New research shows the positive effects of "good" bacteria -- probiotics-- in infants.
Mark Underwood, chief of Pediatric Neonatology at UC Davis explains, "If we give a probiotic, their [a premature baby's] chance of getting Necrotizing enterocolitis goes down."
Necrotizing enterocolitis is a medical condition that is common among premature babies whose organs were not given enough time to develop in utero. This disease causes the intestines to literally die-off, leading to a host of other problems.
Juelz Martinez, born prematurely at 25 weeks, received probiotics as part of his treatment in the NICU.
"They told me the probiotics may help reduce the risk of infection," his mother Julia Martinez says. Probiotics contain a mixture of bacteria that are beneficial to the intestines, which help keep inflammation down and therefore help to fight off conditions like Necrotizing enterocolitis.
Following his treatment plan, that paired "normal" NICU care with probiotics, Juelz was released and is now at home - healthy and happy.
Underwood and his team wanted to study what probiotics could do for healthy babies, as well. He conducted a study which included 68 breastfed babies, half of which were given probiotics during their first month. The other half, the control group, were given none.
The researchers used the babies' excrement to study the levels of good and bad bacteria within the gut. They found an increase in good bacteria among the infants who received probiotics.
The study is promising and it seems to provide evidence that probiotics add beneficial bacteria to the intestines. However, more research is necessary to determine how much a healthy guy can reduce diseases, both in infants and adults.
Underwood acknowledges, "What these [study findings] mean for health down the road, we don't really know yet."
Probiotics are found naturally in foods like yogurt, soy beverages, and miso. These "good" bacteria have been proven to help immune function, aid the gut fight off infection, and improve digestion which leads to a greater absorption of nutrients.
Dr. Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine explains, "The secret to digestive health is all about balancing out the good and bad bacteria in your gut. In a healthy life, consuming probiotic-rich foods and supplements daily are likely one feature of that balancing act."