The term “gut health” has exploded in the last decade. We now are beginning to learn how our gut health can impact our overall health and what we can do to improve this, but what about our children’s gut health?
A baby is born with microflora in their gut and so the amount and type of bacteria they can host in their gut is affected by a number of factors. For example, how the baby was born can have a lasting impact (via caesarean or vaginally). Another factor to consider is the feeding of the baby – has it been exclusively breast fed or formula fed? Likewise does the baby have any food allergies or intolerances? The exposure of antibiotics and if so, the period of time to which they have been exposed is another factor to consider. Finally, the environmental conditions in which the baby has been raised in may be considered; for example, has the baby ever been exposed to air pollution. Research has proved that the development of microbiome in babies continues until they reach maturity at 3 years old.
Research has also found that babies born vaginally and breast fed have healthier guts. However, do not stress; we understand that not all babies can be born vaginally and not all babies can be breast fed.
This is why weaning, (the introduction of solid foods to a baby) can be seen as an opportunity to positively influence the gut health of a child.
When weaning, we should try to introduce a variety of foods over the course of and throughout early childhood. Having 30 different varieties of plant food a week can improve gut health. At first 30 different plant sources may seem like a task, however plant sources include not only fruits, vegetables but also; nuts and seeds, wholegrains, legumes, herbs and spices. You may even be offering 30 different plant sources to your baby’s diet already.
Although the ability of many dietary factors to modulate the composition of gastrointestinal microflora is well established, it is not so well understood in children. As the scientists love to say, “this is a large emerging area where more research is required.
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