The gut microbiome – this world of billions of bacteria and yeasts in our gut – plays a role in many essential processes in the body, including digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function, cognition, detoxification, and more. For example, 70 to 80 percent of the body’s immune system is located in the gut, and over 90 percent of the body’s happiness hormone serotonin is produced with the help of our gut bacteria.
Keeping the gut microbiome balanced and diverse is a foundation to health and longevity. Unfortunately, today’s modern lifestyle of processed foods, high-stress environments and certain medications can harm this natural balance and diversity of gut bacteria. If the gut microbiome becomes imbalanced, this can impact health in a multitude of ways, including digestive issues, systemic inflammation, a weaker immune system and even changes in mood.
The latest research is also increasingly pointing to a connection between the gut microbiome and fertility, the importance of gut health during pregnancy, and supporting gut health for babies.
Gut microbiome & fertility/ preconception – what research currently says:
If you’re thinking about family planning and fertility, gut health should be included on your checklist. Dr. Jaclyn Smeaton, naturopathic doctor and founder of Hello Fertility, advises that “the ideal time to work on your gut health is about six to twelve months before trying to conceive. This allows you to work on any microbiome imbalance and get the gut in good working order before getting pregnant.”
One way the gut may impact fertility is via inflammation. If the gut microbiome is out of balance, this can lead to inflammation in the intestines, which is often a trigger for leaky gut. When the gut becomes leaky, unwanted substances can leak into the blood stream. The immune system detects these substances as foreign intruders, which triggers an inflammatory response. A literature review in the Journal of Endocrinology has shown a connection between gut dysbiosis (i.e., an imbalance of gut bacteria), inflammation and poor egg quality.
Leaky gut can also impair nutrient absorption from the foods you eat. This means that even if you’re eating a very healthy diet, your gut may not absorb all these beneficial nutrients into your bloodstream. Nutrients are important building blocks for hormones and other factors related to fertility, so ensuring your body can effectively absorb and use the nutrients you ingest from your food (and your prenatal vitamins!) is an important component for overall fertility. Furthermore, building up your nutrient storages prior to pregnancy can help keep you and baby nourished in those first few weeks of pregnancy, when nausea and morning sickness makes eating a balanced diet a bit more difficult.
The gut microbiome also influences the endocrine system, which controls important reproductive hormones related to fertility and pregnancy. As such, an imbalance in the gut microbiome and certain bad bacteria have been linked to hormone imbalances, PCOS, endometriosis and complications in pregnancy.
Gut health & pregnancy – Why is taking care of the gut important during pregnancy:
During pregnancy, the composition of the gut microbiome changes significantly. This is believed to have several evolutionary reasons to support a healthy pregnancy. However, it can also bring along digestive discomfort and changes in bowel movements. Add to that the growing baby, and many women will encounter some digestive discomfort at some point throughout their pregnancy, especially constipation.
A high-quality probiotic supplement can be a great way to support digestive comfort and function, and to ease constipation. Omni-Biotic Balance, for example, is a multispecies probiotic that contains important “keystone” strains that support digestion, bowel movements and immune function during pregnancy and beyond.
Furthermore, probiotics aren’t only a consideration for mom at this time. They can have an incredibly positive impact on the baby as well. Mom’s gut microbiome influences the development of baby’s gut microbiome via the placenta, as well as via a vaginal birth, exposure to the skin microbiome, and breastfeeding.
Up until a little while ago, researchers believed that the uterus was a sterile place without any bacteria, and that as a result, an infant’s gut microbiome is populated through the birth process and other factors after birth. However, fascinating new findings have shown that the mother’s placenta contains a microbiome, and that baby’s first bowel movement (called meconium) already contains certain species of probiotic bacteria.
Dr. Smeaton explains that “these findings have the powerful implication that expecting mothers may already be able to influence the baby’s microbiome prior to birth. Practically speaking, it highlights the importance of keeping mom’s oral, vaginal, intestinal, and skin microbiomes as healthy and balanced as possible during pregnancy.”
5 actionable tips for keeping mom’s microbiome healthy:
1. Practice good oral care – after all, the mouth is the beginning of the digestive tract
2. Take care of your gut microbiome by incorporating a diversity of plant fibers and limiting intake of processed, high sugar foods
3. Take a high-quality probiotic during pregnancy to supply your gut with beneficial bacteria
4. Practice good hygiene to keep your vaginal
5. Replace microbiome-harming skincare products with more natural options
A targeted approach to probiotics for preconception & pregnancy:
One effective way to support gut health throughout the pregnancy journey is via a high-quality, targeted probiotic.
Omni-Biotic offers targeted probiotic formulations for specific health needs. Each strain is deeply researched, and then strains are mindfully combined with specific health outcomes in mind. Each probiotic formulation is then tested in clinical studies to demonstrate efficacy. And, Omni-Biotic comes with a unique powder delivery mechanism that ensures a high survival rate of the probiotic bacteria into the intestines. After all, for a probiotic to be effective, the good bacteria need to reach the intestines alive and active!
At Omni-Biotic, we do not believe in a “one-size fits all” approach. Instead, our formulations are designed with specific health outcomes in mind. These formulations also allow us to support mom at each stage of pregnancy as her needs change.
Preconception: This is a great time to address any gastrointestinal issues, and to support overall gut health. Omni-Biotic offers targeted probiotics for specific health needs. For example, if your main concern is that you’re quite stressed, then Omni-Biotic Stress Release could be a great option for you. If, however, you recently took antibiotics, then Omni-Biotic AB10 will help restore diversity and balance in your gut flora. As mentioned above, working with a healthcare practitioner who has experience with stool testing and gut health can also be very beneficial to help address lingering issues. The goal is to get any bad bacteria and yeasts out of your gut, and restore bacterial balance in the gut.
In the first and second trimester: At this point in their pregnancy, many women experience nausea, bloating and constipation. Omni-Biotic Balance contains six different probiotic strains that support digestion and can alleviate bloating and constipation. As an added bonus, Omni-Biotic Balance helps support immune function.
In the third trimester: Omni-Biotic Panda was specifically formulated for expecting mothers and babies. When taken in the third trimester, Omni-Biotic Panda can support mom’s digestive comfort and function, and balance her immune system. Many important immune markers are passed on to the baby during breastfeeding, so you are setting up both mom and baby for success. Furthermore, a clinical study with Omni-Biotic Panda has shown an improvement in bacterial diversity in the gut for pregnant women, which is beneficial for their gut health as well as for baby’s gut health.
What about how to optimize gut health in the postpartum period?
The first weeks and months with a newborn can be quite stressful. Lack of sleep, a new routine, and getting to know your baby all add to this stress.
Unfortunately, stress depletes the gut microbiome and as mentioned above, this starts a cycle of inflammation, disease, and ultimately more stress. Omni-Biotic Stress Release was specifically formulated to support the gut (and body) in times of stress. The probiotic strains in Stress Release support a strong gut barrier, helping to manage local and systemic inflammation, and have shown in clinical studies to support mood, emotional balance, focus and cognitive function. Taking a probiotic to support the body during these stressful times can be a highly effective way to support mom and partner during the newborn stage.
A healthy gut microbiome for baby’s development:
The baby’s gut microbiome develops for the first few years of life.
One of the main topics of conversation around the baby’s gut microbiome is often how the baby was delivered. Until recently, researchers believed that vaginal birth was a critical component to help lay a strong foundation for the baby’s gut health and immune health (given the 70-80% of immune cells live in the gut). This was based on research that showed a difference in the composition of the gut microbiome for babies born vaginally compared to those born via C-Section. Interestingly, more recent studies have shown that this difference balances out within approximately six weeks of birth.
New moms can also support a baby’s gut microbiome via a probiotic specifically made for babies. Omni-Biotic Panda, for example, was developed to support the development of an infant’s gut microbiome up to three years of age.
In fact, a clinical study with Omni-Biotic Panda has shown improvements in symptoms associated with infant colic, and a reduction in digestive discomfort in infants.
Another important aspect of a healthy gut microbiome is that it helps lay the foundation for strong immune function. For example, childhood allergies and even certain metabolic conditions have been linked to imbalances in the gut. Taking a high-quality probiotic supplement can help reduce risk of developing childhood allergies by supporting a balanced immune system. This is especially important for children whose parents have a history of autoimmune issues. In a clinical study with Omni-Biotic Panda, pregnant women (some with a family history of allergic disease) took Omni-Biotic Panda probiotic daily in last six weeks of pregnancy and then gave it to their babies postnatally for 12 months after birth. Results showed a 58% relative risk reduction of prenatal reported eczema sustained over two years.
Gut health can be an overwhelming topic, especially when planning a family and during pregnancy. The bottom line is this: the beneficial bacteria that live in our intestines play a central role in our health. From helping with digestion and nutrient absorption, to neurotransmitter production, hormone production and immune function, a balanced microbiome is key. When this delicate ecosystem of beneficial bacteria gets out of balance, bad bacteria and yeasts can overgrow, leading to intestinal inflammation, leaky gut, immune imbalances and other health issues.
To keep your gut microbiome happy and healthy during preconception, pregnancy and beyond, consider the following:
- A high quality, targeted probiotic can support you and your partner during preconception, pregnancy and beyond
- Practice good oral hygiene since the oral and gut microbiome are closely connected
- Incorporate a diverse set of plant-based fiber into your diet to keep the gut microbes happy
- Support your infant’s gut health from the beginning. A probiotic specifically designed for babies, such as Omni-Biotic Panda, can help with this.