To stay healthy, our little ones need the important protection provided by good bacteria. Together, these bacteria create the sensitive and highly effective microbiota, which takes over important functions like protection against pathogenic germs. But our tiny health workers need nutrition in order to carry out their work effectively.
Incredibly, the digestive system of an adult contains around 100 trillion bacteria. Placed in a line, they would encircle the circumference of the world. Most bacteria present in our body are healthy and keep our system running. They are responsible for our metabolism, our digestion and protection from harmful germs.
The right combination of good bacteria is what makes the difference
Among others, the lactobacilli and bifidobacteria that produce lactic acid are important for our gut health. They account for half of the microorganisims that live in the large intestine and ensure an acidic environment. As a waste product of their digestion, gut bacteria excrete fats, gases and lactic acids that are important for our health.
Lactic acid promotes the formation of a natural mucous barrier that is virtually impregnable for most pathogens, including salmonella. And if they do get past this mucous barrier, they are faced with a huge array of benign bacteria that have populated our intestinal wall. The wall is so densely packed, in fact, that the pathogenic invaders have little room to spread.
Our microbiota – a nutritionally sensitive ecosystem
Establishing healthy microbiota is a complex matter. The body and bacteria form a sensitive ecosystem together. Our body provides the space to live and the required nutrition. The lactobacilli and bifidobacteria important for our gut health are exceptionally choosy when it comes to their food. They rely on prebiotics – the scientific name for their food. Prebiotics consist of specific, non-digestible fibre or complex sugars that are found in fibre-rich plant foodstuffs such as vegetables, fruit, cereal products and in breast milk.
The right diet helps babies – and these tiny health workers – to get the best start in life.