Your health destiny is not your child’s health destiny

Woman holding a baby

Are you thinking about having kids, but have poor health yourself? Do you want to give your child a better health destiny than your own? There are things you can do to enhance your baby’s microbiota or gut ecosystem, which in turn will improve their immune system, digestion, psychological health, and long-term health outlook including protection from developing an autoimmune disease, heart disease, and cancer (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8).

In the recent past, we were told that our genetics determine our health destiny and that we could practice healthy living, but that our daily choices did not guarantee safety from disease. More evidence, and especially evidence based on studying the human microbiome, is providing insights that our health destiny can be transformed based on the health of our gut (9).

Epigenetics is the study of environmental impacts on gene expression. Environmental impacts comprise all things that our body is exposed to and include diet, toxins, cigarette smoke, pollution, pathogens, exercise, stress, but also our gut microbiota. Microbiota is the colony of bacteria, yeast, fungi, parasites, viruses, and microbes that live in and around various parts of the human body including the gut (9).


Microbiota? Probiotics? What’s the connection?

Microbiota helps to create our environment contributing directly to the way our food is digested and absorbed (1). It enhances our intestinal wall integrity (10, which is important for providing a protective barrier to digestive juices, partially digested foods, bodily toxins, and pathogens that we breathe in or eat (2).

Probiotics consist of beneficial bacteria and/or yeast that under optimal conditions, flourish in the human gastrointestinal tract. Humans have been living with these microbes since our beginning, coexisting, mutually benefiting each other when balanced. Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance of gut microbe populations that disrupt homeostasis within the gastrointestinal tract causing pathogenic microbiota to dominate.

In a healthy gut, there is a balance between beneficial microbiota and pathogenic microbiota where certain conditions assist beneficial microbiota to dominate, contributing to overall health of the host. When microbiota is imbalanced and pathogenic microbes are able to dictate, they cause disruptions to the balance of bacteria in the gut. These gut imbalances contribute to disease. Intestinal dysbiosis has been linked to IBS and IBD (3). It may also play a role in autoimmune diseases like lupus and heart disease (4).

If bringing gut dysbiosis back into balance were as simple as taking a probiotic supplement, everyone would be cured and be able to change their health destiny.
There is data to suggest that each person’s microbiome is unique and relatively stable overtime, so it would seem that changing the microbiome is a difficult task (2).

However, there are large amounts of evidence to suggest that the microbiota can be enhanced in ways that lead to health (11, 12). If both of these statements are true, it would be advantageous to ensure one develops and establishes a healthy gut from birth. How can we ensure a healthy gut develops at birth? How can we support the established microbiota throughout life?


Healthy fruit ad vegetables on blue background


It starts with our food. Probiotics are living microorganisms in our gut and guess what? They need to eat too. What do they like to eat? Vegetables. Vegetables contain carbohydrate fibers that are not digested by humans, but rather pass into the intestines where they feed the microbiota.

Often referred to as prebiotic fiber, microbes turn prebiotics into vitamin K and short chain fatty acids (13, 14). They encourage a robust intestinal lining and support immune system modulation (10). Prebiotics are most abundant in vegetables, but other good sources are legumes, whole grains, and fruit.

Ensuring mom creates a healthy gut ecosystem prior to conception is the first step in helping her infant to establish a healthy gut microbiota with the opportunity for health throughout life. Mom-to-be can begin to enhance her microbiota by incorporating an abundance of vegetables into her diet and establishing healthy eating habits.

Try having a vegetable scramble for breakfast with scallion, roasted red pepper, and spinach tossed into eggs as they cook. For lunch, an arugula salad topped with carrots, chickpeas and raisins is satisfying. A one-pot chicken curry loaded with onion, zucchini, green beans, and bamboo shoots is a great way to end the day on a prebiotic-full health note. For something sweet, check out these gut-friendly muffins.


Additional factors

Other factors that affect our microbiota are whether you were born via vaginal birth or cesarean birth and having been breast-fed or bottle-fed. Also, growing up in a hyper-clean modern environment versus playing in the dirt or living with a pet as a child, all impact the diversity of gut microbiota. You can ensure the above occur for your child, but as an adult, the factors to emphasize for your gut health include eating more farm-to-table meals rather than subsisting on processed foods and limiting antibiotic exposure.

Do you want to dive deeper into the ways you can support your gut health and in turn improve the health destiny of your future child or current family? Please contact me for a private session where we can explore the details on how to improve your health.

(1) Roberfroid M, Gibson GR, Hoyles L, et al. Prebiotic effects: metabolic and health benefits. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010;104(S2):S1-S63. doi:10.1017/S0007114510003363

(2) He Y, Wu C, Li J, et al. Inulin-Type Fructans Modulates Pancreatic–Gut Innate Immune Responses and Gut Barrier Integrity during Experimental Acute Pancreatitis in a Chain Length-Dependent Manner. Frontiers in Immunology. 2017;8:1209. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.01209.

(3) Bien J, Palagani V, Bozko P. The intestinal microbiota dysbiosis and Clostridium difficile infection: is there a relationship with inflammatory bowel disease? Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. 2013;6(1):53-68. doi:10.1177/1756283X12454590.

(4) Hawrelak J., Myers S. (2004) The causes of intestinal dysbiosis: a review. Altern Med Rev 9: 180–197.

(5) He Y, Wu C, Li J, et al. Inulin-Type Fructans Modulates Pancreatic–Gut Innate Immune Responses and Gut Barrier Integrity during Experimental Acute Pancreatitis in a Chain Length-Dependent Manner. Frontiers in Immunology. 2017;8:1209. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.01209.

(6) Lundell AC, Bjornsson V, Ljung A, et al. Infant B cell memory differentiation and early gut bacterial colonization. Journal of Immunology. 2012 May 1;188(9):4315-22. doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1103223. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

(7) Zhang C, Yin A, Li H, et al. Dietary Modulation of Gut Microbiota Contributes to Alleviation of Both Genetic and Simple Obesity in Children. EBioMedicine. 2015;2(8):968-984. doi:10.1016/j.ebiom.2015.07.007.

(8) Groeger D, O’Mahony L, Murphy EF, et al. Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 modulates host inflammatory processes beyond the gut. Gut Microbes. 2013;4(4):325-339. doi:10.4161/gmic.25487.

(9) Human Microbiome Project Consortium. A framework for human microbiome research. Nature. 2012 Jun 13;486(7402):215-21. doi: 10.1038/nature11209.

(10) Karaczewski J, Troost FD, Konings I, Dekker J, Kleerebezem M, Brummer RJ, Wells JM. Regulation of human epithelial tight junction proteins by Lactobacillus plantarum in vivo and protective effects on the epithelial barrier. American Journal of Physiology and Gastrointestinal Liver Physiology. 2010 Jun;298(6):G851-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00327.2009.

(11) Clark R, Bloom B, Spitzer A, Gerstmann D. Reported Medication Use in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Data From a Large National Data Set. Pediatrics Jun 2006, 117 (6) 1979-1987; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2005-1707

(12) Greenwood C, Morrow AL, Lagomarcino AJ, et al. Early empiric antibiotic use in preterm infants is associated with lower bacterial diversity and higher relative abundance of Enterobacter. The Journal of pediatrics. 2014;165(1):23-29. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.01.010.

(13) Markowiak-Kopeć P, Śliżewska K. The Effect of Probiotics on the Production of Short-Chain Fatty Acids by Human Intestinal Microbiome. Nutrients. 2020;12(4):1107. Published 2020 Apr 16. doi:10.3390/nu12041107

(14) LeBlanc JG, Chain F, Martín R, Bermúdez-Humarán LG, Courau S, Langella P. Beneficial effects on host energy metabolism of short-chain fatty acids and vitamins produced by commensal and probiotic bacteria. Microb Cell Fact. 2017;16(1):79. Published 2017 May 8. doi:10.1186/s12934-017-0691-z

Stacey Gross smiling Stacey Gross Master Nutrition Therapist Stacey Gross is a Master Nutrition Therapist and owner of Real Food, Real Health, LLC. As a Master Nutrition Therapist, she counsels individuals on how and why to implement diet changes for improved health and quality of life.