The connection between gut health and overall health is something I’ve been learning a lot about over the past 10 years. Science came to life when I was a foster parent of 8 boys that came from all walks of life and health deficiencies. I really began to see the direct impact it had on cognitive and physical development. Imbalances in mood, behavioral problems, constipation, and frequent illness are just some of the symptoms an unhealthy gut can produce and things we saw repeatedly with the foster children placed in our care. Let’s find out why!
Where Gut Health Begins
The microbiome of the gut is the most important microbiome we have in our bodies. It’s responsible for your overall health and brain function. Interestingly, your child’s microbiome is determined by their exposure to the mother’s microbiome during pregnancy and delivery. Each person’s microbiome is unique to the environment they are raised, the foods they consume, and the medications they have taken. If a mother’s microbiome is imbalanced, it’s likely the child’s will be compromised as well.
The microbiome must be balanced with the right types of bacteria and the right amounts for the body and brain to function optimally. The correct balance is to have more good bacteria than bad. When the balance is disrupted, it can contribute to many health problems and symptoms in children and adults because 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. The gut bacteria influences immune function, nutrition, detoxification, inflammation, and weight gain that can take up to 2 years to fully repair if compromised.
Who’s At Risk
Children who are picky eaters and eat a majority of processed foods especially high in carbohydrates are more likely to have an imbalanced microbiome. Diets high in sugar and starch can lead to candida of the body which is a fungal infection that feeds off of the sugar and starch causing inflammation which leads to a host of auto-immune disorders. Therefore early nutrition is vital to developing a healthy microbiome and immune system that starts from the beginning of life.
The topic of antibiotic use in kids is controversial, but here are some reasons you should really consider if it’s absolutely necessary. Children treated with antibiotics within the first year of life are twice as likely to develop asthma. Children who’ve had frequent sicknesses resulting in recurring antibiotic use, have a lowered immunity because the antibiotics kill off good and bad bacteria. However, antibiotics aren’t the only culprit of knocking the microbiome out of whack. The more medications a child takes, the more likely they are to develop Dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis is the formal term for a severe imbalance of the microbiome. Dysbiosis combined with inflammation of the gut have been linked to severe mental illness such as anxiety and depression. The microorganisms in the intestines digest food and fight disease, but they also secrete mood-regulating chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, GABA which have a direct impact on the brain. Gastro abnormalities have been linked to depression, hyperactivity, and chronic disease. Newer studies are showing a direct connection between gut health and ADHD due to the microbiome communicating with the central nervous system influencing the brain function, behavior, and mood.
Bottom line is, if our gut is not healthy, we are not healthy. Now, Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying don’t use medications or antibiotics. There are times when they are necessary to treat various illnesses, but they should be a last resort, not the first course of action. If a brief period of treatment is necessary, it’s important to repair the microbiome immediately to begin restoring the bodies health and bring the microbiome back into balance.
Ways To Repair The Microbiome
As you can see from the risk factors there are some easy ways to be proactive in combatting the effects of a compromised microbiome.
- Feeding children a balanced diet high in nutrient rich foods and eliminating processed foods high in carbohydrates and sugar can greatly reduce the risks of developing Dysbiosis and inflammation that attack the body.
- Use supplemental nutrients that can help prevent or shorten the duration of infections and illness by boosting the immune system. Having a diet high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, and fermented foods like Kombucha and kimchi will naturally increase your immunity.
- Increase your intake of Pineapple and coconut oil that act as a natural potent anti-inflammatory that kill bacteria and yeast. Applying coconut oil to the abdomen will absorb through the skin and penetrate into the GI tract for twice the effectiveness. Apple cider vinegar is also helpful as it stabilizes blood sugar and reduces inflammation.
- Take pre and pro biotics to build and maintain the balance of the microbiome. The ones we give our kids are Kidscents Mighty Pro from Young Living. They are a combined pre and probiotic that comes in a berry powder and can be poured on the tongue or mixed into juice or applesauce.
- Try naturopathic methods before reaching for the antibiotics. There are several natural ingredients that are anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic that can be added to food, smoothies, juice, etc.
- Ginger is known for its ability to effectively curb nausea, but it’s also a very strong
anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic. It has also been proven to inhibit cancer cell formation and rid the body of formerly present cells. It builds the immune system and aids in necessary digestion for optimal gut health.
- Garlic contains Allicin, an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasitic substance. It’s especially good for intestinal parasites and is powerful enough to be used to fight drug resistant strains of E Coli!
- Oolong Tea fights against viruses, bacteria, and fungus. It’s anti-microbial properties have been demonstrated to fight against dangerous pathogens like Staph, E Coli, and Salmonella.
It Takes Time
Though gut health in kids starts from birth, it can be built over time to become stronger if it’s been compromised. Start with some of the ways mentioned above and your child’s gut health can be on it’s way to health and harmony. The best thing we can do for our kids is be an example so take charge of your health and lead your family into a better way of living through the groceries you purchase and the meals you prepare!