Look, no one likes to change a poop diaper. They’re gross on newborns when it’s all sticky. Gross on babies when solids are introduced. SUPER gross on toddlers when you have to actually look through the poop to find that damn Lego they swallowed. But they’re a part of parenthood, and you will change more dirty diapers then you ever imagined. As it turns out, the baby poop you’ve been squinting your eyes against may unlock the mystery of what’s happening in your baby’s tummy. New research suggests that gut health is in decline in babies, for a number of alarming reasons.

We recently brought you news of a study linking c-section rates to childhood obesity. This new research suggest they may also be contributing to a decline in gut health in babies. And baby poop holds the answers.

Bethany Henrick of the University of Nebraska and Evolve BioSystems Inc. issued a report that summarizes research previously done on baby poop. What they found is alarming. The pH level in baby feces has been steadily rising since the 1920s. The pH is the measure of how acidic or alkaline something is. Acidity is an indicator of how much “good” bacteria is present in the gut. To establish their findings, the team analyzed baby poop going back to 1926.

Good gut bacteria is important for long-term health and development.

In the study, Henrick and her team noted that “

[T]

he profound change in the gut environment, as measured by fecal pH, present a compelling explanation for the increased incidence of allergic and autoimmune diseases observed in resource-rich nations.”

Researchers identified three main areas of concern for the rise in acidity and decline of healthy gut bacteria in babies: infant formula, c-section rates, and antibiotics.

When a baby is born via c-section, they miss out on the essential but bacteria passed from mother to baby. There are alternatives to ensuring this critical transfer takes place, like vaginal seeding, but the practice is not recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Additionally, when a woman has a c-section, she’s given a dose of antibiotics. Those mothers often have difficulty breastfeeding.

Other research also suggests that our hyper-sterility as a society may be contributing to the decline in healthy bacteria.

Brett Finlay, co-author of a University of British Columbia study on children who develop asthma, told Today’s Parent, “We’ve gone hyper sterile, with the idea of getting rid of every microbe. But I think we’re seeing the consequences now, with more kids with allergies, asthma and eczema than ever before.”

If you’re concerned about your baby’s gut health, definitely talk to your pediatrician. Signs of poor gut health include fussiness, excess gas, colic, and reflux.

(Image: iStock / AntonioGuillem)