Here in the Southern Hemisphere we are heading into the depths of winter and if you have kids that means germs, colds and snot. Lots of snot. There we said it. What can you do about it? Well, one way to boost your family’s immune system is to take care of their gut microbiome. Read on for Remedy Nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill’s take on how to help your family kick winter in the guts.
WTH is a ‘gut microbiome’?
Your ‘gut microbiome’ is made up of the trillions of micro-organisms that live in your intestine. These micro-organisms, mainly made up of bacteria, play a key role in digesting the food you eat, helping you to absorb and synthesise nutrients.
But these good guys are even more amazing because they also play a key role in processes extending beyond our gut including our metabolism, immune function as well as our brain and mood.
There are lots of different factors that influence the type and amount of bacteria we have in our gut, and diet is one of the key ways we can ensure our microbiome is balanced, active and healthy to ensure our immune function is working as well as it can - especially as we head into winter.
Here’s the lowdown.
An imbalance can confuse your immune system
An imbalance of bad gut bacteria essentially confuses the immune system meaning it won’t correctly identify and fight the bad guys like a cold and flu when they arrive.
For kids, this is especially important. They actually inherit our microbiome at birth and the first four to five years of life is when their microbiomes are really being established so fostering the foundations for a healthy gut now will set them up for life.
But it doesn’t have to be a chore. There are some really simple and easy ways to give your gut health a boost.
Mix up your diet
Maybe your kid is going through a ‘white food’ only phase? We hear you. But there are ways to ensure they eat a variety of foods. The more diverse their diet, the better their microbiome. A mix of raw and cooked foods is ideal, so try a raw rainbow salad plate, a big bowl of vegie soup (try cauliflower soup if they’re still in that white food phase), a handful of trail mix or veggies with hummus.
Introduce fermented foods to boost good bacteria
Not sure whether your kids will give fermented foods a go? There are plenty of ‘gateway’ fermented options to try: pickles in a burger, miso soup, kefir, a kombucha spider made with Remedy Kombucha Raspberry Lemonade and ice cream, even good old natural Greek yoghurt with fresh fruit is a winner for upping beneficial bacteria. For the more adventurous you could try a baked sweet potato topped with kimchi and grated cheese. Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics – the good bacteria our gut loves.
Pump up the probiotics
So you’ve probably heard of probiotics but PREbiotics are just as important.
Think of prebiotics as the food your good gut bacteria needs to thrive - pre and probiotics are teammates if you will. Plant based and wholegrain foods are your best source including bananas, barley, apples, linseeds, seaweed, onion, garlic, leek, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, snow peas and green peas.
Legumes are also great so aim to incorporate chickpeas, red kidney beans, lentils and nuts and seeds in meals. There are so many great ways to incorporate prebiotic rich foods into family meals. Kids love a bit of Mexican - so try a Mexican night with bean chilli served with either potatoes or wraps.
You read that right - get outside and enjoy life outdoors.
Outdoor play is vital for a healthy microbiome so whether it’s a bush walk, playground hangs, a game of organised sport or a ride around your neighbourhood, make sure you get out and about. Better still, let your child get dirty and play with soil, as soil and plants house trillions of microorganisms. This can help build their immune system so they can fight any germs that come their way.
This article originally appeared on Kidspot.