Why your child's gut health is important
Just like a healthy mum makes for a healthy pregnancy; a healthy gut makes for a healthy child. Find out why your child's gut health is important and how to nurture a healthy gut!
With the competitive standards in Singapore, it's little wonder that parents are increasingly focusing on ways to get their children to excel academically.
This is evident from the influx of enrichment classes that are available for children as young as six-months-old. With the emphasis on education and results, Singapore has even been applauded for raising the smartest kids in the world!
While our society has nurtured us to be results-driven, we cannot afford to forget that health is wealth.
A healthy child makes a happy child. As parents, seeing our children active and smiling means the world to us.
Dumex understands the concerns of parents, and hopes to educate parents through their Parenting from the Heart seminars which have been running for the 5th consecutive year.
Educating parents on the importance of a child's gut health
Held at the Raffles Convention Centre on 3 October 2015 , the event saw an overwhelming response from new parents-to-be as well as parents with young children, who were all eager to find out why gut health is important during the first 1,000 days of their child's life.
They all also wanted to learn about how they can prepare for the big day and nurture a healthy child when he finally arrives.
The seminar covered the importance of a pregnant mum's diet which contributes to the child's first 1,000 days, breastfeeding tips and priming your baby's gut for his natural defenses.
New mums and dads learnt about how early life nutrition (from day one of pregnancy until a child's second birthday) can impact a child's long term health.
Why the focus on your child's gut health?
If your child is generally healthy, chances of you giving his gut health any attention, is usually low.
But gut health needs our attention because the gut:
- plays a key role in digestion
- ensures proper absorption of key nutrients to support brain and physical development
- supports your child’s natural defences
According to various medical sources, "an interesting fact not commonly known is that the gut requires the proper balance of good bacteria in order to fulfil its many functions mentioned above, and prebiotics such as long chain fructo-oligosaccharides (IcFOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS) can help to achieve this and promote a healthy profile of good gut bacteria."
Speaking at the seminar, Dr Ang Ai Tin, Consultant Paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre, said, "The gut produces and stores our immune cells and disseminates the immune cells through out the other mucosal sites like the respiratory tract, nasal cavity, vaginal tract, urinary tract, mammary glands and skin. Therefore, whatever happens inside the intestinal mucosal system will show in the other mucosal sites."
Imagine your child's gut akin to our facial skin. If the facial skin is accumulated with makeup, dead skin cells and dirt, the skin is not able to absorb the nutrients from the moisturiser that is applied onto the skin. Taking charge of the skin's health means ensuring proper cleansing and care, and feeding it with the right nourishment, which gets effectively absorbed by the skin.
Similarly, with a healthy gut, nourishment from food is effectively absorbed or broken down by the body to facilitate your child's development, immunity and growth.
How can you tell if your kid has a healthy gut?
One of the indicators would be their stool patterns. Stools are the by-product of undigested food, and they vary in shades, consistency and frequency for each child. However, monitoring any changes helps highlight health concerns which may require attention.
Generally, stool that is soft and easy to pass is considered healthy. According to the above poop chart, that would mean Type 3 or Type 4, for a child who has started on solids. More information on the causes of different poop type and what to do can be found here.
- Normal, stable gut and has balance of good and bad bacteria (or healthy gut microbiota)
- Effective digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Absence of gastrointestinal illness – constipation, diarrhoea, colic
- Regular bowel movement – stool consistency is soft and frequent
- Effective natural defences
- Total well-being – positive mood, happy
How can you nurture a healthy gut for your kid?
From day one of pregnancy, pregnant mums can take the first step towards ensuring a healthy gut for their little one.
Tips for pregnant and breastfeeding mums
- Mums should ensure healthy, balanced meals during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, even if they are smaller and more frequent meals versus three large meals a day.
- It's also important to care for your own health by taking the right prenatal supplements. Consider a maternal milk such as Dumex Mamil Mama PreciNutri, which is specially formulated with internationally patented prebiotic blend (GOS, IcFos) to promote growth of good Bifidus bacteria to help maintain a healthy digestive system in pregnant and breastfeeding mums.
Tips for newborn until six-months-old
- For the first six months, your baby requires a milk-only diet, and the WHO recommends babies to be fully breastfed for the first six months because their digestive systems are immature and should not be taking other food yet.
Tips for six-month-old and beyond
- When your child is ready for solids, it's good to introduce healthy, natural food sources and ensure that your child is well-hydrated with fresh water throughout the day.
- For food options, choose fruits and vegetables which are high in fibre to feed good gut bacteria and encourage healthy bowl movements. Food to take: oats, cereal, whole grains, spinach, carrots, pears and apples.
- Food which contain good bacteria (probiotics) can help with digestion and promote a healthy gut. Food to take: Yogurt, sourdough bread and probiotic supplements. However, do consult your child's paediatrician before embarking on supplements for him.
- Food which contain prebiotics to feed the good bacteria already living in your child's gut. Food to take: Asparagus, bananas, oatmeal, legumes and honey (after one-year-old).
And Dr Ang Ai Tin sums it up on how parents can help nuture a healthy gut in your children:
- Healthy gut = healthy child = healthy adult STEPS
- Healthy mother/pregnancy
- Vaginal delivery, if possible
- Breastfeeding preferred
- If supplements are needed, choose those with prebiotics and probiotics
- Healthy weaning
theAsianparent extends our thanks to Dumex for having us at the Parenting from the Heart seminar. These pointers for nurturing a healthy gut in our children are certainly insightful for parents to ponder over.
Mums and dads, are you taking steps to help nurture healthy guts for your children? Share with us what you do to take charge of your child's gut health!