If you’ve got kids in your life, you’ll understand the struggle of finding things they love to eat. And getting them to try new things can take “treat-based” negotiations that we don’t always want to fall back on or have time for.
Because so much of our gut health is determined by the variety and quality of the food we eat, it is important that we become culinary creatives to ensure the little people in our lives eat the diversity of wholefoods they need to have a healthy gut. This is particularly true if they have had a course of antibiotics, have known food sensitivities, are sugar fiends or are too little to supplement their diet with nutritional support.
Whilst our gut plays a key role in every aspect of our wellbeing, during the winter season our gut health becomes more important due to its crucial role in our immunity. When we support our gut, we build our immune system and keep it primed for action. This is particularly important for children since they’re such social creatures, their constant exposure to germs, and their more relaxed approach to personal hygiene than most adults!
Read on to learn more about how to nurture and rebuild the gut health of babies, toddlers, children, and teens. The good news is that it’s easy and won’t take too much time at all.
How To Strengthen Gut Health in Babies, Children, and Teenagers
There are numerous ways we can help boost the immunity and gut health of our infants and children. We promise, it won’t be hard to get them involved. We’re here to make good habits and good health second nature and hopefully simplify things for us all.
Gut health in babies
Did you know that babies are born with a mostly sterile gut? This means the gut health of a baby is directly determined by the microbiome of its mother. All babies that are born via a vaginal birth start to build their gut microbes at birth - as they travel through the birth canal and get exposed to the microbes that live there.
An infant’s microbiome is heavily influenced by its mode of birth. What’s really interesting is that vaginal births lead to greater populations of good Lactobacillus species, while C-section births lead to greater populations of skin microbes in the digestive tract.
Following birth, the influence of diet, medications, and environment play a huge role in how our gut health develops. For example, breast-fed infants tend to have different microbial communities in their gut to formula-fed infants. Breast milk contains its own microbial population, as well as specific types of prebiotics that feed our good gut bacteria. Probiotics are added to formulas for this same reason.
Once an infant has discontinued breastfeeding, and has begun consuming a diverse range of solid foods, their microbiome becomes more similar to an adult. Typically this shift occurs between the ages of 2 to 3 years. These first 2 years of life when a child’s gut microbiome is developing are considered very important, as the early gut microbiome is essential for immunity and the development of a healthy gut.
Therefore, nurturing the microbiome of mothers pre, during and post pregnancy is essential to setting up an unborn baby with good gut health to enter into the world.
What to do:
Pregnant women can nurture their guts in the same way as when they’re not pregnant! As an added bonus, when you nurture your gut, you’re taking care of your upper and lower digestive tracts which can support a lot of pregnancy symptoms like constipation, bloating, and skin irritations. Win-win!
Support your microbiome and add in plenty of beneficial bacteria to support you and your baby’s gut flora with BePure Two probiotic in preparation for and during pregnancy. Key preconception and pregnancy nutrients such as iron, folate, B12 and K2 and more have all been bottled up in BePure Mum's One and BePure Three omega 3 to ease levels of inflammation in our body, support brain health and boost our immunity. We've combined all three products to make up our Pregnancy & Motherhood Pack.
Gut health in toddlers and kids
If the toddlers in your life are like the toddlers in ours, once they started eating (yay!) they developed unpredictable tastes (less yay). Leaving aside only wanting to eat from certain plates or being adamant about crusts on or off. What they’re willing to eat can change from one day to the next and having them try something totally new is akin to going to war.
Variety is a gift to the gut but if, like lots of kids, they like consistency and beige foods, we need to get creative. This becomes more important if they have allergies, sensitivities or have had a course of antibiotics - which kill not just the ‘bad’ bacteria in our gut but the good guys too.
What to do:
Mix it up: We know this can be tricky but getting in a wide variety of whole foods can be made easier when blended into a smoothie, mash or soup. Some great ingredients to include are cooked and cooled root veggies, legumes, seeds, nuts, and oats. If you’re worried about waste, the freezer is your friend. That way things that kids turn their noses up at might be just what they want next week.
- Include probiotic-rich foods: Who doesn’t love yoghurt?! Yoghurt can be pitched as a dessert and is loaded with probiotics - especially if there’s some frozen berries blended in which makes for an ice cream-like texture. Opt for the low sugar options and use fresh fruit or cacao to sweeten them up. Kefir is another great option for kids and even comes in drink form which holds a lot of appeal for kids who love individual portions of anything.
Rebuild after antibiotics. To avoid undoing all the hard work we do in building up our microbiome by taking antibiotics (which are important and necessary for bacterial infections) giving kids a kid-friendly probiotic and ensuring they’re eating a of gut-happy foods at the same time and for at least four weeks after, will make sure their guts are in the best position to grow back their microbiome. While on the course of antibiotics, try to give this to them the probiotic about two hours after taking the medicine.
- Play! When we spend more time in nature and playing with pets, we are exposed to more microbes. Natural environments are great for our gut and add the variety that we struggle to get from home/ kindy/ play centres. This is a great time to visit relatives who live on a farm.
Gut health in teens
Being a teen is the time when our hormones are surging and settling. You might wonder what this has to do with the gut but they’re more connected than you might think. Serotonin, for example, is reliant on a happy gut because the microbiome manufactures it. Is there any group of people more in need of a happy hormone than teens?
Thinking of other teen concerns: mood, weight, and libido, we can look specifically at the estrobolome.
The estrobolome is the collection of bacteria in the gut which metabolises the body’s oestrogen supply.
Present in both boys and girls, oestrogen directly affects these concerns and if we remember when we were teens, or if we have teens in our life, the idea we have any control over these is a welcome one.
Finally, there’s acne. As you will have seen above a lot of skin concerns are forms of inflammation and are linked to the health of our gut. A healthy gut = happy skin.
What to do:
Having a strong gut lining is essential at all ages but given the teenage fondness for ‘junk’ food and refined carbs, it’s extra important to safeguard against leaky gut. This occurs when the junctions of our gut lining weaken and begin to permit proteins, toxins and food particles into our bloodstream. This often results in increased inflammation which can be expressed as skin irritation or inflammation.
Fostering a healthy microbiome - having a lot of beneficial bacteria in our gut - means we can better absorb nutrients from our food which, in turn, feed the neurotransmitters that create not just our happy hormones but also those that foster deep sleep and cognitive clarity.
- A varied diet with gut-strengthening ingredients. This includes:
- Bone broth (great as a base for soup)
- Collagen (can be stirred into smoothies, juice, or water)
- Not too many processed foods like white bread, chocolate, ice cream and added sugars
All of these can be found in the Everyday Wellness Pack and, with the exception of fish oil, can be opened and mixed into smoothies for the capsule-adverse.
So, what next?
Taking care of your gut (and boosting our immunity in the process) doesn’t need to be another task added to the workload. Instead, we like to make sure that the things we’re already doing, we’re doing differently to ensure they are helping us in small but significant ways without even trying.
The easiest way to do this is to:
- Make sure the meals we eat are varied, made from whole foods, and freezer-friendly!
- Get into the habit of taking daily nutritional support - this action will steal less than one minute of your life each day.
- Encourage play time outside and lots of time spent loving our pets (or the pets of friends and family)
- Do some meal prep: making bone broth and freezing cups of it separately means rich and tasty soups that do wonder for our guts.