Prabhat Daily, Pune, 22 Nov 2013
Day in and day out our body is exposed to an unrelenting stream of harmful bacteria and viruses that challenges our health and well-being. Our body fights back; however what about our children? Children including newborns have a very immature and developing immune system. As a result of this they are more prone to falling sick.
Ever thought that this could be traced back to the bacteria residing in our tummies, right from the time we were born? Now, a newborn that keeps falling sick is every parent’s nightmare. So how can we protect our child from frequent illnesses?
The answer is to help support and build up their immunity and the secret to do this lies deep within the digestive system.
Science has revealed that the human body is home to more than 100 trillion microscopic bugs and, they are everywhere – from our tongue, hair to our skin and blood. However it is the 500 or so different types of bacteria living deep within our digestive tract that do wonders for our health. These beneficial or “good” bacteria reside in the small intestine (gut) and put up a nasty fight when they encounter harmful microorganisms that enter our body from the food we eat. The good bacteria also fight against the resident “bad” bacteria. In fact, the balance between the good and bad bacteria in the intestine is crucial in determining health and well-being.
On the way through the birth canal during a normal delivery, a newborn gets dosed with good bacteria from their mother. These good bacteria are present in breast milk too, and, exclusively breast-fed infants have adequate amount of these bacteria. These good bacteria are like soldiers who fortify our “first line of defense”, in this case the intestinal wall and prevent the enemy (harmful bacteria) from entering the body. Good bacteria are known to produce chemicals that kill harmful microorganisms before they could actually enter the body. They are also known to form a physical barrier shielding the intestinal wall and blocking the passage of harmful microorganisms into the body.
So how do we make sure that the good bacteria flourish in the small intestine?
Probiotics is the answer to this. Usually the type of probiotics added to foods is similar to the good bacteria found in the small intestine. It is safe and the benefits of these are recognized the world over. In fact, a newborn baby who is breastfed gets these important probiotics from the mother through breast milk. Therefore, consumption of probiotics on an everyday basis increases the concentration of the good bacteria in the intestine and helps build immunity. Also, when we take antibiotics to fight infections, we unknowingly kill all types of bacteria. This is where probiotics can have a profound effect, not just on the health of the digestive tract, but also on the overall health of the child as well.
Dr. Geeta Dharmatti, Consultant Nutritionist at Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital, Pune said that, “The period from birth to two years of life is considered a window of opportunity to shape the babies defense (immune) system. Studies support the role of probiotics for their preventive benefits – be it lowering allergy-related conditions such as allergic skin disorders and diarrhea or overall in building immunity of the child throughout the life.”