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Category: Brain Maker


The Critical Role of Early Life Decisions in Creating the Microbiome

In Brain Maker, I dedicated a lot of space to exploring how we initially form our microbiome, the collection of more than 100 trillion organisms that live within our intestines. Certainly early life experiences are critical in the creation of what is now a looked upon as representing a new “organ” within the human body. As you will recall, I talked about how important it is for children to be born through the vaginal birth canal, if that is not medically precluded, and, also, I emphasized how fundamentally critical it is that children breastfeed, from the perspective of creating the best, most health-preserving, microbiome possible.

In a new report from researchers in Sweden, Dynamics and Stabilization of the Human Gut Microbiome During the First Year of Life, researchers evaluated gut microbiomes of 98 mothers and their infants during the first year of life.

Their findings were really quite remarkable. There were dramatic differences noted in the microbiomes of children born vaginally versus those born by cesarean section. In addition, significant changes were seen in babies who were breastfed versus those who were bottle-fed. One of the main conclusions the authors reached was:

Cessation of breast-feeding drives the maturation of the infant gut microbiome.

The authors went on to state:

We observed that most of the early colonizers are derived from the mother, and that in C-section infants vertical mother-infant transmission was less frequent for important intestinal microbes such as Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium, while sharing of bacteria from skin and mouth was increased, in line with an earlier study.

And further:

These studies and our results hint to the life-long effects of breast-feeding for the priming of the gut microbiome, with possible effects on metabolic and immune health that we are only beginning to understand.

The authors revealed that the changes in the microbiome of infants that more reflect the microbiome of an adult are not a random process but is induced not by food choices, like when solid food is introduced, but by the cessation of breastfeeding. As mentioned above, they feel that these changes may actually have lifelong effects in terms of metabolism and immune function.

This data supports the information and recommendations in Brain Maker, wherein I describe how method of birth, as well as early life nutritional choices, plays such an important role in terms of the developing microbiome and future health of a child.

  • Karla

    I really need to print this and bring it to my family doctor. My doctor has continually pushed supplementing my baby with formula and infant cereals. I have refused both and at 14 months am still breastfeeding and not feeding her grains. My doctor has expressed very strongly that she thinks I am making extremely poor decisions for my child’s nutrition. It is….a disheartening and difficult point of contention at regular visits to say the least.

    • Susan Stevenson

      Fina new doctor, or better yet don’t go to any. You can best tell if your child is healthy or not and even if she does get sick, what’s he to do? Give antibiotics or injections? They are in the dark ages where building health is concerned.

  • Ri

    Since reading Grain Brain and Wheat Belly I drastically reduced the amount of gluten in my diet. Its been hard to completely eliminate it but at least reducing the amount of consumption is a step in the right direction and when I have had a small amount of gluten there haven’t seem to be any adverse effects, however,
    this past week I went into a bit of a gluten binge, not sure what happened but it started with cinnamon raisin bread which I love (toasted with butter). I was eating that in the morning among other gluten containing foods-cake muffins and snacks containing wheat. I was very lax about my diet normally I wouldn’t touch the stuff but I thought I would allow myself to indulge since I haven’t for a while. Let me tell you all it wasn’t worth it! I got this unexplained cough that wouldn’t go away and got sick. I felt extremely fatigued to the point where I can sleep all day and night and still wake up feeling like im hungover or in a coma like state unable to function and/or think clearly (brain fog) and ive been bloated and for sure felt like I packed on a few pounds. Ive been constipated! And ive had a terrible headache that is not going away even with advil. Im convinced now its because of my gluttonous indulgences! I think the more you restrict the glutton the more your body becomes intolerant to it and reacts when you ingest it. Im not gonna sit here and pretend I don’t like cake and bread and gluten carbs but the way they made me feel -just not worth it. So now im getting back into my healthy clean eating and hopefully this gluten will leave my system soon and I can feel somewhat normal again. Functioning at work has been very difficult I feel heavy headed and cant focus. Im not celiac but I know now for sure I have a gluten sensitivity. To make matters worse I was on a round of antibiotics for BV (women who have had this know what that stands for)I really wanted to avoid the antibiotics but it wasn’t going away even with alternative natural methods. So I had to take them but I ensured I was taking a probiotic. Anyways happy Friday all! I wanted to share my experience to let you all know this gluten sensitivity thing is real. I thought I could get away with eating it but I realized its in my best interest to strictly avoid the stuff!

    • Lynn Dell

      Thanks for being honest, Ri. I, too, have been back on the gluten free wagon after falling off. I can relate to much of what you speak of.

      I had left my “first love” (my glucose meter, aka “sugar plum”). I have been back for the last few weeks checking my blood sugar, and it helps to take it when I have non-hunger related cravings, to see, say, an 83, or even in the upper 70s, and say to my self, why ruin THAT by eating when I’m not hungry?

      Last week I decided to spend three days mostly fasting – I did have some coconut oil, and took a couple bottled supplements, including magnesium, also a coffee or two w/full fat cream during this time. Probably amounted to three separate 24 hour periods of going without food, as I would have the coffee w/ coconut oil and cream in the morning. It was great.

      This morning, got up, had a pint of filtered water. An hour later had another pint, with an alpha lipoic acid. Shortly after that, had a huge forkful of fermented sauerkraut, another forkful of kimchi, and a swig of kefir, and swiped my finger through the almost empty hummus container to empty it. For real breakfast I had a salad – kale, half an avocado, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, olive oil, balsamic vinegar turmeric, cayenne pepper, pepper. I finished that off with 2 squares 85 per cent chocolate with 12 almonds, full fat organic cream in the coffee, also some coconut oil, and all the supplements Dr. Perlmutter recommends, plus some. Blood sugar spike at 1 hour was 101. Breakfast was a couple hours ago, and I’m still feeling very full.

      Fasting helps a great deal. As long as you don’t binge when you come off a fast, but eat very light for the first day, it does something to help you feel full sooner and longer. along with the good fats.

  • grace

    What about the mothers and newborn infants who are given profylactic antibiotics at delivery? Evidently this is done because the mother tested positive for a vaginal infection – perhaps this should have been identified by her gynecologist before conception?

    • Julie

      I was thinking the same thing Grace! I had this injection immediately prior to the delivery of my daughter, who is now almost 20. She has suffered quite a bit with acne and is very prone to sore throats and tonsillitis. Since learning about the microbiome, and how the bacteria you get at birth can effect you into adulthood, I have wondered if this may be the underlying cause. Whatever good bacteria she might have received from me were killed. I did breastfeed her, thankfully.

  • Dr. Perlmutter, please be aware there is a large percentage of women who test positive for Strep B during pregnancy and are given up to three rounds of IV antibiotics during birth. I hope you’ll look into this and mention it, as it’s very common.

    • terri

      As a neonatologist who has seen multiple originally healthy newborns die of GBS sepsis,I am slow to recommend no treatment.This treatment came about as the result of a family who wasn’t treated and lost their newborn. They campaigned heavily and helped develop GBS guidelines . The recommendations are never simple and apply without consideration to each case.

  • JoAnn VanDerWerken

    If you have histamine intolerance many of the mentioned foods are best avoided.

    Hisamine could be the missing piece of ongoing, baffling food sensitivities!
    Especially as we get older.
    A great list is found here: http://www.histaminintoleranz.ch/download/SIGHI-FoodCompatibilityList_HIT(EN).pdf

  • Betty Doolittle Tuininga

    Karla, you definitely need to find a new doctor. Your present physician is undermining your confidence as a parent and as a mother. There are many GOOD peds out there that will work with you and encourage you as you go through these stages with your baby. You might also like to look up Aviva Romm online. She is a medical doctor and an herbalist. She is wonderful and shares alot of good info with new moms! http://www.avivaromm.com

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  • Carmen

    I would like to know how best to restore a 4 day old baby’s gut, after broad spectrum antibiotics due to a 100.8 fever. This was a 1-time reading at his 1 day check-up and never had a fever at the hospital again, but that is their protocol.
    The only things I know to do is to give him breast milk and to use probiotics. Was thinking about having my homeopath work with him.
    Am I missing anything?

  • Shawna Lane

    What about seeding? Does this affect the outcomes? My daughter was born via cesarean and has many food allergies and eczema. My second is due in the spring and the doc is suggesting I may end up with another C section. Will seeding help avoid these issues or should I fight for a Vbac despite the risks to my health?

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