The only time we seem to be without our microbiome ecosystem is before we are born. We are first introduced to the bacterial ecosystem that supports us when we pass through the birth canal. The birth canal is generally a baby’s first exposure to the bacteria that will ultimately colonize us, such as Lactobacillus.
Liz Lipski in her book, Digestive Wellness says, “Until birth, we receive pre-digested food from our mothers, and our digestive tract is sterile. The trip down the birth canal then initiates us into the world of microbes that thrive everywhere. Babies are subsequently exposed to bacteria in breast milk and formula … The first two years of life are critical for our long-term immune responses. It’s when we set up our lifelong microbiota fingerprint”
The impact of C-Sections
There is growing evidence that increased rates of C-Sections may affect a baby’s immune system. Babies born through C-section miss out on this important introduction.
C-sections have moderate associations with conditions such as allergies and asthma, which may link back to the early immune system established through the microbiome. There are of course times where C-Sections are absolutely the right decision for mother or baby, but we may not fully understand what babies are missing out when they do not have a natural birth
Breast milk is also not sterile. It contains probiotics and prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in a baby’s system. Further, breast milk has evolved to help feed the helpful bacteria in the body, not just the baby directly. Breast milk contains carbohydrates called glycans which human enzymes are not able digest, but bacterial enzymes can. This goes to show how closely the microbiome and human systems have evolved.
We have been hosting our friends since the day we were born – isn’t it about time we got to know them?