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How Does Food Affect Your Child?
writes, "Many parents struggle when it comes to food and their children. What should I feed my kid? How many servings of fruits and vegetables should they have? When is my baby ready for solids, and which type should I feed him first? How is the food I am feeding my child affecting their mood, development, and future? Parents also worry if their child is eating enough of the "right" foods. Advice comes in all shapes and sizes; family, friends, and the internet all have the "best" ideas on food. A little research upfront will build a strong foundation for the future of your child's health."
Infants and children are less able than adults to receive, transform, and absorb the nutrients given to them. Infants and children are born with immature digestive systems. Digestive enzymes are not as plentiful and efficient. Intestinal materials, including undesirable particles, are more readily absorbed into the bloodstream through the porous lining of the digestive tract. Their digestive capacity may be weakened and impaired due to an early exposure to poor dietary choices. This weakness can persist well into adulthood increasing the likelihood of chronic childhood and adult illnesses.

If children are fed appropriately, their digestive systems will naturally strengthen and mature by age 6 or 7 years. With proper maintenance and excluding any genetic or other environmental problems, their digestive systems will continue to strengthen as they grow. The overall health of infants and children correlates with the strength and health of their digestive system. The digestive lining interfaces with the outside world and houses the largest part of a child’s immune system. Due to the immaturity of their systems, children require different food choices and preparations(1).

The digestive energy system works by generating a certain amount of heat, or kinetic energy, to help ignite the digestive processes. In chemistry lab, stirring and heating are two processes that help drive the efficiency and completion of a chemical reaction. Stirring helps to generate heat, break down molecules and provide greater surface area in order to maximize enzyme efficiency and the completion of a chemical reaction. Digestion is also a series of chemical reactions. In the body, the physical act of chewing food, or the ingestion of food that appears to have already been chewed, accomplishes for digestion what stirring does for chemical reactions.

Children, and especially infants, have few teeth and rarely chew their foods well. The ingestion of incompletely chewed foods places an undue stress on a child's digestive and immune systems. The mechanical work of digestion increases. There is a demand for an increase in the secretion of enzymes and digestive juices. Invariably, digestion is incomplete, diarrhea may ensue or larger macronutrients are inappropriately absorbed into the body stimulating an immune system response. Over time, added stress is placed on the digestive, immune and nervous systems, potentially weakening the child's defense and limiting absorption of important nutrients(1).

So what and how to feed infants and children? Optimal foods for infants and children (and for adults) consist of a balance of cooked foods made up of whole fresh vegetables, pre-soaked and well-cooked legumes, antibiotic and hormone free meats, poultry and eggs from grass fed animals, wild and ideally mercury-free fish, fruits and water. Water is the best beverage for children and adults, as our bodies consist of almost 70% water. A diet of salty and sweet beverages and foods has a dehydrating effect on the body as does a low consumption of water.

Most of the chemicals that make up the body's immune system are derived from the diet we feed our children. The proteins, fats and carbohydrates in our food become the amino acids, fatty acids and saccharides of pro- and anti-inflammatory chemicals in the immune system.

Most of the vitamins, minerals and water needed for these reactions are derived from the diet as well. A diet of foods that contain healthy proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water will feed the immune and nervous systems the necessary nutrients for maintaining health and homeostasis.

Fed the proper nutrients, a child's digestive, immune and nervous systems will become stronger, allowing him or her to better deal with external environmental stressors creating healthier, happier children, and in turn, adults.

1. Holistic Perspective on the Digestive System of Infants and Children Lawrence Palevsky, PhD

Dr. Christie Hafer


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