Tummy troubles: Five ways to support your child’s gut health, naturally

Childs gut health

By Allison Riehs | Naturopath

As a parent, it’s always hard to see our little ones suffering with tummy troubles and belly aches.

Even if they can’t tell us they’re hurting, we usually know. 

But upset tummies and digestive difficulties can present in a variety of ways, and it’s not always obvious.

These issues can have an impact on other aspects of a child’s health, including moods, behaviour, concentration, skin conditions, allergies, immune health, and more. 

You might have heard the saying, good health starts with gut health.

And it’s true. 

The gut or gastrointestinal system plays host to a dynamic microbiome, which is made up of bacteria, viruses and microbes.

The balance of this bacteria can have either a positive or negative influence on health, and there are steps we can take to encourage more healthy gut flora. 

  1. Reduce processed foods

Since the introduction of ‘TV dinners’ in the 1950’s, Australians have clung tightly to the convenience of processed foods. 

Increasingly, family households are made up of busy working parents, and children who spend a lot of time in daycare, school and after-school activities. So it’s understandable that we reach for quick and easy options come meal time. 

But at what cost to our health?

A recent study found that more than half of what Australians eat is processed, or ‘ultra processed’, meaning it contains several artificial ingredients made using methods that can’t be replicated at home. These foods not only offer limited nutritional benefits, but can be very difficult for the digestive system. Processed food products also increase bad bacteria in the gut. By enjoying natural wholefoods more often than processed foods, we can feed the good gut bacteria, and help restore balance to the microbiome.

  1. The toilet test

If your child is no longer in nappies, it might have been a while since you’ve seen what they’re passing. Both faeces and urine can hide some clues about your child’s health. Very yellow urine can be a sign of dehydration (or can occur with some supplements), dark sticky urine can be an indicator of diabetes, and stools can occur in a wide range of variations. For more clues about number twos, see my article What is your child’s poop trying to tell you. 

  1. Fibre, fluid and ferments

You’ve probably heard about eating fibre to keep regular, but there’s more to it than that. Research has found dietary fibre can positively change the gut microbiota and alter metabolic regulation in humans. Fluids are essential for supporting the transition of food through the digestive system, and keeping enzymes and bacteria in balance. While fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, kefir, and yoghurt can feed and replenish good gut bacteria.

  1. Prioritise probiotics

There are many different strains of probiotics, and they all work on different areas of health and wellness. Saccharomyces boulardii is effective for the treatment of gastro while Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has been used successfully for respiratory tract infections. Certain probiotics can also be beneficial for restoring good gut bacteria after antibiotics. So it’s important to seek support for choosing the right probiotics for your children. 

  1. Get their hands dirty

“A little dirt never hurt anybody”. They’re the wise words of every grandparent reassuring worried new mums and dads after children take their first taste of a mud pie. It’s inevitable that children are going to get dirty, and it turns out it can be beneficial for their health. The book “Dirt is Good: Why kids need exposure to germs” explores the science behind childhood exposure to bacteria and how it can actually support and strengthen the immune system. This is especially relevant in the post-pandemic era after children have been isolated at home, using hand sanitisers and spending less time outdoors.

For more support with children’s gut health, book an appointment with Allison.