We've been hearing a lot about how important gut health is, but what do we need to do to keep it healthy? Registered dietitian Nishta Saxena breaks it down for us.
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your gut. When you hear the word “bacteria”, you probably assume the worst but the truth is, our body is full of bacteria (both good and bad).
WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
Probiotics protect our bodies from harmful bacteria and yeast and help create the right gases in our guts that support good digestion. They also help with proper and good regulation of our immune systems, to help with our mood and brain chemistry. In fact, there is a direct link between our gut health and our brain.
DO KIDS NEED PROBIOTICS?
The short answer is no. There's not enough evidence to support this idea and there is still a lot of research to do to determine the right probiotics, the amount to take, and the right combination for health effects. It's also expensive, not to mention there are potential harms. Some studies have shown that probiotic supplements can have a negative effect on our gut junctions (i.e. areas of the gut that control what goes in and out to our bloodstream).
Probiotics can be useful in certain, very specific, medical or symptomatic situations, such as diarrhea caused by antibiotics. However, make sure you meet with a doctor or dietitian to determine the correct choice and dose.
SO HOW CAN WE SUPPORT GUT HEALTH IN KIDS?
Fibre, fibre, fibre! Stay away from yogurt, which is largely full of sugars and added starches. If you want to use dairy, try kefir. Other examples of prebiotic-fibre rich foods are garlic, onions, leeks, bananas, artichokes, asparagus, barley, oats, apples, flaxseeds, wheat bran and seaweed.
HOW MUCH SHOULD WE GIVE OUR KIDS DAILY?
No amount has been determined, but the idea is if you fill their plates with these kinds of foods at meals and snacks regularly and chronically, over time it will help support the overall health of the gut and the rest will follow.