“Microbirth” and our Immune System

microbirth-posterA couple of days ago, my husband Glenn and I watched an incredible documentary called “Microbirth” courtesy of FMTV.

Not only did it talk about the importance of the human microbiome (we’re 90% bacteria folks!) but it also talked about how significant, and even crucial the birthing process is for optimal seeding of friendly bacteria in and on a baby as it’s being born, which leads to the development of a new baby’s immune system in the hours, weeks and months following birth.  It was mind blowing…!

I’ve talked before about how important it is to have more healthy, friendly bacteria than bad in your gut.  Why?  Because these teeny tiny organisms help digest food, keep our moods in check, and help our immune system fight against invaders, among other things.  What I haven’t talked about though (partly because I’m just learning myself), is how do we receive that good bacteria in the first place?  We’re not born eating fermented foods, taking probiotics and practicing yoga, so where does it come from?

Well, when a baby is born naturally, as it travels through the birth canal it picks up loads of these amazing, friendly bacteria from the mother.  The bacteria begin multiplying immediately in baby’s new, immature gut.  This is step one.

If the baby receives skin to skin contact immediately after birth, baby also then picks up more bacteria from the mother’s skin, revving up the power in its brand spankin’ new little immune system.  This is step two.

And then, while baby is wriggling around on mom’s body, eventually finding the breast, and starting to breast feed, step three comes into play.  Although there are components of breast milk that are perfectly designed to help baby be fully nourished and develop in the outside world, some sugars – oligosaccharides – are actually indigestible by baby’s immature gut.  So why are they there?  They’re there to feed the newly seeded friendly bacteria that just came from mom, into baby’s gut, while baby was being born.  How cool is that…!?

With caesarian births on the rise though, one of the main concerns voiced in “Microbirth” is, although sometimes necessary, when born by c-section babies end up missing out on at least one of the three crucial steps to the building of their new immune systems.  And although no hard evidence is available yet, studies are being done and trends are apparent.

Babies who don’t get to travel through the birth canal miss out on the initial healthy gut seeding, so they don’t get that first burst of friendly bacteria to kick start their immune systems.  This could be the main reason many babies born by caesarian end up getting more infections, colds, digestive problems, and end up taking more anti-biotics than their naturally born baby counterparts.  As they grow up, they also tend to be more prone to getting asthma, Celiac disease, Diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases.  (There’s so much more in the documentary about this, so try to set aside an hour, and watch and learn…)

So does that mean that all babies born by c-section are doomed to be sicker than naturally born babies?  Not necessarily.

“Microbirth” talks about a study done where friendly bacteria from the mother was harvested shortly before a c-section was performed, and was then wiped all over the baby immediately after birth.  So, even though baby didn’t travel through the birth canal, it still got a healthy dose of all the powerful bacteria mom was able to pass on!  How cool is that too…!?

And although this study was still ongoing during filming, they mention in the movie that enough data had been complied on one month olds participating in this study to show that the swabbed babies got fewer infections, and appear to have had stronger immune systems than the babies who didn’t get swabbed.  Wow!!!!

That’s amazing news for babies about to be born, but what about babies and kids who were born by c-section who already have constant ear infections, allergies, asthma, and even end up in hospital with high fevers due to a variety of infections and bugs their bodies just aren’t strong enough to fight?  Unfortunately, “Microbirth” didn’t get into that.

What I believe though, is new parents of c-section babies need more support in helping to strengthen their baby’s new immune systems.  Certain foods, supplements, homeopathic remedies, and probiotics can help, just like certain foods, drugs, and lack of probiotics will keep the immune system weak.  Having a conversation with someone who understands how important the human microbiome is to our health can be the first step in figuring out how to best strengthen your baby’s, toddler’s, or child’s immune system, so it can get stronger, and your child can get healthier, and develop as vibrantly and as fully as (s)he can.

For now, I say watch the movie and learn more about the above for yourself.  And then, if interested, let’s talk about options available to you to help you and your child.  If I can’t help with dietary and lifestyle changes, I can connect you with a naturopath or other healthcare practitioner who’d be better qualified to help.

Until next time, get your veg on, pop some popcorn, and watch “Microbirth” to learn more about the 90% of us that’s all bacteria, and how we can keep our microbiome healthy and strong…!

Eat well.  Be well.™






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