When children are young they tend to get sick more often and are not told of the first week of day care, maternal or primary care. Children under the age of six are colded between 6 and 8 times a year, with possible ear, stomach and throat infections added to this.
According to dr. Mafalda Hurtado, Medical Director at Abbott, while there are many things you can do to prevent germs from reaching your baby’s immune system, one of the best-kept secrets for preventing disease and stimulating the immune system is found in children’s intestine, or more specific, in the gut microbiota.
What is the gut microbiota?
The microbiota is a huge collection of about 100 trillion microbes that live inside and outside our body, and most of them are found in the gastrointestinal tract.
Bacteria are a type of microbe that you can find in your intestines. Some of them can be harmful and cause infections and diseases; while others can be healthy and useful for increasing immunity, improving digestion, among other benefits. When there’s a balance between good and bad bacteria, your baby’s immune system is better prepared to fight what may occur.
Tips: How to strengthen the immune system in children?
One of the best things you can do to help your child’s immune system develop and stay healthy is improve his or her gut health. Dr. Mafalda Hurtado, Medical Director at Abbott, shares six simple tips that can help:
- Being skin-skinned in your first few months of life
Studies show that skin-to-skin contact, or “kangaroo mother method,” especially in the first few days after your baby’s birth, provides a long list of health benefits, one of which has to do with gut health. The skin-to-skin contact of both parents with the baby gives you many of the microbes you need.
- Meet the HMO’s
Breastfeeding is the gold standard in infant nutrition, and is the number one way to support your baby’s immune system. But why is that so true? And what if for some reason you can’t breastfeed your child and a specialist recommends using formula?
One of the reasons breast milk is unique and powerful is because it contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), special prebiotics that feed the good bacteria that are present in your child’s gut – where 70 percent of the immune system lives – and research has shown that they also help your baby’s immune and digestive system.
Specifically, 2′-fucosyl lactose (2′-FL) is by far the highest prevailing HMO in breast milk; In this regard, extensive research suggests that HMO 2′-FL provides positive health benefits for the gut microbiota.
For those parents who do not have the option to carry out breastfeeding, there are infant formulas that have managed to include replicating the benefits of HMO 2′-FL.
- Let him play with the pet without fear
Don’t worry if your child gets too close to your dog, if you let him play with the home pet he will have health benefits of the immune system, as it helps diversify the bacterial species that inhabit your child’s intestine. In fact, studies show that healthy interaction with pets can change the composition and diversity of microbes in the child’s intestine, and could even reduce the risk of asthma and eczema.
- More movement and exercise
According to one study[i], exercise can also diversify the microbes in your child’s intestine. Therefore, make sure that you do some physical activity daily.
From the moment a child reaches the world, the gut microbiota begins to develop. The first few years of life are critical to the development of trillions of bacteria that benefit the health of the immune system.
- Offers a variety of fruits and vegetables
As soon as your baby starts feeding solid foods, offer whole foods and whole-grain purees, including many fruits, vegetables, and grains. In particular, bananas and asparagus that are rich in prebiotics, which help probiotics – which you can find in fermented foods like yogurt – do their job.
- Let your child get dirty
Encourage your child to play outside and explore the garden, as this can help him get a dose of good bacteria. You don’t have to exaggerate cleaning, but you should always be sure that your child washes his or her hands after going to the bathroom, before the meal, or when he or she is sick.
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