Your growing child needs the right nutrition in the right amounts for his growth and development, and almost all the nutrition that he needs will be handled by his gut. Find out how the gut supports the process of digestion and absorption of nutrients by reading this article.
There are many factors that contribute to your child’s growth and development in the early years, and one of them is your child’s gut health.
We don’t often pay attention to our child’s gut (or what is sometimes referred to as tummy) unless there is discomfort. This fact may surprise you, but a healthy gut is, in fact crucial to your child’s overall health and well-being1. A healthy gut aids the body in the digestion and absorption of nutrients that are essential for growth, while also protecting your child from infection and working with the brain to keep him happy.
Helping your child digest and absorb the right nutrients
Almost all the nutrition that your child needs will be handled by his gut.
The gut has to break down different types of food and make sure that each nutrient is being absorbed and is ready to be used. This is a complicated process, but the gut is designed to do a really good job with the help of a healthy gut microbiota which comprises of a higher proportion of friendly bacteria in your child’s gut.
Dietary fibre are complex and cannot be fully digested with the enzymes we produce so the friendly bacteria in the gut (or healthy gut microbiota) can help in the process, breaking down complex nutrients and producing what is called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs).
SCFAs serve as an important source of energy (as much as 10% of the body's needs)2, 3, 4 and enhance the absorption of calcium and iron which are the building blocks for bones, brain and blood cells.
The friendly bacteria not only help release nutrients by breaking down complex food, but also produce some essential nutrients such as Vitamin B12, K and folate2, 3, 5 .These vitamins are necessary for the proper growth, development and function of many organs in your children’s bodies.
Hence, while your little one’s diet may contain all the nutrients required for the body, without proper digestion and absorption, these nutrients will not provide the benefits they are meant to.
A healthy gut is crucial in ensuring that the nutrients are broken down into a form that can be easily absorbed by the body and utilised for brain and physical growth.
1 Bischoff S. Gut Health: A new objective in medicine? BMC Med. 2011; 9:24
2 Gerritsen J, Smidt H, Rijkers GT,de Vos WM. Intestinal microbiota in human health and disease: the impact of probiotics. Genes Nutr. Aug 2011; 6(3): 209-240
PLoSPathog. Nov 2013; 9(11): e100372. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1003726 (accessed May 5, 2017)
3 Wopereis H, Oozeer R, Knipping K, Belzer C, Knol J. The first thousand days – intestinal microbiology of early life: establishing a symbiosis. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2014 Aug;25(5):428-38.
4 Binns N. International Life Sciences Institute (ISLI) Europe: Concise Monograph Series. Probiotics, prebiotics and the gut microbiota. Available at:
http://www.hablemosclaro.org/Repositorio/biblioteca/b_332_Prebiotics-Probiotics_ILSI_(ing).pdf. Accessed December 30 2014.
5 Scholtens, P, et al. The Early Settlers: Intestinal Microbiology in Early Life. Ann Rev Food Sci Technol. 2012;3:21.1–21.23.