In our intestines “lives” a huge conglomerate of bacteria called the microbiota. Biologists say it is a separate organ, significant for forming immunity. It constantly “trains” the body’s defense response and stimulates the production of immunoglobulins — accordingly, the better the condition of the microbiota, the stronger the immune system. In turn, the microbiota is directly dependent on the food because it is the food that populates the intestine with bacteria.
It’s becoming trendy to consume “healthy germs” or “beneficial bacteria,” such as probiotics. But should they be added to a child’s diet?
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How Probiotics Work
Probiotics are a fairly broad group of bacteria that ensure the restoration of normal gut flora and are antagonistic to pathogenic bacteria. Probiotics based on bifidobacteria are most commonly used in infants and young children. Currently, in babies during the first months of life, only 5 probiotic strains are approved for use.
The effects of probiotics are related to their impact on the human microbiota. They help maintain its normal structure and functional state, and in case of any disorders, they restore it. In turn, the state of the gut microbiota determines human health to a large extent, in particular through the regulation of the immune system activity and reducing the risk of allergic and autoimmune diseases. Probiotics create a so-called “barrier effect,” meaning there are more of them than ‘bad bacteria,’ and probiotics fight harmful pathogens in the stomach by preventing them from attaching to the gut.
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Bifidobacteria Are Important For The Development Of The Immune System
In the first weeks of life, bifidobacteria are ideally the dominant and most abundant group of bacteria in the gut of a healthy child. Clinical studies have shown that bifidobacteria play a significant role in the development of a healthy immune system. The ideal bacteria composition in the gut can be disturbed and become unbalanced. That is called dysbiosis, which can then be related to certain diseases.
Do Babies Need Probiotics?
No matter how probiotics are consumed, the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract can improve gut flora, thus boosting immunity. The microbiome of children is formed in the womb. Disruption of the microbiome in early childhood is thought to be responsible for many diseases. Probiotics may play a role in maintaining and restoring the microbiome, but this mechanism has yet to be fully studied.
Some studies report that probiotics may help with inflammatory bowel disease. Taking probiotics for gastroenteritis can shorten the duration of diarrhea, and pregnant and nursing mothers can reduce the risk of eczema and allergies in their children by taking probiotics.
Early probiotic therapy for infants in the first three months of life may help prevent colic and constipation, reports a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
And while the promise of improving digestion and boosting the immune system is certainly enticing, probiotics have not yet been proven to be a “magic pill.” At this point, there are no official recommendations for probiotics for babies and children. But at the same time, no one has confirmed that giving them to healthy children is harmful.
Immunity And The Gut: The Connection Is Obvious!
The intestines are home to 80% of the immune cells that guard our health. Even though the intestines are internal organs, they constantly come into contact with the outside environment. Everything we give the body as food goes into it. And we need some “filter” that creates a powerful defense for the body. Our microbiota performs this function and regulates immune responses to invading “aggressors .”
In turn, the immune system’s task is to determine who is “friendly” to the body and who is “alien .”To the first, it will show tolerance, and towards the second, it will go on the attack. If the digestive system determines that the substance is beneficial, the body accepts it. This mechanism is called immune tolerance. It is the most critical function of the immune system.
How To Strengthen Your Baby’s Gut Health?
The GI tract of a baby under one year old goes through many stages of maturation. And a balanced diet is essential for the prevention of gut health problems. Probiotics and prebiotics (dietary fiber) in the diet are necessary for the prevention of dysbiosis. Breast milk contains them in sufficient quantities, as well as vegetables (prebiotics) and dairy products (probiotics) after the introduction of complementary foods. It is important to introduce timely and age-appropriate complementary foods to babies and let them try a variety of foods, gradually increasing the range of foods in the diet. In cases when the baby is on formula or mixed feeding, many new parents prefer modern formula for bottle-feeding, enriched with pro- and prebiotic components at an Organic baby formula shop. When choosing a formula, you must talk to your pediatrician about your baby’s GI tract condition beforehand. Remember that pre and probiotics work together to maintain a healthy microbiome and contribute to better absorption of the formula and the maturation of the gastrointestinal tract. A varied diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is the key to health and vitality, not only for the child but also for the adult.