By Sarah A LoBisco, ND
It’s almost May!
On the 2nd of this month, I’ll be speaking at the Holistic Mom’s Network Meeting in Saratoga. How exciting it will be to discuss topics in health with empowered caregivers who understand the importance of diet and lifestyle choices on their children’s health.
The topic we will discuss is “Gut Health and Nutrition.” It will be an open forum on the importance of gastrointestinal health in the growing baby and child. As mentioned in previous blogs, the Gut’s role in health is not just related to digestion and elimination. The health of this organ system is vital in growth, development, and overall wellness due to its impact on our immune function, mood balance, hormonal regulation, assimilation of nutrients, inflammation, and bio-transformation (“detoxifying”).
Breastfeeding, Obesity, and Maternal Nutrition
For example, one major component in healthy childhood outcomes is breastfeeding. I wrote about this important link on this blog a few weeks back. Below is some more evidence on the link between the health of mom’s breast milk, her diet, and her baby’s health.
This article also supports how a healthy microbiome in the gut can be transferred by mom to baby from her long term lifestyle and food choices. These choices affect how her offspring deals with unhealthful environmental triggers or how it assimilates beneficial compounds.
According to Green Med Info (emphasis mine):
Breast milk contains numerous bacterial strains, which colonize the infant’s gut. The bacteriological composition of breast milk seems to be directly related to the mother’s lifestyle, as it is indicated by her weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). An interesting study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in 2010 has shown that maternal BMI influences the relative presence of beneficial bacteria in breast milk, which is subsequently reflected in the infant’s gut microbes. The study found that milk from overweight mothers had consistently lower numbers of beneficial bacteria (Bifidobacteria) and higher numbers of potentially pathogenic bacterial strains.
It confirms that during the first 6 months of their life, the gut of infants from overweight mothers (pre-pregnancy BMI bigger than 25) has already been extensively colonized by potential pathogens, such as Staphylococcus, Clostridium, Bacteroides and Akkermansia muciniphila. Several studies have found that breast milk from overweight mothers also has different composition in immunological compounds, such as TGF-β2, sCD14, interleukin – 6. Given the fact that certain gut microbiota and immunological profiles are associated with obesity and metabolic disease, the above data suggest that mother’s weight and lifestyle affect the quality of breast milk and the baby’s gut flora, but it may also increase the child’s risk for obesity.
Breastfeeding is not simply a source of nutrients for the newborn. The mother, through her breast milk quality, programs critical immunological, metabolic and microbiological aspects of the baby’s physiology that will determine greatly his/her health status, even as an adult.
Eleni Roumeliotou. How Maternal Diet and Lifestyle Affects the Nutritional Value of Breast Milk. GreenMedInfo.com. April 8, 2013.
Collado MC, Isolauri E, Laitinen K, Salminen S. 2010. Effect of mother’s weight on infant’s microbiota acquisition, composition, and activity during early infancy: a prospective follow-up study initiated in early pregnancy. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 92(5):1023-30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20844065
Junk Food Addiction Starts in Utero
Not only what we feed our children prior to and after they are born will affect their resilience and vitality, but mom’s food choices prenatally have an influence on what health choices they make later on in life.
For example, recent research is indicating that what a mom eats in pregnancy has powerful impact in how her baby’s brain is wired toward food addiction or on healthy food selection. According to an article in Green Med Info (excerpted from Nutrition):
What neuroscience is only now starting to understand and elucidate, food companies knew it all along. And they have capitalized hard on it by selling processed food especially designed to bypass appetite control and neurological security valves of any unsuspected victim. Due to the complexity and interconnectedness of the biological functions in the human body, the overall impact of processed food on human physiology, health, life expectancy and quality of life in this generation is still hard to estimate.
But again the full extent of this slow, but efficient, genocide cannot be not fully appreciated if the impact on the future generations is not assessed as well. Latest research shows that the diet during pregnancy has a significant impact on the nutritional choices of the offspring. It is now confirmed that when the expectant mother follows a high-fat diet, her baby shows a measurable preference for sugar. However, this is not just a behavioral trait casually passed on to the next generation by means of mimicking the behavior of adults. On the contrary, as a result of the maternal diet, the DNA and subsequent expression of genes encoding opioid and dopamine receptors in the brain of the child is altered in a manner that promotes addiction.
This is no surprise, since repeated use of certain drugs has been well documented to cause enzymatic DNA modifications (epigenetic changes) which disrupt neuronal gene programs and support addictive behavior. This scientific fact explains why the kids of obese mothers are heavier with increased fat mass and have elevated insulin and glucose levels in their blood in comparison with control groups. Experiments show that the genetic disruption induced by maternal junk food consumption during pregnancy has long-term effects on the child’s behavior and neurological responses.
In a twisted way, the new generation is genetically pre-programmed to be addicted to junk food, even before they are born. This perfect self-feeding loop guarantees long-term profits for the food corporations and chronic debilitating disease for humans, for generations to come. By designing and selling addictive, low quality and disease-promoting products, Big Food has achieved the unthinkable: to create a dedicated army of health-compromised, addicted fans, whose cognitive, biochemical and even genetic potential to break free of their addiction is hijacked before birth.
Eleni Roumeliotou. Addiction To Junk Food: More Than Meets The Eye. GreenMedInfo.com. April 7, 2013.
Avena N., Gold J., Kroll c., Gold M. 2012. Further Developments in the Neurobiology of Food and Addiction: Update on the State of the Science. Nutrition. 28(4): 341-343. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3304017/
Think Twice Before Choosing That “Comfort Food”
Comfort foods might not even benefit mom’s mood!!?
Dr. Amen discusses how unhealthy “comfort” foods have negative impact on one’s own brain and body. Furthermore, he links the power of probiotics and gut health with brain health (emphasis mine). Therefore, eating junk foods (beyond moderation) prenatally won’t help anyone:
Interestingly, these so called “comfort foods” – according to research at Penn State – are directly correlated to a worsened state of mood. These women in the study did not have eating disorders but were concerned about their eating habits and body image. Here’s the twist – this study showed that the participants that noted to be in a good mood prior to eating unhealthily had no change in their mood after eating. On the other hand, those that were in a bad mood and ate unhealthily were in an even worse mood after eating. In summary, when you eat junk food to try to calm your emotions you are actually more likely to increase the emotion that you are trying to counteract with food. This is especially true with depression.
What are the real comfort foods in times of emotional stress? What I have found is that adding certain supplements – probiotics, fish oil, vitamin D – can help bring a person who is prone to anxiety and depression out of that state. Using this approach, the emotional eating cycle that leads to weight gain and associated health risks can be avoided.
Next time you are feeling anxious have some probiotics. A recent study I wrote about in my book, Unleash The Power of the Female Brain, found that seventy three percent of subjects that took probiotics experienced an increase in levels of good bacteria in the gut, which corresponded with a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms. Feeling depressed and upset over weight gain? Add some fish oil to your diet. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids help promote not only good weight control but a healthy emotional balance and positive mood in later years. Lastly, to prevent the onset of numerous diseases take a walk outside on a sunny day. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiencies are becoming more and more common, in part because we are spending more time indoors and using more sunscreens. Low levels of vitamin D have long been associated with a higher incidence of depression, cancer, and auto-immune disease. Supplementation of vitamin D is often necessary and has been shown to improve moods.
Amen Clinics. Food to Fuel Your Mood. Dr. Amen’s Blog. 4/22/13.
The Importance of Quality and Type of Food
In this week’s Top Holistic Health Reads on my homepage, I highlight the different environmental triggers in our food supply and the various mechanisms of how they affect our health (via nutrigenomic or epigenomic mechanisms).
In other words, the healthy components in our foods or various contaminants flood our body and interact with our cells at the level of our genes. This can cause positive or negative changes in how our cells function. In fact, even conventional medicine is recognizing and warning us about the importance of our food quality.
Pediatric Association Warns of Pesticide Risks
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a sweeping policy statement warning of the dangers of acute and chronic exposure to pesticides for children.
It outlined powerful evidence linking childhood pesticide exposure to pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, asthma and such behavioral problems as autism. It suggested revamping medical training and called for public-health tracking, regulatory action and continuing research on the long-term effects associated with pesticide exposure.
Yet, chances are many parents haven’t heard much about it from their children’s’ health-care providers.
Muldoon, K.Pediatrics group cautions against pesticide use in homes and gardens. Oregon Live. April 17, 2013. http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2013/04/post_62.html
Read more about the power of food on our gene expression as well as the top health and drug updates of this month at my homepage blog (dr-lobisco.com)