The gut microbiome, that is the bacteria that dominate the gut when you are pregnant are crucial to a newborn babies health. The mothers gut health, plays a crucial role in shaping the health destiny of a newborn; as it forms the basis of your baby’s gut health and the intestinal (digestive health) microorganisims be they good, bad or neutral. Research shows that the bacteria from the mother may be able to travel and reach the baby through the placenta via the blood stream. Unfortunately our modern lifestyle is not very bacteria friendly and can contribute to a breakdown that is too much of the bad bacteria floating around in your system. Since your gut health contributes to your immune function you can only imagine what it will do for your baby.
The big question is then how do you develop your own gut health during pregnancy?
First do remember if your intestinal bacteria are not in balance, your pregnancy begins on the wrong footing. An unhealthy and unbalance gut flora in the mother can cause problems such as preterm labor, and once the baby is born, issues like colic, asthma, food insensitivities, GERD (reflux), or like me candida (which my mother had and passed on to me) etc. Also, for example, when hormones send signals to your gut microbiome and you have a weak gut, then where your sex hormones need to protect the baby from type1 diabetes, this may not be possible. Which means that there is a strong correlation between your gut health and pregnancy hormones in setting up your baby’s immunity against: obesity, autoimmune disease, digestive issues and brain health. Gut health contributes to immune function as 80% of the immune system is in the gut.
Healing the gut when pregnant should be a high priority for the mother so the baby can have a healthy life. So sorting out your gut with a healthy dose of good gut bacteria even before you get pregnant is integral; as a pregnancy naturally pre-disposes you to changes in the gut bacteria; as they become less diverse and the number of beneficial bacteria decline. Are you aware that a new mother’s intestinal bacteria have been found in breast milk as well. One should strive to maintain a healthy microbiome heading into a pregnancy. Focusing on a diet with lesser amount of gut-bacteria depleting foods, and re-innoculating the gut with friendly bacteria.
Here’s what can you do?
Stay away from foods that will diminish good gut bacteria like sugar, refined white flour (maida), processed foods, white carbohydrates, and junk foods. Add a lot of fibre coming from whole grains like brown rice, millets, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Also add a healthy dose of good probiotics from yogurt, and quick homemade pickles in apple cider vinegar, lime or salt; you can introduce a kanji which is a North Indian beverage (recipe below) ½ a glass a day to up the probiotics to replenish the gut.
- 8 cups Water
- 1 1/4 tbsp Mustard or rai powder
- 1 ½ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Black salt (kala namak)
- Pinch of Asafoetida (hing)
- 1/2 tsp Red chili powder
- Carrots (orange or purple) – 2 medium, peeled and julienned
- Beetroot – 1, peeled and julienned
- Boil 8 cups of water. When the water boils, remove pan from fire and let it cool.
- In a pitcher or jar with a lid, add all of the ingredients in the water and mix well.
- Add Carrots and Beets.
- Keep the pitcher in the sun for 2-4 days, make sure to stir it once or twice daily.
- After 2-4 days when it turns sour, it can be kept in the refrigerator and used as required.
- Serve chilled. Carrots and Beets can be eaten.
- Kanji remains fresh for up to 2 week in refrigerator.
Shonali Sabherwal is a Mumai based Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Chef. Author of The Beauty Diet, The Love Diet and The Detox Diet published by Penguin Random House.