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Digestive Health and Wellness

Encouraging a Healthy Gut in Children

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gut health-children-healthy gut-bacteria-microbiome

Frances Largemen-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author, shares her insights into gut health and how to cultivate a healthy gut microbiome in children.

How do gut health and a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand?

Many of the healthy habits that support overall wellness also help bolster good gut health. These include getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular exercise.

Is there evidence behind a gluten-free diet helping your gut health?

There is no evidence to support following a gluten-free diet to promote gut health. In fact, many gluten-free foods are low in fiber, which is an essential nutrient for gut health.

Does your gut health change when you are a child to an adult? If so, how?

Babies and toddlers don’t have much diversity in terms of gut bacteria — only about 100 species. As children age and experience different illnesses, antibiotics, and foods, the microbiome changes. By age 3, a child’s microbiome starts to look more like an adult’s and stabilizes to a degree. Life changes, such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, also affect the microbiome. After age 65, the number of microbes decreases, and the populations become more similar among people.

What do you suggest for new parents looking to help their child’s gut health?

Encourage your child to eat a variety of healthy foods, including fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso. It may seem challenging to get young kids to eat some of these foods, but if you keep offering them, they’ll try them eventually.

What are some healthy and convenient breakfast ideas for children?

You can help your child start their day right with a bowl of yogurt with granola and berries, a smoothie made with kefir, a bowl of oatmeal, or whole grain toast with nut butter.

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