The word “probiotics” is more prevalent than ever before when it comes to discussions about maintaining overall health. In fact, if you speak with “gut” professionals like gastroenterologists, they often recommend that adults should take probiotics to support intestinal health.
Once you start understanding the role of gut flora – the microorganisms living in your intestinal system – have you ever wondered how it all started?
Are babies born with these microbes or do they develop over time?
Is there anything you can do to help your newborn develop the right kind of bacteria?
The good news is there are things you can do during pregnancy and post delivery to aid your baby in the natural development of good gut flora, the microbes that aid in healthy digestion, bowel regulation and a stronger immune system.
Before we discuss the things you can do, let’s take a quick look at what’s happening in your baby’s tummy. First of all, your baby’s “gut” starts developing in utero and once baby is born, about three days after birth, she will be exposed to trillions of microbes that will eventually play a critical role in her health.
Think of microbes as the good bacteria that lives the gut and acts as a buffer when bad bacteria enters the system. Newborns typically have loose junctures between the cells of the stomach lining, so during the first few months of life, these junctures grow tighter as your baby’s protective tummy barrier matures. During these months, breastmilk helps to close the gaps by coating the lining with antibodies. Prior to birth, similar antibodies are passed to baby through the placenta.
This means that if you breastfeed your baby, you’re contributing to the building process of active immunity. If an “icky” pathogen enters your baby’s system, she can more easily fight it off because she has more natural probiotics in her system.
While you’re pregnant and breastfeeding, your diet can positively impact the development of your baby’s gut too. Eating natural foods as opposed to processed foods is better for all tummies involved because they encourage the growth of good gut flora.
Your internal microbes actually continue to evolve through your life from birth to old age. And as you get older and may suffer from gut-related issues, this is when you hear about probiotics because they can help regulate your system. Foods like yogurt and some fermented products (like sauerkraut, real pickles, kimchi and kombucha) can balance out the microbes in your adult system. So while you’re helping your baby develop a happy tummy, don’t forget to take care of yours too!