Remember what Hipprocrates said so long ago: All disease begins in the gut.
In our modern world, we’ve forgotten a lot of this and rely on band-aid solutions to get us through whatever ails us.
Our gut and the bacteria within in are so important. Our gastrointestinal tract has to both absorb nutrients and act as a barrier against foreign organisms and molecules like microbes and allergens, from the day we are born. We need to take care of it!
Did you know?
- 70% of our immune system is in our digestive tract, so when the gut is unhappy, the rest of the body is unhappy
- The digestive tract / gut is one long tube that runs from the mouth and runs all the way to the anus
- Stretched out, the gut would cover a surface of 400 square metres
- We have over 100 hundred billion bacteria in our gut – more cells than in our body!
- There are approximately 400 – 500 species of bacteria in the large intestine and 200 species in the oral cavity
- Bacteria form the basis of our immune system
- Infants have a special need for stimulation of their gut microbiota because they are born with a sterile intestine – babies that are vaginally born are inoculated with bacteria from their mother’s vagina, whereas c-section babies are inoculated with bacteria from their mother’s skin and the operating room
There are two categories of gut bacteria:
- Innate gut bacteria: This is the gut bacteria that we are born with. They help protect us from the time we come out of our mother’s womb. Certain practices such as Caesarean sections, formula feeding and early antibiotic deplete this innate gut bacteria and can lead to some problems in the future, such as frequent illness, skin conditions like eczema and obesity.
- Acquired gut bacteria: This is the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) that we start to acquire when we are six months old. GALT is made up of several types of lymphoid tissue that contain immune cells that protect us and are fundamental to our immune system.
Building your child’s gut bacteria with breastfeeding
Breastfeeding and skin to skin contact is the most immediate way of providing your baby with the immune components that help establish and build their gut bacteria, as well as providing protection for their respiratory system and other mucus tissues.
Breastfeeding promotes the growth of beneficial lactic acid bacteria in the baby’s gut flora, which are beneficial to the development of the child’s immune system. The antibodies that are transmitted from the mother through the colostrum have been educated by maternal gut microbes and provide a broad range of immediate protection to the baby.
The friendly bacteria in the gut play multiple roles, including secreting natural antibiotics and competitively inhibiting pathogenic microbes. The more varied the species of bacteria in your gut flora, the more protection you and your baby will receive from them. This protection stays with the baby throughout their life.
If you’re formula feeding, you can give your child’s digestive system an extra boost with probiotic powders or drops, that can be added to their formula. This gives your baby’s gut bacteria the support it needs to develop effectively.
Building your child’s gut bacteria with food
Once you introduce solid food to your child, it’s important to feed them a nutritious diet, not only to ensure they are receiving the necessary vitamins and minerals to help them grow, but to ensure they continue to be exposed prebiotic and probiotic food that build their gut flora.
Prebiotics are a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Probiotics are the good bacteria that come from food and supplements that can support your immune system.
Building your gut bacteria as an adult
Even if you’ve been on loads of course of antibiotics, were born via caesarean section and have been eating a poor quality diet, you can still rebuild your gut bacteria and get your immune and digestive system back in order.
It will take a lot of effort with high strain probiotics and a good quality diet with lots of prebiotic and probiotic foods, but it can be done. And the benefits will be seen very quickly!
What are good prebiotic and probiotic foods?
Prebiotics: Onions, garlic, bananas, leeks and asparagus are prebiotic foods that you can add to your diet or give to your child, once you’ve established that they are not allergic to any of them.
Probiotics: Fermented foods & drinks like kimchi, sauerkraut & kombucha, coconut kefir and pickles are good options to add into your family’s diet a few times a week. If you’re using store-bought versions of these food and drinks, make sure to read the labels to check for unnecessary extra ingredients like added sugars and preservatives.
Have you taken probiotics or eaten probiotic foods? Have you seen an effect on your gut?