Did you know that the human gut microbiome is capable of changing? A mother’s microbiome shifts significantly when she is pregnant, so it may not surprise you to learn that a child’s microbiome shifts, too.
Newborn to 3 years of age is a critically important time. When a child is born, their gut is basically sterile (meaning that their gut does not have any bacteria). But by the time they reach 3 years old, the child has developed a fully-formed, adult microbiome.
To put this in perspective, my son is two and a half years old, and his gut is likely just as developed as mine is.
So why should we care about our kids’ gut health?
The effect that we have on our child’s gut will have ramifications into their adulthood. There are studies coming out that, as a medical doctor, are even hard for me to believe.
In one study, researchers looked at the gut microbiome of 300 children aged 3 months old. By analyzing their diapers, the researchers were able to identify which children would go on to develop asthma.
Is this actually causation? Are the bacteria what actually cause asthma? To answer this question, researchers transferred the asthma-positive poop from these diapers into a mouse. And guess what? The mouse developed asthma!
So what can we learn from this?
Birth to 3 years of age is an absolutely critical time. Disrupting mother nature’s normal approach of developing a healthy relationship with bacteria will have ramifications into adulthood, affecting the child’s immune system and metabolism.
If you disrupt the child’s microbiome during this time, you will see increased risk of your child developing:
- Type I and II diabetes
- Celiac disease
- Allergic rhinitis (aka seasonal allergies)
How can you disrupt a child’s microbiome?
Some things are obvious—like antibiotics. We know that 5 days on the antibiotic Cipro will wipe out 35% of gut bacteria. And you can still see the effects of this damage for years.
What about the kid who has multiple ear infections and keeps getting blasted with antibiotics? That’s exactly what we want to protect against! Antibiotics are sometimes necessary, but we want to be very cautious about when we use them.
What else? Let’s think about mother nature and the connection that baby has with mom. This connection is designed to develop a healthy microbiome.
A child who is born via C-section will not have the same first exposure to mom’s bacteria. Think about this—when a child is born, they pass through the birth canal and are exposed to the flora that are in mom’s vagina. This is mother nature providing super charged probiotics right from the get–go to help develop the gut. If you have a C-section, you are essentially taking away this first exposure to bacteria.
Another thing is breastfeeding. It’s critically important to child development. What’s fascinating to me is that we have discovered that human breast milk contains something called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). These HMOs have zero nutritional value for the child. So why are they there?
HMOs are actually food for bacteria. They are prebiotic, designed to nourish the healthy bacteria that live inside the newborn child.
So what can we do to take care of our kids?
- Vaginal delivery whenever possible
- Maximum breastfeeding, for as long as possible
- Minimize antibiotic exposure whenever possible
Both of my children were born by C-section. Although we obviously didn’t want it to be that way, but there was nothing that we could do about it.
My son had very bad eczema. We tried everything, but we couldn’t make it go away. When he turned 6 months old, we started giving him a probiotic, and we were able to get rid of the eczema in 2 days. If we forgot to give him his probiotic for a few days, his eczema would return. This is just one example of the power you can have as a parent!
We know that human breastmilk contains prebiotics. But those aren’t the only prebiotics that you can give your children. You can find prebiotics in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts.
The other place you can find prebiotics is in fermented organic gut superfoods+ kids. So prebiotics from fermented organic gut superfoods+ kids and advanced gut health probiotic kids are two of the approaches that you can help to support the development of a healthy gut during this critical time.