Infant & Children's Health Archives - Awaken Your Health
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The Gut Microbiome: How it affects your baby’s health

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I recently had the pleasure of watching Dr Natasha Cambell McBride speak at the Conscious Club and the MINDD Forum in Sydney. For those of you who are not familiar with her work, Dr Natasha wrote the revered book, The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS).

Her book primarily focuses on the gut’s microbiome and how it profoundly affects our mental and physical health. Dr Natasha mainly works with children with autism and has had great success in improving and even reversing the condition in many of her patients. For more information please visit her website.

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So, what is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome is the body’s residential bacteria that are primarily found in our large intestine—around 2kg of bacteria in total (see Catalyst for more information). Think of your large intestine as a hollow tube and the bacteria as a barrier or coating that lines the inside. As food passes through your intestine, this bacterial barrier has many functions. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Aiding in the breakdown of food, resulting in easily digestible and absorbed nutrients— this prevents larger, undigested food molecules from entering the blood stream that can result in inflammation and an immune response.
  • Synthesising nutrients including vitamin K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folic acid and various amino acids.
  • Protects the body from foreign pathogens and toxins by providing a physical barrier as well as producing various anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal substances.
  • Strengthens the intestinal barrier—The bacteria increases mucin in the gut, which provides a protective coating for intestinal cells. The bacteria also tighten the gap junctions between the cells in the large intestines and prevent conditions such as leaky gut.

Symptoms and disorders that can result from altered gut flora or dysbiosis include:

-Bloating                                         -Low Energy                          -Autism
-Constipation                                  -Anxiety                                 -ADHD
-Cramping                                       -Depression                          -Dyslexia
-Diarrhea                                         -Bipolar                                 -Eczema
-Food intolerances                          -Schizophrenia                     -Auto-immune conditions
-Poor immune function                                                                 -Recurrent infections

Why should I care about my gut health when trying to fall pregnant and how will it affect my child’s health?

As you can see, a healthy gut microbiome is very important. In fact, we cannot live without it! An unborn baby has a sterile gut in the mother’s womb. The moment the child passes through the mother’s birth canal, he or she ingests their first dose of bacteria from the canal, which will provide the foundation for the child’s gut microbiome. The child will continue to build and shape their gut flora through their food intake (breast milk/ formula) and environment. The first months of the child’s life are essential in creating a healthy gut microbiome, which will consequently impact their health for the rest of their lives.

It is therefore critical that the mother has a healthy gut flora as possible when giving birth, as this will get passed onto the infant. Furthermore, the repeated use of antibiotics, baby formulas, antibacterial soaps and cleaning products can alter the child’s gut flora and contribute to a dysbiotic state, potentially resulting in the conditions mentioned above.

Unfortunately, changing your gut flora is not as simple as taking a probiotic and once lost, some strains of bacteria may never return. This is why it is essential to get it right from the start!

What needs to be done?

Ideally, the mother and father need to address their gut health prior to the birth of their child. This may involve testing for parasites and other infections, investigating any food intolerances, determining if gut lining is damaged and reviewing diet and other environmental exposures that may be harming the gut microbiome.

Specific foods that are fantastic in promoting optimum gut health include:

· Bone broths
· Fermented vegetables
· Prebiotic rich foods: garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, asparagus, bananas
· Yoghurt
· Kefir
· Warming soups and stews

If you are planning on falling pregnant, are about to give birth or are experiencing any of the conditions mentioned above, be sure to book in for a consultation to address your gut health.

Wishing you all peace & happiness. 
Yours in good health,
Tabitha & Madeleine

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Winter Wellness for our Children By Tabitha McIntosh

Winter is the peak cold and flu period and prevention is the most important strategy for our littlies, however – particularly when Kindy or Pre-school are involved – some infections are almost inevitable. These simple strategies will help protect against winter infections and speed recovery if a cold or flu takes hold.

Good Hygiene
The first line of defence is to keep germs at bay and stopping spread. Encourage hand washing with a gentle soap, covering mouths when coughing or sneezing, and always have a chemical-free hand-sanitiser gel handy.

Encourage Vitamin C and Betacarotene rich foods plus garlic
Encourage foods such as red capsicum, citrus fruits, papaya, parsley, kiwi fruits, dried apricots, berries, broccoli, pumpkin, spinach and tomatoes. Garlic has antimicrobial and immune support properties. Mashed sweet potato with garlic and parsley is a winner with my kids when they are sick.

Boost Vitamin C and Zinc
Best taken as low, divided doses throughout the day – see your healthcare provider for specific formulas, as children always need their dose individually assessed based on height, weight and age.

Minimise hidden sugar in your child’s diet
Sugar reduces the immune response and lowers our ability to fight a bug. Eliminate lollies, juices, honey, jams, boxed cereals, sultanas, flavoured milks, sweetened yoghurts for the best chance at recovery.

Be informed about Vitamin D
Research has identified Vitamin D as a key factor in promoting healthy immune response, and supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of flu infection by half1. Ensure your children get regular safe and smart sunscreen-free exposure to the sun; and include Vitamin D rich foods like oily fish, eggs and fortified milk.

Probiotics and immunity
Probiotics have demonstrated effectiveness in providing kids’ protection against infections such as colds and flu’s2. In fact, over 70 percent of your child’s immune tissue surrounds their gut. Remember the effects of Probiotics are strain-specific, so speak to your health care professional.

Rest rest rest
Getting adequate sleep is essential to prevent and manage infection. Lack of sleep reduces our immune response and makes us more susceptible to catching bugs.

Other tips
Essential oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and lemon are natural decongestants. A couple of drops into a vaporiser while sleeping or in the bath can break down mucous and improve breathing. Chest rubs with pure paw paw and calendula calm (Petroleum-free) can soothe dry and chapped skin around the nose.

Remember
Always speak with a health professional before giving your children any supplements, or if symptoms worsen or persist. Also, delay immunisation appointments if your child has an acute infection, a runny nose or seems not themselves.

References:
1. Urashima M et al. Randomised trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza-A in school children. Am J Clinical Nutrition 2010 May; 91(5):1255-1260.

2. Leyer GJ et al. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics 2009 Aug; 124(2):e172-179.

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