health

EXPLAINER: Exactly why your gut likes different bacteria at various stages of your life.

Life-Space
Thanks to our brand partner, Life-Space

If you’ve found yourself Googling “gut health” lately, you’re not alone.

As we become more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies, we’re becoming better at figuring out what makes our guts tick.

Or to be specific, what helps the gut microbiome we all have. Micro-what?

The microbiome is the name for the unique ecosystem of trillions of microbes, including bacteria, that we have in our bodies. It is constantly evolving, and factors such as illness, stress, lifestyle, diet, age and gender can all influence what it looks like.

A healthy microbiome features many different types of bacteria. This bacterial diversity brings many benefits, including supporting a healthy immune system.

Kelli Proudfoot, Head of Knowledge and Learning at probiotics brand Life-Space, explains how this works with our guts.

“The gut contains the most abundant and diverse population of bacteria,” Proudfoot tells Mamamia. “The highest concentration lies within the large intestine. It influences the nutritional breakdown of food, the health of the digestive system and your general health.”

Encouraging bacterial diversity involves managing your diet and environment to give you regular exposure to a range of good bacteria. To achieve this, we should incorporate fresh healthy foods in our daily meals, including prebiotic-rich foods such as leek, onion, garlic, legumes, whole grains and cooked and cooled rice and potatoes, to name a few. Also try avoid over-sanitisation of the environments you’re in (yes, there’s such a thing as too clean).

You can also support bacterial diversity with probiotics. Probiotics are the living micro-organisms that help maintain healthy levels of the “good” bacteria in our guts. They’re found in cultured foods like yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha and sourdough bread, or in probiotic supplements. Life-Space has premium, multi-strain probiotic formulas that help to encourage good bacterial diversity and support immune health at every stage of life.

Here are a few tips for taking care of your microbiome health at whatever stage you might be at, including diet, environment and probiotic suggestions.

What your gut likes during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

For pregnant women, the microbes in your gut and vagina can change as your pregnancy progresses.

A healthy vagina is dominated by various Lactobacillus bacteria. These Lactobacillus species are there to help maintain your vaginal microflora health. That’s why Proudfoot advises that douching “down there” is not the best idea.

“It can disrupt the community of beneficial bacteria that make up a healthy vaginal flora,” Proudfoot says. “Something you can do to support a healthy vaginal microbiome is to ensure you’re supporting your microbiome in general, like eating more probiotic-rich foods, such as yoghurt and sauerkraut, to put some good bacteria back into your system. There are also probiotic strains that may support a healthy vaginal microbiome when taken orally.”

But having a balanced approach to good health is important during the pregnancy planning phase.

“Eat a diet rich in complex carbohydrates like oats, brown rice or legumes, as well as folic acid from leafy green veggies,” Proudfoot says. “Good fats from cold water fish as well as vitamin C from red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are equally important.”

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Life-Space’s Probiotic for Pregnancy & Breastfeeding probiotic can complement your dietary intake of beneficial bacteria to help maintain healthy vaginal flora and helps to support your digestive and immune system health.

Gut health for babies and toddlers.

If you can, offer your newborn a medley of microbes through a vaginal birth, breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact.

A baby’s gut health benefits from a vaginal birth and breastfeeding, because of the presence of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Their microbiome can be further stimulated “by having skin-to-skin contact in the first few minutes after delivery, breastfeeding for as long as possible, [and] delaying their first bath for at least 24 hours”, says Proudfoot.

The microbiome develops rapidly from birth to age three, responding to changes in diet (from milk to solid foods) and to greater environmental exposure.

“The microbiome is considered to be mostly formed by the age of three but is not set in stone – diet, antibiotics and probiotics can continue to modify the microbiome throughout the rest of life,” says Proudfoot.

From 6 months of age, you can also support bacterial diversity for your baby is with Life-Space’s Probiotic Powder for Baby, which helps to support a healthy microbiome, plus digestive and immune system health during these formative years.

From dirt to pets: Building a child’s microbiome.

Kids can assist their microbiome diversity and health with a varied diet, featuring high-fibre foods like wholegrain breads and cereals, vegetables and fruits.

Probiotic foods are those containing friendly bacteria, like kefir, lightly pickled vegetables, or yoghurt containing live and active cultures. In addition to introducing them to a wide variety of nutritious foods, you can also complement their diet with Life-Space’s Probiotic Powder for Children, which contains 15 strains of beneficial bacteria to encourage good bacterial diversity and help support a healthy microbiome and immune system in children aged 3-12.

Your child’s environment also provides opportunities for exposure to healthy bacteria. There are a few things you can do:

  • Encourage your child to mingle with other kids (and their microbes) at playgroups, childcare and school.
  • More bacterial exposure comes from a pet that mixes with the family – an animal that the kids can pet, stroke and share space with, rather than a goldfish in its own isolated bowl.
  • Take the whole family back to nature as often as possible. Send your kids outside to make mud pies or climb trees. Throw a frisbee around the park, go on a bushwalk together. You’ll create some special memories and hopefully make some new bacterial buddies too.
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Your microbiome as an adult.

While the microbiome is established in early childhood, it fluctuates in response to your diet, antibiotic use, activity levels, weight and general health.

A balanced diet, regular exercise, time outside and socialising with people and pets exposes you to beneficial bacteria to help maintain your microbiome’s health. Be hygienic but avoid an antibacterial cleaning crusade!

Try to eat a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, healthy whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and good quality natural yoghurt.

Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, sourdough bread, kefir and pickles, also add beneficial bacteria to your gut.

In addition to consuming a diverse and balanced diet, you can complement your intake of friendly bacteria with Life-Space’s Broad Spectrum Probiotic, which contains 15 strains of beneficial bacteria to support your immune system function, digestive system health and general wellbeing.

Gut health for seniors.

As you age, your microbiome begins to show less bacterial diversity and lower levels of Bifidobacteria, an entirely normal and natural part of the ageing process. Beyond the age of 60, however, it’s even more important to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise routine to help maintain a healthy microbiome.

For those hoping to further increase their intake of beneficial bacteria, Life-Space’s Probiotic for 60+ Years contains 15 strains, including six strains of Bifidobacteria, to help support a healthy microbiome and general wellbeing after age 60.

Whatever stage of life you're at, help encourage your bacterial diversity. Your microbiome will thank you.

Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

This article was edited by Mamamia in collaboration with Life-Space.

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Life-Space

Life-Space is Australia’s number one probiotic brand*. It provides premium, multi-strain probiotics, with products formulated for every stage of life.
Life-Space’s core range of probiotics encourage good bacterial diversity to support a healthy microbiome and general wellbeing. With a product for every life stage, from pregnancy and breastfeeding to 60+ and everything between, Life-Space probiotics support your family’s general health throughout the life stages.
All Life-Space probiotics are guaranteed to contain billions of live, beneficial bacteria. They do not require refrigeration, so can be kept at room temperature. Always read the label. Follow the directions for use.
* IRI MarketEdge. Total Probiotics – MAT (dollars) to 06/01/19”

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