The secret to a healthy child

Strengthening good bacteria in the body within the first two years of a baby’s life ensures greater immunity to disease

Published: 23rd October 2013 08:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd October 2013 08:44 AM   |  A+A-

An adult’s body fights harmful bacteria and viruses  that challenge our health and well-being. But a baby is yet to build such strength and until it does, it is protected by probiotics.

Children including newborns have a very immature and developing immune system. As a result, they fall sick often.

This can be traced back to bacteria in the stomach. How can parents prevent their baby from falling ill frequently?

Dr Adarsh E, HOD of Pediatrics, Rajarajeshwari Medical College & Hospital, says the answer lies in supporting and building up the baby’s immunity and the secret to 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, skin to 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 micro-organisms 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.

The gut is the largest immune organ of the body and contains approximately 70 per cent of the body’s immune cells.

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 micro-organisms 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.

Ensure good bacteria flourish

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 recognised 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  child as well.

Dr Adarsh E says, “The period from birth to two years of life is considered a window of opportunity to shape the baby defense (immune) system. This is certainly the reason why doctors the world over trust 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.”

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