"How do you know if your digestive system is healthy and working like it should? Just look for these easy signs."
It's common to overlook things which are working well; the human body carries out many functions and processes which usually run smoothly without us having to think too much about them. In contrast, it's only when things break down that we appreciate its importance and how much we rely on it.
For example, the digestive system is responsible for many essential functions, from managing digestion to playing a crucial role in our immune system. When the system is healthy, there's really nothing for us to be worried about. However when it is experiencing problems such as diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or constipation, we truly realise its importance. Just look for these easy signs.
So how can parents know if their child's digestive system is healthy? Just look out for these signs:
- Regular bowel movement, normal stool consistency, rare constipation and diarrhoea are signs of good digestive health.1
- Stool that is sausage-shaped, with cracks on the surface or smooth and soft. This conforms to types 3 and 4 on the Bristol Stool Chart, a medical aid which doctors use to classify stool into seven groups.2
- Generally, the absence of gastrointestinal infections can be taken as a sign of a healthy digestive system. Conversely, poor abdominal health is associated with diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, coeliac diseases and infectious diarrhoea.1
Due to the complexity and varied functions of the digestive system, the entire body can suffer if the system isn't functioning well.3
To help support a healthy digestive environment, it's important for kids to consume enough water and fibre, and get sufficient physical activity.4 Many formulated milk powders for children contain prebiotics such as galactooligosaccharides (GOS) and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) to promote the growth of good bacteria in the digestive system. Good bacteria are commonly found in the system5,6 which is vital for the overall good digestive health of young children.7
1Bischoff. BMC Medicine. 'Gut Health': a new objective in medicine?; 9:24 (2011).
2Bristol Stool Form Scale. Constipation in children and young people. RCOG Press at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 27 Sussex Place, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RG, 2010.
3Kau AL et al. Human nutrition, the gut microbiome, and immune system: envisioning the future. Nature. ; 474(7351): 327–336.
4Constipation in Children. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).
5Moro G et al. Dosage-related bifidogenic effects of galacto- and fructooligosaccharides in formula-fed term infants. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2002 Mar;34(3):291-5.
6Rao S, Srinivasjois R, Patole S. Prebiotic supplementation in full-term neonates: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Aug;163(8):755-64. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.94.
7Gibson G and Marcel B. Dietary Modulation of the Human Colonie Microbiota: Introducing the Concept of Prebiotics. J. Nutr 125: 1401-1412, 1995.