It’s very easy to look at children and feel as though they’ve got it all sorted isn’t it. Clear skin, boundless energy, little stress, and seemingly able to eat anything and not feel ill or put on weight. However, despite this general view, many children do suffer with tummy troubles and gut issues too. Their microbiome needs to be nurtured as much as an adult’s does.
Lucinda Miller, also known as the NatureDoc, is a family naturopath. She’s been working as a functional medicine practitioner for twenty years. Her method is to use rigorous lab tests as a foundation to her work, highlighting things that may be causing health issues. She also believes that simple conversations about diet and lifestyle can be incredibly revealing about what health plan might be appropriate for a patient.
Using experience learnt from not only treating her own children’s health issues, but also from treating many families and individuals, Lucinda uses food, food supplements and herbs to achieve her results. She’s been chatting to Symprove about her views on ways to look after your children’s microbiome and why she feels it is so important. Read on to find out what she suggests:
“Did you know that for every human cell in our body, there are approximately 10 microbes or bacteria resting in our gut and on our skin? These bacteria are collectively known as our microbiome. Our microbiome is a delicate balance of healthy, ‘good’ bacteria and usually, a small amount of unwanted ‘bad’ bacteria. A balanced microbiome is important for all of us. This is for various reasons, but in general terms a healthy microbiome is vital to protect our overall health, including our brain health. Which means, in terms of our children, making sure their microbiome is healthy might just help safeguard their future health and wellbeing. Here are my five easy ways to take steps towards looking after your child’s gut microbiome:
1.Food is fuel. The singular most important thing to ensure your child’s microbiome remains balanced is their diet. Fill your children with real nutritious food to include plenty of vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and spices.
I recommend at least 20 types of plant-based foods per week. This might sound daunting, but remember the government recommends we aim for ‘five a day’. Don’t forget a ‘handful’ will be your child’s handful – portion sizes are smaller for children. It’s easily done, think of a big mixed salad, a vegetable soup and a handful of mixed seeds and you’re almost there.
The more variety of foods your child eats (raw and cooked) the more diverse and skilled their microbiome will be. It’s very logical when you think about it.
2.Enjoy life outdoors. Outdoor play is an important part of childhood and vital for a healthy microbiome. This can be running around a garden, park or out in the countryside. Make sure to get plenty of fresh air in the home – open those windows! Better still, let your child get dirty outdoors and play with soil, as soil and plants house trillions of microorganisms.
3.Good oral hygiene. Regular brushing twice daily is essential. Believe it or not our mouth’s houses around 700 species of bacteria. Avoid an excess of unwanted oral bacteria by keeping on top of tooth brushing.
4.Breast is Best. If possible, breastfeed for as long as possible. It is very difficult to replicate the same beneficial bacteria that a baby gets directly through mother’s milk.
5.Look after your own microbiome. Our children inherit our microbiome, so I recommend that you and your partner take all of the steps I suggest above both before conception, during pregnancy and in the longer term to keep your own microbiome in tip top condition.
So what things might affect the gut-microbiome balance?
Antibiotics cannot differentiate between good bacteria and undesirable bacteria. They simply wipe out all gut bacteria in their path, so please only use when essential and work hard to replenish the good bacteria afterwards.
One of the biggest microbiome disrupters is a diet full of sugary foods. Probiotics in our gut feed onprebiotics, which are plant-based fibers from whole foods like onions, garlic, apples, bananas, and oats. However, refined sugar does the opposite and feeds bad bacteria and yeast overgrowth. When we eat a high-sugar diet, the unwanted bacteria start to grow out of control, while our beneficial bacteria diminish in number.
Sulphites, preservatives and food colourings commonly found in processed food can also harmfully impact the microbiome.
Allergies and food sensitivities
Whenever a child with a food allergy or food sensitivity is exposed to one of their allergens, then this may also impact on the delicate balance of their microbiome. An exposure to an allergen may also lead to additional gut reactions, such as wind, bloating, pain, constipation or diarrhoea.
Stress and anxiety
Both of these known triggers for changing the balance in the microbiome. Try and encourage your child to talk to you about anything that is upsetting them and encourage relaxing activities such as mindfulness and yoga for children.
This tool kit of simple actions can help look after your child’s microbiome. Even if your child has a history of tummy trouble or a nasty bug that has wiped out a lot of the good bacteria, always remember children are very resilient, and their gut microbiome can be restored nice and quickly. Wishing you and your family health and happiness!” – Lucinda x