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Ensure happy tummies and happy brains with these top tips
The importance of our gut health to our overall wellbeing has been known for centuries, with Hippocrates once famously stating, “all disease begins in the gut.” However, emerging research has recently highlighted how significantly the gut and brain impact each other, and in fact, they’re actually formed from the same tissue in-utero.
It’s something we’ve always inherently known. When we’re nervous or anxious we get butterflies in our tummy, and when we hear bad news we feel sick to our stomach. When the gut isn’t happy the brain isn’t either – and vice versa. When gut symptoms appear such as bloating, burping, tummy pain and nausea, typically the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut is not optimal. Many neurotransmitters are made in the gut, including an estimated 80 per cent of our chief happy hormone, serotonin, and that our gut health greatly impacts our immune system.
Given the importance of gut health to our overall health, how can we ensure ourselves and our kids have happy tummies and brains? Here are my top tips:
Ok, I know I go on about this, but it’s pretty simple really. Eating whole foods in as close to their natural state as possible means we avoid gut damaging chemicals and hormones. It also means we consume more of the all-important fibre to feed out good tummy bacteria.
These are key as they help feed and maintain healthy bacteria levels in the gut, often diminished by antibiotics and environmental toxins. As above, a high fibre diet – one that’s rich in whole fruit and vegetables – is imperative. Foods high in prebiotics that are easy to include in kids diets are; onions, garlic and leeks. Simply fry in ghee and use as a tasty base to any simple (kid-friendly) soup, curry or stew you are already making. Another tip is to swap out wheat flour with green banana flour (which most supermarkets now sell in the health food aisle) for your baked goods.
Again, these are important, and for maintenance and wholefood sources are best. Don’t waste your money on those horrible gummy ‘probiotic’ lollies, instead try to incorporate a range of whole food probiotic sources such as fermented vegetables, kombucha, coconut kefir and yoghurts. For kids a teaspoon to a tablespoon a day (of fermented food) with meals is enough depending on their age and weight- with probiotics more is definitely not better!
Take note of the cleaning sprays you use, as well as kids personal care products such as bubble baths, body lotions and hair products. Often these are high in chemical disruptors that can overwhelm a little tummy’s natural balance.
Stress can have a negative impact on healthy gut flora . Make sure meals are eaten sitting down in a positive environment, where possible. A simple word of thanks, some deep breaths or simply a cuddle before meals can help little bodies get ready for digestion, which will ensure as much as those important nutrients are absorbed.
Zoe Dent is a nutritionist and owner of Find Your Glow, and mother of two children
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