Gut Health and Children
Gut Health and Children
Alice Laidlaw, Luxton Clinic
Our children are growing up in a world where supermarket shelves are bursting with processed food that is full of sugar, trans fats and ingredients that we can’t even pronounce! These foods are presented to us and our kids as ‘healthy’, with various selling points such as gluten free, sugar free, fat free… but what most of these foods are also free from is nutrient density that we can only really obtain from what we like to call ‘whole foods’.
As humans, we have the same nutritional requirements as our ancestors who ate foods in their complete and natural form. Processed foods that are primarily full of sugar and additives are causing an inflammatory response in our bodies and our kids’ bodies,having a detrimental effect on the health of the gastrointestinal system!
As families, we need to get back to basics and start teaching our kids the importance of eating foods that aren’t contained in a package and allow them to ‘taste’ and enjoy real and nourishing food. But why is this so important? Kids today are suffering more and more from allergies, food intolerances, impaired mental health such as ADHD, anxiety and depression, low energy, fatigue, skin conditions such as eczema, and poor immune health. At the core of all this is the gut. Processed food and our current lifestyle are disrupting the function of the gut and repairing the gut health of our kids may be the key to improving their overall wellbeing!
SO WHY IS A HEALTHY GUT IMPORTANT?
- Our gastrointestinal system is the CENTRE OF EVERYTHING. It is where we digest and absorb the nutrients we ingest. If this is functioning at its best, we effectively utilise all the nutrients we put into our body. This can improve brain function and energy levels.
- IMMUNITY– 70 per cent of our immune system surrounds our gastrointestinal tract. The healthy flora (or bacteria) in our digestive tract act as a first line of defence against pathogens that we may ingest and act as a barrier between our internal environment and external environment. Healthy microflora can also reduce the incidence of allergies with their immune-regulating action. Thus a healthy balance of ‘good’ bacteria is integral to the immune system.
- Healthy gut flora will ensure healthy regulation of GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue). The GALT system helps to regulate the immune system and without healthy gut flora, it will not operate at full capacity.
- A healthy gut will produce necessary ENZYMES to assist with the breakdown of our food and nutrients such as B vitamins.
- Gut microflora also play an important role in BEHAVIOURAL DISORDERS such as in children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Children with these behavioural disorders tend to have some form of gastrointestinal upset and it is thought that these symptoms may be caused by the disruption of healthy microflora in the gastrointestinal tract. This disruption can interfere with the central nervous system (CNS) and thus play a role in influencing behaviour.
- An imbalance in our microflora can cause INFLAMMATION and go on to have an influence on our nervous system, interrupting the production of important brain chemicals (neurotransmitters.) These brain chemicals play an important role in our children’s behaviours, moods, sleep patterns and energy.
- SKIN HEALTH is another area that gut health can play a role in. Reduced stomach acids, gut inflammation, gut permeability and an imbalance in good and bad gut microflora can contribute to the development of eczema and other skin conditions.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS THAT MIGHT INDICATE YOUR CHILD HAS A GUT IMBALANCE
- Bloated and firm stomach
- Complaining of sore stomach
- Nausea and low appetite
- Mood changes- grumpy, tired, hyperactivity, poor concentration
WHAT AN IMBALANCED GUT CAN LEAD TO?
- Skin conditions such as eczema
- Allergies and food intolerances
- Depression, anxiety and associated symptoms such as bedwetting
- Fatigue, low mood, learning difficulties, inability to concentrate and irritability
- IBS or problems with digestion- complaints of sore tummy, firm and bloated stomach or changeable stools eg. diarrhoea to constipation or straining
WHAT CAN CONTRIBUTE TO POOR GUT HEALTH IN CHILDREN?
- Poor diet (a diet high in sugar, processed foods and trans fats)
- Medications used such as asthma preventers, antibiotics, paracetamol and ibuprofen
- Stress and anxiety
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Gut infections
WHAT CAN WE DO TO IMPROVE THE GUT HEALTH OF OUR CHILDREN?
- EAT WHOLEFOODS – enjoy a wide variety of foods including meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, good fats and whole grains. A colourful diet is a nutritious diet.
- FIBRE –fibre will nourish our gastrointestinal tract and feed the healthy microflora. Fibre is also useful in reducing constipation. Try new recipes that incorporate whole foods to keep meal times interesting for your kids
- ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY SUGAR AND 'LIQUID'– one small juice box can contain up to seven teaspoons of sugar. Try smoothies instead. They are an easy way to obtain stacks of nutrition.
- SNACKS – try making healthy snacks that contain no refined sugar. We have some on our website that are delicious and the kids will love them.
- BE AWARE OF THE MESSAGES ON PACKAGING – companies use words such as vitamins, antioxidants and fibre to draw us in (they are extremely clever), but just be aware that if it’s in a packet, there is almost always a catch!
Alice's philosophy and the philosophy at Luxton Clinic is to revitalise and nourish for optimal wellness and this often starts with the gut. Alice Laidlaw specialises in Naturopathy for children, so if you think your child (or children) may be experiencing poor gut health and you need further advice and support, book an appointment with Alice, today!
Luxton Clinic are a part of the Nourish Melbourne Community. They offer Nourish Melbourne Members $30 off your initial consultation and 10% off follow up appointments, ongoing. Click here to find out more about our partnership, or click here to find out more about becoming a Nourish Melbourne Member.