It’s an important step in the life of an infant to move from breast milk or infant formula to follow-on formula and semi-solid foods. Breast milk or infant formula is no longer enough to provide all the nutrients the baby needs. To make sure our little ones stay healthy in terms of microbiota too, the ingredients used in solid foods play an important role. It is only when a child reaches the age of three that the microbiota become stable and similar to those of an adult.

In the pre­vi­ous issue of HOCHDORF In­side, pub­lished in Au­tumn 2016, we fol­lowed ba­bies Emma and Noah through their first months of life. We saw how im­por­tant it was for the de­vel­op­ment of Emma and Noah to es­tab­lish healthy mi­cro­biota.

But what does healthy mi­cro­biota or gut flora look like? It com­prises nu­mer­ous harm­less strains of bac­te­ria like Lac­to­bacilli and Bi­fi­dobac­te­ria. These good bac­te­ria pro­tect us, from for­eign in­trud­ers and pathogens for ex­am­ple, and pro­duce im­por­tant di­ges­tive en­zymes and vi­t­a­mins. Re­searchers have dis­cov­ered that nu­tri­tion plays an im­por­tant role (1) in the num­ber of in­di­vid­ual strains of bac­te­ria that are es­tab­lished in our gut. Bac­te­ria also need en­ergy in the form of food. But not all types of bac­te­ria like the same food. Healthy bac­te­ria, for in­stance, pre­fer spe­cific car­bo­hy­drates such as galac­tooligosac­cha­rides (GOS), oligofruc­tose and in­ulin, which are all types of pre­bi­otics.

"Be­tween the age of six and 18 months, the mi­cro­biota alter quite dra­mat­i­cally as a re­sult of the change in diet."

The first months went per­fectly for Emma and Noah. Emma was breast fed and Noah was fed with an in­fant for­mula en­riched with GOS, con­tain­ing pre­bi­otics and all the im­por­tant nu­tri­ents re­quired for life. Now they are both ex­plor­ing the world with cu­rios­ity and ready for the next big step: the wean­ing phase and the move to their first solid foods. Both ba­bies need lots of en­ergy to grow. Be­fore they reach the age of one their birth weight will triple and their size will dou­ble; their brains will also grow dis­pro­por­tion­ately in the first three years. Breast milk or in­fant for­mula are no longer enough on their own. For healthy phys­i­cal and men­tal de­vel­op­ment, Emma and Noah need semi-solid food with ad­di­tional nu­tri­ents in­clud­ing pro­tein, iron and zinc, plus un­sat­u­rated healthy fatty acids such as DHA for healthy brain de­vel­opment (see HOCHDORF In­side, Issue 4, Win­ter/Spring 2016).

In­tro­duc­ing semi-solid food af­fects the mi­cro­biota

Var­i­ous sci­en­tific stud­ies have shown that the com­po­si­tion of in­testi­nal mi­cro­biota changes ­significantly when a child is be­tween six and 18 months old, de­pend­ing on their diet. New foods are ar­riv­ing on the menu every month for Noah and Emma and these can have a pos­i­tive or a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the com­po­si­tion of the mi­cro­biota. It is only once they reach the age of three that the mi­cro­biota (2) of both ba­bies will sta­bilise and be­come sim­i­lar to that of an adult. The phase of mov­ing to semi-solid foods can there­fore have a life-long im­pact on the mi­cro­biota and the health of Emma and Noah.

It’s worth start­ing early

Noah’s par­ents were aware of the im­pact that nu­tri­tion would have on the health of their son both now and in the fu­ture. Noah is now re­ceives a fol­low-on for­mula in­stead of in­fant for­mula. It con­tains more nu­tri­ents such as iron, zinc and the same pre­bi­otics as his in­fant for­mula. His par­ents should avoid cow’s milk ini­tially. Stan­dard cow’s milk is not par­tic­u­larly suit­able for young chil­dren; it con­tains too lit­tle iron, for ex­am­ple. Along­side the fol­low-on for­mula, Noah is also being in­tro­duced to a new fruit, veg­etable or ce­real por­ridge every other day to en­sure he re­ceives suf­fi­cient fibre. This step-by-step ap­proach al­lows his par­ents to check how Noah’s me­tab­o­lism re­acts to new foods. He is given unsweet­ened herbal teas and water to drink as Noah’s par­ents are keen to make sure he does not have any un­nec­es­sary sugar, fat or salt.

It’s worth start­ing early – the sooner Noah be­comes ac­cus­tomed to foods low in salt, sugar and sat­u­rated fat with nat­ural flavours, the less likely he will be to re­ject un­processed foods in the fu­ture. Chil­dren pre­fer the pri­mary foods that are pre­sented to them most often (3) so par­ents should per­se­vere in of­fer­ing those that are less pop­u­lar. Chil­dren then have the chance to shake off their re­luc­tance to try cer­tain foods be­fore it be­comes too en­trenched. Thanks to his par­ents’ ap­proach Noah is al­ready very healthy, which also strength­ens his im­mune sys­tem.

Emma has also de­vel­oped into a healthy and lively ­little girl. To the de­light of her par­ents, Emma is a good eater, al­though she knows ex­actly what she wants. It has to be sweet and colour­ful. She doesn’t like plain por­ridge or unsweet­ened fruit purées or drinks with­out sugar at all. Emma’s mum and dad tried a few times to give her plain foods but quickly aban­doned the at­tempt in the face of their daugh­ter’s com­mo­tion. Emma be­came ac­cus­tomed to the pleas­ant taste of sugar very quickly. Her par­ents couldn’t be­lieve that their daugh­ter was con­sum­ing lots of sugar and ad­di­tives in her solid foods and colour­ful chil­dren’s snacks. And they found it re­ally con­ve­nient to quickly pack a sweet apple puree or a colour­ful pot of chil­dren’s jelly to take with them when they were out or in the car on the way to nurs­ery. Of course, these are not a prob­lem if you also in­clude healthy meals and snacks.

Dys­bio­sis – im­bal­ance in bac­te­ria

Emma’s mi­cro­biota were not very happy on ac­count of the highly sug­ared fruit juice and chil­dren’s snacks. Emma may have been con­sum­ing too many calo­ries, but they didn’t pro­vide the food the healthy mi­cro­biota re­quired. There wasn’t enough di­etary fibre and healthy car­bo­hy­drate. Be­cause not all sugar is the same. Whole grain prod­ucts, fruits and pota­toes con­tain healthy oligosac­cha­rides and poly­sac­cha­rides which are good for the gut. The den­sity of the healthy bac­te­r­ial colonies on Emma’s in­testi­nal mu­cosa ­de­creased. In other words, the good bac­te­ria could barely in­hibit the growth of the path­o­genic bac­te­ria (4). The re­sult was a dis­turbed mi­cro­bial colony, or dys­biosis. There was an im­bal­ance in Emma’s mi­cro­biota and it began to cause her more harm than good. Emma’s im­mune sys­tem began to weaken and she often suf­fered from in­fec­tions, a pos­si­ble side ef­fect of dys­bio­sis (5).

The fact that the gut and brain are closely con­nected with each other and in­ter­act through the gut brain axis should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Dys­bio­sis is not some­thing to be un­der­es­ti­mated. The gut re­duces its en­zyme activ­ity and the body can ab­sorb fewer vi­t­a­mins, car­bo­hy­drates, amino acids and min­er­als. In the worst cases it can lead to mal­nu­tri­tion. Ac­cord­ing to some stud­ies, dys­bio­sis can cause chronic obe­sity and re­lated sec­ondary dis­eases such as di­a­betes and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. A weak­ened im­mune sys­tem also leads to in­creased in­flam­ma­tions and to atopic dis­eases such as neu­ro­der­mati­tis or asthma (7). The fact that the gut and brain are closely con­nected with each other and in­ter­act through the “gut brain axis” should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. Dys­bio­sis can af­fect the mind and lead to de­pres­sion and autism in cer­tain cir­cum­stances (8, 9).

Emma was lucky. Fol­low­ing the first signs of neu­ro­der­mati­tis and an analy­sis of her eat­ing habits the pae­di­a­tri­cian pre­scribed a change in diet. Emma’s par­ents have con­sciously fed their daugh­ter the rec­om­mended amount of healthy car­bo­hy­drates and fibre since then. They watch that Emma doesn’t have too much fat and that any fat comes from healthy un­sat­u­rated fatty acids such as DHA.

In­fant for­mula and Kids’ Food from HOCHDORF – healthy and con­ve­nient

Since the change in diet, Emma has been in much ­better health. De­spite the ad­just­ment, her par­ents have not had to spend extra hours cook­ing. There are now prod­ucts on the mar­ket that offer con­ve­nience. At HOCHDORF, for ex­am­ple, we offer in­gre­di­ents for wean­ing foods based on milk pow­ders that also con­tain ad­di­tional ce­re­als, veg­eta­bles and fruits, de­pend­ing on the va­ri­ety. The prod­ucts just need to be mixed with warm water to pro­duce a healthy baby por­ridge with­out any ad­di­tional sugar or salt. Our range in­cludes healthy snack prod­ucts for older chil­dren, such as our well­ness crisps, as well as spe­cial­ist chil­dren’s snacks made from whole grain, maize and car­rots. Our dried veg­etable and fruit crisps are con­ve­nient and healthy for on the move. Our Mar­bacher Ölmühle di­vi­sion also of­fers healthy in­gre­di­ents for chil­dren. Our or­ganic rape­seed oil for in­stance is per­fect for mix­ing into ­children’s por­ridge.

Healthy nu­tri­tion for small chil­dren doesn’t stop at home; it is pos­si­ble any­where. At HOCHDORF we offer so­lu­tions that meet today’s nu­tri­tional trends and lifestyle – healthy nu­tri­tion wher­ever and when­ever we want.

Further information


1) Arumugam M, Raes J et al. Enterotypes of the human gut microbiome, published in Nature. 2011 May 12; 473(7346): 174–180.
2) Yatsunenko T, Rey FE et al. Human gut microbiome viewed across age and geography. Nature, 486 (2012), pp. 222–227.
3) SGE Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Ernährung: Hintergründe zur Ernährungsscheibe.
4) Frick J-St, Autenrieth IB. Wechselwirkung zwischen Darmflora und intestinalem Immunsystem, in: Probiotika, Präbiotika und Synbiotika, hg von Stephan C Bischoff, Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart 2009.
5) Oriá RB, Murray-Kolb LE et al. Early-life enteric infections: Relation between chronic systemic inflammation and poor cognition in children. Nutrition Reviews, 74(6), 374–386. DOI: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw008, published 2016.
6) Graham C, Mullen A et al. Obesity and the gastrointestinal microbiota: a review of associations and mechanism. Nutr Rev (2015) 73 (6): 376–385. 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Life Sciences Institute.
7) Haahtela T et al.: The biodiversity hypothesis and allergic disease: world allergy organisation position statement. World Allergy Organ J. 2013 Jan 31;6(1):3.
8) Borre YE et al.: Microbiota and neurodevelopmental windows: implications for brain disorders. Trends Mol Med. 2014 Sep; 20(9):509–18.
9) Grenham et al.: Brain-gut-microbe communication in health and disease. Front Physiol. 2011 Dec 7;2:94.

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