For children to have a stronger gut, a disciplined dietary routine and an active lifestyle with regulated screen time is a must.
By Samhitha Gomatam
Did you know that almost 95 per cent of the body’s happy hormone serotonin is found in the gut? Containing over a 100 million neurons, the gut has been dubbed by scientists as the body’s second brain. In fact 90 per cent of the information carried by the central Vagus nerve connecting the gut with the brain, goes from the gut to the brain and not the other way round. Which means, your gut influences your brain more than the other way around. The colloquial saying, “Jaisa Ann, Vaisa Man” rings true after all!
By 2025, a staggering 17 million Indian children are expected to be obese. The number of children suffering from type 2 diabetes is also hitting millions! Malnutrition, depression, respiratory disorders in children can all be dealt with by making simple changes in your child’s diet. According to Ayurveda, food plays a vital role in maintaining health and longevity. A large part of healing and well-being in this ancient system of medicine depends on your diet! In fact, it has elaborate rules around what to eat, how to eat, when to eat, combinations to avoid, who can eat what, and so on.
Art of Living’s Kaushani Desai, Ayurvedic food expert and author of Sattva, The Ayurvedic Cook Book and Dr Nisha Manikantan, author of Ayurveda Simplified, share some of this ancient wisdom that can help strengthen your child’s gut, and help improve their health and longevity!
Everybody is classified as having one of the three doshas or physical constitutions that give an individuality to each person’s physiology and behaviour, predominantly Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. Different food is recommended for people of different constitutions in order to keep these in balance. In childhood, Kapha tends to dominate in everyone, and during this phase, Ayurvedic nutritionists recommend avoidance of sweet and cold foods as they aggravate Kapha.
You can find out about child’s body constitution through Nadi Pariksha or pulse diagnosis.
An active process of physical evaluation in Ayurveda is Nadi Pariksha or pulse diagnosis. Pulse diagnosis is the science of evaluating the current state of a person’s body, mind and spirit by reading the flow of life force coursing through one’s body. Complimenting western diagnostics, an Ayurvedic physician studies the pulse by touching, observing, and experiencing not only the rate, rhythm, and volume of the pulse; but also its movement, amplitude, temperature, force, and consistency in the body. It is a tool towards understanding the body in its entirety. The beauty of this is that the symptoms of disease manifest in the pulse long before they do in the body.
Depending on your child’s body constitution, the following foods should be had/ avoided:
For a Kapha dominant child:
- Reduce mucus-causing foods such as cold milk, cheese, sweets, and processed and canned foods.
- Facilitate some form of daily exercise like surya namaskar, yoga stretches, etc.
- Give them spicy foods like ginger, garlic.
For a Pitta dominant child:
- Avoid spicy foods, sour foods.
- They should avoid playing in hot sun. This will increase pitta and skin rashes may appear.
For a Vata dominant child:
- Keep warm. Avoid the cold things.
- Sweet taste is good for these children like honey, fruits.
- Meditation will help them improve concentration and attention.
Ayurveda has some simple rules for eating. Inculcate these in your child early on, and it will go a long way in the well-being of their gut:
- Eat fresh, organically grown, seasonal and regional food. When traveling, eat locally found food.
- Food eaten should not be of contradictory potency- this is a major cause of diseases. Avoid combinations like fruits with milk, milk with salt, milk with honey, cooked food with fruits, etc.
- Food should be warm when eaten. Not too hot, not too cold.
- Consume food immediately after it’s cooked, to maintain lightness of the body and mind.
- Avoid stale, and oily food. They create dullness in the mind.
Make sure your child eats food in the following order for easy digestion and absorption:
- Salads first. They lubricate the intestine and cause secretion of digestive juices required to break down carbohydrates and proteins.
- Proteins and carbohydrates next—beans, pulses, cooked vegetables, grains.
- Sweets in the end. Sweets have a satisfying effect and reduce pitta (fire) in the body. It’s good to have natural food first, and then man-made food.
Foods that you must include in your child’s everyday diet:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Include millets, protein-rich and calcium-rich foods as they’re growing.
- Chyawanprash, which is rich in Vitamin C.
For children to have a stronger gut, disciplined dietary routine and an active lifestyle with regulated screen time is a must. Build up of stress due to academic pressure or a generally competitive social set up, can affect the digestion in a child. So it is equally important to introduce children to a few minutes of meditation after the practice of light Yogasanas. Yoga can direct the restlessness in a child and transform the Rajas (principle of restlessness and activity) into Sattva or calmness and sense of lightness.