Whenever we learn of exciting new research on the gut microbiota, it reminds us of the work we do every day, and particularly the positive impact that probiotics have both in the animal kingdom, and mankind. Some of the most interesting research involves the communication between the human brain and our gut. These latest findings offer new perspectives on how we may be able to improve our physical and psychological well being through early childhood physical activity.
A recent study on the gut-brain connection, conducted at University of Boulder, is particularly interesting since it demonstrates that exercise, from very early on in life, changes the diversity of gut microbes in such a way that it promotes better brain health and longer lasting health benefits. While previous research has already established that some of the fundamental properties of the gut microbiota in rodents are also common in humans, one particular area of commonality is the “plasticity” of the gut microbes during very early childhood. Simply put, knowing that the gut microbes can be altered during very early development may be the window of opportunity to optimize the chances of better lifelong health.
Before and during birth, an infant’s tiny immature gut is populated with microbes that are vital for immune support and various other neurological functions. The gut microbes are greatly influenced by several factors such as delivery method, diet and exposure to antibiotics. It’s not until the child is between 1 and 3 years of age that more adult-like communities of microbes emerge, adding as many as 5 million more genes to our overall genetic profile. Since there already 100 trillion microorganisms taking up residency, these additional genes greatly influence many aspects of human physiology. And that, says Monika Fleshner, the senior author of the Boulder study, is what makes this research so unique. Throughout adult live, several environmental factors such a diet, medications and sleep, play a role in altering the microbes, but it’s during the very early formative years, that researchers have discovered that they are especially “plastic”.
Observing 3 groups of rats; young rats that voluntarily exercised daily, sedentary rats, and adults rats that exercised, the team found that the young rats that exercised developed a more beneficial microbial structure, and they showed an increase and diversity in gut bacteria compared to two other groups of rats. Interestingly, even when the adult rats exercised, their gut microbes didn’t show the same diversity as those of the juvenile rats who exercised. What the research didn’t find is the exact age range when the community of microbes are likely to change, but from the study, it seems the earlier the better. We think it’s just a matter of time before we know more. If you’re not sure how to exercise with an infant or toddler checkout our Pinterest Board full of ideas for newborns through toddlers here: https://www.pinterest.com/natren0266/exercises-for-infants-toddlers/
Additionally, initiating exercise early in life may result in less mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. We already know from previous studies the role that probiotics have on promoting healthy brain function and on mood disorders. But with these latest findings, engaging your children in physical activity very early in life may be beneficial too. Early exercise may lead to happier children and in turn, to happier adults.
Starting physical activity early on with your children and supplementing your infant’s diet with Natren’s Life Start is providing them with the best foundations to lifelong health. That’s why we recommend Life Start since it contains the unique baby bacteria; B. infantis, the most predominant species found in the guts of healthy breastfed infants.
Research shows that bottle-fed babies do not have the same advantages, and especially those babies born via C-section, so adding Life Start to their diet is fundamental. Typically around the age of 4, the dietary needs of children change, and as we wrote in A Guide to Probiotics for the Entire Family, their bodies require a more complex and enriched diet. That’s when it’s time to introduce our Healthy Start System powders, which can be easily added to cold foods and drinks. At Natren we believe that a good diet, exercise and the proper probiotic supplementation are the key to a life of good health.
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