Gut health is critical for overall health and proper development in our children. It is important that parents have the tools to help cultivate a healthy gut microbiome in their little ones. Numerous new studies point to the importance of a healthy gut for children.
Let’s review the top three things that we can do to support a healthy gut in our children.
Probiotics- A diet rich in probiotics from fermented foods or supplements is important to help support overall gut health. Gut health is dependent on the beneficial bacteria that line our gastrointestinal tract. These beneficial bacteria help with digestive function as well as play a vital role in inflammation and the immune system. Making sure your child’s diet is rich in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha (non-caffeinated for the kiddos), yogurt, pickles or any variety of fermented vegetables and/or probiotic supplements is a great way to support their gut health.
Diet High in Fiber- A diet rich in fiber from a variety of sources such as organic vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, even fiber from animals helps support beneficial populations of bacteria in the gut. Sometimes it takes getting a little creative to get fiber into our little ones but it is worth the effort. In recent study out of Africa switched rural Africans’ diet with the more processed Western diet of urban Africans. (1) The switch in diet produces a change in gut microbiota within just two weeks. Diet has such an intimate relationship with our gut microbiota. While breast milk is rich in fiber like oligosaccharides, weaned children need lots of fiber to sustain the healthiest gut. Vegetables are an ideal source of fiber to feed the gut microbiota. Dr Alan Greene’s website and Nourishing Our Children are good resources if you need tips getting fiber and good nutrition into your little one’s diet.
Let Them Play in the Dirt- Numerous studies have associated a life that is too sterile due to over cleaning, hand sanitizers and lack of exposure to regular everyday dirt with increased risk for disease. (2) Children and growing babies need to be exposed to the greater world so their body can be ‘educated’ to tolerate harmless substances instead of mounting an allergic response and to be able to mount an immune response to infections. There are a multitude of bacteria, viruses and fungi that we come in contact with in everyday life. Although seeing a sweet baby about to put a dirty hand in their mouth makes most of us cringe and reach out to stop it, this is exactly the introduction their immune systems need (within reason). It is essential that little ones get an introduction to the world so that their growing immune systems can get the exposure they need to be robust, strong and flexible.
It is vital as parents that we tend to our children’s gut health. It is never too early to focus on a healthy gut microbiome, especially in our babies and children.
– Dr. Catherine Clinton