Bugs! Most of us associate the word with creepy crawlies, but we ourselves are a host for over 100 trillion different bugs (bacteria) in our gastrointestinal tract (GIT). These can be both good and bad, and it is this delicate balance that plays an important role in our health. What does the term Probiotic mean exactly? With Pro meaning “for”, and Biotic meaning “life”, Probiotic refers to a common supplement we use that promotes life (just as Antibiotic means “to kill life”)
In the womb, the GIT of a normal foetus is sterile, and at birth this period is crucial as infants are an “open field” for colonization by different types of bacteria. Gestational age, type of delivery and how our babies feed affect the bowel flora. Immediately during birth and rapidly thereafter, bacteria from the vagina and environment colonize the infant’s gut and for up to a month thereafter. Infants born via caesarean section will be missing the vaginal birth flora, and although they will still get micro-flora from the surrounding environment, their gut colonisation is delayed and can be disturbed for up to six months after birth.
As our GIT acts as a barrier against harmful microorganisms, the establishment of correct gut flora is imperative as part of this protection. These good bugs help alleviate intestinal inflammation, normalise gut mucosal dysfunction, down-regulate hypersensitivity reactions, and have even been shown to modulate our immune system. They also help stimulate cell growth, digest certain nutrients to provide energy (such as carbohydrates) and mediate production of some vitamins (for example B12). Pretty amazing bugs huh?
Some common signs and symptoms that your child’s gut flora may be compromised are things like eczema, dermatitis, diarrhoea, constipation, allergies, irritable bowel symptoms, abdominal pain, excessive wind, poor immunity (recurrent infections) and reduced appetite, to name a few.
It is important to note that when supplementing with probiotics, not all products are the same. Different strains are needed at different stages of life, as well as for different conditions. For example, there is evidence that the micro-flora of breast-fed infants is dominated by populations of bifidobacteria, and after weaning, a community resembling the adult flora becomes established. It is important to get proper advice beforehand to make sure you are supplementing correctly.
If you are concerned about your child’s GIT or immune system, or anyone else’s in the family, then it may be necessary to look further than just treating the symptoms. Getting a health check to ascertain and treat the cause will ensure a much better health outcome.
About the author
Cassi Cowlam is the Naturopath at The Medical Sanctuary in Benowa and trained in Live Blood Analysis which she conducts at this clinic. A graduate of the Australian College of Natural Medicine as well as the London College of Nutritional Medicine. READ MORE