Your baby’s gut is host to trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi. They are collectively known as the microbiome. Abbott scientists have been studying the impact of the microbiome on the developing immune system of babies for the past two decades. Here are our experts’ answers to three common gut health questions from parents and friends.
Why is the first year of life so critical to building immunity?
A baby’s first year of life is a critical window for immune development. Seventy percent of our immune system is in the gut so it’s important that a baby gets important ingredients, like prebiotics, which are found in breast milk, to feed the beneficial bacteria. When gut bacteria are properly nourished, they can grow, diversify and multiply – all of which help to strengthen a baby’s immune system.
What can parents do to foster their child’s gut health?
A child’s immune system develops rapidly early in life, and nutrition plays an important role in that development. For babies, the best nutrition is breast milk – and it will always be the gold standard due in part to the immune support it provides.
If breastfeeding is not possible, scientifically formulated milk formula with 2’-FL - the most abundant milk oligosaccharide found in most breast milk – may support gut health as it is a prebiotic, providing food for the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. 2’-FL also circulates in the bloodstream and, may help support a young child’s immune system.
How can parents take care of their own gut health?
There are trillions of microorganisms or beneficial bacteria that live in your intestines and it’s important to feed them the right food and ensure the beneficial bacteria thrive. There are 3 things you can do every day to support overall gut health:
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables because they are rich in fiber and prebiotics which help feed intestinal bacteria. Yogurts are another great choice and are a natural source of probiotics. The nutrients in these foods nourish and help protect your overall immunity.
Do not take antibiotics unless medically necessary – doing so can upset the balance of your gut flora. If you need antibiotics, ask your physician about a probiotic supplement to take after you recover to help restore any impact to your gut health.
- Exercise and Stress
Stress can impact your stomach and gastrointestinal system negatively. Every day, make sure you find ways to reduce stress and fit in exercise to help you relax and stay fit. Doing so can protect your immune system.