Tummy Troubles in Toddlers: Is Leaky Gut to Blame?
Imbalance in the gut can lead to so many symptoms, I’d need several pages to detail the many ways digestion affects health. From asthma to seasonal allergies, eczema on the skin to digestive woes … if your child is suffering from symptoms like these or multiple food sensitivities, I’d first consider their gut health. And here’s why: not only is it important to make our little ones feel good, but children with damaged guts are more susceptible to disease, are at a greater risk of developing allergies. The gut is the seat of our health.
A particular condition that can affect many toddlers, adults and children too is leaky gut. All children are born with a leaky gut, until the immune system matures. This is why it is particularly important that you not introduce solid foods until a baby is 6-months of age.
If your child suffers from digestive problems, multiple food sensitivities, allergies and even asthma, read on to see if a leaky gut might be to blame … and what to do about it.
What is Leaky Gut?
Here’s a quick bit of anatomy, but I promise not to bog you down with the science of it all: Our digestive tract is lined with a layer of blood vessels and a layer of cells. The necessary nutrients in the food that we eat enter the blood vessels using two routes: they pass through the cells lining the intestines or they pass through the membrane in between the cells. The membrane is naturally permeable to small particles because this is necessary for food absorption and processing.
When something goes wrong, the gut lining becomes inflamed or damaged and space is created so that large particles of food, instead of the miniscule ones are body is attuned to absorbing, can pass through the permeable barrier. These food particles in our blood stream are considered foreign by the body, and an immune response results.
Does My Toddler Have a Leaky Gut?
You might be wondering what causes leaky gut? The truth is so many things in our modern world can cause a disruption to our digestive system, and the inflammation that wrecks havoc on the lining of the gut wall: excess sugar consumption, food additives, harmful bacteria strains, drugs, pesticide residues and other toxic loads, chronic stress, and antibiotic use, which disrupts the natural colonization of good healthy gut bacteria. Some children are naturally susceptible to leaky gut, including those on the autism spectrum.
You may suspect your child has a leaky gut if…
- Your child has multiple food sensitivities and allergies: food sensitivities can cause leaky gut by inflaming the gut wall (gluten is a big one) but they can also be a symptom of leaky gut;
- Your child is experiencing digestive troubles including gas, bloating or distended stomach, chronic diarrhea or constipation;
- Your child suffers from seasonal allergies;
- Your child has eczema;
- Your child has been diagnosed with candida overgrowth, parasites, fungus or infection
- Your child has been on antibiotics without then following a probiotic protocol to restore balance.
*The digestive tract can’t heal if there is a bug running around causing all sorts of damage! Before embarking on a gut healing protocol, make sure to check for underlying an parasite, fungus, or infection first. I personally experienced this first hand with my eldest son when he started to get unexplained eczema on his leg, dark circles under his eyes and sensitives to foods. After a year of searching for answers I had a Live Blood Cell Test, where we finally discovered he had parasites in his cells, that cause candida overgrowth and a leaky gut. Finally after a year and with the right supplement and food protocol all his eczema cleared up within weeks. Healing from the inside, treating the cause not the symptom proves again why functional medicine is so affective.
How to Heal My Toddler’s Leaky Gut
Fortunately, leaky gut is something that can be healed or helped with the right diet and supplement protocol. If leaky gut is what’s happening with your child (see me or another health professional to be sure), here are a few foods that may help restore balance and encourage healing in the gut wall.
- Try an elimination diet to pinpoint foods that are irritating the gut wall. Remove these foods from the diet. Many people who do not have food sensitivities will still show positive results from eating an anti-inflammatory diet free from common allergy culprits (gluten, diary, and soy are the biggies);
- Try a diet rich in good fats like avocado, coconut oil, almonds and eggs. Fat slows the time it takes for the stomach to empty, which lowers sugar concentrations and therefore the release of insulin;
- Speaking of insulin – avoid sugar in the diet. Too much sugar in a child’s diet will cause the body to release insulin. Insulin requires B vitamins and trace minerals to assist in metabolizing sugar. The more sugar the body consumes, the more these vital trace minerals and B vitamins become depleted;
- Take a good probiotic, especially after a round of antibiotics. You want to make sure the gut is populated with good bacteria;
- Don’t forget about fermented foods, yogurt and kefir as a source of good bacteria;
- Encourage your little one to drink nourishing bone broth on a regular basis (up to several times a day if they will do it!) Make your own chicken and beef broth at home. If your little one won’t drink straight out of a mug, make a favourite soup.
- Supplements, such as L-Glutamine might also help to repair the gut wall. See me or another health professional to learn more about supplement protocols for a leaky gut.
Always be sure your child’s diet includes adequate fiber from fruits and vegetables; and that they drink adequate water (no juice!) to keep the digestive system moving along well.
If you suspect your child has a leaky gut, there are things you can do to promote the healing of the gut wall and to make your little one feel better. Like most everything else, time and good nutrition will soothe, repair and restore.