You’ve baby-proofed your house, stopped using toxic beauty products, and have been popping your prenatal vitamin since before you found out you were preggo. Not on your pre-baby to-do list? Adding more bacteria into your life.
Turns out your multivitamin might not actually be giving you everything you need for the healthiest possible pregnancy. The missing ingredient? Probiotics. Yes, the buzzy supplement hasn’t just been linked to better digestion—but also to healthier babies and easier pregnancies.
William Sears, MD, pediatrician and author of more than 40 best-selling books on nutrition and parenting, says that a gut teaming with good bacteria can help keep your system running smoothly so your body can focus on the important stuff: growing a human.
“There’s no segment of the population I’d rather see adopting gut-friendly habits than expecting mothers,” Dr. Sears says. “Our modern lifestyles can be tough on the gut, so it takes a degree of awareness and determination to do this well.”
To start, Dr. Sears recommends giving the side eye to anything you’re putting in your body. Try to avoid unnecessary exposure to antibiotics (whether as medicine or in your food supply), and make sure your diet is rich in nutrient-dense, plant-based foods.
Next up? Cleaning up your household and beauty supplies. “These are often laden with chemicals, toxins, and antibacterials that harm beneficial microbes,” Dr. Sears says.
For one example, take triclosan. The compound was recently banned by the FDA after studies deemed it harmful to your body’s supply of good bacteria—and it’s common in many soaps, toothpastes, and cosmetics. (And, it can be passed to your baby through your breast milk once it gets inside your system.)
The last—but no less important—step? Add a probiotic to your daily routine. Hyperbiotics PRO-Moms (which you can find at Target) has a time-released delivery that ensures the organisms survive your stomach acids, unlike many other options on the market. With consistent use, you’ll be well on your way to having a happy belly—and baby.
Keep reading for the three reasons why probiotics can be crucial for expecting moms—and their babies.
1. They strengthen your immune system
Did you know an iron-clad immune system is something you can actually pass directly to your offspring? While your body already contains trillions of microbes that keep your system functioning properly, your baby actually has almost no bacteria until birth. Everything he or she starts life with will come from you—from the birth canal and breast milk—so you want to make sure you’re passing on the good stuff.
“When a mom’s immune system is strong, it’s more likely that her infant will inherit the building blocks for a healthy life,” explains Dr. Sears.
A whopping 80 percent of our immune cells live in the gastrointestinal tract, so increasing your gut health is basically like doing deadlifts. Probiotics can help supercharge that boost by delivering beneficial bacteria directly to your intestines, supporting immune function at its core.
“This good bacteria gets to work producing vitamins and enzymes that make it easier to stay well, especially during pregnancy,” Dr. Sears says.
2. They make your breast milk healthier
One of the main ways that immunity is passed on is via breast milk—through something called the enteromammary pathway, which connects your gut to your mammary glands.
“Studies show that the probiotic quality of breast milk can vary greatly from mother to mother,” Dr. Sears says. “So making the decision to cultivate your gut health and live in harmony with your microbes can go a long way toward optimizing your breast milk and supporting the health of your child.”
In a 2015 study, researchers found that breast milk is filled with hundreds of beneficial bacteria that colonize a baby’s tiny digestive tract with good flora, which will become the foundation for his or her immune function as a child and through adulthood. (Crazy, right?)
3. They help your gut handle some serious changes
Like so much else during pregnancy, your gut situation also undergoes dramatic changes when you’ve got a bun in the oven. During the third trimester, your microbiome triggers increased blood glucose and body fat, so you can help provide proper nourishment to your baby during the time of rapid development before birth.
And while the “pregnancy glow” is welcome to stick around, more body fat might not be on your postpartum wish list. Probiotics kick in here, too, by helping to ease your body and gut back to normalcy.
“Taking probiotics during gestation helps moms feel their best in a number of ways,” Dr. Sears says. “A healthy gut encourages normal blood sugar levels and optimal mental and emotional function—and it may even make it easier for moms-to-be to return to their ideal weight after delivery.” Fewer hormonal mood swings and less brain fog? #Blessed.
Originally published on WELL+GOOD.
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