Your Child’s Gut Microbiome: Why is it important? What does it do? Where is it located and How does it Develop?
Why your child’s gut microbiome is important:
A healthy gut microbiome is a diverse group of microbes in your child’s tummy (or gut!) that helps support the development of a strong immune system, metabolic health, and multiple intelligence function.
Besides digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and diarrhea, an imbalance of harmful and beneficial gut microbes may make your child prone to immune-related disorders like asthma and allergies that may show up as atopic dermatitis or eczema. Other consequences include metabolic disorders from weight gain to diabetes, as well as delayed development of learning abilities such as language, comprehension, and memory.
Where is your child’s gut microbiome located?
Our body is made up of trillions of microbes called human microbiome, and 99% of these microbes are located in the stomach or gut —that is why it is called gut microbiome. Up to 80% of your child’s immune system is in your child’s gut where these microbes play a very important role.
How does a child’s gut microbiome develop in the first place?
Mode of delivery (natural or cesarean) and early nutrition can make a difference. The composition of every child’s gut microbiome is unique as a fingerprint. It starts at birth depending on the mode of delivery whether by natural/vaginal or cesarean-section delivery and shaped by early nutrition especially within the first four years of life. Environmental exposures over time can also affect the gut microbiome.
Upon birth, the newborn child is exposed for the first time to a wide array of microbes from a variety of sources. For children born by natural/vaginal delivery, they initially acquire the microbes from their mothers’ birth canal — dominated by probiotics or beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacilli species. On the other hand, children born via C-Section or cesarean section delivery are initially colonized by a different community of bacteria from their mothers’ skin, and from the opportunistic bacteria in the operating room environment. While cesarean section delivery can be a life-saving procedure for mother or child, nature has intended the mother’s vaginal canal to be the source of initial microbes for a good reason — Lactobacilli species are called the pioneer microbes that are highly resistant to the acidic gastric passage towards the small intestine where they can colonize and impart their health benefits.
Other factors known to affect the development of the gut microbiome include early nutrition and antibiotic exposure. The use of antibiotics may affect the gut microbiome when prescribed to the child or is transferred from mother to child when breastfeeding. Breastmilk is a symbiotic food that provides both human milk probiotics (beneficial live bacteria, often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria), and human milk prebiotics (the food for the good bacteria). One of the most dominant human milk probiotic is called Lactobacillus fermentum or Human Milk Probiotic (HMP) L. fermentum.
The addition of Human Milk Probiotic (HMP) in milk supplements is the latest advancement in nutrition science to help support a child’s healthy gut microbiome for enhanced immune system, metabolic health, and multiple intelligence function.
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