Fibre is essential for bowel health and digestive function. Dietary fibre is mainly indigestible plant matter which travels through to our colon or large bowel and feeds the bacteria that live there, known as the microbiome. A healthy microbiome helps to protect our gut from gastroenteritis and other gut disorders. When we feed the microbes in our gut, they also release signals into the rest of our body which impact all sorts of things from appetite regulation to mood.
We are still learning about the microbiome and all its important roles in our health but there are many things that we know impact it and our diet in childhood can play a big role in how healthy our microbiome is throughout our lives.
It is interesting to note that babies in the womb don’t have any microbes in their colon and when they are born they are first exposed to microbes that begin colonising their gut either from the vaginal tract and/or from breast milk or from formula.
As time goes along, babies colons become colonised with more and more bacteria, some of which promote gut health and overall health and some of which are less healthy.
When children are weaned, their microbiome starts to be fed more comprehensively. Some of the foods we feed our children will encourage the growth of healthy bacteria that will help them throughout their lives. These foods are mainly high fibre foods.
There are two types of fibre in the diet, soluble fibre and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre is in things melon, oats, soft cereals, root vegetables and soft fruit. This fibre helps to create a gel-like substance in the bowel which keeps the stool soft and feeds the good bacteria in the colon.
Insoluble fibre is in things like skins (think sweetcorn and bean husks), peels and pips. This is harder to digest and adds bulk to the stool, giving the colon something to contract against as it is pushing the poo along. It's also good for our gut bacteria.
Children generally benefit from more soluble fibre than insoluble fibre as insoluble fibre can be bulky and harder to digest. Some are great but not too much.
If your child is eating a variety of foods from each food group, they should be getting enough fibre but dietary manipulation may be required if they are experiencing issues with their bowels. Seek advice from a medical professional if you are concerned about your child’s bowel habits prior to starting dietary changes.
Mini Mealtimes will have an option to track your child’s stool output to allow you to monitor any changes in the future.