Babes and Bacteria
Lets talk about bacteria, because as much as we used to think it was bad and made us sick, it’s actually quite the opposite. Now I’m going to add in pregnancy and babies for a fun little twist! This subject is definitely one of my favorites, because I can relate to it very well. I will start off with a story, then I’ll get into the interesting stuff!
I was born 11.5 weeks early via emergency c-section because my mom’s water had broke and she got an infection. I was just 2 lbs 14oz and spent the first few months of my life in NICU at Vancouver Children’s Hospital in an incubator and fed via a tube with formula (because back then, the hospital actually sent moms home!!!!) Luckily, for the most part I have been fairly healthy my entire life, but have always struggled with some digestive issues. To make things worse, as an adult I got food poisoning pretty bad a few times and that kind of put me over the edge. Suddenly, I developed many food sensitivities and had severe stomachaches on a regular basis. This was not fun. From here I decided to learn more about nutrition, and I spent the next few years working on healing my guts and going to school for my Holistic Nutrition diploma.
August 2016 I gave birth to my first little bean and he too was (unfortunately) born via emergency c-section as he was unknowingly breech. From my schooling I discovered something pretty exciting; c-section birth + formula fed + a mom that also had poor digestion = child with less than awesome bacteria in its gut.
First of all, I want to say I don’t blame anyone for what I have dealt with because no one really knew much about the human microbiome (all of the bacteria that live in/on our body; Human Microbiome Project) and its affect on pretty much everything in our body. I became more and more interested in this fascinating connection, and I started to work on improving my own guts. First, I began supplementing with probiotics and digestive enzymes, which made a huge difference, but was still dealing with random attacks. Then one day I found an online conference on traditional style food and nutrition and I will never forget the one interview from a lady who fermented her own foods and how they were so much better than just taking a probiotic pill. When a food is naturally fermented, not only are probiotics created but also enzymes, beneficial acids, increased nutrients and so much more! Right away I took to the internet (because back then I knew NO ONE that was into healthy food) to find out how to make my own fermented foods; my first choice? Kombucha! After regularly consuming my homemade kombucha for a few months I finally no longer looked 3 months pregnant! The bloating had vanished and I finally felt good almost all the time. At this time I decided that I wanted to have a baby within a few years and I knew from school and my own research that gut bacteria not only have a huge affect on our entire body, but also that of a growing fetus and their future health.
So what’s the big deal with c-sections? Well, c-section babies aren’t born via the birth canal (which is full of bacteria and baby gets covered in all of that bacteria), therefore are not covered in mamas bacteria, instead they are covered in bacteria from the doctors, nurses and air from the hospital room. (https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-05/cp-tig050715.php) This makes it all the more important that they be breastfed, so that they will receive all the good bacteria and immune boosting goodness from mom. Breast milk not only provides baby with the best immune boosting nutrition possible but the milk is custom made as per baby’s nutritional needs, so if baby is sick with a cold they will get more nutrients and bacteria to help boost their immune system; but if they are going through a growth spurt, the milk will be much higher in fats and proteins to keep up the caloric needs of baby. (http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-23937/why-this-photo-of-breast-milk-is-going-viral.html) There is also the option if the c-section is planned to do a vaginal swab to get moms good bacteria to baby (http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34064012). Finally, c-section babies should also be given probiotics specially formulated for babies so that their guts can be colonized with the proper bacteria.
I am super excited by all of this research, as it could equal a huge shift in children’s heath (as long as its all put into practice), because many childhood health problems could be connected to unbalanced gut bacteria. Food allergies, autoimmune disease, and asthma are all connected to poor gut health, so having a baby start out and continue on the right foot (whether they are born naturally or via c-section) could make a huge difference in their health for the rest of their lives. Having baby consume fermented foods early in life is also important to keep the good bacteria healthy and the bad bacteria at bay. It also gets them used to the taste of “sour” foods, as many people now have lost the taste for these ever important health foods. So no matter how a baby is born, mom should be consuming probiotic rich foods like kombucha, raw sauerkraut, and/or kefir or at least probiotics daily to make the healthiest gut bacteria possible for baby.