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Posted on 12-02-2016

Protect your child's gut health after the holidays

By Dr. Lawrence J. Hoberman

With run-amuck meals at all hours of the day and night and too many kinds of sugary sweets close at hand, a child's gut health will need some major TLC to recover even weeks after the recent holiday season. Protecting the balance of beneficial bacteria in your child's developing gut is important for a host of healthy reasons.

1. C-section births vs. natural delivery

If you made the hard choice to deliver your child via Caesarean section vs natural childbirth, a 2014 Swedish study showed that your baby's immune health may be compromised from the get-go. Based on a comparison of fecal samples, C-section babies had less gut diversity (a lower range of good gut bacteria) during the first two years of their lives compared to babies born vaginally.

Also, C-section babies had unbalanced levels of an immune system chemical (Th1) in their blood, making them more vulnerable to developing allergies. That's why giving your newborn the healthiest start of all by delivering him/her naturally is so critical. This healthy first step exposes your child to the beneficial bacteria your body naturally produces that can lower your baby's risks from a range of serious problems, including irritable bowel syndrome and diabetes.

2. The Terrible Twos and Gut Health

Did you know your toddler's unique gut microbiome may contribute to those mood swings associated with the ‘terrible twos’? As it turns out, there's much more going on besides fussy behavior. According to researchers at Ohio State University's Center for Clinical and Translational Science, those mood swings may provide indicators for early stages of chronic diseases, like allergies, asthma, bowel disease and even obesity. In a study appearing in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, intestinal bacteria interact with stress hormones, the same ones linked to chronic illnesses like obesity and asthma, according to Ohio State University researchers.

In general, children who had the most genetically diverse gut bacteria more often displayed the behaviors connected with positive mood, impulsivity, sociability and curiosity.

3. Broad-spectrum antibiotics

You've heard about all sorts of problems linked to the overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Vulnerable children whose immune systems are developing by the day aren't exempt from these health challenges, either. A recent study featured in Cell explains some of the gut-related problems associated with antibiotics that can do more harm than good when prescribed too often.

In studies on mice, researchers at NYU's Lagone Medical Center found animals fed low doses of penicillin became fatter, particularly those exposed to this standard antibiotic before birth. NYU scientists also discovered how antibiotics didn’t necessarily reduce the amount of bacteria in the guts of test animals, a long assumed fact by many studying the gut.

Unfortunately, exposure to penicillin did decrease the diversity of four major strains of beneficial gut bacteria, including Lactobacillus, an ingredient contained in many probiotics.

Are you giving your children probiotics?

If your child was exposed to antibiotics at an early age (nearly 70 percent were prescribed an antibiotic more than twice by age 2, according to JAMA Pediatrics), may contribute to the decrease of the amount of good bacteria in a child’s gut. But there is a safe, simple non-drug step to improve your growing child's gut health, which will fuel and protect his/her immunities naturally and safely. Live bacteria prepared in a dietary supplement called a probiotic can do wonders to restore their natural balance of bacteria and protect their immune system.

"Probiotics help fill that void we have because of life in the 21st century," says Dr. Josephine Ruiz-Healy, a Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. "A good blend of live probiotics seems essential to protect our kids and help them develop and maintain a healthy immune system."

Some important things to consider when choosing the right probiotic for your health:

  • Find a probiotic that contains multiple strains of beneficial live bacteria that offer many benefits.

  • Check that the probiotic you're considering contains prebiotics and non-digestible carbohydrates/plant fibers that feed the good bacteria already living in your gut.

  • Although you can find probiotics in refrigerated cases in many grocery stores, consider brands that require no refrigeration, as many of them are cheaper, easier to take on trips and retain their quality if they are stored in cool, dry areas.

  • Because the human body is so complex, it is recommended to speak with your child's pediatrician about giving him/her probiotics first, to ensure doing so won't conflict with any ongoing health condition.

The good news: Your pediatrician will probably be very happy you're considering protecting your child's gut health with probiotics.

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Over a medical career spanning more than four decades as a board-certified gastroenterologist, Dr. Hoberman developed a holistic approach to treating gut-related health problems, with his multi-strain EndoMune Advanced Probiotic for adults nearly a decade ago, followed by EndoMune Advanced Junior for Kids. In 2013, EndoMune Advanced Junior became the first probiotic certified by the North American organization Parent Tested Parent Approved. Learn more about Dr. Hoberman and EndoMune by visiting his endomune.com website.

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