The above headline came from a Science Daily article published on September 18, 2019. The article is based on a study published on the same day in Nature International Journal of Science. The article begins by noting, “Babies born vaginally have different gut bacteria — their microbiome — than those delivered by Caesarean, research has shown.”
The term “microbiome” is described by the The Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health, University of Washington, “The microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses – that live on and inside the human body.” They also report that there are over 100 trillion microbes in our body’s which is ten times more that our human cells.
These microbiomes, which were not generally recognized to exist until the late 1990s, have many important functions in our body. The Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health describes some of these by stating, “The bacteria in the microbiome help digest our food, regulate our immune system, protect against other bacteria that cause disease, and produce vitamins including the B vitamins B12, thiamine and riboflavin, and Vitamin K, which is needed for blood coagulation.”
Scientists from the Nature International Journal of Science study discovered that vaginally born babies got most of their gut bacteria from their mother. In contrast, those babies born via caesarean had more bacteria that came from hospital environments in their guts. It is obvious that the normal microbiomes associated with a normal vaginal birth offer better immune protection as well as facilitate the normal functions that are essential from these gut bacteria.
The researchers reported that by a cesarean baby’s first birthday, the gut bacteria was finally similar to the baby born via vaginal birth. The study scientists, who were from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, UCL, the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, noted that the importance of the gut bacteria in infants is not fully understood. They did, however, note the important role they know it plays. “The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of millions of microbes, and is thought to be important for the development of the immune system. Lack of exposure to the right microbes in early childhood has been implicated in autoimmune diseases such as asthma, allergies and diabetes.”
Professor Peter Brocklehurst, University of Birmingham and Principal Investigator summed up the importance of continuing research in this area by saying, “The first weeks of life are a critical window of development of the baby’s immune system, but we know very little about it. We urgently need to follow up this study, looking at these babies as they grow to see if early differences in the microbiome lead to any health issues.”