Gut Microbiome in Children: How Diet Influences Its Development

Evidence has shown that intestinal bacteria plays an important role in our health. However, do you know about the effects of diet on the development of gut microbiome in children?
Gut Microbiome in Children: How Diet Influences Its Development

Last update: 05 April, 2021

The number of microorganisms inhabiting our gastrointestinal tract is approximately,1014. These microorganisms help digestion and nutrient assimilation. In addition, they produce short-term fatty acids, which help prevent the most common current metabolic diseases. In this article, we’ll talk about the influence of diet on the development of gut microbiome in children.

Due to many factors, like labor or antibiotics, these communities start developing in the uterus. Did you know that when children are between 6 and 12 months old, their gut microbiome is similar to that of an adult?

Another thing to take into account is that there are different types of microorganisms, and the amount present in our body will depend on the nutrients we consume every day.

Furthermore, these microorganisms protect us against the attack of pathogens, and they also protect our gastrointestinal wall. Furthermore, they synthesize certain vitamins, such as vitamin K, which is a blood thinner.

They’re usually classified according to the predominance of the species, like Bacteroides, Prevotella or Ruminococcus. However, the most important thing is that there are different types and large amounts of them.

Gut Microbiome in Children: How Diet Influences Its Development

Pregnancy diet and gut microbiome in children

There’s an indirect relationship between what you eat while you’re pregnant and your baby’s health, because they’re born with a similar microbiome. In fact, there’s also a relationship between what you eat and the milk you produce. It usually includes antibodies that help their immune system.

As we’ve mentioned before, the amount of fat you consume will modify your microbiome genes, regardless of your BMI. Furthermore, eating too much fat lowers the level of Bacteroides, which have anti-inflammatory effects, and reduce the risk factors for eczema and obesity. In fact, it lowers bifidobacteria and causes an increase of firmicutes.

As regards to labor, natural birth is recommended. Mostly, because it helps produce abundant bifidobacteria, which produce lactic acid that helps prevent infections.

Actually, there can be an increase in the microbial diversity, especially if the mother eats mostly vegetables. On the other hand, a C-section may lead to less diversity and more Shigella, Clostridium, enterobacteria and Staphylococcus.

The difference between the two types of births resides in the direct contact of the baby and the mother’s vaginal microbiome, or the contact between the mother and the medical staff. In fact, once it was discovered that C-sections modify the newborn’s defenses, doctors began to rub the baby’s face with vaginal fluids.

Breast milk or formula, the most important influence on the development of the gut microbiome in children

Nowadays, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breast milk as the only food babies should receive during their first 6 months of life. They can continue drinking it until they’re 2 years old, combining it with solid food.

Breast milk is rich in oligosaccharides, antibodies and enzymes that help develop the immune system. In fact, evidence shows that it helps prevent allergies, celiac disease, obesity, diabetes, etc.

It’s actually quite surprising how babies’ microbiome evolve while they drink their mother’s milk. During 2020, a study on kids’ microbiome was carried out among Korean children from 0 to 5 years old. Specialists carried out a stool analysis in children fed by breast milk and formula.

On the one hand, breast milk increased firmicutes by 15 %, actinobacteria by 30% and decreased Bacteroides. On the other hand, formula increased proteobacteria by 21% and decreased firmicutes by 25%.

Solid food and the influence of diet on gut microbiome in children

Recently, the study EAT (Enquiring About Tolerance) was published. This research explains how the introduction to food allergens affects children. Researchers thought that by delaying children’s introduction to this type of food, or even doing it earlier could prevent allergies.

Finally, the results show that by delaying children’s introduction to food allergens, such as peanuts or milk, until they’re 6 months old, modifies their gut microbiome.

When introducing them to this type of food between 4 and 6 months old, it multiplies the amount of prevotella and other genera, such as proteobacteria and firmicutes. However, the results were noteworthy at 6 months old, and not at 1 year old. This means that their diet is rich in fiber, and they hardy have inflammatory diseases.

Gut Microbiome in Children: How Diet Influences Its Development

What food should you give children to have microbiome variation?

In conclusion, adding a healthy variety to your children’s diet will be better for their gut microbiome. It’s very important to give them fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereals, like rice and tubers. These include fiber and starch, which bacteria ferment, and produce short chain fatty acids.

Remember that it’ll be better to include vegetable proteins instead of meat proteins. This is because eating too much red meat, fish or dairy promotes the growth of sulfur-reducing bacteria.

As a result, they may end up with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease or even colorectal cancer. Therefore, it’s very important to consume legumes, at least three times a week.

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