Want to have healthy guts? Healthcare professionals are shouting from the rooftops about the good gut bacteria in pregnancy, and why this is important. Here’s why…
Your gut has a plethora of micro-organisms known as the microbiome that in the right quantities are responsible for breaking down food, protecting us against harmful bacteria, absorbing nutrients and making some vitamins. During pregnancy, the gut microbiome can change, such as less types of bacteria needed to help the gut stay healthy. Increased levels of the hormone progesterone can also cause constipation, so you might like to speak with someone in your local health store about natural therapies and remedies that might help.
And it’s not just your gut that has to stay healthy. Your vagina deserves some bacterial TLC too…
Scientists are also just starting to understand the significance of the vaginal microbiome which has done the job of creating a favourable environment for fertilisation and pregnancy, but now has an important role in management of infection before it reaches the womb, which isn’t just important for you, but for baby too. During pregnancy, the vagina becomes more acidic, which can influence the levels and types of different bacteria needed to keep our nether regions healthy.
What should I do now?
There are a number of easy ways to optimise your gut and vaginal microbiome.
Firstly, live bacterial cultures have been shown to reach the vagina and the gut. This could be through supplementation or diet.
Secondly, stress is not a friend of the microbiome, so try, where possible, to lower stress levels.
Thirdly, lack of sleep can affect gut health. Easy to say in between midnight wee trips and pregnancy insomnia. Here are a few practical ways that might help:
- Eat bacterial culture rich food. Fermented food such as kefir, apple cider vingear, sauerkraut, kimchee and kombucha have all been shown to be safe during pregnancy. You can make your own or buy from a health food shop. Start slowly and increase.
- All good bacteria needs food. ‘Prebiotic’ is the term given to fibre and natural sugars that helps good bacteria to grow. Foods rich in prebiotics include artichokes, onions, garlic, chicory, cabbage and most legumes such as chickpeas and lentils.
- Eat a wide variety of fruit and veg of varying colours. This has been shown to increase microbial diversity.
- Supplement. There are a range of probiotic supplements tailored specifically for pregnant and lactating women. A reputable health food store or a nutritional therapist would be able to recommend one that is right for you at a strength that will work.
- Take time to chill. Exercise and daylight reduce stress. Lockdown has seen a huge surge in online pregnancy exercise and yoga classes, find one you enjoy and that works for you. Walking is also often underestimated. If working from home be strict with your ‘off’ time and take breaks.
- Prioritise your sleep. Now, more than ever, good sleep hygiene is something to focus on. Try to limit use of your phone before bed. Use aromatherapy such as lavender oil in a bath or epsom salts full of sleep -condusive magnesium (check before using aromatherapy as some oils such as rose or clary sage are contraindicated during pregnancy).