C sections the big question

“The immune system undergoes major development during infancy and is highly related to the microbes that colonize the intestinal tract.” Josef Neu, MD & Jona Rushing, MD

Microbes are like your immune system’s personal trainers. By keeping microbes in balance within your body, you’re sending your immune cells off to boxing practice, martial arts, & meditation school.

“Each kind of bacterium has it’s own way of affecting the immune system. Some species have been observed to make our immune system more tolerant, for example, by causing more peace-loving, mediatory immune cells to be produced, or by affecting our cells in a similar way to cortisone & other anti-inflammatory drugs.” Giulia Enders, Microbiologist

Your initial interaction with microbes happens directly after birth when, as microbiologist John Ellerman shares, segmented filamentous bacteria ‘go in & set up shop’ in the host, dampening the immune system so that Mum’s bacteria can come in & slowly be recognised as being ‘native’ to the body, rather than being attacked & turfed out as an invader. This initial delivery system will then go on to form the template inner ecosystem for that child’s life, emphasising the need for high-dose therapeutic application of these initial bacteria in any gut healing process. Remember that it is Mum’s bacteria which inoculate baby because presumably, these are bacteria which are suited to Mum’s environment & food supply, creating a baby who will also thrive in such an environment (how clever is nature?).

A great example of this is the Yanomami tribe of the Amazon who carry a specific parasite which helps them deal with the high amount of starch in the diet. This parasite is passed on to babies during the birthing process.

Put simply, when a baby moves through Mum’s birth canal he/she picks up bacteria that ‘inoculate’ her system. This is like planting seeds in a garden. These bacteria, many of them Bifidobacteria, go in and form the basis for baby’s inner ecosystem – the microbiome she’ll have for the rest of her life! These beneficial microbes then feed upon the indigestible components of Mum’s milk, growing & multiplying until they firmly establish themselves. Without these microbes entering the system, like in a C-section, baby may become intolerant to Mum’s milk & will miss out on extremely important nutrients & the immune system boot-camp that beneficial microbes offer her immune system. She’ll also have an increased risk of obesity, asthma & allergies later in life & will take months to establish her microbiome, if at all. Baby will miss out on gut microbes from Mum, & will gather microbes elsewhere.

“They might end up with bacteria from Nurse Suzy’s right thumb, from the florist who sold Daddy that congratulatory bunch of flowers, or from Grandad’s dog.” Giulia Enders, Microbiologist.

This point is also emphasised when we note the data that shows children born via c-section have higher rates of immune-related illnesses. C-section rates in the US rose almost 50% from 1998 to 2011 & we are now seeing around one third of all children being delivered into the world this way. In Australia, rates have almost doubled since 1991 & are the highest out of any country, meanwhile the World Health Organisation maintains that no region has an excuse to exceed a 10-15% C-section rate.

c section australia

This should be receiving much attention especially when we consider the initial inoculation process is missed & as a result baby’s immune system may be compromised. Our drastic haste to deliver babies via C-section in modern times is having significant consequences on the health status of our population & will have future economic repercussions, too. Economically speaking, it is important to point out that doctors may be financially driven to perform a C-section delivery; Hannah Dahlen from the Australian College of Midwives says:

“There’s not a direct financial incentive,but there’s an indirect one which enables you to have more women through your practice if you can schedule them within reasonable business hours.”

Certainly, doctor’s have their patient’s best interests at heart, but could we be training our medical staff in a way that over-estimates the benefits of C-sections & under-estimates the risks? It’s been done before in the case of keyhole surgeries, so why not birthing surgeries? In the private hospital sector, rates are even higher with 42% of women undergoing C-sections (this was in 2011).

Hannah Dahlen again:

“There’s no doubt women are feeling bullied and coerced into caesareans. It can be very, very subtle, and it’s about not giving them the full information, and moving them towards a direction you want to take. You can find a medical reason for anything, whether or not it’s a good medical reason is the question, and a lot of pseudo reasons are being used to argue women into C-sections.”

Of course, C-sections aren’t evil & can indeed be life-saving. In an interview for The Kale Brock Show, I spoke with Angie Chek (Paul Chek’s wife) who underwent the procedure simply because it was the safest way to ensure the survival of herself & the baby (Angie took measures to counteract the procedure so make sure you subscribe to the show to hear when its released). There are countless mums & children who owe their lives to the procedure & it is indeed one of the main reasons we have established such a high survival rate at birth – but if we are to really acknowledge the information we know about the microbiome & the birthing process then we must take care to inoculate babies born via C-section.

This is where the process of ‘seeding’ has become more popular, whereby mums are actually soaking a cloth in their vaginal fluid & manually passing this on to little baby. Widespread studies are being performed on this manual seeding & in the coming years we will see some interesting results I’m sure. The stark example of mum giving her microbial gift to baby throws into emphasis the importance of establishing a healthy inner ecosystem for all women before they give birth to a child. Studies have shown that probiotics taken vaginally during pregnancy helped to balance the vaginal microflora which are passed onto the newborn baby. Studies have also shown that administration of lactobacillus bacteria to C-section babies reduces the risk of developing allergies.

Again, it’s not about making anyone feel guilty for conducting a C-section, or saying they should be discarded altogether, it’s about objectively acknowledging the implications of doing so. Once again we see the science on the microbiome flipping our approach to medicine on it’s head – the real question, though, is will the medical establishment take on this information when it comes to births?

Time will tell.

This post was brought to you by The Gut Healing Protocol – an 8 week, holistic guide to rebalancing your gut!