Gut health is a topic that is being brought up more often. People are wanting to understand their bodies, what is causing their concerns and how to fix it. Without having to jump straight to medications and synthetic solutions. Your gut health can account for a lot of different concerns throughout your body. Physical and mental illnesses can both be contributed to poor gut health. So the big question is; Gut Health. What is it and why it is important?
Why Gut Health is So Important?
There are a number of reasons why gut health is so important. Lets take a look at a few and help you to understand them.
We absorb nutrients from food via the gut
In natural medicine, there is a saying, “It’s not what you eat, but what you can absorb.” Feeding kids healthy foods are only part of the equation; the gut must be healthy and well-functioning to absorb all the nutrients the body needs. This is essential since many of the foods kids like are not necessarily nutrient-dense, to begin with.
We eliminate waste through the gut
A healthy gut eliminates waste from the body regularly through the bowels. If elimination is not optimal, we reabsorb toxins back into the body. If your child struggles with constipation, this can lead to health problems.
70-80% of the immune system is in the gut
Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut. When gut health is compromised, kids tend to get sick more often and have a hard time bouncing back.
The gut affects our mental wellbeing
Studies show neurological function and mental wellness is influenced by the gut microbiome. In other words, we need healthy gut bacteria if we want to think clearly, feel happy and experience optimal mental well being.
What can harm the gut?
There are a number of things that can affect your gut and the way you are feeling. By looking at your lifestyle choices and making changes you can work towards having a healthier gut.
While antibiotics are sometimes necessary, the overuse of antibiotics can harm your health. Not only the oral antibiotics, but also the use of antibacterial soaps, wipes, and sprays. Antibiotics kill both the bad and good bacteria.
Chlorinated Drinking water
A necessary evil, use a good filtration system both for drinking water and bath/shower. A whole house filter is the best option but separate filters on taps/showers etc are another work around.
Eating a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates hinders your ability to populate your healthy gut flora. Eat a diet rich in organic veggies, quality ethically source pastured meat and eggs, nuts, seeds, and fruit.
Especially anti-acids and pain/fever reducers. There are plenty of lifestyle changes and natural alternatives that are much more effective with less side effects.
Refined sugar and processed foods
These foods promote the growth of bad bacteria in the gut and hinder the growth of beneficial bacteria. Ditch the refined sugar and processed packet foods and opt for real food.
Pesticides, herbicides, glyphosate, and environmental chemicals can negatively shift the microbiome. Choosing organic or spray free produce, low tox skin care and beauty is a great start to reducing your family’s toxic load.
The gut-brain axis is a two way street. Short term stress can cause temporary issues like sudden diarrhea. But long term stress can lead to leaky gut and can disrupt/prevent healing. Look in to ways to help keep you stress down like exercising, yoga, connection, nature, meditation and laughter. Your gut and brain will thank you for it.
What are the signs of a gut imbalance?
There are a number of ways you can determine if your gut health is off or if there is an imbalance. A few common symptoms include
- Eczema, rashes or other skin issues
- Congestion, mucus, and reoccurring earaches
- Constipation, diarrhoea, gas, bloating and stomach aches
- Multiple food sensitivities or intolerance’s
- Mood imbalance
- Brain fog, ADD, and ADHD
- Chronic fatigue and brain fog
How can prebiotics help?
Prebiotics are a great way to help shift the bad gut health and help you to feel better. Foods that include prebiotics include:
- Coconut meat or flour
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Quinoa, berries
- Green bananas
- Sweet potato
- Oats (GF and organic)
- Raw honey *kids over 2 years old
- Real dark chocolate (thank god for this one!)
Whats foods can I find probiotics in?
Cultured foods for gut health
Sauerkraut, kimchi, cultured root veggies, traditional pickles, fermented relish, preserved carrots, preserved lemons, other fermented vegetables, and unpasteurized miso support healthy gut function. Purchase only homemade or real cultured foods from the refrigerator section of your store.
Sugar-free yogurt or kefir are excellent choices – look in to the GAPS diet and how they ferment dairy.
Cashew, almond or coconut yogurt if there is a great alternative to dairy options.
gut health Drinks
How can I incorporate probiotic foods & drinks?
There isn’t an established guideline for how many probiotic foods to consume daily. It’s commonly suggested that you keep your probiotic intake under 20 billion CFUs daily. This includes any probiotic supplements, foods, and drinks. The probiotic content in cultured foods varies greatly. For reference, 1 cup of cultured vegetables such as sauerkraut has approx. 3 billion CFUs (colony forming units).
- The key is to start small: 1-3 tsp. of cultured vegetables with a meal or 30ml. of your favourite probiotic liquid is a good place to start for kids.
- Don’t be surprised by die off: As the bad guys (candida, pathogenic bacteria and parasites) die and leave the body they produce toxins. These toxins may cause minor symptoms such as digestive pain, gas, bloating, headaches, flu-like symptoms and skin eruptions.
- As your body gets used to fermented foods and drinks, you can start to add 1 additional serving at a time.
How can I get my kids eating gut friendly foods?
- Berries! Kids love berries. Purchase a variety of colored berries.
- Switch out store bought stocks for bone broth in your soups, stews and casseroles
- Make overnight GF oats: Don’t always cook your oats. Make your kids overnight oats.
- Make homemade green banana and strawberry ice cream. Blend 2 green bananas, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, 1 tablespoon of 100% pure maple syrup and ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Power up your kid’s smoothies. Add flax, chia or hemp seeds, green powders or veggies.
- Serve 1 tsp. of cultured veggies or yogurt with meals: Kids like the sour taste so give cultured veggies a try! You can also serve low-sugar yogurt with real cultures or add a probiotic powder to your child’s juice or smoothies.
- Toss a few dandelion greens in with your child’s salad.
What does Healthy poop look like?
You can tell a lot about your diet, your health and how your gut health is by looking at your poop – I know, not the nicest thing.
Your child’s poop can give you massive insight into the state of their digestion and overall health. I suggest you compare your child’s poop to the Bristol Stool Chart. Frequency is also super important! They need to be going every day.
The Bristol Stool Chart was created in the United Kingdom by a group of
gastroenterologists at the University of Bristol.
What should I do if my child is constipated?
- Boost your child’s water intake
- Increase dietary fiber with foods such as butternut pumkin, pears, and flaxseeds
- Limit sugar and processed foods
- Encourage physical activity (this is key)
- Keep the gut microbiome in check with a high-quality probiotic (gut dysbiosis is a leading cause of constipation) you can check out this blog about best probiotics for kids here.
- Make your child fresh pear, apple and carrot juice
- Consider a chewable food enzyme
- Ask your practitioner about magnesium before bedtime
What should I do if my child has loose stools?
- Could it be parasites? Talk to your practitioner about worming or a stool test.
- Include a high-quality probiotic
- Consider a chewable digestive enzyme
- Increase dietary fiber
- Limit sugar and processed foods
- Identify food intolerances
- Ask your doctor about gut infections
- Assess your child’s stress levels
How do I choose a probiotic?
Here’s the truth, with probiotics, you get what you pay for! You will see many low-cost options on the shelves of your local grocery and drug stores. Still, they are often not prepared or sourced properly, too low dose, the wrong strains, or have added fillers (even wheat, milk and soy!).
Here are the species with research to back up their efficacy:
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus: Best option for immune, allergies, and asthma.
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus: This is one you are likely familiar with. This strain is often the go=to for belly issues.
- Saccharomyces Bouldardii: Many naturopaths recommend this species after antibiotic use. In research it has shown to restore and build the gut microbiota.
- Slide 18: My Favorite Probiotic Supplements
- Seeking Health ProBiota Infant Powder
- Douglas Labs Multi-Probiotic Kids Powder
- Progressive Labs
- Probiotic Chewable for Kids
- Nordic Naturals Nordic Probiotic
- Metagenics MetaKids Probiotic
- Klaire Labs Saccharomyces Bouldardii Powder
For more targeted probiotic treatment refer to this blog but always consult your practitioner.
Your Gut health – now is the time!
- Start a Food, Mood and Poop Journal.
- Start adding in healing foods like meat stocks and bone broth, slow cooked meat and vegetables, gelatin gummies and more!
- Begin adding gut healthy foods to your family’s diet.
- Ask your practitioner about adding a probiotic to your child’s diet.
Gut health. What is it and why is it important? I hope I have been able to help you understand your gut health and learn a bit more about it. With a few little changes to your diet and lifestyle you can be feeling better in no time.
For some yummy gut friendly recipes, download this free e-book with broths, soups and other healing recipes.