6 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Gut Health

Jonathan Moses, MD

A healthy gastrointestinal tract helps kids thrive. But sometimes this amazing system needs a little TLC.

Whether you're concerned about constipation or tummy aches, or just want to bolster your child's digestive health to promote optimal health, these tips from pediatric gastroenterologist Jonathan Moses, MD, can help.

Feed the good bugs

The human intestines are home to more than 100 trillion bacteria. These "bugs" may protect against infection, help digest food and bolster immunity, Dr. Moses says.

"Research has shown there are unique collections of bugs in different diseases – from irritable bowel syndrome to diabetes to fatty liver disease. Ongoing work is being done to determine what this means," Dr. Moses says.

Fiber in grains, fruits and vegetables helps keep gut bacteria healthy – especially fiber types found in whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice, bananas and berries. Getting plenty of fiber from food can also help reduce the odds for constipation.

Add more beneficial bacteria to the mix

Fermented foods that contain live, active bacteria cultures like yogurt and kefir can add more good bugs to your child's gastrointestinal tract. So can nondairy, fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and nondairy yogurt.

Cut back on processed foods

A diet packed with chips, fast food and processed meat can lead to constipation and may prevent beneficial gut bugs from thriving. Diet drinks and artificial sweeteners can also mess with good bacteria, research shows.

Have fun with pets and other kids

BlogBeing around furry pets and romping with siblings early in life may promote a healthy mix of beneficial bacteria in the digestive systems of babies and young children. This good-bug bonus may even help protect kids against asthma and some allergies.

Say no thanks to nonessential antibiotics

Antibiotics can cure strep throat, but they can kill off beneficial gut bacteria, too.

"Use these drugs only when needed, not for viral infections. Always follow the advice of your pediatrician when thinking about whether your child needs antibiotics," Dr. Moses says.

Know when to see the doctor

"Make an appointment with your child's pediatrician if he or she has constipation for more than a few days or any ongoing digestion-related symptoms that concern you, such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating or gas,"  Dr. Moses says.

"The pediatrician may refer your child to a pediatric gastroenterologist – a digestive disease expert who can diagnose and treat a wide variety of gastrointestinal health concerns in babies, children and teens," he says.

Get a second opinion

A second opinion can provide crucial information and invaluable peace of mind when it comes to your child's health.

UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital offers Northeast Ohio's only Second Opinion Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Clinic. Whether it is Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or IBD-undifferentiated, our pediatric IBD experts will review your child's medical history and treatment course, and provide up-to-date, evidence-based recommendations. Call 216-844-1765 or go to UHhospitals.org/SecondOpinion.

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