The microbiome is important for many aspects of health, from gut health to mental health to immune health and the first couple of months of life is a really critical window for its development. The gut microbiota influences the maturation of the immune system, nutrient absorption, metabolism, and prevents pathogen colonization. This microbiome development is disrupted in some babies if they are delivered via a caesarean section delivery, early antibiotic use, limited breastfeeding, or other factors and they are at greater risk for a host of health conditions in later life, such as asthma, allergies, respiratory infections, Type 1 diabetes and obesity. TheHealthSite spoke to Dr Sufla Saxena, Sr Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka New Delhi, on the topic, who has shared some of the smart and interesting ways in which one can easily improve their child’s gut health.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding helps in the development and maturation of the gut microbiome and immune function. A large review found that babies who were exclusively breastfed, from birth, had a more stable gut bacteria composition and reduced diarrhoea. It is recommended that one should, exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months, then continue to partially breastfeed whilst introducing solids.

Also read: Everything you ever wanted to know about Vitamin C and the immune system

Add More Fibre Rich Foods

Pregnant women should take a nutrient-dense diet with adequate amounts of fibre rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Prebiotics are found in a variety of foods onion, garlic, beetroot, sweetcorn, cabbage, legumes, watermelon, grapefruit, pomegranate, dried dates, dried figs, barley, rye flour, wheat bran, oats, cashews, and pistachios. Probiotic-rich foods such as yoghurt are also very beneficial to include in your pregnancy diet.

Don’t Start Solid Foods Too Early

While introducing solids to your baby. It is important not to start solids too early as your baby’s gut is still maturing; however, we also know that delaying solids especially allergen-containing foods can actually increase their risk of developing allergies.

Current infant feeding guidelines recommend that solids should be commenced when your baby is ready around 6 months, but not before 4 months of age. Home-cooked fresh food should be preferred over-packaged food for the introduction of solids in babies.

Add More Veggies And Wholegrains

Feeding your child a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes ensures that their developing microbiome has lots of nourishment. Eating yogurt helps build healthy gut bacteria and protects from various gastrointestinal disorders.

Avoid Antibiotics

Avoid unnecessary antibiotics. Always take antibiotics under a doctor’s supervision as over-the-counter use of antibiotics is quite common in our country leading to the destruction of natural gut microbiota.

Several studies have shown that owning a pet may actually help to increase gut microbiome diversity and have been associated with a lower risk of childhood allergy and obesity.

It is important to invest in your child’s gut health in their early years as it will not only improve their overall health but set them up for good health later in life!

This post first appeared on The Health Site

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