A couple of weeks ago, we introduced you to the microbiome in an article titled: Viruses, Bacteria & Fungi. Our symbiotic microorganisms do many things for us. One of these more significant jobs is immune protection. Bugs help train the immune system, which protects us from dis-ease, pathogens, viruses, illness, and ultimately death!
It was believed for a long time that babies were born sterile and that our first exposure to bacteria was from our mother's birth canal. But bacteria are everywhere! We now know that there is such a thing as a Placental Microbiome that houses special microorganisms! This early exposure to microbes is the beginning of its huge educational involvement with our immune system.
Those wonderful 9 months that we hang out inside our mother's womb are crucial in shaping how our lives will play out. Our chance of disease, our metabolism, intelligence and temperament are all influenced during this sacred time. It is possible to find fetal origins of cancer, allergies, mental illness, and even arthritis during this time!
The stabilization of the human gut microbiome during the first 12 months of life is essential for future human development. For example, low bug diversity during the first month of life is associated with higher rates of atopic eczema.
And how we come into the world is also significant. For example, babies born via Cesarean section show significant differences in gut microbes to their mothers. But babies born vaginally show significant healthy similarities.
The research clearly shows that how we come into the world is a huge part of the establishment of our infant microbiome.
Cesarean sections are sometimes unavoidable, but here in North America, the rates of C-sections are rising. Many of these are unneeded surgeries, a decision made of convenience and preference, rather than of nature. In some countries, a special nurse is ready to swab a newborn that has required a Cesarean section.
This process is called Vaginal Seeding. The swab is inserted into the vagina before surgery, and seconds after birth it is swabbed in and on the baby.
Early bacterial interaction is an ancient method clearly more important in some parts of the world than others. Remember, gut species are unique to different parts of the body. If you are born by Cesarean section without vaginal seeding, you would receive a bug colony that was more like the skin, not your mother’s birth canal.
Specific bugs can release specific molecules. Having the right bugs is significant for the development and homeodynamics of the host immune system.
So many factors can influence our microbe colonies at any given time! But those first 9 months are crucial, because we are developing and learning how to survive in the world. As a fetus, the mother’s health, stress levels and mental state all influence the baby. This is something called prenatal influence.
If you are one of the many people suffering from allergies or sensitivities, then your bugs and prenatal circumstances could be to blame. When we come out into the world, our immune education continues to thrive or declines.
For example, studies show that children whose mothers clean their baby's dummy (pacifier) by sucking on it are less likely to develop asthma or eczema as a baby. Other studies show that families who hand washed their dishes have a reduced risk of allergic disease development.
This risk is further reduced with the consumption of fermented foods and from buying foods direct from farms. A Swedish study on two private schools showed that their students had a significantly lower risk of allergies than children attending public schools.
Factors contributed to this were students' exposure to breastfeeding, lack of immunization, avoidance of antibiotics and medications, and the consumption of organic foods. This shows that many lifestyle factors contribute to our immune health.
Then we have the absence of certain essential bugs. In some children, there is a strong correlation between low numbers of some fermenting microbes and higher rates of autism.
Okay, take a breath, what does this all mean? Here are the main points to remember about the Microbiome.
From conception, the destiny of our health is partially predicted by our circumstances. This is due to the bugs that we are or are not exposed to educating our immune system.
Vaginal birth, breastfeeding and diet all play huge roles!
Our microbes can give us health or dis-ease
They eat what we eat, so be smart
Antibiotics and other common drugs wreak havoc on our precious microbial colonies
The more diverse our species, the healthier we are!
Check out the final blog in this Microbiome chapter, Microbes and your Diet. Pre and Probiotics are the key to unleashing our health. Learning how to increase our bug populations is the crucial component to enhancing your health potential.
Simon Brazier. Dip HN, NNCP