This year’s World Digestive Health Day, on 29th May, focuses on the changing dietary needs of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract from new-born, through infancy, childhood, and adulthood. With so many consumers now looking to address their digestive and immune health, it is important to realise that supporting a person’s inner defence begins in the womb. This is why the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) has chosen ‘A Healthy Gut from the Start’ as its focus for the 2023 WDHD campaign.
The first months of life are a crucial period, as the gut is not mature when a baby is born and immune system development is influenced by the food a baby consumes. The development of the gut microbiota and the immune system is ongoing during the first 24 months of life and studies have shown that support of the microbiota can strengthen the immune system of nursery aged children.[i],[ii] Prebiotics promote the development of good bacteria such as Bifidobacteria, and they strengthen the inner defence system to help it fight pathogens. As a building block to immune health, prebiotics are supplied during breast feeding in the form of human milk oligosaccharides. If formula is provided, it should contain proven prebiotics (such as inulin and oligofructose or galactooligosaccharides) to ensure the selective growth of Bifidobacteria (the dominant species in breastfed babies).
While it is good to start as early as possible, it is never too late to support gut health and the inner defence system. Incorporating prebiotics into the diets of the older generation should also be a key area of focus because, as people age, the gut microbiome changes, and the inner defence system is weakened. The benefits that nutrition can offer in terms of supporting gut health and helping strengthen the inner defence system is of increasing interest to older consumers,
When it comes to food and drink, with consumption of only 3 grams per day of inulin or oligofructose, Bifidobacteria increase significantly and therefore support a person’s digestive health and overall wellbeing, whilst helping to keep their inner defence system in good shape.
For producers looking to create solutions that support digestive health, prebiotics such as BENEO’s Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose chicory root fibres have been shown to support a healthy microbiota and the selective increase in bifidobacteria in more than 50 human intervention studies. Inulin and oligofructose are the only plant-based prebiotics. They belong to the very few proven prebiotics according to ISAPP (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics).
Our industry has an important part to play in helping consumers pursue long-term health and as this World Digestive Health Day has shown, no one is too young or old to begin thinking about their digestive health.