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At Last, a Big, Successful Trial of Probiotics

A simple mix of pre- and probiotics has been successful in reducing respiratory infections and the number of infant deaths from sepsis, The Scientist reports. The clinical trial, which included 4,556 full-term newborns, was published in Nature. Researchers seeded infants’ guts during their first three days of life and reduced the instances of both sepsis and death by 40 percent, compared to placebos. “This is another report that underscores the importance of gut colonization on the maintenance of optimal immunologic function,” said Dr. John Marshall, a surgeon who studies the immune system in adults in Canada.

Once again, the importance of a healthy gut microbiome can’t be stressed enough, beginning from the day you’re born. This study’s authors indicated they intend to look at premature infants next, and I hope that they will go one more step and try it with pregnant moms, as well. But even without a study, we already know there are steps you can take to protect and nourish your baby's microbiome before and during birth.

For example, eating fiber-rich vegetables is massively important. Not only do they provide valuable nutrients your body needs, they also provide nutrition to the microbes in your gut, which feed on fiber. Probiotics are foods and supplements that increase the diversity of the microbiome in your intestinal tract, while prebiotics are the workhorses that feed those microbiota, helping them to grow and multiply. An easy way to do this is make your own starter culture, or if necessary take a probiotics supplement.

One of the worst things you can do during pregnancy, however, is take antibiotics, as they devastate the microbiome — and now this study shows that simply balancing the microbiome with probiotics can fight deadly sepsis without antibiotics! Other medications best avoided include hormone treatments, all products containing triclosan (many soaps and beauty products contain this) and proton pump inhibitors (stomach acid-suppressing drugs).
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