To set up your children for a lifetime of vibrant health, it’s critical to nourish and support their gut health. Building a healthy, happy gut will provide your child with a strong foundation of health and happiness that will positively affect every aspect of their life. How do you do this? Here are some steps to get you started:
1. Eliminate industrially produced, refined, denatured and stripped foods. If it comes in plastic, has more than 5 ingredients and/or has ingredients that are not recognizable on their own as food, put it back on the shelf and walk away.
2. Feed the good bacteria. Start children on lacto-fermented foods as soon as they start solid foods. Children love the sour-salty taste of a crunchy pickle or sauerkraut. You can give a teaspoon of the juice to children too young to chew. It’s loaded with beneficial probiotics. Fermented carrots are another hit, and naturally sweet with a touch of tang.
For older kids, have them help make sauerkraut or pickles or another favorite fermented food. The most kraut-resistant kids who help make the goodies are much more likely to try it when it’s ready. This is true of most foods.
Another favorite for most kids is kefir, either dairy or made with alternative milks. Coconut kefir is delicious and very healthy. Drink it straight with a touch of raw honey or add to smoothies with a handful of frozen berries or other fruit.
3. Feed them nutrient dense foods. Nutrient dense foods should form the foundation of any healthy nutrition plan. Such foods include: Healthy fats, bone broth, eggs from pastured chickens, raw milk from grass fed cows or goats, meat from pastured animals, organic fruits and vegetables, organic nuts and seeds (preferably soaked and dried), traditionally prepared grains, cheese made from milk from pastured animals.
To read more about this important topic, please visit https://www.zwillinghealth.com/blog/2017/6/28/nutrient-dense-foods-you-should-be-eating. To learn more about the importance of healthy fats in your diet, please visit https://www.zwillinghealth.com/blog/2017/5/17/eat-fat-its-good-for-you.
4. Don’t oversanitize. We have become a society that is terrified of germs. But germs are a part of a (healthy) life. Overuse of hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps and cleansers have led to stronger bacteria that are resistant to some of our most powerful antibiotics. Wash your hands (often) using plain old soap. Use a gentle cleanser (or no cleanser at all!) to wash baby’s and children’s delicate skin. Harsh soaps strip the skin of its natural oil layer and acid mantle and disrupts the bacterial barrier of our skin, irritating the skin and making us more susceptible to infection. Use gentle cleaners in the home (baking soda and vinegar are great choices), or use natural cleaners that aren’t filled with toxic chemicals and antibacterial substances.
5. Play in the dirt! Along with not over-sanitizing, letting your kids play in the dirt exposes them to beneficial Soil-borne organisms (SBOs). SBOs promote gut health and a strong immune system. As much as possible give them access to soil that is free of herbicides, pesticides, and petroleum-based fertilizers. Along with playing in the dirt, being outside in general is an excellent activity for all children, of all sizes and ages. It also exposes them to sunlight which is crucial for overall health and well-being.
6. Create an environment that is conducive to sleep. Kids are remarkably good at taking care of themselves when we create the conditions for them to do so. Have a solid routine, for both waking as well as sleeping. A good night’s sleep starts with waking up the right way (this is true for adults too). Make sure their bedroom is dark (no nightlights), cool and quiet. White noise machines can be helpful if the room cannot be completely quiet. Go to bed earlier than later, as children will often sleep longer if they go to bed earlier (rather than just waking up earlier). Little bodies need a LOT of sleep.
7. Be the example. The best thing we can do as parents is eat healthy foods and present them with healthy options. Get enough rest. Move your body, preferably with your kids.
8. For pregnant women and parents of newborns: Vaginal birth is an important step in inoculating babies with beneficial bacteria when they are born. If a baby is born by C-section they miss out on this critical inoculation. The bacteria a baby is exposed to during a C-section is very different and not as healthy. There are ways to inoculate with healthy bacteria, so be sure to research your options in the event of a C-section. Also, breastfeeding is the best way to provide your baby with a healthy and robust gut and immune system. For women who are not able to breastfeed, there are ways to ensure your baby gets the benefit of a healthy gut. Avoid soy formulas at all costs!
*Eat nutrient dense foods. Avoid industrially produced, refined, denatured, stripped, edible food-like substances.
*Eat plenty of healthy fats. Avoid vegetable oils, which are rancid and contain large amounts of pro-inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids.
*Eat lots of fresh organic vegetables, both cooked and some raw, if tolerated. Include ample fermented veggies. These promote a healthy gut which promotes overall good health.
*Avoid toxic chemicals in your food (see the first bullet point above, and choose organic), household cleaning products and personal care products. Check www.ewg.org/skindeep for a comprehensive list of safe products and products to avoid.