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Probiotics And Pregnancy - What You Should Know

Jean Shaw© - All Rights reserved

My brother and sister-in-law have just had some marvellous news. They are going to be grand parents, not once but twice. That means I'm going to be a great aunt – hopefully, literally!

The pregnancies whilst welcome were unexpected. It has always been accepted by his parents my nephew would never be a dad – at least not intentionally. My niece, on the other hand, has always wanted to be a mother, especially since her marriage. However, she had a tumour removed as a child and was warned motherhood might not be easy so her recent news is particularly pleasing.

I'm sure my relations will make wonderful parents. They are sensible with drink, don't smoke or take drugs and are fit and active. They also eat healthily, but I'm willing to bet they don't take probiotics every day. Not many people do, so for the sake of my unborn great nieces or nephews I'm going to explain to them why they should. I wish I'd had an auntie who'd told me about them.

Probiotics, for those who don't already know, are good friendly bacteria, and incase you're now wondering why anyone would possibly want to eat bacteria, it's because they are good for your health. Correction, they are essential for your health.

Whether you like it or not, bacteria live inside every one of you, and stretch from your mouth to your anus. Infact, you have more bacteria in your body than cells. Depending on which research you read, almost 85% of your immunity is found in your gut, and we all know a good immune system is essential if you want to be healthy.

Our genes are responsible for our appearance and characteristics, and our immune system is partly determined by our parents. If the mother breast-feeds she can pass on some of her own immunity to her offspring, something not possible with formulated milk. It is vital, therefore, all pregnant mothers realise the importance of having strong gut flora to pass on but to give the baby a boost you can put some probiotics on your nipples. If you choose to bottle-feed your child you should introduce probiotics to the baby within the formulated milk.

Probiotics are food. When a woman is pregnant her own immune system is naturally suppressed so it's important she take probiotics to feed both herself and the baby growing inside her.
When a child is first born, his or her gut is sterile and needs to be populated by bacteria. There are two types, probiotic that are the beneficial ones, and the pathogenic ones, which you really don't want too many of. The ratio of good to bad should be 85:15. Most people get it the other way round. This compromises their immune system preventing appropriate responses to the many environmental insults to which our modern society is exposed.

Unfortunately, with each generation our immune system gets weaker, and you might have noticed a marked increase in childhood disorders such as allergies, asthma, eczema, diabetes and hay fever. My specific interest is in the area of autistic spectrum disorders and ADHD. When my son was diagnosed with autism in 1993 the rate was approximately 1:2500, now in 2008 it's 1:100.

If you have sufficient of the right kind of bacteria, your body will be protected from unwanted invaders. Toxins can be grabbed, neutralised, and removed. Importantly, you will be able to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from your food. It doesn't matter how good the food you eat is if you can't absorb it. Having your gut populated by bad bacteria prevents food being broken down properly. When undigested particles get into your blood they cause all sorts of symptoms, and when undigested food remains in your body it produces all sorts of toxins as it rots and putrefies.
Until the invention of the refrigerator, the human race was very good at naturally getting daily probiotic bacteria. Food was eaten fresh and grains, vegetables or fruit, contained healthy probiotics, as the fertilisers, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, which were introduced after the Second World War, hadn't killed them off.

Any food left over was preserved, and the way this was done was by means of fermentation. Some foods are still prepared in this way, i.e. yoghurt and sauerkraut, but how many people do you know who eat these every day? Wine and some beer is also fermented which is why drinking in moderation can be considered beneficial.

Also, until relatively recently we weren't obsessed with sterilising everything and using anti-bacterial products. Soap, water and a bit of elbow grease worked fine. Anti-bacterial sprays, wipes, etc kill bacteria. Unfortunately, they kill ALL bacteria, both good and bad so how is anyone ever expected to build a good immune system? Ever heard the expression "A bit of dirt never hurt anyone"? Even a healthy person needs some pathogenic bacteria, just not too much. The way to keep it under control is to listen to Nature and fight like with like.

Fortunately people are slowly beginning to re-introduce probiotic bacteria into their diets. Good bacteria deal with all the bad stuff and keep the pathogenic strains under control. So how do you get it?
You will find all manner of formulations on the supermarket shelves. You can get powders, capsules, drinks, and yoghurts with manufacturers making all sorts of claims as to their possible benefits and potency. It's confusing.

However, replenishing your probiotic bacteria on a daily basis is essential because many different things including antibiotics, stress, pollution, chemicals, dental work, prescribed medication, contraceptive pills, and old age (to name just a few) destroy them.

If the probiotic bacteria are wiped out it provides a window of opportunity for pathogenic bacteria to flourish, and these are a major source of toxins in the body. Infact, it has been estimated 80% of toxins in the blood comes from the gut and since your blood nourishes your whole body it's not surprising many of us don't feel as well as we should.

Joint pains, heart disease, digestive, skin, behavioural and mental problems all have their roots in the gut, and many people unknowingly suffer from Candida which is a yeast overgrowth. Everyone has it to some extent but allowed to get out of control it can be very debilitating. Don't be fooled into thinking it only gives women the vaginal infection known as Thrush. That's far from the truth.

All herbal remedies are professionally formulated in therapeutic dosages by a leading clinical psychologist under pharmaceutical conditions to ensure the highest degree of potency and consistency.

If you ever go to the doctors with any sort of symptoms you will most likely be asked two questions. The first will be "Are you stressed"? The second will be something like, "Are eating plenty of fruit and vegetables?", but that will most likely be as far as the nutritional advice will go. This is mostly because most doctors aren't trained in nutrition.

They are trained to use medication and since it is generally accepted the pharmaceutical companies run the medical industry, there is no incentive to encourage people to become healthier using food sources. Probiotics are food. We've always had them and should have them. They are necessary for us to function, maintain health and fight off illness and disease. Doctors should know.

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However, not all probiotics found in the market place are equal and you cannot believe all the claims about the bacteria counts, which are done in many different ways. Bacteria grow in colonies and many companies shake these apart to do their counts, so include both dead and live bacteria.

The most important thing to know about any probiotic supplement is whether the bacteria are ALIVE. They need to be ACTIVE and have the ability to reach the gut alive and start new colonies. This is problematic for many formulations because the bacteria are killed off by stomach acid. Unless they have been stressed to combat this, some manufacturers encase them in a capsule. This protects the bacteria inside but before the body can benefit from the probiotic it has to break down the capsule. Often this takes so long it has already passed through the digestive tract and out of the body, which negates any possible benefit.

Another thing to consider is manufacturers culture bacterium in different ways. Some come from grains, fruit and vegetables, whilst others grow bacteria from other sources such as faecal matter. I know which I prefer.

Also, bacteria are very competitive and like different foods. If the type they like is not available they will battle with the other different strains to compete for what is, and this can be detrimental to the good bacteria population. It is vital the foods the probiotic bacteria like accompany them in the formulation so the only bacteria they fight are the bad guys.

Lastly, you need to have a variety of different probiotic species, which can work as a team to overpower the many different pathogens lining the gut walls. There are hundreds of different strains and sub strains, and if you only have one or two they can't do sufficient good to create an environment where other sub strains can exist and multiply.

To sum up, bad pathogenic bacteria are responsible for toxins, which lead to illness and disease. If you want to combat them you need to introduce an army of different strains of strong, live, active, probiotic bacteria complete with their own food supply so they can re-colonise and kill off the bad gut flora.

If you want a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby top up your probiotic bacteria every day. Auntie Jean has spoken!