Recent science suggests that mothers’ gut health during pregnancy is central to the health of newborn babies. Let’s unpack why.
Forewarning: be prepared for lots of sexy bacteria chat.
Thanks to certain yoghurt brands boasting about ‘happy guts’ and ‘good gut bacteria’, we have an idea about taking care of our gut health. However, once seen as a niche concern, our gut health has entered the mainstream conversation of health and wellness. Let’s get into the ins and outs of gut health and the importance of having a healthy gut during pregnancy.
What does a healthy gut look like?
...a whole lot of microbes, baby. The gut microbiome is home to trillions of bacteria and microorganisms in our digestive system, also known as the digestive tract. Everyone’s microbiome is different, thus influencing our individual health in a unique way.
A healthy gut has good diversity amongst its bacteria. Reduced diversity or a shortage of microbial populations leads to poor gut health, and can often be found in people suffering from conditions such as IBS.
Why is gut health so important during pregnancy?
Contrary to popular belief, good gut health isn’t just about your digestion. Your gut also helps regulate your immune system and affects the health of your brain, heart and all other much-loved organs. It is also thought to help shape your baby’s health during pregnancy.
Your gut health during pregnancy influences your baby’s production of gut microbes. By taking care of your gut, you can increase the amount of protective microbes in your baby’s gut. This is super important, because it keeps your baby healthy and helps them produce good bacteria in their gut (we weren’t kidding about the bacteria chat). This also decreases their risk of diabetes and inflammation.
In short: if you have a healthy gut, you’ll reap health benefits and so will your baby.
During pregnancy, the influx of oestrogen drives the microbiome crazy. The science is a little unclear on why. However, it’s thought that as your body produces extra hormones to grow a baby, your gut is busy processing these hormones, which sets off new and different chain reactions in your body. This might result in dreaded pregnancy constipation and excess wind.
How to improve gut health during pregnancy
Experts advise that you begin taking care of your gut when you are trying to get pregnant, as well as throughout your pregnancy.
Our lifestyles affect our finely tuned internal environments. Our guts take on board everything we eat and drink, and can even be harmed by poor stress management. That said, I’m sure 2020 has been an awful year for guts worldwide.
Take probiotics and prebiotics daily. These will help eliminate excess harmful bacteria in your gut to make your environment more balanced.
Foods high in probiotics include peas, dark chocolate, yoghurt and miso soup. Prebiotics can be found in foods such as asparagus, leeks, apples, bananas, oats and blueberries.
Whilst these are some great options for supercharging your gut health, the key is in eating a nutritionally balanced diet. Eating the same things over and over again isn’t great for your gut, so try to switch it up.
Now let's talk sleep. Or sometimes, the lack of it when pregnant.