The Microbiome Time Line
Being a baby is a very important job, contrary to what any adult may tell you. When you are an infant, and even before you leave the womb, you are growing one of the most critical pieces of a healthy body that has one chance to be created correctly. It is your microbiome. It's a beautiful, amazingly powerful and actually easy thing to create naturally.
Your microbiome is home to the bacteria that live in your gut, line your intestines and on your skin. They make up the majority of our cells and genes and are the first line of defense for our body to function well. Having a healthy microbiome is critical to living a life free of disease. But unfortunately, we are suffering in a time where the diversity of microbes in the body's are at an all time low. This can cause non-communicable disease like asthma, allergies, obesity, depression and cancer.
Think of the microbiome like the Amazon rainforest. It is like a mini ecosystem in our bodies with many different species living there. Little by little, these species in our gut, like the animal and plant life of the Amazon, are dying due to lifestyle choices- eating the wrong foods, over use of antibiotics, sanitation practices and even birthing and breast feeding choices.
"When something goes wrong with the immune system, the result is disease, which can show up in any tissues at any age." 70% of the immune system lives in the gut microbiome which means that we have a good change of lowering the risk or healing disease through fixing the gut.
The question you may be asking now is how did our gut become so messed up in the first place?
The first thing to consider is that the microbiome is established and grown within the first 3 years of life. In order the better understand this process, I created a time line of how the different microbiomes of the body, gut, urogenetal and skin were established and how things could have went wrong. You can use this information to identify your personal microbiome's development story and how it may lead to your current health issues or sensitivities.
Development in the placenta. The microbiome of a baby is developed in the placenta inside of the womb. This helps develop the immune system. Any drugs, antibiotics included, maternal stress, and poor diet choices can inhibit the ability for microbes to grow and multiply.
A Vaginal Delivery is the next step and the single most important step in the seeding process, developing the diversity of microbes (bacteria) in the microbiome. The baby is exposed to the intestinal microbiome of the mother. This exposure helps increase baby's organ and tissue health.
Breast feeding comes next. Apart from being an extremely rich probiotic food, breast milk and feeding transfers specific microbes to the baby. Breast milk contains several hundreds of species of healthy bacteria that help guide and build the infant gut. This completes the seeding process. Any antibiotics or exposure to toxic chemicals can be traced in breast milk and can cause gut imbalances.
The actual act of breast feeding and the skin to skin contact of the mother to the baby is known as kangaroo care. This is extremely important to help baby's catch up in microbe maturation, especially in premature babies. Without lots of physical touch between the mother and baby, bacteria can not be transmitted to the skin to develop the specific microbes to fight infection.
Environmental exposure to the baby including toxins and chemicals, antibiotics and over- sanitation methods are detrimental to the microbiome. Our society has an obsession with killing germs and reducing any risk of airborne illness by using cleaning supplies. These chemicals are actually more harmful to the immune system development than good. Between the ages of 1 to 3 years, children should be exposed to dirt, nature, animals and trace amounts of other bacteria to build the immune system.
After the age of 3, we still can build our microbiome and increase its vitality but it is very helpful to understand how well your microbiome was created in the first place. If you suffer from allergies or food sensitivities, you may also suffer from an underdeveloped microbiome as a baby due to 1 or more of these factors.
I hope this helps you along on your journey of understanding how you can take control of your health and live a long, disease free life.