In Western society, the fear of germs and bacteria has led to heavy reliance on antibacterial products, antibiotics, and pasteurization. While these measures aim to eliminate harmful bacteria, they often harm the beneficial ones. However, you can boost your baby's immunity through nutrition and the consumption of probiotic-rich, fermented foods.
Beneficial bacteria and probiotics play a crucial role in building your baby's initial immunity. During childbirth and breastfeeding, babies are exposed to these powerful sources, aiding in disease and infection resistance. If a baby is born via Caesarean section or not breastfed, fermented foods and probiotics can compensate for this lack and provide protection against infections, aid in healing, promote digestion, and remove toxins.
Fermented foods contain live cultures that enhance disease-fighting antibodies in your baby's immune system. They line the small intestine, creating a barrier against harmful pathogens. Some fermented foods produce antioxidants that combat free radicals and facilitate the absorption of essential nutrients. In The Art of Fermentation, author Sandor Katz says that probiotics have been linked to treating and preventing diseases of the digestive tract and reducing the incidence and duration of upper respiratory symptoms. Probiotics have also shown promise in treating and preventing digestive tract diseases and reducing respiratory symptoms in children.
Beneficial bacteria support the body's natural healing processes and regulate its functions. By replenishing the gut's healthy microflora, probiotics create an environment that resists invasive pathogens like parasites and diarrhea-causing bacteria. They can strengthen a weakened system, especially one affected by antibiotics, stress, processed foods, or refined sugars. Probiotics help prevent or alleviate antibiotic-induced diarrhea by restoring the balance of gut flora.
Probiotics can also aid in treating symptoms of gluten intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, and antibiotic-associated diarrhea, yeast infections, and asthma. Fermented foods reduce cravings for sweets by utilizing prebiotics, which feed on sugars and mitigate their negative effects.
Fermentation is an active process that breaks down organic compounds using enzymes like yeast or bacteria. Friendly bacteria assist in predigestion, making certain compounds easier to digest. This is why lactose-intolerant individuals can consume fermented dairy products, as lactose is transformed into a more digestible form. Fermentation also breaks down phytic acid, enhancing the absorption of minerals in grains.
Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, can improve the bioavailability of calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Soybeans, while rich in protein, can be hard to digest, but fermentation in products like miso and tempeh improves digestibility. Additionally, fermented foods continually replenish the gut with beneficial bacteria and acids, strengthening the digestive system.
Fermentation not only removes toxins from food but also acts as an antioxidant by neutralizing free radicals, which can lead to cancer. Fermented foods containing healthy bacteria, like Lactobacillus, compete with diarrhea-related bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli.
While probiotics and fermented foods offer numerous benefits, they aren't a panacea for all ailments. Probiotics' infection-fighting effects are temporary, as they don't permanently colonize the gastrointestinal system. Therefore, incorporating fermented foods into your child's daily diet can help them build and maintain immunity over time.
The content of this article originally appeared in Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide. The suggestions and ideas in this book are not intended to take the place of professional guidance or treatment; they are meant to complement the advice of your child's health care provider, caretakers, and educators, while offering consolidated information to help you develop your intuition and make choices that fit with your own personal, religious, or spiritual philosophies. There is no guarantee as to the effects of the use of the recommendations and no liabilities can be taken.