You probably know that your gastrointestinal system (AKA your gut) processes the food you consume and turns it into energy.
But what you may not know is that your gut contains trillions of microorganisms – such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses – which play a vital role in building and maintaining a healthy immune system.
These microorganisms also play a role in digestion, nutrient consumption, and may even affect our moods.
This collection of bacteria are called your microbiota and your children have their very own microbiota.
Here’s everything you need to know about toddler gut health:
Why do babies need good bacteria in their gut?
When your gut is full of good bacteria, the good bacteria can help prevent bad bacteria from growing and this lowers your chance of falling ill. That’s why it’s crucial to build up your good bacteria from an early age.
Developing good bacteria from a young age has been shown to help regulate the immune system and reduce the risk of the immune system from overreacting or under-reacting to stimuli.
For the first four to six months of our lives, we have spaces between our intestinal cells that give direct access to the bloodstream. The good bacteria will fill these gaps and stabilise the intestinal barrier, making it harder for bad bacteria to slip through.
An imbalance in gut microbiota (also referred to as dysbiosis) during infancy can have a negative impact on health and wellbeing, and has been linked to an increase in asthma and allergy, as well as infantile colic and gastrointestinal disorders.
It is also thought to increase the risk of obesity and metabolic disorders later in life.
How do children develop their microbiota?
A child’s microbiota begins to build from the mother’s digestive system. The bacteria they receive is affected by the mum’s diet and lifestyle.
The child receives its second dose of good bacteria when it is born. The type of microbes the baby receives depends on a bunch of factors like how it was born and how it is nourished after birth.
Babies born vaginally have different gut bacteria compared to babies born by cesarean surgery.
Breast feeding provides the best possible nutrition for babies. After birth, breast milk nourishes the microbiota and helps the baby to build a healthy immune system to help ward off disease.