By Lisa Pecos
We often think of bacteria as a bad thing, but when it comes to our gut, the right kind of bacteria can mean the difference between good health and poor health. Our bodies contain protective gut bacteria that helps us digest food, as well as lower our risk of digestive diseases, autoimmune disorders, and more.
When babies are born, the birthing process exposes their bodies to microbes that play an important role in protecting their health over the course of their lives. Until recently, little was known about how babies develop what is known as gut microbiome. Two new studies have changed that; showing not only how babies build up this protective bacteria, but also providing evidence that birth by C-section and antibiotics disrupt the development of important gut bacteria.
Two similar studies tracked the changes in gut bacteria of babies. Researchers from the Human Microbiome Program at New York University Langone Medical Center studied 43 U.S. infants for their first two years of life, and researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute studied 39 Finnish children up to the age of three years. Both studies, which were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, concluded that repeated use of antibiotics lessened the number of different types of bacteria that is thought to be part of healthy microbiomes.
Overtime, a child’s microbiomes mature, gradually resembling those of adults. It was found that antibiotics caused a delay in the rate at which they matured. It was also found that antibiotics caused a temporary rise in the number of genes that can cause germs to become resistant to antibiotics.
The C-Section Connection
It’s long been known that babies that are delivered vaginally are exposed to mother’s germs when passing through the birth canal, and that those delivered by C-section have different gut bacteria. These two studies show how babies born by C-section have lower levels of Bacteriodes, which are a certain type of bug family that is important in the intestinal immunity. Babies who lacked these bugs experienced a great impact from antibiotics.
The findings in regard to C-sections are similar to those of previous studies that led researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center to study whether exposing babies delivered by C-section to bacteria swabbed from their mother’s birth canal can change their microbiomes so that they’re like those found in babies delivered vaginally.