How do bad gut bacteria impact kid’s behaviour?

Our gut health impacts all aspects of our health, including our mental health.  I have explained how this works in my article on the gut brain connection.

Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut will produce harmful compounds.  For example the bacterial family Clostridia produce a harmful compound called HPHPA.  This compound changes the neurotransmitter balance in the body, which leads to hyperactivity and aggression.

Why would your child have high levels of this bad bacteria?

Lots of kids have too much Clostridia, and the main reason for this is having had too many courses of antibiotics.  The over-prescription of antibiotics, especially for recurrent ear infections leads to overgrowth of harmful bacteria, as well as lots of other issues including childhood obesity.

What does HPHPA do?

This harmful compound enters the blood stream via the gut.  Here, it affects the enzymes responsible for maintaining the balance between two neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine.  If these two neurotransmitters are out of balance, emotional and mental wellbeing is affected.

Dopamine controls things like satisfaction and pleasure.  It also helps the communication between brain and muscles (which is why people with Parkinson’s disease have a tremor, because they don’t have enough dopamine).

Norepinephrine’s job is to regulate learning, emotions, attentiveness and sleep.

Normal levels of dopamine are good, but too high levels are not good.  Too much dopamine causes over stimulation, agitation and anxiety.  It also causes oxidation in the brain, which then uses up the body’s store of antioxidants.  It will make the child burn through the body’s stores of zinc, magnesium and B vitamins which are essential to brain health.

How do I know if my child has high HPHPA?

There is a urine test called an organic acid test (OAT)  which looks for HPHPA levels.  It is estimated that between 10 and 20% of children with ADHD will have high levels of HPHPA.  Whilst these numbers aren’t huge, it is still a good idea to test, as treating this root cause will improve your child’s mood and behaviour in a matter of months.

Are there any clues before I spend money on testing?

Yes.  You can have a guess at whether this is an issue for your child.

If you tried medication and your child got worse, then this might be because their dopamine was already too high, and the medication pushed it higher.

If your child has hyperactivity, agitation and aggression, they may already have high dopamine because of the HPHPA.

If your child has gut issues such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea.  That may mean they have an overgrowth of Clostridia.

What next?

Treatment of the clostridia would involve improving gut health and taking a high dose probiotic, which is best to do in conjunction with a practitioner like me, who specialises in this area.  Click on this link to make a Skype appointment with me.

7 small steps to take to boost your child’s mood through food this New Year
  1. Add more vegetables to their diet.

95% of Australian children are not getting enough vegetables, so I am going to assume that your child is in the 95%!  Don’t try to squeeze their five serves of vegetables into dinner.  It just won’t fit!  Spread them through the day.  If you have a serve at breakfast, a serve at sip and crunch, a serve at lunch, that only leaves 2 serves for dinner.  That is so achievable.  Lots of the recipes in my online program sneak in veggies, like blueberry and zucchini cookies or sweet potato pancakes for breakfast.  You’ll be easily hitting 5 serves per day.  Diversity is really important in your veggies.  Different vegetables give different benefits.  Download my rainbow chart and stick it on the fridge so the kids can get involved.


  1. Cut down the sugar.

This is a hard one, not just for the kids, but for the parents.  Sugar is bad for children’s behaviour, bad for their teeth, and bad for their metabolism.  Type 2 diabetes is being increasingly seen in children in the last decade, because of poor diets.  Set your child up for future health by cutting sugar out of their diet.  Parents often tell me they are worried their child won’t have enough energy without sugar in their diet, but this is nothing to worry about.  They will be getting lots of carbohydrates from their fruit and vegetables.  The other worry parents have is about depriving their child of treats.  Children won’t look back on their childhood and think their parents deprived them by not giving them enough sugar.  Children value quality time with their parents, so make that a priority, not sugar!


  1. Include some fermented foods in your child’s diet.

Fermented foods are full of good bacteria, so by consuming them, you are giving your child’s gut health an immediate boost.  And remember from my article on the gut-brain connection that brain health is absolutely influenced by gut health.  If your child hasn’t had fermented foods before, introduce them very slowly, or your child could get a belly ache.  If your child tolerates dairy, milk kefir or real yoghurt is a good place to start.  If they are dairy free, go for water kefir, sauerkraut juice or sauerkraut.  I steer away from kombucha for kids as it is made with tea, therefore contains caffeine.  If you make it yourself you can use rooibos tea and make it caffeine free, but make sure you don’t ferment it so much that it becomes alcoholic!


  1. Cut down refined carbohydrates.

A lot of kids exist on a diet that is predominantly refined carbohydrate.  Think of the child that has cornflakes with sugar for breakfast, rice crackers for morning tea, a Vegemite sandwich for lunch, a muesli bar for afternoon tea and pasta for dinner.  Eating so many refined carbohydrates is bad for your gut bacteria, as they get starved.  All the refined carbohydrates are digested high up in their digestive system, and there is nothing left for the gut bacteria in the large intestine to eat.  Increase fat and protein in their diet, and replace the refined carbohydrate with fruit and vegetables. My online program has new recipes every week to help you easily make this transition.


  1. Consider reducing or removing gluten.

Lots of people are sensitive to gluten, but they may not realise it!  The best way to test is to strictly remove gluten for a month, then reintroduce it and see what happens.  When you cut out gluten, you might find that the headaches you had grown accustomed to magically disappear.  Or that lingering gym injury is suddenly better.  Most people eat so much gluten, they don’t realise that they have inflammation from eating it.  Think of it like a windscreen – when the windscreen is dirty, you never notice a bug landing on it.  When you clean the windscreen (remove the gluten), you suddenly notice every little bug that lands.  ADHD and other health issues are directly related to inflammation.

Cut out the gluten – reduce the inflammation – improve behaviour. 

It’s hard to say why we are getting sensitive to gluten, but I have a few theories.

  • We eat gluten-containing foods 4-5 times a day, so we have overdosed, and now we are sensitive.
  • Grains are heavily sprayed with chemicals, so perhaps it isn’t the gluten we are reacting to, but the agricultural chemicals
  • Our gut health has deteriorated so much due to processed food and too much medicine that we don’t have the right gut bacteria to digest it any more
  • Grains used to be fermented for 24 hours to make a sourdough bread. Now, for economic reasons, we have sped up the baking process, and there is no fermentation and no pre-digestion of the gluten.
  • We also add gluten to lots of foods where it doesn’t belong, just so we can say it contains protein, or to improve the texture.


  1. Cut out additives

Food additives are harmful to human health in general and our kids are particularly sensitive.  There is lots of research going back decades about the effect additives have on kids health, particularly behaviour.  Some countries are more proactive than Australia and already insist that warnings go on foods containing some colours, to let parents know that their child’s behaviour will be adversely affected if they eat this food.  Unfortunately, Australia hasn’t prioritised this, and we consumers are still largely in the dark about the harmful effects of additives.  You can learn to scrutinise ingredient lists and ingredient numbers, but I don’t recommend it.  Even the additives we think might be ok, may not be ok in the amount we consume them, or when they are combined with other chemicals.  The much easier thing to do is to move away from processed food and towards real, whole foods.  Then you don’t need to learn about food additives!


  1. Be an advocate for your child.

As a parent, you want to do what is best for your child, but there are barriers such as time and money.  I highly recommend my online program “Create cool, calm and cooperative kids” for parents who want to make a positive change to their child’s diet but don’t know where to start.  It is very affordable, as you just pay 2 instalments of $49.  The modules are delivered to your inbox weekly and contain coaching videos, recipes and handouts. There is even a closed Facebook group where you can ask me questions as you go along.  Follow this link to jump onboard…

Milk kefir

Milk kefir is one of the easier ferments to make, great for beginners!

Start with 1 tablespoon of milk kefir grains.  These are not grains like wheat or rice, they are a colony of bacteria and yeasts.  You can buy these on Gumtree, or get from a friend..

Put them in a sieve (preferably plastic), and drain off the milk they are stored in

Now put 250 ml milk in a big jar.  The milk should be full fat organic milk.  UHT milk or ultra-pasteurised milk won’t work.  You can use sheep or goat’s milk if you have it available.

Add the kefir grains, and give a stir.

Screw the lid back on.

Put in a cupboard or on a bench at about 20c. Leave for 24 hours.

At the end of 24 hours, sieve the mixture, or use a plastic fork to scoop out the grains.

Put the liquid in a jar, and refrigerate for 12 hours. It can then be drunk.

The grains can be added to another 250ml milk, and process repeated.

The grains will grow over time, and then you can give your excess to friends!

Once you have made your kefir, you can make delicious smoothies out of it, you can use it instead of yoghurt or buttermilk in recipes or you can strain it to make cheese!

Gut busting soup

This soup not only tastes great, warms and nourishes but is also full of ingredients to keep your gut health in check and to keep the bad bugs at bay!

Spices have been valued through the ages, partly because they taste great, and partly because their medicinal properties were valued.

This soup contains cloves and star anise as the main spices.

  • Cloves contain a compound called Eugenol, which has many properties including anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and good for eliminating intestinal worms.
  • Star anise is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and can be helpful in fighting the flu.
  • By boiling the whole chicken, you are getting all the gut building, immune boosting nutrients from the chicken.
  • The onions and garlic are full of prebiotic fibre, which feed the good bacteria in your gut.
  • Carrots have traditionally been used to get rid of intestinal worms by killing the eggs!

So this soup is really using food as medicine!


1 whole organic chicken

3 star anise

6 cloves

2 onions – finely shredded

2cm piece of fresh garlic, sliced

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

3 zucchini – spiralised

4 carrots – julienned

1 celery (leaves removed) finely chopped


Put chicken in slow cooker and fill with water.

Add the star anise, cloves, garlic, onion and ginger.

Cook on HIGH for 3.5 hours

Carefully remove the chicken into a pyrex dish

Add the celery, carrots and zucchini into the slow cooker and put the lid on.

Cook on HIGH for 20-30 min.

Served the veggies and broth, topped with some of the shredded chicken.

What to do when your child has worms

If your child is irritable, has sleeping issues or a sore tummy….do they have worms?

I see a lot of kids with worms in clinic.  It might not be something that we routinely discuss in the school playground, but it is an issue that is lurking in many families.  Sometimes, it can be a simple case of taking the over the counter worming treatment, and the issue goes away.  Other times the situation can be a lot trickier and more in depth measures are needed.

Getting worms is a bit like catching a cold.  If it is just a one off, no need to worry.  You should be able to get rid of them, get back to normal after treatment, and forget the whole thing.  However, some people, both children and adults, can’t seem to shake them off.  This is because the overall terrain of their gut is allowing this cheeky little invader to set up shop.  For cases of repeated worm infections, you need to have a three pronged approach.

You need to:

  1. Get rid of the worms, using either pharmaceutical or herbal preparations.
  2. Implement some new cleaning rituals until the problem is resolved.
  3. Improve the terrain of the gut so worms can’t take over again.

What are thread worms?

If your child has ‘worms’, it usually means threadworms, also known as pin worms.  The technical name is Enterobius vermicularis. They are very common and look like a bit of thread or floss, about a centimetre long.  They live in the large intestines and come out to play at night time, laying their eggs.  The egg are stuck to the skin with a special glue, and it is the glue that causes the itch.  If your child itches them in the night, and then puts their fingers in their mouth, they will eat them and continue the life cycle of the worm

How do I know if my child has worms?

The most well-known symptom of worms is the itchy bum.  However, in about half the people infected, there is no itchy bottom!  Especially in adults this symptom can be missing.  If your child has an itchy bum, it isn’t necessarily worms – it could be thrush, nutrient deficiencies, allergy to soaps or a new toilet paper.

Other symptoms of worms include irritability, lack of appetite, tummy pain, grinding teeth, restless sleep and nightmares, and symptoms of urinary tract infections in little girls.  In girls, all the genital anatomy is very close together, and these little guys like to take strolls in the night….If you notice your kid’s behaviour is particularly bad around the time of a full moon, consider worms, as the life cycle of the worm will sometimes line up with the lunar cycle.

If you’re really lucky, you will see the little critters wriggling around in the poo, either in the nappy or toilet bowl.  My kids are notoriously bad at flushing the toilet, giving me ample opportunity to inspect their poo.

If you’re still not sure, let me introduce you to the sticky tape test.  For six consecutive nights, place a piece of stick tape over your child’s anus.  It needs to be touching the skin.  First thing in the morning, take off the tape and inspect it for eggs or worms.  If you do it for the full six nights, this test is pretty conclusive.

Another test which gives an indication is a stool test, which your GP can organise for you.  Whilst it doesn’t look for threadworms specifically, it does look for another parasite called Dientamoeba fragilis.  These two parasites are great friends, where one goes the other is sure to follow.  D. fragilis gets transmitted to humans using the eggs or larvae of Enterobius vermicularis as a taxi.  So if you do a stool test and you find out you or your child has D. fragilis, they likely have threadworms too.

Prong one: Treat the worms

It is best to treat the whole family at the same time, as even the people without symptoms may well have them.  You can use over the counter medication (the chocolate squares) or herbal treatment.  If you have been using the over the counter medication for a while, the worms might have built up some resistance and you might need to switch to herbal.  Try to coordinate treatment with the full moon, as eggs hatch with the lunar cycle.  For best results repeat treatment every two weeks for four cycles, to catch the full life cycle of the worm.  Add in probiotics for better results, and foods which discourage parasites such as garlic, cloves, oregano, stewed rhubarb and carrots.  My gut busting soup contains lots of foods helpful for banishing worms.

Prong two: Cleaning Rituals

For a week, each member of the household should shower morning and night.  No baths.  People who can’t be trusted not to itch their bottoms in the night should wear undies and a onesie.  It can also be useful to put Vaseline over the anus to prevent itchiness and prevent the worms coming out to play.

All sheets, pillow cases, towels and undies should be washed in hot water as often as possible and dried in the sun.  If you have a tumble drier, put them in there for ten minutes as well to make sure you kill everything.  The bathrooms should be thoroughly cleaned with hot water, especially under the toilet seat.  The eggs can become airborne, so when you take the sheets off the bed, carefully bundle them, instead of shaking them out.  Vacuum bedroom floors, and hot mop them if you can.  Cut everyone’s finger nails short, and get them to wash their hands a lot.  Pets can’t be blamed for threadworms, so leave them alone!  And finally, don’t eat food that has fallen on the floor.

Prong three: Improve the terrain of the gut

If digestion is strong, the worms will pass through without setting up shop.

Everyone, especially children should eat a healthy and varied diet.  That means lots of whole foods, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, little or no processed food and adequate good quality protein.

To stimulate digestion, try to start the day with a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon (don’t do this straight after, or just before you brush your teeth as it can damage your enamel).

Drink lots of lots of filtered water.  This is critical!

Don’t go to bed with a full stomach.

Don’t drink with a meal, only between meals.  Drinking during a meal dilutes the stomach acid and limits digestion.

Spend lots of time outdoors – gardening, playing, bushwalks etc.

Kids don’t need processed foods.  No white flour products (muffins, bread, cake), no added sugar (lollies, fruit yoghurts, juice), no soft drinks.

What they do need is high quality probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kefir.

Foods which are good for digestion include papaya, lemons, apples, figs, pears, pineapple, nutmeg (just a pinch), oregano, parsley and turmeric.

If you have been struggling with repeated infestations of worms, get in touch with me for an individualised treatment plan to get rid of them once and for all.  Don’t wait, in the belief your child to grow out of it – adults can also have repeated infestations.

If your child has behaviour or sleeping issues, do the sticky tape test, and then get in touch if you find evidence of worms.

The GAPS diet

What is the GAPS diet good for?

GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology syndrome or Gut and Physiology syndrome.

GAPS is a healing diet

The diet was developed by a Neurologist called Dr Natasha Campbell McBride.

When her son developed severe autism, she delved into the research to try to understand why he was autistic and how she could help.  From this experience, she developed the GAPS diet.

GAPS is based on another diet called the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) which has been used successfully to treat conditions such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis for many years.

The GAPS diet revolves around the fact that poor gut health leads to many chronic health conditions.  In children, this can be issues such as autism, ADHD / ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, learning difficulties, epilepsy, digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders, food allergies and eczema.

There are 2 phases in the diet.  There is the Introduction phase of the diet, and the “Full” GAPS diet.

The introduction phase moves through 6 stages, designed to rebuild the integrity of the gut wall, and repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria.

The focus is on fermented foods, bone stocks and broths, lots of fat, non-starch vegetables and gelatinous meat.

As you would expect on any diet, there are no processed foods or fast foods.

How long it takes to get through the 6 stages depends on how severe your symptoms are to start off with.  It could be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months.

Once you move through the 6 stages of the introduction diet, you move on to the full GAPS diet.  This will be your eating protocol for about 1.5 to 2 years.  It is more flexible, but the focus is still on whole foods.

Meals are generally eggs, meat, fish and vegetable with lots of broth!

GAPS also has a big focus on detoxing your entire life.  This includes juicing, safe sun exposure, Epsom salt baths, cutting out perfumed and fragranced personal care product, and generally following a healthy lifestyle.

Sounds pretty restrictive?

Yes, there’s no doubt that GAPS is a big departure from the standard Australian diet.  But let’s not forget that the standard Australian diet is making us sick.  Levels of food allergies, autism and auto-immunity have skyrocketed in the last decade.

Why would I do the GAPS diet?

You might look at doing the GAPs diet if you child has a behavioural diagnosis or allergy that conventional medicine can’t help.

Or perhaps you suspect your child has compromised gut health because of antibiotic overuse.

Or maybe you would prefer not to medicate your child.

Autism requires lots of specialist therapies, such as occupational therapy and speech therapy.  The GAPS protocol works alongside these to restore your child gut and help the therapies be more effective.

What happens after the GAPS diet?

Once you or your child have healed enough to come off the diet, you can start the gradual introduction of properly prepared grains and starchy vegetables.  Of course I would never recommend you jump back into the standard Australian diet, as it is not healthy for anyone.  But the good news is that if you have restricted your child’s diet because of food allergies or intolerances, you should be able to reintroduce some of these foods. 

So a couple of years of restrictive eating and intense gut healing will allow a wider range of foods to be eaten long term.

Where do I start?

Deciding to go on the GAPS diet can be overwhelming.

For that reason, you are recommended to speak with a Certified GAPS practitioner, like me.  I offer a 3 month coaching package to hold your hand as you transition your family.  If you are interested in finding out more about GAPS and whether it is right for your family, book in for a free 20 min chat and I can answer any questions you might have.

“GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.  The right of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988”.
Pink krauty-kraut

My daughter hadn’t eaten sauerkraut for a while, and was a bit resistant to eat it again.

In the end, she would only eat the pink one, and we had to rename it krauty-kraut.  We make this recipe together, and now she loves it!


All these ingredients should be organic.  You will get much better results this way, as there are bacteria in the organic cabbage which will help fermentation

1.5kg red cabbage

325g beetroot

100g ginger

300g green cabbage

2.5 tbsp celtic sea salt

1 sachet fermented vegetable culture


I use a Mad Millie fermenting crock, I get more consistent results.

Sterilise the crock by pouring boiling water into it and leaving it for 10 minutes.  Put the clay weights in the boiling water too. Make sure all knives and spoons are sterile too – either by putting in the boiling water or using straight out of dishwasher.

Remove all the outer leaves from the cabbages and finely chop.

Peel the beetroot and finely chop (or grate)

Peel the ginger and finely chop (or grate).

Put all the chopped vegetables in a large clean bowl.

Add the salt

Dissolve the sachet of starter culture in 2 tbsp water and 1 tsp sugar.

With extremely clean hands, massage the vegetables with the starter culture and salt for about 5-10 minutes.  After a while, a lot of liquid will come out of the vegetables, which is what you want.

Move all the vegetables into the crock, packing it down tightly.

The vegetables should be submerged in the liquid.  Place the clay weights on top, to keep the vegetables submerged.

Place lid on crock.

Fill the moat with water to make an airlock.  Keep topping up this moat during the fermentation period.

Leave on bench to ferment for 1-2 weeks.  More like 1 week in summer and 2 weeks in winter.  When it is ready(it should taste tangy) transfer to sterile jars and move to fridge.

How to improve your gut health naturally

How to improve your gut health naturally

Everyone is talking about gut health these days.

But why does gut health matter?

How can you tell if your child has an issue with Gut health?

How do you improve gut health?

Why does gut health matter?

If you gut isn’t working right, your body isn’t working right.

Your child’s brain is part of their body, just like an arm or leg, so if their gut doesn’t work right, their brain won’t work right.

Pretty much most childhood conditions can be linked back to gut health:

  • Skin conditions such as eczema
  • Allergies and intolerances
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Learning or behavioural issues

How can you tell if your child has an issue with gut health?

There are some basic checks and measures you can do to check your child’s gut health.

  1. Visual

Whenever your child does a poop, have a look.  Luckily our little darlings can often forget to flush, giving us ample opportunity to do this.

If it floats, your child might be producing a bit too much gas, which might mean they have an infection or are lactose intolerant.

If the gas causes your child pain or discomfort, this is a sign that their gut health is out of balance.

You shouldn’t be able to see undigested food in the poo.  If you can,

  • They might be eating too fast
  • They might not be chewing enough. This is a common issue when they go to big school and they want to get off to play as soon as possible.
  • They might simply be eating too many hard-to-digest foods, like nuts.
  • They may have some inflammation or not enough stomach acid.
  1. Frequency

Check the number of bowel movements your child has each day.

The ideal number per day is very individual.  The rule of thumb is that most people should be moving their bowels at least once a day.

If it is less than that, increase the number of veggie servings.

  1. Transit time

Feed your child with a noticeably difficult to digest food, like corn or sesame seeds.  Note the time they eat the food, then wait until you see the food reappear.

Transit time should be 12-48 hours.

Longer than that, and the food is sitting up there a bit too long.

Longer than 72 hours is constipation.  Do the test 3 times and get an average.

  1. Bristol stool chart

This is the best way to describe poo formation.  It ranges from 1 (hard nuts) to 7 (diarrhoea).  If your child’s poo is in the 1-2 category or 6-7 category, you may want to take them to a gut specialist, such as a Nutritionist or Naturopath.  Check out the Bristol stool chart.

  1. Symptom score card

Does your child suffer from any of these issues?

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Loose stools
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Undigested food
  • Bad breath
  • Mucus in stools
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Chronic food sensitivities.

All these point to suboptimal gut health, which would benefit from gut healing

  1. Look for wrigglers

If you see something wriggling in the poo, your child has worms.

There are natural ways to get rid of worms, without resorting to medication.  These involve using essential oils or garlic.  It is really something you need to do with a Nutritionist or Naturopath, to make sure you don’t kill off good bacteria too.

The important thing is to keep the terrain of the gut healthy (See below, ‘How do I improve gut health’).  This means keeping all the bacteria in balance.  That way, they defend their territory and don’t let invaders like parasites or pathogenic (disease causing bacteria) take over.

  1. Specialised testing

You can do specialised gut testing with your Nutritionist or Naturopath.

This could be a stool analysis, breathe test or urine test and can assess how well your child’s digestive system is working.  It checks if there is anything there that shouldn’t be there, or something missing that should be there.

How do I improve gut health?

  1. Feed the good bacteria in your digestive system!

You do this by eating more fibre and unprocessed foods.

Highly processed foods are very easily digested., which means they’re completed digested early in the digestive process, and there is nothing left to feed the good bacteria in the bowel.

You have to feed the good bacteria with fibre, or they can start to attack the walls of the intestines.  This can trigger allergies and asthma.

Eat more whole foods.  Include lots of fruit, vegetables and nuts in your child’s diet.

  1. Bring in the cavalry

As well as feeding the good bacteria in your child’s gut, you want to boost the number of good guys in the bowel too.

Eating foods that contain bacteria is a good way to do this, including fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, live yoghurt or kvass.  You can make your own or buy in the health food shop.  Just make sure they aren’t pasteurised.

Highly processed yogurt doesn’t have these health benefits (and the ‘yoghurt’ topping on snack bars isn’t yoghurt at all.)

If you know your child doesn’t have enough good bacteria, because they have had antibiotics, or have allergies, they may need a probiotic supplement too.

  1. Eat dirt.

Not literally handfuls of dirt.

Just relax the sterility a bit.

Ditch the hand sanitiser.

Play outside and get dirty.

Do some gardening.

Get a pet.

Be sensible though — wash hands before eating, after blowing nose, or touching something contaminated (like poo, compost, or vomit).  Wash with soap and water, not antibacterial soap.

  1. Avoid medication.

Lots of medications are harmful to your gut, the most well-known being antibiotics.

Don’t get me wrong.  Antibiotics are life savers, but they are for emergencies only.

I have one child who wouldn’t be here today without the existence of antibiotics.

If your child needs antibiotics, start them on a probiotic immediately, but take it 2 hours away from the antibiotic.  This stops the harmful yeasts getting a hold on the gut

Ever taken an antibiotic and gotten thrush straight away?  That’s because yeast has taken over in the absence of good bacteria.

If your child has had multiple courses of antibiotics, they will need a good quality probiotic for the foreseeable future. Other medications are damaging too, including reflux medication, that is designed to reduce stomach acid. Guess what?  We need that stomach acid!  That is one of the body’s first lines of defence again infection.  Remove the acid, and the bad guys (worms, yeast and bacteria) get in a bit easier. Anti-inflammatories and asthma medication can also harm your gut.

5. The migrating motor complex

This is a really important factor which doesn’t get talked about too much.

Basically, the migrating motor complex (MMC) is the electrical activity of the muscle in the gut between meals.  It is responsible for keeping undigested food moving and moving bacteria from the small intestine to the large intestine.

It occurs in cycles, about every 1.5 – 2 hours.  It only works when you are not eating.  That means, if your child grazes continuously throughout the day, the MMC never kicks in.

This can lead to stagnation of undigested food, and over growth of bacteria in the small intestine.  So another important way to keep your child’s gut health is to stick to designated meal times and snack times only.

50 years ago, there were 3 square meals a day.

Now we have somehow moved to about 3 meals, 3 snacks, and possibly even some food in between there somewhere.

A lot of this change is driven by the food industry.

Think about it.

If you have to prepare food from scratch for 6-7 eating occasions per day – will you do it?

But if you can grab something off the shelf, you are much more likely to do it.

More snacking occasions = more food sales.

Some children need so much food, that they need 3 meals and 2 snacks, especially if they are little.  You will find if they are having whole foods with ample fat and fibre, they will get less hungry outside of these times.

Especially in the school holidays, I find myself having to write meal and snack times up on the fridge.  If anyone asks for anything outside of this, tough luck.

I’m only thinking of your migrating motor complex, darling.

  1. Add healing foods

Healing foods are natural foods that will help rebuild your child’s gut lining.

Introduce your child to some healing foods such as

Bone stocks and broths 

Organ meats like my Liver and Bacon recipe

Cold water fish such as salmon.  These are high in essential fatty acids and reduce inflammation in the gut

Cheaper cuts of meat such as Osso Bucco. 

The amino acid glycine is higher in cheaper cuts of meat, making it more healing.  Cook in the slow cooker, kids love the tender meat.

  1. Relax!

Stress and anxiety will play havoc with gut health and similarly, poor gut health will lead to stress and anxiety.

A great place to start with improving this cycle in kids is to have them play outside for 1- 3 hours a day, preferably in natural light to get the vitamin D level topped-up.

Try not to fight over food (says she who says your child must eat 5 veggies a day, fermented foods and less snacking!).

Try to model good food choices, don’t make veggies out to be punishment, or less appealing (‘you can’t have dessert unless you eat the broccoli’ is setting broccoli up as not appealing).

  1. Avoid irritating foods

For a lot of people, foods such as grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods or sugar may cause gut irritation.  Your child may have a food intolerance to a random food.

By identifying and excluding irritating foods for 6 months and working on gut healing, you may be able to reintroduce some of these foods later.

I hope you find this useful and it helps to put into perspective why you need to think about gut health in relation to you child.

If you think your child might need to improve their gut health, click here to arrange a FREE 20 minute PHONE HEALTH CHECK.