How to treat the trillions of bacteria living inside us with respect?

Doctor Mark Porter wrote a good few months ago in ‘body and soul’ section of The Times about how medicine is always trying to find ‘the next big thing’ for our health and how after Vitamin D, the humble bacterium will soon take over.

He says at a cellular level we are more bacteria than human and there are ten times more bacteria in your gut as there are cells in your whole body. Surely then, we really need to treat them with respect. New research suggests that we should treat the microbes living inside us as another organ. Not only do they help break down nutrients in our diet, they manufacture vitamins, protect against infection and even interact with our immune system and liver to regulate everything from inflammation to our metabolic system.

How does this translate to our babies though?

While a young baby is in the womb, his or her gut is sterile and the seed inoculation of their microbiota is picked up during the birthing process as they come into contact with organisms living in and around their mother’s vagina. This is nurtured further when the mother breast feeds.

Babies delivered by C- section miss out on this initial inoculation and end up with a very different mix of species. This difference can be compounded by formula-feeding instead of breastfeeding. As a result, the immune systems of the two groups of children mature differently because of altered signalling from the microbiota – one reason thought to explain why babies delivered by C-section are 20% more likely to develop asthma.

Well, that’s a lot to digest! I have had to have C Sections with both Arthur and Wilf. The first time was an emergency C-section. I had spent 9 months eating healthily, having reflexology, resting between work and even doing hypnobirthing.  Not for me was negative thinking, Oh no! mine wasn’t going to be a nasty hospital experience, my birth was going to be in the water and over in 12 hours. I still believed that when I had my first contraction. It came as a surprise when 48 hours later I was lying in theatre sucking gas and air with a body the size of a baby elephant, a soaring temperature and pre-eclampsia having an emergency C Section. Thankfully neither of us died. The recovery was just as hideous, stuck in a disgusting overcrowded post natal ward with dirty loos and overworked exhausted midwives.  I desperately wanted to breast feed, had images of me and my baby in post delivery bliss with him sucking away. We were both traumatised, there was no support and one midwife told me it was my nipples fault!

Needless to say after weeks of trying to get Arthur to feed, I gave up. Looking around I saw friends all happily feeding and I felt like a failure. A failure to deliver and a failure to feed. So, I did everything I could to give him the best nutritional support in the form of pre and probiotic. Evidence suggests that it doesn’t necessarily boost health and well being so the jury is out but it helped me feel as if I was doing the best I could for Arthur. I plied him with avocado (God’s food for babies) and fruit and veg and I took away his dairy intake. I also gave him ‘Nature’s plus’ liquid vitamins and then the tablets from 2 onwards. Nature’s plus are high grade vitamins and well worth looking into.

At 4, Arthur is fit and strong as doesn’t get more colds than other children who have been breast-fed. Who knows whether his IQ would have been higher or if he would never have developed a dairy allergy if he had been exclusively breastfed but we are only human and not every woman can experience the elation of happy breastfeeding and it’s benefits.

Wilfy was also born C Section as he was breach. At the time I took full responsibility for it as I believed the stress of moving house and the toxins from living in the dusty building site contributed to his health. Now, I believe that my gut wasn’t healthy during his pregnancy. I didn’t do any of the things that I did whilst pregnant with Arthur and was basically eating on the go. As you know from this blog Wilfy was born with all sorts of allergies and reflux. He has ear, nose and throat issues and may have to have his tonsils out, always has a cold, has sleep apnoea and a bad chest.  I fed him for 11 weeks and desperately wanted to feed him more but he couldn’t tolerate my lactose. You ask yourself why? why me? then you have to ask yourself if you suffer from thrush or does your partner? how healthy are both of you and what is your digestion like? A leaky gut could contribute to the health of your babies gut and therefore immunity.

I totally believe in the power of breastfeeding but if you like me had difficulty then don’t beat yourself up. Do what you can to support the gut and your child’s immunity. Look into nutritional support once weaning and don’t be afraid to try weaning with fruit and vegetables and meat broths. All of these have good gut healing properties. Look at the GAPS book by Natasha McBride for some useful advice and tips.


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