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In the many children we treat for immune problems such as allergies, recurrent infections and skin conditions including eczema, the gut is the number one place we start assessing and this is why.
A Healthy Gut For Healthy Immune
Over 70% of our immune system lives in and around the digestive tract; therefore having high levels of good bacteria in the digestive system is essential for building a strong immune system in growing children.
You probably don’t think about your gut very often but this may make you start–the bacteria in your bowels outnumber the cells in your body by a factor of 10 to one. This gut flora is a major player of your immune system, which of course, is your body’s natural defense system that keeps you healthy. In other words, the health of your body is largely tied into the health of your gut, and it’s hard to have one be healthy if the other is not.
One of the reasons why your gut has so much influence on your health has to do with the 100 trillion bacteria–about three pounds worth–that line your intestinal tract. This is an extremely complex living system that aggressively protects your body from outside offenders. Good gut bacteria can even influence the growth and formation of organs crucial to proper immune function.
Your Child’s Gut Devlopment
In early childhood, your child’s digestive system is not yet fully mature. The first two years are the most critical. The gut microflora established during this period can greatly influence your child’s long-term immunity. If your child’s digestive health is poor and he is malnourished at this point, his growth and development will be jeopardised. It is not until age 4 or 5 that a child has developed enough good bacteria to constitute a developed digestive system.
A healthy gut microflora ecosystem is essential to your child’s overall health. Children that don’t have the right balance of gut bacteria are likely to be more prone to colic (gas and pain in the abdomen), and are believed to be at greater risk of developing allergy (e.g. eczema) and asthma when they grow up.
Clearly, the best path for proper immunity is the early establishment of a healthy population of gut flora, ideally initiated immediately after birth.
How Does The Gut Become Disrupted?
The beneficial balance of ‘good bugs’ in the gut is easily upset by many factors, including antibiotics (which wipe out good bacteria as well as bad bacteria), high sugar diets and stress. If we have children, it’s up to us to ensure they receive the proper exposure to beneficial bacteria. As a general rule, the avoidance of sugar, vegetable oils, and lectin-rich grains and legumes to the inclusion of animal fat, protein, Primal starches, and leafy vegetables is a safe way to promote a healthy gut. Eating fermented foods and introducing a good probiotic supplement to your child’s diet is also highly beneficial.
Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis are two strains of probiotics scientifically proven to boost immunity. Taken in combination over 6 months, these probiotics have been shown, among other things, to effectively reduce the incidence and duration of upper respiratory tract infections in young children.
We highly recommend and often prescribe a children’s probiotic called Flora Care for Kids, which we stock at the clinic. It is designed to restore healthy gut flora following antibiotic use and to prevent infectious diarrheah in children. The therapuetic probiotic strains in this formula are immuno-supportive and have been shown to assist in the treatment of atopic dermatitis and food allergies, and help to boost immunity to prevent respiratory tract infections in infants and children.
Benefits for your child:
- restores gut flora after antibiotic use
- prevents infectious diarrhea
- prevents upper respiratory tract infections
- management of eczema and food allergy
Contact us to find out how we can help support your child’s gut and immunity, or read more here.