Just when you caught your breath and allowed yourself to relax after a hectic morning routine, all of a sudden, the phone starts ringing. It’s the school nurse asking for you to come over to pick up your sick child. Chances are it’s either a physical injury or the most common ailment - a tummy ache.
This common scenario often gets brushed aside as “pretty normal”.
These “belly bugs” and “upset stomach” cases are common. They do not usually merit a visit to the doctor. However, have you ever considered that you can PREVENT a kid’s tummy ache?
Are these discomforts really part of a child’s normal growth?
For grade schoolers who can tell you where and when the aches started, the problem can be identified quickly.
But for distressed babies, cranky toddlers and playful preschoolers who cannot fully express their symptoms, it becomes extra challenging to respond.
Crying and whining do not always indicate pain. It can be related to an entire set of needs.
These aches and pains all around are a disruption to your family life and oftentimes to your well-deserved night sleep.
If THIS is what’s “pretty normal”, are we maybe setting the bar too low when it comes to our children's health?
The question is, how do we set up our child’s wellbeing so that we can avoid unpleasant late nights?
One essential and often overlooked function of the body is that of the gut.
Whether the problem is with your child’s diarrhea, tummy ache or constipation, you often isolate these symptoms as digestive problems.
But there is more to it than what meets the eye.
Let us explore the simple yet important functions of the gut microbiome and how it relates to your child’s overall health.
The Human Gut
It is surprising to note that the human gut is not only responsible for smooth digestion, but also plays a big role as part of our immune system.
As a matter of fact, it is said that 70-80% of our immune system is located in the gut.
It is not until the age of 3 (some experts say it takes even longer) that the child's intestinal flora is largely stable and mature, and resembles that of an adult.
Therefore, the first years of life are crucial for the development of a balanced and healthy intestinal flora.
Understanding Gut Microbiota
Joseph Petrosino, scientist and study author states: “We now know that the first few years of life are important for microbiota establishment. You are born with very few microbes, and microbial communities assemble on and in your body through those first years of your life.”
The researchers also identified higher levels of Bifidobacterium, bacteria with high probiotic properties, in infants who were breastfed.
Dr. Francisco Guarner, researcher at Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research added, “the study sheds light on the importance of early childhood nutrition and provides insight into how it affects the development of microbiota."
He further states: "It is crucial for children to eat food that can nourish gut microbiota and give it subtracts to ferment. Fiber, indigestible vegetable carbohydrates, whole cereals containing a variety of fibers, such as inulin, oligosaccharides, all in all helping establish a healthy gut microbiota”. (Stewart, C. et al, 2018 as cited in Saez, C., 2018)
Gut Flora from a TCM View
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), babies are born with an immature digestive system which fully develops until the age of 7.
The intestinal flora is a vital body part. It is important to know that it develops gradually in the first years of a child's life and finds its own balance over time.
Oftentimes, we tend to forget that the gut flora is actually an ORGAN and being an important part of the body, it also needs nurturing, attention and care.
Truly, a child’s gut health reflects what goes on inside and is interrelatedly connected to other body functions. Since the digestive system is the place where digested food is turned into nutrients (Qi), it is of utmost importance to support its optimal development and health.
Why should I protect my child’s gut health?
Remember that tummy ache that we often shelf into our mommy mental compartment as “pretty normal”? Turns out, a bulk of it is attributed to an unstable intestinal flora.
Our intestinal flora has many functions we usually don’t think about.
- It helps us digest our food.
- It protects the intestinal lining and prevents large food particles or toxins from entering our bloodstream.
- It helps us make vitamins like B vitamins and vitamin K.
- It helps us absorb minerals such as magnesium and iron.
You might think these are all limited to the digestive area but there are also greater benefits that surround gut health and your overall immunity.
Gut Health Affects the Entire Body
Want your child to have better sleep and a good mood? A strong intestinal flora also helps produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine that are crucial to regulate mood and overall emotional stability.
Want to strengthen your child’s overall immunity? Boosting your intestinal flora goes hand in hand with a healthier immune response.
In contrast, neglecting your child’s gut health and simply regarding pains as normal could lead to potentially long-term complications.
Why Gut Health Matters
When the gut flora is disregarded as an integral part of the body, it is treated as a vessel for unhealthy habits. Highly processed foods, poor diet, repeated use of antibiotics and frequent stomach illnesses such as food poisoning and stomach flu result in a harmful imbalance which leads to poor immunity and greater risk for other illnesses.
Once the gut flora becomes unbalanced and the gut begins to leak, food debris begins to enter the bloodstream.
Our intestinal mucosa should only be permeable to a limited extent.
Only the right size food particles should be allowed into the bloodstream.
In addition, when the gut becomes leaky, larger food particles, pathogens, and other toxins enter our bloodstream and interact with our immune system.
This creates inflammation that can cause all kinds of symptoms.
This is termed as a "leaky gut". The increased intestinal permeability (“leakiness”) contributes to chronic inflammatory diseases and increases the risk of food allergies or food sensitivity reactions.
Dangers of A Leaky Gut
There are a variety of ways in which food sensitivities can show up. Common conditions associated with food sensitivities include
- behavioral problems
- Ear infections
- GERD or acid reflux
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Focus problems
- and sleep disorders
Finding the perfect balance
Due to our fast-paced and modern lifestyle, more and more people have an imbalance in their intestinal flora, originating from infancy.
Moreover, when faced with picky eaters, sick children and a ton of household chores waiting to be finished, we often have two options to choose from.
We can choose between what is easy and what is right.
Oftentimes, we are tempted to resort to a quick-fix solution, one that can seemingly free us from our present struggles.
When we choose a quick and temporary solution to a problem, we usually do not address the root cause of that condition.
Remember that simple tummy ache? That’s your gut, telling you something.
As parents, we want to set up our kids for a lifetime of good health. We want to raise healthy and happy kids. We want to see them run freely and not worry about them getting sick.
Finally, the question remains: Is it possible to strike a healthy and balanced lifestyle for us and our kids?
I am telling you, YES it is possible! Learn more about gut health and how it can support your child’s overall health. THIS may simply be your key to raising a healthier, happier child.
Take my Free Pediatric Body Balance Assessment to find out how we can help improve your child’s gut health to achieve the best state of health possible.
Check out my homepage for ways to work with me: www.bettinagrosshealing.com/one-on-one
xx Bettina ?
Saez, C. (2018, December 12). Infant gut microbiota develops in three stages. ESNM. https://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/infant-gut-microbiota-develops-in-three-stages/
Christopher J. Stewart, Nadim J. Ajami, Jacqueline L O’Brien et al. Temporal development of the gut microbiome in early childhood from the TEDDY study, Nature, 2018. Doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0617-x