It turns out that the growth and development of children is strongly influenced by the health of digestive system, particularly the gut. What is their relationship?
Food is the source of energy for our body. It is the nutrients contained in the diet that provides energy as well as important elements needed by body cells. Through the digestion process, food that is eaten will be breakdown from large complex structure into simple structure before being absorbed. This process is started since the food enters the mouth until it is being absorbed by the gut and the waste is removed through passing stools.
You need to know that food is digested through several processes. Those are mechanical process (chewing, bowel movement) and chemical process (enzymes, gastric acid, bile salt), that are assisted by ‘good’ gut bacteria (probiotics). A healthy digestion means we do not suffer from gastrointestinal problems, both in form or functional disorders.
So, what is the relationship between gastrointestinal health with optimum growth and development of a child? Nutrition is surely one important factor for growth and development of a child. However, a healthy digestive tract is required for maximum absorption of nutrients.
Providing nutrition that is appropriate to your child’s age is very important in order to keep the health of digestive system. It is because his digestive system is different from adults, it is still developing.
For newborns until 6 months, mothers should only give breastmilk, which is the best food for this age group. The WHO recommends giving exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your little ones and with the addition of complementary food afterwards. Starting solids too early put your child at risk of gastrointestinal problems as well as interfering the absorption of nutrients.
Complementary food is also introduced gradually based on a child’s age and ability. To start, you may serve food with soft texture like thin purees, and then thickened as your child is getting older and his ability increased. At 9 months, mashed home-made food may be given and at one year, he is able to eat family food
Regarding selection of formula milk, you may provide formula designed specifically for your child’s age so that its nutrient content is appropriate to fulfil the daily requirement as well as his digestive tract condition. Opt for formula milk that contains probiotics or ‘good’ bacteria because it can improve your child’s gastrointestinal health and immune system. Avoid giving sweetened condensed milk for children under one because it may cause gastrointestinal and kidney disorders.
For a child to have a healthy digestion, you should also look after general hygiene. Make sure the hygiene of food preparation process including cooking and eating utensils are well preserved. If your child is given formula, pay attention on how to prepare it correctly. Use boiled water when preparing formula milk for your child.
If your child suffers from diarrhoea, dysentery, bloating, constipation, and stomach ache, do not hesitate to consult your paediatrician. Do not ever underestimate the health of your child’s gut for optimum absorption of nutrients.
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