Children's Gut Health and Digestion

In our work we find there is plenty of awareness about the implication of poor gut health and digestion for adults, but what about the kids?

Here at the Herbal Dispensary it is not uncommon to have parents coming in and telling us that their child seems to have trouble with their digestive system, but they are not sure how to help them and what the implications of poor digestion are and what the benefits of addressing this could be.

So why should you care?

Good gut health for your children may help to contribute to a stronger immune system, as well as offering long-term benefits for physical and mental wellbeing. Improvements that you may see in the short term are with bowel and digestive functions, improved sleep, mood and general wellbeing. You may also notice an improvement in conditions such as allergies and skin conditions such as eczema.

When starting to look at gut health for your children it is important to look at what is going in, i.e what are they actually eating & how?

How many pieces of fruit have they eaten, how many serves of green vegetables, where did their protein come from, what about iron & zinc rich foods?

Did they drink enough water each day?

Are they overeating at mealtime or running around eating?

Are you serving balanced meals, but they only eat a portion and the rest goes in the bin?

Keep a record of what they are eating, you could even jot down over a week what they have eaten and see if you can pick up where the gaps in nutrition might be. 

Once you have identified that you would like to change some of the foods that they are eating, or add in some new foods start slow with a few simple changes.

Let them play with their food – make eating fun

Depending on their age allow your children to be involved in meal preparation, if they are a little young for active involvement they love to watch & be with you; create games with colours, shapes, textures and tastes.

Bright coloured fruits and vegetables are usually high in antioxidants, which remove free radicals from body, protecting our cells. If your child is not a fan of fruits and or vegetables, try cutting them into fun shapes; making fruit kebabs and coming up with fun names for foods, my children always loved their broccoli trees.

Keep them hydrated, it can be a difficult to keep children hydrated but it is important, and in fact is a crucial component of good gut health. Again bring in a fun element, give them their own water bottle, they can decorate it or have them pick out their own special one. Add in some bright coloured frozen fruits, or make some funky shaped ice blocks. You can also make herbal teas and have the kids drink them; good, flavourful herbs to choose from could be lemon balm, lemon verbena, rosehips & lime blossom.

Breathe deeply

Deep breathing helps to detoxify the body, burn fat, improve relaxation and increase mental focus & clarity. Teaching your children to take a moment and focus on their breath is such a crucial life skill; they will thank you for it one day!

Get them moving

For some children, this won’t be a challenge, for others though it might be about reducing screen time, going for a walk with them, adding in family activities that are fun and provide exercise such as outings to the playground, beach, local parks, bike parks and skate parks.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

If they occasionally have the odd treat, a birthday party to attend or go off your idea of ideal meals, just accept it and let them enjoy it, the stress for them and you of eating ‘the wrong food’ can do more damage than just eating & enjoying the moment.

It can be challenging when you are up against some of the advertising and enticement that comes from larger food businesses (free toys with a meal) and also peer pressure but you can have your own fun plan at home so your children don’t feel like they are missing out.

Be a role model, it is true that children love to mimic those around them, they are also absorbing and learning at a rapid rate, share with them stories about food and fun facts.

Allow time for your children and the rest of your family to sit and enjoy your meals with no distractions.

Beneficial foods and supplements to consider for you child (depending on age) include

  • Leafy greens for fibre and b vitamins
  • Avocado for potassium & magnesium
  • Fish oils for essential fatty acids for brain health
  • Free range eggs for protein and b vitamins
  • Coconut yogurt for probiotics, vitamins and minerals
  • Chia seeds, hemp seeds for omega-3 and fibre
  • Probiotic supplements if indicated

A possible herbal tea blend to help with stomach upsets and stress can easily be made at home, try equal parts by weight of dried lemon balm, chamomile and fennel. If desired add a little honey to taste (again depending on age) this can drink this at room temperature.

If you would like to explore natural options for supporting your child’s health please contact us at The Herbal Dispensary, Raglan.