Children´s immune system and why the first years of life are key to activating it.

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By Dr. Javier Ortiz

The immune response of a human being develops mainly during the first three years of life, when the development of a strong defense system must be promoted through an adequate diet, good rest and a loving environment. The development of the immune system during the first stage of life is an important foundation for a healthy future.

The world is going through one of the largest pandemics in history, so strengthening the immune system in children today is an essential task in order to care and protect their well-being.

A well-balanced immune system, in children, reduces the risk of allergies and susceptibility to infections as well as protecting them against autoimmune diseases.

At birth, the baby's immune system is still immature and must learn to deal with pathogens.                 The permanent maintenance of skin and mucous membranes and the functioning of the immune system consume a lot of energy, nutrients, minerals and vitamins of the body, for this reason good nutrition has a great impact on the prevention of infections.

“In recent years, a very close relationship was discovered between our microbiota (formerly called bacterial flora), age and anemia, which are factors that most influence the profile of the immune system and the response to vaccination, and it has an important effect on them, and the immune system acting as a regulator of defenses. For instance, a healthy microbiota in children has the ability to reduce the immune response when it is exaggerated, as in allergies, and on the other hand, it can selectively stimulate it to fight infections more efficiently”.

Breast milk contains cells of the immune system and components of the maternal intestinal microbiota that adapt to the baby's intestine, protecting it.

As explained by the specialist member of the Argentine Society of Pediatrics (SAP), "breast milk contains cells of the immune system, as well as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and components of the maternal intestinal microbiota that adapt to the baby's intestine, protecting it". “It also contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) which are complex, non-absorbable carbohydrates and represent the third most common component in human milk; they are prebiotics that serve as food for the microbiota, selectively stimulating the growth of its most beneficial components such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli ”.

Reference

Hill DL, Carr EK, Rutishauser T et al. The development of the immune system varies according to age, location, and anemia in African children. Sci Transl Med. February 2020. https: //doi.10.1126/scitranslmed/aaw9522            Tere Morales Translation