Children suffer from digestive problems too!
And here are some suggestions of what to do...
Cheryl Wright, RNCP, RHN, BA
When we think of digestive problems we tend to think of adults. Yet children often have just as many digestive problems, due to underdeveloped digestive systems or poor diets. Most Canadians eat what is termed the SAD diet (Standard American Diet). This is comprised of a lack of fresh produce and too many refined carbohydrates, processed foods and chemical additives. Most children have picked up these same bad eating habits from their parents which leads to poor digestion. Three of the most common digestive ailments in children are gas and bloating (caused by enzyme deficiencies), constipation, and parasites.
Digestive Enzyme Deficiencies
Children are not just human garbage cans when it comes to food (even though sometimes it may seem that way). A continuous poor diet combined with an underdeveloped digestive system can result in gas, bloating, and other digestive upsets. The SAD diet becomes an even greater problem as it fails to provide the required micronutrients to make digestive enzymes. The body uses digestive enzymes to break down food into its smaller absorbable components (i.e. rice into glucose). Without enzymes, undigested food passes through their systems (leading to food allergies) while required nutrients are not absorbed. For many kids taking a children's digestive enzyme can help immensely.
Look for a full spectrum enzyme that is designed specifically for children and includes support ingredients like L-Glutamine, which helps to repair and rebuild the intestinal tract lining, and a probiotic blend to help ensure a healthy bacterial balance. Taking this type of supplement can be helpful in combating gas, bloating, allergies and food sensitivities.
Constipation in children is a common and often painful problem. To remedy children's constipation first have a look at their diet; are they getting enough water, fruits, vegetables and whole grains? If the diet is generally good, but your child still has constipation, look for an all natural laxative formula that is formulated for children.
Children with constipation should not use harsh laxatives like senna or cascara sagrada, as these can become addicting making it difficult for the colon to work on its own. Instead, chose one that contains natural ingredients such as extracts of prune, fig, rhubarb, and peach which help to stimulate bowel movements naturally, but in a manner that is much more gentle and effective than using purgative laxatives.
As well, fibre is extremely important for children. Flax seed is the best choice of fibre as it is less constipating than other types of fibre, and is not too harsh on their delicate intestines.
Intestinal problems caused by parasites can affect anyone. However, children are more susceptible due to less than desirable hygiene habits (such as putting pretty much anything in their mouth). Not only can you get parasites from undercooked meats, but also from playing with pets, walking in the sand or dirt, or even from mosquitoes. Parasites are a common cause of stomach pain, gas, and bloating in children. There are natural herbal formula's available to help combat parasites. Look for one that contains anti-parasitic, as well as anti-fungal, and anti-microbial herbs, as they often occur together. Again, look for a formula that is specifically designed for children.
Children's supplements should come in small capsules (easier to swallow), and natural fruit flavoured non-alcohol tinctures. Only children over the age of 4 should use the supplements listed above. If your child is younger, check with your registered health care practitioner before trying any natural product.
Your child's digestive problems can be treated naturally by ensuring a healthy diet, and by using natural health products when needed. These products can be found in better health food stores across Canada.
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