Good gut health is something we have been hearing more and more about in the last few years and it is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. I am not an expert on gut health (or anything for that matter!) but I have a semi-obsessive fascination with this new area of science that is literally changing every day as we learn more and more.
To me, and many others, the discoveries we are currently making about our micobiome is one of the most fascinating new frontiers of science right up there with space exploration and the mysteries of the deep sea. What is truly mind blowing is that this incredible micro world is inside all of us and yet we have only just discovered it’s value to our health.
My journey into the world of gut health started many years ago as my family’s health was in a pretty poor state. My babies both had colic, numerous ear infections lots of antibiotics and their start to life seemed, well, hard. One of my kids ended up with a rare infection that caused an auto-immune disease. Allergies, asthma and eczema were daily battles and things were not getting better, they were getting worse. At breaking point, we starting a gut healing protocol with a naturopath and that was the beginning of our return to health. We continue to nurture our gut health with these basic principles I have included in this Good Gut Guide for Mums and Babies. It surely is information I wish I had when I started my family 17 years ago!
- It all starts with Mums Gut Health : New science tells us our babies develop their gut microbes while they are in utero and upon birth they are gifted more beneficial bacteria from the mother’s birth canal. Skin to skin contact and breastfeeding further develop this healthy environment and by age 2 most babies have a fully formed microbiome. Many studies have been looking at the loss of diversity in modern diets and therefore even healthy mums can have a diminished spectrum of good bacteria and pass this on to their children further increasing the chances of a poor immune system causing allergies, asthma and auto immune disease, behavioral issues and more. With the rise of births by C section, babies are born not always getting the good bacteria from the birth canal. Many midwives and doctors are now using a swab of the mothers vagina to inoculate the baby who may have missed these important first microbes. If you think you have gut issues, work to heal your gut and improve the flora for your health and that of your baby. There are many practitioners who help people heal their gut and you should look for a good Naturopath, Functional Medical Doctor or Integrative Medical Practitioner in your area.
- Infant Digestion Problems : Colic, reflux and other infant digestive issues are still quite misunderstood but many desperate parents seek medical help for these issues and are often given a prescription for some form of baby antacids which have still not been fully studied (Incredible I know!). Because an infant’s gut is not sealed, many irritating foods from the mothers diet can sneak through and cause discomfort therefore often eliminating some foods from the diet can help. There are very good studies showing that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri can help babies and reduce crying time. Here are some great tips from Body Ecology and a clinical naturopath. Again, seek help from a experienced Naturopath, Functional Medical Doctor or Integrative Medical Practitioner before starting any diet changes while breastfeeding.
- You (and your baby) are what you eat : Our food creates our cells. Diet is one of the most important pilliars of good health and what you feed your cells determines what kind of gut bacteria you will have. Diets high in processed carbs (crackers, bread, pasta, chips, noodles, white rice) and high in sugar will feed your pathogenic bacteria and yeast. Thats the food they LOVE. Good gut bugs can’t use carbs and sugars as food and in order to grow and multiply they need vegetable fiber. Increasing vegetables in your diet is a great way to increase your good gut bacteria. If you have digestive issues, raw vegetables can irritate a sensitive intestine so try cooked vegetables like silverbeet, carrot, pumpkin, kumera, onion etc.
- Avoid Non Essential Medications and Chemicals : Antibiotics and other medications like birth control, proton pump inhibitors and anti-inflammatories can destroy good gut diversity and leave people with a gut full of pathogenic bacteria. Chlorinated water, anti-bacterial soaps, disinfectants and pesticides all work to destroy good bacteria and microbes in our environment. Tap water can contain pesticides, heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride, and a good filter can reduce your exposure.
- Nurture your Microbiome : Focus on organically grown food because it is free of toxins and bug killing chemicals that further harm your healthy gut bugs. Add delicious fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha into your diet. Spend time up close and personal with nature to get a good dose of the one billion bacteria in a teaspoon of earth. Working to reduce your stress levels can also improve your gut health in profound ways. Supplementing with high quality probiotic capsules can also help increase the healthy of your gut flora especially after antibiotics. Again, it is best to seek advice about which ones to try.
As more and more evidence points out the direct relation between the increase in modern diseases and the relationship to our gut health it is a very powerful thing you can do for your wellbeing and that of your children. It doesn’t have to be too hard and a good place to start is just adding in more fresh vegetables to every meal and supporting your 100 Trillion bacteria with gut loving fermented foods.