We know that ‘good bacteria’ is important for maintaining a healthy digestive system but there can be much wider benefits too. As well as helping allergies, eczema, and the immune system clinical trials have now suggested links between a child’s microbiome and toddler behaviour as well as autism spectrum disorders. Microbiome is a community (biome) of microorganisms that, in this instance, exist in the gut and are crucial to digestion and general wellbeing. Today on the blog, certified Paediatric Nutritionist Mandy Sacher, our Kids Health Expert, shares the best ways to boost gut health for the whole family.
Digestive health is so important for all the family that it is well worth making some changes to look after your guts’ microbiomes, and not all of them are diet related. It’s good to know that your child grubbing around in the mud and playing with animals is actually healthy, and even better that too much cleaning can actually be bad – antibacterial wipes and disinfectants kill the good bacteria needed to promote a healthy immune system and gut. Simple steps like eating fermented foods along with basic diet improvements can really help gut flora so it’s an easy win for everyone’s health.
Top 5 probiotic-rich foods
- Probiotic Yoghurt: ‘Live’, ‘cultured’ yogurt is a great source of probiotics but all yoghurts are not created equal – look out for organic and grass fed to maximise the health benefit.
- Kefir, coconut or dairy: Though very similar to yoghurt, kefir is made with yeast and packed with even more probiotics. More tart than yogurt it might need sweetening with fresh fruit for younger children…the name means ‘good feeling’ so it should be worth it.
- Fermented veggies (kimchi, sauerkraut): Fermented veggies are an excellent addition because they help create the right environment for the growth of good bacteria to thrive through their organic acids and enzymes. Try our fermented carrot recipe.
- Natto: This traditional Japanese dish of fermented soy-beans is an acquired taste but super healthy with protein, fibre, vitamins and the probiotic bacillus subtilis, which is also present in soil.
- Kombucha: Made with a SCOBY or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast this fermented tea is lauded for its health benefits – especially digestive health and liver detoxification among many others but it is not recommended during pregnancy, breast feeding or for those with a suppressed immune system as it is hard to keep germ free.
Building blocks of gut health:
- Even before giving birth, pregnant mothers can do ground work by improving their own diet with natural probiotics and perhaps taking a probiotic supplement.
- Breastfeed if you can, it is good for your baby’s gut flora. This is especially important for those infants born by caesarean section as their gut flora is different so talk to your doctor about taking a high dose probiotic while breast feeding, or if you are using formula look for one with prebiotics and probiotics.
- Serve loads of vegetables, a good source of prebiotic fibre that helps good bacteria thrive. Aim for your children to have veggie snacks as well as including vegetables in meals. You’ll find practical tips for encouraging your children to eat more vegetables in Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook and on our Website.
- Ditch the disinfectant and embrace the mud pies. Children need to be exposed to good bacteria so mud, dogs and plain soap (NOT antibacterial) with water are all good.
- Avoid unnecessary antibiotics. Talk to your GP about the importance of protecting your child’s gut flora and ensure they only prescribe antibiotics when necessary. If your child, or any member of your family, is put onto a course of antibiotics they should follow up with a high strength multi-strain probiotic for a month afterwards. Look for multi-strain brands, that contain bifidocbacterium and lactobacillus for kids.
- Keep junk food and unhealthy sweets to a minimum, they are the opposite of prebiotics as they help create a hostile environment for good bacteria. This will have a negative impact on the microbiome and so your child’s digestion and wider health.
Setting out to support your family’s health through maintaining the health of their microbiome is a really achievable goal. Start by saving money in the supermarket and leaving antibacterial wipes on the shelf, then take a look at your family’s diet. Even small changes can make a big difference.
Looking for more gut-friendly tips? Try my Cleanest Gut eBook!
Mandy Sacher is a certified Paediatric Nutritionist and Founder of Wholesome Child. Her clinical practice focuses on prenatal and childhood nutrition, helping parents and mums-to-be-feed their children healthy, nourishing foods right from the start.
She has appeared recently on Channel Ten’s Everyday Health and is currently writing her first book, The Wholesome Child Nutrition Guide and Recipe Book, which will be available to purchase mid-April. www.wholesomechild.com.au. All views expressed are Mandy’s own.