Gut Health 101 – How to Keep your Child’s Microbiome Healthy
Our guts are made of trillions of microorganisms. This is called “the microbiome”. Our microbiome is like a fingerprint because each person’s is unique. It starts to develop in early pregnancy and continues to be shaped throughout childhood. It’s still affected by external forces into adulthood but to a lesser degree. Because of this, it’s important to focus on protecting and nurturing infants, toddlers, and children’s microbiomes.
Why Does the “microbiome” Matter?
A healthy microbiome supports our physical and mental health in many ways including, but not limited to:
- Prevention of heart disease and diabetes
- Increased ability to fight off illnesses and infections
- Improved mood, behaviour, and ability to focus and learn
How Does the Microbiome Develop?
Your microbiome can be influenced by many factors, including your mother’s microbiome during pregnancy, mode of delivery, early feeding practices, geographical location, antibiotic exposure, diet quality, medication use, genetics, and social stressors. For the first few years of life, a child’s microbiome is highly susceptible to various environmental factors. Even chronic stress and anxiety have been linked to a compromised gut flora!
How Can I Support My Child’s Microbiome?
A well-balanced and diverse gut microbiome is a healthy gut microbiome. Here are some tips to support the health of your child’s microbiome:
- When possible, breastfeed your child for at least 6 months, and ideally up to 2 years. Breast Milk contains prebiotics, antibodies, oligosaccharides, and beneficial bacteria that support an ideal microbiome and add to the diversity of your child’s gut flora.
- Focus on complex carbohydrate food sources, such as whole grain toast and colourful fruits and veggies. Diet quality, especially in the first few years of life when the microbiome changes rapidly, can affect the microbiome significantly. A higher fibre and complex carbohydrate diet with plant-based foods has been shown to improve gut health as it provides the microbiome with essential nutrients to thrive.
- Include probiotic foods daily. Probiotics are live, beneficial microorganisms available in a variety of fermented foods and Welo Probiotic Bars. Try adding yogurt, kefir, and Welo bars to your child’s meals or snacks to keep their bodies and gut flora nourished well!
- Incorporate prebiotic-rich food sources into your child’s meals. Prebiotics are components of food, such as fructo-oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides, and inulin, that pass through our digestive tract undigested and provide nourishment to the good gut bacteria. Bananas, berries, oatmeal, and ground flax seed are great sources of prebiotics.
5 Examples of Plant-Based Snacks to Help you Reach These Goals:
- Yogurt parfait – coconut milk yogurt layered with berries and a crumbled mixed berry Welo bar (Bonus – top with flax or chia for some added fiber + omega 3’s!)
- Carrot cake energy balls – an easy, healthy and kid-approved take on carrot cake (Bonus – with only two simple steps, these are the perfect treat to make with your littles!)
- Give their lunches a boost – try adding berries, wholegrain crackers with seeds, or a Welo probiotic bar (Bonus – Welo’s double chocolate bar tastes like dessert and has only 3 grams of sugar!)
- “Out of this world” Oatmeal pancakes – packed with fiber and no artificial sweeteners, these will give their microbiomes’ a boost without the sugar high (Bonus – get creative with your toppings for some added fun! )
- Apple slice ‘cookies’ – Apples topped with natural peanut butter and a crumbled apple cinnamon Welo bar (Bonus – use a mini cookie cutter for fun, kid-friendly shapes!)
About the author, Noelle Martin RD (@motherhoodandmeals)
Noelle is not only Welo’s Registered Dietitian, but is also a kids cookbook author, mom of three, and an expert at taking the guesswork out of feeding kids and meal planning (she has over 15 years’ experience!).
Welo stands for “We Love” and their philosophy is to 1. Create super awesome products that 2. Do super good things for your body and 3. Make a super big difference world wide.
Welo is passionate about promoting good health around the world.That’s why they’ve partnered with the Creation of Hope initiative to bring real, lasting change to Kenya by providing infrastructural solutions of water for communities!