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Why are probiotics important during pregnancy?

Why are probiotics important during pregnancy?

Eating a healthy diet while pregnant is so important for you and your child, not only for the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that you need to stay healthy and grow a baby but also for keeping your digestive system in the best shape possible.

The digestive system is an intricate system that needs a variety of nutrients to help it work at its optimal level. Take any of these nutrients out and you compromise your ability to process food, nutrients, vitamins and minerals and the ability to maintain balanced gut flora which can have follow on affects to the rest of your health.

This area of the digestive system has undergone a lot of research recently with researchers looking closely at a variety of different strains of gut flora that live in a person’s digestive system. Everyone has ‘good’ flora and ‘bad’ flora that live in our digestive systems and they have been linked to impacting all areas of our health; from our immune system to our emotional well being. As such they have also been found to be very important in pregnancy.

A very common complaint of pregnancy is digestive system upsets so finding supplements that may help reduce these issues are very popular. Constipation, diarrhoea, heart burn or indigestion are all common place throughout pregnancy but even more so in the final trimester. By helping the correct flora grow in digestive systems we can reduce these symptoms and may even stop them altogether. A study done involving pregnant women suffering constipation showed that with probiotic supplementation the symptoms diminished greatly.

There’s also more research suggesting that supplementation with certain probiotics can prevent gestational diabetes through helping the digestive system to process nutrients and sugars better. Researchers have looked at the possibility that certain strains of probiotics reduce the chances of preterm births, and contribute to better outcomes in the health of a child in relations to a stronger immune system. In fact they suggest that a mother and her unborn baby have stronger immune systems when supplemented with probiotics and may be less likely to get infections whilst pregnant.

Also eczema and allergies are thought to be reduced greatly in children whose mothers took probiotics whilst pregnant and in the early days of the childs life while being breast fed. Probiotics also seem to contribute to breast health, with a study showing that treatment with a certain strain of probiotic was as effective as antibiotics in the treatment of mastitis.

So looking after your digestive health, and subsequently your gut flora, it is really important for a healthy pregnancy. Maintaining good bacteria in the digestive system contributes to many different areas of our health, and especially so when pregnant. So how can we maintain our digestive systems health? Here are 5 simple eating tips to stick to.

  1. Eating a diet high in vegetables, medium amounts of whole grains and legumes with medium amounts of good quality protein, you can help support the natural growth of good digestive flora.

  2. Eating small amounts of certain fermented foods such as yoghurt will also help to grow healthy flora.

  3. Reduce your intake of all simple, processed sugars, as these tend to grow the ‘bad ‘ types of bacteria which can over take the ‘good’ types.

  4. Include vinegars in your diet. Vinegars tend to promote digestive enzymes and have been shown to contribute to certain strains of good bacteria.

  5. Of course you may need to kick start the process with a good quality probiotic, so speak to your naturopath about a supplement that will suit you best.

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Written by Emma Tippett

Emma Tippett is a practicing Naturopath at Empowered Health in Melbourne. Website: http://www.empoweredhealth.com.au/andre-strand-nee-hepner/

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