As a parent, “my tummy hurts” may be something you’re used to hearing. But when is a sore tummy more than just a sore tummy? When children are experiencing regular digestive discomfort or pain, there could be more at play than an overindulgence of ice cream or a desire to stay home from school.
If your child is suffering from vomiting or diarrhea, or if your gut is telling you that their gut isn’t right, a trip to the pediatrician is always a good idea. Constipation, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, celiac disease, lactose intolerance—there are many digestive issues that children can face—and ruling these issues out will help you both to feel better.
Of course, your child doesn’t have to be exhibiting symptoms for you to take their digestive health seriously. Here are three ways you can help support their good gut health at any time:
- Bulk up on dietary fibre. The good bacteria in your child’s gut feeds on the complex carbohydrates found in plants. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes helps promote a healthy microbiome where good gut flora can flourish. Check out these 16 high-fibre recipes with kid appeal for snack-time and mealtime inspiration.
- Be proactive with probiotics. We have trillions of different microbes living in us, including two of the most common categories of naturally occurring good bacteria: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Consuming foods containing live and active cultures from specific strains of these bacterial groups may support digestive health. Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, miso, and unpasteurized sauerkraut, but more studies need to be completed to determine how much live bacteria actually survives processing, travel and shelf times. Probiotic supplements, however, are packaged to retain their high levels of active bacteria.
- Not all bugs need drugs. Antibiotics are amazing tools, which can relieve suffering and save lives. But antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the bad. Avoiding overuse of antibiotics, and adding a probiotic supplement when antibiotics are necessary, may help to balance bacteria and support your child’s digestive health.
If you’re interested in getting your kids involved with managing their digestive health, here is a good resource for kid-friendly information to get you started.