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Getting a Good Gut

The pros of probiotics

From the moment your baby is born, their gut starts to become home to trillions of microbes collectively known as their microbiome.

A healthy, diverse microbiome can improve baby’s physical and mental health. The best way to nurture this microscopic family is to make sure baby’s diet includes lots of probiotics.

What are probiotics?

Both good and bad microbes live in your baby’s gut and it’s a balancing act to make sure the good ones outnumber the bad. Probiotics are ‘live’ bacteria and yeasts are the good guys of the gut world.

A healthy microbiome helps your gut digest food, regulate your immune system, protect against disease-causing bacteria, and produce important vitamins.

Let’s break that down - a healthy microbiome:

    • Helps your gut digest food, releasing energy, important nutrients and essential vitamins
    • ‘Trains’ and regulates your immune system 
    • Helps protect against disease-causing bacteria
    • Helps with communication between the gut and the brain (also known as the gut-brain axis), which can play a role in anxiety, depression, and mood and appetite regulation
    • Helps determine how food is metabolized, and therefore, decreases chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, or obesity

Some helpful families of probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

Lactobacillus: found in some yogurts and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, tempeh, and certain cheeses.

Bifidobacterium: one of the first bacteria to grow inside a baby’s gut and helps to break down breast milk or formula for use.

Streptococcus thermophilus: found in some cheeses and yogurts.

Saccharomyces boulardii: a probiotic yeast thought to help with diarrhea.

Nurturing baby’s probiotics

Probiotics are another way to improve the health of your microbiome. Like every living thing, your microbiome needs food to survive. Prebiotic are the food source for your good bacteria which you can find naturally in many vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Why probiotics are vital

For about the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life, their microbiome is developing and laying down the foundation for good metabolism, brain development, physical growth, and a strong immune system.

How a baby is born (vaginally or caesarean section), whether they’re breast or bottle-fed, or if they’re exposed to antibiotics early can impact their developing microbiome.

The potential benefits of probiotics for babies include:

    • Increasing the amount of good bacteria in the gut;
    • Improving the health of their gut wall, which provides a protective barrier between harmful bacteria in the gut crossing into the bloodstream and causing illness or disease;
    • Reducing the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and obesity later in life;
    • Replacing good bacteria destroyed by antibiotics;
    • Reducing the risk of developing food allergies; and
    • Creating a well-balanced, diverse microbiome

Probiotics can also help common childhood conditions such as diarrhea, colic and eczema.

Diarrhea: Diarrhea often occurs when the microbiome becomes unbalanced and the ‘bad’ bacteria take over.  Antibiotics work by killing certain bad bacteria, but they also destroy many good bacteria as well. Probiotics can help to restore the good microbes and restore balance.

Colic: What causes colic isn’t known, but it may be caused by an unbalanced microbiome. Probiotics may help to reset the balance of good microbes.

Eczema: Some studies suggest probiotics may help little ones with eczema.

Including  probiotics in baby’s diet

The best way to support baby’s growing family of microbes is through good nutrition. The diversity of the microbiome is particularly important. The greater the diversity, the greater the health outcomes.

If you’re still breastfeeding or if baby is eating a wide range of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and probiotic foods such as yoghurt, they’ll be well on the road.  Developing a taste for these nutrient-dense foods by offering them early and often will give baby the best possible start in life.

Before buying, check the label on pre-made baby food. The World Health Organization has found many commercially prepared infant foods are high in sugar. Like your baby’s microbiome (who don’t like a high sugar environment), their taste for certain foods is also developing, so too much sugar can lead to a preference for sweet foods.

A healthy, diverse microbiome sets up your child for good long-term health.

Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only.  Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.

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