One question we often get asked when taking care of pregnant moms at The Powerhouse is “Should I take probiotics during pregnancy?”
We regularly give our practice members advice to help improve their gut health, especially at our Eat By Design workshop.
Before we begin, you may be asking yourself:
- What are probiotics?
- Why do we need to take probiotics?
So let’s get into it…
Question: What are probiotics?
Answer: Probiotics are live bacteria that are helpful for your digestive system.
Question: Why do we need to take probiotics?
Answer: We have bacteria that live in our guts. These bacteria actually outnumber our own cells by about 10:1.
Our gut bacteria can get off balance, like when we take a round of antibiotics to fight off an infection. We want more of the good bacteria to occupy space so there is less room for the undesirable bacteria.
Approximately 70% of your immune system functions within your gut, so it’s important to keep them happy.
Taking probiotics is a way to encourage good bacteria that help digestion and immune function.
Living in a sterile environment isn’t the best for our immune systems because humans developed with a relationship to bacteria.
If you’re ever nervous that space which isn’t 99.9% germ-free, just think about camping. When you’re camping or spending time in nature, there’s more dirt around.
Our ancestors were great campers with a strong relationship to the natural environment, so dirt didn’t bother them!
You can learn more about probiotics from the Life By Design blog: Probiotics 101 for an excellent three-part series on the science and benefits of probiotics.
Is it safe to take probiotics during pregnancy?
Yes! You can continue taking probiotics regularly throughout your pregnancy.
For more information, we asked about pregnancy and probiotics from Dr. Jenna Arts, a Life By Design Chiropractor and mom.
She says that taking probiotics during pregnancy is great, and you may find reasons to double your dosage of probiotics. It’s common to get yeast infections or urinary tract infections (UTI) during pregnancy, so your body may need an increase in probiotics.
It’s possible you’ll get sick and need to take antibiotics during your pregnancy. Increasing your probiotics after a round of antibiotics will help repopulate your gut with good bacteria.
During pregnancy there are tests like the Group B Strep Test at 36-38 weeks that can impact your gut bacteria.
If you want to take the Group B Strep Test there is a probiotic vaginal suppository you can use in the week leading up to the test.
Taking the suppository increases the likelihood that the test results will come back negative, and may allow you to avoid using antibiotics during labour.
Be sure to bring your concerns to your doctor and pregnancy caregivers for more information about this.
Are probiotics safe for my newborn?
Yes, your baby can get started on probiotics right away.
For babies, Dr. Jenna recommends:
- Genestra powder or
- Metagenics liquid
Both are great brands, but she does say that the liquid is dairy-free and easier to give to a squirming baby.
Babies are born with no bacteria in their gut. They begin to populate their guts as they pass through the birthing canal, touch their mother’s skin and begin breast-feeding.
Probiotics at this stage will ensure their gut bacteria are being populated, especially if breast-feeding is not possible with your little one.
Probiotics and inflammation
As your baby grows, there will be even more gut-brain communications forming.
If you’re interested in learning more for yourself and your baby, check out Chris Kresser’s podcast “The Gut-Brain Axis”. It explores how inflammation in the gut affects the brain.
The brain is in charge of running the body, so when it isn’t working well, it slows down other activities. In times of stress, the brain reduces activity in the vagal motor nuclei and the digestive system.
Stress on the digestive system can produce inflammatory properties that affect the brain, continuing the cycle and impacting other systems.
Stress on the brain and body, whether through trauma, chemicals or emotional stress will affect all systems.
Chiropractic care has been shown to reduce neurological stress on the body and allow it to work better, including allowing your body to have better digestion through the same processes just described above.
One of the most engaging, approachable books on the subject is Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ.
In it, Guilia Enders explains the role of the gut and the gut-brain interactions. You get an inside look at the science of “gut feelings” and answers to important questions like “How does pooping work?”
Tracking your own gut health
Want to get super nerdy with us?
How can you check what kinds of gut bacteria you have and how it compares to the general population?
The microbiome is the ecosystem of microorganisms living in and on your body.
Companies like uBiome are gaining popularity for testing your gut microbiome. They send a kit with simple sampling tools to sequence the DNA of your gut microbiome.
You can talk to your doctor about the test results, and consider lifestyle changes to improve your gut health.
Taking probiotics to encourage healthy gut bacteria and tracking your progress is a way to see the changes happening on the inside.
Another source of probiotics: Fermented foods
Humans started fermenting foods long before we understood about bacteria and microbes because fermentation is an effective method of preserving foods. In Michael Pollan’s Netflix documentary Cooked he highlights how many fermented foods we eat.
More than a third of the food we eat is fermented, but we don’t think about it.
Obvious examples include foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
Non-obvious foods include ketchup, salami, cheese, chocolate, and hot sauces.
Unfortunately, not all fermented foods provide you with beneficial probiotics. So put down that grilled cheese and ketchup sandwich, and try some kombucha instead!
Part of our weekly ritual at home is making a new batch of kombucha to enjoy with our meals every day.
Making your own kombucha at home allows you to experiment with different flavours like chai, fruits or ginger. Find a grocery store near you that carries kombucha and check out the flavours for inspiration.
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