Got a grumpy child? Check for digestion issues!

Is your growing-up-child grumpy? Don’t ignore it as this may be due to digestive discomfort! In fact, one out of three children may experience symptoms of digestive discomfort.1 This includes tummy aches or cramps, feeling bloated, gassiness (marked by burping or farting), and watery stools.

digestive problems in kids

Digestion and Your Kid’s Growth and Development

It is a fact that digestion affects the availability of nutrients. And looking into your child’s digestion issues may point you to what your kid eats and/or drinks. Since growing up milk is a commonly used supplement in children’s nutrition, it is possible that the undigested nutrients in milk, namely protein and lactose, are the culprits of the digestive issues2,3 that he or she is experiencing.

However, at the same time, both these nutrients are crucial to a child’s normal growth.

To help you understand how important these nutrients are in the growth and development of kids, here are some fast facts on protein and lactose:

  • Protein is made up of amino acids that are used for the physical structure of our muscles, bones and organs. It is also a component of red blood cells, hormones and enzymes. Each of these are crucial for our body’s functions.4
  • Lactose is not only a source of energy, but it also enhances the absorption of calcium and magnesium5 that help build strong bones and teeth. In addition, its prebiotic effects can stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system.3

digestive problems in kids

How Undigested Protein and Lactose Cause Digestive Discomfort in Children

Lactose

The lactose nutrient in milk is broken down by lactase enzymes into simple sugars, glucose and galactose. These are absorbed in the small intestine for our body’s use as fuel or energy.When the lactase enzyme level is low, lactose maldigestion (incomplete breakdown) occurs and undigested lactose goes to the large intestines, where it is fermented by bacteria. The byproducts of bacterial fermentation are acids and gases, which cause digestive discomfort such as gassiness, a bloated sensation, tummy aches and watery stools.6

Protein

Just like lactose, protein is digested into a smaller size by an enzyme called enterokinase.7 This smaller size protein can then be absorbed by the body. In cases where enterokinase is lacking, there can be severe malabsorption (failure in absorption). This may result in diarrhoea, poor growth, low blood protein level and swelling/edema.2

digestive problems in kids

It’s important to note that a good digestive system will lead to good digestion, resulting in your child’s healthy development. However, digestive issues can negatively impact your child’s growth. As such, it’s best not to ignore those digestive problems in kids anymore. Thanks to advances in paediatric nutrition technology, growing up milk that is formulated with easy to digest partially hydrolysed protein and lower lactose (compared to regular cow's milk) is now available to help support your child’s digestion.

References:

  1. MJN Internal data, children 1-3yo, N=259. Habits & Practices Study 2015.
  2. Zheng XL, Kitamoto Y, Sadler JE. Enteropeptidase, a type II transmembrane serine protease. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2009;1:242-9.
  3. Szilagyi A. Redefining lactose as a conditional prebiotic. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2004;18(3):163-7.
  4. S. Food and Drug Administration. Protein. Available at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/factsheets/Protein.pdf. Accessed on 18 October 2017.
  5. Schaafsma G. Lactose and lactose derivatives as bioactive ingredients in human nutrition. International Dairy Journal. 2008;18(5):458-65.
  6. Jackson KA, Savaiano DA. Lactose maldigestion, calcium intake and osteoporosis in African-, Asian-, and Hispanic-Americans. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2001 Apr 1;20(2):198S-207S.
  7. Holzinger A, Maier EM, Bück C, Mayerhofer PU, Kappler M, Haworth JC, Moroz SP, Hadorn HB, Sadler JE, Roscher AA. Mutations in the proenteropeptidase gene are the molecular cause of congenital enteropeptidase deficiency. The American Journal of Human Genetics. 2002;70(1):20-5.