In my last two posts Why is Gut Health So Important? and The Shocking Truth Behind the Breakdown of our Immune Health I explain the important role our gut health plays in our overall health. It is the foundation, the rock, on which your entire immune health is built. If you missed either post, please check them out as they lay the foundation for this post.
The One Thing All Mothers Need to Know
Although anyone can read this article and learn something about gut health, this post is specifically directed toward mothers. Mothers, regardless of the age of your children, it is important to know the role you have already played in establishing their gut flora. You must know what you can do to help them build a stronger healthier gut.
As we now know, the state of our gut and what lives inside it, our gut flora, largely determines our immune health, emotional health and overall vitality. Many of the health issues that have befallen us and our children have much to do with the state of our gut flora. If your gut flora is dis-regulated and unhealthy the rest of body will suffer.
Therefore, the one thing mothers need to know is that our children received a large portion of their gut flora from us in infancy. (1) Our gut flora provides the blueprint for our children’s gut bacteria.
Where it ALL Begins
Until a child is born, he/she is safe and protected in the sterile womb of the mother. Scientists believe that an unborn child’s gut is a blank slate at this point in development, ready to be created at birth.
If the child is born vaginally, the mother’s birth canal contains microbes from her intestinal flora which is the baby’s first source of gut bacteria. By swallowing amniotic fluid in the birth canal, the baby get’s his first inoculation of gut bacteria. (1)
Upon delivery, the newborn’s gut bacteria will begin to form through a variety of factors ranging from the mode of birth and internal factors, as well as external factors. This includes interactions with doctors and the environment. (1) If not born vaginally, the newborn does not get that first important inoculation of gut flora from the mother’s birth canal. Although vaginal birth is optimal it is not always possible. (2)
The good news is, all is not lost in the development of a healthy gut flora. Research shows that the delivery mode of infants only partially affects the development of their gut bacteria. Another main contributing factor is how the newborn is fed. It is believed that the newborn’s gut bacteria is fairly well established after the first week of life.
The benefits of breastfeeding a baby is shown to be highly impactful in the development of beneficial strains of bacteria such as Bifidobacterium spp. This is especially important for babies born premature as their gut flora is more prone to higher percentages of pathogens such as Enterococcus faecalis, E. coli, Enterobacter cloacae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Staphylococcus haemolyticus. (1)
There is only one problem. If our gut flora provides the blueprint for our children’s gut bacteria, then the condition of our gut bacteria passes onto to our children. This means that if our gut flora was imbalanced our children’s gut flora will be imbalanced.
The Generational Breakdown
The fact is, we received our gut flora from our mothers. And so the state of our mother’s gut flora directly effects our gut bacteria. As I mentioned in my article The Shocking Truth Behind the Breakdown of our Immune Health there has been a major influx in of the use antibiotics since our great-grandparents generation. This has played a major role in wiping out many of the good healthy strains of beneficial bacteria in our guts, opening up the door for pathogens to rule.
It’s unfortunate but true. My mother used antibiotics when sick and was on birth-control pills for most of her life. As a result she battled many seemingly normal health issues such as yeast infections, rosacea, cold sores, and cystic acne throughout the course of her life. Then I was born and given the ‘normal’ antibiotics, and over-the-counter drugs. Medications like Tylenol as a child and acne medications as a teenager.
I ended up suffering from similar health issues such as cystic acne like my mother. All because I got the condition of my gut flora from her.
What You Can Do About It
The good news is, regardless of the state of your mom’s health or the mode at which you birthed your child, you can still make a MAJOR impact on your child’s gut health. That will be through probiotics and a diet of healthy whole foods.
First, consuming probiotics on a daily basis is a must. If it is possible for them to eat their probiotics through fermented foods such as fermented vegetables, grass-fed organic yogurt, organic kefir made with organic dairy or coconut that is best. For more information check out THIS post. However, if they don’t care for fermented foods, get them on a good quality probiotic (See my two posts Are Your Probiotics Effective Part 1 & Part 2 for more info)
Secondly, eating a diet high in organic vegetables, organic meat, organic grass-fed dairy (if tolerated) and healthy gluten-free carbs is vitally important to helping bring balance to their gut bacteria.
Food and lifestyle are the most powerful tools you can give your children to help heal and restore balance to their bodies. It’s never too late to start.