The term ‘microbiome’ refers to the totality of microbes, their genetic elements and environmental interactions within a particular environment. Research has shown that the community of microbes within the gut can have a huge impact on human physiology. Certain non-beneficial microbes in larger numbers have been linked with a number of chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes and auto-immune disease. Links have also been made with mood disorders, allergies, asthma and obesity.
The good news is that we can influence the gut and immune health of our children by understanding the importance of transference of microbes between mother and baby.
Prior to birth, the foetus grows in the mother’s womb in an almost sterile environment. In the outside world, baby will come into contact with many bacteria, both good and bad. To prepared for that in the lead up to birth, good bacteria will migrate to different locations of the mother’s body and will be transferred to the baby through the birth canal. Other modes of transference will be through the skin to skin contact of mother and baby and during breastfeeding. This is referred to as the ‘seeding’ of baby’s microbiome.
Another important factor is the health of the mother’s microbiome or gut flora. To ensure that baby’s immune system is given the best start possible when the transference of microbes takes place, a focus on gut health in preconception care is important. This is especially relevant for women who may already have conditions linked with dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of bacteria within the gut.
So what can you do if you’re planning a family and want to ensure that you have healthy microbiome to transfer to your baby?
Firstly, planning and preparation is a good place to start. Give yourself ideally 6-12 months to get your body ready for pregnancy to ensure that you have time to get your health into tip top shape!
Consider the following:
• Optimal nutrition! So true is the old saying ‘you are what you eat!” Certain foods and drinks such as sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol can disrupt the balance of our gut bacteria and even feed and encourage the growth of non-beneficial bacteria. Ensure your diet is rich in wonderful nutritious wholefoods (organic where possible!)
• Include probiotic food sources such as fermented vegetables or kefir. These foods will provide a direct source of beneficial microbes to improve the landscape of gut bacteria.
• Quit smoking….I don’t need to elaborate on the reasons why, but also note smoking has a negative effect on gut bacteria.
• Exercise regularly! The benefits of regular exercise include a healthier body and mind. Studies have also shown that women who exercise during pregnancy may impact for the better the health of the placenta, increasing the size. This means more oxygen and nutrients delivered to the foetus.
• Stress less! Too much stress can negatively impact our gut health, endocrine health and general well-being.
• Minimise or avoid alcohol.
• Reduce your toxic exposure. Aim to eat organic produce, steer clear of processed and packaged foods that can contain food additives and preservatives. Consider going natural and chemical free when you buy cleaning products and personal hygiene and beauty products.
• See your Naturopath for guidance on what supplements and herbs are most beneficial in improving your gut microbiome.
Pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding seed the baby’s microbiome, a greater understanding and active support of this natural process may have profound and positive effects on the long term health of our children*. The innate intelligence of the mother’s body is able to protect and prepare the baby for the outside world before and after the first breath is taken, this is truly nature and nurture at its best.
Emma Tippett is an enthusiastic and caring Naturopath practitioner who believes that finding and maintaining your optimal health is the primary focus of your Naturopath Melbourne. To book an appointment with Emma, call 1300 21 44 25.
*Disclaimer: Please know that the results are a typical and may vary from person to person
Planning A Family?
Book in for a Consultation at Empowered Health!