gut health     

Boost Your Children’s Gut Health

The Microbiome (defined as the microbes that live inside and on the human body) weight is about 3 to 5 pounds per person these bacteria help control our immune system, determining whether your child has an allergic reaction to a peanut and how effectively she fights off a cold virus. The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your health by helping control digestion and benefiting your immune system and many other aspects of health.

An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the intestines may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders. In addition, the
microbiome is involved in regulating metabolism and weight gain. It may also be wired to the brain which could influence mood and potentially protect your child from
mental-health disorders

If you want to set your children up for a lifetime of good health, it is in my opinion essential to bolster the bacteria in their tummy. The human genome (your genes) is fixed at conception but the human microbiome is largely a product of lifestyle and environment. It can also be most malleable in infancy and childhood. Fortunately, nurturing your children’s microbiome doesn’t have to be hard. These are the simple guidelines that I try to follow in our family.

Feed the Good Bacteria

Good bacteria thrive and feed on dietary fibre. Fibre is the part of the plants that we cannot fully digest. Research is showing that if our children’s gut bacteria don’t get
enough dietary fibre a hungry gut microbe will proceed to eat the mucus that lines and protects the inner walls of the intestine. When bacteria get too close to these
walls, this can set off alarm bells within the immune system and can result in a state of inflammation that can eventually lead to autoimmune disorders such as
inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and asthma.

In 2015 the UK government published new guidelines with a recommendation that the population's fibre intake should increase to 30g a day for adults (aged 17 years and over).  On average, we consume much less than this - about 18g per day. Children also need to increase their intake of fibre. Recommended intakes of fibre are shown below.

Age (years)

 Recommended intake of fibre


 15g per day


 20g per day


 25g per day

 17 and over

 30g per day



Portion of food




4 grams Fibre


1 Cup

5 grams Fibre


22 Almonds

3 grams Fibre



8 grams Fibre

Green Beans

1 Cup

4 grams Fibre



11 grams Fibre

Steamed Cauliflower

1 Cup

3 grams Fibre

Cooked Lentils

1 Cup

10 grams Fibre

Orange Medium


2.7 grams Fibre


To increase your Family intake, you could: 
  • Choose a high fibre breakfast: Start their day with porridge and why not add some fresh fruits, seeds and or/nuts with nuts, mixed seeds, and chopped fruits. Start with a small bowl and increase portion over time. If this is too much start small and just add a piece of fruit to their existing breakfast that you know they will like. Berries are great and high in polyphenols.
  • Choose wholegrains like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, a good quality wholemeal sourdough.
  • Go for potatoes with skins e.g. baked potato, wedges or boiled new potatoes – you can eat these hot or use for a salad. Even better cook some small potatoes and let them cool before eating again either cold or reheated as they contain more Resistant Starch which is prebiotic.
  • For snacks try fruit, vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes, unsalted nuts or seeds.
  • Include plenty of vegetables with meals – either as a side dish/salad or added to sauces, stews or curries – this is a good way of getting children to eat more veg.
  • Keep a supply of frozen vegetables so you are never without.
  • Add a handful pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries, soups and salads.
  • Use the rainbow chart for one week and vary the type of fibre that you are consuming. Don’t always stick to broccoli, carrots and peas. Hide vegetables
    in sauces.
  • Finally, set a good example of healthy eating yourself - again everyone has the same variety as each other on the plate. Ultimately, children pay more attention to what their parents do than what their parents say. So set a great example, smile and chances are, your children will follow where you lead!!
  • *If you need to increase your fibre intake it is a good idea to do so gradually. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids* 

Eat Bacteria Itself

yeoGet your family to consume live and active good bacteria in live yogurt but make sure to shop carefully as many yogurts marketed to children have added sugar. My favourite brand is Yeo Valley organic yogurt. If necessary, you can add ½ tsp of sugar or raw honey (at least you control the amount).

kefirThe fermented dairy drink kefir is another form of edible bacteria that can easily be incorporated into your children’s diet. Try a glass for breakfast in the morning and
add half an orange juice to make it more palatable. I like this brand.


Use Antibiotics with caution

These drugs can be lifesaving, but they also kill bacteria indiscriminately and get rid of the good parts of your microbiome along with the bad. That loss may have a broader impact on your child’s long-term health than you might realise.

For instance, a 2014 University of Chicago study on mice has linked antibiotics with peanut allergies, this effect may have resulted from antibiotics’ progressive alteration
of the functionality of the microbiome. It is therefore important that as parents, and in agreement with your GP, your reserve antibiotics only for illnesses for which they are necessary.

Get sunlight

- vitamin D – essential for gut lining integrity and new research suggests it influences microbiome diversity too.

Let them get dirty!

Children who play outdoors get exposure to dirt which is actually good for them! Let them get outside, gardening, picking vegetables or have a lay down on the grass. Ditch your hand sanitizer and just wash their hands instead. You are doing their gut a huge favour. 


Children growing up with pets have a lower risk of developing allergies as Pets carry their own microbiota and research shows that they may even support your microbial diversity.





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Gwen is a fully qualified and experienced Nutritional Therapist working in the Harrogate area of North Yorkshire.