As parents, one of our top priorities is the overall development of our children. However, digestion and how to improve gut health of our kids is usually a topic that unfortunately receives less importance in our quest to try to help them on their journeys towards optimum development.
A healthy gut signals a healthy child, and nothing says healthy gut than regular bowel movements. We at theAsianparent spoke to some experts on the topic of good digestion and the part it plays in ensuring our children have a headstart to healthy eating and pooping habits.
A healthy diet is a vital part of ensuring we have a healthy gut. Photo: iStock
How to improve gut health in kids
Healthy diet, healthy gut
Speaking to Bibi Chia, Principal Dietitian at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre, we learnt that the importance of a good diet went a long way in ensuring the gut health of our children.
The dietary expert observed that Singaporean children tend to have a preference for sweet things thereby increasing their risks of acquiring certain ailments and conditions.
“From my observation, there is a tendency for Singaporean children to consume sugary or unhealthy foods which may increase the risk of poor digestion, with symptoms such as bloating and constipation. To prevent these issues, parents should avoid giving children foods that contain little to no fibre. Examples of such foods include fried foods and other heavily processed foods,” Chia noted.
Other common signs and symptoms of poor digestion in children include vomiting, diarrhoea and colic.
Image source: Shutterstock
“If a child is experiencing these issues, it might mean that the body is not absorbing or getting enough nutrients to create a healthy and smooth digestive process. Reducing the amount of sugar, processed and high-fat foods in children’s diet can help children develop better gut health” she further noted.
Parents can swap out these unhealthy foods with more natural and wholesome foods such as fruits, leafy vegetables and legumes, and switch to a high fibre diet comprising various fruits and vegetables which, Chia said, adding that this will positively impact children’s gut health and serve as prebiotics that feeds children’s gut bacteria.
These are a few ways in which parents can make more informed decisions for their children and help them develop better digestive health.
If you want to improve gut health in kids and achieve good digestion, it is also important to understand the processing methods involved in how food is made and produced as this can impact the nutritional value of food. By understanding the source of food that children consume, parents can make more informed food choices for their children and help them develop healthier tummies. In addition, parents should also consider selecting foods from reliable sources that are known for their high-quality produce.
“Natural, whole foods are what the tummy naturally recognizes, whereas preservatives and unwanted additives can complicate digestion and disrupt the healthy bacteria in a child’s tummy. Therefore, it is important to ensure a healthy and well-balanced diet in young children for good digestion,” Chia explained.
“Parents should choose natural wholesome foods such as oats, bananas, garlic, apples, wheat bran, onions and asparagus for their child’s diet. Another recommendation is to include more balanced meals and snacks such as vegetables, nuts, fruits or legumes which are rich in fibre and promote regular bowel movement,” she further noted.
Choosing the right foods can ensure that children receive both essential macro and micronutrients and develop a stronger digestive system.
Additionally, when buying boxed or canned products it is important to read food labels when choosing foods for your child as they are an important source of information about the nutritional value, ingredients and calorie count in the foods we consume.
Here a few tips by the expert on how parents can help picky eaters enjoy wholesome and natural food:
- Maintain control of what food is available, when and where meals are eaten, but leave it to the child to decide how much he or she wants to eat.
- Turn off all mobile devices and electronics during mealtimes.
- For some fussy eaters, using a compartmentalised plate might help.
- Keep meals to a 30-minute time-frame and provide realistic amounts of food that the child can finish.
- Limit large quantities of fluid just before meals or during meals.
- Don’t give up as it may take multiple tries before a child might accept new foods.
Healthy Poop, Healthy Pooping Habits
Healthy bowel habits revolve around a person’s ability to poop regularly; the poop will be soft and easy to pass out.
Poop that signals a problem with gut health will be watery or loose, showing that it is moving too quickly from the colon and is usually a result of an infection or inflammation. In addition, poop that is small and pellet-shaped is considered abnormal and is a sign of constipation.
“Regular bowel movements are important to children’s health. When it comes to frequency, children should poop at least once every other day to thrice a day. If a child is constipated, they are less likely to pass motion. On the other hand, if a child passes motion too frequently, it is likely that the child may have diarrhoea,” Chia noted.
“As with size and consistency of poop, the colour of a child’s poop can indicate their gut health. Good poop colours range from yellow-brown, brown, green-brown, green-black and green in children. Parents can refer to the Bristol Stool Chart to learn more about the different shapes of good poop for children,” she further added.
Bristol stool chart. Source: Friesland Campina
How To Improve Gut Health to improve gut health
In line with the World Digestive Health Day (29 May) milk brand, FRISO launched FRISO Good Poop Advisory Panel, aimed “to bring together experts to provide parents with useful knowledge about children’s gut health.”
“Our goal is to raise awareness about the importance of developing good digestion in children and showcase that taking as natural an approach to digestion is critical for a healthy gut,” noted David Naidu, General Manager at FrieslandCampina Singapore – FRISO.
“We understand that every parent wants the best for their child – the best care for their little one when it comes to ensuring their overall health, well-being and future development. However, one aspect that is often overlooked by parents is their child’ digestive health,” he said
“FRISO is a brand that believes that good gut health is critical in young children and we want to encourage conversations around the importance of developing good digestion in their children in a light-hearted manner. We felt that we could put a smile on faces while delivering this important message through our tongue-in-cheek campaign around the topic of achieving good poop – that your child’s gut health is an important aspect to unlocking their health and happiness,” he further added.
The list of guest experts on the panel includes Dr Christina Ong, Paediatrician and Paediatric Gastroenterologist, SOG – Christina Ong Clinic for Children and Gastroenterology and Bibi Chia, Principal Dietitian, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre.
“The experts share their insights on digestion through educational materials as well as virtual Q&A sessions in the month of June, as the nation continues to observe the prevailing social distancing recommendations. In the longer term, we will continue to support children’s digestion by creating a variety of initiatives such as public events. We look forward to sharing more details about the Q&A session with parents closer to the date – please stay tuned for more details which will be shared on FRISO’s social media platforms,” he noted.
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