Posted by Dr. Ian Bier on Feb 10, 2021 10:51:33 AM
For adults and kids alike, western society tends toward a treatment versus prevention approach to healthcare. It’s assumed that if a child seems healthy, nothing needs to be done to ensure they stay that way.
Unfortunately, there are a slew of offenders that directly impact children, including health challenges that are now impacting younger-than-expected populations. Factors like overuse of antimicrobial household cleaning and personal hygiene products, unnecessary amounts of stress, lack of fermented foods and vegetables in the diet, and an excess of processed and junk foods are wreaking havoc on children’s gut microbiome.
There are several immediate, concrete steps you can take to set your kids’ microbiome up for lifelong success, health, and wellness.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand why achieving and maintaining good gut health is so important for your children.
The gut obviously controls digestion, waste removal, and nutrient absorption and also plays a major role as an immune and inflammatory signaler, as well as for brain health, skin health, and hormonal balance. It’s becoming increasingly common to see indicators of poor health in children, and more evidence that connects these issues with an impaired gut microbiome is coming to light.
It was once believed that every child’s microbiome began as a clean slate. Then, through diet and lifestyle choices, it was formed into a healthy or unhealthy landscape.
However, we now understand more about genetic factors in the creation of a balanced microbiome, as well as the profound impacts birth can have. For example, a vaginal birth sets the stage for an optimally balanced microbiome (gut and otherwise), and there are steps that doctors and midwives can take to mitigate negative effects on the microbiome even in the case of C-sections.
Today, kids spend far more time indoors than they used to, and studies show that exposure to natural bacterias in green space and overall time in nature support higher anti-inflammatory immune proteins and broader diversity of microorganisms in the microbiome.
A poor gut microbiome can impact both adults and kids in profound ways, although some of those same impacts might be more devastating in children. For example, an unhealthy microbiome has been associated with poor sleep, which impacts concentration, mood, and brain development.An unhealthy gut microbiome can also weaken immune health, lower energy, and contribute to behavioral problems.
The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure your child’s gut health is strong—and these same steps will positively impact the entire family.
Feed Good Bacteria
Offer a wide variety of fiber-rich and colorful vegetables and fruits daily, along with kid-friendly probiotic foods like plain yogurt and kefir. Along with probiotic foods, also include prebiotic foods like asparagus, artichokes, bananas, flax, and berries. Do your best to eliminate foods that feed bad bacteria, like processed sugar and refined carbohydrates from white bread, pasta, and commercial baked goods.
Ideally, children can self-regulate their appetite and eat to satisfy their hunger and body’s needs as they grow. However, in a world of more processed and packaged foods, hunger and satiety signaling can be thrown off, and it becomes important for parents to ensure appropriate portions.
Get Plenty of Sleep
The gut microbiome suffers without adequate sleep and can increase children’s likelihood of dysregulated insulin and blood sugar, inflammation, and gut bacteria ratios.
Staying adequately hydrated with clean water has been shown to have a positive effect on the mucosal lining of the intestines, as well as the balance of good gut bacteria.
Incorporate Physical Activity
Exercise is important for many reasons, and a healthy gut is one. Physical activity promotes bowel regularity, a healthy and balanced ratio of gut bacteria, and proper motility.
While diet and lifestyle is always the first line of defense, a professional-grade children’s probiotic can help to achieve proper levels of good gut bacteria, which can then be maintained with food and lifestyle choices over time.* You should consider supplement with probiotics after a child has had exposure to products or items known to deplete the gut microbiome.
Gut health is truly the foundation of overall health and prevention, and children are just as (if not more) susceptible to gut health challenges than adults. By offering a healthy, whole-foods diet, plenty of physical activity, adequate sleep, fermented foods and/or a probiotic, you’ll be well on your way to giving your child a head start on feeling their best.
 Yang, I., Corwin, E. J., Brennan, P. A., Jordan, S., Murphy, J. R., & Dunlop, A. (2016). The Infant Microbiome: Implications for Infant Health and Neurocognitive Development. Nursing research, 65(1), 76–88. https://doi.org/10.1097/NNR.0000000000000133
 Smith, R. P., Easson, C., Lyle, S. M., Kapoor, R., Donnelly, C. P., Davidson, E. J., Parikh, E., Lopez, J. V., & Tartar, J. L. (2019). Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PloS one, 14(10), e0222394. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222394
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