A new study has found that the make up of the bacteria in a mother’s gut in pregnancy can affect the health of her unborn child in years to come.
The research is the latest in growing number of studies into how the human microbiome – made up of trillions of bacteria, viruses and other micro organisms that live inside us – influence our health and well being.
Researchers have begun to identify how an in balance of these bacteria and microbes can result in infections, inflammation and contribute to problems with our immune system, digestion and mental health, and obesity and chronic diseases.
“Almost everything in the environment affects the microbiome, and therefore our health. It’s emerged as an enormously important area for health.” According to Professor Len Harrison, head of WEHI’s population health and immunity laboratory
In the latest study at the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, in Melbourne, Australia researchers identified how mice that were deprived of their mother’s microbiome at birth – and effectively born sterile of bacteria in their gut – were found to develop type 1 diabetes.
Why it is so important
At birth – through a normal vaginal delivery and subsequent breast feeding the bacteria from the mothers microbiome is transmitted to the infant—which lays the foundation for their own microbiome – and their future health.
“At birth, we are colonised by bacteria and other microorganisms that potentially give us million of genes. They are making substances essential for our health,” according to Professor Len Harrison
This gut bacteria it is now understood – can determine our future health – as it underpins our immune system, influences our mood – and even determines how fat or thin we are. By establishing a healthy diverse ecosystem of microbes in our bodies from birth we may be able to prevent many chronic diseases.
How to Improve The Make up of our Gut Bacteria
A number of studies at Monash University, Australia have found that – by changing the make up of microbes in the intestines, researchers can protect mice from developing conditions such as asthma, allergies, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes.
Professor Charles Mackay – an immunologist at Monash University said “If you change someone’s microbiome, or that of a mouse, suddenly you can make it fat or thin, or get disease or not. “No one imagined it could be so important and potentially powerful for health.”
Prof Mackay went on to say there were two ways to improve gut health: changing diet through vegetables rich in fiber and resistant starch – both of which feed the important bacteria in our gut, and also by introducing new bacteria and probiotic supplements.
Our diet influences the make up of the bacteria and microbes in our gut. Desirable. Probiotic bacteria feed on the undigested fiber, releasing beneficial chemicals and help regulate the immune system.
“You can change your gut bacteria rapidly, and to a large degree, simply by changing your diet,” he said.