Skip to main content

Health Benefits of Feeding the Gut Throughout The Lifecycle

Nov 30, 2022 ● By Keri Barron
A family outside posing.

Photo credit Subbotina Anna for Shutterstock

Babies are born with a very underdeveloped gut microbiome, but with each day, environmental exposures help shape the bacteria in the gut. In breastfeed babies, human milk oligosaccharides in breast milk, including 2’-fucosyllactose (2’-FL), help promote the development of a rich gut microbiome.

2’-FL is able to evade digestive enzymes in the stomach until it reaches the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract where it acts as a prebiotic, feeding bacteria in the gut. 2’-FL is uniquely available to beneficial bacteria in the gut—which helps their population flourish and benefits both gut and immune health—and its structure resembles the structure of certain binding sites on cells in the lower GI tract. This allows it to act as a binding decoy for biological toxins and other external microorganisms that can disrupt the GI system.

According to a 2016 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN), breastfeeding in infants has been strongly associated with an increase in populations of beneficial bacteria, due in large part to the high content of 2’-FL. It also is associated with reduced risk of developing lower respiratory tract infections later in life, as well as other benefits including healthy brain development and cognition, according to a randomized placebo-controlled trial published in 2021 in the journal Microorganisms. For infants that are not breastfed, formula enriched with 2’-FL and other human milk oligosaccharides supports the development of the intestinal immune system and gut barrier function, asserts a 2022 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

The benefits of 2’-FL extend beyond infancy, promoting the growth of beneficial microbes throughout adulthood. As per a 2008 article in BJN, it stimulates the development and maintenance of the GI barrier, which can be impaired by stress, antibiotics, and chronic conditions.

In healthy adults, supplementation with 2’-FL was able to positively change the composition of the gut microbiome per the 2016 BJN study. Additionally, in adults with chronic GI conditions, consumption of 2’-FL resulted in improvements in symptoms specific to the intestines as well as more broad symptoms including quality of life, per a an article published in 2021 in the journal Nutrients.

2’-FL is a naturally occurring compound in breast milk that jump-starts a baby’s gut microbiome and can help support the gut and resolve gut-related issues throughout life. Supplementation with 2’-FL can help balance the gut microbiome by increasing populations of beneficial bacteria, as well as feed them during times of acute GI stress.

Keri Barron, Ph.D., is the scientific writer for Standard Process. For more information, visit