As a naturopathic doctor, I’m often asked how to promote optimal health from a young age. The answer is simple: it all starts with the gut! The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms that play a critical role in our overall health and well-being. Research has shown that a healthy microbiome can lead to improved digestion, enhanced immune function, and even better mental health. So, if you’re a new mom, here are six ways to support gut health from a young age.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that can provide numerous health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. Eating probiotic-rich foods can help to replenish the good bacteria in your gut, which can get depleted due to factors such as antibiotics, poor diet, and stress. Examples of probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. These foods are not only delicious but can also promote a healthy gut microbiome, improve gut barrier function, and reduce inflammation.
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that serve as food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Eating prebiotic-rich foods can help to nourish your gut microbiome and promote the growth of good bacteria. Examples of prebiotic-rich foods include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and bananas. One study found that consuming prebiotics can improve gut barrier function and increase the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut (1).
Processed foods are often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives, all of which can harm the gut microbiome. One study found that a diet high in processed foods can lead to a reduction in beneficial bacteria and an increase in harmful bacteria in the gut (2). To support gut health, it’s important to limit your intake of processed foods and opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods instead.
Believe it or not, exposure to dirt and soil can actually be beneficial for the gut microbiome! The bacteria found in soil can help to diversify the microbiome and enhance immune function. One study found that children who grew up on farms, where they were exposed to more dirt and microbes, had a reduced risk of developing allergies and asthma (3). So, encourage your little ones to get outside and play in the dirt!
Vegetables are a rich source of fiber, which can help to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut (4). They’re also packed with phytonutrients, which can have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Aim to include a variety of colorful, organic vegetables in your diet to support gut health.
While it’s always best to get your nutrients from whole foods, taking a probiotic supplement can be helpful in some cases. If you’re not able to consume probiotic-rich foods on a regular basis, or if you’re experiencing digestive issues, a probiotic supplement may be beneficial. Look for a high-quality probiotic that contains a variety of strains, and speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
Supporting your child’s gut health from a young age is essential for their overall health and well-being. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can even be a fun journey of discovering new foods and playing in the dirt together! So, make it a priority to feed your child plenty of probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods, limit their intake of processed junk, and load up their plates with lots of colorful veggies. And if your child needs an extra boost, consider giving them a high-quality probiotic supplement. Trust me, their gut will thank you, and you’ll be setting them up for a lifetime of good health!