There are a handful of nutrients a woman doesn't want to miss out on while pregnant, which I've talked about in other blogs: choosing a prenatal supplement, vitamin D during pregnancy, calcium during pregnancy, the essential fat DHA, and probiotics.
Here’s How Probiotics Work
Your gut is home to billions of bacteria, good and bad. Probiotics colonize the intestines with good bacteria and ultimately keep the bad bacteria from multiplying. When harmful bacteria take over, it's associated with a weakened immune response, possibly leading to the development of allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders (ie: ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease), and infections (ie: diarrhea, H. pylori, skin infections), to name a few.
Probiotics and Skin Health
If you are currently pregnant or breastfeeding and suffer from allergies, eczema, hay fever, or allergy-related asthma…a recent study shows if mom takes specific probiotics while pregnant and breastfeeding, baby’s risk of developing eczema during the first 24 months of life is significantly reduced.
That's great news! There are literally hundreds of strains of probiotics and each have various functions. The two strains shown effective in this particular study are Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium longum (1). This is not the first study to show a relationship between mom taking probiotics during pregnancy and baby’s reduced risk of allergy (2, 3).
Probiotics and GI Health and Function
Need another reason to consider adding probiotics to your pregnancy diet? Perhaps no group has as many digestive issues as pregnant women! Whether it's heartburn, constipation, cramping, or diarrhea, pregnancy comes with a host of digestive ailments. No fun at all!
Probiotics promote healthy gut function, which aids in relieving some of these very common problems pregnant women face. Probiotics shown to support healthy bowel movement include: Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus (4). I like this Bifidobacterium supplement.
Probiotics and BPA
BPA is everywhere, and it's not good for your baby. Unfortunately, we're likely exposed to it fairly regularly, and while pregnant, that means your baby is too.
In the developing fetus, estrogen controls the development of the brain, the reproductive system and many other systems. Xenoestrogens, like BPA, can duplicate, block or exaggerate hormonal responses. This is very concerning for parents because some animal studies report ill effects in fetuses and newborns exposed to BPA.
Recent studies suggest BPA may also be linked to obesity by triggering fat-cell activity (6).
There are two probiotics, Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacillus casei, shown to reduce intestinal absorption of BPA by carrying it out of your digestive system (7).
What Foods Contain Probiotics?
Probiotics are most often found in fermented foods. The most common sources include yogurt and yogurt drinks, kefir (a fermented milk drink), miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha drink. Here are some of my favorite gut nourishers.
How To Take A Probiotic Supplement
Supplements don't provide the same nutrition whole foods can offer, but they can be convenient. I personally have had excellent experience with this probiotic, and it contains all probiotic strains important for reducing eczema in infants and relieving constipation.
Always take your probiotic about 5-10 minutes after dinner and refrigerate your probiotic.
Taking probiotics while pregnant is quite safe (5); however, it is still important for pregnant and breastfeeding women to consult with their physician before using a probiotic supplements.
What type of probiotics do you take during pregnancy?
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
1. Rautava S, Kainonen E, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Maternal probiotic supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding reduces the risk of eczema in the infant. J Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2012 Dec;130,(6):1355-1360. Dec. 2012.
2. Pelucchi C, Chatenoud L, et al. Probiotics supplementation during pregnancy or infancy for the prevention of atopic dermatitis: a meta-analysis. Epidemiology. 2012 May;23(3):402-414.
3. Sampo J, at al. Prenatal probiotic administration can influence Bifidobacterium microbiota development in infants at high risk of allergy. J of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2009 Feb;123(2):499-501.e8.
4. Milliana I, Tabbers M, et al. Is a multispecies probiotic mixture effective in constipation during pregnancy? ‘A pilot study.’ Nutrition Journal. 2012 Oct; 11:80
5. Elias J, Bozzo P, Einarson A. Are probiotics safe for use during pregnancy and lactation? Canadian Family Physician. March 2011 vol. 57 no. 3:299-301.
6. Trasande L, MD, MPP; Attina TM, MD, PhD, MPH; Blustein J, MD, PhD. Association Between Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration and Obesity Prevalence in Children and Adolescents. JAMA. 2012;308(11):1113-1121.
7. Oishi K, Sato T, Yokoi W, Yoshida Y, Ito M, Sawada H. Effect of probiotics, Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacillus casei, on bisphenol A exposure in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008 Jun;72(6):1409-15.