Childhood microbiome health: the secret to resisting illness.

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Childhood microbiome health: the secret to resisting illness.

Childhood microbiome health: the secret to resisting illness.

Sharing is caring – a delightful virtue when it comes to little humans; but when it is a plaguing cold or a nasty tummy bug, it can be nothing short of a family catastrophe! Whilst these kinds of experiences can help children build a robust immune system, evidence indicates that recurrent bouts of infection may be associated with a reduced presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut.[1]

The bacteria (and the trillions of other microorganisms) in the gut, are known collectively as the gut microbiome, the health of which is essential for immune resilience and resistance to infection. These beneficial organisms directly interact with the immune system (a large proportion of which is also housed in the gut), helping to boost the overall immune response against pathogens. In other words, a healthy microbiome helps to build immune function, whilst a compromised microbiome reduces immune resilience.

Cultivating the Microbiome

Babies inherit their microbiome initially from vaginal flora at birth, in addition to skin -to- skin contact via breastmilk. This exposes infants to a wide range of bacterial species and specific carbohydrates (from breastmilk) that feed these bacteria, helping to establish a healthy gut microbiome.

Babies inherit their microbiome initially from vaginal flora at birth, in addition to skin -to- skin contact via breastmilk. This exposes infants to a wide range of bacterial species and specific carbohydrates (from breastmilk) that feed these bacteria, helping to establish a healthy gut microbiome.

That said, not all babies share these microbiome-building experiences. For example, caesarean section, premature birth, limited amounts of breastmilk, and antibiotic use can all impact the diversity of the gut microbiome. This can have a flow-on effect, leading to reduced immune resilience and a greater chance of developing recurrent infections in childhood.

Planting a new seed and caring for it | HealthMasters

This is perhaps most obvious when kids face one of the greatest immune challenges, where there is no shortage of germ-sharing… day-care (or school). Additionally, kids that experience recurrent ear, chest and/or gut infections also tend to require a greater number of antibiotics; leading to a vicious cycle of poor microbiome health and impaired immune function. Fortunately, research reveals that probiotics may be the key to microbiome recovery; helping to improve digestive health and subsequent immune function.

Probiotics to the Rescue!

Probiotics are live bacteria, which offer beneficial effects on the microbiome and help to support childhood health in several ways including:

  1. Increasing the quantity and diversity of bacterial species in the gut;
  2. Enhancing immune activity; and

While several probiotics species have been shown to boost immunity, it is important to choose the specific probiotic strain for the condition you are looking to treat. To learn more about this and why it is an important consideration when purchasing probiotics.

Probiotics species have been shown to boost immunity.

Little boy has a cold | HealthMasters

Building Better Immunity

When it comes to boosting microbiome health in children, the immune building and gut strengthening benefits of probiotics have been shown in multiple studies.[2],[3] Several specific strains have been shown to help childhood health at different stages of life as detailed in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Probiotics strains demonstrated to boost childhood immunity.

 Age Probiotic bacteria combinations Effects in children
0-12 months

Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®) Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis (BB12®) Bifidobacterium breve (M-16v) Bifidobacterium longum (BB563)

Helps reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhoea [4] Reduces the need for antibiotics [5] Reduces acute respiratory infections [6],[7] Reduces ear infections [8] Reduces the duration of sore throat symptoms [9] Supports microbiome diversity [10]

12 months - 12 years

Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®) Bifidobacterium lactis (Bi-07) Lactobacillus acidophilus (NCFM®)

Helps reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhoea [11] Reduces the need for antibiotics [12] Reduces acute respiratory infections [13] Supports microbiome diversity [14] Reduces gastrointestinal discomfort [15]

 

Less illness means more time for childhood

While the occasional cold or flu is a normal part of growing up, recurrent infections can be a sign that the immune system requires a little extra support. As discussed, resilience against infection draws greatly on the health of the microbiome, with probiotics offering a solution to help boost immunity and resistance to infection. To ensure you choose the right probiotic seek the advice of a qualified health care Practitioner who can prescribe the right probiotic for your child’s needs.

[1] Man WH, Clerc M, de Steenhuijsen Piters WAA, van Houten MA, Chu MLJN, Kool J, et al. Loss of Microbial Topography between Oral and Nasopharyngeal Microbiota and Development of Respiratory Infections Early in Life. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2019 Mar 18. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201810-1993OC.

[2] Hatakka K, Savilahti E, Pönkä A, Meurman JH, Poussa T, Näse L et al. Effect of long term consumption of probiotic milk on infections in children attending day care centres: double blind, randomised trial. BMJ. 2001 Jun 2;322(7298):1327

[3]  Hojsak I, Snovak N, Abdović S, Szajewska H, Misak Z, Kolacek S. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centres: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trail. Clinical Nutrition 2010;29:312-316

[4] Szajewska H, Kołodziej M. Systematic review with meta-analysis: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in children and adults. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2015 Nov;42(10):1149-57.

[5] King S, Tancredi D, Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, Gould K, Vann H, Connors G, et al. Does probiotic consumption reduce antibiotic utilization for common acute infections? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Public Health. 2018 Sep 14. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cky185.

[6] Lau AS, Yanagisawa N, Hor YY, Lew LC, Ong JS, Chuah LO et al. Bifidobacterium longum BB536 alleviated upper respiratory illnesses and modulated gut microbiota profiles in Malaysian pre-school children. Benef Microbes. 2018 Jan 29;9(1):61-70. doi: 10.3920/BM2017.0063.

[7] Arvola T, Laiho K, Torkkeli S, Mykkanen H, Salminen S, Maunula L, et al. Prophylactic Lactobacillus GG reduces antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children with respiratory infections: a randomized study. Pediatr. 1999;104(5):1-4.

[8] Rautava S, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Specific probiotics in reducing the risk of acute infections in infancy-a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2009 Jun;101(11):1722-6.

[9] Lau AS, Yanagisawa N, Hor YY, Lew LC, Ong JS, Chuah LO et al. Bifidobacterium longum BB536 alleviated upper respiratory illnesses and modulated gut microbiota profiles in Malaysian pre-school children. Benef Microbes. 2018 Jan 29;9(1):61-70. doi: 10.3920/BM2017.0063. 

[10] Korpela K, Salonen A, Virta LJ, Kumpu M, Kekkonen RA, de Vos WM. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG Intake Modifies Preschool Children’s Intestinal Microbiota, Alleviates Penicillin-Associated Changes, and Reduces Antibiotic Use. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 25;11(4):e0154012.

[11] Szajewska H, Kołodziej M. Systematic review with meta-analysis: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in children and adults. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2015 Nov;42(10):1149-57.

[12] King S, Tancredi D, Lenoir-Wijnkoop I, Gould K, Vann H, Connors G, et al. Does probiotic consumption reduce antibiotic utilization for common acute infections? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Public Health. 2018 Sep 14. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cky185.

[14] Hojsak I, Snovak N, Abdović S, et al. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care centers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clinical Nutrition. 2010 Jun 30;29(3):312-6.

[15] Korpela K, Salonen A, Virta LJ, Kumpu M, Kekkonen RA, de Vos WM. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG Intake Modifies Preschool Children’s Intestinal Microbiota, Alleviates Penicillin-Associated Changes, and Reduces Antibiotic Use. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 25;11(4):e0154012.

[16] Lyra A, Hillilä M, Huttunen T, et al. Irritable bowel syndrome symptom severity improves equally with probiotic and placebo. World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Dec 28;22(48):10631-10642.

 

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