Probiotics for Mamas?
A friend of mine has recently reached out about probiotics for postpartum mamas… now, I have not have had the luxury of having a child yet but have had my onset of gut issues so I will dedicate this post to you wonderful, courageous mamas out there. Scroll down to the end…
First thing’s first…
Over the past decade we’ve become a bit germ obsessed. It seems like almost everyone carries around a little bottle of anti-bacterial gel nowadays. The problem with using anti-bacterial gels and creams, and even abusing antibiotics, is that while these things do kill the bad bacteria, they also kill the good bacteria. Our bodies need good bacteria to function properly so using these products minimally is your best bet.
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria living in your body that help protect against illness. We can take supplements of these beneficial bacterial or obtain them from some food sources. There are hundreds of different strains of probiotic, which are all important to overall health. Certain strains are particularly good for pregnant women and others best for new mamas and babies.
While we typically think of probiotics as being good for digestive health, they do more to promote health in the body. Probiotics are found lining the mucous membranes of your digestive, urinary, and vaginal tracts. This last one is particularly important in pregnancy, because we want to foster healthy vaginal tissues before and during delivery.
Additionally, probiotics are key to a healthy immune system. These beneficial bacteria make up approximately 70% of your immune system, making them an important part of your daily defense mechanisms. Ensuring a healthy balance of good bacteria in the body can foster overall wellness.
My take on Probiotics – YES!
I recommend that people with autoimmune issues or any sort of digestive issues to use probiotics. We know that intestinal permeability is a big factor in autoimmunity, and one of the things that can cause intestinal permeability is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Taking probiotics can really help with that. A lot of people with anxiety and gut problems (which are very common in Hashimoto’s) will be able to improve their symptoms tremendously by taking probiotics. I also found that there are various reasons why a person may have intestinal permeability.
Gluten has been known to cause leaky gut, and many have found freedom by a follow- ing a gluten free diet. In fact, some people have even seen a complete remission in their autoimmune condition by simply removing gluten from their diet.
Guts can also become permeable when dysbiosis is at play. This basically means that there isn’t enough good (probiotic) to beat the bad (opportunistic gut bacteria). It’s com- mon for people with autoimmunity to have lower probiotic bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidus and higher amounts of E. coli and Proteus bacteria. These bad guys are known as “opportunistic pathogens” because they only become pathogens when the opportunity is ripe.
Let’s say you’ve had an ear infection and had to be on an antibiotic to cure it. The anti- biotic will eliminate the bad bacteria and heal the infection but, unfortunately, it takes everything out including the good bacteria we need in our gut to aid in digestion. Probiotics are a natural way to put those good guys back in your body and are essential for people who have Hashimoto’s. If there are more probiotic bacteria than opportunistic bacteria, then the bad guys behave. However, if the bad outnumber the good, then they start damaging the gut walls which leads to leaky gut.
There’s a test called Gastrointestinal Function Comprehensive Profile - Genova Kit that quantifies microbial flora. (You can have your functional medicine doctor order this test for you, or you can self-order the Genova Kit.) Initially, I was shocked to see that I had zero growth of Lactobacillus bacteria even though I was eating yogurt daily. Unfortunately, most commercial probiotics and yogurts don’t have enough beneficial bacteria to make a difference. When I realized this, I began eating fermented foods and adding high doses of probiotics and immediately started feeling so much better. I’d already been gluten and dairy free, and this addition helped me hurdle over a “healing wall.” I re- tested myself with the same kit when all of my Hashimoto’s symptoms were gone and found that my probiotic bacteria were in the optimal range, and the E. coli and Proteus species were no longer predominating my gut flora.
How do I take probiotics?
I always want to make sure that you’re getting enough of them. A lot of times the stores will sell probiotics as ten billion colony-forming units—which sounds like a lot! Your gut has a hundred trillion unit colonies of bacteria, and we want to make sure that each person is getting enough. You want to start off with a low dose and keep going. You may have to test it and see what is best for you. It would also be helpful to consult your practitioner or holistic doctor. You can ingest them a variety of ways, but I recommend them in supplement form. I also love eating fermented coconut yogurt, fermented coconut water, and fermented cabbage as a complement to my supplement intake.
Saccharomyces boulardii from Rootcology has beneficial yeast that helps eliminate pathogenic bacteria, Candida, other parasites, (including Blastocystis hominis), H. pylori, and infections that have been implicated in ulcers and linked to Hashimoto’s. S. boulardii does not colonize the gut wall but instead causes an increase of Secretory IgA, which supports your own body’s natural defense against infections and opportu- nistic gut bacteria.
I really like Probiotic 50B because it provides 50 billion CFU of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifido- bacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium lactis. It’s offered in acid-resistant capsules with pH targeted release to deliver maximal viable organisms to the digestive tract. These five researched strains promote healthy intestinal ecology to support gastrointestinal and immune health. New research is showing that probiotic diversity helps health and improves gut function. Thus, I recommend taking higher doses of multi-strain probiotics. I built up to higher doses taking four capsules three times per day. Please note, Probiotic 50B require refrigeration and are only viable at room temperature for 2 weeks.
Otherwise, key players to look for include: Lactobaccilus plantarum, Lactobaccilus acidophilus, Bifidibacterium longum and Lactobaccilus brevis.
I encourage you to assess which is best for you. The recommendations I provide are here to educate and empower you in your decision- making process.
What success stories have people had using probiotics?
Probiotics aid in digestion and extraction of nutrients from the food we eat and even help balance the immune system. They’re known to help with a variety of gut symptoms such as treating Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) which is present in greater than 50% of Hashimoto’s patients (plus this overgrowth can be responsible for the leaky gut!). Probiotics have helped me with digesting my food and abating symptoms of anxiety. I highly recommend adding probiotics as a supplement. I’ve noticed they are best taken on an empty stomach so that they easily absorb into the bloodstream. Otherwise, they mix in with your food and are not as effective.
Now if you can shift through all of my findings, here is helpful information that I found online for Postpartum Mamas!
*Please know that this is no way to treat or diagnose mamas, please consult with your physician for this!
NOW, How Do Probiotics for Women Help Postnatal and Postpartum?
Here are 4 of the main reasons why expecting mothers need a probiotic-rich diet during and after:
1. Aids with Better Digestion – Probiotic microorganisms help our bodies break down various components of food, i.e. proteins, fats and carbs so they are digested more easily. They also convert fiber from food into fatty acids needed by our bodies, specifically the cells lining the intestinal wall.
A regular intake of probiotics can reduce digestive disorders like bloating, infectious or antibiotic-associated diarrhea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gas, constipation and heartburn. Since they improve digestive regularity and nutrient absorption, they help keep you and your baby in better health!
2. Reduce the Risk of Complications – When you're pregnant, you need to be extra careful about protecting yourself and your child against infection. Probiotics can help with strengthening your immune system, fight bacterial vaginosis and regulate your blood pressure in case of an intestinal inflammation.
Studies also point to a lower risk of developing preeclampsia (the number one cause of maternal death in America) if you take fermented milk products during the first half of your pregnancy, as well as reduce the occurrence of allergies, eczema and pediatric atopic dermatitis in children.
3. They Reduce Postpartum Depression – The gut is often called the second brain, and the relationship between gut health and mental health may seem obscure, but it exists. A properly functioning digestive system during and after pregnancy could tremendously reduce the chances of postpartum blues.
This is also attributed to the fact that probiotics for women can change the gut's neurotransmitters, helping it handle anxiety and depression better. Ever notice that when you're nervous, you get "butterflies in your stomach"? It's the same principle, really.
Continuing to take probiotics after the baby is born helps ensure that both of you stay in top shape, so give those friendly bacteria a chance to do their job!
“POSTNATAL PROBIOTICS BENEFITS
Recent studies have found that consuming probiotic supplements beginning in the first trimester of pregnancy and continuing their use through at least the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding can help women lose weight after the birth of their baby. Supplements with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium were linked to less central obesity (defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more or a waist circumference over 80 centimeters).
Probiotic use can be especially important if you need to take antibiotics for any reason in the postpartum period (really any time you take antibiotics, you can benefit from use of probiotics).
When mamas consume probiotics, the health benefits also find their way into breast milk and are passed on to baby. Breast milk is actually the source of our first immune-building “good” bacteria. Since baby’s gut bacteria continues to culture throughout the nursing time, it is great for mama to continue taking probiotics in the postpartum and as long as she breastfeeds.
PROBIOTICS FOR BABY
In addition to receiving probiotics via breast milk, probiotics can also be given to baby directly. Supplementation to baby can take a few forms: you can add a bit of probiotic to a bottle of milk, you can take a little probiotic on your finger to give to baby orally, or you may even put a little on your nipple and baby will ingest it during a feed.
Probiotics have numerous potential benefits for babies including the prevention and treatment of:
food sensitivities, especially in infants with a family history of allergy
colic, one study found decreased crying times by up to 75% (look for product containing Lactobacillus reuteri)
illness (colds and flu)
Research shows that good probiotic exposure in infancy can actually help optimize baby’s weight later in life. Early probiotic exposure may modify the growth pattern of the child by restraining excessive weight gain during the first years of life.
PROBIOTICS: SOURCES AND GUIDELINES
Different blends of different strains of probiotic may be optimal depending on whether you are pregnant or taking them in the postpartum (or giving to baby). We have a few excellent supplements at the clinic and we can talk to you further about what to look for in a probiotic.
Generally speaking, recommendations tend toward 1 to 10 billion Colony Forming Units for infants, and 10 to 20 billion CFU for older children and adults. To achieve and maintain a therapeutic effect, probiotics must be used consistently to ensure a sufficient and consistent population levels over time. It can be difficult to say exactly what dose is ideal, as products vary. Different probiotics have been shown to be effective at different levels. Products containing a higher number of live probiotics may not be better than one with fewer. It’s best to go with a reputable high-quality brand, ideally one that has been vetted by your health care professionals (such as us!).
There have been no reports of adverse reactions to supplementation of probiotics in moms or babies.
FOOD SOURCES OF PROBIOTICS
While supplementation is great, there are also many foods rich in probiotics. Fermented foods are particularly rich in probiotics.
Food sources of probiotics include:
Spirulina (with other great benefits in pregnancy and in general)
Prebiotic fiber enhances the growth of your resident probiotic organisms. Foods rich in prebiotic fiber include chicory root, dandelion greens, onions, garlic, jicama (Mexican yam), and Jerusalem artichoke. Acacia gum is a highly effective prebiotic available as a supplement in health food stores
Some more tips:
Reduce your consumption of sugar and carbs.
Diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates favor an imbalance in the gut bacteria that's associated with inflammation and risk for diabetes.
Buy products that are non-GMO.
One of the main reasons food crops are genetically modified is to make them resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® has been shown to induce significant changes in the microbiome.
Stop using aspartame.
Aspartame leads to dramatic changes in the microbiome that have been correlated with significant increased risk for developing diabetes — even more so when compared to sugar-sweetened foods.
“NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body”. National Institutes of Health. 13 June 2012. Web. 3 August 2016.
Perlmutter, David. “8 Tips to Reset Your Gut & Optimize Brain Health”. Mind Body Green. 28 April 2015. Web. 3 August 2016.
Breus, Michael. “Unlocking the Sleep Gut Connection” The Huffington Post. 13 January 2016. Web. 3 August 2016.
Foster, J.A. & McVey Neufeld, K.A. (2013). Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in Neuroscience, 36, 305-312.
Slykerman, R.F., Hood, F., Wickens, K., Thompson, J.M.D., Barthow, C., Murphy, R., . . . Mitchell, E.A. (2017). Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in Pregnancy on Postpartum Symptoms of Depressionand Anxiety: A Randomised Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial. EBioMedicine, 24:159-165.
Yatsunenko, T., Rey, F. E., Manary, M. J., Trehan, I., Dominguez-Bello, M. G., Contreras, M., … Gordon, J. I. (2012). Human gut microbiome viewed across age and geography. Nature, 486(7402), 222–227. http://doi.org/10.1038/nature11053