Put away the antimicrobial soap, wipes and detergent. Stop cleaning with products that promise to deliver your house “germ-free”. Even the three second rule could be on it’s way out. Our preoccupation with killing the bugs is backfiring. Bacteria can be good for your baby (and for the rest of us, too!)…if its the right kind.
This month I wrote a series of five blogs regarding bacteria, food and gut health for Dr. Alan Greene, a remarkable pediatrician in Northern California. How did that happen? Most Mondays at 6pm I check out LTKH (Let’s Talk Kid’s Health) and “listen in”. After sharing my research on the microbiome last fall, I was invited to participate as a guest blogger and featured tweeter.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FIRST FOODS
I first came across Dr. Greene’s work when I prepared a presentation titled “First Foods” for the California state meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrician’s in 2012. Of course, we both support breastfeeding, and recognize that much more needs to be done to support mothers who intend to breastfeed. Too well intentioned mothers stop far earlier than they planned. When it comes to first foods, Dr. Greene zeroed in on the steady diet of highly processed, refined foods fed to our youngest consumers. He titled the effort to eliminate refined infant cereals as a “white out“.
Now I want to share this series of blogs about the role of bacteria and health directly with you. We have co-evolved with microbes and are just beginning to appreciate the role their play in health and disease, especially during the first three years of life. Yet, despite the focus on maternal and infant nutrition, much of the information applies to young and old alike. Click on any one of the five titles to link to the corresponding blog. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Since the publication of findings from the human microbiome project in 2011, we are rapidly learning the many ways but microbes impact our health. We can directly encourage a healthier and more diverse range of bacteria in our lives by eating differently and cleaning differently.
Consumers and health professionals alike sit at a crossroads, caught between minimizing risk of food contamination and cultivating a healthy and diverse population of gut microbes. Too many of the processes that keep our food safe from pathogens also destroy beneficial microbes. We need to eat more of the kinds of foods that contribute to a healthy gut.
Our long standing concern has been to avoid pathogenic bacteria, but emerging science tells us we also need to pay attention to cultivating enough healthy bacteria, too. The marketplace has been quick to respond with a range of probiotic foods, beverages, and supplements claiming to offer live cultures that replenish our gut with healthy bacteria.
We used to think that we push babies out into the world with a sterile gut, free from bacteria. Today that notion is largely dismissed. Mom’s diet and lifestyle (and later on how she chooses to feed her baby) will impact her child’s health and metabolism. Without creating undue stress and burden–causing their own negative impact on mom’s microbiome– what can moms do to make a difference?
Interest in the role of bacteria and our health exploded once scientists mapped the human microbiome in 2013. Humans co-evolved with microbes, so it follows that microbes impact everything from immune function to metabolism, even mental health. To date we have far more questions than answers regarding the impact of our diet and the microbiome, but we can benefit from what we understand so far.
Once the blogs were up, Dr Greene and his wife, Cheryl and I discussed key questions regarding diet and gut health with LTKH participants online. Click here to review the tweet chat for yourself.
While we focused on gut health for babies and children, we all deserve to enjoy better digestion, less gas and bloating, a stronger immune system, and better health overall. The first step? Choosing mostly whole foods, a mix of cooked and raw, ideas supported in Feeding Baby Green. Now we are learning that fermented foods, and a judicious use of probiotic supplements, contribute to the mix.
Information about the role of bacteria and the microbiome continues to explode. What have you learned about the benefits of healthy bugs in your gut?