Improve Your Child's Gut Health in 5 Simple Steps: Step 4

If you're just joining the gut health series, let me get you up to speed (and if you've been along for the ride, here's a quick refersher!)...

Our overall health is dependent on our gut health which is dependent on having the right balance of "good" and "bad" gut bacteria.

When the bad guys outnumber the good guys, we're in for all sorts of dysfunction from digestive issues to a suppressed immune system to autoimmune disorders and neurological conditions like SPD, ASD and ADHD.

Wondering if your child is at risk for gut dysfunction? Click here to find out. If he is, don't fret, there are several things you can do to get rid of those pesky bad bugs. So far we've covered three of them:

1. Replace gut-irritating foods with gut-healing foods
2. Supplement with a high-quality probiotic
3. Ditch the antibacterial soap and make dirt your friend

Before we delve into step 4, I want to remind you of our two mottos: Rome wasn't built in a day and Progress not perfection.

These steps are all simple, but not all of them are easy. What is easy is to feel overwhelmed! So, remember, start small. Pick one thing to focus on and go from there.

Alright, here's...

Step 4: Avoid Antibiotics When Possible

There are times when antibiotics are absolutely necessary. But, they are far too over-prescribed in our country - the U.S. ranks number one in per capita antibiotic consumption.

The average American child will receive roughly seventeen courses of antibiotics by his or her eighteenth birthday and mostly for illnesses such as ear infections (most are viral) that don’t require any treatment!

Considering the fact that just one course of antibiotics can negatively alter a child’s microbiome, this is an extremely disturbing statistic.

Here's what we know:

  • Children and older adults have the hightest rates of antibiotic use
  • Antibiotics damage gut bacteria
  • Infants given antibiotics have an increased risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (gut dysfunction)
  • Overuse of antibiotics leads to bacterial resistance, making some illnesses increasingly difficult to treat
  • Antibiotic use in infancy is tied to an increased risk of allergies, infections and obesity
  • According to the CDC, 30 percent of pediatric antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary

A study from the Pediatrics journal found that “pediatricians prescribed antibiotics 62 percent of the time when they perceived that parents expected them to be prescribed, and only 7 percent of the time when they thought parents didn’t, suggesting the need for antibiotics is almost always optional.”

We’re conditioned to believe that antibiotics are a cure-all and that they don’t come with any downsides, neither of which is true. Next time your child is sick, ask your doctor the following questions before accepting a prescription for antibiotics:

  • Is this absolutely necessary?
  • What, if any, are some other treatment options besides an antibiotic?
  • What will happen if my child doesn’t take the antibiotic?
  • If necessary, is there a narrow spectrum choice that will be effective?

If it’s absolutely unavoidable (my boys have both been on several courses), make sure you:

  • Give your child a probiotic during and after the course of antibiotics (consult your doctor first)
  • Eliminate all sugary and starchy foods while they are on the course (I know this is a tough one, but so important!)
  • Increase prebiotic foods during and after treatment

Immune-boosting tips (note- consult your doctor before trying any supplements):

  • Use elderberry syrup
  • Use a high-quality multi-vitamin (my boys take this)
  • Consider a vitamin C supplement
  • Consider a vitamin D supplement (my boys take this)
  • Increase foods rich in Vitamin C (citrus fruits, peaches, bell peppers, berries, tomatoes, peas, broccoli, papaya, kale)
  • Increase foods rich in Vitamin A (sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, dried herbs, butternut squash, cod liver oil)
  • Increase foods high in Zinc (nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, grass-fed meat, organic, free-range chicken, hemp seeds, cocoa powder, eggs, brown rice, garlic, spinach)

There are times when antibiotics are unavoidable - don't beat yourself up if your child has been on them. But, the next time your doctor recommends them, make sure they're absolutely necessary.

If they are, and/or your child has taken them in the past, follow the immune-boosting tips and ask your doctor to recommend a probiotic.

If you have any thoughts or quetsions, please leave them below, the Sensory Mom community and I would love to hear from you.

Next up is the final step to improve your child's gut health...stay tuned!

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Hi! I'm Cameron, mom of two incredible, "differently-wired" boys who have sensory processing challenges, wife of a nerdy surfer, mindfulness practitioner and Parenting Coach with master's degrees in education and psychology.