Did you know 70% to 80% Immunity comes from the Gut?
From the moment you hold your baby in your arms for the first time, a strong resolve stirs within to protect your baby from all kinds of harm. You want to ensure that your baby is healthy and grows well. While you ponder over all the things you can do to ensure their well-being, their immunity is often the first factor that comes to your mind.
In both short and long run, it is your baby’s immunity that is going to keep them healthy and free from the infections, cold, diarrhoea, and allergies, which are the primary culprits in the early years.
Thus, building immunity is the first step to shield your bundle of joy from all harm and diseases.
When talking about the immune system one cannot ignore the important role of the gastrointestinal tract. About 70%-80% of immune cells are present in the gut. Thus, it could be said that a healthy gut helps build a healthy immune system.
The Impact of Gut Health on Immunity
The mother helps build the infant’s immune system from the time they are in the womb and which continues until the child is on breast feeds. The baby derives its nutrition and a steady flow of antibodies from the mother, via the placenta. This transfer of antibody is referred to as “passive immunity.”
Once they are born, it is the mother’s milk that goes a long way in building immunity in the baby. Human milk contains the best nutritive elements for infants and certain bioactive compounds. These components together help in creating a stable environment in the gut, such as promoting the good bacteria, decreasing the bad bacteria, facilitating bowel movement, improving the mucosal layer etc. which help boost the immunity in infants.
Prebiotics and their role in Building Infant Immunity
Mother’s milk contains prebiotics oligosaccharides, the 3rd largest component after lactose and fats, and is distinct from probiotics. Prebiotic oligosaccharidesare carbohydrates that pass undigested through the stomach and small intestine. On reaching the large intestine they are digested by the good bacteria such as lactobacilli, Bifidobacterium etc. and in turn boost their growth further. The increase in good bacteria has several benefits for the baby, foremost being reduction in the number of pathogenic or infectious organisms.
Years of research has highlighted the following health benefits of prebiotic oligosaccharide for infants:
- Promotes frequent and softer stools
- Decreases usage of antibiotics
- Reduces diarrhoea
- Reduces constipation
- Decreases incidence of cold and fever
- Reduces allergic illnesses
- Improves gut health
- Reduces infantile colic
Including Prebiotics in your Infant’s Diet
With more research backing the findings on the beneficial role prebiotics have in building gut health and thus, immunity in babies, it is essential for parents to include this ingredient in their baby’s diet. The routes through which they can be provided are primarily breast milk and complementary feeds (when initiated). You can consult your health care professional to know more about it.
Colostrum, the first yellow thick milk produced by mothers, is rich in antibodies and is considered an inoculum that programs the baby’s immune system to respond in the right manner to infections and pathogens. Nutrients that confer immunity such as prebiotics, immunoglobulins, probiotics etc. continue to be transferred throughout the duration of breastfeeding. Breastmilk, therefore provides a healthy start to your baby’s gut health and overall immune system development.
The scientifically-created prebiotics such as galacto-oligosaccharides, fructo-oligosaccharides, inulin, polydextrose etc,have also shown signs of providing effects similar to that of naturally occurring prebiotics.
Having access to prebiotic oligosaccharides can help the baby build a healthy immunity from birth which would in turn promote their overall growth and development.