So you’re already pregnant or perhaps contemplating the right time to get pregnant.
Congratulations! Before choosing a baby name, let me offer some insight into the latest gut microbiome research so you can best prepare you and your baby for a healthy delivery and post-partum feeding.
First, the human body is AMAZING.
There is an entire universe of creatures inside you. These creatures are unique to you and your immune system and develop through our early life exposures to our environment. (you have no idea how lit up I get just thinking about this micro-universe!)
The second thing you should know is that as a mother, your gut health directly impacts your babies. Why or how you may be wondering? In the last several years, DNA sequencing technology has rapidly changed the way science can monitor changes to the bacteria, viruses, and yeasts (aka FLORA) that grow in and on your body. Some pretty amazing discoveries have come to light.
The placenta is not sterile!
That’s correct. A mother’s oral flora (mouth bugs), intestinal, and urogenital (vagina, urethra, bladder) are all found in the amniotic fluid. Dental cavities, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, STI’s are all linked with preterm birth. A study published in 2003 by Jeffcoat et al. sited a 5-7x increase risk of preterm delivery with periodontal disease alone.
If you have frequent UTIs, vaginosis, or dental cavities- treatment before pregnancy is best. I recommend topical probiotics for the vagina. You can put plain kefir on a tampon. You can also consume more vegetables and plant fibers, which increase the natural diversity of your gut flora. Treatment during pregnancy does not decrease your risk of preterm delivery. For more information, click here. These authors found a direct link to pre-eclampsia and periodontal disease.
I have a lot of thoughts and opinions on how the medical community has historically treated these “infections.” My approach comes from an understanding that the bacteria are living organisms with their survival mechanisms. When the ecosystem is balanced, the flora that reside in, you will also be happy and not cause disease. More on this to come! Not every case deserves an antibiotic or antifungal- this can tip the imbalance further.
A mother’s gut microbiome is most diverse before pregnancy and, for unknown reasons, slowly decreases throughout pregnancy. Scientists are starting to get curious about the shifts in bacterial species and quantity as pregnancy goes on. We know there are there specific bacterial species called “keystone” species that come into contact with an infant at birth to confer the best benefit to the baby’s immune system.
Here are some tips for keeping your body’s microbiome thriving during pregnancy
- Eat a diverse plant-rich diet of fresh and cooked vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds because they contain: Fiber, fiber, and more fiber. The gut bacteria need fiber to add diversity and to create a chemical byproduct called a short-chain-fatty-acid. These SCFA’s are what feed your cells keeping your tissue barriers intact. When the human tissue barrier is not healthy- leaky gut, inflammation, overactive immune system all come into play. I will describe this process more in future articles. Check out this article on SCFA’s from Dr. Mary Jane Brown, RD
- Eat fermented foods. When I was pregnant, I was so pleased to see that breweries carry Kombucha. I called it “Mommy Beer.” Miso, krauts, kefir are all excellent sources of probiotics.
- Exercise– exercise has been shown in rats to lengthen the intestinal villi and decrease fatty infiltration of the gut itself. Longer villi mean healthier surface area of the gut bacteria to live and means no leaky gut. Check this review article out here.
- Drink filtered water– chlorine in all municipal water kills bacteria. Chlorine is in the municipal water supply to minimize contamination with harmful bacteria and parasites. However, best to filter it at home before consumption so as not to harm your microbiome. I use the zero water filter. Tap water in Oregon runs at 55 ppm of total dissolved solids; this filter takes it down to zero. (Pun intended, certainly) When I make my ferments, tap water doesn’t ferment where the filtered water does. That is proof enough for me.
Please comment below! Lets keep this conversation going.