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The Empowering Neurologist – David Perlmutter, MD and Toni Harman

As many of you know, one of the central themes of my recent book, Brain Maker, deals with the importance of method of birth in terms of seeding an infant’s microbiome. We now know, moving ahead, that even issues like immunity and inflammation later in life are significantly impacted by how a child is born.

As I did discuss in the book, work by Dr. Maria Dominguez-Bello at New York University centers on this fundamental event in a person’s life, if and how a baby passes through birth canal. Importantly, she seeks to understand how this exposure inoculates the newborn child with the seeds for his or her future microbiome.

In today’s interview, I speak with Toni Harman.

Toni is a filmmaker and, with her husband, Alex Wakeford, she created a fascinating film, Microbirth, that focuses on just this exact topic (the importance of how we are born).

Now, with her new book, Your Baby’s Microbiome, Toni does a deep dive and explores the possible health consequences related to cesarean section versus vaginal birth, in terms of the microbiome. The book is fascinating and we are going to jump right in.

From Amazon.com:

At least two amazing events happen during childbirth. There’s the obvious main event, which is the emergence of a new human into the world. But then there’s the non-human event that is taking place simultaneously, a crucial event that is not visible to the naked eye, an event that could determine the lifelong health of the baby. This is the seeding of the baby’s microbiome, the community of ‘good’ bacteria that we carry with us throughout our lives. The seeding of the microbiome, along with other processes including breastfeeding, kickstarts the baby’s immune system and helps to protect the infant from disease for its entire lifetime. However, with interventions like use of synthetic oxytocin, antibiotics, C-section and formula feeding, this microbial transfer from the mother to baby is interfered with or bypassed completely. Emerging research shows that bacteria are absolutely vital for human health, and imbalances in the human microbiome significantly contribute to chronic non-transmissible diseases.

Drawing on the extensive research they carried out for their documentary film Microbirth, authors Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford reveal a fascinating new view of birth, and how microscopic happenings can have lifelong consequences, both for ourselves, our children – and our species as a whole.

I’m certain you’ll enjoy today’s discussion.

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  • Karen Walker

    What can I do if born c-section to mitigage the issues?

    • Steven Munn

      Hi Karen, We have a son born C-section. This is what we’ve been doing, I’ve been hearing that we breathe in a fair share of our microbes. So
      having pets, working with soil, being outside is key. Taking in some
      deep breathes and also fermentation. Ayurveda has some great cleanse
      programs that focus on gut health. All the best!!

  • Larry Kellogg

    Dr. Perlmutter, your blog speaks of “inoculates” a baby as that little person begins life outside the womb. I recently read about early American life in the colonies, and this book spoke of inoculation for diseases as practiced in Africa (?). Well, my blog here departs linear thought, but I have wondered if people with HIV could inoculate each other against HIV as it mutates. Essentially, I think of “crowd sourcing” HIV antibody production. If antibodies could be shared, then an individual’s immune system could be “fore-armed” against some, probably
    not all, future mutations, but it could give some sort of leg up against the virus? What do you think?

    • Ottavia Zeffilini

      I think bringing up this HIV issue had nothing to do with the interview although you did try to swing them together. Your ‘linear thought’ of hiv-ers inoculating each other, oh please!

  • Gela K

    Another fabulous interview. I wish this information would make its way to conventional medicine more quickly.

    • David Perlmutter

      By continuing to share this, I’m hopeful we can!

  • Caroline24

    Very important information and personally depressive for me, as I had my two children through C-sections and couldn’t breastfeed them properly. They are now teenagers, is there anything I can do now for them, apart from giving them a daily probiotic and helping them to eat good meals?

    • Steven Munn

      Hi Caroline, I’ve been hearing that we breathe in a fair share of our microbes. So having pets, working with soil, being outside is key. Taking in some deep breathes and also fermentation. Ayurveda has some great cleanse programs that focus on gut health. All the best!!

  • Ottavia Zeffilini

    Wow indeed, yet I’ve heard and seen video’s about this years ago of how important both these things were for babies but I get it she has the wording down of why so mainstream medical people will except it or not? It’s amazing how far away people/doctors have become from being natural with birth, “”oh I have a date tonight so have that baby by 5pm or we cut it out.””
    I was born in the 50s when doctors were pushing mothers not to breast feed, formula makers helped with this too, of course. How out of touch is that, its quite easy to see,, breasts all fill up with milk-_who’s that for other then the baby. Some mothers do have nursing issue’s, not sure why. My babies were placed at my breasts soon as they arrived and both breast and baby knew what to do. I’ve even seen babies actually climb toward mom’s breast in true natural births.

  • Katherine Johnson

    Is there any advantage or risk to seeding after birth? I was restricted from “seeding” my son in the hospital. If I knew what I know now, I would have done it anyways… My son has a horrible gut etc and I definitely think c-section contributed to his health. Could I somehow seed him 22 months post birth?

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