What Antibiotics, C-Section Births & Baby Formula Do to Your Gut

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Antibiotics Woman With C-Section Carrying A Baby

Hate to break it to ya, but the cards were stacked against your gut health early on if you encountered one of these 3 early life stressors:

  1. Antibiotics
  2. C-Section Delivery
  3. Baby Formula Fed

This was totally me—all three of them!

Unfortunately, no one knew in he 1980’s that my gut microbiome would be affected for the rest of my life…

The Triple Threat: Antibiotics, C-Section Births & Baby Formula 

Mother Feeding Her Child Baby Formula Antibiotics

 I like to call these the “triple threat” that prevent the proper formation of (enough) healthy gut bacteria in the most formidable years of your life.

Even if you encountered just one of these, chances are your gut health took a hit early on.

If any of these are part of your health history, they are a good clue to help you explain why your gut health may be more compromised than others, and why you may struggle with “gut-related” health conditions and symptoms including:

  • Adult acne & Skin problems
  • Allergies or asthma
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Gut problems (gas, bloating, constipation, IBS, GERD)
  • High cholesterol markers (inflammation)
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Low energy
  • Metabolism & blood sugar issues
  • Poor immunity

The Research: What Antibiotics, C-Section Births & Baby Formula Do to Your Gut

No, you are not “doomed” if you were a C-Section baby, formula fed or given antibiotics, BUT it is crucial to be aware of where your gut stands in relation to these factors. Here’s what the research says:

  • C-Section baby’s have a higher risk for less overall bacterial composition and diversity, along with immune suppression.

Vaginal delivery exposes infants to a set of bacteria different from the skin bacteria that colonize a C-section baby’s. Cesarean delivery has been linked to the development of asthma, allergies & immune disorders in children (1-5).

This is significant given that 80% of your immune cells are produced in your gut. Note: it’s important to note that having a C-section does not completely rule out exposing the infant to microbes he or she could have received through vaginal birth and safety for both the mom and baby are most important. A vaginal swab after delivery to inoculate the infant could help set the baby’s microbiome up for success.

  • The first 2 years of life “set the stage” for how diverse, strong and healthy your gut microbiome is.

Fetuses are sterile in utero. However, during and in the first two years after the birth process, infants are exposed to microbes that originate from the mother and the surrounding environment. Those born naturally have more opportunity to swallow billions of essential gut flora critical to the first minutes of gut microbiome “solidification.” (6)

  • Yo’ mama’s gut bacteria affects yours.

The health of the mom’s gut bacteria also affects the baby’s gut bacteria—not just the birthing process. One study found the same Escherichia coli strains from moms were found in both the mouths of babies immediately after birth and in their mothers’ feces, implying that during natural birth microbes from mothers’ feces contaminate infants—either for better or worse(7, 8)

  • Breast milk has 10 billion more microbes than formula.

Breast milk contains 10,000,000,000 diverse microbes essential for “fermenting” the child’s gut; whereas formulas are often heated, processed foods—like giving a baby Cheetoh’s or a Big Mac instead. Additionally, beneficial and commensal bacteria originate from the nipple and surrounding skin as well as the milk ducts in the breast (9). As a result, baby’s who are breast fed have two times increased numbers of bacteria cells in breast-fed infants, compared to formula-fed ones (10).

  • Diet is the #1 factor in “shaping” a baby’s gut microbiome.

Greater than any other variable including your ethnicity, climate, sanitation, hygiene, or geography, what a baby eats (breast milk vs. formula) plays a critical role in the intrinsic, lifetime shaping of the gut microbiome (11). Children who were breast fed for 2 years, followed by the introduction of a “real food” diet high in prebiotic fiber, had more diverse and higher amounts of healthy gut bacteria compared to kids who were breast fed for 1 year, followed by the introduction of a western kid’s diet (i.e. processed puffs, baby food pouches, sugar, low vegetable and low fiber intake, etc.).

  • Antibiotics increase inflammation and decrease healthy bacteria.

Pregnant Woman Sitting On Couch Holding Eater And And Antibiotics

Kids, ages 2-7, who were exposed to antibiotics within their previous two years exhibited increased BMI, adiposity, obesity or metabolic diseases—all of which were directly attributed to decreased Bifidobacterium (healthy gut bacteria) and increased circulated LPS, a marker associated with inflammation in the gut and body (12). Another study by the same researchers found antibiotic use was associated with a long-term reduction in microbial richness and that antibiotic-treated children still did not reach the level of the control (non-antibiotic treated) samples even 12- 24 months after the course (13).

  • Antibiotic use increases the risk of diseases.

Similar to the threats that C-section babies face to their gut microbiome, antibiotics’ effect on eradicating diverse and healthy gut bacteria has been associated with increased allergies, asthma, autoimmune disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and “long-term disorder of intestinal flora, which will result in the occurrence or aggravation of the diseases” (14-18).  

Antibiotics, C-section births and Baby Formula Affects Gut Bacteria

Antibiotics, C-section births and baby formula inhibit the optimal development of healthy gut bacteria in early life. However, if any one of these were you, a healthier gut can be re-won (consequently affecting the rest of your health too).

One great way to start?

A “symbiotic” probiotic like this ONE—combining probiotics with pre-bioticis—is a helpful daily tool for “re-seeding” an otherwise unhealthy and unhappy gut.


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  2. Thavagnanam S, Fleming J, Bromley A, Shields MD, Cardwell CR. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629–633pmid:18352976; Renz-Polster H, David MR, Buist AS, et al. Caesarean section delivery and the risk of allergic disorders in childhood. Clin Exp Allergy. 2005;35(11):1466–1472pmid:16297144
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  10. Bezirtzoglou E., Tsiotsias A., Welling G. W. (2011). Microbiota profile in feces of breast- and formula-fed newborns by using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Anaerobe 17, 478–48210.1016/j.anaerobe.2011.05.016 [
  11. De Filippo, C., Cavalieri, D., Di Paola, M., Ramazzotti, M., Poullet, J. B., Massart, S., Collini, S., Pieraccini, G., … Lionetti, P. (2010). Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(33), 14691-6.
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