Medical doctors, scientists, naturopaths, nutritionists and most importantly… moms are all starting to agree on one thing – Good gut health equals better mental health.
If your child is struggling with ADHD, depression, irritability, anxiety, or other “mental” health struggle, one of the first places to start may be their internal “gut” health.
Sounds interesting, but what exactly can you do to create a healthier gut?
It’s pretty simple, really. All of us need prebiotics and probiotics and you can get them from two sources: diet or supplementation.
What Are Probiotics?
At the very basic level, probiotics are live micro-organisms (generally different strains of bacteria) that live in the gastrointestinal tract and, when ingested in the correct amounts provide you health and wellness benefits. These health benefits range from improved bowel and digestive function, improved mental health, increased immune function, and much much more.
So Then, What are Prebiotics?
A lot of people mistakenly lump prebiotics and probiotics into the same category. While probiotics are the live organisms, prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers residing in your intestines.
Quite simply, probiotics eat prebiotics. Prebiotics provide probiotics the nutrition / energy they need to function properly, grow and reproduce.
Kind of like this:
In an ideal world, you and your children can get all of your prebiotics and probiotics through your diets. Because our gut hosts between 500-2000 different species of micro-organisms, the key to a balanced micro-biome is to vary your diet and pay special attention to foods that are rich in these little bugs.
Yogurt & kefir are my favorite sources of probiotics for my family. My kids will eat them readily both at meals or as a healthy snack.
While I think most everyone is familiar with yogurt, Kefir is less popular. But not for lack of nutrition. In fact, Kefir, a unique cultured dairy product, is one of the most probiotic rich foods in the world. A great article by Health Ambition highlights the seemingly endless potential health benefits of kefir, which range from digestive issues, oral health and weight loss support.
While yogurt and kefir are fantastic sources for probiotics, not all products are created equal. Many commercial yogurts and kefirs are filled with sugars, dyes, artificial sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. These yucky ingredients actually do more harm than good. They nourish the disease-causing bacteria, yeast and fungi in your gut, promoting further illness – not health. Stick with brands that flavor their yogurt / kefir with whole fruit and some occasional cane sugar.
If you have sweet-tooth kiddos and need to flavor your yogurt or kefir at home, use things like honey (preferably raw), pure maple syrup, pure vanilla extract, or organic stevia extract. Also try adding pureed fruit (like banana or blueberries) to boost the nutrient content even more.
When shopping for strains of healthy bacteria added to yogurt and kefir look for strains such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidus. One key is to look for yogurt that contains “live and active cultures.”
For more information, Dr. Josh Axe has put together a Yogurt Report I found extremely helpful.
Also, check out http://lifewaykefir.com/recipes/ for some good-looking recipes using kefir (I’m sure you could easily substitute yogurt in many of these as well!)!
Other sources of Probiotics include:
- Brined pickles and olives
- Pickled beets
Really powerful prebiotics are found in a variety of foods. Some of them are easy to incorporate into meals (i.e., garlic & onion) and others not so much (i.e., dandelion greens and chicory root):
- Chicory Root
- Dandelion Greens
- Raw Garlic
- Jerusalem Artichoke (aka sunchokes)
A Kid’s Fun Fact… Jerusalem Artichokes / sunchokes are sometimes referred to as “fartichokes” because of their impressive fiber content. Depending on your child’s crude sense of humor this may or may not help you convince them to give them a try.
- Wheat Bran
- Whole Wheat Flour
- Legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, and navy beans
Does this list look daunting to you? Relax.
Here’s the bottom line: Prebiotics and probiotics are derived from whole and fermented foods.
The more you can cut out the processed crap and include real stuff that grows out of the ground / comes from the earth, the healthier your kiddos’ guts will be. One day at a time, one food at a time.
Let us know how you’re doing with getting your kids to improve their gut health in the comments! We want to hear from you!
Together, we have this!
Disclaimer: I’m not a physician, and I’m definitely not offering any medical advice. This article is for informational purposes only. The content in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. Rather, I’m pointing you in the direction of reputable information and providing my personal experience so you can make your own choices in consultation with your health care professional(s).