Infancy is a time when all the organ systems of the body grow and mature. It is also a time when leaky gut is a good thing.
Babies are born with a leaky gut.
Yes, it’s true. Therefore, a great deal of care needs to be taken when introducing solid foods. Baby’s intestines are porous and leaky until around 6 months of age.
During the transitional time of 4 to 6 months old, some babies are fed solids because they may seem hungry. This is a critical time because their intestines are still permeable and immunological food reactions can occur.
Leaky Gut has become a common term (though still not recognized by the conventional medical community) that is used to describe a condition where the lining of the intestinal tract has become porous, allowing large food particles entry into the blood stream causing immunological reactions.
Leaky gut is now believed to be the most basic cause of allergies and asthma as well as many autoimmune conditions. It is also associated with autism and is the focus for the emergence of current research. So when could this condition be good?
Infants receive much much more than just nutrients from mother’s milk. They also receive mother’s antibodies which are large protein molecules. In order to allow the flow of these antibody molecules into the baby’s bloodstream, the intestinal lining has to be permeable enough to accommodate the large molecules.
The antibodies protect baby from bacteria, viruses and other potentially pathogenic microorganisms, which is why human breast milk is so important.
Clearly, leaky gut is a good thing for a baby to have in those first months of life when the immune system is undeveloped and weak.
It is critical to seal the baby’s intestinal lining before they start solid foods. If large protein particles from food enter the bloodstream, the body’s immune system will react as if they were foreign invaders and launch an immune response. The immune system then remembers that particular foreign invader and will attack it if it tries to enter again. This is how food allergies develop.
80% of the immune system is located in and around our intestines. This makes sense because most of the foreign invaders enter the body through the mouth, on our food or in whatever we drink. Generally, small amounts of pathogens are dealt with effectively.
When the immune system sees a foreign invader (or what it thinks is one) it will stage an attack involving many different immune cells. This starts a cascade of chemical events that create inflammation and symptoms.
A baby’s immune system has to mature and develop in order for it to work effectively. Mother’s milk will protect baby during those first few months of vulnerability. Interestingly, just when the inherent leaky gut starts to heal, baby can sit up, put finger to mouth and will start to be interested in solid food.
All these things allow microorganisms to enter the baby (through food and fingers in the mouth) and will help in the maturation of the immune system.
Good gut flora also help the maturation of the digestive and immune systems. The gut flora is passed to the baby from the journey through the vaginal canal and from the intimacy of cuddling and breast milk.
Formula fed babies pick up gut flora from whomever is the primary caretaker.
The hygiene hypothesis states that we are too sterile! We clean everything (including hands) with anti-bacterials. This does not allow the developing immune system to have the exposures it needs.
We all know that experience is the greatest teacher – the immune system needs this as well. Studies have shown that babies and children brought up on farms where exposures are many – have fewer cases of asthma and allergies.
Our immune system evolved in circumstances that allowed it to be exposed to many different microorganisms, some benign, some not. These constant and continuous exposures challenged the immune system to evolve and develop properly. With the relatively sudden drop in these exposures, the immune system cannot develop properly and autoimmunity and inflammation are the consequences.
We also have fewer foods that encourage and provide beneficial bacteria due to the use of refrigeration over fermentation.
The first foods to introduce are not the ones recommended by your conventional doctor, your mother or your friend. Convention has given us incorrect information. We need to follow the advice of traditional people to learn what foods are appropriate for sealing the baby’s leaky gut and for nourishing the growing infant and child.
Do you want more CORRECT information about what first foods to feed your baby and how to seal a baby’s leaky gut?
Get your hands on Nourished Baby, by Heather Dessinger.