Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Gastrointestinal Health Starts Young  — Are Your Kids in Balance?

Gastrointestinal Health Starts Young — Are Your Kids in Balance?

Keeping our gut (gastrointestinal tract) healthy has become a subject of conversation lately.

Adults have begun seeking a variety of foods to help keep their bowels healthy, even if they aren’t exactly the first choice for a meal or snacks.

Research has shown how important our microbiota (gut health) is to our immunity and overall health.

Benefits of Probiotics for Everyone

Probiotics is now a common word, even though the concept was pretty much unknown just a few short years ago.

Probiotics can put our digestive system into a better balance, which is good for our overall health, too. Being out of balance means that we could have too much bad bacteria and a shortage of good bacteria in our gut, especially after an illness or antibiotic use.

We find probiotics in the food we eat or can be taken as a supplement. There are several different strains of probiotics and each affect us slightly differently. They are live microorganisms that help keep our gut in balance by optimizing good bacteria.

At this time, it is unknown what the right mix of strains or the correct amount of microorganisms found in probiotics should be for adults or children.

When we have adequate probiotics in our diet, they can help treat intestinal problems, including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and constipation.

Did you know gut health can influence your mood and even mental health? One small study found probiotic lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium improved anxiety, depression, and memory and maybe even stress.

Eating a probiotic yogurt was shown in one study to lower bad LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol by 5%.

The best news is that probiotics have been studied for their effect to improve our immune system, so we can produce natural antibodies. This has the potential to reduce the incidence of respiratory illness, urinary tract infections, and other infections.

The jury is still out on whether or not probiotics can help you lose weight, though you may have heard that it will.

But have parents considered the importance of gut health in their children?

Probiotics for Children

Gut health is as important for children as it is for adults, however, it is something that is often overlooked by parents in the hustle and bustle of daily life and just getting kids to eat anything.

A healthy microbiome for kids can allow them to get all the nutrients from the food they eat, have a strong immune system to fight disease, and get much needed energy for their active lives.

Many of the foods that contain probiotics may not be among your child’s favorite foods or could be something you haven’t yet offered them. You will probably need to start with small amounts and role model eating them for your child to accept these new foods. There is no one food that is best, so serving a variety as part of your usual meal routine may be the easiest.

Here are different types of probiotic foods for you to give to your kids to help keep their gut bacteria in balance:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Yogurt with active or live cultures
  • Yogurt drinks such as Danactive
  • Yogurt smoothies like Danimals
  • Kimchi
  • Pickled vegetables like beets and pickles
  • Buttermilk
  • Cheeses with active cultures like Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese
  • Tempeh (fermented soybean)
  • Miso
  • Kefir (fermented milk)
  • Soy foods like Natto
  • Kombucha (fermented black or green tea)

Getting Enough Bowel Loving Fiber

It is also important to ensure kids get enough fiber in their diets to help with bowel regularity and good balance.

Include fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains to increase the fiber kids will love.

Whole grain breads and rolls, unsweetened cereals high in fiber, granola bars, trail mix, nuts, and popcorn are good sources of fiber that most kids will enjoy eating as part of the meal or as a snack.

If you give them enough of the probiotic containing foods and sufficient fiber, a supplement should not be needed for gut health.

This is a good practice to follow: food as medicine, especially for kids’ growing bodies.

 




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