90% of a child’s Brain develops by age 5
At birth, a child has the entire lot of brain cells (neurons) he’ll have for the rest of his life. But what really makes the brain work are the connections between those cells. In the early childhood years, at least one million new neural connections (synapses) form every second, far more than at any other time in life. So, remember formation of brain connections is critical to early development.
So, what’s the Gut got to do with it?
Your little one’s belly/ gut is home to a trillion bacteria (the gut microbiome). These good bacteria are hardworking beyond imagination. How you wonder?
The gut absorbs key nutrients
At one level they help the digestion & absorption of key nutrients for growth and development. This is intuitive for most of us.
The gut stimulates brain connections
What recent research is uncovering is their direct role in stimulating brain connections impacting even the rate at which brain connections form (i.e. formation of synapses).
And one way they do this is via a direct hotline between the gut and brain. This hotline is made up of a vast network of nerves, the most significant being the “vagus nerve”. They also emit ‘neuro-signals’ that further add to the gut-brain communication.
Mind-blowing isn’t it?
That these tiny creatures have such mighty powers!
NOURISH THE GUT-BRAIN HOTLINE:
WHAT YOU CAN DO!
Nourishing & nurturing this gut microbiome with the right nutrients has advantages beyond preventing tummy troubles such as constipation, burping, farting et al. What you feed a tiny gut, feeds the brain, remember!
Key linkages between nutrition and the functioning of gut microbiome:
Absorption and Release of Vital Nutrients
A healthy gut supports optimal digestion and absorption making nutrients available for growth. These include providing DHA for brain and eye development as well as Lutein, which forms an integral part of the eye’s retina as well as Natural Vitamin E, a key antioxidant. Palm oil free milk formulas have been scientifically shown to improve calcium, fat & DHA absorption from the gut.Read more
Role in allergy risk reduction
A healthy gut also supports strong interaction with the immune system cells embedded in it to and help to confine allergens in the gut to later expel them out of the system. This gut-immune cell interaction and helps modify the way our immune cells behave, enabling reduction of allergic reactions.Read more
Release of Powerful Neuro-signals
‘Good’ gut bacteria or probiotics multiply in the gut with the provision of the right nutrition – after all, the more the merrier when it comes to the positive role they play in our gut!
The ‘good’ gut bacteria go further to breakdown the undigestible but beneficial prebiotic fibres – 2’FL; GOS and FOS – releasing ‘special fuels’ which become neuro-messengers. Some of these ‘special fuels’ stimulate the vagus nerve, strengthening nerve connections, carrying messages to the brain, and enhancing cognitive functions such as learning, memory & mood.
Studies also suggest that the gut microbiota impact how we behave and react. Imagine – a well behaved, well trained toddler!!! May seem miraculous? Not so far-fetched though.Read more
SO FEED THE GUT BACTERIA WITH THE RIGHT NUTRIENTS ON TIME
Feeding your little one with the right nutrients, at the right time, supports a happy and healthy gut that positively impacts your his nourishment, growth and development, including that of the brain. No wonder then nutrition for these tiny tots is both, an art and a science. But it’s worth the effort as it brings invaluable moments of well-deserved satisfaction for new Mums and Dads.
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- Togini P (2017). Gut Microbiota: A Potential Regulator of Neurodevelopment. Front. Cell. Neurosci. 11:25.
- Cowan CSM, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Annual Research Review: Critical windows – the microbiota-gut-brain axis in neurocognitive development. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2020 Mar, 61:3 pp 353-371.
- Jena A, et al. (2020) Gut-Brain Axis in the Early Postnatal Years of Life: A Developmental Perspective. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 14:44.
- Vazquez E, et al. (2016) Dietary 2’-Fucosyllactose Enhances Operant Conditioning and Long-Term Potentiation via GutBrain Communication through the Vagus Nerve in Rodents. PLoS ONE 11(11): e0166070.
- Berger PK, et al. (2020) Human milk oligosaccharide 2’-fucosyllactose links feedings at 1 month to cognitive development at 24 months in infants of normal and overweight mothers. PLoS ONE 15(2): e0228323.
- Goldman BD, et al. Infant Gut Microbiome Associated With Cognitive Development. Biol Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 15;83(2):148-159.