Some time ago I read a fascinating study about breastfed baby poop. Yes, I just used “fascinating” and “poop” in the same article. (Tell me you’re a mom without telling me you’re a mom, right?)
Here’s the gist. Scientists conducted a 90-year study of baby poop from 1926 to 2017. And they found that the pH of breastfed infants had increased from 5.0 to 6.5, indicating a disruption in the gut microbiome of these tiny babies.
Specifically, the scientists found that the level of Bifidobacterium, a probiotic critical during infancy, had decreased, altering the fecal pH in the process.
We all need good bacteria
We all know probiotics are good, right? They keep our digestive system healthy and functioning properly and help regulate a whole bunch of other systems in our body.
Some people are now referring to the gut as a “second brain,” and you’ve probably heard talk of the gut-brain connection.
So what happens when our gut bacteria is out of whack?
Well, poor gut health can lead to increased allergies, autoimmune disorders because of the detrimental bacteria that thrives in the healthy bacteria’s place, eczema, colic in infants, and more.
The scientists weren’t 100% sure what led to this change over the last century, but one theory was changes to modern medicine.
Is there anything wrong with modern medicine?
Let me caveat this by saying that I am not anti-modern medicine. Modern medicine has saved the lives of people I love, and it absolutely has it place.
But I also believe certain medical practices can be overused or misused.
For example, one practice that affects gut bacteria is the overuse of antibiotics. Can antibiotics save lives? Yes. Absolutely.
But they also indiscriminately kill both good and bad bacteria at the same time. That’s why you’ll often hear recommendations to take probiotics (or eat something like yogurt) after a round of antibiotics.
Another medical practice that can affect gut bacteria is C-sections. When a baby is born vaginally, it will have its gut colonized with the bacteria in the birth canal. Assuming the mother has good gut flora herself, a vaginal birth can help colonize the baby’s gut.
Again, C-sections can save lives. There is a place for them. But we need to be aware that there are trade-offs, and a mother who has a C-section may need to compensate to build up her baby’s gut bacteria.
Formula feeding can absolutely be necessary, and I’m not here to shame mothers who use formula instead of breastmilk. And since this study involved breastfed babies, breastfeeding is obviously not a silver bullet.
But a mother’s breastmilk contains healthy bacteria that can also help to continue colonizing the baby’s gut, and a baby who eats formula may need probiotic supplementation beyond what a breastfed baby might need to develop a healthy gut.
What to look for in a probiotic
I think one of the best ways to get probiotics in your system is to eat naturally fermented foods. Our ancestors ate these foods much more than we did because they did not have access to the longterm storage methods that we do.
So perishable foods were, by necessity, fermented. Think foods like yogurt, cultured butter, pickles (which were traditionally fermented rather than canned in vinegar), sauerkraut, and others.
This fermentation process introduced probiotics into the food supply, resulting in healthy gut bacteria.
I try to feed my family something fermented daily (water kefir is a favorite) to keep our gut bacteria thriving.
But I also like to supplement with a probiotic.
It’s helpful to choose a probiotic that contains prebiotics–essentially the food that a probiotic needs to thrive. This isn’t strictly necessary, but can be very helpful to keep the good bacteria healthy in your system.
Second, especially for infants, choose a probiotic that is high in the critical Bifidobacterium.
For children, I highly recommend Young Living’s Kidscents MightyPro. It tastes good, my kids love it, and it makes it super easy to get a good dose of healthy bacteria into their systems.
Curious why I choose Young Living? Take a look at why I think they’re the best essential oils company.
Need more healthy living resources? Check out the free Pioneerish Micro Homestead Toolkit.
Do you give your kids a probiotic or take one yourself?
Let me know in the comments!