Improve Your Child's Gut Health in 5 Simple Steps: Step 1
If you’ve been following my gut health series, you know that the quality of our health and the health of our kiddos depends on the quality of bugs in our guts.
Yup, that’s right, gut bugs are largely responsible for our overall health. Who knew?!
The right balance of “good” and “bad” bugs = a healthy you/ a healthy child
Too many “bad” bugs = all sorts of physical, mental and emotional health issues
Last week we covered five risk factors for gut dysfunction in children. If your child is at risk, and is suffering from sensory processing, attention and/or learning issues, I bet you’re thinking, Great, as if I didn’t have enough on my plate already (no pun intended!), now I have to worry about the bugs in my child’s gut? Seriously! (Eye roll.)
I’m here to ease your worries and make this simple.
But, before I do, I’m going to give you my number one tip for shifting out of overwhelm and into empowerment:
There are two mottoes for this series:
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Progress not perfection.
In the words of Mark Twain,
“The secret to getting started is breaking down your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks and then starting the first one.”
On that note, your job is to choose ONE of the five steps in this series to focus on. Once you’ve got that one down, pick one more and so on.
Ok, here we go…
Step 1: Replace Gut-Irritating Foods with Gut- Healing Foods
What we eat has an enormous influence on the bacteria in our bodies.
Removing foods that feed the “bad” bugs and increasing foods that feed the “good” bugs will have a dramatic effect on your child’s gut health.
Foods to eliminate (“bad” bug feeders):
- Anything Processed
- Artificial sweeteners
- Tap water
- Non-organic, non-grass-fed meat and poultry
- Farm-raised fish
- High-fructose corn syrup
Yes, I know this list is daunting. Especially if you have a picky eater (like I do!).
Take a deep breath and repeat our mantras.
You don’t have to remove everything in one fell swoop. If I had to choose one thing to focus on first, it would be removing (or reducing) processed foods. Next, it would be sugar and then gluten. Remember, start small and go from there.
Foods to increase (“good” bug feeders):
- Organic fruits and vegetables
- Fermented foods
- Bone broth
- MCT oil
- Extra virgin coconut oil
- Grass-fed butter and ghee
- Oily, cold water fish
- Healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, nut butters)
- Clean and lean meats (free-range poultry, grass-fed meat)
My older son has several risk factors for gut dysbiosis and has had digestive issues since infancy. He’s been gluten and dairy-free since infancy, per the suggestion of our pediatrician.
As a result of his persistent sensory and behavioral challenges, our doctor recently recommended that we focus on reducing carbohydrates (even the gluten-free ones!) and increasing healthy fats and proteins.
As I processed his suggestion, I nodded compliantly but thought, Now, how in god’s green earth am I going to do that?
A little background. H was an amazing eater right up until he turned three. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he morphed into the World’s. Pickiest. Eater. Foods he’d happily eaten- broccoli, sweet potatoes, avocado, salmon- were now regarded as suspicious and disgusting.
Introduce a new food? Ha! Nice try! The mere sight of something new on his plate elicited massive meltdowns and often entailed his hurling the offensive new food toward me with impressive force.
So, I turned to his OT for support. We increased his sessions to twice weekly, focusing one of the sessions solely on picky eating. Our incredible OT (Sarah, you’re the best!) taught H how to be a “food detective” and slowly but surely we’ve been able to add in healthy fats and proteins.
The key to our success? We got support and we started small- one food at a time.
As predicted, H’s new lower carb (starch is the equivalent of sugar and equally as toxic to the gut), higher healthy fat and lean protein diet has correlated with a decrease in explosive behaviors and an increase in his ability to self-regulate. That gut-brain connection is the real deal!
Making dietary changes is the most powerful tool you have for reversing gut dysfunction.
It’s a simple intervention, but definitely not easy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry! I’ve got my favorite gut-friendly, kid-friendly recipes and tangible, doable tips for making changes to your child’s diet coming your way soon.
But first, stay tuned for Step 2 to improve your child’s gut health… this one is simple and easy.
How is your child's diet? Is he a picky eater? Have you tried making dietary modifications? What's worked and what hasn't? Leave your comments below, the Sensory Mom community and I would love to hear from you.