Children are not born with a fully developed microbiome, and a baby’s diet has a large impact on the foundation set for a healthy guts future (Biotics Education Team, 1). Setting up a child to have healthy gut flora from early stages can help them:
- Boost immune function
- Aid in digestion
- Improve nutrient absorption (Biotics Education Team, 1)
In the TEDDY study published in Nature Medicine, it shows that a child’s microbiome goes through 3 transitional phases:
- Developmental phase (3–14 months)
- Transitional phase (15–30 months)
- Stable phase (31–46 months)(Stewart et al., 3)
Throughout the developmental stage, those with a higher breastfeeding rate were associated with increased levels of Bifidobacterium. “However, once the infants were weaned, there was a rapid loss of the Bifidobacterium spp., and a quick turnover occurred in the microbiome, which featured a higher population of bacteria within the Firmicutes phylaphase (Biotics Education Team, 1)”. Once infants begin to wean off milk, it is helpful to start providing them with probiotic powders.
What Are Probiotics & Prebiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide the gut with health benefits when consumed. The main purpose of probiotics is to restore and maintain healthy gut flora. Some fermented foods that provide probiotic effects include kimchi, kombucha tea, and yogurt (Lewis, 2). Prebiotics are a necessity in order for the probiotics to properly function.
Prebiotics are the dietary fiber that the live organisms in the probiotics need to eat in order to flourish.
Some foods that include prebiotics are:
It is great to start toddlers on prebiotics and probiotics because it can help them to continue to have a healthy gut. A healthy gut can help prevent many issues that adults face later on in life (Veereman-Wauters, 4) Having a healthy gut can help to protect the gut from harmful bacteria and fungi, it can aid in sending signals to the immune system, regulate inflammation, create a supportive barrier in the cell lining of the colon and reduce the risk of cancer (Lewis, 2)
Probiotics are safe for most children and can reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections and well as helping to reduce their risk of allergies. It is beneficial to have toddlers on probiotics and prebiotics so they do not develop a “leaky gut“. By starting children on probiotics and prebiotics young, it can aid their overall health for life.
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Overall, it is best to start building the child’s microbiota through the maternal diet in pregnancy, expose them to environments, and talk with their pediatrician about starting them on probiotics. It’s better to start young and build a healthy foundation than to be diagnosed in their 20’s with leaky gut from something that could have been prevented. – Insight from Kenna Vaughn, Health Coach
Our knowledge of microbiota is rapidly developing and changing. A relatively young field, the science of gut bacteria has been quickly taken up by industry. Most drugstores sell probiotics in some form or another, and yogurt and other fermented foods are frequently hailed as healthy for the gut because they contain live bacteria. Probiotics are food or supplements that contain living microbes intended to support or improve your microbiome’s health. If your favorite yogurt contains “live and active cultures,” you are getting a dose of probiotics along with your breakfast. These microbes are thought to bolster or replace the bacteria communities in the gut of people.
- Biotics Education Team. “Impact of Diet on Baby’s Microbiome.” Biotics Research Blog, blog.bioticsresearch.com/impact-of-diet-on-babys-microbiome.
- Lewis, Sarah. “Probiotics and Prebiotics: What’s the Difference?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 3 June 2017, www.healthline.com/nutrition/probiotics-and-prebiotics.
- Stewart, Christopher J., et al. “Temporal Development of the Gut Microbiome in Early Childhood from the TEDDY Study.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 24 Oct. 2018, www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0617-x.
- Veereman-Wauters, Gigi. “Application of Prebiotics in Infant Foods.” The British Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15877896.