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The Gut Facts About Childhood Obesity

A Harvard study came to the sobering conclusion nearly two years ago that a majority of today’s children (57 percent) are projected to become obese by the time they reach age 35. Would you feel a little better about your child’s future knowing you could take steps to protect her/him from becoming an obesity statistic? Medical science may be able to predict if a child is at risk for becoming overweight or obese by checking his/her microbiome at age 2.

Body mass index (BMI) was the key takeaway from an analysis of gut health data collected from the Norwegian Microbiota (NoMIC) study of children born between 2002-08 in a southern Norway hospital who are close to or already in their teen years (the findings were published in the journal, mBio). Researchers from Norway and the U.S. examined gut health information collected on 165 children six times during their first two years of life — day 4, day 10, 1 month, 4 months, 1 year and 2 years — then compared it to their body mass index (BMI) at age 12. Based on gene sequencing, scientists found noticeable differences in a child’s gut bacteria at two distinct times — day 10 and age 2 — that were associated with an accurate BMI prediction at age 12.

“At the early time points, there was somewhat of a relationship between the gut microbiota taxa and later BMI, but the relationship was much stronger as the kids got older,” says Dr. Maggie Stanislawski, the first author for the study who works at the LEAD Center, affiliated with the Colorado School of Public Health. “At 2 years, it was the strongest.” Moreover, this gut health profile existed before any outward signs of extra weight or obesity, leading scientists to speculate poor dietary choices could be the culprit.

These findings also mirror ones from a recent report about the overuse of antibacterial cleaners depleting a baby’s gut of just enough health-promoting bacteria that it elevated her/his obesity risks by age 3.

What you can do about it

Giving your child a gut-healthy start is critical to their health, even into their active teen years. Breastfeeding coupled with natural childbirth can make a HUGE difference in your baby’s gut health, along with feeding them good foods rich in dietary fiber.

Also, you want to be aware limit your child’s exposure to antibiotics as much as you safely can. The more you expose your young child to antibiotics, the greater his/her risk of obesity. One more safe and healthy way to boost the gut health of your son or daughter and protect him/her from the many health risks associated with childhood obesity is also an easy one.

If you’ve been looking for probiotics for children, EndoMune Junior Advanced Probiotic contains four key building blocks of beneficial bacteria plus a prebiotic that feeds the good bugs in your child’s gut. Moreover, EndoMune Junior Advanced Probiotic comes in a powder you can sprinkle on soft foods (for children up to age 3) and a chewable berry-flavored tablet (for children ages 3-8).

baby on back laying on white sheet

Protect Your C-Section Baby’s Gut

For the longest time, new Moms delivering their babies via C-section was an atypical thing. It was mostly warranted in cases when the health of an infant, parent or both was at risk.

Over the past 20 years, however, C-section delivery rates have soared, nearly doubling to almost 30 million annually, amounting to 21 percent of all births worldwide.

After peaking a decade ago, C-section births in America are on the rise again at 32 percent. This procedure remains very high among older women (age 40 and over), according to the CDC.

Nevertheless, the decision to deliver your baby via C-section — even as common as they are — comes with risks as we’ve seen time and again, especially if obesity plays a factor.

C-section babies may also have altered gut microbiomes that could leave them more vulnerable to respiratory infections in their first year, according to the results of research presented at the recent European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

No antibiotics!

Scientists monitored the health of 46 babies delivered via C-Section and 74 babies delivered vaginally over their first year of life by collecting and analyzing fecal samples.

Interestingly, antibiotics weren’t given to new Moms after their deliveries until the umbilical cords were clamped, meaning these gut-altering drugs weren’t a factor in the health of their babies. (Researchers also collected and tested fecal samples from these new Moms two weeks after their deliveries too.)

No surprise, the differences in the composition of gut bacteria between babies delivered naturally versus C-section were very obvious, particularly shortly after birth.

  • The gut microbiota of C-section babies was less stable during their first year.
  • The development of the health-promoting Bifidobacterium species among C-section babies was delayed.
  • C-section babies had higher levels of potentially bad gut bacteria and more problems with respiratory infections.
  • Babies delivered vaginally had the extra advantage of measurable seeding from their Moms.

What to do if…

If you’re a soon-to-be Mom and a C-section is definitely in your future, what you can do to give your baby a gut-friendly start in his/her life?

For starters, you can do the right thing by breastfeeding your baby which gives your baby a good mix of natural proteins, vitamins and fats, plus antibodies that help their developing immune systems.

(Helping your baby’s gut develop naturally is one of the 18 benefits of breastfeeding!)

Unfortunately, what happens if you’re unable to breastfeed for as long as you wanted or health problems make it impossible?

New Moms may want to take the healthy step — with expert guidance from their doctor or pediatrician — to give their babies an infant probiotic.

EndoMune Jr. Advanced Probiotic Powder contains 10 billion CFUs and four key strains of beneficial bacteria plus FOS (a prebiotic that feeds the bugs in a baby’s developing gut) that be sprinkled on foods or added to their formulas.

As you travel on this new adventure to become a Mom — for the first time or the next time — being equipped with all of the information you need to make this excursion a safe and healthy one for you and your baby is critical.

Protecting your baby’s gut health is an important part of getting there.

baby looking up at a baloon

Give Your Baby a Gut-Healthy Start

As you know, infants receive many health benefits when their Moms are able to make some simple gut-smart health choices via breastfeeding and vaginal delivery.

But how does natural childbirth and breastfeeding really benefit an infant and why?

It’s very possible those beneficial bacteria introduced first into the gut have a head start and make a lasting and healthy impression, according to new research from a group of American and Canadian scientists featured in the journal eLife.

Scientists came to this conclusion by transplanting four different species of gut bacteria from older mice into the gastrointestinal tracts of young, genetically identical mice raised in a germ-free environment.

The primary takeaway: The gut bacterial diversity of younger mice over several months eventually resembled or was often dominated by the species that was transplanted in them first in repeated experiments.

That’s an intriguing outcome, considering genetics, environment, diet, physiology and lifestyle — all important factors to human health on their own — only account for less than 30 percent of any variations of the gut microbiome, says Dr. Jens Walter of the University of Alberta.

“Each of us harbors a microbiome that is vastly distinct, even for identical twins. Microbiomes are important for our health, but they appear to be shaped by many unknown factors, so it’s hugely important to understand why we are all different.”

Not only does this research show how the introduction and timing of bacteria in newborns could grow and dominate, it may also provide a bridge to better understand how the microbiome may be disrupted and harmed due to the use of antibiotics or C-section deliveries.

Dr. Walter believes science will figure out ways that infants can be colonized with specific bacteria that will steer their health in beneficial ways, but even he speculates that’s a 30-40-year journey.

Until that time comes (if ever), there are steps new Moms can take to protect the gut health of their babies right now, even if natural childbirth isn’t possible.

Breastfeeding is a great first step, as it provides the right mix of fats, protein and vitamins for newborns along with antibodies that boost their growing immune systems.

Unfortunately, some new Moms may not be able to breastfeed for as long as they planned or can’t due to health problems. Plus, their babies may be missing out human milk oligosaccharides (HMO), the largest solid component of breast milk apart from fat and carbohydrates and a natural prebiotic component of breast milk.

In these cases, new Moms may want to consider giving their babies a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Jr. Powder (recommended for young children up to age 3) that contains four strains of beneficial bacteria along with a natural prebiotic (FOS) that feeds their growing gut microbiomes.

Before you consider giving your newborn a probiotic, always talk to your pediatrician or doctor first.

A gut health boost is just one benefit among 18 that breastfeeding provides for you and your baby as you’ll learn in this extensive article.

a mother holding her bareskin baby

Protect Your Baby’s Health From Allergies Early

One of the best things an expecting mom can do to protect the health of her baby from all kinds of health problems, even before he or she is born, is to take a probiotic.

An extensive meta-analysis of studies by researchers at Imperial College London published recently in PLOS Medicine supports those benefits, showing how probiotics and fish oil may reduce problems in a baby’s early days with eczema and allergies.

Out of more than 400 studies that were examined, 28 trials determined moms who took a probiotic from the 36th week of their pregnancies, then for up to six months while breastfeeding, lowered by 22 percent their baby’s risks of eczema, a skin condition that causes the skin to be irritated or inflamed.

Overall, up to 20 percent of infants are affected eczema, which shows up as patches of red, dry or itchy skin.

Many of the probiotics identified by researchers in their meta-analysis contained Lactobacillus rhamnosus, one of 10 strains of beneficial bacteria found in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

A similar pre-birth benefit was discovered by moms who took fish oil daily. Starting from the 20th week of their pregnancies up to four months of breastfeeding, babies avoided common allergies to eggs by a nifty 30 percent.

Interestingly, a mom’s avoidance of foods like nuts, dairy and eggs during her pregnancy made no difference in her baby’s risks of experiencing allergies or eczema.

Your breastfeeding wakeup call

At this juncture, It’s good to remind moms that breastfeeding (along with natural delivery) does a great deal of good for the health of their newborns, as it gives them an extra gut health boost that helps their tiny bodies fight off diseases naturally.

While most experts recommend that moms breastfeed their newborns for as long as they’re able — the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 12 months — even the best choices can fall by the wayside due to unexpected health concerns, like a caesarean (C-section) delivery.

However, moms who can’t breastfeed as long as they planned or at all can do a lot to protect the health of their babies, just by giving them a probiotic made just for them, like EndoMune Jr. Powder recommended for children up to age 3.

Like its “big brother,” EndoMune Jr. Chewable, EndoMune Jr. Powder contains four strains of beneficial bacteria from the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus families along with a prebiotic (FOS) that feeds the growing and diverse group of critters in your baby’s gut.

a woman holding a baby

Help Protect Your C-section Baby

Nearly a third of all babies born in America are delivered via C-section (Cesarean), surgery that brings an infant into the world through incisions in a woman’s uterus and abdomen.

There are many reasons why your obstetrician may recommend a C-section, especially if your baby isn’t getting enough oxygen or your baby isn’t positioned head first in the birth canal (breech or transverse).

Yet, a fair number of women request C-sections merely for the sake of avoiding labor or convenience, and even some hospitals tend to encourage them.

As common as C-sections are, they do come with long-term health risks for your baby via problems with their tiny gut microbiome, according to a recent Canadian study appearing in JAMA Pediatrics.

Gut health a factor

This study from the University of Alberta (Canada) tracked the health of 935 pairs of Moms and their babies to determine if C-section deliveries made babies more prone to obesity, paying close attention to babies born to overweight Moms.

Compared to being born naturally by a Mom of a healthy weight, babies born to overweight women were three times more likely to be overweight at ages 1 and 3.

Those risks of early weight problems for babies exploded to a factor of five among overweight women delivering their babies via C-section.

While examining infant gut microbiomes, scientists found a major gut health disparity – larger amounts of Lachnospiraceae — in babies born by overweight women and those delivered via C-section.

“Given that infant overweight and obesity are a major public health problem, our results reinforce increasing concerns over rising Cesarean deliveries and affirm the role of the gut microbiota as a ‘super organ’ with diverse roles in health and disease,” says lead study author Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj, according to a press release.

Probiotics and breast milk

If a Cesarean may be the best health choice for a new Mom, what can she do to protect her newborn from obesity? In a recent interview with the New York Times, Dr. Kozyrskyj mentions breastfeeding as an effective tool.

In fact, breastfeeding in tandem with a beneficial probiotic may do just the trick, according to research appearing in mSphere from the University of California, Davis.

Scientists tracked the health of 66 breastfed babies over several months. A little more than half of the infants were treated with a subspecies of Bifidobacterium longum (one of four strains of beneficial bacteria found in EndoMune Jr. Powder and EndoMune Jr. Chewable) for three weeks, while the remainder received no extra probiotic help.

Compared to the smaller group, larger amounts of the Bifidobacterium longum subspecies were found in fecal samples taken from babies treated with the probiotic. Plus, those beneficial concentrations remained intact for at least 30 days after the probiotic period ended (and were still thriving up to six months later).

The probiotic babies had lower amounts of potentially harmful pathogens and high levels of acetate and lactate, important, beneficial products produced by the fermentation of human breast milk sugars by the Bifidobacterium subspecies.

Even more revealing were the changes in the gut health of babies born via C-section versus vaginally. In the beginning, both groups of infants were colonized by different gut bacteria.

After both groups were given the same Bifidobacterium longum subspecies, the microbiomes of the C-section group began to resemble that of the naturally born infant group.

“The probiotic was able to eliminate the differences inherent to C-section delivery,” lead study author Dr. Mark Underwood told Popular Science.

So, what if Mom can’t breastfeed? Dr. Underwood suggests giving your baby a three-week course of this probiotic and a formula with added human milk oligosaccharides could help with colonization and may continue as long as he/she is on that formula.

Before you consider giving your newborn a probiotic, always consult with your pediatrician or doctor first just to be on the safe side.

Breastfed Babies With Colic Need Probiotics Too

There’s little doubt, colic is one of the most frustrating and upsetting problems Moms face with their newborns.

Although colic is a short-term problem that typically goes away by month 4 of an infant’s life, this knowledge provides little comfort to new Moms trying and failing to calm down their tearful babies after hours of non-stop crying.

Several health factors – food allergies, acid reflux, milk intolerance and gas – may contribute to colic, but no one really knows what triggers this alarming condition.

Over the years, probiotics have slowly emerged as a safe, cost-effective way to treat colic in previous reports we’ve cited here.

There’s even more evidence of such benefits for breastfed babies in a recent international study featured in Pediatrics that has attracted lots of attention.

A study of data collected from four double-blind trials conducted on three continents and 345 babies concluded that a proprietary strain of Lactobacillus reuteri reduced colic-induced crying after three weeks for children who are exclusively breastfed.

Breastfed babies treated with a probiotic were twice as likely to experience a 50 percent reduction in colic symptoms by day 21, says Dr. Valerie Sung, lead author of the study and Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

That’s a great step toward treating colic, but only for breastfed babies. Unfortunately, formula-fed infants weren’t included in this study, and there’s plenty of health-related reasons why some new Moms should breastfeed their babies.

Medical resources like the Cleveland Clinic and WebMD offer a variety of methods for treating colic ranging from the sensible (calming your baby) to the unproven and possibly unsafe (using herbal remedies).

Here are some safe, simple steps you can take to relieve your baby’s colic:

  • Cutting back on certain foods if you’re breastfeeding.
  • Introducing a pacifier.
  • Diverting your baby’s attention by playing soft music or rocking him/her.
  • Decreasing your baby’s exposure to outside stimulation.

Giving your baby a probiotic with four strains of beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic that feeds the good guys in his/her gut like EndoMune Junior could make a difference in your infant’s colicky symptoms and help you get a good night’s sleep too.

If you’re a new Mom and your baby’s colicky crying persists even after these simple and safe treatments, we urge you to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician for guidance.

Breastfeeding feeds your baby’s gut

One of the most important things Moms can do for the health of their newborn babies is to breastfeed them for as long as possible. Breast milk provides an ideal mix of fats, protein and vitamins, nearly all the nutrition your newborn baby needs from the get-go (with the possible exception of vitamin D).

New Moms should breastfeed their babies exclusively for at least six months, and in combination with solid food until age 1 at minimum, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Not only does breastfeeding provides babies the basic nutrition they need, it works to “seed” their developing gut microbiomes with the bacteria, giving them a natural boost to their immune systems that can protect them from disease.

A gut health boost

How much does breastfeeding really help your baby’s gut health? A recent JAMA Pediatrics study led by UCLA researchers tracked the health of 107 Moms and their babies, collecting samples of breast milk, stool samples from infants and skin swabs around the nipple for an entire year to find out.

Scientists learned that breast milk accounts for nearly 30 percent of the beneficial bacteria in a baby’s gut and an extra 10 percent from skin contact with a Mom’s breast.

Plus, the gut microbiomes of babies who were mostly breastfed were a little more diverse compared to infants who were breastfed less.

“We’re appreciating more and more how these bacterial communities, particularly in the intestine, help guard against the bad guys,” says Dr. Grace Aldrovandi, a professor of pediatrics and chief of infectious diseases at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital, according to a press release.

“We know from animal model systems that if you get good bacteria in your gut early in life, you’re more likely to be healthy.”

What if you can’t breastfeed?

Despite the many benefits breastfeeding provides Moms and their babies, some health conditions require specific prescription drugs — not to forget chemotherapy for cancer treatments — that prevent women from doing it.

Plus, your baby may need an antibiotic to fight common infections, although you’ll want to guard against exposing their growing bodies too often to them.

Moms can still give their babies a gut healthy boost whether they can breastfeed or not with the help of multi-strain probiotics made just for them like EndoMune Junior.

Each dose of EndoMune Junior contains four strains of beneficial bacteria plus a prebiotic that can be easily sprinkled onto foods or added to liquids to protect and enhance their developing gut health.

The importance of breastfeeding your baby

There’s no denying newborn babies get a very healthy start in lives when their Moms delivered them naturally and breastfed them for as long as possible. This one-two punch inoculates their tiny gut microbiomes with the bacteria that helps their bodies thrive and fight off diseases naturally.

As we’ve discussed previously, even the best laid plans of parents and their pediatricians change, making a caesarean (C-section) delivery a tough choice but a necessity for some, nonetheless.

Still, Moms have an important say in their young baby’s gut health by choosing to breastfeed, as shown by a pair of recent studies.

C-sections vs. breastfeeding

A Swedish study tracking the development of the infant microbiome by comparing fecal samples from 98 infants reached some of the same problematic conclusions about C-section births as have previous researchers.

For the record, the microbiomes of young babies born vaginally more closely resembled their Moms than those delivered via C-section, according to the study appearing in Cell Host & Microbe.

Although C-section babies receive less microbial help due to their delivery, they still receive some of Mom’s bacteria through direct contact with their skin and mouth.

However, Swedish researchers also found that infant nutrition — making a decision to breastfeed — also drives the development of young microbiomes as they shift to adapt to their new environments.

The big surprise to researchers: How the end of breastfeeding was the key factor in a baby’s shift to an adult-like microbiome, rather than the introduction of solid foods, says lead study author Fredrik Bäckhed of The University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, important bacteria young growing babies need, dominated the gut composition of babies who were breastfed at 12 months.

Conversely, the gut microbiomes of babies who were no longer being breastfed were dominated by the Clostridia species prevalent in adults.

How many species of bacteria are found in breast milk?

If Moms needed any more reasons to breastfeed their young babies, Spanish researchers gave them an important one in a 2012 study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

DNA sequencing of colostrum (the first liquid secreted by the mammary glands after a woman gives birth) identified more than 700 species of bacteria, far more than expected.

But there are some interesting caveats that may affect the diversity of bacteria a new Mom produces. For one, overweight Moms or women who gained more weight than expected during their pregnancies produced less diverse breast milk.

The kind of delivery also affects the microbial diversity, but not how you might assume, according to the study. As expected, women who delivered their babies naturally had richer breast milk compared to new Moms who had planned a C-section.

However, women who experienced an unplanned C-section delivered breast milk whose composition was bacterially very similar to mothers who gave birth vaginally.

Differences in diversity could be explained by the state of a new Mom’s hormones and physical stress at the time of birth. “The lack of signals of physiological stress, as well as hormonal signals specific to labor, could influence the microbial composition and diversity of breast milk,” according to researchers in a press release.

These results seem to mirror findings in a more recent report about a Mom’s stress levels triggering changes in the ways her baby’s gut health and brain develops.

The good news: Moms can provide their babies a gut healthy boost by giving them a multi-strain probiotic like EndoMune Junior, which contains beneficial strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, plus a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in their guts.

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