Digestion is one of the fundamental aspects of your kid’s health, isn’t it? It’s central to their health and wellbeing. Here Rebecca Mar Young talks about the essence of getting it right, taken from the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine
1) Keep it simple
According to Chinese medical principles, when your child is young – especially in the first few years, it’s best to keep the combination of food they eat in one sitting to a minimum. So rather than a soup with 20 different ingredients, think three to five ingredients. Rather than a sauce with 10 ingredients in it, think three. This means it’s blander in flavour, won’t cause as much stagnation in their gut and will be more easily digested.
2) Keep it warm
In China, food for babies and children is always given warm because it’s more easily digestible. You might be thinking, well I don’t live in China nor am I Chinese, so this doesn’t apply to me. I have to say, I’ve been working with children in clinic since 2007 and when it comes to diet, this is one of the main things I say over and over again because it just works.
Keep their diet warm (not hot) as much as possible, especially when they are sick. It will help them to get better more quickly, clear up their phlegm and strengthen their digestive system. When your child eats cold food out of the fridge or raw food, their body needs to heat it up to help digest it. When you feed them warm food you’ve removed that step, which means it’s much easier for them to process and the nutrients in their food are more readily accessible.
3) Keep it social
Food is such a social thing and we are all social creatures after all. Have you ever eaten a meal by yourself? How did you feel? We all have at one time or another. I often hear people say, I just made a very small dinner as it was just me, nothing fancy. Food should be about enjoyment as well as nutrition. We actually digest better when we eat with others so even when your children are very little, try to eat something with them when they are eating so they can have that social feeling. When I was starting solids with my children we always ate together and that worked very well for our family. This isn’t always possible for all families due to work and other commitments, but try to make time to fit it in, for them and for you. It’s a good tradition to start.
If your child is having tummy trouble, what can you do?
First they need an examination by a doctor to make sure it’s nothing sinister.
Then if it’s not, you can consider introducing the steps above. If that isn’t enough they may need:
- Some herbs. In the first instance you could try some fennel tea as it helps to digest food and settle the stomach. You can give some before the meal and a little after. If that isn’t enough, then I suggest seeing a Paediatric Chinese Medicine practitioner who can help you out with a specific formula that addresses the issues for your child.
- There are special blends for children that are great to build up their digestive system and their immune system. They are especially important to take after a round of antibiotics, which kill the bad bacteria as well as a lot of good bacteria. They aren’t all created equal so make sure you get a good quality brand that is practitioner strength.
- Some gentle acupuncture and massage. This can be great for little ones and because the needles are so fine they hardly notice what’s happening. Acupuncture needles are so different to vaccination needles – the only thing they have in common is their name. See this video for evidence! Learning to massage their abdomen and other parts of their body to help their digestion is a wonderful way to connect with your child and can be easily taught to parents to be performed on a daily basis.
- A change in their diet. Some of the foods they may be eating might not be agreeing with them right now. It’s good to go over exactly what they’re eating so a new direction can be established to help the healing process.
Savannah first came to see me when she was two years old with an itchy red rash. She’d been to the doctor who prescribed cortisone cream. Savannah’s mum was looking for what else she could do to support her child long term, as she didn’t want to use that cream forevermore. In Chinese medicine we always look at the diet when a child has symptoms of any kind as their digestion is almost always at the heart of the problem.
Savannah’s mum was keen to learn about diet and other ways she could help her little girl. Certain foods were reduced for a little while to establish healing in Savannah’s gut and skin, and other foods were included a lot more. She was given herbs and acupuncture a handful of times over a few months.
This is what her mum had to say: “From the first time we saw you, it was almost instantaneous, I could see a difference after that first week. She had it bad on her arms and it didn’t take long to change – it was pretty quick.
After our first appointment, I came away feeling there was a well-thought-out holistic approach. I felt your concern. You acknowledged my need to be involved and to be able to help her as much as I could from home. You educated me on diet and lifestyle in relation to Savannah specifically. I loved having a long-term plan – it was what I needed. I could be involved with the solution and that felt great. She loves her acupuncture, for Savannah it’s normal. I can’t tell you how much of a massive difference it has made. I don’t feel anxious anymore and I knew it wasn’t going to be detrimental for her health long term, in fact quite the opposite.”
- This article is by Rebecca Mar Young of Red Tent Mums and Director of Red Tent Mums Health Centre @ Bondi Beach. Rebecca is mum of two, partner at Red Tent Mums Health Centre and author of the forthcoming book Hands-On Birth. She holds a BA Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and has completed postgrad study in Japanese acupuncture, women’s health, gynaecology and Paediatric Oriental medicine.
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