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.
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