Sharing is caring – a delightful virtue when it comes to little humans, but when it is a plaguing cold or a nasty tummy bug, it can be nothing short of a family catastrophe! Whilst these kinds of experiences can help children build a robust immune system, evidence indicates that recurrent bouts of infection may be associated with a reduced presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
The bacteria (and the trillions of other microorganisms) in the gut, are known collectively as the gut microbiome, the health of which is essential for immune resilience and resistance to infection. These beneficial organisms directly interact with the immune system (a large proportion of which is also housed in the gut), helping to boost the overall immune response against pathogens. In other words, a healthy microbiome helps to build immune function, whilst a compromised microbiome reduces immune resilience.
Cultivating the Microbiome
Babies inherit their microbiome initially from vaginal flora at birth, in addition to skin -to- skin contact via breastmilk. This exposes infants to a wide range of bacterial species and specific carbohydrates (from breastmilk) that feed these bacteria, helping to establish a healthy gut microbiome.
That said, not all babies share these microbiome-building experiences. For example, caesarean section, premature birth, limited amounts of breastmilk, and antibiotic use can all impact the diversity of the gut microbiome. This can have a flow-on effect, leading to reduced immune resilience and a greater chance of developing recurrent infections in childhood.
This is perhaps most obvious when children face one of the greatest immune challenges, where there is no shortage of germ-sharing… daycare (or school).
Additionally, children that experience recurrent ear, chest and/or gut infections also tend to require a greater number of antibiotics, leading to a vicious cycle of poor microbiome health and impaired immune function.
Fortunately, research reveals that probiotics may be the key to microbiome recovery, helping to improve digestive health and subsequent immune function.
Probiotics to the Rescue!
Probiotics are live bacteria, which offer beneficial effects on the microbiome and help to support childhood health in several ways including:
- Increasing the quantity and diversity of bacterial species in the gut, and
- Enhancing immune activity.
While several probiotics species have been shown to boost immunity, it is important to choose the specific probiotic strain for the condition you are looking to treat. To learn more about this and why it is an important consideration when purchasing probiotics, speak to your healthcare professional.
Building Better Immunity
When it comes to boosting microbiome health in children, the immune building and gut strengthening benefits of probiotics have been shown in multiple studies.
Less illness means more time for childhood
While the occasional cold or flu is a normal part of growing up, recurrent infections can be a sign that the immune system requires a little extra support.
As discussed, resilience against infection draws greatly on the health of the microbiome, with probiotics offering a solution to help boost immunity and resistance to infection.
To ensure you choose the right probiotic seek the advice of a qualified health care practitioner who can prescribe the right probiotic for your child’s needs.