Healthy gut flora means a strong immune system, both of which are extremely important during the first few years. This is when baby gathers the bacterial blueprint they’ll have for the rest of their life. Read on to find out why learning about your baby’s microbiome is important and what you can do to support microbial diversity from day one.
How do I need to know about gut flora health?
Childbirth and Gut Flora
During childbirth, the baby receives gut flora from the birth canal of the mother. The live organisms in the mother’s vagina will end up inhabiting the baby’s body and intestines. If the mother’s gut flora is healthy, the baby will inherit a healthy gut flora too. Babies born via C-section and not exposed to their moms’ good bacteria in the birth canal have a higher allergy, asthma risk.
One of the most interesting findings to emerge from extensive research around bacteria and baby gut health: the potential protection that good bacteria may ensure against hay fever, asthma and eczema—an interconnected trio known as atopic diseases.
What is Gut Flora?
Each gut microbiome is like a fingerprint; we’re all born with a completely different composition of gut bugs. When it comes to the detailed web of the gut microbiome, researchers have only touched the surface. Currently, there are a few things that are known:
- The larger the amount, the better off you are. When you show a deficiency in the number of microbial species in your gut, it can show up in mood shifts and a higher risk of infection and illness.
- A large part of your immune system is located inside of your gut. Ingesting years of processed food, sugar will almost always make your immune system suffer damage too.
- Gut health dictates a lot of how you feel. It has a tremendous impact on your cognitive functions and your mood can be impacted.
- Nutrients are better absorbed through gut microbes. They can help absorb, and also make, important nutrients.
- They also help you absorb nutrients. Your microbes help to make and absorb key nutrients like vitamin K and vitamin B-12.
- In a study performed by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, babies with more types of gut bacteria were less likely to experience colic. Every colicky baby in the study had a smaller variety of gut bacteria, as well as one particular strain called Klebsiella. That strain is believed to be the culprit behind a lot of baby distress.
Some helpful ways to support your baby’s gut flora after birth (always ask your pediatrician first.)
Breastfeed, if possible:
Baby’s gut flora begins in utero, is heavily influenced by the birthing process, and is truly nurtured during breastfeeding. Breast milk contains baby’s first doses of probiotics to help build a diverse colony of bugs and prebiotics to keep those bugs fed and happy.
Breast milk is the gold standard, but not every mom can breastfeed, so ask your prediatrician at what age your baby can have probiotics added into their formula.
Put probiotics on nipples when breastfeeding:
Babies fed certain strains of probiotics are less irritable and colicky than babies who didn’t get healthy bacteria. You can open a capsule of probiotics, add a couple of drops of filtered water, and smear this paste on your nipples before breastfeeding. This is a safe practice that can boost diversity. **Ask your pediatrician about Bacillus lactis (Bb 12) and S. thermophilus to start. IF your baby is on formula, you can add probiotics to the formula. Please consult your physician for proper doses and strains.**
Take your baby outside:
It’s tempting to limit your baby’s exposure to the world. Instead of dousing them with antibacterial hand gel and keeping them inside, take your baby out in public. Exposure to different microbes will benefit their immune system in the long run. Let your kids play with other kids and get dirty. Plus, physical play and time outside in the sun have their own health benefits.
Avoid antibiotics when you can:
Many of us were raised to throw antibiotics on every ailment, no matter the symptoms. Antibiotics kill both good and bad bugs, and will actually hurt your immune system over time. Leave antibiotics as the last resort, rather than the first line of defense against illness and let your child’s immune system do the work. The majority of illnesses that children succumb to while young are viral, that is caused by viruses. Antibiotics are useless against viruses.
“Anything that affects the gut always affects the brain.”~ Dr. Charles Majors
Who would have thought bacteria could be such a good thing?
Looking for More?
The video above is a quick overview on breastmilk and gut bacteria.
Read about the impact of nutrition on the gut and microbiome, here.
Learn more about how to keep your gut healthy at every age, here.
Learn more about prebiotics like human milk ogliosaccharides, here.
An informative article, “Newborn Gut Bacteria Differs If Infants Breastfed Or Formula-Fed, Vaginal Or Cesarean Birthed” shows a more in depth look.
A great write up on what pregnant women can do to help their baby’s gut flora in utero. are great brands.