1. Let them play
Back away from the wipes. Allow little ones to play in dirt, touch animals and dust your floors with their sleepers. They’re getting exposure to different kinds of bacteria, strengthening their immune systems with every saliva-slicked pine cone and handful of cat fur.
2. Experiment with fermented food
Once your child is eating a variety of solid foods, try introducing fermented items that naturally contain good bacteria. Your kid might be intrigued by the tanginess of sauerkraut or may not even notice if you add a splash of kefir (a fermented milk drink) to his smoothie. Ancient foods like these, as well as kimchee and kombucha, have long been touted as intestinal fortifiers.
3. Stop over-sanitizing
Ditch the bleach for general household cleaning, cut back on hand sanitizer and steer clear of triclosan, a popular disinfectant that can actually breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
4. Replenish good bacteria
Antibiotics can strip bugs—both good and bad—from the gut. If your kid is starting a course of antibiotics, consider introducing probiotics at the same time—they’ve been shown to stave off antibiotic-associated diarrhea and will help replace the good bacteria lost to the antibiotics. The most effective strains of probiotics, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society, are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) and Saccharomyces boulardii.
5. Focus on fibre
High-fibre foods are known for their prebiotic power—they act as food for microbes, helping probiotics grow and multiply in our digestive systems. Prebiotics are naturally found in veggies like artichokes, asparagus, bananas, garlic, leeks, onions and tomatoes; and in whole grains, barley and rye. You may also find prebiotic fibre added to packaged foods like breads, cereals, yogurt and snack bars.