Gut Health for Kids: Why It’s Important and How to Boost It
- A healthy gut microbiome allows your child to fully absorb nutrients and keeps their immune system strong, among many other health benefits.
- Your child’s microbiome starts developing from birth, and you have a few years to make a difference before it’s fully established.
- Choosing the right foods and supplements that support gut health for kids can help you do this very easily and effectively.
A healthy gut creates a strong foundation for a healthy body. With the research mounting up, the digestive system has taken a front seat in the wellness industry — and gut health for kids is an essential part of this equation. The key here is to start early.
Let’s explore what a healthy gut looks like and why it’s important for your little one. We’ll also look at how to help your child develop and maintain a digestive tract that supports their health for the rest of their life.
What Is a Healthy Gut Microbiome?
Your child’s gastrointestinal tract is home to about 100 trillion bacteria. Many of these are healthy bacteria, but others can cause infection and illness. The key to digestive health (as with any good bedtime story) is to make sure the goodies beat the baddies.
When the good bacteria rule your child’s internal ecosystem, it supports their overall health on many different levels.
Why Is Good Gut Health for Kids So Important?
Your child’s microbiome starts developing at birth, is influenced by breastfeeding, and is pretty much established by the time they start school. That gives you a few years to influence their gut bacteria and establish the right microbial balance for wellness.
Luckily you have control over several of the factors involved in gut health for kids, especially their diet and environment. Make the most of it by teaching them good habits now that will serve them for a lifetime.
Just for starters, a healthy gut microbiome helps your little one digest food and improves nutrient absorption in the small intestine. So your child gets the most from the healthy food they eat. Good bacteria also protect the lining of your child’s intestines, preventing inflammation that can lead to issues like asthma, allergies, leaky gut, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Beneficial bacteria influence your child’s emotional and mental health and reduce the chances of developing conditions like autism and anxiety disorders. Healthy bacteria also set up the conditions to reduce the risk of lifelong issues like obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
And, critically important, good gut health for kids is very strongly linked to a healthy and robust immune system. This helps your child fight off everyday infections like colds, flu, and stomach bugs, which could keep them out of school. It should also give them some protection against the effects of coronavirus and other viruses — something not to be sniffed at (pardon the pun).
How Will You Know if Your Child’s Gut Isn’t Healthy?
Diet, stress levels, and environment all play a role in your little one’s digestive health — just as they do in your own life. Even prescribed pediatric medication, especially antibiotics, can play havoc on gut health for kids.
Of course, there could be many reasons for any discomfort or illness your child experiences. That said, any of these issues could be pointing to a less than healthy gastrointestinal tract:
- Poor digestion
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Respiratory tract infections
- Mood swings
- Constant tiredness
If your child suffers from any of these or regularly complains of a “sore tummy,” it’s worth considering how probiotics and prebiotics might help. If you’re in any doubt at all though, consult your pediatrician. It’s never worth taking a risk with your child’s health.
How to Improve Your Child’s Gut Health
You can boost your little one’s gut health in a variety of ways. For example, allowing them to cuddle their pets and play in the garden (so long as you don’t use poisonous pesticides or herbicides) actually helps to boost good bacteria and strengthen the immune system.
Another really effective way to take care of gut health for kids is to make good choices around their diet. Your primary goal here is to make sure they get plenty of whole foods that provide nutrients and all-important fiber, which helps everything to move through the digestive system more easily. Incredibly, research shows that on average only 7% of the general U.S. population gets enough fiber.
Prebiotic fiber also helps to feed the probiotics — or healthy gut microbes — that keep everything functioning.
The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in Gut Health for Kids
Let’s start at the very beginning … Breast milk is an excellent source of beneficial microbes, giving your baby’s microbiome a naturally healthy start. If you’re not breastfeeding, look for a formula that has added prebiotics.
Once your little one moves onto solid foods (making diaper changes that much more interesting), you’ll want to include plenty of whole foods in their diet. Think fresh fruit and veggies, plus healthy carbohydrates in the form of grains like quinoa, oats and barley. Whole grains are rich in fiber and, as we’ve mentioned, fiber is prebiotic and provides food for the probiotics that keep your child’s gut healthy.
Then add foods like yogurt, buttermilk, and kefir to top up their probiotics. Sauerkraut and kimchi are also excellent sources of probiotics that support gut health for kids.
And, last but not least, let’s not forget the importance of water, which helps to move everything through your child’s gastrointestinal tract.
We know it’s tempting to give your child sweets and processed foods, but try to keep those to an absolute minimum. Sugar and other sweeteners alter the microbial balance, and processed foods also tend to be high in preservatives and other chemicals which disrupt that little ecosystem.
So check the label before you buy — even so-called healthy foods like yogurt can be packed with hidden sugars. It’s better to add a little honey or fruit to natural yogurt if you need to.
How Prebiotic and Probiotic Supplements Can Help
If your child is a picky eater, you might struggle to persuade them to eat enough whole foods to keep their microbiome healthy. Plus, if you’re not sure they’re getting enough of the good stuff, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And — let’s face it — we’ve all had those days when the struggle is so real that it overcomes us.
That’s why there are lots of reasons to use a high-quality supplement to top up your little one's healthy gut bacteria, on good days and bad. Make sure you choose one that really supports your child’s health though, and doesn’t just pretend to.
What the Best Probiotic for Kids Looks Like
Look out for products that are all-natural and full of healthy ingredients, with nothing silly added. Llama Naturals Prebiotic and Probiotic Gummies are made from real fruit, slow-cooked to preserve the nutrients. They’re free of added sugars, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and flavors, and contain no gluten or other allergens.
Children (and adults) absolutely love them. In fact, they’ll be begging for their daily “candy” — no persuasion required. And with one billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of probiotics and 500 mg of helpful prebiotics in the form of organic xylooligosaccharides per gummy, your little one’s microbiome will be happier than it’s ever been.
Important note: If your child suffers from a chronic illness or compromised immune system, consult your pediatrician before giving them any supplements.
A Healthy Gut Keeps Your Child Going Strong
Gut health for kids is a critical part of their overall health and wellness, especially when it comes to nutrition and immunity. Their microbiome develops very early in their lives, and there’s a lot you can do to influence how well it works for — or against — them.
The right nutrition and a good prebiotic and probiotic supplement can save your child from many tummy (and other) troubles. Your child will thank you one day — and if you give them Llama Naturals gummies, they may even thank you now.
Llama Naturals is a plant-based nutrition brand that has created the World's First Whole Fruit Gummy Vitamins that are made with no added sugar and whole-food vitamins. They are USDA Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, free of common allergens, and are slow-cooked on low heat to retain rich phytonutrients & fruit flavor. It’s a win-win gummy vitamin that you and the family will love.