The scoop on poop! You probably swore you would never, EVER talk about poop before you were a parent, right? We all did! Now it’s time to chat about the gut immune brain link and how it affects your child(ren). Read my blog featured on the wonderful children’s website Kids Health Australia!
When you were pregnant, you probably vowed that you would never be the kind of parent who talked about poop. Like so many good intentions, that one probably lasted less than 24 hours of becoming a mum, and you probably now talk more about the contents of your little ones nappies than about films, books, or politics. Good gut health is fundamental to your child’s well-being and your child’s nappies can tell you a great deal of what is going on inside.
When your baby is not sleeping, feeding properly or in distress, you need to look for clues of what is going on. A mum’s natural instinct is pretty sharp and many mummies quickly make the connection between what they see in their babies’ nappies and their feeding patterns, mood and sleep.
If your little one has digestive issues for more than two weeks, then it is important to get this checked out. If you see any blood or mucous please see your GP immediately. If you draw blank here then do seek help from a Naturopath or Nutritional Therapist to check nothing more is untoward.
Typically an out-of-sync gut has pretty obvious symptoms. These can be dark, smelly or explosive poo. Nappy contents can be multi-coloured from undigested foods and this is a sign of poor digestive enzyme production. Yellow, fatty stools are signs of poor absorption. Gut pain, which is the main reason why babies don’t sleep, maybe from burning acid in the throat or from regurgitated milk. Many babies and toddlers strain to push a poo out and can get very bunged up, which can be painful too.
There may also be more subtle issues such as bloating, belching or smelly wind or simply your little one insists on sleeping on their tummy. There are also some seemingly unrelated issues such as persistent coughs, wheezing or itchy skin that often stem from an out-sync gut function known as leaky-gut.
Once weaning has been fully established, you should easily be able to roll the contents of a nappy into the toilet and the stool should be a mid-brown hazelnut colour. If your child has more than three dirty nappies a day or less than one every day it is also important to establish what is going on.
The hottest topic in the nutrition world at the moment is the link between gut, immunity and brain health. The balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut is known as the microbiome. It is important to ensure there are optimal levels of good bacteria in a baby’s tummy for them to be able to develop a good, strong immune system and be a contented baby. If the baby is being breastfed, then the mum’s microbiome is also incredibly important and mum should be ensuring that her gut is working well too.
One round of antibiotics during pregnancy for mum or shortly after the birth for mum or baby can wipe out the essential good bacteria needed for a healthy microbiome. A caesarean-section or a stressful birth may mean starting out life with not enough beneficial bacteria and this can really knock the gut and immune system out of balance. This is why many people are now recommending beneficial bacteria supplements and fermented foods to help keep everything in perfect equilibrium.
It is thought that if your child’s digestion is working optimally then this will also have a positive impact on their immune system, mood and learning. If your child’s gut is out-of-sync you may well find that your youngster is more prone to catching more infections that last for longer. These bad infections often mean further antibiotics, which knocks out the gut even more and can trigger a roller-coaster effect on the child’s whole system. Very often this can affect sleep patterns, appetite, and healthy food choices and may ultimately mean more extreme meltdowns and separation issues. If these issues persist the child is much more likely to struggle with speech and language development, co-ordination and social skills, although some kids are lucky and it only affects their immune system.
Important steps you can make to get your child’s gut back on track is to give them good quality beneficial bacteria and fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut and to incorporate lots of gut-healing foods including bone broths into their diet. Ideally you would make these yourself but if time is tight then you can buy these online. Slowed cooked stews, soaked grains and easy to digest foods are also very helpful and can make a big difference to digestion and absorption of nutrients. Lucinda Recommends:
Important steps you can make to get your child’s gut back on track is to give them good quality beneficial bacteria and fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut and to incorporate lots of gut-healing foods including bone broths into their diet. Ideally you would make these yourself but if time is tight then you can buy these online. Slowed cooked stews, soaked grains and easy to digest foods are also very helpful and can make a big difference to digestion and absorption of nutrients.