Your gut. Your tummy. It can leak, be uncomfortable, and even be painful. When something feels off, it’s likely a health issue. While adults are learning more and more about it, so should kids. That’s the message author Jan Condon is spreading with her entertaining books. She teaches kids about gut health, and I wanted to hear more about it. Below is our conversation.
Disclosure: This sponsored post encourages children to learn more about the gut and its role in overall health. One way to do so is by reading books like the two mentioned below.
Meet author Jan Condon
Occupational therapist and nutritional enthusiast Jan Maximov Condon is raising awareness about the digestive system in younger audiences. She does so through her two books.
The first book, Ewww! Lulu Meets the King of Poo, is scientifically accurate without being overly complex. The pages feature fun rhymes and colorful illustrations. This book is for audiences as young as two years old.
Her latest book is Lulu How Do You? (How Do You What? Be Good to Your Gut!). This graphic novel is intended for kids ages 8 years and older.
The character Lulu goes on adventures in both books, and the readers learn about the digestive system, its relationship to different foods, and more. The overall themes are that a healthy gut is essential to overall well-being.
Interview with Jan Condon: Teaching kids about gut health
Jan is 81 years young ~ And she’s here with us to share why she is passionate about gut health, details about her books, why healthy food choices matter, and more.
Why is gut health so important to you?
Before I was 55, I didn’t even know Gut Microbes existed! I just never thought about what happened to the food I ate or how it became part of me: I chewed it, swallowed it, it mixed around in my tummy, then somehow some of it stayed and became part of me, and the rest came out as solid and liquid.
I started suffering from rashes, weight loss, cloudy thinking in my 40s, little did I know it was from overuse of antibiotics as a child. Dad was a doctor and embraced penicillin, the “Wonder Drug,” so recently discovered and used by middle 1940s and I was given frequent penicillin shots for my ailments….consisting of bladder infections from being a very shy child and somehow (still don’t know why) avoiding using the school restroom and waiting til after school!
This went on from kindergarten to about 3rd grade. Of course, each round of penicillin probably made me more susceptible to bladder infections.
I went to a number of doctors with my middle age ailments to no avail. Until recently, the medical field paid no attention to the lowly microbes inside our gut. I knew it had something to do with my diet and began cutting out different foods, mostly without rhyme or reason, til I was down to brown rice and apples…the rash just kept getting worse, and I had lost my reasoning. I looked like a skeleton with red blotches all over my body, and I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.
My fortune turned when a friend talked me into going to a Weston A Price Meeting with her – a very active chapter about that time 2005-06. The group was talking about raw whole milk and eating fat, and I was totally horrified!
But determinedly, I read all the information I could find, including the health information in the cookbook Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, who rediscovered Dr Weston A Price DDS’s work in his book: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and the sound principles of [early] eating. His work is also endorsed by the Price-Pottinger Foundation, still active today.
I went to the small specialized WAP group to learn about the GAPS Diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr Natasha Campbell McBride), and these kind people helped me start on a journey that brought me back to health with Nutrient Dense and Fermented foods. They totally turned my head around and immensely helped my critical thinking. I’ve really been thriving since then – now at 81 years old.
Gut microbes! Of all things! The adult body contains about 3 lbs of them- trillions of them! – An entire Universe in an adult human body! It totally fascinated me!
A total miracle, and I previously hadn’t a clue! I read everything I could find about digestion, gut microbes, healthy eating. I so wanted to share this information with everyone I could!… and so a children’s book!! Why Not?!!
I first wrote a few amateurish booklets, knowing nothing about the publishing industry and being mostly Internet illiterate….but I knew I was onto something that I deeply wanted to share…., especially with young children before bad habits became ingrained with them…getting a good, healthy start and knowing that there is something inside them that is alive and totally connected to their health!! No telling how far they can go with a good beginning in nutrition and lifestyle.
That explains why you want to teach kids about gut health! Why do you do so through books?
It took me about a year to write my first story. I had the full support of my husband, Frank, who encouraged me on all aspects of my passion to write and publish a children’s book on gut microbes.
Also, I luckily found 2 very talented helpers, Chris Ficken, a Graphic Arts instructor at Chico State who I could not have done it without, and Steve Ferchaud, an enormously talented and imaginative illustrator. Chris helped me with character design, basic layout, print style and size, editing, often word and phrase choices…. He was instrumental in putting it together and is like family to me.
Steve always helpful, bending over backward to draw close to how I imagined my story, also very reasonable with his charges. Take a look at the books, and you can see their genius.
I had no trouble finding a Hybrid Publisher to take my work: I paid part of the cost of publishing, and they were to do the rest- including introducing and marketing the book. After a few hybrid publishing companies that didn’t work out well (almost no book sales) and being the victim of a few scams, I bravely embarked on self-publishing with Kindle Direct Publishing with Amazon, as well as with IngramSparks. That is where I now sell my stories.
How do you keep kids’ attention in your books?
I used rhyming, great illustrations and colors, down-to-earth vocabulary, and explanations, plus a Glossary in back – all as scientifically correct as I could gather – and reading aloud to classrooms, I saw the enraptured expressions of all the children listening so intently and the many questions that came after every reading. I hope to read to classrooms again as it gives me so much joy to see a whole classroom of young students totally engaged in my reading them my stories!!
What do you hope readers will get out of reading Ewww! Lulu Meets the King of Poo and Lulu! How Do You? (How Do You What? Be Good to Your Gut!)?
My favorite quote about my first book:
“This delightful book is introducing children to a very important concept- the existence of gut flora and its importance in human health. 90% of ALL CELLS in our bodies are in our gut flora! The complexity of that microbial world inside us is just as magnificent as Life on Earth itself. To a very large degree, microbes are in charge of our health and vitality. We must know about them and take good care of them. I wish this book every success!” — Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, nutritionist, founder of The GAPS Diet.
My hope is that readers will understand the importance of the vital connection between what they eat and their health.
Terrific! What inspires you?
I actually still work part time as a practicing OT, mainly with geriatric patients in a nursing home. I truly enjoy helping people…all ages and walks of life. My discovery of gut microbes and the miracle it truly is, inspired me to want to share this info with others, and to help children have a better future.
Have you always been interested in nutrition?
I had not really thought about the details of nutrition until I started with my own health problems and eventually linking them to what I was and was not eating.
Understanding this miracle of digestion- gut microbes- inspired me to reach out to those younger than I so they can start out healthy at an early age and continue to be strong and healthy all their lives.
Connect with author Jan Condon
Check out her website janmaxcon.com for pictures and more information. Also, listen to the song: Do the Acidophilus Hula!
Thank you for being here, Jan! Keep sharing your wisdom through fun stories that teach kids about gut health. All the best to you.