Improve vaginal flora for birth while strengthening your baby's immune system
Gut health has become quite a popular topic in functional and integrative medicine. You may have heard statements such as:
“The GUT is the GATEWAY to your health” or “Gut health is the KEY to overall HEALTH” – Kris Carr
“Heal your GUT, Heal your BODY” or “All disease begins in the GUT” – Hippocrates
“Anything that affects the GUT always affects the BRAIN” – Dr. Majors
These statements are all true. A healthy gut improves nutritional absorption, immune system function, hormone balance, mood, metabolism, and aids in detoxification. There are several variables that impact gut health, but one of the major drivers of a healthy gut is a diverse microbiome.
What is the microbiome?
The microbiome is simply a collection of live microorganisms that inhabit a specific area. According to The Gut Microbiota for Health, “our gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes (150 times more than human genes)”. Is that not amazing or what?
As a culture, our gut microbiomes are not as diverse and healthy as we would like because of antibiotic use, antimicrobial soaps, pesticides, and general cleanliness. Because of this, I encourage my clients to supplement with probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live organisms (both bacteria and fungi) that are good for our health, especially within the intestines. Probiotics can be found naturally in certain foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables. Lactobaccilus and bifidobacterium are some of the most common beneficial bacteria found in probiotics and saccharomyces boulardii is one of the most common beneficial yeast found in probiotics. Probiotics help strengthen the immune system and help fight off pathogenic (disease causing) organisms from colonizing in our gut.
So why are probiotics important to supplement during pregnancy?
As you can see, probiotics are important during all phases of life; however, they are essential during pregnancy and postpartum. Scientists are starting to believe that by the age of 3 a child’s gut microbiome is similar to that of adults. Therefore, everything we do for our child from birth on can have a huge impact on their gut microbiome.
Your newborn’s intestines are quickly colonized with bacteria and yeast during and after delivery. As a baby passes through the vaginal canal, live microbes are transmitted to the baby through the nose, eyes, mouth, and skin. I have several of my patients and clients start using vaginal probiotics to make sure the vaginal flora is healthy for delivery. After delivery, breastfeeding is an excellent way to strengthen your infant's gut flora. We used to think that breast milk was sterile; however we are now finding breastfeeding is a great way to transmit probiotics to your little one. They are finding that infants who are breastfed have more bifidobacteria compared to formula fed infants.
It is never too early to start taking probiotics. I recommend taking probiotics throughout pregnancy because they may help with some of the common digestive complaints including nausea, reflux/heartburn, and constipation. Some of my favorite probiotics include: VSL 3, Prescript Assist, Dr. Formulated Probiotics for Women, and Orthobiotic.
In good health,
Kristin Oja, DNP, FNP-C, PT-C
Kristin Oja has her doctorate of nursing practice (DNP), is a board-certified family nurse practitioner, registered nurse, personal trainer, and group fitness instructor. Kristin is the Founder of STAT Wellness, which stands for Strength to Achieve Total Wellness. Through STAT Wellness, Kristin offers personal training, small group training, corporate wellness and wellbeing, and one on one consultations.
When she is not treating patients or working with STAT, Kristin is passionately serving the people of Honduras with the nonprofit HOI, where she serves on the medical board. Kristin was recently married and lives in Atlanta with her husband, Cameron. You may catch Kristin out for a run on the Beltline or enjoying the city’s food scene.