I recently watched 'Microbirth', a documentary about our health and the health of mankind as a whole, and how completely unknowingly we are making ourselves sicker and sicker....
Winner of The Grand Prix Award at Life Sciences Film Festival 2014; The Grand Prix Award at Ekotopfilm 2016; and the Main Prize for Science and Technology, at Envirofilm 2016, it is a documentary about the latest research on the origins of the microbiome; how microscopic events during childbirth have lifelong consequences for the health of our children. It features interviews and research from thirteen leading professors from around the world.
The film has had a profound affect on me, and I believe it to be one of the most important documentaries I have seen for a very long time. I would like to share some of what I learned with you to help you understand why the issues raised in this documentary are so important, and why we need time and money spent looking into the issues this documentary touches upon, not only for our health, and our children's health, but that of generations of people to follow. I hope that it inspires you to seek it out and watch it for yourself, and share it far and wide. The information contained within it is very important indeed.
Let's start with some facts:
The world is being crippled by non-communicable diseases. A non-communicable disease is defined as the following:
"A non-communicable disease, or NCD, is a medical condition or disease, which by definition is non-infectious and non-transmissible among people. NCDs may be chronic diseases of long duration and slow progression, or they may result in more rapid death such as some types of sudden stroke. They include autoimmune diseases, heart disease, stroke, many cancers, asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, and more. While sometimes referred to as synonymous with "chronic diseases", NCDs are distinguished only by their non-infectious cause, not necessarily by their duration. Chronic diseases require chronic care management as do all diseases that are slow to develop and of long duration".
"The World Health Organization reports NCDs to be by far the leading cause of death in the world, representing over 60% of all deaths. Out of the 36 million people who died from NCDs in 2005, half were under age 70 and half were women. Of the 57 million global deaths in 2008, 36 million were due to NCDs. That is approximately 63% of total deaths worldwide."
It is estimated that these diseases are going to end up costing the world $47 trillion (US) a year by 2030. These figures are staggering, and it has many ramifications, including the fact that all Health Care systems could not possibly cope finiancially with the strain on their resources caring for all of these ill people. We can already see that it is happening in the NHS, and other healthcare organisations across the world.
Officially there are four lifestyle risk factors that have been identified as the main causes of these diseases - Smoking, Drinking, Poor Diet, Lack of excercise.
But is there a piece of the puzzle that doctors and scientists have missed?
Our bodies are complex eco-systems:
I already knew that our bodies are home to a great number of micro-organsims, but was amazed to discover that our bodies are actually phenomenally complex eco-systems, much more so than I had expected. Micro-organisms in fact outnumber our human cells 10:1! Yes, really! They evolved along side us, and a symbiotic relationship has developed, which has meant that we have become intinsically linked to one another. We are made up of 90% Microbial organisms, and the importance of this should not be underestimated, and it has been for quite some time.
Our human eco-systems (a.k.a Microbiomes) are becoming damaged and are degrading, mainly due to lifestyle changes, overuse of antibactierial products, and overuse of broad spectrum antibiotics. It is estimated that we have lost 1/3 of our microbes, and it is drastically affecting our health.
What has this got to do with child birth?
The most critical time for developing our individual Microbiomes is childbirth. 'Seeding', which occurs when we are first introduced to the microbes that will develop into our own personal eco-system, occurs through a special cocktail of bacteria that we come into contact with as we travel down our mothers birth canal. This is THE single most important event for cultivating our own, healthy microbiomes.
The second is immediate skin-to-skin contact with our mothers in order for her skin bacteria to transfer on to ours. (Skin to skin contact immediately after childbirth also has countless other benefits).
Breast-feeding is the next stage, (and prolonged breastfeeding if at all possible. The World Health Organisation recommend breastfeeding up until the age of 2). Breastmilk contains the microbes & antibodies that we need, as well as sugars which are actually indegestible to us, but are the perfect food for the bacteria living in our guts, helping them to multiply and flourish, allowing for a strong and healthy digestive system. (This demonstrates that crazy symbiotic relationship in action!)
If these steps don't occur, our immune systems are immediatelly compromised. Without the introduction of healthy bacteria, etc. from our mothers, how does the body learn to distinguish what bacteria is good and what is bad? This has huge consequences later in life. The immune system, metabollic processes & micro-immune system may never recover.
But what if a 'natural birth' is not possible?
In many cases, natural deliveries are just not an option, but there are actions you can take to help build up your microbes later in life (ie. through the consumption of pro-biotics), but unfortunately this doesn't help the immue system. Other steps need to be taken to help strengthen them, which include diet and lifestyle choices, which I am happy to go into in more detail in a later post.
The importance of 'Seeding' at birth raises a lot of questions about Caeserian deliveries. Their importance of C-sections is not in question, there are many women and children who would not be alive today without them, but the procedures surrounding them need to be addressed.
One of the current problems with C-sections is that the babies guts are introduced to the wrong microbes, and therefore get programmed with the wrong types of bacteria. The importance of immediate skin to skin, and prolonged breastfeeding becomes much greater, and also the use of vaginal swabs, taken from the mother and introduced to the baby, becomes very important too. Research is now being done in this area, but more attention needs to be focused on this to see how it affects a childs long-term health.
Our micribiome is directly passed down through a maternal lineage over generations, and due to new birthing approaches, it is now being disrupted, with consequences that are as yet unknown.
Believe is or not, it is also affecting our genes:
It is not only the health of our immune systems that is being effecting, but Epigenetics also comes into play. Epigenetics is where the outward expression of gene is altered due to certain environmental changes and triggers. Certain genes are switched on and off throughout our lives due to certain situations and events, and often as a result of hormone changes in our bodies.
One of the events that effects some of our genes expressions is childbirth. There are genes that are in use in utero (in the womb) that are not needed once we enter the world, and there are genes that we need to have switched on for our bodies to function properly. (For example, leaving the watery surroundings of the womb and emerging into the world, certain characteristics and functions of our lungs need to change). During a 'natural' vaginal delivery genes are switched on and off due to the hormones released in our mothers systems, which we inherit through the placenta. Intervention is directly affecting these hormones, and therefore the expression of our genes once we enter the world. Could this be a contributing factor in the rise of breathing problems and other conditions in younger generations?
A mother's natural birth hormones affect our babies in a huge way, and use of synthetic hormones could be having detremental affects, more research and studies need to be done! At the moment we are introducing changes and disrupting a vital biological process with unknown consequences.
Something needs to be done:
The way birth is approached, particularly in the West, really needs to change. It has ramifications in so many different areas of our lives, and our childrens lives - and even those of our children's children. It is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore. Without adequate studies we are literally playing Russian Roulette with the future health of our species, and we really need to know more...
I highly recommend watching this, especially if you are birth professional or in the medical field in any shape or form!
If you would like to know more about Microbirth, click here to be taken to the official website. You can also watch it here for free if you sign up for a 10 day free trial. There are also many other ways to watch it.
If you have already seen the documentary, or have anything to share on the subject please leave a comment below!
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Love, light and good health to you all!