Healthy Gut Microbiota in Baby & Children

May 04, 2021

Infants and toddlers
Microbial communities in human gut may be first established in utero with minimal bacterial colonization. Gut microbiota establishment process may vary from one infant/toddler to another as it can be affected by delivery mode, methods of milk feeding (breast/formula), introduction of solid foods, geographical location, family environment and/or the use of antibiotics1. Diversity of the gut microbiota increases with age until it develops into an adult-like state around 3 years of age2. Therefore, parents can take this unique window of opportunity to shape infants or toddlers’ gut microbiota as much as possible in the first three years. This is because 80% of human’s immune systems are housed in the gut and thus a healthy gut can contribute to a strong immune system. Furthermore, several diseases are possibly related to imbalances of gut microbiota in early life, such as childhood obesity and allergic diseases (eczema and asthma)3-5. As such, the gut microbiota status for infants and toddlers are critical for their gut health and immunity and can probably have a life-long effects.


After children acquire a stable and mature gut microbiota that resemble those of adults (around 3 years old), the microbiome composition is likely to change according to diet, environmental factors, lifestyle, stress, antibiotics exposure and other factors. Therefore, taking care of our gut health is a long term journey.

How to shape and maintain balanced gut microbiota for your baby or children?

  • Plan for a natural birth if possible. Natural birth reduces the risks of developing allergic diseases.
  • Breast feed infants if possible. Breast milk can modulate and promote the development of the immune system in infancy.
  • Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary as antibiotics can disrupt gut microbiota richness and diversity.
  • Introduction of solid foods, including indigestible carbohydrates into an infant's diet around 6 months of age. This can help to increase gut microbiome diversity.
  • Add dietary fiber into diets for toddles and children. Dietary fiber serves as an energy source for gut microbiota, influencing the richness of bacteria in the gut.
  • Avoid high sugar diet as it can throw off balance of gut bacteria and lead to sugar cravings that further damage the gut.
  • Nature and pet exposure can alter the gut microbial composition of infants, and reduce the risk of childhood allergies6.
  • Get enough sleep as sleep deprivation can have negative impacts on gut microbiome.
  • Encourage children to have regular exercise as it is known to maintain a healthy weight and shape healthy gut microbiome. This is because body mass index (BMI) have been shown to affect the gut microbiota of children7.
  • Take probiotics supplement so that your kids can have a balanced digestive system and good immunity

Healthy gut, healthy next generation
When gut microbiome for babies and children are balanced, they can have better nutrient absorption which is crucial for their growth and development. Besides, a healthy gut is essential to keep their bowel movements regular, which is important in waste elimination. A healthy microbiome can also strengthen their immune system and help them to fight off diseases. Disruption of gut microbiota composition in early life is also associated with future health consequences, such as childhood obesity which is strongly associated with development of adult obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs)8. Therefore, modulating gut microbiota in early life of your children can help them to promote long-term health.

[1] Laursen, M. F., Bahl, M. I., Michaelsen, K. F., & Licht, T. R. (2017). First foods and gut microbes. Frontiers in Microbiology, 8, 356.
[2] Tanaka, M., & Nakayama, J. (2017). Development of the gut microbiota in infancy and its impact on health in later life. Allergology International, 66(4), 515-522.
[3] Mesquita, D. N., Barbieri, M. A., Goldani, H. A., Cardoso, V. C., Goldani, M. Z., Kac, G., ... & Bettiol, H. (2013). Cesarean section is associated with increased peripheral and central adiposity in young adulthood: cohort study. PloS One, 8(6), e66827.
[4] Muc, M., Padez, C., & Pinto, A. M. (2013). Exposure to paracetamol and antibiotics in early life and elevated risk of asthma in childhood. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 788, 393–400.
[5] Zheng, H., Liang, H., Wang, Y., Miao, M., Shi, T., Yang, F., ... & Li, D. K. (2016). Altered gut microbiota composition associated with eczema in infants. PloS One, 11(11), e0166026.
[6] Hesselmar, B., Hicke-Roberts, A., Lundell, A. C., Adlerberth, I., Rudin, A., Saalman, R., ... & Wold, A. E. (2018). Pet-keeping in early life reduces the risk of allergy in a dose-dependent fashion. PloS One, 13(12), e0208472.
[7]Golloso-Gubat, M. J., Ducarmon, Q. R., Tan, R. C. A., Zwittink, R. D., Kuijper, E. J., Nacis, J. S., & Santos, N. L. C. (2020). Gut Microbiota and Dietary Intake of Normal-Weight and Overweight Filipino Children. Microorganisms, 8(7), 1015.
[8] Llewellyn, A., Simmonds, M., Owen, C. G., & Woolacott, N. (2016). Childhood obesity as a predictor of morbidity in adulthood: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, 17, 56-67.


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