gut microbes come from

Where do my gut microbes come from? I got them from my mama!

Did you know, your mother passed along a lot more than just her freckles and brilliant sense of humour? She also gave you her microbes! 
Caitlin Hall
by Dr Caitlin Hall (APD, PhD)
Chief Dietitian and Head of Clinical Research

Did you know, your mother passed along a lot more than just her freckles and brilliant sense of humour? She also gave you her microbes! 

If you were born via vaginal delivery, you received a healthy dose of beneficial microbes as you passed through the birth canal. These bacteria were the very first to call your gut home, and played a really important role for you as a baby. 

An infant’s gut microbiome helps protect against pathogenic species, aids in the digestion and metabolism of breast milk and weaning foods, breaks down toxins and drugs, synthesizes vitamins, and supports the lining of the gut. It’s the first and probably most important birthday present she gave you.

But maybe you were born via Cesarean? In this case, there’s a growing practice called “vaginal seeding”. This is where a cotton swab or gauze with vaginal fluids is used to transfer the vaginal microbiome to the mouth, nose, or skin of a newborn infant. This mimics a vaginal birth and kickstarts microbial colonisation in the gut. 

If that weren’t enough, your mother also passed along her microbes through breast milk too. Research shows that breast milk contains important bacteria that help colonise the infant’s gut microbiome. Breast milk also contains oligosaccharides, a prebiotic that stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria, like Bifidobacterium, that contribute to an infant’s immune responses and defense against pathogenic microbes. 

Finally, the maternal diet during pregnancy is thought to influence a baby’s gut microbiome too. A study published in Gut Microbes in 2020 showed that mothers who ate a diet high in fibre, omega-3s and polyphenols had a positive effect on an infant’s gut microbiome and development during the first months of life. 

It’s clear that the maternal microbiome during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding all play a critical role in a baby’s gut health in the early stages of life. So this mother’s day, make sure you give thanks to your mum for the best gift she’s ever given you.

Are you expecting?

Here’s our top tips to keep you healthy, and give your baby the best start to life:

  • Diversity is key to a healthy gut microbiome. Aim for 30 different plants a week from fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. This can be really difficult at times (particularly if you have morning sickness). This is where a prebiotic fibre supplement like myota comes in handy. 
  • Move your body everyday. It could be as simple as a walk around your area, a pregnancy yoga class, or a swim.
  • Find 5-10 min every day to relax and unwind. Pregnancy is stressful enough, so make sure you check in with yourself daily, and care for your gut-brain axis. 
  • Prepare for breastfeeding and get the help you need ahead of time. There’s no doubt that breastfeeding - while natural - can be incredibly challenging and at times, disheartening. Reach out to support groups to make sure you’re up to speed and empowered when the time comes.
  • Avoid unnecessary antibiotics (if possible)