Growing research on the microbiome and healthy, resilient children
We’re always paying attention to new research that impacts infants, children and parents. A group whose recent work includes a documentary on fecal matter and the potential in microbiota transplants has highlighted a study coming out of the University of Alberta: the findings are that the first bacteria to colonize our bodies have lifelong effects on our overall gut health and ability to stave off illness.
Check out our Q&A with them below and visit their website for more details on their research sources and work.
Q: What is the microbiome?
The microbiome is the whole of all bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses that live in and on our bodies. They play key roles in digestion, immune response and brain health. It is unique to each individual.
Studies are beginning to show correlation between an unhealthy microbiome and chronic illness.
Q: Why is it important for my child?
Infant microbiome development can affect lifelong health and is nearly fully formed by the age of three. Beyond the initial development period at the start of life, microbiomes are not very malleable: what you begin with is more or less what you’ve got.
Q; How does the microbiome develop?
The microbiome begins developing in the birth process with vaginal birth, exposing the baby to their first bacterias. NYU researchers are now exploring ways to replicate this process for babies born via C-sections by ‘brushing’ babies with birth fluids. Following birth, babies continue their exposure to the outside world and gradually collect bacteria forming the basis of their microbiome.
Q: What are factors in a healthy microbiome?
Although it’s a relatively new field, there is evidence that avoiding unnecessary antiobiotics, allowing children to explore natural environments and gain exposure to typical bacteria, and healthy eating habits can significantly impact overall gut health.
Q: What is the future for microbiome-related medicine?
Education on microbiome formation and the importance of helping infants and children develop healthy guts is one part of the focus by those in this field. The other is looking at treating people who missed opportunities to develop a strong microbiome. One such treatment is Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT); this works by taking a stool sample from a healthy donor and implanting it in a patient.
Though there is still a lot of work to be done, the intention is to eventually provide infants with specialized microbiomes and set our children’s microbiomes up to be resilient and balanced for life.