This fall, my daughter got a virus that resisted the natural remedies we tried. As a last resort, we brought her to our pediatrician, who put her on an antibiotic. She then said, “You should get her on a probiotic too.” When I asked for more information, she shrugged and went back to writing the script. I thought I’d do the research on my own and share with you so you can help your child when she gets sick.
Stomach Viruses and Antibiotics: Bad for Your Child's Gut
While a stomach virus can make you miserable, treating it can be hard on your system as well. In July, 2014, the New York Times published an article called, “We Are Our Bacteria,” which describes how diverse bacteria that lives in the human body helps people to avoid chronic conditions like allergies, Celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes. The information comes from Dr. Martin J. Blaser, author of “Missing Microbes” and a specialist in infectious disease. Dr. Blaser says that antibiotics in children can harm that diversity in a growing body. Because antibiotic medications destroy both bad and beneficial bacteria in the gut, they contribute to a higher risk for chronic illness. The same is true of a stomach flu and other digestive illnesses. Your child is not only suffering pain, diarrhea and nausea, that bug is also indiscriminately destroying the delicate ecosystem in their gut.
Restoring Your Children to Balance After They've Been Sick
If your child has had antibiotics or has suffered a stomach virus, you can help rebalance his system with a few easy steps:
- Serve bone broth.
Homemade, fresh chicken broth will help rehydrate a sick child and it may be the only thing he can stomach. It will also contribute to healing his gut, restoring the digestive process and may contribute to preventing further infection. Use bones from organic and grass feed poultry and beef.
- Remove toxins from your child’s diet.
Excess sugar, yeast products and processed foods can further disturb your child’s gut bacteria. Once healed, make sure to keep sugary, starchy foods away from your child at least for a while. Feed him real food like organic produce, grass fed dairy products and meats once he gets back to eating.
- Give your child a proper probiotic.
Choosing the right probiotic for your family is critical. According to CNNHealth.com, the best strains for a stomach virus are S. cerevisiae boulardii, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, and Bacillus coagulans GBI-30. Lactobacillus is readily available but consult your health food store to find the brand that best suits your family. The Healthy Home Economist's “How to Choose the Best Probiotic Supplement for Your Family” lists the types of probiotics available, as well as dosage by age, or consult with a health practitioner who is knowledgeable in this area.
- Give your child enzymes.
Enzymes help process your food which in turn improves absorption of the minerals and vitamins that it contains. They can work hand in hand with probiotics to optimize your child's system, but there are many options here as well, from one-size-fits-all enzymes to ones that target specific food groups, such as glutens. Consult with your health practitioner to select the best one.
- Add fermented foods to your diet.
If you’re not comfortable with giving a probiotic supplement to your child, instead you can add fermented foods to the table. Sauerkraut and pickled vegetables like peppers are common examples that provide lactobacillus, but you want to make sure you have top quality, organic brands if you are buying them. You may also want to start fermenting foods too and regularly serving them with dinner so you don’t need to worry as much about a probiotic.
Don’t let a stomach bug throw your child off for weeks. Use these tips to restore his system and get her gut back in balance so that you can enjoy being a healthy family again!