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World Digestive Health Day - Looking After Your Little One's Gut Health with Rebecca Traylen

World Digestive Health Day - Looking After Your Little One's Gut Health with Rebecca Traylen

This World Digestive Health Day, we had the pleasure of sitting down with nutritionist and gut health expert, Rebecca, to discuss essential tips and insights on maintaining digestive health for your little ones.

Discover Rebecca's expert answers and top tips for keeping your little ones' gut health in tip-top shape here.

For Kids:

What are some gut-friendly snacks you recommend for children that are both healthy and appealing to picky eaters?

Tackling gut-friendly foods for picky eaters can be a challenge, but with a few creative strategies, parents can make these nutritious options more appealing. Here are some tips:
  1. Make It Fun and Engaging: Present food in fun shapes or colourful arrangements. Use cookie cutters to make fruits and vegetables into stars, hearts, or other playful shapes. A colourful plate can be more enticing.
  2. Get Them Involved: Let kids help with meal preparation. When children participate in cooking, they're more likely to try the foods they helped make. Simple tasks like stirring yogurt or arranging fruit pieces can make a difference.
  3. Blend and Sneak: Incorporate gut-friendly foods into dishes they already enjoy. Blend vegetables into pasta sauces, add fruits to smoothies, or mix finely chopped veggies into meatballs or burgers.
  4. Create Healthy Dips: Pair vegetables with tasty, healthy dips like hummus or yogurt-based dressings. Dipping can make eating vegetables more fun and appealing.
Aside from probiotics and prebiotics, are there other supplements or vitamins that support gut health in children?
When we think about gut health supplements, probiotics and prebiotics are often the first to come to mind. These are friendly bacteria and the fibre that feeds them. However, there are several other important nutrients that can support a healthy gut in children. 
  • Vitamin D is essential for maintaining a healthy gut barrier and supporting immune function.
  •  Zinc plays a crucial role in gut barrier integrity and helps with the body's immune response.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation and support overall gut health.
  • Vitamin C promotes a healthy gut lining and enhances immune function.
How can incorporating fermented foods into a child's diet benefit their gut health, and what are some child-friendly options?
Incorporating fermented foods into a child's diet can greatly benefit their gut health by introducing beneficial probiotics (good bacteria), which help maintain a healthy and diverse gut microbiome. Child-friendly options include yogurt smoothies or frozen yogurt lollies, using live yogurt. Kefir, a fermented milk drink, can be mixed with smoothies, fruits or added to baked goods for a nutritious twist. Adding sauerkraut or kimchi to sandwiches or wraps can also be a tasty way to include fermented foods in their diet.
What impact does the consumption of artificial sweeteners and processed foods have on children's gut health, and what are healthier alternatives?
The consumption of artificial sweeteners and processed foods can negatively impact children's gut health by disrupting the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut and contributing to inflammation. These disruptions can lead to various digestive issues and potentially weaken the immune system.Healthier alternatives include opting for fresh fruits to satisfy sweet cravings instead of using artificial sweeteners. Additionally, focusing on whole, minimally processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can support a healthier gut microbiome. These natural and nutrient-rich foods help maintain a balanced gut environment and promote overall well-being in children.
Are there specific types of fibre that are more beneficial for children’s gut health, and how can parents ensure their children are getting enough of these fibres?Yes, soluble fibres are particularly beneficial for children's gut health as they act as prebiotics, feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Soluble fibres can be found in fruits, vegetables, oats, and legumes. To ensure children are getting enough of these fibres, parents can offer a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, such as apples, bananas, carrots, and broccoli. Incorporating whole grains like oats and whole-wheat bread into meals is another effective way. Additionally, serving legumes such as lentils and beans regularly can help boost fibre intake, promoting a healthy and balanced gut microbiome.
For Babies:
How does breastfeeding versus formula feeding affect the development of a baby’s gut microbiome, and what should parents consider when making this choice?Choosing whether or not to breastfeed is a very personal decision made by a parent and they should not feel pushed into either option.Breast milk contains a unique combination of prebiotics, probiotics, and antibodies that help establish and maintain a balanced gut flora and support the infant's immune system. However, if breastfeeding is not an option, formula feeding can still support a baby's gut health. Modern formulas are designed to mimic the nutritional profile of breast milk as closely as possible, and introducing solid foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics at the appropriate age can further support gut health.Parents should consider their circumstances and consult with a healthcare professional to make the best choice for their baby’s needs, ensuring proper nutrition and gut health regardless of the feeding method.
What are the best first foods for babies that promote a healthy gut, and how should these be introduced to avoid digestive issues?
The best first foods for babies that promote a healthy gut are easily digestible and rich in nutrients. Start with pureed fruits and vegetables, such as banana, avocado, and sweet potato. These are gentle on the digestive system and packed with essential vitamins and minerals.Single-grain cereals, like oatmeal and brown rice, are also excellent choices as they are easy to digest and provide necessary carbohydrates. Whilst wholegrain carbohydrates can be a beneficial source of fibre which is good for their gut, be mindful about adding too much fibre as this can lead to feelings of fullness before they’ve eaten enough calories or nutrients.Probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt or kefir, can be introduced after six months to help support a healthy gut microbiome.When introducing new foods, it's important to do so gradually, one at a time, and watch for any signs of intolerance or allergies, such as rashes, digestive discomfort, or unusual fussiness. This method helps identify any problematic foods and ensures that your baby’s digestive system adapts smoothly. Always consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns about introducing new foods to your baby.
For babies experiencing colic or digestive discomfort, are there any specific dietary changes or supplements that can help alleviate these issues?
For babies experiencing colic or digestive discomfort, several dietary changes and supplements can help alleviate these issues. If the baby is breastfed, mothers might consider eliminating potential food allergens from their diet, such as dairy, soy, or caffeine, as these can sometimes affect the baby through breast milk. Ensure you work with a healthcare professional who will take you through an elimination diet to ensure you are not missing any crucial nutrients.For formula-fed babies, switching to a hypoallergenic or lactose-free formula might be beneficial.Introducing probiotics can also help, as they promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and can improve digestion. Probiotic supplements specifically designed for infants have been researched to support the early development of their gut microbiome, whilst also having a potential impact on helping with colic, reflux and digestive issues (e.g. constipation).It’s crucial to consult with a paediatrician before making any significant changes to your baby’s diet or introducing new supplements to ensure safety and appropriateness for your baby’s specific needs.
How important is it to introduce a variety of foods to a baby’s diet in the first year, and what are some gut-friendly foods that can be included?
Introducing a variety of foods to a baby’s diet in the first year is crucial for developing a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. A wide range of foods exposes the gut to different types of beneficial bacteria and nutrients, which can enhance digestion and overall health.Gut-friendly foods to include are a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, peas, apples, and blueberries. These provide essential vitamins, minerals, and soluble fibres. A mix of grains such as oats, quinoa and polenta offer some fibre and additional nutrients.  Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kefir can be introduced after six months to help populate the gut with beneficial bacteria. Healthy fats from sources such as avocado, nut butters, and fatty fish (for older infants) support overall development and gut health.By offering a diverse diet, parents can help their baby develop a robust gut microbiome, which is foundational for long-term health. Always introduce new foods gradually and monitor for any signs of allergies or intolerances.
What are the signs of an unhealthy gut in babies, and when should parents seek professional advice for gut health concerns?
Signs of an unhealthy gut in babies can include persistent digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhoea, or excessive gas. Other indicators might be skin rashes or eczema, frequent fussiness or discomfort, and poor weight gain or growth. Additionally, a baby who seems unusually irritable or has difficulty sleeping might also be experiencing gut-related discomfort.Parents should seek professional advice if these symptoms persist or if there are significant concerns about their baby’s overall health and well-being. Consulting with a paediatrician can help determine the underlying cause of these issues and provide guidance on appropriate dietary changes, supplements, or other interventions to support a healthy gut.