Our understanding of the intricate relationship between our gut health and overall well-being has grown significantly over the past few years. More evidence now points to the gut microbiome, a complex community of bacteria and other microorganisms residing in our digestive tract, playing a pivotal role in our health. Let’s take a look at how gut health and probiotics influence non-gastrointestinal disorders and their implications for children's health.
The Human Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Health and Disease
The gut microbiome refers to the community of bacteria and other microorganisms living in the human gut. It has been implicated both directly and indirectly (mediating the effects of diet) on human health. The associations between gut microbiome composition and disease status have been widely reported, while recent studies have demonstrated the role of the gut microbiome in influencing remote organs, mucosal, and immune function. An imbalance in the gut microbiota, a condition known as dysbiosis, has been associated with a plethora of chronic diseases ranging from gastrointestinal inflammatory and metabolic conditions to neurological, cardiovascular, and respiratory illnesses.
Gut Health and Non-Gastrointestinal Disorders
Autoimmune Diseases and the Gut Microbiome
The pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases (AIDs) is not only attributed to genetic susceptibilities but also environmental factors, among which, a disturbed gut microbiota has attracted increasing attention. Compositional and functional gut microbiota changes have been reported in various autoimmune diseases, and increasing evidence suggests that disturbed gut microbiota contributes to their immunopathogenesis1.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune inflammatory condition that manifests in joint damage. The composition of the gut microbiota in RA patients free of therapy is significantly altered compared to healthy controls. The most notable changes include decreased gut microbial diversity, which correlates with autoantibody levels and disease duration, and an increased abundance of certain species like Prevotella copri and Collinsella. These species are the dominant gut microbiota in patients with early RA and may be involved in its pathogenesis1.
Recent links have been made between dietary intake of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and autoimmune arthritis in mice, wherein SCFAs play an important role in the suppression of inflammation in RA. Restoration of the intestinal barrier, either by dietary supplementation with the SCFA butyrate or pharmacological agents such as a zonulin antagonist may help delay disease onset and reduce the severity of RA.
Type 1 Diabetes (T1D)
In humans, alterations in the intestinal microbiota, including loss of bacterial diversity, have been observed to precede the onset of metabolic symptoms associated with T1D. This is characterized by increased numbers of Bacteroides species, and deficiency of bacteria that produce SCFAs, specifically, the butyrate producer Faecalibacterium prausnitzii has been found to be decreased in abundance in children with diabetes-related autoantibodies.
Allergies and Asthma
Emerging evidence is suggesting that changes in the gut microbiome in early life can influence immune responses and contribute to the development of allergies and asthma. One observational study involving 411 children found that those with reduced diversity of gut bacteria at one month of age were more likely to develop atopic sensitization, asthma, and allergic rhinitis by the age of seven years.
Childhood obesity is a growing concern worldwide, and recent research suggests a role for the gut microbiome in weight regulation. A study published in 2016 analyzed the gut microbiome of 84 children and adolescents, finding that those who were overweight or obese had different gut microbial compositions compared to their normal-weight peers. Specifically, the overweight and obese subjects had lower levels of beneficial Bacteroides species and higher levels of Firmicutes species, suggesting that the balance of these bacterial groups may impact weight regulation.
Probiotics and Mental Health
The digestive system is involved in regulatory and biochemical signalling to the nervous system via the gut-brain axis. Major brain neurotransmitters within the enteric nervous system, such as acetylcholine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, are triggered by various stimuli within the digestive system, including the microbiota.
Associations between the gut microbiome and activation of neuroreceptors and neurotransmitters relate to factors such as appetite control, mood, and memory. Clinical trials have explored gut microbiome interventions that aim to address a variety of mental health outcomes. The impacts of probiotics on mental health and other clinical outcomes vary by the health of study participants, suggesting that continuing research on the mental health benefits of probiotics in healthy individuals is necessary3.
The Importance of Gut Health for Children
The role of gut health in children is of paramount importance. Early life is a critical period for the establishment of gut microbiota and the development of the immune system. Disruptions in the gut microbiota during this period can have long-lasting implications on their long-term health outcomes.
Establishing a healthy gut microbiome in children is critical for their overall health, including their immune system, metabolism, and even mental health. Here are some practical tips for improving your child's gut health:
Ensure your child's diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These foods provide the necessary nutrients for a healthy gut microbiome. Foods high in fibre, such as whole grains, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables, are particularly beneficial as they promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
Foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods are rich in probiotics, which can help balance the gut microbiome.
Limit Processed Foods
Processed foods often contain additives that can negatively impact the gut microbiome. Limiting the intake of these foods can help maintain a healthy gut.
Water is essential for overall health, including gut health. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Encourage your child to engage in regular physical activity, whether it's playing a sport, biking, or even just going for a walk.
Sleep is essential for overall health, including gut health. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep each night.
If possible, breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first six months of life as it provides beneficial bacteria and nutrients that support the development of a healthy gut microbiome.
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Eka Health's supplements are meticulously designed to foster a healthy gut microbiome in children. They incorporate a variety of ingredients, many of which are natural prebiotics, crucial for maintaining gut health. By making our supplements a part of your child's daily regimen, you're actively contributing to their digestive wellness.
Eka Health is dedicated to maintaining transparency and purity throughout the process from plant growth to product creation. Our gluten-free, plant-based ingredients are procured from a dependable network of cultivators, who align with our devotion to cleanliness and quality. Inspired by the time-honoured teachings of Ayurveda, our supplements draw on this ancient healing tradition that has advocated gut health and holistic wellness for generations. Grounded in rigorous scientific research, we handpick ingredients from certified growers and employ our unique processing methods to derive potent and uncontaminated extracts.
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