So far in our Kids’ Nutrition Series we’ve covered nutrients kids may be missing and getting too much of as well as why fat is an important part of their diet. Now we are moving on to a more complex topic — one that is growing in popularity but poorly understood: gut health.
The gut consists of digestion and absorption of nutrients, immune function and the elimination of wastes. It’s the first line of defense for the body, and acts as a protective barrier, as potential toxins and harmful bacteria are ingested. It plays a larger role in the immune system than most people realize, and in different ways than expected.
I want to clear up the confusion about gut health for you and your family. And in order to do so, we must start with a quick review of the good and bad bacteria that reside in the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract.
Gut Health 101
A major component of a healthy GI tract is the presence of microbes (bacteria) that take up residence. These microbes can be found to a lesser extent in the stomach and upper part of the small intestine but as you move to the lower small intestine their numbers increase (1,000,000) with the most in the colon (1,000,000,000,000). It has been estimated that there are more than 400 different species of bacteria in the gut alone!