Baby Microbiome basics – Part 1

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

We are in an interesting and contradictory world today. One the one hand, the rise of Western science has taken basic hygiene to unimaginable levels. So household products can successfully wipe out every last germ in our clothes or our hands. But on the other hand, this increasingly sterile world has many fall outs. Our immunity levels are lower than what they used to be and our children are weaker, less healthy and perpetually fall sick. How do we balance this seeming contraindication? This is the first in Krya’s 3 part series on the Baby microbiome. This series will explain the current body of research on the Baby microbiome, share Ayurvedic insights on the same and leave you with solid recommendations to boost baby’s immunity and health.

Baby microbiome basics: a highly sanitised world is creating new health complications for us.

Joshua Lederberg first coined the term “Microbiota” to distinguish the bacteria that colonize, populate and symbiotically live on us. The current world view lies in seeing ourselves as separate from the “germs or bacteria” that live on us, and treat them as opportunistic parasites that feed off us and have to be therefore be removed or eradicate.

However the growing body of research is instead choosing to view human beings and indeed living beings as the “Holobiont”. The Holobiont is the host body + all the associated micro organisms that co-exist and live on the body of the host. The Holobiont is being postulated as the evolutionary edge for living organisms and species: and it is the composition of Microbiota AND host organism that presents the unique evolutionary edge and not the host body alone.

The Human Microbiota includes fungi, bacteria and archea. This does not include opportunistic micro animals like head lice which weaken the Holobiont and are purely parasitic. Research indicates that the human Holobiont is made up of 37 trillion cells: of these ¾ belong to our Human Microbiota, and only ¼ of these 37 trillion cells are contributed directly by us.

Baby Microbiome basics: Microbiota colonise us throughout the body

How a healthy colony of micro flora helps keep us strong & healthy

On a cell to cell comparison, we are more Micro flora than human. Our body is made up of cells of which the human part is only 10%. The balance 90% is our microbiome which colonizes various parts of us: our skin, nose, ears, reproductive organs and inside our body. Each area of our body has different species of micro flora. Microflora form a unique fingerprint for each of us: our colonies are not exactly the same, even for twins born and raised together.

A large portion of our microbiome lives in our gut. This colony decides many things about our health. They decide how healthy we are going to be and how much immunity we have. It defends us against invasive and predatory micro organisms. They help our body with digestion, assimilation and nutrient absorption. Our friendly Microbiota also boosts our brain function and helps mood regulation as well.

Baby microbiome basics: teh quality of your microbiota determine the nutrient absorption from your food

The human body hosts different sets of colonies in various parts of the body. Every set of microbes has its own role to play, depending on where they live. The oral microbiome acts as a gatekeeper, guarding what enters the GI tract. If the colony in your mouth is in good health and shape, they can block the entry of potentially invasive organisms into our body.

On skin, the microbiome forms a very important gatekeeper role as well. The skin micro flora prevents entry of predators into the blood and lymph. These predators if allowed, can cause huge harm as they can bypass our acid containing gut and enter the circulatory system directly , through which they can spread rapidly.

Baby microbiome basics: Skin hosts innumerable microflora that imporves immunity and protects health

The skin microbiome helps guard this, if we take care to ensure our skin microbiome population is not unnecessary washed away. The human microbiome also bring down small inflammations in the body, help produce vitamins and digestive enzymes. In short , they support and extend healthy life for us. This is an example of a symbiotic and synergistic partnership.

 

Why is a healthy microbiome critical in a baby?

Human babies are born vulnerable and helpless. Their microbial colony begins to be established during pregnancy, and continues well until they are around 3 – 4 years. The successful establishment of a healthy microbial colony depends upon many factors. These include the health of the mother, the mode of delivery of the baby, feeding choices, weaning food choices, and the availability of a healthy microbiome colony in the baby’s surroundings. Some of our choices can also destroy a healthy available microbiome , for example the choice to raise baby in over sanitary surroundings.

The GI tract of the baby is especially unformed and vulnerable in the first 6 months. For example, in the first 6 months, a baby’s intestinal tract has spaces between the intestinal cells. This gap is filled as the baby grows. But in the first 6 months, the baby’s gut flora microbiome plug these intestinal gaps themselves. If these gaps are not properly plugged, undesirable molecules and invaders can squeeze through the intestine and directly enter the baby’s bloodstream.

Baby microbiome basics: healthy microflora reduces baby's vulnerability to disease

It is safe to say that the baby’s first 3 years sets the foundation for the future health and well being of the baby. Our choices as parents can greatly impact the health and well being of our child, way into the future. This is why we are writing this series on the Krya blog this week.

Our posts this week in this series will discuss the stages of microbial colonization in the baby and some choices you can make to provide positive intervention at each stage. We will also discuss various do’s and don’t s and how Ayurveda tells us to raise baby and improve immunity. However, until the next 2 posts, here are 3 thought-starters we would like to end this post with. Each of these will impact your baby’s microbiome and therefore her health.

3 baby microbiome thought-starters:

Give baby plenty of thoughtful skin to skin contact with skin that is not over-sanitized:

Microbiome colonies spread from living organisms. So Ayurveda encourages thoughtful, selective skin to skin contact in young infants. Our microbial colonies are incredibly selective and unique. For example your right hand and left hand host a different microbial signature! For these colonies to be healthy and survive, we must ensure their surroundings are healthy as well. In an over sanitary environment, we kill off all our good bacteria – instead these environments breed super-bugs and very dangerous predators, which can thrive in this environment.

Ayurveda recommends that baby be handled and touched by the Mother and one –two selectively chosen caregivers.

Baby microbiome basics: thoughtful loving skin contact improves healthy microflora

The mother and “Dhatri” (nurse or additional caregiver or a nanny), must use the correct Ayurvedic herbs to bathe in. The Nursery must be kept well ventilated, yet cosy and facing in the right direction. Baby’s linen must be washed with Rakshoghna herbs.

Baby microbiome basics: Mother an dDhatri should bathe in rakshogha herbs and wash all linen with these. This helps spread good quality microflora

In this environment, the use of these herbs keeps down the spread of dangerous micro organisms. This gives healthy Microbiota a chance to flourish. So, when baby is touched and handled lovingly by such caregivers, the healthy Microbiota are transferred onto baby’s skin and can colonize it.

If the Mother is breastfeeding, Ayurveda recommends proper cleansing of the breasts and mother’s skin with warming, vata pacifying, Rakshoghna herbs. When this is done, the baby absorbs the right micro flora through mouth-to-skin contact during breastfeeding.

Avoid: Cleansing mother’s skin and baby’s skin with a synthetic soap or bodywash. This wipes out all the friendly colonies of bacteria, leaving baby vulnerable to infection and disease. Use a completely natural grain and herb based Ayurvedic ubtan instead.

Reduction of electronic stress and other stress around mother & baby:

One of the key impediments to the growth of friendly bacteria is stress. When we are stressed, the pitta dosha in the body increases. This creates a high heat and acidic medicum in the body. This tends to reduce our gut bacterial colony. Also, the nature of skin and scalp secretions change in high Pitta conditions. Sweat becomes much more acidic, foul smelling and the composition of sebum also changes. This again brings down growth of friendly bacteria and instead attracts unhealthy organisms.

Baby microbiome basics: high stress impacts the quality of microflora

High use of electronic devices like Mobile, Wi-Fi, I-Pads, etc, increase subtle Vata vibrations in the air. This changes the dosha balance in the body, again leading to an unhealthy condition. Subtle electronic vibrations also thrown off our sleep cycles. When sleep is disturbed, our Microbiota are also harmed.

If the Mother is stressed, her bacterial colony is affected. Which in turn affects the baby. So Ayurveda advises a time of rest, reduction in physical work and focus on the Mother at least in the first 6 months after delivery. If this is extended upto one year this is ideal.

This post is not meant to discourage working mothers or criticize them for their choices. But, we echo Ayurveda’s emphasis on the important of rest and recovery for mothers. If this period is adhered to, we can avoid many health issues that may crop up later.

Fresh, organic home made food

Ayurveda tells us that all health begins in our gut. All Disease can be traced back to overloading the digestive system, eating improper food combinations and at the wrong timing. At the time many of the original texts were written, here was no practice of chemical farming followed. So obviously we have no explicit mentions of pesticide grown food.

But from all the available research today, we know how toxic , eating chemically farmed food is. From the Microbiome perspective, this is like consuming frequent doses of poison to the system. This harms everything in the body including your Micro biota.

For a breast feeding mother, eating fresh, organic, seasonal, home made food promotes better nutrient absorption and produce better quality breast milk as well.

Baby microbiome basics: high quality organic seasonal food boosts healthy microbiota

Also, seasonally grown organic produce has a healthier colony of micro flora. So when we handle and cook this produce, we are enriching our own bacterial colony.

To sum up:

Through this post, we hoped to provide you a glimpse of the fascinating world that lies on our skin and in our bodies. It is not an exaggeration to say that without friendly Microbiota, human life would not exist.

Conserving, nurturing and protecting our friendly Microbiome becomes even more critical in babies. Babies’ microbiome is under developed and the choices we make for them in the first 3 years of their life has long lasting impact on their health and their Microbiota.

We also looked at 3 simple methods you can start with to encourage proper colonization of Micro biota in baby. In our next 2 posts, we will look at Microbiota colonization in baby stage by stage and also explore Ayurvedic interventions in each stage to strengthen baby’s micro biota. Stay tuned.

Krya Products recommended to encourage healthy skin colonization in Babies and Moms:

For Moms:

  • Strongly recommended: Krya Women’s Abhyanga system (Krya Women’s Ubtan + Krya Abhyanga oil) – helps balance vata dosha and encourages the growth of friendly Microbiota while discouraging predatory microbes

Krya Products Recommended for Baby:

  • Krya baby ubtans & bodywashes – made from organic or forest collected herbs, grains and lentils . Cleans thoroughly yet is extremely soothing and gentle on baby’s skin. Can be used everyday from the 1st day of baby’s birth.
  • Krya baby massage oils – made using authentic ayurvedic herbs, and organic cold pressed vegetable oils processed through a rigorous ayurvedic manufacturing process. Can be used from the time a baby is 1 week old
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Ayurvedic baby massage : benefits for baby’s health and skin

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

Are you worried about the carcinogens and suspicious synthetics in the baby care products you have been buying? Looking for a truly natural, genuine, safe Ayurvedic baby massage oil? Read on, for a short introduction to the benefits of an Ayurvedic baby massage routine .

Krya baby massage oils: recent feedback received

“Hello Team Krya,

I have been using this baby massage oil for my baby since she was 1 month old. This is really good. My baby is feels good and fresh after taking message with this oil.  This is 100% better than those synthetic and chemical baby massage oils”. – Amit

Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & AshwagandhaKrya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha - excellent for an ayurvedic baby massage

It’s not mild, its carcinogenic : why chemical baby products are toxic and un-safe

A Missouri based jury passed a verdict last year asking Johnson & Johnson to pay damages of 72 million dollars to the family of Jacqueline Fox. The jury concluded that her death by ovarian cancer was linked to her daily use (of over 30 years) of Johnsons baby powder and Shower to shower talcum powder.

A study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics studied baby and children’s products for the presence of 2 chemicals – 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde. These 2 chemicals are probable human carcinogens formed as toxic by products when certain chemicals are present in a product. The research study showed that over 61% of the baby products surveyed contained these 2 chemicals in more than trace quantities.

1,4 dioxane is a by product formed when sulphates like SLeS (Sodium Laureth sulphate), polyethylene, polyethylene glycol , ceteareth, oleth, oxynol, -xynol, and PEG are present in products. A quick read of the back of label of many baby products would find many of these chemicals listed in your baby’s “gentle shampoo” or “mild bodywash”.

Therefore most chemical baby products are un-safe, toxic and dangerous to use on everyone, especially vulnerable babies.

Why is your baby’s skin so vulnerable to chemicals?

Human skin is the largest sense organ in our body. It is considered the seat of the Indriyas / sense organs and is literally the seat of sight, sense, touch, feeling and hearing. Skin is our first barrier layer and helps protect our internal organs from damage and bacteria. It is a marvel of bio engineering and hosts a massive colony of micro organisms . This colony helps ensure a constant pH of 5.5 on skin, with an acidic mantle that keeps harmful organisms away from us.

The skin and hair structure in children is one of the last major systems to be formed. The sweat glands which help regulate temperature, eliminate toxins from our body and help maintain the skin’s natural acid mantle takes upto 3 years to form. This means that babies stay sweet smelling longer, but this also means that their body does not have the mechanism to readily eliminate toxins like adults do.

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The harmful effects of SLS & SLeS - one of the many synthetics in baby care products

This means that they can handle far smaller toxic loads than adults . Therefore it is critical to choose a safer, more natural skin care solution for babies. Genuine, carefully manufactured ayurvedic baby skin care products should be your first option

Ayurvedic baby skin care: a 5000 year old science

Ayurveda is considered a divine science in India, handed down directly from the Gods to Man. Ayurveda has 8 branches of which “Kaumara bhrityam” or Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Child care forms an important branch.

Sagar manthan: the Churning of the ocean from which Lord Dhanwantri rose and gave the world Ayurveda

Samudra Manthan (Churning of the Ocean) which gave Ayurveda to the world

 

While Kaumara bhrityam has been dealt with in portions of the Rig Veda and even Purana Granthas like the Garuda-Purana, Kumara-sambhava and even the Artha Shastra, the Ayurvedic text which has the most material devoted to Kaumarabhritya is the Kashyapa Samhita.

Ayurevdic baby massage is an integral part of baby skin care. Taila Abhyanga Snana (baby massage with oil followed by herbal bath) is advised to be done daily for a baby starting from the first week of birth.

Typically Ayurveda recommends that baby massage be done first with Bala Tailam. This helps the newborn get rid of the exhaustion after child birth. Medicated herbal water made with a decoction of herbs like Bilwa (Aegle marmalos), and other aromatic herbs (sarvagandha dravyas). Bilwa is a powerful and renowned herb used in religious practices in India.

440px-aikya_linga_in_varanasi

Bilwa leaf used to worship Lord Shiva

We can see from the above description, how detailed, through and holistic Ayurvedic baby skin care is.

The deep connection between the Skin and the body as per Ayurveda:

The skin (Tvacha) in Ayurveda is said to be made of 6 layers. These 6 layers form from the blood while undergoing metabolic activity – this formation is described similar to the layers of cream that form when milk is boiled.

Therefore, in disorders of the skin, herbs and regimens that treat the blood at an underlying level are advised. Similarly, Ayurveda recognises that what is applied at an external level on the skin also has the twin capacity of treating the blood underneath . So, many blood based disorders are treated through herbal lepa (pastes) applied on the skin. This way, the herbs reach the blood and also influence the lymph secretions and the “rasa dhatu”.

Once we understand this connection, we also understand how critical it is to choose what we apply on baby’s skin. Chemical products and carcinogenic ingredients are highly unsafe and can damage baby’s health. On the contrary, a regular baby massage with an ayurvedic baby oil is safe and nourishing for baby’s skin. This practice also helps increase baby’s immunity, prevent infections and aid healthy bone and joint development.

The 5 tenets of Ayurvedic baby skin care:

Ayurveda recommends 5 tenets to care for your baby.

  1. Taila Abhyanga – baby massage using the correct ayurvedic baby massage oil
  2. Herbal Snana – Cleansing of baby’s skin using the correct ayurevdic baby ubtan followed by a bath using warm water or warm medicated water
  3. Purification of the nursery and surroundings using prayer, meditation and chanting
  4. Washing the baby’s linen and clothing using a prescribed mixture of herbs
  5. Fumigation of the nursery and baby’s clothing and linen using a prescribed mixture of herbs.

Each of the above steps are not just to care for baby’s skin. They also help build immunity, improve disease resistance, protect baby’s skin, keep down mucous accumulation and care for baby’s health.

Taila Abhyanga – Ayurvedic baby massage:

The Ayurvedic baby massage routine restricts moisturisation to the pre bath taila abhyanga or oil massage. This is a very special feature of Ayurveda .

Ayurvedic baby massage - important tenet of ayurvedic baby care

Taila Abhyanga - essential Ayurvedic baby care practice

Skin needs to constantly interact with the environment and continuously facilitate toxin removal.  Srotas are thin, tube like structures in skin, through which toxins are removed. When we apply a moisturizing product after Snana, the Srotas can get clogged. If a petroleum based, synthetic moisturiser is used, the srotas are fully blocked. When srotas are blocked, the skin is unable to do heat exchange properly. This traps excess heat within the body. Skin is also unable to eliminate waste products properly. This is why Ayurveda insists on pre-bath moisturization with a herbal taila, and not post bath moisturization.

Herbs chosen for the ayurvedic baby massage

The herbs chosen for an infant’s Ayurvedic baby massage are carefully selected. Bala is a commonly used herb in Baby oils in Ayurveda. Bala is a famous Ayurvedic herb that aids regulation of vata dosha. It removes muscle fatigue and exhaustion. Bala helps growing infants develop a healthy muscle and bone structure.

Bala is a rejuvenative and deeply nourishing skin herb : excellent for an ayurvedic baby massage

Bala (Sida cordifolia) - a powerful vata balancing and growth stimulating Ayurvedic herb

Manjishta is another common herb selected for an ayurvedic baby massage oil. Manjishta is an excellent herb that helps increase the microcirculation of the srotas in the skin, and improves the circulatory function. It is a good blood purifier and a famous “varnya” (complexion enhancing) herb.

Warming herbs like Tulsi often are used in preparations meant for infants. The Puranas compare Tulsi to “amrit” or the nectar that rose from the churning of the ocean and say just like amrit which gives ayu (long life), Tulsi is to be sought after and cherished.

Tulsi is a warming and kapha balancing herb - excellent for an ayurvedic baby massage

Tulsi - compared to "Amrit" in Indian tradition and revered for its ability to enhance physical endurance

Modern Science and research confirms what Ayurveda and long held Indian tradtion says about Tulsi: that it can cure both mental stress and enhance physical endurance.

In ayurvedic baby skin care preparations, Tulsi helps boost the overall immune system. It also adds warmth to the body, and is an anti bacterial and insect repellent. 

To recap:

Baby massage is a key part of the 5000 year old Ayurvedic baby skin care routine . When this is practiced, baby’s skin and health are both benefited. This is especially critical in the first year of baby’s life.

The texts speak about multiple benefits of the Ayurvedic baby massage routine with an Ayurvedic taila. At an immediate level, the ayurvedic baby massage relieves exhaustion, balances excess vata dosha, reduces high pitta dosha and improves the baby’s appetite, digestive power and allows for peaceful, undisturbed sleep. As a bonus, the taila abhyanga is an excellent skin aid – with this regular practice, the skin’s health and functioning is maintained, without sacrificing cleanliness or its receptivity to the environment.

The process of Ayurvedic baby massage is also extremely enjoyable to the baby. So it helps establish the vital connection and emotional bond between a Mother and the baby.

At a long term level, the Ayurvedic baby massage helps muscle development, correct minor growth deformities and aids proper growth and functioning of all large muscle groups and joints.

 

 

Krya’s products for an ayurvedic baby massage (Taila Abhyanga):

Krya has 3 products for Taila abhyanga for your baby:

  • Krya traditional baby oil with Bala & Ashwagandha
    • Made using a traditional, Ayurveda inspired formulation, Krya’s traditional baby massage oil uses time tested, powerful Ayurvedic herbs like Bala, Ashwagandha Vacha, Tulsi and Manjishta for your baby’s daily Taila Abhyanga. Regular use helps keep skin healthy and nourished and support’s baby’s growing immunity and health.

Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala and Ashwagandha - excellent for an ayurvedic baby massage

  • Krya Nourishing baby massage oil with Palmarosa & Rose
    • Made using traditional skin nourishing and healing herbs like the sacred Durva grass, Moringa, Indian Liquorice and Lodhra, this oil is a rich, skin oil that is free from petroleum by products like Light Liquid Paraffin (White / Mineral oil), parabens, synthetic preservatives, synthetic fragrances, silicones, thickeners and colours. Infused with natural Organic Palmarosa and Organic Rose petals
  • Krya Nourishing baby massage oil with Lemongrass & Grapefruit
    • Made using traditional skin nourishing and healing herbs like the sacred Durva grass, Moringa, Indian Liquorice and Lodhra, this oil is a rich, skin oil that is free from petroleum by products like Light Liquid Paraffin (White / Mineral oil), parabens, synthetic preservatives, synthetic fragrances, silicones, thickeners and colours. Infused with natural Organic Lemongrass and Organic Grapefruit leaf

Krya’s toxin free home care products for baby:

Krya all natural classic soapberry detergent - free from LABSA, phosphates, bleaches, enzymes and fillers. Hypoallergenic and baby safe

  • Krya All natural Classic Soapberry detergent (can be used in a machine) – made fromm organic, forest collected whole soapberries. Completely toxin free, and hypoallergenic and safe on delicate skin. Free from LABSA, Enzymes, Phosphates, Fillers, Bleaches, Enzymes and other Chemicals. Completely Chemical free and made from whole plants.  Compostable & Biodegradable product .  Environmentally safe, Does not harm aquatic life . Grey water generated can be recycled in the garden. Recommended for baby’s nappies, diapers, clothing and linen

Krya All natural classic dishwash - free from LABSA, phosphates, enzymes, bleaches, fillers. recommended for baby's bottles, cutlery and dishes.

  • Krya All Natural Classic Dishwash Powder : made from whole organic and forest collected herbs. Completely toxin free, and hypoallergenic and safe on delicate skin. Free from LABSA, Enzymes, Phosphates, Bleaches, Colours, Fragrance & other Additives . Hypoallergenic, Toxin & Synthetic free, Made from Ayurvedic herbs . De-greases and cleans dishes thoroughly , yet Gentle and Safe on skin . Compostable & Biodegradable product .  Environmentally safe, Does not harm aquatic life . Grey water generated can be filtered to remove kitchen wastes & then recycled. Recommended for baby’s bottles and other dishes.
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