Good Bugs for Baby!
Where Does Stomach Bacteria Come From and What Does it Do?
Stomach bacteria, or flora, play a complicated and important role in the development of healthy immune and digestive functions in children. Probiotics have been shown to be both safe and effective in creating balance when conditions damage a child’s natural stomach flora.
A newborn gets their good gut bacteria at birth. Babies naturally acquire this good bacteria during the vaginal birthing process from the mother, as well as from the mother’s skin and gut. When a baby is delivered caesarian, they may lack beneficial flora from their very beginnings. When this disturbance of intestinal flora occurs in early infancy, there is a greater risk for children to develop infectious, inflammatory and allergic diseases later in life.
In healthy, breast-fed infants, Bifidobacteria are the main bacteria in the digestive tract. Bifidobacterial outnumbers most other bacterial species in breast-fed babies’ stomachs by 1000 to 1. This ratio continues through the first year of life until solid foods are introduced into the diet. However, babies fed with infant formula have only one-tenth as many Bifidobacteria in their tummies as breast-fed babies. Formula-fed infants’ tummies are instead colonized by many different bacteria, including potentially harmful species.
How Breast Milk Promotes Healthy Flora
Breast milk contains several essentials that act as “growth factors” to stimulate Bifidobacteria to grow and flourish in the stomach of breast-fed babies. Large populations of Bifidobacteria compete with other bacteria for nutrition and space inside the intestines, and, ultimately, crowd out many unwanted bacterial types. Breast feeding probably helps to eliminate unwanted bacteria in other ways, too. For example, breast milk does not neutralize stomach acid the way that cow’s milk-based formula does. By keeping the intestinal environment acidic, growth of many harmful bacteria is prevented, and this helps to have good digestive function. Breast-feeding is clearly nature’s way of promoting a healthy gut in infants.
How Probiotics Can Help
For some women, breast-feeding is just not an option, yet, we’ve found out it’s still possible for formula-fed infants to get a healthy colony of gut bacteria. Experiments show that supplementing formula-fed infants with probiotics can make up for the missing components of breast milk and actually recreate a gut flora that resembles what is found in breast-fed infants. This means taking probiotics can substantially increase the numbers of Bifidobacteria and the acid content of formula-fed babies’ stools. This is why some infant formula manufacturers are now adding Bifidobacteria probiotics to their infant formulas. The best choice in a capsuled probiotic will contain Bb12 which is used in those formulas.
Why Healthy Gut Flora in Infancy is Important
Having a healthy storage of bacteria in the digestive tract right from birth is incredibly important, since the organisms we acquire in early infancy stick with us for life. Inadequate exposure to good bacteria could promote the development of allergies. If the immune system of infants can be stimulated by the internal intestinal flora, or by adding specific probiotics, the gut microbes could be changed to resemble that of a healthy breastfed infant. By cancelling out alterations present in infants at risk of specific diseases, probiotics research indicates relief from several childhood conditions—colic, diarrhea, eczema, allergies and asthma.
Bifidobacteria are believed to be especially important, as they help the immune system develop correctly. Numerous studies have found a lack of Bifidobacteria in children with food allergies. But, fortunately, adding the Bifidobacteria back in these children has led to resolution of allergic problems like eczema. In fact, in one study, supplementing pregnant women and their infants with a probiotic containing Bifidobacteria and other organisms actually prevented allergic eczema from developing in the babies and toddlers.
Bifidobacteria Contributes to Good Digestive Health
Bifidobacteria make short-chain fatty acids that haveanti-inflammatory effects. This can be beneficial when combating inflammatory bowel issues. They also keep the intestinal environment slightly acidic. This is important in eliminating harmful bacteria that could otherwise cause disease—since most bacteria cannot survive in acidic conditions. The production of short-chain fatty acids may be the most important reason that Bifidobacteria have been found to be so useful in treating and preventing diarrhea from a number of different causes including: antibiotic-associated diarrhea, diarrhea caused by C. difficile, and diarrhea of rotavirus origin.
Where can I get probiotics for my infant or children?
We have the perfect solution for your baby. Florajen and Florastor for children are available in our refrigerated section. Ask our pharmacist for help picking out the right product today!