A Happy, Healthy Belly – 4 Tips to Optimize Your Microbiome During Pregnancy
Every mamma-to-be knows that eating well during pregnancy is essential for feeling good and giving your baby a head-start in life. In addition to providing nutrients for you and your baby, a nutritious diet also helps to optimize your gut microbiome.
Our microbiome is a complex ecosystem of bacteria, viruses and microbes that colonize our skin, mouth and gut. With approximately 40 trillion bacteria inside every one of us, our microbiome is believed to have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing. (1) Although our microbiome is continually changing based on age, stress, illness, our environment and the food we eat, we share our microbiome with a growing baby, which plants the seeds for baby’s future microbiome.
4 tips to optimize your microbiome
- Avoid processed foods and refined sugars – the typical Western-style diet is rich in processed foods and refined sugars, and low in fiber which can lead to an unhealthy microbiome. Biscuits, soft drinks, potato chips and fries may be tempting when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed with morning sickness, but we know they are not healthy for us, and research suggests that they may not be healthy for our microbiome either. (2) Even if you are craving salt and carbs, look for healthier gut alternatives such as salted nuts or rye crackers.
- Include plenty of prebiotic foods – prebiotic foods stimulate the growth of good bacteria. Prebiotic foods include artichokes, onion, garlic, leek, asparagus, oats, cashews and dried fruit. (3) Foods high in resistant starch such as legumes (chickpeas, lentils and baked beans), green bananas and cooked and then cooled potatoes (such as potato salad) are also a great fermentable fuel source for bacteria.
- Add probiotic foods to your diet – probiotics are live bacteria which provide health benefits to our body. Probiotic foods are foods which contain these healthy live bacteria and may help to restore the balance of good bacteria to our gut. (4) Popular probiotic foods that are good to consume during pregnancy include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi.
- Take pregnancy probiotics daily – although a nutritious diet sets the foundation for a healthy microbiome, emerging research suggests that specific strains of live bacteria may play specific roles for optimizing you and your baby’s health during pregnancy. Pregnancy probiotic supplements contain concentrated doses of specific strains which may help to support your immunity and digestion during pregnancy.
Remember though, that probiotic supplements alone won’t undo the damage done by a poor diet, so focus on choosing nutritious foods, limiting sugar and bad fats, gaining appropriate amounts of weight and speak to a prenatal dietitian or your obstetrician if you require additional assistance or are looking to add a daily probiotic supplement to your diet.
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- Sender et al (2016) Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body. PLoS One Biol.
- Singh et al (2017) Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Journal of Translational Medicine 15: 73.
- Collins S C (2017) Probiotics: The use of probiotics in pregnancy. Today’s Dietitian.
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