OPINION: Understanding How Gut Microbiota Affect Child Health

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

To many of us, diarrhea may seem like an acute condition or minor annoyance. A bad burrito or Chinese food left in the refrigerator a little too long may leave us annoyed, cranky, and perhaps out of work for a few days, but rarely do we worry about the life-long consequences of our gut health and how that impacts our development.

But for children in the world’s poorest places, the repeated bouts of diarrhea they endure can have lasting consequences. The function and structure of their intestinal tracts can become severely affected, leading to a lessened ability to absorb nutrients. It is one of nature’s cruel jokes that those who are often most malnourished, even when they do get precious nutrients, are unable to absorb them efficiently. Even worse, that sustained lack of nutrient intake has severe physiological effects, lowering their growth rate and causing stunting, which in turn is associated not only with an increased risk of mortality from subsequent diarrhea and respiratory infections, but also with decreased cognitive function.

Source: Impatient Optimists (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases