(Natural News) As we enter another “flu season,” most parents are worried that their kids might catch influenza or something worse, like pneumonia.
And while that’s understandable because the possibility for getting sick is certainly higher this time of year, new and emerging research suggests that there’s one way to help kids fend off germs, viruses and bacteria: Let them play outside.
As reported by Lifezette, about 120 million kids around the world develop pneumonia every year, with roughly 1.8 million children under the age of five dying from the condition. But that number may be set to come down thanks to the findings of researchers affiliated with a pair of hospitals in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Scientists have found that cultivating healthy gut bacteria in newborn mice bolstered the ability of their lungs to fend off pneumonia, leading them to believe that the same would be true for humans.
That isn’t surprising to many researchers; they have long known that an infant’s microbiome, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi has a major impact on their health and immunity as they grow into children and even adults.
So that means that parents can to do more to promote their child’s healthy microbiome — really simple stuff too, like letting them experience more of the world.
As Lifezette notes further:
Scientists are only beginning to understand the microbial ecosystem that flourishes inside our bodies, where trillions of microbes work together to facilitate digestion and guard against disease.
Prior to birth, babies have virtually no microbes. Their microbial infrastructure is largely established during the first three years of their lives. It affects everything from adult metabolism, to the immune system, to digestion — and determines cognitive, metabolic and urinary functions.
That is a process that begins with the birth of an infant. As soon as a baby exits the mother’s womb and enters the birth canal, they are immediately exposed to several friendly microbes. These microbes then form a baby’s immune system so that they can avoid infection and diseases later in life. (Related: Microbiome swapping is the new and “natural” alternative to GMOs.)
For instance, researchers know that infants who have too much of a certain bacteria which creates gas while having a shortage of another bacteria that cuts down on inflammation very often have upset stomachs and, as such, are far fussier than babies with the right balance of each.
Also, unhealthy microbiomes lead to allergic conditions as well. Scientists at Canada’s University of Alberta analyzed a number of bacterial strains in three-month-old infants, then followed up with those measurements years later. The researchers discovered that babies that had less rugged intestinal infrastructure were more liable to have allergies to milk, eggs, and peanuts.
“Asthma is also tied to our intestinal fauna. A study from the University of British Columbia in Canada discovered that babies lacking an ample supply of four specific types of bacteria were far more likely to suffer from asthma as they grew up,” Lifezette noted.
And the list just grows from there. Conditions like diarrhea, obesity, and anxiety are all tied to an unhealthy bacterial ecosystem in infants.
The good news is, there are a number of ways to help infants develop a healthy microbiome. The very first one is this: Parents should not be infatuated with their child’s cleanliness.
Children who play outside share their family’s and friends’ germs, and vice versa. So children getting down and dirty in the dirt is really helping them build a better foundation for their immune systems. In addition, researchers know that when kids spend more time outside, it can reduce their stress levels which then allows their intestinal bacteria to thrive.
Even dogs can help. Puppies bring with them their own group of bacteria; exposing kids to them gives them an immunity boost while decreasing their allergic conditions and obesity.
Finally, breastfeeding infants provides “the best possible fuel for the good bacteria in an infant’s microbiome and run interference against many nasty pathogens,” Lifezette reported.
Read more of J.D. Heyes’ work at The National Sentinel.