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Importance of gut health in babies and toddlers

baby eating
Posted at 3:17 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 15:23:41-04

NORFOLK, Va. - We hear a lot about "gut health" for adults, but some doctors say we should be thinking about it much earlier than that.

Dr. Whitney Casares, a pediatric consultant for Gerber, says the first two to three years of a baby's life are critical for establishing a healthy gut microbiome.

It can impact not just digestive health, but the body's immune system response and brain function.

Dr. Casares says probiotics and prebiotics, which can be found in breastmilk, play an important role.

"Probiotics are the actual live microorganisms that help to establish that healthy gut microbiome and immune system. We know that probiotics, like L. reuteri have been shown to be associated with helping with things like excessive crying with colic, and with functional gut disorders for babies and for toddlers," said Dr. Casares. "We also know that prebiotics are the food for those microorganisms and help to develop that healthy gut microbiome."

If a baby isn't being breastfed, there are supplements and formulas that contain them, but parents should talk to their pediatricians about what's best for their baby.

Once babies start eating solid foods, Dr. Casares says parents should make sure they're offering a variety of foods.

"You want to include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, making sure that you're really feeding the rainbow as much as possible so you can establish like that healthy gut microbiome for your little one," said Dr. Casares.