Is your child too clean? The role of bacteria in children’s gut health

Tips on how to influence and support your children’s gut health by our registered nutritional therapist Anna. Anna works with families including children to identify the optimal diet for individual health. 

Are you always using antibacterial handwash, sanitising your children’s hands at the park or bleaching away the bacteria in your kitchen? You might be thinking it’s the only way to fight off infections and keep your children safe.

Hygiene hypothesis

However, more studies are now linking the way we clean ourselves (sometimes a little obsessively) and the rise in childhood conditions such as asthma, eczema, food allergies and hay fever. The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ means our children are growing up in an overly sanitised world today and they are too clean. Without small challenges to the immune system during early childhood, the immune system doesn’t learn to respond to antigens. This means it may go into overdrive when it meets gluten, peanuts or pollen.

The best way to help your child’s immune system is to let them get a bit more dirty. This means playing in the dirt, cuddling the dog, exploring the garden. It will help if you allow these small challenges to the immune system to be part of their life.

When we use antibacterial handwash or bleach our kitchen surfaces we kill off ALL the bacteria, good and bad. 95% of the world’s bacteria are not harmful to us. Removing all the bugs leaves room for the most pathogenic (bad) bugs to quickly take hold. We only need to reduce bacteria in our cleaning, not remove it all completely. Washing up with hot soapy water is sufficient. 

When you definitely DO need the anti-bacterial support

If you’re dealing with a sickness bug, or poo (child’s or animals) then it is definitely worth ensuring your hands are super clean.  Hand sanitiser, hot washing cycle in the machine and anti-bacterial spray are all useful in this instance.

Diversity in gut bacteria is important

The diversity of bugs in our gut is what keeps us healthy. We need lots of different types of bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites to keep us healthy and our immune system strong. Diversity of microbes comes from eating a varied diet, rich in fibre, lots of vegetables and plenty of time in nature playing freely.

How to get help for your family

If you or your children have allergies, asthma or eczema do get in touch to see how Anna could support your family through nutritional therapy. Addressing the diet and any underlying gut issues can have huge impact on these common conditions. Anna offers a free 15 minute consultation – email to book a slot to speak to her – info@the-gentle-touch.com