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Facts about Baby’s Gut Microbiota

Baby's Healthy Gut Microbiome                                                                                                                                            The Human Microbiome Research 2008-2013 has taken the scientific community by storm. In actual fact, investigation into the gut microbiota and it’s role in human health is just beginning. April 2015’s edition of Townsend Letter News tells us that 2014 Canadian Reviewers say “Whether the altered microbiome causes the disease or is the disease affecting the microbiome remains an issue of debate… future research should incorporate extended microbiota analyses, detailed nutrition assessments, and longitudinal measures of disease conditions throughout childhood.”

Now we know for a fact that the establishment of a baby’s gut microbiota has to do with a number of prenatal and postnatal factors. It’s a diverse microbiome that helps with immune system development, protects against pathogens, and helps digest food. Some gut bacteria even have profiles have been linked to immune-related illnesses like asthma, allergic disorders and chronic immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.

According to recent findings, babies are exposed to beneficial gut bacteria in the womb. DNA from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, both of which are normal residents of a healthy gut, have been found in placentas. Bifidobacteria have also been found in meconium, amniotic fluid, fetal membranes, and umbilical cord blood taken from healthy mothers and infants.

Here are some more interesting findings about a baby’s gut microbiota:

  • It’s very interesting to note that factors that change the mother’s microbiota during pregnancy also affect a baby’s commensal bacteria composition after birth.
  • We also found out that if a woman uses antibiotics around the time of birth, there is a delayed colonization by Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species in the baby.
  • Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus counts were also lower in baby monkeys whose mothers were stressed during pregnancy.
  • Reduced levels of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus correlate to higher risk of allergic conditions, irritable bowel, and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • We also now know that the birth process itself is a major factor in the establishment of a baby’s microbiota.

“A number of studies have described altered fecal or intestinal microbiota profiles in cesarean section-delivered infants beginning at 1 day after birth and persisting to 6 weeks, 6 months, and even 7 years of age.”

“Vaginally born infants typically have more microbial diversity in their Gl tract and a higher incidence of Lactobacillus, Prevotella, and Sneathia — all of which are normal inhabitants of a woman’s vagina. Cesarean-delivered babies have high levels of skin microbes, less Bifidobacteria, and less microbial diversity.”, say our Canadian reviewers.

These microbiome alterations may contribute to Cesarean-delivered children’s higher incidence of immunological disorders. Children born by C-section have a 20% higher risk of asthma, a 10% greater risk of developing juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and about 40% greater risk of developing other immune defects, according to a 2014 Pediatrics study. These conclusions were based on data from 2 million Danish children born between 1973 and 2012.

A baby’s diet also influences gut microbiota. Commensal bacteria thrive in breast-fed infants. Breast-fed infants had more than twice the number of Bifidobacterium cells in their stool, compared with formula-fed babies in a 2011 study. Other studies report that C. difficile, a Gl pathogen, is more prevalent in formula-fed infants.

This is exciting times we live in. Cutting edge information about the true nature of our digestive tract, the importance of a baby’s gut microbiota and how to keep it healthy throughout adulthood has just begun.

References:
Faa G et al. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2013;26[52]:35-43.
Bezirtzoglou E, Tsiotsias A, Welling GW. Microbiota profile in feces of breast- and formula-fed newborns by using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) [abstract]. Anaerobe. December 2011; 17(6):478-482. Available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S1075996411000333. Accessed February 2, 2015.
Munyaka PM, Khafipour E, Shia J-E. External influence of early childhood establishment of gut microbiota and subsequent health implications. Front Pediatr. October 2014;2:Article 109. Available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4190989/pdf/fped-02-00109.pdf. Accessed January 16, 2015.
Ringgaard A. Giant study links C-sections with chronic disorders [online article]. ScienceNordic. December 9, 2014. http://sciencenordic.com/giant-study-links-c-sections-chronic-disorders. Accessed January 10, 2015.
Sevelsted A, Stokholm J, Bonnelykke K, Bisgaard H. Cesarean section and chronic immune disorders [abstract]. Pediatrics. January 1, 2015;135(1):e92-e98. Available at http://pediatrics. aappublications.org/content/135/1/e92.abstract. Accessed January 16, 2015.

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Dr. Pamela Nathan DHM July 6, 2015