Probiotics are only increasing in popularity, and for good reasons. Probiotics play a big role in establishing and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Studies are beginning to reveal just how much of an impact the health of your gut can have on your overall health. But are probiotics safe in pregnancy?
The Pros of Probiotics
Probiotics are healthy bacteria strains that support your digestive health. They are often taken to help with digestion or to treat irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and colitis. They can also help with allergy-related issues and oral health problems. Probiotics also show promise in treating a variety of skin conditions. The list goes on!
Your gut health also influences your brain health via the gut-brain axis. Simply put, there is bidirectional communication between your brain and your gut. It has been shown that an unhealthy gut microbiome is linked to a higher occurrence of anxiety and depression. In some cases, the supplementation of probiotics can be used to reduce symptoms.
In pregnant women specifically, an increase in probiotic consumption has been linked to better metabolism. One study showed that probiotics increased glucose metabolism in overweight mothers, which reduced the risk of complications associated with the pregnancy. This and the other many benefits of probiotics are great reasons to consider increasing your intake during pregnancy.
Are Probiotics Safe in Pregnancy?
Probiotics have been deemed mostly safe by the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health. If side effects occur, they will likely be mild. A small number of people may experience more serious side effects, such as people who are critically ill or have weakened immune systems. For most women, probiotics should be safe to take during pregnancy.
How to Increase Probiotics in Pregnancy
There are two main ways to increase your probiotic intake in pregnancy: supplementation and food sources. When purchasing probiotic supplements, go for a quality brand and buy the options that are stored in a cooler or fridge, which have a better shelf life.
If you decide to start eating more probiotic-rich foods, you have some tasty options. Kimchi and sauerkraut can provide lots of healthy bacteria in small servings. Make sure to buy high-quality refrigerated brands, as those types have the most probiotic value. Fermented dairy
products like yogurt also contain healthy bacteria. Tempeh and miso are both fermented soy options that provide a healthy dose of probiotics.
Other Ways to Support Your Health in Pregnancy
Increasing your probiotic intake is great at any stage of life, including pregnancy. If putting your healthiest foot forward is on your mind during pregnancy, there are some other ways you can give it a boost. Here are some options commonly explored in pregnancy.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
If you purchase a good apple cider vinegar with the “mother” (colony of beneficial bacteria) still in it, you could reap some great health benefits. Apple cider vinegar with the mother contains probiotics. Like other probiotic foods, it can help with glucose metabolism.
There are many other claims about apple cider vinegar, but most are yet to be supported. That being said, it is safe for consumption in pregnancy. You can dilute it with water for consumption or get creative and use it in a salad dressing.
DHA is essential for making a healthy baby, which is why some mothers choose to supplement with it during pregnancy. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that helps your baby’s brain and eyes develop. Intake has been linked to length of gestation as well. DHA may also play a role in preventing perinatal depression. If you are concerned about not meeting your daily dietary intake of DHA, it is safe to consider supplementation.
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)
Evening primrose oil has long been used as a natural way of inducing labor. At this time, more information is needed to study just how effective EPO is at facilitating labor, as the studies are limited. But you should know that EPO is safe to use—just keep in mind that with this herbal supplement, there are no guarantees that it will work to induce.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red raspberry leaf tea is an herbal tea that is safe for consumption in pregnancy. It has been shown that consumption of this tea is linked to birth at full gestation and less likelihood of requiring a cesarean section or the use of forceps at birth. If you want something nice to sip on during pregnancy that also provides benefits for you and your baby, red raspberry leaf tea is a great option.
Many mothers feel inspired to take control of their health during pregnancy. Probiotics are a safe and effective option. Apple cider vinegar, DHA, evening primrose oil, and red raspberry leaf tea are all also safe for consumption.
Just remember that before including any new supplements in your routine, check in with your health professional first. If you’d like more information, please call our Wilmette or Glenview offices to schedule an appointment.