A healthy gut is a key player in overall health.
Children need to cultivate a healthy gut because a balanced gut microbiome boosts the immune system and decreases the risk of developing gut-related allergies, like skin-itchy eczema.
But if you’re like many parents, you may wonder what you can do to improve your kid’s good gut bacteria.
Here are 7 ways you can help support your child’s gut health.
1. Eat More Fiber
Increasing your child’s fiber intake is one way to improve their gut health.
Think fruits and vegetables and seeds.
Fiber feeds colon cells in the intestines. These cells absorb food and its nutrients during digestion, which gives us energy and protects us from infections.
Help your child eat plenty of fiber by offering fiber-rich foods at every meal.
For example, try serving oatmeal at breakfast, refried beans as a dip for veggie straws at lunch, and lots of peas, broccoli, and carrots mixed into dinner’s stir fry.
2. Fill Up On Fermented Foods
Another great way to boost your child’s gut health is to add fermented foods (dairy and non-dairy) like yogurt, kefir, and cheese to their diet.
Fermented foods help the gut diversify its good gut bacteria, which ramps up protection against harmful bacteria from thriving.
In addition, some fermented foods have probiotics in or added to them. Probiotics also stimulate the growth of good gut bacteria.
Fun fermented foods you can feed your kids include:
- miso soup
- sauerkraut on hotdogs
- kimchi powder sprinkled over salad, pasta, popcorn, pizza, and chips
3. Turn On The Teapot
Tea is often an under-tapped resource for cultivating a healthy microbiome and digestive system. But if your child loves tea (or trying something new!), give herbal, caffeine-free tea a shot. Herbal teas are safe for children ages 2 and up.
Moreover, teas are excellent replacements for sugary sodas and juices as they contain virtually no sugar. However, too much sugar leads to an imbalanced gut microbiome, so steer clear of them.
Try these teas with your child:
- Chamomile: Calming and great before bed
- Dandelion: Supports the kidneys and bladder and improves appetite (a great time to try fiber foods!)
- Peppermint: Soothes the stomach and eases a stuffy nose
- Green tea: Anti-inflammatory properties discourage the growth of bad gut bacteria
4. Pass On Processed Foods
Or at least try to cut back on processed foods.
Processed foods aren’t filled with all the gut-boosting nutrients fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have. Instead, they usually have lackluster amounts of protein, good fats, and fiber. They also are high in unhealthy fats, salt, and refined carbohydrates.
Ultimately, processed foods create destructive, harmful bacteria, which weakens the immune system.
Don’t beat yourself up for last night’s run through McDonald’s, but try to stick to wholesome, unprocessed foods as much as possible.
5. Get More Sleep
Yep, your child’s late bedtime or early-rise schedule can wreak havoc on their gut health.
Less sleep equals more stress on the body, which means the body must do more to keep up and regulate itself.
Unfortunately, the more your body has to work to keep up, the more it’ll be under stress and susceptible to harmful bacteria.
See where you can adjust your child’s sleep routine to include a few more hours of sleep so their body wakes up refreshed and unstressed.
6. Practice Mindfulness
Another way to improve gut health in children is to practice mindfulness.
In short, mindfulness is when you are calm and present with your mind and body.
Just like it’s bad for the body to be continually stressed or only fed on a high-processed diet, being unmindful can also contribute to a poor gut microbiome.
Stress leads to inflammation, which contributes to poor gut health.
You can teach your child to be mindful by modeling it for them and being mindful with them.
- Taking time to stop, be still, and notice the sensations around you
- Tuning in to how your skin and muscles feel when you stretch and move
- Connecting with your breath
7. Exercise, Especially In Nature
Exercise has a powerfully positive effect on your child’s overall gut health.
For one, all that moving provides more blood flow to the muscles in the digestive system, making it easier for your child’s gut to absorb nutrients and process waste.
Furthermore, regular exercise boosts happiness, reduces stress, and makes it easier to hit the hay and give your body rest.
If your child prefers the couch to the court, incorporate movement breaks by playing a quick game of hide and seek or ball toss.
Take up family yoga. Have a dance off!
And if you can, head outside. Dirt is filled with healthy microbes that can diversify and nourish the gut. Try gardening or walking a neighbor’s dog.
Gut health is so important in children.
Remember to support your child in eating a healthy diet full of fiber and fermented foods.
In addition, they should get enough sleep, practice being mindful, and exercise regularly to reduce stress.
What other ways do you boost your child’s gut health? Share in the comments below!
Kris McCormick is a boy mama, wife, and blogger. Since becoming a mom six years ago, she’s been researching the best advice, resources, and baby gear from small businesses to make pregnancy and child-raising easier for all parents.