A full-grown adult has between 500 and 1000 species of gut bacteria that play different roles, including aiding digestion, fighting disease-causing microbes, and improving mental health. Gut bacteria are just as essential as nutrition and exercise.
However, children aren’t born with these microbes. Their gut bacteria develop from birth and they continue to acquire different species through breastfeeding. According to research, children born through virginal birth get early exposure to bacteria as they pass through the birth canal.
Those born through caesarian birth don’t get this exposure and are linked to an increased risk of developing various health issues. As it stands, a baby’s gut bacteria can influence childhood health and overall wellbeing. Here’s how:
What are gut bacteria?
Gut bacteria are precisely what the name suggests. They are bacteria inhabiting the gut, although the human body has microbes in other areas too. These microbes help to break down and metabolize food and fight other bacteria (those causing diseases).
Gut microbes also interact with the CNS (central nervous system), influencing cognitive health, and mood. Babies acquire gut bacteria during birth and breastfeeding. You can also develop your baby’s gut microbes through probiotics rich in healthy bacteria.
Benefits of gut bacteria
Here are the top three benefits of gut bacteria for babies:
a) Digestive health
Gut bacteria are essential for digestion in children and adults alike. These bacteria help break down the food into compounds that can be absorbed and metabolized by the body. Children with less than optimal gut bacteria are more likely to develop digestive issues and food allergies within three years of birth.
Other adverse effects of having fewer healthy gut bacteria include the risk of irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and diabetes. Gut bacteria also kill microbes that disrupt the normal process of digestion.
b) Immune support
Preventing and fighting disease is another essential benefit of gut microbes. Children are exposed to both good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria help to govern the activities of bad bacteria by killing and stunting their growth.
Babies born through a cesarean birth, introduced to antibiotics early in life, or removed from breastfeeding have more risk of developing health issues. Because of their immature immune system, they may easily suffer asthma, respiratory infections, and allergies. However, parents can step in to help their babies acquire the essential live organisms through diet to ensure proper immune development.
c) Mental health
Gut bacteria play a crucial role in mood and mental health. Studies have shown that changes in the complex gut microbes and inflammation can affect the brain, connected to the gut through the vagus nerve.
This can result in symptoms that resemble autism, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, and depression. Gut bacteria break down food, mainly fiber, and transforms them into metabolites like short-chain fatty acid. These metabolites are detected by the vagus nerve, which sends signals to the brain to control the digestive process and other functions.
Gut bacteria and childhood health
Proper nutrition is essential to healthy childhood life and digestion plays the central role in ensuring the required nutrients are assimilated into the body. Since gut bacteria directly influence digestion and food metabolism, they are important for both childhood and adult health.
According to studies, the first couple of months are critical to the development of gut microbes. Babies will begin exposure to gut and other bacteria as they pass through the vaginal canal during birth and get microbes passed from the mother’s milk during breastfeeding. As they grow into little kids, they get more bacteria through food.
However, the supply isn’t always adequate, especially if the child is born through cesarean birth or introduced to formulas and antibiotics at an early stage. According to nutritionists and pediatrics, parents should help their babies develop gut microbes early to prevent the health issues mentioned above.
One simple way to ensure your baby has a healthy supply of gut bacteria is through probiotics like Sproutedbiome that contain an assortment of key live organisms. Probiotics refer to gut bacteria and are the same species naturally occurring in humans.
Gut bacteria aid digestion, immune, and brain function, which make them critical for health. As a parent, you should ensure your child has enough healthy gut bacteria through food and probiotics. If you choose supplementation through probiotics, make sure you find trusted brands and formulas with beneficial live organisms.