Welcome to Part 4 of the blog post series How to Build Your Child’s Gut Flora: My Top 8 Tips. This is the final post of this series. If you missed Part 1 , Part 2 , and Part 3 be sure to check them out!
In this series I am discussing the human microbiota and the incredible role it plays in your overall health and vitality. (See my article Why Is Gut Health So Important ?) Our body contains over 100 trillion microbial cells and a similar number of viruses. We are mostly comprised of bacterial cells. (1) They impact how we look, think, feel, and the condition of our immune system. The key is that we want the beneficial bacteria to rule and outnumber the pathogenic bacteria. This keeps our immune system strong and enables our body to be healthy and fight disease.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we give our children the building blocks to help foster and build healthy gut flora. This can be accomplished through a healthy diet and lifestyle.As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children how to eat in a way that fuels their body for a healthy life and successful future. In this post, I want to give you tips 6, 7, and 8 to help build your child’s gut bacteria.
Tip 6. Avoid Processed Sugar and Eat Healthy Treats in Moderation
This is an obvious tip. Yet, it’s very easy to get lax with the amount of sugar our children consume as it’s in EVERYTHING! Especially when it come’s to kid foods. From drinking juice boxes to snacking on processed foods and treats to using every-day condiments like catsup, our world is truly inundated with sugar.
To clarify, I am not shunning sugar completely as our body needs a healthy amount of whole food sugars that in come in the form of fruit and carbohydrates. I AM dissing processed sugar, however. It truly is death for your child’s health and beneficial gut flora as it feeds bad bacteria and pathogens, thus weakening the immune system. (2)
By processed sugar, I mean white refined sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, Agave nectar, cane sugars etc. etc. Fructose in whole food form found in fruit and dates is a much healthier option for a sweet treat. As are some of my other favorite sweeteners such as Organic Honey Raw, Stevia, and Coconut Sugar (though coconut sugar isn’t as healthy for you as raw honey or dates). Although we aren’t big fans, dates are also a great whole food sweetener if you like the flavor. (Please note: Children under one years old should NOT have raw honey.)
Even with healthier treats, it’s all about moderation. The general rule in our house to keep treats and fun snacks for weekends. I will often make a batch of brownies or cookies and then freeze whatever we don’t eat to save for another weekend. Of course, life happens and sometimes we all crave a treat mid-week. You gotta be flexible because who likes a bunch of rules? 🙁 Anyhoo, you have figure out what works best for you and your kids.
Tip 7. Use antibiotics, prescriptive medication and over-the-counter medication only as a last resort to treating an illness.
We live in a world where antibiotics and prescription drugs are passed out like candy for any and every health malady that exists. This began in the 50 and 60s and is now widely accepted as normal.
The problem with this is:
- We are too often prescribed medication for an illness that would best be handled by our body’s own innate ability to fight and heal on it’s own.
- We are not told to supplement with probiotics during and after the course of antibiotics is finished to help restore our gut flora.
I personally under went many rounds of amoxicillin during my childhood and teens. This is not to mention all the over-the-counter drugs I took at random such as ibuprofen, NyQuil, aspirin and prescriptive acne medications.
Why is this a problem? Upon taking a course of antibiotics, you not only wipe out the pathogenic bacteria but also the beneficial gut bacteria in your gut wall(5). This is devastating for your health (3) (4). There are antibiotic side effects regardless of what the doctor tells you.
Should you completely avoid giving your child antibiotics altogether? Absolutely not. Antibiotics are helpful and often necessary in certain cases. However, it is important to avoid giving your child antibiotics when possible. Only use them as a last resort as they wipe out much of their good gut bacteria.
In that special case when your child does have to take an antibiotic you absolutely MUST give them a Probiotic Supplement along with it. I would recommend continuing the Probiotic for a good month or two after the antibiotic prescription ended.
Tip 8. Let Your Kids Play In The Dirt!
That’s right! We work so hard to keep them out of the dirt, especially boys, but science is showing that playing in the dirt is actually beneficial for building a wide variety of good gut bacteria.
By playing in the dirt, your children get exposed to soil-based probiotics which are highly beneficial to the health of their microbiota. To piggy-back this cool discovery, it is also advantageous to buy local organic produce and leave some of the soil on your veggies. I know! Crazy! Eating dirt isn’t that dangerous after all!
There is SO much to say about this exciting topic! To learn more, check out these two fascinating books Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World and The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil for more information.
That’s all, folks! Go out and play in some dirt!
Thanks for reading!
5.Madden, Jennifer AJ, et al. “Effect of probiotics on preventing disruption of the intestinal microflora following antibiotic therapy: a double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study.” International immunopharmacology 5.6 (2005): 1091-1097.