More and more research is highlighting the important part our gut bacteria (microbes) and associated immune cells (gut microbiome) play in our health.
Food Allergies Potentially Linked to Formula Feeding, Study Says
In the early years our gut microbiome is highly plastic, which means it can be easily altered.
As children develop, however, their gut microbiome becomes more resistant to change.
Early life events seem to be an important factor in ‘locking-in’ an ideal or a non-ideal gut microbiome. The effects can stretch well into adulthood.
A non-ideal gut microbiome is associated with an increased risk of various diseases, including allergies.
A recent study has provided further evidence of this.
Food Allergies Could Be Linked To Formula Feeding
In this study, researchers analysed the bacteria in 166 paired faecal samples from full term babies at 3 months and 1 year, according to:
- how they were fed (breastfeeding status yes/no)
- how they were born (C-section or vaginally)
- whether they’d been exposed to antibiotics by 3 months (yes/no).
It was found breastfed babies who were born vaginally and not exposed to antibiotics within 3 months after birth displayed a unique trajectory of gut microbial development, which has been associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease.
In this study a baby was defined as being breastfed if the mother answered ‘yes’. This is an important point. It means a baby could be defined as being ‘breastfed’ even if he had been breastfed for only a very short period of time.
Even so, the mode of infant feeding still came out as being significantly related to the development of a unique gut microbial.
If ‘breastfeeding’ had been more specifically defined (e.g. as ‘6 months of exclusive breastfeeding’), it’s possible the results would have been even more significant.
C-section birth, exposure to antibiotics and formula feeding also had an impact on how the gut microbiome developed.
Infants who were formula fed rather than breastfed and, to a lesser extent, those who were born by c-section rather than vaginally, developed gut microbial development features which have been linked with food allergies.
It’s becoming increasingly evident early life events can play a significant role in our long term health, and deviations from normal microbial development can increase the risk of future disease.