According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most visits to the pediatrician last all of 15 minutes. To maximize your visit with your child's pediatrician the trick is to know exactly which questions to ask. Here is a list of pertinent questions to ask your child's pediatrician about gut health.

What exactly is gut health?

Mainstream media is full of information about what parents should focus on when it comes to children’s health. This can make it quite confusing, especially for new parents. With every source out there touting the phrase “Happy gut, happy child,” it is understandable that you are wondering what gut health even means. In a nutshell, gut health refers to the overall health of the entire digestive system of one’s body. Not only is your child’s gut home to around 70% of the immune system, it is also responsible for breaking down the food your child eats, absorbing maximum nutrients from it, and supporting the functions of your little one’s body. Get all the pertinent details from your child’s pediatrician so you understand why it is so important to maintain your child’s gut health.

Find the right probiotic for your child. 

Is my child’s diet and weight alright?

When it comes to your child’s health, there are a few important markers to look at. Pediatricians can help you understand these markers – how much sleep does your child need, is your child’s height and weight within normal parameters, and whether you need to make any changes in your child’s diet. You really are what you eat, and your child’s nutrition and diet make a lasting impact on growth cycles, the strength of their immune system, and overall health.

What does microbiome mean, and how does it affect my child’s health?

The gut microbiome is intrinsically connected to your child’s gut health. The microbiome is simply a collection of bacteria and other organisms that live in harmony inside your digestive system. The human body has trillions of bacteria, most of which are based inside the body’s gastrointestinal system. Of this massive number, approximately 85% of the bacteria are probiotics or friendly in nature. If this balance is not maintained, your body’s microbiome gets thrown out of whack and your health suffers consequently. Along with the larger gut microbiome, there are several smaller ones that work in tandem such as the oral and urogenital microbiome. Recent studies indicate that the gut microbiome your child has in the first three to five years of life affects them through adulthood. Ask your child’s pediatrician as many questions as you may have to understand how your child’s health is affected by the gut microbiome.

How can you keep your child’s gut healthy?

The first thing to pay attention to is what your child eats, that means keeping your little one away from processed foods, added sugars, and unhealthy fats. Excessive use of antibiotics also hurts gut health, as these powerful drugs kill both good and bad bacteria in the body. Your pediatrician can help you with more tips on how to keep your child’s gut healthy.

What are probiotics, and how can they help?

Probiotics are friendly live bacteria that are naturally found in the body, as well as in certain fermented foods. Food items like yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, miso, and sauerkraut, to name a few, have live strains of good bacteria. However, it becomes difficult to keep a tab on exactly which strains and the total amount of probiotics your child could get from these foods. Probiotic supplements, on the other hand, mention the specific strains and the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) within. Probiotic supplements help repopulate the gut microbiome with good bacteria so your gut can continue to function optimally.

Are probiotics safe for children?

The first few years of your child’s life are crucial for the growth and development of the gut microbiome. While a child’s gut is pretty much sterile while inside the womb, the population of the microbiome begins at a fast pace as a baby descends through the mother’s vaginal canal. Post-this, babies get generous dollops of natural probiotics from breastmilk and later on, from other food. Probiotics are made of natural elements, and so, they are safe even for newborn infants and children, except very sick infants.

Supporting Your Child's Gut Health

Even if you do everything possible to safeguard your child’s natural gut flora, some factors which kill probiotics such as chlorinated water and airborne toxins are impossible to protect your little ones from. Probiotic supplements can help fulfill this deficit by getting the right strains of probiotics in high enough numbers into your child’s gut. Specific strains of probiotics offer specific benefits – some are recommended for weight gain, while some could be used for weight loss. It is important to find the right strains to suit your child’s health needs. Your pediatrician is best placed to help you understand the benefits of different strains of probiotics. The next time you visit the pediatrician, get these six questions about your child’s gut health answered so you can ensure that your darling gets the best of gut-friendly goodness. References Degnan FH. The US Food and Drug Administration and probiotics: regulatory categorization. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2008;46(Suppl 2):S133–S136. Didari T, Solki S, Mozaffari S, et al. A systematic review of the safety of probiotics. Expert Opinion on Drug Safety. 2014;13(2):227–239. Duffy LC, Sporn S, Hibberd P, et al. Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010:469–478. Ford AC, Moayyedi P, Lacy BE, et al. American College of Gastroenterology monograph on the management of irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014;109:S2–S26. Goldenberg JZ, Ma SS, Saxton JD, et al. Probiotics for the prevention of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea in adults and children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013;(5):CD006095. Accessed at on April 24, 2015. Guarner F, Khan AG, Garisch J, et al. World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines. Probiotics and Prebiotics. October 2011. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2012;46(6):468–481.