Why Your Little One Should Be Eating These Gut-Friendly Foods
9 min read
Let’s face it, when it comes to gut health no one enjoy a grumpy tummy least of all our children. Not to mention the gut is an important pillar of your little one’s digestive and immune system health.
Home to a colony of healthy bacteria known as the microbiome, your child’s gut maintains a delicate balance with unhealthy bacteria to support the healthy function of their digestion and immune system.
Of course, maintaining a varied and healthy diet is important for all aspects of your little one’s health and wellbeing, so it’s not surprising that the food they eat can help support their gut health too!
This information is general in nature and provided as information only. Always take your child to see a health professional if you have any concerns about their gut, digestion or immune health.
High-fibre foods play a role in supporting your child’s gut health. Did you know that there are two different types of fibre that your child should consume as part of their healthy, balanced diet?
Soluble fibre helps to slow down how long it takes for food to pass through the digestion system. This means that feeding your little one foods that are high in soluble fibre can help them feel fuller for longer (1).
Found primarily in plant-based foods, soluble fibre may also help your child’s body absorb essential minerals from the foods they eat. This is because it produces the short-chain fatty acids that support mineral absorption when broken down by healthy bacteria in the gut (2, 3).
Like soluble fibre, insoluble fibre is primarily found in plant-based foods and can help your child feel fuller for longer. In fact, many high-fibre foods contain both the soluble and insoluble varieties (4).
Where insoluble fibre differs is that it makes up the structural part of the cell wall in plants and helps to support regular bowel movements.
Dietary Sources of Fibre Include (5):
Top tip: To know which packaged foods (such as bread and pasta) are high in fibre, read the nutrient panel on the package. Foods with at least 4 grams of fibre per serve is a good source, while foods with 7 grams or more is an excellent source (6).
Different types of fibre perform different roles within your little one’s body, which is why it’s important they consume a varied diet that includes an array of different sources of fibre.
Resistant starch is also a member of the fibre family. It is a fermentable fibre that helps support the balance of healthy bacteria in your little one’s tummy and, in turn, can help maintain their gut health.
While most starch we consume is quickly digested in the upper gut, a small part survives and travels through to the large bowel while resistant starch works against digestion (12). The microbiome can use resistant starch as food because it is resistant to digestion in the small intestine and thus moves on to the large bowel.
Foods containing resistant starch are one of the pillars of your child’s gut health as it feeds the healthy bacteria in their microbiome.
Although you may associate the word ‘bacteria’ with unwanted bugs and germs, did you know that some bacteria actually help to support your little one’s body? Many of these bacteria live in the gut, in a colony known as the microbiome.
Some of the strains of healthy bacteria can be found in fermented foods, and eating these foods can help to maintain the balance of ‘healthy bacteria and unhealthy bacteria in the gut.
In addition to maintaining a healthy microbiome, this bacteria can also help to digest food (13). Importantly, your child’s microbiome plays a range of roles in supporting their immunity, development and nutrition (13).
Conversely, prebiotics feed healthy bacteria and are resistant to human digestion. They can’t be broken down by our enzymes, so they travel through the small intestine prior to reaching the large ingestion relatively unscathed. They are specialised plant fibres and act similar to fertilisers which stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut (8, 9).
The following foods contain healthy bacteria. You may like to try incorporating them into your little one’s diet to help support their microbiome.
While you may associate calcium with strong, healthy bones it also helps support your little one’s gut health.
Calcium helps support the normal function of enzymes needed for digestion. These enzymes are also found in saliva, the stomach and the small intestine.
Alongside supporting enzyme function, calcium also regulates the way our muscles contract. This is important for gut health because through regulating our muscles it ensures that our body can move food from the oesophagus to the stomach with ease.
Ensuring your child is consuming foods like those mentioned above can help support their gut and overall health. The next time you’re preparing a meal, why not try including some of the gut-friendly foods that not only taste delicious but are also good for them!
Of course, if you have any concerns about your child’s gut health, talk to your health professional.
If you would like to learn more about supporting your gut health, you may enjoy the following:
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