Gastrointestinal symptoms occur frequently in children.
Unexplained abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea and gassiness all commonly prompt a visit to the doctor’s office. More and more research is showing the importance of gut health for a child's healthy immune system, healthy brain and overall wellness. Therefore, here are some ideas for optimizing your child’s gut health:
A healthy gut starts with a healthy diet
Many children eat a diet that is low in fiber. Fiber helps to absorb toxins, bulk up stool, and maintain healthy bacteria in the GI tract. Therefore, it’s important that your child’s diet is high in fiber rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans. These foods also supply needed vitamins and minerals for healthy function of the gut. On the contrary, limit simple sugars and refined carbohydrates (like white flour products) that contribute to constipation and other GI symptoms.
Maintain the "good" gut bacteria
Probiotics are living bacteria or yeast that are consumed for their health-promoting properties. The human gastrointestinal tract contains trillions of bacteria, yeast, and other microscopic organisms that are known to benefit our bodies by stimulating the immune system, aiding nutrition, and inhibiting the growth of disease-causing bacteria. In order to keep a healthy supply of these helpful microbes, you want to eat a diet that is high in vitamins, minerals and fiber as mentioned above. Also, an unfortunate side effect of antibiotics is that they kill these healthy microbes. Therefore, if your child has been treated with multiple courses of antibiotics in the past, his/her probiotic stores may be low. Supplementing with a good quality probiotic daily may be a good choice.
Options for probiotics
Most people think of yogurt as a good way to consume probiotics, but not all yogurt brands have a sufficient amount of probiotics included. Therefore, a separate probiotic supplement may be needed. Probiotics are widely available over the counter in formulations for infants, children and adults. As with any supplement, you should consult your doctor before starting use. Aside from yogurt, other probiotic-containing foods include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso and kimchi. You can start slowly and incorporate these foods into your child’s diet as well.