“The first 1000 days of life are instrumental for clinical destiny.”
-Alessio Fasano, MD, and Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Mass General Hospital in Boston
Dr. Fasano, a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist, pioneered the thought process behind leaky gut and resulting health conditions that develop later in life. His remarkable work includes the discovery and diagnosis of “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” and its association with a multitude of chronic health conditions, which can start at a very young age in children.
As functional medicine practitioners, Dr. Fasano’s work encourages us to focus on and ask questions regarding the first 1000 days of life. Starting with PRENATAL exposures that can have a lasting impact on the body’s immune system, we must explore mom’s nutritional status, alcohol intake, tobacco exposure, and environment, to name a few. For instance, babies born by c-section can experience a dramatic impact on their gut health, since they lack the appropriate amount of mom’s healthy bacteria. And when a baby isn’t breast fed, their gut may not develop appropriately since there are specific sugars in breast milk that feed and fuel the microbiota.
Antibiotic use early in life also has profound impacts on your child’s immune system and hence, the gut, since 80% of our immune system is housed in the gut. Some scientific studies show that after ONE round of antibiotics, it will take the gut one to two years to heal. Other studies show that after only one round, our gut microbiome is NEVER the same.
Another important topic worth mentioning is the hygiene hypothesis. Antibacterial products are EVERYWHERE. We know that children who grow up with dogs in the home and spend more time playing in dirt have healthier immune systems, as these activities help with inoculation of healthy bacteria in the gut.
And it’s worth mentioning that the ever-dreaded glyphosate that is sprayed on fields, parks, and fruits and vegetables is intended to kill bugs and viruses and stop weeds from growing. As a result, this herbicide penetrates our food and water supply. EEK! The resulting impact on developing children is devastating since this potent toxin acts as an antibiotic and wipes out beneficial bacteria that are pivotal to a healthy immune system. The other impacts of glyphosate is a topic for another day…
Are you overwhelmed yet? Mom guilt starting to creep in because your child wasn’t breastfed for two years, or born by c-section? Read on….
The MOST influential factor that determines clinical outcomes in the first three years of life is NUTRITION. Children eat at least three times a day and YOU as a parent have a lot of control over the foods they consume. YOU have the power to purchase nutritious foods and educate and encourage your children to eat these foods and form healthy habits early on. Wondering what to buy? Eat the way our ancestors did. Consider an organic, non-GMO, and mostly plant-based diet. When purchasing foods with labels, especially note the gluten, sugar, and soy (the majority of it is GMO) ingredients and amounts. Be careful with dairy since even organic can be inflammatory for some children. Focus on grass-fed organic meats, wild fish, and nuts and seeds for sources of protein. Continue to introduce new foods to your children to ensure they are getting a wide variety of foods to support a healthy microbiome.
In the end, we know that an imbalanced microbiota WILL (not can) eventually trigger immune activation. For those of you who want to dig deeper, check out the following video of Dr. Fasano discussing the science behind the first three years of life, leaky gut, gluten and nutrition.
Amber Warren, PA-C
Functional Medicine of Idaho