You're probably aware of the microbiome, the rich ecosystem of bacteria and microorganisms on and inside each of us, and the influence it has in our health and wellness. You may be less familiar, however, with how this complex ecosystem develops during the first years of life.
Seeding the forest
The first major event occurs during childbirth itself. During a vaginal birth, a baby is coated in a range of its mum's microbes, like a coat of Lactobacilli, and these provide the foundation for its microbiome, helping to support the newborn's immune and digestive systems.
Natural childbirth allows a diverse range of microbiota to pass from mother to child, but caesarean babies can still benefit from their mother's precious bacteria. Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact are useful opportunities to stimulate the baby's microbiome.
With the introduction of solid foods, the infant's microbiome undergoes another big change, gradually shifting its bacterial composition towards an adult state.
Feeding the young microbiome
Childhood is a time of huge change for the microbiome, and the foods a child eats can shape how the microbiome develops.
Between the ages of three and 12 (and beyond), it's important for children to eat a lot of gut-friendly food to help beneficial bacteria thrive.
Make sure to offer your kids plenty of fresh prebiotic foods, such as whole grains, nuts and pulses. These are rich in fibre, encouraging bacterial diversity and helping your child to develop a healthy microbiome.
You can also assist the growing microbiome with foods containing beneficial bacteria, such as yoghurt and cultured vegetables.
Bacteria-rich foods and prebiotic foods can work in tandem. Food containing beneficial bacteria introduce new species to your child’s personal ecosystem, while prebiotic foods provide fuel for the existing bacteria to grow. A combination of the two can be good for your child's microbiome.
The fussy years
Unfortunately, these early years can also be tricky for parents, as this is when fussy eating tends to hit its peak in children.
It can be frustrating dealing with a child who refuses to eat fruit and vegetables when they need it most, but keep things calm and light, as losing your temper won't help anyone.
Remember that fussy eating is normal and usually short-lived. It can take many tries for your child to accept a new food, so be patient. In the meantime, you can always try sneaking nutritious food into their favourite meals. A stealthy shredded carrot, for instance, can go unnoticed in a lot of recipes.
Out and about
A fresh, healthy diet is a good start, but it doesn't end there.
It's important for growing kids to be physically active. If your child isn't active by nature, you may need to give them a gentle nudge. Encourage them to pick up a sport, play outside with their friends, or take the dog for a walk.
A consistent sleep routine is also important for growing kids. It’s believed sleep quality may also have an effect on the composition of the microbiome, so make sure your children are getting a good night's kip.
In addition to good nutrition, exercise and sleep, probiotics can further support a child's microbiome.
Premedy Children's Probiotic 15 is a carefully selected combination of 15 naturally sourced bacterial strains to support your child's healthy digestive and immune systems. It's one more way to support your kids' microbiome and general health.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet.