What you need to know about digestive upsets in children

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Digestive upsets are one of the most common reasons for children missing school, play dates and even precious family time. While it’s worrying for you as parents, here is some useful information from paediatricians in Singapore on managing digestive upsets as well as some interesting facts on gut health.

Bacteria may not necessarily be bad for our body!
The lining of the human digestive tract is home to 70 percent of the cells that make up our immune system. This is called the ‘gut barrier’. They work together with gut microbes (such as gut bacteria) to act as one of the first lines of defence against illnesses. A healthy gut naturally strengthens a child’s immunity to protect against infection.

While we have often been told that germs and bacteria are bad for us, the opposite is true when it comes to gut health – some bacteria are beneficial to us. Known as ‘good bacteria’, a healthy balance is required to keep children healthy. Digestive upsets happen when there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.

As Professor Hugo Van Bever, Senior Consultant, Division of Paediatric Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology, Department of Paediatrics, Khoo Teck Puat – National University Children’s Medical Institute, National University Hospital puts it – “The gut is often referred to as the body’s second brain.”

This is because a healthy gut serves many essential roles in the body such as sustaining and protecting our overall health as well as absorbing nutrients and providing energy for the whole body.

You can proactively prevent frequent digestive upsets
A recent survey by Sanofi, called ‘Gut Health Insights’ showed us just how much of an impact digestive upsets have – among 600 mums surveyed in Singapore, 58% of mums said that their child fell sick from digestive upsets that lasted two days or longer. However, what’s even more worrying is that among those who experienced digestive upsets, over half (59%) saw it recurring more than once.

To proactively prevent frequent digestive upsets in children, Dr Lee Bee Wah, Paediatrician at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre shares that modifying lifestyle factors such as reducing stress as well as maintaining a well-balanced diet with fibre are some of the ways to do so.

This is where probiotics can help too.

Probiotics are good bacteria that helps to maintain a healthy balance in the gut, which is especially important when your child is suffering from a digestive upset. While probiotics are known to restore your child’s gut health when they experience a digestive upset, did you know that they can also help prevent frequent digestive upsets?

As probiotics help to keep the bacteria in the gut healthy, this can lead to a stronger immune system, and as a result, fewer illnesses.

Choosing the right probiotic supplement for your child
There are many varieties of probiotics available in pharmacies nationwide, so it can feel a little overwhelming when you are trying to select the best one for your child. Professor Van Bever says that the most important criteria to consider is safety. Do your research and check whether clinical studies for the probiotic have been conducted to prove that it is not only safe, but effective as well.

Other tips include:
• Can the probiotic survive the heat and acidity of the digestive tract to reach the gut alive, where the probiotic is supposed to work?
• Once it reaches the gut alive, does it multiply in the gut?
• Is it easy (and fuss-free!) for your child to consume?
• What is the sugar content?

If your child is having a digestive upset episode, Professor Van Bever advises that you can give your child probiotics until a few days after the symptoms have stopped.

Jamie Yeo with her children

Image credit to Jamie Yeo and Sanofi’s Enterogermina

Singapore TV personality, and mum to two young kids, Jamie Yeo, has been giving her children Enterogermina probiotics. As Jamie says, “We can’t be with our kids every step of the way, no matter how much we try. So, it becomes important to strengthen their gut health to prevent and avoid digestive upsets in the first place.”

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