probiotics: how to tell if you or your child has a healthy gut?
Illness, infection, allergies and GI issues in kids are common topics among moms. Occasional illness and stomach upset is normal, but when it seems like it's more than occasional, one wonders if there's a reason her child seems to get sick so often. Whether you're dealing with another ear infection, constipation or the common cold, we all want to do something to help make our kids healthier and happier. Many researchers and health practitioners believe there is a way to make us healthier and happier and it starts in our gut! Here's a breakdown of how to tell if your child has a healthy gut and what you can do to get it or keep it healthy!
How to tell if your child's gut might be out of balance:
If your child is experiencing any of the below, you might consider if the bacteria in your child's gut could be part of the reason:
* poor immune function
* GI issues such as constipation or chronic gas
* food and/or environmental allergies and sensitivities
* ADHD, autism, aggression, anxiety, depression etc. The 'feel good' hormone serotonin is also produced in our gut and research suggests a gut-brain connection where a healthy, balanced gut makes for a happier more stable person. Check out this article for a further explanation...
How does this bacteria get in our gut in the first place and how might it get out of balance:
*A baby's gut is colonized at birth while traveling through the birth canal and immediately after that via skin to skin contact and the milk she drinks. This is one of the reasons it's so important for a pregnant woman to focus on achieving and maintaining healthy gut flora (aka bacteria balance) and partly why breastfeeding is touted for it's immune boosting benefits.
* If I child is born via c-section, the people she is around and the milk she is given expose her to the bacteria that will colonize her gut. Obviously most women don't opt for a c-section and breastfeeding isn't for everyone so don't stress about things you can't control - you're child certainly isn't doomed.
*Consider what you can do to promote healthy colonization for your newborn. Talk with your doctor or midwife and consider a probiotic supplement for your infant.
* In older babies and children (and even adults) the food and medicine (namely antibiotics) they are given plays an important role in keeping the gut healthy:
-Processed foods and sugar in particular feed bad bacteria.
-Antibiotics and antibacterial soaps kill both the good and the bad bacteria.
-Meats and milk from animals given antibiotics introduce harmful bacteria to our guts.
-Stress and chlorinated water can disrupt the healthy balance of bacteria in our guts.
How to fix it:
1. Diet: fermented foods and drinks like yogurt, kefir, lassi, fermented vegetables made by lacto-fermentation like these Bubbies pickles are important additions to all diets. If dairy is a concern, consider coconut yogurt or kefir or sheep or goats milk which is easier to digest. Make sure your yogurt or kefir contains "live active cultures" and watch the sugar content. I like to dilute the toddler organic fruit/veggie yogurt and kefir with plain whole milk greek yogurt or kefir to cut down on sugar.
2. Probiotic supplements: Most children won't need a probiotic supplement daily if they're eating yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables (fermented vegetables are so common in other cultures and were staples in previous generations but not as much in todays culture) etc. regularly but I would recommend giving a probiotic once or twice a week or more if they've been sick, have been on a sugar/processed food binge, if you're traveling, if they have an upset stomach (constipation or diarrhea), and especially if they're taking or have recently taken antibiotics.
- Look for a brand that contains lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria infants
- Garden of Life is a great brand, but there are plenty others out there that are also great. If the potency and effectiveness is supported by clinic trials, even better.
-For older children, you can open your own probiotic capsule and sprinkle the powder in their food or drink. This is especially helpful if you find you're being charged much more for a children's product.
- As with anything, the dose depends on the child, her diet, if she's been sick, the supplement etc.
- Check to see if the probiotic should be refrigerated and maybe try taking a few yourself just to see if it seems to work or make you feel any different.
3. Switch to antibiotic free meats and dairy: the antibiotics in meat get into our systems and can alter our gut flora and possibly contribute to obesity.
Do you take a probiotic or give one to your family? I would love to hear which you take and what your experience has been or any additional thoughts on the matter. Facebook comments always welcome! And please excuse the less than appetizing picture of my sweet, insatiable youngest....this is his every morning look :)