It is said that true wellness begins before birth. But hey now, don’t panic if your kid is subsisting on chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. There are ways to foster your child’s gut health without taking away their faves.
You see, it’s never too early (or late!) to start laying the foundation for your child’s gut health. But we’re here to tell you that it’s not as hard as you might imagine. Seriously!
Small dietary, lifestyle, and mindfulness tweaks can add up and carry your child into healthy adulthood. We know that parenting is more challenging than ever but believe us … you’ve got this!
Focus on Fiber
Dietitians say that fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system and to reduce the odds of constipation. So, how about adding some fruits, veggies, or whole grains to that next kid-pleasing entrée? Experts say kids need about 25 grams daily. Kid-friendly high-fiber foods include apples and pears (organic with the peel on please!), beans, high-fiber cereal and bread, and all kinds of berries (kids gobble ‘em up like candy).
Sometimes we get so focused on fiber that we forget the other essential component your child needs: plenty of fluids. Beth Pinkos, MS, RD, LDN, a dietitian at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, says when you get plenty of fiber and not enough fluid, “it’s like putting superglue in your gut; it just makes matters worse. “So you need to make sure that your child is drinking plenty of water during the day,” Pinkos adds.
The third building block of digestion is surely physical exercise. It just makes sense that something good for their heart, lungs, and brain would also be good for their guts. Exercise keeps things moving along, helping to digest food better. When they’re out being active and living their best kid lives, it’s important to make sure they stick to a regular toilet schedule, especially if they’re younger. Holding in urine and waste can lead to problems.
Avoid Nonessential Antibiotics
When your kid is hurting, ya want them feeling better ASAP, right? Yes, that bottle of bubble gum-tasting antibiotic can zap a raging ear infection or strep throat. But it can also kill off beneficial gut bacteria, too. Try to use these drugs only when necessary. Remember, they are not for viral infections like colds, flu, and many ear and sinus infections. Always discuss the options with your healthcare provider.
Add Beneficial Bacteria
Think fermented foods are off limits for children’s picky tastebuds? Not necessarily. Active bacteria cultures are found in yogurt, aged cheese, and more. And according to Stanford Medicine, if your child is lactose intolerant, they may still be able to enjoy calcium-rich yogurt without discomfort. That’s because the beneficial bacteria in yogurt break down some lactose.
Your child’s mental health is undeniably linked to gut health. Kids can get stressed out, which can lead to digestive health issues. If you suspect they are experiencing more stress than usual, talk to them about it and come up with a game plan to help alleviate it. Maybe it’s talking through a tricky social situation or carving out space for quiet and relaxation. There are tons of online resources out there to help them (and you!) manage. Stress management is a life skill that we all need to embrace, after all.
Whether it’s digestive health or mental health, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. If they often complain of tummy troubles, dig deeper to find out what else is going on with their diet or mental state. In the end, you want them to be proactive and invested in their own health (yet another life skill). If they don’t want to share the details of their woes with you, it may be time to visit a trusted healthcare professional.
Alrighty, dear parents, we know this is a lot to digest (pun intended) but try not to feel overwhelmed. Take it one step at a time. Plus, chances are all these tips will serve you well in the gut health department.
Need some healthy inspo? Head to our blog page for some delicious gut friendly recipes that you and your kids will love.