1. Practice good hygiene
With so many children in such close proximity, it’s no surprise that schools are a place where germs spread. In order to keep your child healthy, it is important to encourage good hygiene. This includes washing their hands regularly, covering their mouths when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding sharing food or drinks.
However, it’s important that your child does not overuse hand sanitizer when cleaning their hands. Although it’s true that it kills germs and bad bacteria, it also kills the good bacteria that our bodies need to function properly, such as those on our skin and in our gut.
“In an over-sanitized world, we have to be careful not to avoid the important exchange of microbes. We often use antibiotics when we don't need them, which affects the diversity of our microbiota,” says Gianfranco Grompone, Chief Scientific Officer at BioGaia.
2. Prioritize sleep
Among the most important aspects of a child's health is the amount of sleep they get. Therefore, it’s important to establish a consistent sleep routine for your child to ensure that he or she gets enough sleep every night.
As a general rule of thumb, young children should sleep somewhere between 10-12 hours per night, while older children should sleep around 9 hours each night.
One study shows that sleep loss can quickly alter the composition of the gut microbiota, that is the collection of microorganisms that reside in our digestive tract. This complex ecosystem includes bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes that play important roles in our overall health.
Grompone shares, “Although we don't yet know what the exact functions are, there is a link between sleep and our microbiota composition.”
3. Promote gut health to support the immune system
Our gut microbiota plays a crucial role in our overall health, including our immune system. In fact, the gut is home to 80 percent of our immune system,
which means that maintaining a variety of good bacteria in the gut is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system.
Make sure that your child consumes a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help maintain a healthy gut. You may also consider introducing probiotic supplements or incorporating fermented foods into your child's diet.
Explore BioGaia’s range of probiotics for children and teenagers here.
4. Physical exercise and plenty of it
The benefits of regular exercise go beyond physical health. For children and adults alike, exercise can also have a positive effect on our overall well-being.
Exercise can be achieved in a variety of ways, whether it is through organized sports, active playtime, or family outings. Aside from keeping children healthy and fit, exercise can also improve their mood and concentration.
Although further research is needed to understand the connection between exercise and gut health fully, early findings suggest that exercise might improve the gut microbiota, which in turn could improve our health.
5. Plan healthy meals and snacks
“What we eat has a direct impact on the gut microbiota. Our microbiota eats the food in our intestines, especially the ones we can’t digest ourselves, such as dietary fiber. In other words, our gut microbes literally help us to digest our food,” Grompone shares. “What’s more, if we change our diet, we promote different microbes in our gut. For example, studies have shown that if we lower our fat consumption, and increase our fiber consumption and protein intake, it has a direct impact on the microbiota."
When rushing to get ready in the morning, it's easy to fall into the trap of packing lunches that are convenient but not necessarily healthy for your child.
Prepare nutritious lunches and snacks the night before that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Choose snacks made of whole grains, and avoid processed, sugary and high-fat snacks, which can make your child feel sluggish and unfocused.
To learn more about probiotics and their role in child health, explore the other articles and videos here in our Learning Lab.