Is Your Child Having Trouble Digesting? Here are 10 Foods to Improve Their Gut Health
Crankiness, constipation and other issues could be caused by a weak gut, which is why optimising your child’s gut flora is crucial.
Maintaining or building a good gut flora in children is crucial. It has become one of the most talked about topics amongst parents and with good reason - the gut microbiome plays an important role in your child’s mental and physical health.
Oftentimes, when your child encounters issues with their digestive system, they can become cranky and irritable because of the discomfort. This, therefore, hinders their ability to learn or explore their surroundings with ease, especially since mood-regulating chemicals are released from the gut to the brain.
Why the gut specifically? Good bacteria resides within the gut and supports various functions within the body. If these “friendly” bacteria are not nourished, it could potentially lead to a weak or leaky gut that is unable to absorb nutrients no matter the amount of healthy foods you feed him or her.
A weak gut can cause issues within your child including stomach aches, weak immunity, mood fluctuations as well as fatigue. When your child consumes food, their body will breakdown the macronutrients which are then absorbed to support various functions - this is why nutrient absorption is the key to your child’s overall growth.
A healthy gut supports nutrient absorption
To better absorb nutrients, parents will need to focus on maintaining or strengthening their child’s intestinal environment. A healthy gut is able to support the absorption, while removing any bad bacteria and waste.
This is why prebiotics have become the focus of many families as this stimulates the growth of good bacteria within the gut. Prebiotics “feed” the healthy microbes in the gut to help these bacteria thrive - this includes probiotics which are made up of beneficial bacteria and yeast that reside within the body.
In summary, the good bacteria reside within the gut1 and supports crucial bodily functions such as:
- waste and bad bacteria removal;
- mood improvement;
- healthy weight management;
- improving metabolism;
- and most importantly, nutrient absorption.
So, how can you strengthen your child’s gut health? With gut health foods.
The answer is through their diet - prebiotics are present in certain foods, but are non-digestible. What this means is that prebiotics resist stomach acid, travel to the colon intact and are able to selectively stimulate the growth, as well as the activity of beneficial bacteria in the colon.
Prebiotics are also a specific type of dietary fibre, but take note that not all dietary fibre are
prebiotics which is why consuming “non-digestible fibre” is the key.
So, here are 10 prebiotic-rich gut health foods for your kids to help get that good bacteria going!
Oats contain beta-glucans2 which are known to have prebiotic properties - some of the fibres within oats are “fermentable fibre”3, which feeds the good bacteria and helps them multiply, as well as regulate bowel movements.
Tip: Try adding different flavours to your kids’ oatmeals as they may shy away from the bland taste. Try adding fruits such as bananas, or even cocoa powder and honey.
Broccoli is known as a nutrient-dense food that contains vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, iron, manganese, antioxidants and other good nutrients. However, it is also high in fibre - it contains about 2.3grams of fibre in three florets (one cup)4.
Tip: Kids hate their greens - we know. So, make it fun, and decorate their plate with broccoli “trees” to double up as imaginative play.
Onions are particularly rich in inulin and fructooligosaccharides prebiotics - both prebiotics that support the growth of Bifidobacteria in the gut. Raw onions have a higher source of prebiotics, but cooked onions also contain prebiotics - about five percent of fibre in 120 grams of onions5.
Tip: Incorporate onions into their meals, especially sandwiches. For other dishes, we recommend finely mincing the onions for easier consumption.
Garlic is always a key component when it comes to food. However, besides being a star ingredient, its fibre content is made up of about 11 per cent inulin and six per cent fructooligosaccharides6.
Tip: Mince up garlic finely and add it to your cooking for your kids if they aren’t too fond of it.
Bananas boost good gut bacteria, reduce bloating and, as we know, it is very high in fibre. But, they also contain prebiotic fibres with small amounts of inulin. Unripe or green bananas also contain resistant starch which has certain prebiotic effects. Resistant starch is a carbohydrate that ferments within the large intestine7, and as it does this, the fibre acts as a prebiotic to feed the good bacteria within the gut.
Tip: Bananas don't have to be eaten as is. You can add it to oatmeal or even on toast.
6. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate has various health benefits and it is actually a prebiotic8. Dark chocolate contains fibre that does not get digested and instead, it goes to the large intestine to feed the probiotics within your gut.
Tip: Opt for dark chocolate brands that are natural - some chocolates go through too much processing and it may limit the nutritional value.
Barley, similar to oats, contains beta-glucans - barley actually contains more beta-glucans than oats9 - there are between three and eight grams of beta-glucan per 100grams of barley10.
Tip: If your child is new to barley, you can ease them into it with barley water - just add one tablespoon of barley to two cups of water. Cook the barley in a pressure cooker with the water, cool it and blend. Strain and cool before serving11.
Beans are one of the strongest sources of fibre - a cup of lima beans contains 14 grams of fibre, while other popular beans such as black beans and kidney beans contain 15 grams and 16 grams per cup, respectively.
Moreover, beans are inexpensive and are loaded with protein. There are different types of beans which contain varying amounts of prebiotics. Soya beans contain inulin, while red kidney beans contains galactooligosaccharides and fructooligosaccharides12.
Tip: Stir beans into a soup and serve it on the side with your kids’ meals - it makes it much easier to consume.
Nuts, including its skin, are a good source of fibre. A study uncovered that two handfuls of almonds (56 grams) once a day for six weeks increased the growth of beneficial strains of gut bacteria. Pistachios also formed a similar result13!
Tip: Nuts can easily be crushed up and sprinkle them on top of their daily snacks. Try topping off some puree apples with crushed nuts.
10. Brussel sprouts
These little mini-cabbage-like vegetables are not commonly consumed within Malaysian households but they are high in fibre. There are roughly four grams of beneficial fibre in a cup of cooked brussels sprouts14.
Tip: Brussel sprouts can be steamed, roasted, stir-fried as well as shredded. You can simply season them with salt and pepper.
Improve your child’s gut health with Mamil D-GestPro+
However, the effects are not immediate when it comes to improving gut health, which is why finding the right sources of prebiotics is important. Also, we know it can be a struggle when it comes to encouraging your child to eat these specific gut health foods!
But, if your child is suffering from a weak gut, you will need to act fast. Some signs of a weak gut include abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, diarrhoea, gas and bloating.
One alternative to getting your child the adequate amount of prebiotics into their system is through a formula such as sucrose-free Mamil® D-GestPro+, which is formulated with a prebiotic mix that supports gut health.
Mamil® D-GestPro+’s formulation contains:
- A unique prebiotic mixture: It is formulated with a unique Oligosaccharide mixture (GOS/IcFOS) that increases good bacteria and helps maintain a healthy intestinal environment .
- Milk from grass-fed cows: It is sourced from cows that are predominantly grass fed, which means it is high in protein, calcium and vitamin D.
- DHA*: This is a key component that is essential for your child’s growth and brain development.
*Mamil® Step 3 contains 96mg DHA content based 3 servings per day
Mamil® D-GestPro+ is affordable and has four variations that cater to children aged up to nine-years-old!
Lastly, one of the most important benefits is that it helps to support your child’s overall growth and development - a happy and healthy child has more opportunities to explore the world around him.
Keen to try out Mamil® D-GestPro+? Visit Dumex Mamil’s website for more information.
1 Harvard Health Publishing. (2016, October). Can gut bacteria improve your health? Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health
2 (2013, July 3). Non-digestible long chain beta-glucans as novel prebiotics .... Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212619813000326
3 (2007, March 26). Concentrated oat β-glucan, a fermentable fiber, lowers serum .... Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-6-6
4 (2019, May 10). Broccoli 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits - Healthline. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/broccoli
5 (2015, December 15). Prebiotic Foods | Top 10 Foods Containing Prebiotics | Prebiotin. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://www.prebiotin.com/foods-containing-prebiotics/
6 (2016, June 8). The 19 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat - Healthline. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/19-best-prebiotic-foods
7 What is Resistant Starch? - The Johns Hopkins Patient Guide .... Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://hopkinsdiabetesinfo.org/what-is-resistant-starch/
8 Hayek, N. (2013, February 7). Chocolate, gut microbiota, and human health. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3566565/
9 Betting on Beta-Glucans - Today's Dietitian. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/050114p16.shtml
10 The 19 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat - Healthline. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/19-best-prebiotic-foods
11 (2018, February 27). Barley for Babies: How to Choose, Benefits, Recipes & more. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/barley-for-babies-how-to-choose-benefits-recipes-more/
12 Prebiotics – an added benefit of some fibre types - Wiley .... Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nbu.12366
13 (2016, June 24). Are nuts one of the secrets to a healthy gut microbiome .... Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://trade.australian-macadamias.org/are-nuts-one-of-the-secrets-to-a-healthy-gut-microbiome/
14 (2019, July 9). 7 Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts | Health.com. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from https://www.health.com/nutrition/benefits-brussels-sprouts