Building Gut Health in Children
The Gut Microbiome is the key to healthy digestion which is a key to the health of our immune system, hormonal system, and the neurological system and in children, it is even more vital that they maintain a healthy digestive tract as how their digestive tract is developed now can creating long-lasting effects on their overall health. These days diagnosis such as ADD, ADHD, and Autism and being thrown around like casual conversation with very little attention to the relationship the digestive tract has to behavior. The digestive tract, and gut microbiome, is known as the second brain and therefore needs to be the first place explored when a child is exhibiting any behavioral problem including impulsivity, defiance, focus, concentration issues, aggression, etc. If a child is not moving their bowels regularly, then the tendency is to have moodiness and struggle with other symptoms such as sleepiness, bloating, or lethargy.
Therefore, we want to provide simple ways to give the child’s digestive system a health boost.
Processed foods – Try to minimize these as much as possible. Even healthy snacks that read gluten-free, organic, etc. can often have processed in them as they must stay shelf stable for a certain period of time. It is tempting because these are quick and easy solutions; however, these can easily lack fiber and back a child’s bowel movements up which can damage the gut microbiome. Adding healthy snacks such as pears, apples, hummus, berries have healthy fiber to be able to allow for the bowels to move easily and effortlessly.
Bowel conversations – Speak with your children about bowel movements and the importance of having a healthy gut microbiome. Discuss what is considered healthy and inquire if they are going daily. Some children become embarrassed by these conversations and do not want to discuss their bowel, but to get to the bottom of healthy bowels, we must have an open dialogue. Discuss your bowels and the timing, consistency, and how it feels, so they understand what is considered normal. Which begs the question, when was the last time your bowels were normal? Just in case you are confused 2-3 times per day well formed, brown color is considered healthy anything less than that may need some healthy adjustments.
Play in the dirt – In our industrialized age, we forwent the dirt and started bleaching, sanitizing, and stripping all of the healthy bacteria out of everything. The body needs exposure to various types of bacteria, specifically from dirt, etc. Of course, developing health hand washing techniques are important, and educating your child on when, where, and how to do so is important, just not being excessive about cleanliness is key.
Be mindful of antibiotics – It is easy to panic when your little ones are not feeling well to want them to feel better asap. However, making fearful moves could be damaging to their gut microbiome and their health long term, especially if they are repetitive antibiotic usage. Overuse of antibiotics can kill your child’s healthy flora and leave their immune system more susceptible later on to autoimmune diseases.
Adding digestive bitters – We have long since taken out a lot of the digestive bitters out of the diet. Thinks like slippery elm, dandelion, burdock, bitter orange, etc. have been removed traditionally from the diet but can now be added back in as spice in healing digestive soups, dips, etc. to help heal the gut microbiome. Now, this may be tricky to convince a child about the benefits. Nonetheless, urban moonshine and organic herbal apothecary online and in some retailers have an excellent line of digestive bitters that may help add these back into the diet.
These are not an exhaustive list to help build your child’s gut microbiome, but is a good start in progress. Here is some more information regarding gut health: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325293.php. I have learned from treating the digestive system that jumping to the end of the line is not always as effective as following a process. This can sometimes be frustrating in our culture of quick-fix solutions. Often it is an accumulation of things that either build into health or builds into a disease. It is not necessarily a sudden thing that happens overnight that does it, so care, and attention must be taken through the process of developing a healthy digestive tract. For more information regarding raising your children holistically check out some of my other blog articles: http://www.holisticfamilypracticeva.com/blog/