Picky eater? Meat aversions and starchy carb cravings can be a sign of leaky gut! -Tara Hunkin

92: The Sabotage of Poor Digestion in Kids and How to Fix it

What if I told you you might have to throw away half of the healthy food you worked so hard to put on the dinner table?

What if I told you that can basically happen AFTER your kids eat everything on their plate?!?!

Healthy food is only the first part of being nourished — we need to make sure the entire system of digestion is working correctly for all the hard work to count! mind blown

Today I get to talk to Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Tara Hunkin about getting your child’s digestion on “tract” (pun! ha!) for optimal health. Whether your child feels anxious or exhibits signs of ADHD, whether you know they’re constipated, they have some diarrhea or even are very regular, it’s so important to be educated as parents so we know what to look for…in our child’s poop!

Can’t see the video? Click to watch “Symptoms of Poor Digestion in Children” on YouTube.

Here are just some of the gems we cover today:

  • Why parents need to be their children’s health advocate and never take “there’s nothing we can do” for an answer
  • Why even with great nutrition, your kids might be struggling with their health (allergies, eczema, constipation, diarrhea, ADHD, and more!)
  • What to look for to know if your child might struggle with digestion (colic and acid reflux in babies is only the beginning)

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  • What “growing pains” might really mean!
  • How picky eating is sometimes caused by poor digestion (especially meat aversion or carb/comfort food cravings)
  • The convicting news (for me at least) about HOW we serve a meal being more important than WHAT we serve
  • Easy ways to kickstart good digestion just before a meal
  • The best alternative to testing your child’s stool or urine (that doesn’t cost anything)
  • Why the special diet you tried may not have worked the way you wanted for your child’s health

Tara is so wise and experienced, and I cannot wait to hear from you about what you learn from her! Parents, education is the first step toward giving our kids what they need. Let’s get educated about digestion today!
No time to watch the whole video? Here are the notes!

Poor Digestion for Kids Video Time Stamps

  • 1:00: Today I’m joined by Tara Hunkin on the Healthy Parenting Connector.  Tara is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and she works with children through her practice My Child Will Thrive.
  • 1:24: Tara was an accountant with a passion for nutrition when her daughter was born. When her daughter began missing milestones she wasn’t given many options by doctors. This led her to seek her own answers

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Symptoms of Poor Digestion in Kids

  • 3:43: Many parents are told there’s not much they can do about diagnoses like ADHD, eczema, or chronic constipation.
  • 4:17: If you’ve been through any health crisis, you know that you need to be your own advocate.
  • 5:48: I hear from parents who are frustrated that they’re eating well, making real food and yet their kids still have allergies, asthma, diarrhea, and other chronic health problems.

Is your child digesting the food you're working so hard to provide? -Tara Hunkin

  • 7:21: If your child’s digestion isn’t working properly then the healthy food you’re working so hard on is going to waste.
  • 7:36: We go through some symptoms indicating that your child’s digestive system needs attention. Obviously digestive symptoms like chronic constipation, diarrhea and bowel blockage top the list.
  • 9:38: Tara shares some of the dangers of long-term use of stool softeners for children.
  • 11:23: Other digestive markers like stool color, undigested food, bloating and pain can be caused by poor digestion.
  • 12:55: If your child isn’t verbal yet you may see them bending over the edge of a coffee table to put pressure on their stomach. In babies under 1, colic and reflux are signs of poor digestion.

Acid reflux is a sign of low stomach acidity, NOT high. -Tara Hunkin, NTP

Trickle Down Effects of Poor Digestion

  • 13:26: Acid reflux is usually a sign of low stomach acidity. That’s the opposite of what you may have been told. The typical treatment will perpetuate the problem.
  • 14:52: Low stomach acidity also means you can’t digest proteins efficiently which can lead to muscle cramps.
  • 15:22: Picky eaters may be refusing to eat certain foods because they don’t feel good when they eat it.
  • 15:50: Craving starchy foods or cheese can be a sign of leaky gut. Tara explains why foods like mac and cheese or grilled cheese are “comfort foods.”

Picky eater? Meat aversions and starchy carb cravings can be a sign of leaky gut! -Tara Hunkin

  • 17:15: Upper digestive dysfunction leads to trouble further down which leads to leaky gut. Then immune and autoimmune reactions begin.

First Steps to Healing Your Child’s Gut

  • 17:52: There are some tests like stool sample analysis that can give you some further information about what’s going on in your child’s gut.
  • 20:11: Anxiety and stress cause poor digestion. We need to be in the parasympathetic state (“rest and digest”) to digest properly, but stress keeps us in the sympathetic nervous system.

If your child is stressed or anxious, you absolutely have to look at their digestion. -Tara Hunkin, NTP

Digestion starts in the brain. -Tara Hunkin

  • 21:32: It’s so important to eat in a relaxed state to start digestion off well. We want to get the most out of our food.
  • 22:38: The tone you set for the meal is very important. If you sound and feel rushed, the kids will feel rushed and stressed. You can play calming music, sing, do some deep breathing or meditation before eating on the go.
  • 23:48: If your child doesn’t have 30 minutes to digest before running to a game or something you may want to consider a digestive enzyme to help support their digestion. Digestive bitters or sauerkraut juice are options to stimulate acid production in the stomach.
  • 27:15: When you have enough stomach acid, your body will produce enough enzymes on its own.
  • 28:30: If you’ve determined you need to work on your child’s digestive health, you may be wondering what the first step is. Tara recommends starting with bitters and essential oils first.

If we jump in before we heal the damage we can cause even more dysfunction. -Tara Hunkin, NTP

  • 31:41: Our bodies are super complex. Everything we do has a ripple effect on our health. There may be many small steps needed to bring the body back into balance.
  • 35:53: It can be really overwhelming for parents to get to the root cause of their child’s health issues. Special diets like GAPS can be really difficult to undertake with a child. Start with the basics and address your child’s digestion first.

If digestion is a challenge, you're not going to get results from a special diet. -Tara Hunkin

  • 37:01: Tara encourages parents to take sustainable baby steps so you don’t get overwhelmed by the process.
  • 37:48: We think of stress and sleep as last on the list. “After I feel better then I’ll sleep better and not be stressed.” But this is backward! Stress and sleep are so important to our overall health and digestion.

Stress is a big deal. -Tara Hunkin, NTP

  • 39:41: Tara highly recommends keeping a food/mood/sleep/poop journal. This data will guide you as you decide what to do next. A practitioner will almost always ask you to do this before doing testing and treatment for digestive problems.
  • 42:26: We can’t do it all, but we can take small steps forward. There are options and solutions if you find the right practitioner and be your child’s advocate.

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Resources We Mention for Healthy Digestion

Tara Hunkin, NTPTara Hunkin is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified GAPS Practitioner, Restorative Wellness Practitioner, mother, and founder of My Child Will Thrive. She has walked the walk and been in the shoes many parents are finding uncomfortable right now as they figure out what to do about a child with a diagnosis.


Symptoms of poor digestion in children

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About Katie Kimball

Katie Kimball, CSME, creator of Kids Cook Real Food and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, LLC, is passionate about connecting families around healthy food. As a trusted educator and author of 8 real food cookbooks, she’s been featured on media outlets like ABC, NBC and First for Women magazine and contributes periodically on the FOX Network.

Since 2009, busy moms have looked to Katie as a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge. In 2016 she created the Wall Street Journal recommended best online kids cooking course, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families around the world learn to cook. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child learning to cook.

A mom of 4 kids from Michigan, she is also a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, member of the American Institute of Stress and trained speaker through Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power.

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