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Where has that first year gone? One minute you were bringing your little bundle of joy home from the hospital and the next thing you know they’re taking their first steps and celebrating their first birthday! Now there is a whole load of new developments awaiting you and your baby. Aside from more obvious (and perhaps more exciting) steps such as talking, new movements, and becoming more independent, another perhaps not so fun but crucial development is the establishment of healthy gut microbiota.
The gut microbiota, or gut flora, describes the complex community of microorganisms that live inside our digestive tract. This continues to develop in infants until around the age of three. It contains the largest numbers of bacteria in the human body, so it is crucial to understand its role and take good care of it.
THE BODY'S DEFENCE SYSTEM
A well-functioning immune system plays a vital role in your baby’s health. The first three years of life are crucial for its development as the body learns to defend itself against adverse conditions without causing overreactions. Since the majority of immune cells can be found in the gut, your child’s intestinal flora should be well taken care of.
Firstly, your baby needs to establish a strong immunological memory – that is the immune system’s ability to recognize and react to adversaries. As such, early contact with dirt and non-sterile things is not so bad as you might think – it enables the body to train this memory, equipping itself with the antibodies for the future. Now that your little one is eating a more varied diet, you should make sure it is well-balanced and rich in vitamins and minerals to support the hard work their immune system is doing. You can also consider supplementing vitamin D, which has been proven to be essential for normal bone growth and to contribute to immune system function in children. BioGaiaProtectis Baby Drops with Vitamin D combine both vitamin D and live bacteria from the Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis strain. Adding probiotics to your baby’s diet can increase the number of “endogenous” bacteria in their gastrointestinal tract. And as we all know, getting your toddler to stay still long enough to give them one set of supplements is certainly easier than two.
NOT VERY "REGULAR"
During this time of constant change and transition, it is also possible that your little one might experience some digestive complaints, which could affect their gut microbiota. Infrequent (less than three times a week) and hardened stools are a common complaint amongst toddlers and babies, whereby 40% develop symptoms in their first year. Crankiness, loss of appetite, and bloating can also be signs that your child might be up a little bunged up. This often occurs during periods of transition – from breast milk to powder, from milk to solids, or even from nappies to the potty. Of course, to a certain extent, such symptoms are normal for toddlers, but there are still some easy, healthy steps you can follow to support your little one when it does occur.
In addition to increasing their liquid intake with water, tea or other non-sweetened fluids, you can also add more high-fibre foods to their diet such as plums and whole grains. These steps can help to activate their digestive tract and get things moving.
When your baby experiences digestive complaints you can also try adding more live, valuable bacteria to their diet in the form of probiotic supplements. The formation of the gut microbiota accompanies the development of gut motility, that is the muscle contractions that move food through their digestive system. So, supplementing probiotics could be a consideration when digestive sluggishness occurs.
A LITTLE TOO MUCH
Another indication that your toddler’s digestive tract could use a little more support is very loose or even liquid stools that are passed more regularly than usual. In toddlers, this results in the body losing fluids quickly as they go to the toilet more often. It can also affect their intestines’ ability to absorb liquids and salts, making it necessary to ensure that they receive enough hydration during such a time.
In most cases, loose stools are entirely normal and last no longer than a week (please contact your doctor if symptoms persist). During this time, it is important to feed your child plenty of fluids – preferably water or unsweetened tea in small, frequent sips. It can also help to avoid food that are difficult to digest such as fried or greasy foods. Anoral rehydration solution can also help to supplement their fluids and replace lost salts. Furthermore, giving your little one probiotic bacteria could help to increase the concentration of natural microflora in their gut. BioGaia Oral Rehydration Solution provides a one-stop solution with the live L. reuteri Protectismicrobes, mineral salts, and zinc to provide all-round support.
While tummy troubles are a normal part of childhood, ensuring that your toddler is eating a healthy, balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting lots of movement (we know that probably won’t be a problem at this stage of their lives) will help to reduce the risk and severity. Adding a probiotic supplement to their diet is another safe and easy way to support the colonization of their gut flora. By following these steps, you can help to create an optimal environment for the development of natural microbiota that will serve them their whole life long.