The gastrointestinal (GI) system.commonly known as the intestine, it is made up of hollow organs joined together from the mouth to the anus. The hollow organs that make up the gastrointestinal tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system.
What is a healthy intestine?
A healthy gut is one in which
- the inner lining of the digestive tract, i.e. the stomach and intestines, is intact without ulcers and inflammation.
- there is a good microbiome population: colonies of healthy bacteria populate the small intestine and colon
- optimal secretion of digestive enzymes ensuring the correct absorption and assimilation of nutrients
- good bowel movement and lack of stomach pain, constipation or acid reflux
Good bowel health it is necessary for everyone, but especially for children, to ensure optimal immunity, mental clarity and cognition, good mood, better energy levels and restful sleep.
Seventy percent of the immune system it is in the intestines and is responsible for providing children with armor to fight infections and contagious diseases. During the ongoing pandemic, therefore, it is vital to focus on good gut health for the little ones.
The gut is also home to the secretion of neurotransmitters and happiness hormones, giving children the ability to learn and focus better, for mental clarity, cognitive development and also to keep them happy.
In addition to this, a healthy gut ensures that there are no micronutrient deficiencies such as anemia, low levels of Vitamin D and B. This prevents fatigue and gives children renewed energy and excitement.
So how can we ensure good gut health, especially among younger children?
Cut the gut destroyers
Encourage your kids to refrain from consuming packaged and processed foods (food additives and dyes, refined cereals, liquid oils, excess sugar inflame the intestine) and replacing it with freshly made breakfasts and snacks. This can be done by educating children about the harmful effects of industrially produced food and keeping a supply of nutritious and healthy homemade snacks, desserts, and breakfast options on hand.
Eating plants for plant enzymes and fiber (prebiotics)
Children can be encouraged to add more vegetables and salads in interesting shapes such as garnish them with healthy cheese, olive oil, homemade condiments (made from honey, vinegar, mustard seeds, turmeric), hummus, etc.
Vegetables can be cooked as soups, broths and cutlets or marinated and skewered in the oven, baked with cheese or simply curry. All these forms of vegetables are delicious as part of the main meals.
Root vegetables such as sweet potato, yam can be made into tasty and interesting chaat; beetroot can be used to make a refreshing drink with apples and mint.
Fruits are a favorite of children and colorful fruits like berries, pomegranate, grapes, oranges, melons, papaya, kiwis, pears and plantains can be an ideal snack.
Add millet like ragi, besan, amaranth, buckwheat, and jowar like pancakes, crepes, parathas, and even ladoo. Stuff pancakes, parathas with leafy greens, spring onions, garlic, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and cilantro for added benefit.
Serve the beneficial bacteria (probiotics)
A portion of fermented food such as homemade mango and lemon pickles, kanji, kokum chutney, or homemade mint and curd and buttermilk can be encouraged. The emphasis is on homemade food here as they are free of preservatives and additives.
Good fats to restore the intestinal microbiome
You know that healthy fats are the food for good bacteriahelping them to multiply and improve the overall health of the child?
Add the nourishment of good fats to children’s meals and snacks with healthier fats containing short-chain fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides such as ghee butter from local cows, white butter and homemade coconut oil, vegetable oil. olive, sesame and cold-pressed mustard oil. These healthier fats can replace refined oils, industrial butter, margarine, and seasonings.
Another good source of fat are nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds such as walnuts, cashews, pine nuts, pistachios and fox nuts can be added to soups, broths and salads. Roasted spiced nuts are great snacks. Nuts and seeds can also be converted into delicious ladoos and granola bars.
In addition to the above, children can be encouraged to chew their food and hydrate themselves well to aid in digestion. After all, a happy gut means a happy baby!
(Manjari Chandra is a consultant, functional nutrition and nutritional medicine, Manjari Wellness, New Delhi. Her column will appear every fortnight)
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