I found this article on treating depression with probiotics quite interesting:
The parts I found interesting had less to do with the depression part and more to do with the parts about how your gut health is programmed by the bacteria you encounter at birth and in the first years of life. It makes me want to try harder to make sure the kids tummy’s are full of the good stuff now. I had heard that concept– that the first few years of life help determine a person’s gut health and thus how strong their immune system is– but I wasn’t sure if it was true or if it was just an idea that someone had that supported their particular view on health.
I found this paragraph interesting:
How important to our immune health are friendly gut bacteria? Immeasurably so. When rat pups were separated from their mother—causing extreme stress—and then reintroduced to their moms days later, their immune system was forever altered. They were permanently more sensitized to stress displaying high levels of anxiety. However, when rat pups were separated and provided probiotics, and then returned to their mothers, their immune system was equal to that of their never-separated peers and were no more anxious than their non-separated siblings. This shows how profoundly important our gut biota is—to both immunity and mood. Our microbiota not only live with us, they carry an enormous skill set that helps us navigate life, from release of key nutrients to modulation of our immune system.
There are alot of different conclusions to draw there I’m sure– but anyone that reads regularly will know mine have a certain slant.
It doesn’t surprise me that the rat pups immune function was compromised when they were separated from their mothers. It did surprise me that the probiotics helped their immune system stay strong while they were still separated. I imagine however, that if the rat pups were never returned to their mothers that even probiotics would not bring them back to their original health and immune function.
I like these little findings because I remember reading one pregnancy book that actually said a newborn can’t distinguish its mother from any other caretaker. This was a very mainstream book that a friend bought me from Barnes and Nobles, written by a female medical doctor. Even before Azita was born I knew that couldn’t be true.
And now we are finding out that a child’s immune system is impaired simply from separation! I attended the Gentle Birth World Congress in Portland, Oregon when Azita was a little over a year old. The researchers and doctors from around their world that brought their findings about what it does to a newborn when s/he is separated from the mother were overwhelming.
One doctor even related a story about how a child was not breathing at birth and he instinctually told the nurse not to cut the umbilical cord. Oxygen support was not available for 8 minutes. Eight minutes! The child suffered no brain damage by the time they got its lungs to start working. That is a powerful connection to the mother that western science clearly takes for granted by always cutting the cord so soon. Tragic, actually, when it can save lives. And now we have companies encouraging cord blood banking and cutting that tie even sooner.
I often think this connection between mother and baby is downplayed in an effort to try to make mothers feel less guilty if a complicated vaginal birth or c-section inspires the ‘hospital policies’ to take the baby to the nursery while the mother recovers. I remember with Azita, I needed some recovery time and fainted due to blood loss and I did not get to really see her or hold her (save for about 30 seconds right after the birth) until she was about 4 hours old. Sure, 4 hours is not alot of time, but to me and her, it was. And then breastfeeding got off to a terrible start, and that doesn’t help motherbaby separation or Azita’s immune system.
I felt horrible about feeling I couldn’t breastfeed her at first, and that feeling propelled me to get the information I needed from a La Leche League Leader and figure it out, despite some pain and complications, which were soon enough over. That feeling was important. I shouldn’t be told that my baby can tell the difference between me and some other woman giving her a bottle! I should be reassured that when we are reunited, probiotics (which are in breastmilk, of course) will bring her immune system back up to its former strength.
This one little quote– yes, perhaps I extrapolate too much– also makes me think about how well-meaning adults often downplay your child’s separation anxiety. Again– I think to make it easier on the mother. If separation stresses a child out to the point of stressing the immune system at birth, then I feel it would affect them at 9 months, 18 months, maybe 3 years old too.
I was often encouraged to leave Azita, when I was still in college, distracted so that I could get out of the house tear-free by a fellow college student that also had kids. I refused to do that. I let her know I was leaving and that I’d be back. I didn’t want her fearing I’d sneak out at any moment when I simply walked into the kitchen.
I also read another study, which I don’t have a cite for anymore, that examined about 5000 children as teens on an army base in Germany and polled the parents on their methods when the teens were infants. The researchers were specifically looking at crying-it-out as a sleep method, and found that those children had higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as lower SAT scores.
It seems clear to me that hormones and gut bacteria will affect a human throughout their life and we shouldn’t understimate the importance of that in the early years. The rest of the article was very interesting as well, and worth reading. Those issues are always the ones that will jump out at me.
Ada never left me. She was born in a birth center, nursed minutes after birth, and I don’t think I left her with Payman even until she was 9 months older or something. With Azita, this would have overwhelmed me. With Ada, I feel very grateful for that. She is the one with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. It’s like God gave them to me in the order they needed, when I was able to be there for them differently. Azita is still the clingy one, too, interestingly enough.