Dr Kate Stephens
PhD Food and Microbial Sciences; Gut Microbiology (University of Reading), BSc Medical Microbiology
What do probiotics do for babies? Does your baby need them? Resident gut microbiologist Dr Kate Stephens explains all there is to know about probiotics for your little one.
What are probiotics for babies? The baby years are some of the most important for microbiome development. So, having lots of the right bacteria is very important. As 70% of the immune system is in the gut, this stage is also essential for healthy immune development. Therefore, you might want to consider probiotics as a part of your baby’s daily routine.
Babies are in a developmental period, so they may not suit a probiotic targeted towards older children or adults. A probiotic trialled for digestive health in adults may not work the same in infants. This is because their microbiomes are at different stages and may have different bacteria present. Some researchers call this the ‘baby biome’ because it is so distinct! Probiotics designed especially for babies use bacteria that would be present naturally in the gut during these early years.
Baby probiotics often come in different formats to adult probiotics. – powder or drops are commonly used, for ease of delivery. Drops are usually the easiest way to administer probiotics to babies.
These specific probiotics can help support your baby right from birth and help to ensure they have a healthy gut environment, microbiome and immune system.
There's never been a better time to look towards how we can care better for our immune systems. OpiBac have provided some great tips below:
Kerry BeesonBSc (Nut. Med.) Nutritional Therapist
There's never a good time to be unwell, but there’s always a good time to look after your immune health. Particularly in light of the difficulties we are currently facing together, it’s more important now than ever to make sure you’re keeping healthy.
Immunity is key - make sure you keep your immune system well-supported.
Picture those pathogens invading your body, making you feel tired, sluggish and pretty rotten. Sound familiar? We have all had unfortunate days like these, and may unfortunately be beginning to experience more. But is it possible to intervene and strengthen your immune system to fight off infection? Will it help if you make changes to your diet? Start taking food supplements? Make lifestyle changes to support a stronger immune response? Read our guide so you know which factors you can influence to prepare your immune system as much as possible against nasty viruses.
Gabrielle McAuley from A.Vogel is giving some great tips on how to maintain some sense of normality whilst self-isolating.
"As a granny with a big interest in maintaining health naturally, I thought it might be useful to write a few thoughts on what I've been finding helpful after almost two weeks of not going out. So, each day for this week, we'll have three tips for making the best of this time. These are on top of regular proper hand-washing, self-isolating, and doing all we're supposed to and not doing what we're not supposed to do."
Eating healthy while on the road, in a hotel, or at the airport is a challenge because of limited options at food courts and restaurants. But with some special planning food shopping at your local independent health food store and packing, eating healthy on the road can be done! Try to follow the same basic guidelines of an “everyday” healthy diet — eat breakfast, eat often throughout the day to prevent hunger attacks, and eat as much fruit and vegetables as you possibly can.
Oatcakes, granola, mixed seeds and nuts, hard-boiled eggs, herbal tea bags and hot chocolate all pack easily. Try to get some protein and fibre into each meal to keep you feeling full.
Eat often throughout the day
Nutrition bars, crackers, cheese, nut butters, trail mix, granola, baby carrots, sliced apples and dried fruits all travel well. You can pack a lot of healthy calories into your carry-on bag beforehand, to keep you from selecting less healthy (and more expensive) versions of these snacks during your trip.
Pack some fresh or dried produce
Dried fruits are easily available, and actually count double-time toward your daily fruit recommendation because they are more concentrated. Think dried cherries, apples, pears, mangos, papaya, pineapples and raisins. Fresh apples and oranges pack well — bananas are good too, but need to be eaten quickly. Carrots, celery, radishes, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and fresh peas or beans travel well when precut and placed in zip lock bags. Avocados are a perfect travel food. Cut into one with a knife, season with a little salt and pepper (from the condiments bar at any airport), and then dig in with a spoon for 350 calories of good fats, loads of fibre and tons of potassium.
Planning for a healthy trip
Pack your first day’s worth of meals.
Bring a sandwich, a quinoa salad, some pre-cut veggies/fruits, and a couple of hard-boiled eggs so that you will be able to stay satisfied without purchasing overpriced airplane food.
Bring your thermos.
It’s always easy to get hot water from the food bar, and you can use that for a variety of lightweight, easy-to-pack foods. Instant oatmeal makes a quick, nutritious breakfast and miso soup sachets can make a nice lunch or snack while you are waiting for your next flight.
Staying in a hotel?
Ask about getting a fridge and/or a microwave in your room to improve the quality of the foods you are eating, and to save you money from fewer meals eaten at restaurants. If you are staying with friends/family, offer to prepare dinner one night instead of going out to eat.
Grab and create a seed mix to sprinkle.
Seeds such as hemp, sesame, chia, pumpkin and sunflower are lightweight, neutral-tasting, and full of protein, good fats and minerals. Toast them on a dry pan with some organic tamari soya sauce over a low heat for 3 minutes stirring until toasted lightly, and then allow cooling and placing in a small bottle or reusable container to pack. Sprinkle them on top of restaurant meals, such as salads, rice bowls, even sandwiches, wraps and pittas to boost the nutritional content.
Many of us would like to cut down our sugar intake at this time of the year,
but it can be difficult to resist the craving for sugary, sweet foods.
Try the tips below to reduce your sugar intake.
•• Eat plenty of fibre. Fibre makes your body feel fuller quicker during
meals, and keeps you feeling full for longer. Replace refined sugars
with fruit and white bread with whole wheat choices. Add extra
vegetables to your meals every day.
•• Sleep at least eight hours each night. Sleeping less may make you
crave sugary foods and drain your energy during the day, making
you burn fewer calories.
•• Eat several small meals a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner and two
snacks rather than three big meals. Don’t skip any meals during the
day. Skipping meals may cause you to overeat at your next meal.
Your body compensates for the skipped meal earlier in the day.
•• Snack on finger foods between meals and avoid foods that are high
in carbohydrates. Sugar causes mood swings and quick changes
to your energy level. Your energy level peaks after eating a high carbohydrate
meal, but dips shortly afterwards, leaving you hungry
before your next mealtime. Try carrot and celery sticks.
•• Avoid eating when you are angry or emotional. Go for a walk or
attend a yoga class.
•• Participate in regular exercise or play a sport that you love and
look forward to. This will get you over that ‘couldn’t be bothered’
attitude. Your body produces endorphins when you exercise,
releasing serotonin, the feel-good hormone, into your bloodstream.
These hormones also inhibit food cravings and burn extra calories
throughout the day, making it easier to compensate for a mistake
when you slip into a food craving.
Sugar raises your blood sugar quickly, leading to the inevitable ‘sugar highs’
followed by a crash. So what are the alternatives?
•• Xylitol is an unrefined plant sweetener with a very low glycaemic
load and can be used in cooking and baking.
•• Coconut palm sugar is as sweet as sugar with the same amount of
calories, but raises blood sugar more gently. It also contains B
vitamins and minerals.
•• Stevia is a herb that is much sweeter than sugar, with insignificant
•• Maple syrup is delicious and sweet, with just over half the calories
of sugar. It is made from the sap of maple trees and contains small
amounts of vitamins and minerals.
•• Honey has fewer calories than sugar, but is almost as sweet. It is
often antibiotic, especially raw local honey.
•• Blackstrap molasses is a by-product of sugar refining. It’s very high
in iron and has fewer calories than sugar. However, its sweetness is
due to the same molecules as sugar.
•• Fruit concentrates are lower in calories than sugar and raise the
blood sugar more gently. You can get fruit concentrates as liquids or
spreads, often organically grown.
•• Fructose is marketed as a natural alternative to sugar, but it’s
actually manufactured from industrial glucose. It has the same
amount of calories as sugar, but does raise blood sugar very slowly.
Skipping meals rarely helps with weight loss. Most people simply make up for a skipped meal by eating more at other meals. Breakfast is the most frequently skipped meal – usually because people say they’re too busy in the morning, or they’re just not hungry. A simple remedy is to have something quick and light but satisfying – such as some oat porridge natural yoghurt with some fruit & mixed seeds, or a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit. Meal plans are a huge help in keeping you on track because once you’ve got a plan in mind, you’re a bit more committed.
Eating quickly, eating when distracted or stressed, or skipping meals and getting overly hungry – all can lead to overeating. But the amount you eat is really determined by the amount of food that’s on your plate, so that’s where portion control really begins. When you eat at home, serve yourself in the kitchen, it’s easier to resist second helpings that way.
When you eat quickly, it’s also easy to eat too much. Sitting down at a table and taking smaller bites and chewing your food will help.
Read nutrition labels carefully for sugar content (4g = 1 teaspoon) and visit your local independent health food store to buy unsweetened versions of cereals, yoghurts etc and sweeten them yourself with fresh fruit and spices like cinnamon.
Deep-fried foods, fatty meats, snack foods, sauces, dressings, and many desserts can dump huge amounts of fat and calories into your system. Use lean cuts of meat, eat more fish and poultry, and experiment with recipes so you can find other ways to prepare foods other than frying.
When you don’t take in enough water, it can make you tired and irritable, and it can affect your exercise performance, too. Keeping a water bottle nearby will encourage you to drink. Fruit and veg. do require some preparation. This is where your freezer can be your best friend – loose pre cut pack fruits are easy to add to protein smoothies, yoghurt or porridge, and frozen pre cut vegetables can be tossed into soups, stews, curries and stir-fries.
Stress eating usually has nothing to do with hunger and, most of the time; it doesn’t really make you feel better. Start by keeping a diary and make note of what triggers your stress eating – that way you can anticipate when it’s likely to happen. Be a mindful eater rather than a mindless eater. Snacking, done right, can help you control your overall calorie intake for the day by helping to keep your hunger in check. Snack on raw pre cut fresh fruit and vegetables. Also visit your local independent health food store and see what is on offer as snacks and read your food labels or ask for advice before buying. Learn your way around the nutrition facts panel, and know that all the nutrition information that’s given is for a single serving – not the entire package.