Digestive problems in children are a major cause for concern for most parents. But what causes it? Most digestive issues in children are a result of stomach and intestinal problems the roots of which lie in the kids’ gut health.
Digestive problems in children can be varied and different in nature but most common symptoms are loss of appetite, stomach pain, bowel obstruction, vomiting etc.
When should you worry about your child’s digestive health?
Digestive disorders can be usually treated at home and without much fuss. Nevertheless, parents should start getting worried when their child complains of certain symptoms.
Dr. Ahmad Wazir Aiman, General Practitioner, Department of Paediatrics, Sabah Women and Children’s Hospital recommends, “When it comes to the digestive system, look out for what goes out of the mouth; persistent vomiting especially if it contains blood and/or bile is a definitive cause of worry.”
Dr. Aiman also advises parents to be on the lookout for symptoms like abdominal pain or discomfort in their children, as persistent pain may be an indication of a more serious condition. He goes on to recommend that parents pay attention to their child’s bowel movements. “Beyond chronic constipation or diarrhoea, be wary of blood in the faeces or the presence of dark-tarry stool.”
What are the possible reasons for stomach & intestinal problems in children?
Digestive problems in children can usually happen due to the following reasons.
- Intolerance/allergies: Sometimes, digestive issues in children arise due to a poor tolerance to certain foods, or even allergies. Pointers to intolerance and/or allergies include bloatedness, increase in flatulence and diarrhoea.
- Gastroenteritis: Fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain are tell-tale symptoms of gastroenteritis. The loss of fluids and minerals from diarrhoea and vomiting will lead to the child becoming very weak.
- Constipation: Is your kid having difficulty in passing stool? Is the excretion frequency less than 3 times a week? That is a cause for alarm and also one of the reasons why they may be facing digestive issues. This is usually a result of poor fibre intake as well as due to lack of hydration.
- Poor gut health: This is one of the most common reasons for digestive issues in kids, let’s discuss this a little bit in detail.
The bowel is home to a population of good bacteria that helps you process, digest and break down food particles and convert them into nutrients and energy for your body to function. An unhealthy gut is the result of a bacterial imbalance, which again happens due to increased bad bacterial growth as compared to the good bacteria that helps in the digestive process.
Majority of the immune cells and the immune system can be found in the gut. The cells of our immune system constantly interact with the bacteria of the intestine to aid in immune response. Common conditions associated with poor gut health include inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. For inflammatory bowel disease, parents should know that there may be other non-gut related symptoms such as rashes over the body, joint pain as well as refractory ulcers in the mouth.
How can you improve your child’s gut health by improving their appetite?
There can be several ways in which a kid’s gut health can be improved and fixed, such as the following:
- Mandatory breakfast: The first meal of the day is very important. Let them not skip it.
- Small portions: Encourage your children to have small yet frequent meals. This keeps the digestive system working in a smooth manner and refreshes the gut constantly.
- Hydration: Ensure they drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day.
- Nutrition: Give your kids meals that are rich in zinc.
- Supplements: Probiotics help with the sustenance of good bacteria in the gut, thus helping with digestion and also to keep the immune system in a better shape.
Some additional tips for good gut health in kids include:
- Encourage them to consume whole foods like yoghurt which is a good source of prebiotics and probiotics
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables that are high in fibre
- Avoid junk food and food that is high on fats and oils
All of these tips will come in handy if your kid complains of stomach ache or you observe digestion related concerns.
Tips to help improve a child’s immunity:
Following are the two fool-proof ways of building up your kid’s immunity:
- A balanced diet of healthy carbs, fats, proteins and other nutrients
- A healthy and uninterrupted sleep schedule of at least 10 hours
On being asked about how a child’s immune system and gut health are interdependent on each other, Dr Ahmad responded, “The immune system constantly interacts with the normal flora of the gut (gut bacteria). These interactions modulate the immune response of the body in various complex ways. Since a large part of the immune system can actually be found in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, these two are closely interdependent on each other for maintaining overall good health.”
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