A lot of us grew up eating sugary snacks and processed food. As a result, we have an excess of bad bacteria in our guts that has accumulated over time. If you need a refresher on gut health, check out our Gut Health 101 post for tips on how to cultivate your microbiome back to a healthy state!
But what about gut health for kids? How can we set them up with healthy gut flora?
Considering your child’s gut health is an incredibly easy way to set them up with a healthy system, especially as they are developing. Although it is instinctive to think of germs as bad, exposing your kids to different types of bacteria is important in strengthening their immune systems. Follow these tips to ensure that they are cultivating healthy microbiomes.
Breast milk contains prebiotics (also found in fibrous vegetables) that promote the growth of healthy bugs. These prebiotics supply nutrients to the existing bacteria, and aid in ‘educating’ your immune system.
Put down the hand sanitizer.
With the assistance of antibacterial soap, antibacterial spray, and antibacterial cleaning wipes, kids are growing up in germ-free, sterile environments. However, with rising rates of allergies, autoimmune problems, and gut-related diseases, you have to wonder if there’s a connection. Providing a clean environment is important, but there are many natural sanitizers that you can opt for that are not necessarily ‘anti-bacterial’–try vinegar! Beyond that, soap and water is all you need!
Sneak probiotic foods into their diet.
Your kids may need a little time to warm up to the sour taste, but there are a ton of kid-friendly probiotic foods out there to get started. Try serving familiar fermented foods, like sourdough bread, aged cheddar, gouda, and yogurt, before working your way up to pickles, kombucha, kefir, miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
Focus on prebiotic foods.
Prebiotics help probiotics to grow and remain in your digestive system. Often filled with fiber, these veggies include artichokes, asparagus, bananas, garlic, leeks, onion and tomatoes.
Avoid gut irritating foods like processed foods and sugar.
Processed foods and sugar upset the balance of good and bad bacteria necessary in your gut. When the gut is stressed by too much bad bacteria, it’s weak against infection, and vulnerable to inflammation, IBS, colitis, food intolerance, allergies, and more. Really, the list on why you eliminate these foods from your diet is never ending..
Let them get dirty.
Soil is filled with a surplus of micro-organisms. Exposing your child to this bacteria early on strengthens their immune system’s ability to combat various pathogens later on in life. Though it may seem strange, you are actually doing them a huge favour by encouraging them to get dirty, and pet different animals.
It’s never too early or too late to start thinking about gut health. Integrating strategies for healthy guts in your family has amazing short and long term benefits. When we have healthy guts, we’re happier, we have more energy, and we’re stronger at fighting infections–so it’s definitely worth investing some time and effort in. We’d also love to hear from you, what has your experience been in terms of promoting gut health in your family?