Can probiotics help your picky eater?
I’ve written before about strategies to get kids interested in eating vegetables. Trying new foods can be challenging for kids, and they need support to get more adventurous in their eating. Encouraging kids to try new foods is one part of the picky eating puzzle. But what if your kids’ reluctance to try new food isn’t just about how broccoli looks or how cucumbers smell? Could probiotics help your picky eater?
Before we talk about probiotics for picky eaters, we need to talk about picky eating and gut bacteria. Kids, like adults, have gut bacteria. Their gut microbiome is made up of a variety of different micro-organisms including bacteria, yeasts and viruses. The composition of gut bacteria depends on several factors like diet, health, stress level, age and location. What we are trying to do is support the types of gut bacteria that are associated with good health, and good digestion, and good mood for ourselves and our children. And probiotics may be one way we can help with picky eating. Let’s look more at how gut bacteria can affect picky eating to understand why probiotics for picky eaters might be helpful.
Gut Bacteria and Cravings
First, your cravings can be affected by your gut bacteria. We’ve discovered that gut bacteria can communicate with our brains and there are certain foods that they prefer to eat. Some like sugar and processed foods, while the ones we want to support usually prefer higher fibre foods. And some of the ones we want to grow like chocolate.
Depending on what type of bacteria are present, our cravings will be different. Different gut bacteria will lead to different cravings because our gut bacteria are picky eaters themselves. Some gut bacteria crave sugar because that’s what they need to survive, even if that might not be what is best for our overall health.
As adults, we know how challenging cravings can be. We can feel drawn to eating foods that we know aren’t the healthiest choices. It makes sense that kids would also have cravings that affect what they want to eat. Kids might find this harder because they don’t understand cravings.
It is definitely possible that your kids are having cravings that make it difficult to choose healthy foods. Keep reading to find out if how probiotics for picky eaters can support gut health and reduce cravings.
Gut Bacteria and Digestion
Second of all, some of our gut bacteria have a job of helping with digestion. When gut bacteria break down some foods they produce feel-good chemicals like endorphins and neurotransmitters like dopamine (the “reward” neurotransmitter). These chemicals make us feel good after eating certain foods. We get more sense of satisfaction and we feel better when we finish eating. We also want to eat more of these foods. An overactive reward response can lead to overeating and food addiction.
If some foods make your kids feel good when they eat them, you can imagine that it will be hard for them to choose other foods. Probiotics for picky eaters could help support the digestion of a wider range of foods and manage overeating.
Gut Bacteria and Taste
Third, there is some evidence that gut bacteria can actually affect your taste buds! Not only can they cause cravings, but they can also affect how different foods taste and feel in the mouth. Since the gut bacteria are motivated to survive, they will make what helps them grow most appealing. The gut bacteria we want to support needs fibre rich foods like vegetables, but the bacteria we don’t want to take over prefers sugar and processed foods.
Gut Bacteria and Appetite
Finally, gut bacteria can affect your appetite overall. Some kids who are picky eaters don’t have much appetite. They’re not really hungry. They don’t want to eat a lot which makes it hard to get them interested in different foods. If kids’ appetite depends on their gut bacteria adding probiotics for picky eaters to support their gut microbiome could help them feel more like eating so they would be open to eating a wider variety of foods.
As you can see, when we’ve got a kid who’s a picky eater, it’s important to recognize gut bacteria can be affected their behaviour. They may be affected by cravings, and they could feel good when they eat certain foods. Their taste buds could find that certain foods taste better, and their appetite could depend on their gut bacteria. Their gut bacteria will make certain foods much more appealing than others.
Supporting Good Gut Bacteria With Probiotics
If kids have gut bacteria that isn’t mostly made up of types of gut bacteria that are associated with good health, and good digestion, and good mood, we call it gut dysbiosis which means an imbalance. There are a few different ways that you can address that imbalance to reduce picky eating behaviour.
1. Eat food that support healthy gut bacteria.
The gut bacteria we want to support and have more of, thrive on things like fruit, and vegetables, and whole grains, unprocessed foods, foods that are high in fibre.
All of these foods can be difficult for your child if they will only eat mac and cheese, and toast with butter, crackers, and granola bars. If your kid will only eat those four or five food, it’s tough to get them eating more of the foods that will support good gut health. Even if it is hard, adding more these foods is great because that starts to support those healthy gut bacteria.
2. Eat foods that contain probiotics.
Now before you focus too much on feeding the good gut bacteria, you want to make sure you’ve got enough of them to make a difference. Fermented foods are one way to add more healthy gut bacteria. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about alcohol fermentation.
The foods we are talking about are fermented with lactic acid like yogurt. Be sure to look for unsweetened yogurt that still has live cultures in it because you want those live bacteria. These are healthy ones your picky eaters need in their digestive system. If unsweetened yogourt doesn’t appeal to your kids, add fruit that has the fibre to feed the healthy bacteria.
Another fermented food kids might enjoy is kombucha (fermented tea). If your kids are more adventurous you can offer them kimchi, sauerkraut, miso or fermented pickles.
3. Take probiotic supplements.
Of course, introducing fermented to a picky eater may seem impossible. Probiotics for kids are probably an easier way to start introducing more healthy gut bacteria. There are liquid, powder and chewable probiotics that might be more appealing. These healthy gut bacteria should start to communicate their own food preferences! Think about how quickly your taste buds seem to change when you stop or starting eating something. Within a few weeks, you can lose interest in foods if you stop eating them.
So as you get started remember that adding in that healthy food high in fibre (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans) is great. Adding in fermented foods that contain probiotics or live bacteria is great as well. And, you can also support gut health by adding probiotics for your picky eater in supplement form. Together, these changes should support the gut bacteria that we associate with good health, good digestion and better mood.
With more and more research, we’re realizing that our gut bacteria affect our mood and our energy and our behaviour. So when you’re dealing with a picky eater, keep that in mind. Start with the gut bacteria that may also be picky eaters and can have a powerful impact on what we think, do and feel.
Getting more food for good gut health for you and your kids is so important to good physical and mental health. Want to learn more? Join my free Facebook Community for loads of information on the food-gut-brain connection or connect with me about working together.