Diet, Disease and Our Children

photo of three young girls carrying basket of fresh vegetables

If Your Gut is Not Healthy, Then You Are Not Healthy

More and more we hear about the importance of our microbiota, particularly our gut flora, in relation to our health.

What is the Microbiome and How Does It Effect Me?

Approximately 80 percent of our immunity comes from our gut. Immunity is our body’s defense mechanism against infection or a foreign substance.

Many factors impact our gut microbiome. For example, the type of birth (C-section versus vaginal birth) and whether or not a baby is breastfed or formula fed alters the gut flora early on. The microbiome is further influenced by our environment, our long-term diet, stress and the drugs we take, such as antibiotics.

Diseases start in the gut and the integrity of our microbiome sets the course for long term conditions such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. If your gut is not healthy, you are not healthy. Therefore, it is important to recognize and understand that many diseases and conditions start to manifest early in childhood. Often these symptoms go undiagnosed until later in life where it progresses to a chronic condition due to long term inflammation.

Food is digested in the gut and the micronutrients get absorbed into the blood. When inflammation is present, the intestinal walls become more permeable and larger food protein pass through the intestinal lining. The body responds by making antibodies that attack not only the foreign invaders but certain tissues of the body with similar protein patterns leading to allergies and autoimmune disease.

Kids With Food Allergies are on the Rise but Food Sensitivities Are Under Diagnosed

Foods considered to be highly inflammatory are staples in our children’s diets. These include dairy, gluten, soy, corn and sugar. Peanuts contain naturally occurring molds that can trigger an immune response causing inflammation. It is no wonder why there has been a rise in the number of kids with food allergies.

Food sensitivities on the other hand tend to be under diagnosed because often when a child comes in with vague complaints (stomach aches, eczema, headaches, diarrhea) food is not considered to be a trigger, unless in the case of an allergic reaction.

Processed Foods and Snacks Feed the Bad Bacteria in the Gut

Diabetes, obesity, food allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease are much more prevalent in children today. One of the greatest impacts on our health is the deviation from the foods that our ancestors ate. Our ancestors ate with the season and consumed foods that were unprocessed and natural, whole foods from the earth.

Today, we tend to rely heavily on processed food and snacks to get us through our day. Our children are fed sugary laden foods that also contain many food additives and colors, dyes and preservatives. These unhealthy foods feed the bad bacteria in the gut and cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Some of the effects are headaches, stomach aches, brain fog, sluggishness and cravings.

When a Child Complains of Daily Discomfort, Revisit the Diet as a Possible Cause

When a child complains of daily stomach aches, frequent headaches, rashes and constipation, diet should be at the top of the list for possible cause. Keeping a food journal can be beneficial in determining food sensitivities. Parents often believe that these conditions are hereditary. Allopathic practitioners tend to treat the condition without determining the root cause. Optimal health can only be achieved when the root cause is addressed.

The foods we feed our children early influences their food preferences and their health. It is true that our genetic make up sets the foundation for our health however the determining factor of whether a gene is turned on or off is a direct correlation to what we put inside our bodies. Hence, genetics loads the gun but the environment pulls the trigger.

Ten Ways to Keep the Microbiome Intact

  1. Having a vaginal birth when the conditions are favorable. This allows for the baby to be colonized by the mother’s microbiome.
  2. Breast feed to pass on antibodies
  3. Exercise
  4. Stay well hydrated
  5. Eat whole foods
  6. Avoid processed foods
  7. Avoid sugar and sugary drinks
  8. Stay well rested
  9. Limit stress
  10. Work with an integrative practitioner who understands the correlation between food and disease

Remember, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Be proactive when it comes to your child’s health.

Cindy Wechsler is a certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a focus on integrative and holistic medicine. She specializes in the natural treatment of common childhood conditions including gastrointestinal disorders (constipation, reflux, gas, chronic belly pain), allergies, food sensitivities, behavioral issues and headaches. She teaches infant massage and offers lactation counseling. She practices at Fairfield Family Health in Fairfield. You can schedule an appointment by calling 203-254-9957 or visit the website at