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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Man is, by nature, inquisitive.

Yet, until recently, one of the most dynamic and extraordinary ecosystems imaginable has remained unexplored.

A hidden world… and it’s been under our noses all along.

The newborn digestive system.

As an almost sterile environment, it must quickly become home to roughly one hundred trillion bacteria. This essential, and often turbulent invasion, has repercussions for health in later life.

And it starts, quite literally, at the beginning – with birth.

With the first feed, more colonisers flood in.

In addition to its nutritional qualities, breastmilk brings a host of beneficial bacteria, including bifidobacteria and staphylococci.

Their growth and activity is then boosted by the abundance of prebiotic oligosaccharides within the milk.

These tiny bacterial accomplices help us capture nutrients and protect us from infection. They regulate our immunity, our metabolism and even our mood.

Yet, the relevance of this to our long-term health is only just becoming apparent. Asthma, obesity and allergy have all been linked to this microbiota. But further investigations are still needed.

Other features of this ecosystem must also complete their development in the days and months after birth.

A healthy gut needs the right levels of digestive enzymes, a fully-functioning gastrointestinal barrier and a complex communication network with the rest of the body.

Hence, as the months unfold, so does the very nature of this ever-changing landscape.

With such a rapid transformation, it is hardly surprising that half of all infants experience functional gastrointestinal symptoms at some point in their young lives.

The key is to consider solutions that support this dynamic and precarious world.



References:

  1. Bourlioux P et al. The intestine and its microflora are partners for the protection of the host. Am J Clin Nutr 2003; 78: 675-683.
  2. O’Toole PW & Conney JC. Probiotic bacteria influence the composition and function of the intestinal microbiota. Interdiscip Perfect Infect Dis 2008; 1-9.
  3. Iacono G et al. Gastrointestinal symptoms in infancy: a population-based prospective study. Dig Liver Dis 2005; 37(6): 432-438.
  4. Vandenplas Y et al. Prevalence and health outcomes of functional gastrointestinal symptoms in infants from birth to 12 months of age. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2015; 61(5):531-537.
  5. Hyman PE et al. Childhood functional gastrointestinal disorders. Neonate/toddler. Gastroenterol 2006; 130: 1519-1526.
  6. Van Tilburg MA et al. Prevalence of functional gastrointestinal disorders in infants and toddlers. J Pediatr 2015; 166: 684-689.
  7. Vandenplas Y et al. Gut health in early life: implications and management of gastrointestinal disorders. 2015. Essential Knowledge Briefing. Wiley, Chichester (2015).

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