Not to put too fine a point on it, but kids are gross.
Don’t get us wrong: Kids are great. Obviously. But whether it’s traipsing through puddles at the park or snack time, it can seem like your kid is always getting involved in some kind of mess.
And we can’t help you with that.
But! One consequence of the constant, unrelenting messiness—coupled with a penchant for putting their hands in their mouths all the time—is that your kid gets sick a lot. All you need is to hear a cough or wipe a crusty nose to know the next week of your life will be all about battling a cold or the flu.
That’s okay. It’s part of having kids. Colds and flue are inevitable.
What we can help you with, however, is learning how to boost your kid’s immunity so that these bouts become a tad less frequent. The secret lies in their gut microbiome.
Fun Facts About Growing Kids And Growing Gut Bacteria
Your kid’s body is changing and growing and developing every day. This metamorphosis requires a lot of energy, which is generated by some amazing work on the part of your child’s gut, metabolism, and digestive system. For example:
- Since the gut is where we absorb the bulk of our nutrients, keeping your child’s gut as healthy as possible may help them absorb more nutrients from their food. Better nutrient absorption will set your child’s entire system up for success.
- We know our guts are hugely important for our immune systems. In fact, some 70% of our immune system is located in the gut. Investing in a strong gut for your kids can bolster their immune system and boost their chances of being protected against the next playground infection.
- The gut is responsible for helping remove waste from the body, a process that supports digestive health, liver function, and more. Boosting your child’s gut health will help keep them regular — which, more than just helping to avoid emergency bathroom situations — will keep them happier. (No one likes being constipated or dealing with diarrhea, whether you’re 9 months or 99 years old.)
Of course, all of this is what happens when your child’s digestive system is working well. Here’s the nitty-gritty on what’s happening when that isn’t so much the case.
What’s Happening When Your Child Isn’t Feeling Well
If your child’s digestive system is on the outs, you may be looking at a case of Dysbiosis, or Pediatric Microbiome Imbalance.
It sounds serious, but it’s really just an umbrella phrase covering all of the symptoms associated with gut microbiota that aren’t having a good time. When your child’s gut microbiota aren’t in balance — whether they have an overgrowth of inflammatory, bad bacteria or don’t have enough good, healthy bacteria — your child might experience the following symptoms:
- Abdominal cramps
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
- Constant gas
- Indigestion or slow digestion
- An upset stomach
- Difficulties maintaining a healthy weight
If your child is experiencing these types of issues, they’re probably not a happy camper. As their caregiver, this can also result in a lot of stress and frustration for you.
Before we get into ways you can help your child rebalance their microbiome, let’s talk about causes. What triggers an imbalanced gut in a child?
As it turns out, there can be many factors involved. These include:
- Preexisting or concomitant disorders (including Crohn’s disease, diabetes, celiac disease, fibromyalgia, and other chronic illnesses)
- Exposure to unhelpful bacteria at or just after birth, before the immune system kicks in
- The types of foods your child eats regularly
- Certain kinds of medications (e.g., antibiotics)
While some of these factors may be beyond your control, others — such as diet — may be easier to influence. We’ll talk about this in the next sections.
How To Have The Guts To Improve Your Kid’s Gut
Think you’re up to the task of transforming your child’s diet — and their digestive health?
It can feel like a lot. And it is: When you think about how often kids get sick from school infections, the types of snacks they get at extracurricular activities, the way unhealthy foods are marketed to children, trying to makeover your kid’s microbiome can feel Sisyphean.
Here are a few tips to make your life a little easier.
- Accept that imperfect progress is still progress. It might not be possible to wipe refined sugar entirely out of your child’s diet, but establishing natural alternatives and nutritious snacks as the norm will go a long way towards accomplishing your goals.
- Set a good example. Your child watches what you do. If you’re asking them to snack on carrots while munching cookies yourself, that’s going to come off as disingenuous. If, instead, you set a good example by eating the good stuff, your child will start to incorporate those values, too. (Over time, that is — you’re definitely playing the long game with this strategy!) As a bonus, when you eat better, you’ll have more energy to spend on your goals — one of which may be preparing delicious and nutritious food for your family.
- Expose your kid to interesting, delicious, and healthy food. All of us get tired of eating the same things day after day. As an adult, you may get a lot of joy and satisfaction from treating yourself to a varied diet. It’s important to do the same for your child, especially if you’re challenging them to eat healthily. Helping your child realize early in life that eating well isn’t necessarily boring will make a huge difference. Explore different types of fruits and veggies every week. (Has your kid ever tried dragonfruit? Have you? Is it grown by dragons? Discuss!)
- Take (a little!) extra time on the presentation. You may not be able to find time to cut fruit into flower shapes before giving them to your kids, but buying some colorful melamine dishes for veggies or serving up green smoothies in fun glasses can go a long way!
Easy, Fun, And Delicious Ways For Your Kid To Eat Gut-Friendly Foods
We know that getting children to eat well can be incredibly difficult. Kids can be stubborn. As get older, they need more and more food, and it often needs to be portable or easy to serve. All in all, preparing food for them can take a lot of time, let alone making sure they’re actually getting the nutrients they need.
Serving your children a range of colorful, gut-friendly food full of fiber and nutrients shouldn’t be difficult. To make it simple, we’ve created a brief list of what you should include and avoid for your kid’s best gut health :
FOODS TO INCORPORATE FOR YOUR KID’S BEST MICROBIOME
- Yogurt can help promote a good balance of bacteria in your child’s gut. Many types of yogurt, particularly those marketed to children, can be overly-sugary. Try making your own tasty version (perhaps by mixing in honey or fruit) instead.
- Water helps keep your child regular and hydrates their whole system for better health.
- Fruits and veggies are full of filling fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and other nutrients. It can be tough to get your kids to stomach vegetables, though. Offering them with fun dips, such as peanut butter or ranch dressing, may be a good way to introduce some of these foods.
FOODS YOU MAY WANT TO AVOID FOR YOUR CHILD’S MICROBIOME
- Any foods that contain dyes
- Foods that contain too much sugar or sodium
- Processed sauces like cheese dip and gravy
- Fried foods
- Sugary drinks (including sports drinks!)
Ready To Get Started? Try A Kid-Friendly Probiotic
The great thing about investing in your gut health is that you don’t need to wait until you’re an adult to get started. Whether you’re a younger person or researching gut solutions for a child in your care, consider a probiotic (we’ve even got yummy Melty Stix!) to jumpstart their journey toward better gut health!