The importance of our gut bacteria -- our gut microbiota -- has taken center stage in the national conversations about diet and lifestyle.
How's your gut? Do you take pro-biotics? Are you Paleo? Gluten-free? Dairy-free? Plant-based?
We're ALWAYS talking about it, reading about it, thinking about it.
But forget us adults for a minute. Forget our Crossfit workouts, our chia seeds, and our over-stretched food budgets.
What about our babies?
A new study, Infant Gut Microbiota Development Is Driven by Transition to Family Foods Independent of Maternal Obesity published on mSphere, finds that it's the transition of baby from breast/bottle to solid foods that most impacts the gut microbiota.
"Our results reveal that the transition from early infant feeding to family foods is a major determinant for gut microbiota development," explained senior author Tine Rask Licht, PhD.
It was previously hypothesized that the composition of baby's gut microbiota was highly influenced by maternal obesity. This study pivots away from that idea and places the influence on what the family eats -- what foods are used to complement breast or bottle feeding -- as baby transitions from liquids to solids.
The gut microbiota is a complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Children are essentially born without microbes in their gut, and they are immediately colonized upon birth. The next several years are critical in establishing a person’s endogenous gut microbiota.
Professor Licht summarizes, "When you look at an adult’s gut microbiota, it is more or less like a fingerprint."
Later in life, the gut microbiota can change in response to factors such as diet, but only slightly. Each adult has a very distinct gut microbiota.
As with everything in life, there's much more to learn. But what is it reasonable to infer from this study?
If the foods we feed our children in their earliest years -- and not maternal obesity -- has the most significant influence on the lifelong composition of our gut bacteria, all the more reason to stop the cycle of fat-shaming mothers.
Additionally, we need to be thoughtful about what we feed our babies, and how we insure all families have access to the best, most nutritious food.
I now know there are steps I can take to change how I think, to find the true me again. That is why I am going to take better care of myself this year. In fact, that’s the only resolution I care to make. For both my own health, and as an important example to my kids, this year, I'm resolving to practice a kindness that starts from within.