This is an article written by Dr. Challa, my guest on this week’s podcast. After reading his book, Probiotics for Dummies, I became convinced that I probably was deficient in good bacteria and bought a high quality supplement. While I would normally get my “bugs” by eating probiotic rich foods, I find that some of them are intolerable during pregnancy when my taste buds change and cravings and aversions are strong.
After two weeks of supplementing, I’ve found that I have less belching after eating, and I’m also more regular (and that’s no small benefit!). I wonder if I had supplemented before I became pregnant, if I would have had less struggle with nausea and vomiting? After reading Dr. Challa’s book, I’m thinking that health care providers would do well to recommend a probiotic supplement (as they currently do with folic acid) for women of child bearing age.
Here are a few reasons why probiotics in foods and supplements are so important for pregnant women and their babies.
Pregnancy and Probiotics
Most pregnant women experience food cravings. In addition to these dietary changes, a pregnant woman undergoes alternations in her digestive system. Women may experience heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, nausea and vomiting. A lot of this may be due to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. By taking probiotics (good bacteria) during pregnancy, Mom can feel the benefits of a healthier digestive system as her good bacteria are replenished.
How else do Mom and baby benefit from probiotics during pregnancy? Here are a few facts:
- As much as 18 percent less likely to give birth prematurely.
- Able to drop the pregnancy weight faster.
- At a lower risk of developing central obesity (belly fat) — if excess belly fat is retained after birth, Mom is at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
- At a 20 percent lower risk of developing gestational diabetes and diabetes after birth.
Baby also reaps health benefits if Mom takes probiotics while she’s pregnant. Baby is:
- At a 50 percent reduced risk of developing eczema.
- Not as likely to develop asthma, childhood obesity or diabetes.
- At a lower risk of developing a condition called necrotizing enterocolitis (where intestinal tissue begins to die).
The risk of developing diseases due to central obesity from pregnancy weight is higher for women who do not take probiotics. While the role of probiotics in weight management is still vague, researchers have found a correlation between the gut flora (types of bacteria found in your gut) and the subsequent weight of a person, whether they are lean or overweight.
A study done in Finland followed 256 pregnant women, beginning in the first trimester through the first year after birth. Researchers found that only 25 percent of women who took probiotics had belly fat, and the group taking probiotics actually had lost the highest amount of body fat since their first trimester. In comparison, 43 percent of women who took a placebo had central fat at the end of the first year.
Happy, Healthy Baby
We’ve all heard, “I want to pinch those chubby cheeks!” While we all love those sweet cheeks, babies who weigh 8 pounds, 13 ounces or more at birth are at a higher risk of being overweight.
Newborns are also at risk of colic — severe pain in the abdomen that causes babies to cry more than three hours a day at least three times a week. Recent studies show the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri (found in breast milk) helps reduce crying spells, inflammation and amounts of bad bacteria.
When deciding between naturally breast fed and using baby formula, mothers don’t always have a choice. Prebiotic-enriched baby formula contains similar gut bacteria to that found in breast-milk-fed infants. Nowadays you can find baby formulas that contain prebiotics, probiotics or a combination of the two (known as synbiotics).
**Please Note: Always consult your physician before adding a supplement — including probiotics — to your diet.
Choosing a probiotic can be difficult with so many options. I recommend the gourmet probiotic Probulin. Use promo code “Challa” on your order to receive 25 percent off at http://www.probulin.com/.
A final thought from Carrie:
Probiotic supplementation is an especially good idea for a baby born via C-section. Babies born vaginally pick up normal flora via the birth canal, so their gut begins to grow good bacteria immediately, which helps create a healthy immune system.
Babies deprived this advantage due to a C-section delivery are more likely to develop asthma and allergies. One study of C-section-delivered children found that 6 month old babies had half the amount of normal gut flora as vaginally delivered babies.
Probiotics are regarded as safe even for infants – as evidenced by the fact that it is now added to infant formula (of course, it’s always been in breastmilk!). Probiotics are a great idea for a baby (and mom) who have developed thrush, which is more common among C-section babies due to the antibiotics they’re exposed to.