Is your Microbiome the Fountain of Youth?

Dec 15, 2023, 09:51 AM by Patricia Beach, MD and Adam Stranberg, MD

Toddler boy getting measured


Mankind has been searching for the magic pill for good health and long life for a very long time.   While Ponce de Leon failed in his quest for the magic fountain, humans continue to search for answers about how all the moving parts fit together to make living organisms and how to fix the problems that occur.  They also continue to search for the Fountain of Youth with its promise of fame and fortune.

Microbiomes is one area of study that may lead us to the Fountain of Youth.  The microbiome is the community of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and their genes. They live naturally on our bodies and inside them. They live in the gut, the skin, and the oral and nasal cavities.  They are so small that they require a microscope to see them.  Yet these tiny microscopic organisms protect us against “bad” microbes, help our immune system develop, enable us to digest food to produce energy and influence mental health.

Most of us when we think of microbes in the gut or the nose, think of infectious germs not a protective barrier between the body and the environment. Some microbes do cause disease, others alter environmental substances to make them more toxic or less toxic. The body is home to trillions of microorganisms more than the number of cells in the body. These trillions must be balanced so they are more protective than destructive. Differences in the community of the microbiome may lead to different health effects from environmental exposures, medicines, diets and lifestyles. Disruption in the microbiome can contribute to various health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, allergies and mental health disorders.

It sounds incredibly complicated and it is.  But it is very exciting because the more we learn the healthier our children can be.  A person’s core microbiome is formed in the first years of life.  The baby in the womb has no microbes until they are born.  During the birth process they ingest microbes, more from the vaginal canal than from a C-section, from breast feeding even intermittently, and from other exposures.  To build a healthy microbiome it is suggested to eat vegetables and fermented foods (yogurt, sauerkraut) and avoid unnecessary antibiotics, sugars and processed foods.

Probiotics strains have different functions.  The term ‘probiotics’ is equilivent to ‘canine’ for different dog breeds.  It gives a broad idea of function but no indication if you will be faced with a Chihuahua or Doberman.  Research indicates that probiotic use is safe in normal, healthy infants but there has been probiotic infections in the immunocompromised.

There has not yet been sufficient research to tell us which particular strain might be most effective, for which condition, in what dose and when.  The elusive Fountain of Youth is getting closer thanks to the diligent work of researchers.  Talk to your doctor about appropriate use and dosage.  Avoid unnecessary antibiotics, eat healthy foods, and thank the next researcher for working to make our children healthier.

Also see:

UTMB Health Primary Care Pediatrics
AAP Schedule of Well-Child Care Visits & Benefits
Child Welfare Government Website National Child Abuse Prevention
Prevent Child Abuse America 2020 National Child Abuse Prevention
By Categories