Chances are you’ve already put in a good effort to boost your own gut health, but what about your kids? Optimising the gut microbiota at an early age is an essential part of your child’s overall wellbeing. In fact, a recent study has suggested that by the time kids reach school age, the general makeup of their gut has already been established – and will remain with them for their entire life.
Luckily, we have 3 simple ways to boost your child’s gut health today.
Limit sugar intake
You only have to look at the soaring rates of childhood obesity and related health conditions to understand how excessive sugar consumption in children can affect their health. But did you know that sugar may also affect your child’s gut bacteria?
A 2017 study conducted in rats found that excessive consumption of sugar during childhood and adolescence leads to a significant change in gut microbiomes. Another study from 2018 also found that dietary fructose – the naturally occurring sugar in fruits and processed sweeteners – also alters the makeup of your microbiome.
Research like this suggests that a diet high in sugar promotes the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, which in turn affects the overall health of your gut. On top of that, sugar is addictive. Eating sugar often leads to overeating sugar, and when it comes to kids, moderation can easily go out the window. If you’re looking to boost your child’s gut health, limiting their sugar intake is the first step that you should take.
Avoid unnecessary antibiotics
While antibiotics have helped save millions of lives by removing harmful bacteria from our bodies, we’re learning that the overuse of antibiotics can decrease the number of friendly gut bacteria that keep your child healthy.
In 2014, researchers from the University of Chicago administered antibiotics to mice and found that they became more susceptible to peanut allergies. A recent Johns Hopkins University study also connected antibiotic use in children to increased weight gain throughout their developmental years. While these studies are still not definitive, more and more research is pointing towards the detrimental effects of unnecessary antibiotics are having on the proper function of microbiomes in children.
In light of such research – and coupled with the dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – it’s now more important than ever for kids to only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary, and for illnesses that can actually be treated by antibiotics. That means no antibiotics for the flu and other viral conditions unless prescribed by your physician.
Prioritise whole foods
If you’re looking for ways to boost your child’s gut health, the goodness of whole foods is here to help. Giving your kids whole foods instead of processed foods will reward your child’s body with the essential nutrients that their bodies require for a well-functioning gut.
Instead of an apple drink in their lunchbox, add an apple! When natural and fresh whole foods are processed with the addition of preservatives and salts, like MSG, they are stripped of their naturally occurring nutrients. Keep this mind next time you go shopping for their school lunches.
Whole foods are also rich in fibre, which supports the health of the cells in the colon and aids in digestion. If your child is having stomach or bowel issues, the solution could be as simple as cutting out the packaged food however always check with your healthcare professional if in doubt.