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Why it’s Key to Feed our Kiddos Bacteria: The Gut-Brain-Immunity Connection

ExpertsPost Category - ExpertsExperts - Post Category - Health & WellbeingHealth & Wellbeing - Post Category - Green LivingGreen Living
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Plus a new (BLW-friendly) Coconut Berry Yoghurt Bark recipe, full of good bacteria!

We all know that sometimes our little monkeys don’t seem quite human, in fact, that’s not so far off the truth because they’re actually made up of more bacteria cells than human cells… explains a lot! Jokes aside, humans are said to be made up of roughly 90% microbial cells and 10% human cells*. So you can see why it might be super important to keep the bacteria in our body healthy and happy. It is estimated that 500 to 1,000 species of this bacteria live in the human gut. This is significant for two main reasons:

  1. The immune system and gut connection – our gut health and immune system are intimately linked. Did you know that approximately 70-80% of your immune tissue is located within your digestive system? Our immune system needs to be thriving and healthy in order to avoid illness. To cut a long and complicated story short, think about it like this; consider all that happens in the gut – waste is eliminated (including some toxins) and nutrition is absorbed into our cells – both pretty key events to good health! If the gut health is compromised with an unhealthy balance of bacteria, then it’s highly likely your overall health will be in trouble. What does this mean for the little ones – in short it means that unless they have a healthy gut, it’s likely they will be more “sickly” children – always getting colds, picking up every bug going at school, maybe even complaining about tummy aches often and worst case they’re not getting the nutrition they need because their gut is not properly absorbing the food they eat. We can feed them all the broccoli in the world, but unless the nutrition is actually absorbed into the body, it’s a waste of broccoli.
  1. The gut and brain connection – we’ve all literally felt “butterflies” in our stomach – this is because the gut is sensitive to emotion. A recent Harvard Medical School Article, “The Gut Brain Connection”, said, “The brain has a direct effect on the stomach… the very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut… stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression”. So there you have it, mamas, the gut and brain are connected. Therefore, again, given how the gut is made of millions of microbial cells, it’s important to keep them healthy and happy in order for our brains to feel happy and healthy!

This might say a lot about kids and their mood at school – if they’re having issues with their digestion, perhaps they’re also having a hard time concentrating at school. You can start to see how key it is to make sure our little ones have a healthy digestive system. We can also begin to understand that truly, we are what we eat.

What can we do to keep our kiddo’s gut and, therefore, brain and immune system healthy?

Here are my top 3 tips for keeping gut bacteria healthy:

1. Feed them fermented FOOD over pills – in short, our body is designed to recognise and assimilate food. Where possible, opt for probiotic fermented food over popping a pill and your body will love you for it. I talk about yoghurts a bit below and there are some fermented food recipes here to try from my website:

– Fermented Kraut recipe

– Coconut Kefir recipe – you can easily turn these into little coconut ice-pops for a more interesting treat for kids!

– Vegan Coconut Yoghurt recipe – I’m also a huge fan of the plain coconut yoghurt by CocoYogo available on ripeme.com and use this in the recipe below.

2. Replacing bacteria after antibiotics – if you are prescribed antibiotics for a severe illness, just remember that the drugs will kill not only the bad bacteria making you feel unwell, but also the good bacteria, so it’s really important to then begin to rebuild your bacteria during and after your treatment. If not, you will potentially become susceptible to becoming ill again because of the immune system and gut connection.

3. Make sure the bacteria is live and kicking – Studies show that live, active probiotic cultures can improve digestive health and regulation of the immune system – they actually feed and help to populate our good bacteria. Most people think super-market dairy yoghurt or yoghurt drinks are a good solution, but actually it’s not always the best option. If yoghurt is chilled rather than heated after fermentation, the bacteria will stay alive and the product can be labeled as containing “live” or “active” cultures, which makes it a probiotic (i.e., good for your gut bacteria). The best thing to do is to check the label for “live” or “active” cultures. Also, don’t forget to check for sugar – most flavoured yoghurts are full of sugar, so you might consider choosing a plain yoghurt and adding your own fruit or berries. Even better, make your own yoghurts, check out graciouslygreen.com for my healthy dairy-free coconut yoghurt. If you’re baby-led weaning, like me and my 11 month old, yoghurts can be a bit tricky – check out the Coconut Berry Yoghurt Bark recipe below that is easy and fun to handle for little ones.

Recipe: Berry Yoghurt Bark (dairy-free, sugar-free)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coconut yoghurt (I used Coco Yogo)
  • ¼ cup frozen of fresh mixed berries – organic if possible

Method:

  • line a flat baking tray with baking paper
  • pour the coconut yoghurt over the top making sure it is layered quite thick (about the thickness of a chocolate bar)
  • drizzle the berries over the yoghurt
  • place in freezer until set
  • when you take it out, you can lightly bang the tray on the counter to smash the bark, or use a knife
  • Babies will enjoy holding the cold yogurt and will especially enjoy the cooling sensation on their teething gums –you can leave a piece at room temperature for a minute or so before handing to a baby so that it is not too freezing for their little hands. Kids of all ages will love this fun and healthy treat!

ENJOY!

NB: Please note, this article is not intended to provide medical advice and you should always consult your medical practitioner before drastically changing your diet, especially during and after pregnancy, and /or the diet of your child. 

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