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baby-closeupThe human body is home to literally trillions of bacteria cells—most of which reside in the gut, where they play a vital role in healthy digestive and immune function. But just where do they come from? We often hear that babies get their first dose of bacteria in the birth canal during delivery, but results of a new study offer a surprising revelation: that a newborn’s first exposure may happen even earlier.

Published last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the study suggests babies come into contact with a “small but diverse amount of bacteria” in the placenta—an organ that begins to develop shortly after fertilization and nourishes the developing fetus throughout pregnancy. This is interesting mainly because the mother’s womb was typically believed to be a sterile environment, but now there is evidence of a pre-existing bacterial community within the placenta—and that’s not all.

In looking at more than 300 samples from a combination of vaginal, cesarean, full-term and pre-term births, scientists noticed that the bacteria found in the placentas—roughly a few hundred different types—didn’t look like the bacteria found in the stomachs of the newborn babies. Rather, they resembled the bacterial community in the mouth of the mother. This led scientists to conclude that the mother’s oral bacteria could reach the developing baby via the bloodstream, and to stress the importance of oral health during pregnancy and even before.

So how does this study change things? Essentially, instead of acquiring their first dose of healthy microbes during the birthing process, which was widely thought to be the case, this new information suggests babies may come into contact with those microbes much earlier (i.e. in the placenta)—and that those bacteria may actually play a role in healthy fetal development.

Regardless of when newborns receive their first microbes, supplying additional beneficial bacteria throughout the early years may help promote digestive and immune health—since up to 80 percent of the immune system can be found in the gut. Keep in mind that children encounter constant challenges to their immune and digestive systems while at school and play, and good bacteria can also be depleted by an unhealthy diet and certain medications.‡ A daily probiotic supplement may help promote a healthy balance of intestinal flora to support digestion, and they are considered a safe and gentle way to help support the immune system.‡

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kids-playingToo much time spent watching TV and playing on their tablets instead of exercising may be damaging to our children’s health, according to new information from researchers at the University of Finland’s Institute of Biomedicine.

Using data from the ongoing physical activity and nutrition in children (PANIC) study initiated in 2007, scientists found that low levels of physical activity combined with heavy electronic media use translates to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and certain vascular diseases in young children. Not only that, but even in kids who were more physically active, more time spent engrossed in electronics was found to have adverse health effects. Poor eating habits were also linked to increased diabetes risk.

In type 2 diabetes the body fails to use insulin properly, resulting in high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Because new research shows children as young as four years old have been found to have blood sugar problems (a precursor to type 2 diabetes), parents are encourage to teach kids about nutrition, healthy eating habits, and the importance of physical activity and a healthy body weight. Here are four simple things you can do every day:

  1. Set the example. When your kids see you making healthier choices, they will want to do the same. Keep junk food out of the house, and encourage healthy snacking on low-sugar fruits, non-starchy veggies, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats and lean protein. Most importantly, get rid of sugar! Your kids don’t need it, and neither do you.
  2. Make exercise a priority. Research shows regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.i CDC guidelines call for 60 minutes or more of physical exercise daily for children and adolescents, so let’s get active!
  3. Set limits on TV & electronic media time. A recent Kaiser Foundation study found that kids and teens between the ages of 8 and 18 spend more than seven hours a day using electronic media.ii Instead of giving kids free reign over how much time they spend in front of the tube, surfing the web, or tapping away on their tablets or cell phones, establish some solid ground rules and stick to them.

Make healthy snacking simple. At the beginning of each week, cut up plenty of fruits and veggies and keep kid-size portions in the fridge for easy snacking. The same goes for good protein sources such as turkey slices, nuts and nut butters, and low-fat plain Greek yogurt, since protein is important for growing bodies and will help keep your child’s appetite satisfied throughout the day.

i http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/physicalactivity/facts.htm

ii http://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/8010.pdf

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‡These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The material on this page is for consumer informational and educational purposes only, under section 5 of DSHEA.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this website is intended as, or should be construed as, medical advice. Consumers should consult with their own health care practitioners for individual, medical recommendations. The information in this website concerns dietary supplements, over-the-counter products that are not drugs. Our dietary supplement products are not intended for use as a means to cure, treat, prevent, diagnose, or mitigate any disease or other medical or abnormal condition.

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