Probiotics are suggested to be an important tool to ensure an optimal conception state, pregnancy progression, infant development and child maturation and have been shown to positively affect the microbiome over the crucial timeframe.
Why are the first 1,000 days so important?
The gut microbiota develops rapidly learning up to the second year of infancy, playing a crucial role in laying down the foundations for health.
Intervention during this timeframe is important as human plasticity (the body’s ability to adjust) decreases through age. As the assembly and maturation of the microbiota has largely occurred by the age of 2-3, strategies to target the gut microbiota after this period may have less impact.
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The assembly of micro-organisms during early life plays a critical role in immune, endocrine, metabolic and other host developmental pathways. If these important pathways are disrupted by unfavourable conditions, such as the poor microbiota of the mother, Caesarean section, formula feeding, antibiotic use, poor diet etc. the course of infant growth can be disturbed. We can see therefore that potential lifelong complications can lie ahead.
Why is there now an increased need for probiotics?
The types of disease that are now prevalent, and are increasing, are chronic conditions such as cancer, obesity, diabetes and autoimmune conditions – all notably having an inflammatory component. The change in the composition of our microbiome is likely contributing to this increase.
Factors that are having detrimental effects on our internal ecology include medications, Westernised diet, chronic stress, C-section/formula feeding, and the overuse of antibiotics. For example, research has demonstrated that antibiotics given during the first two years of life can increase the risk of eczema, food allergy, asthma, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease in later life.
Furthermore, Caesarean section births are becoming increasingly common. In Europe, Caesarean section rates have increased by 14% and here in the UK, they have increased from one in five to one in four.
Conversely, breastfeeding statistics have decreased. Just 48.2% per cent of mothers now breastfeed their babies 6-8 weeks after birth, according to data from Public Health England.
Not all probiotics strains are suitable or relevant to the baby microbiome. It is important therefore to select a probiotic that is safe, effective and specific to the requirements.
For example, research on Bifidobacterium animalis has shown it helps to support intestinal/gastrointestinal health in infants ages 2 months and older and could promote a favourable gut flora. It has also been shown to help relieve abdominal discomfort, such as bloating and constipation.
Bifidobacterium infantis Rosell has been shown to compete with pathogens for adhesion to epithelial cells, increase mucin expression in the small intestine and reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines in infants.
Collectively, there is much research that supports the nurturing of the microbiome to ensure proper development of the child. In all periods discussed, from conception through to infancy, probiotics may prove beneficial additional in the first 1000 days by providing a targeted intervention in a crucial window of opportunity to support the microbiome.
As leaders in food-based supplementation for over 30 years, Cytoplan has maintained the belief that nature holds the key to health, creating products that work in harmony with the body to optimise health. We are dedicated to improving the health of the nation, both ethically and sustainably.