intake of sugars and artificial sweeteners which disrupt the microbiome balance by feeding some bacterial species.
- Encouraging your child to play in the dirt, pick things up from the floor and touch pets to help them build a strong immune system.
- Getting your child moving rather than sitting in front of the television. Physical activity has a positive impact on digestive health and the gut microbiome.
- Avoiding unnecessary or overuse of antibiotics. If your child does require antibiotics, make sure you complete the entire course and follow it up with a quality multi-strain probiotic to reinoculated the gut with beneficial bacteria.
- Steering clear of anti-bacterial sanitisers and body care products that disrupt the microbiome. Instead, encourage washing hands with plain soap and warm water. Opt for natural body care products for you and your child and use natural cleaning products around the home.
Sarah Appleford is a bachelor-qualified nutritionist, mother, passionate foodie and founder of Nutrition For Kids. Through 1:1 consultations and workshops, Sarah’s mission is to inspire children to lead healthy, happy lives. She wants to help remove the confusion and equip parents with the tools and knowledge they need to nourish their kids with a whole food diet.