Probiotics: The Good Bad and the Ugly
Probiotics have repeatedly been highlighted as being important for our health. If you have never heard of it before then they are better known as the ‘Good Bacteria’ in our digestive system. Having the right type of bacteria plays an important role maintaining a healthy digestive flora and a strong immune system to fight off any infections, lower cholesterol, produce vitamins and regulate hormones. Harmful bacteria can directly cause infection or produce toxins that can give rise to inflammation in the body cells, or may even contribute to the development of cancer.
Studies conducted in caesarean section babies (compared to vaginally born babies) found that they are five times much more likely to develop allergies by the age to 2yrs. Researchers from the Henry Ford Hospital concluded these findings after studying 1,258 newborns which coincides with previous research that found that c-section babies are at higher risk of developing asthma than babies born vaginally. Other reports also indicate that they also have a higher risk of food allergies and diarrhoea in their first year. The infant’s intestinal microflora is determined largely in the first few days by the method of delivery. Vaginally delivered babies are exposed initially to the faecal and vaginal bacteria of the mother, while c-section babies are exposed to hospital based bacteria. This results in delayed colonization of the gut. On average they also have a longer stay in hospital. Other influencing factors are the mother, prematurity, infant feeding and hygiene measures. Generally a variety of bacterial species are acquired; Bacteroides, Lactobaccillus and Bifidobacteria. One study found that at 6 months c-section infants only had half of the colonization rates of Bacteroides, when compared to vaginally delivered group.
Studies on probiotics given to pregnant mothers and their newborn babies showed lower rates of developing asthma and allergies. A healthy gut bacterial balance is crucial to our overall health. It eliminates and filters harmful bacteria, toxins, chemicals, and other waste material. It allows absorption of valuable nutrients and fluids, which are vital for our body functions. When the balance shifts negatively it impacts on our immune system and we can start to suffer from allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders and infections e.g. IBS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Maintaining a healthy balance has the potential to prevent these conditions and keep our immune system healthy.