During pregnancy, a developing fetus gets all its nutrition from the placenta, so they ingest what Mom ingests. Once that baby is born, however, their first nutrition outside the womb is either breast milk or formula, and solid foods are introduced gradually, starting at about six months.

Over the last couple of decades, researchers have learned that a person’s gut health is critical to their overall health, and that our microbiome — the microbes that are associated with the digestive tract — is complex.

Parents can get their children off to a great start by doing certain things to ensure their kids develop “great guts,” and it’s never too early.

Dr. Mandeep Walia-Bhatia offers expert care and counsel regarding your baby or child’s gut health. Digestive health is one of the key components of good health, and the Gain Wellness Center’s approach to care wisely includes an assessment of every patient’s physical and emotional health.

The importance of creating a healthy gut

At the moment of birth, your baby’s microbial colonization begins. In a baby’s first year, their gut microbiota composition is fairly simple but is influenced by a multitude of diverse factors, including passing through the birth canal if they were birthed vaginally, the transition from breast milk or formula to solid food, intestinal pH, and even the temperature in the environment.

Our gut microbiome is involved with metabolism, nutrition, and immune system functioning. When microbiota are imbalanced, this can lead to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), type 2 diabetes, and obesity. The microbiome even influences our mood.

Your gut microbiome contains both good and bad bacteria, and the good bacteria not only enable digestion and help you break down food to use as energy, they keep bad bacteria at bay so the good bacteria don’t get overtaken.

A healthy gut helps your baby develop a robust immune system and supports their brain development.

How to help you baby or child develop a healthy gut

Now that we know how vital a healthy gut is to our health, it’s important for parents to take every step possible to support and preserve their child’s gut health.

When Dr. Walia-Bhatia meets with parents about their children’s digestive health, she offers some useful advice:

1. Seek alternatives to antibiotics

Giving a child antibiotics might relieve their strep throat pain in record time, but these medications also destroy good gut bacteria.

Be discriminating about using them, talk to your pediatrician about other possibilities for treatment, and don’t ever request or use antibiotics if your child has a virus like the flu, a cold, and numerous ear and throat infections – they’re ineffective against them.

2. Offer gut-healthy probiotic foods to children who eat solid food

If your child is eating solid foods, introduce probiotic foods containing live bacteria. These include sauerkraut, yogurt, and aged cheeses.

3. Concentrate on fiber

We want to keep the 100 trillion+ gut organisms of your child in tip-top shape, and another way to do this is to ensure they get enough fiber in their diet. Include foods with whole grains, bananas, and berries in their diets, which will help their gut and reduce the chances that they’ll be constipated.

4. Ditch highly processed foods as much as possible

Childhood convenience food staples like chicken nuggets, lunch meat for sandwiches, and snacks like chips may discourage the development of healthy gut bacteria and can also contribute to problems like constipation. Ditto for artificially sweetened foods like some packaged snacks and flavored drinks marketed to kids.

5. Steps for newborns

If you have an infant, you can support the development of their gut by breastfeeding if you can. Breast milk contains both prebiotics and probiotics, and for moms who cannot breastfeed, there are formulas made that contain probiotics.

Of course, if you’re breastfeeding your baby, it’s important that you eat a nutritious, gut-healthy diet as well.

Enjoying abundant skin-on-skin contact with your baby is important too, since that exposes them to your microbiome.

You’re doing your child a true service by doing all you can to boost their gut health, since beneficial gut bacteria has been shown to prevent and even reverse food allergies. Additionally, research points to the fact that a good gut can even contribute to the prevention of certain diseases like heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer.

By supporting your child’s gut health, you’re setting them up for a healthier life.

Gain Wellness Center builds powerful partnerships with our patients. Dr. Walia-Bhatia is deeply invested in treating stress-related disorders, hormonal imbalances, digestive conditions, and so much more. We also offer a diverse line of supplements, including ones that support your gut health.

Call our San Diego office at 858-206-9715 to arrange for a free consultation with Dr. Walia-Bhatia, or reach out to us online.

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