With Autumn well under way and the children back at school, it’s time to think about our children’s health and how we can keep them away from the bugs! The dreaded winter colds are beginning to appear in schools once more. We spoke to Lucy Upton, a Children’s Nutritionalist for Biotiful Gut Health who has given us 10 top tips for your child’s health.
1. Focus on fibre
When last surveyed, the average intake of fibre for children across all age groups in the UK was below recommendations. Fibre is fuel for beneficial bacteria in the gut, so step back and see where you can sneak some extra in. You can find fibre in fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, nuts, seeds, beans, and pulses.
2. Include foods that contain live ‘good’ bacteria for your child’s gut
Products such as Biotiful’s Kids kefir are not only beneficial but they taste great too!
3. Be careful with highly processed foods
There are clear differences in the gut microbiome of countries with diets higher in these foods, compared to those where they are not a regular part of the daily diet.
4. Let them make furry friends
Early life exposure to pets and even farm animals has been shown to support diversity in a child’s gut bacteria, which could have positive effects on their health. A recent study found that children living with a dog were less likely to develop Chron’s disease (a lifelong inflammatory bowel condition).
5. Prioritise prebiotics
While all sources of fibre are great to include, certain foods are particularly good at feeding friendly bacteria. The good news is these include foods your child may well already enjoy. Oats, bananas, garlic, apples, and leeks are all examples of great prebiotic foods.
6. Get them out in nature
Let them make mud pies! Exposure to microorganisms outside is key to supporting a healthy gut and immunity.
7. Steer clear of unnecessary antibiotics
These can wreak havoc with the balance of bacteria in a child’s gut. While certainly needed on occasion under medical advice, be sure to check that they are actually needed when your child is unwell. Many common childhood illnesses are viral in nature and thus won’t respond to antibiotics.
8. Encourage activity
Physical activity is well recognised to support many dimensions of children’s health, including digestion. Research has also shown active kids tend to have healthier gut bacteria.
9. Get in those zzz’s
Sleep is increasingly recognised as a factor related to gut health, with a relationship evident both ways. The quality of sleep has been linked with the diversity of the gut microbiome, and vice versa!
While standing on the edge of soft play or a wet sports field can feel like hard work on some days. Rest assured that exposure to others and communal childcare (even having a sibling) can positively support the diversity of your child’s gut microbiome.
If you are worried about your child’s health in any way, make sure that you seek professional advice from your Health Visitor or GP.