When you were a fetus, your gut was empty and sterile. On your passage through the birth canal, your alimentary track was seeded with your mom’s microorganisms. Her bacteria create your unique flora. The circumstances are beneficial, as long as mom does not have dysbiosis—a microbial imbalance due to a predominance of harmful bacteria—which can lead to infections, digestive problems (i.e. colic and gas) and neurological problems (i.e. ADHD, OCD).
Microbiota & C-Sections
If a C-section was necessary, you missed out on exposure to your mother’s beneficial or harmful bacteria. However, research does not support that emergency C-sections have an influence on contributing to obesity in the future, even if the child is not exposed to the mother’s bacteria (Manun ’13). There is also speculation that contraceptives may have a negative effect on a newborn’s normobiosis.
Microbiota & Breast-feeding
A second contribution to a healthy flora occurs during breast-feeding. Infants with uninterrupted nursing that continues through the first year of life scored higher on IQ tests, had fewer GI infections and exhibited a lower risk of obesity (Belfort ’13). There is speculation that early bottle-feeding predisposes infants to early health problems due to alterations in the gut flora. According to Kalliomaki (Kalliomaki ’08), obesity is influenced by bacteria in the baby’s gut, attributed to substituting formula for breast-feeding. Formulas could be sterile or fortified with prebiotics and probiotics to mimic what naturally occurs. Often these supplements have a very high glycemic index (95), similar to pure sugar (glucose 100). Hydrolyzed formulas actually have been shown to increase inflammation (atopic dermatitis, cow’s milk allergies, wheezing).
A Baby’s Diet Is Key!
Conventional baby foods were not available until 1920. There may be subtle health consequences when mothers substitute convenient baby foods that are overly processed and refined, instead of preparing homemade foods. There is no proof that rice cereal, which is highly refined rice flour, has any beneficial effect on reducing the incidence of allergies (Greer ’08). Children not exposed to a variety of whole foods with real textures and flavors could influence the types of bacteria that flourish in their colon. As a result of consuming soft processed foods like graham crackers, cereals (Cheerios), pasta, pizza and mashed foods, families are raising picky eaters unwilling to eat traditional fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts (Greene ’09).
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends meats to complement breast-feeding of infants. Meat supplies protein, iron and zinc, thereby adding nutritional value.
Next Up: Antibiotics: To Treat or Not to Treat, That Is the Question
Greenway F. Virus-induced obesity. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2006; 290:188-189
Greer FR et al Effects of Early Nutritional Interventions on the Development of Atopic Disease in Infants and Children: The Role of Maternal Dietary Restriction, Breastfeeding, Timing of Introduction of Complementary Foods, and Hydrolyzed Formulas Pediatrics (2008) 121: 183 – 191
Kalliomaki M et al Early differences in fecal microbiota composition in children may predict overweight Early differences in fecal microbiota composition in children may predict overweight AJCN (2008) 87: 534 – 538
Manun AA et al Cesarean Delivery and the Long-Term Risk of Offspring Obesity Obstet Gynocol (2013 Nov 6)