Monday, 5 June 2017

That gut feeling!

Research shows the important role that the gut plays in keeping us healthy and happy.

There is a profound dynamic interaction between your gut, your brain and your immune system, starting from birth with baby's development of gut microbiota. Zakia explains this important relationship.
 



Where does it all begin?


Let's start with a mini biology lesson. Trillions of bacteria live in your child's (and your own) gastrointestinal system, many of which are good bacteria that keep the gut healthy. These bacteria have been there since birth, when your baby's gastrointestinal tract became colonized with good, bad and benign bacteria (known as flora). This happens when baby passes through the birth canal during a vaginal delivery, during which baby picks up some of your microbes.

If you breastfeed your baby, you help your baby build up more good bacteria, because breast milk contains substances known as prebiotics that promote the growth of healthy bugs. Prebiotics are also found in high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Once your child weans and starts on solid foods, the gut microflora will change, and then remain pretty much constant throughout his or her lifetime.

Why is it so important to have healthy guts?

  • It helps the body to digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest.
  • It helps with the production of some vitamins (B and K).
  • Scientists have shown that brain levels of serotonin, the 'happy hormone' are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during early life.
  • It helps us combat aggressions from other microorganisms, maintaining the wholeness of the intestinal mucosa.
  • It plays an important role in the immune system, performing a barrier effect.

What can disrupt the gut flora?

-        Antibiotics, for instance, can kill both bad and good bacteria in your child's gut flora. "About 20 to 30 percent of kids develop diarrhoea when they take antibiotics," says Daniel Merenstein, M.D., director of research in the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.

-        Various diseases can disturb this otherwise fixed amount of microflora.

-        Poor diet: sugary and processed foods, lack of fruits and vegetables.

How to help your little ones maintain a healthy gut, and trust their gut?


Always start with food. Teaching our children the importance of eating wholesome, unprocessed, unrefined food is crucial to help them develop healthy eating habits. Keep to a strict minimum of sugar, fizzy drinks, processed and salty foods. Increase foods that are gut friendly, including vegetables, good oils, good proteins (fish, lean meat), wholegrains, fruits, fermented foods and drinks, such as Kefir.

Teaching a healthy approach to eating will help your children as well. Teach them about eating slowly and enjoying their food, rather than just scoffing quickly whatever is available. Eating slowly make them more aware of their body and teaches them to recognise when they are full. Explain what different foods can do to their body and mood, by all means give them the odd chocolate bar as a treat, but do also explain why it is an occasional treat.

Science is only confirming what naturopaths and nutritionists have known for years: that good physical and mental health start primarily in your gut. So look after your children’s gut flora, and yours too.  And this will help the whole family live a healthier and happier life.


Stay healthy, stay happy!
Zakia Mance
Naturopath and Hypnobirthing Practitioner 

www.zenbirth.co.uk/zakia


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