We have all heard the saying “We are what we eat”. Good nutrition is important in all stages of life and even more during pregnancy, because it affects both the mother and the child. Studies have shown that the food a mother consumes during pregnancy, can influence the baby’s growth and development, throughout life.
During pregnancy, one is also bothered with hormonal changes, that the body goes through and digestive issues or tummy troubles that needs battling with– constipation, heart burn, acidity, bloating, and diarrhoea are just some of the problems most women face during pregnancy.
The corner stone for good health during pregnancy is of course a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. More recently scientific studies have shown that that intestinal health is becoming very important because there are over 1000 different types of bacteria living inside our intestine. They are called Intestinal Flora and weigh about 1.5- 2 kg (as much as the liver). Bacteria have a bad reputation of causing disease but not all of them are bad, in fact most of them do not cause any harm and are absolutely essential for life, like the intestinal flora.
These bacteria play an important role in breaking down nutrients into smaller molecules so that they can be easily absorbed by the body. In fact, about 30% of the calories that we get from food, are broken down by the bacteria in our intestine. These bacteria also help in absorption of important minerals like iron, magnesium and calcium, a deficiency of which leads to anaemia and weak bones. Not only that, but they also regulate the movement of the intestine and help in preventing constipation and diarrhoea. Constipation for long periods of time results in accumulation of toxins in the intestine which are then absorbed by the blood and could result in a host of health problems. These bacteria are also very important in deciding your state of mental well – being because 2/3rd of the happy hormone (serotonin) is produced in the intestine by bacteria. Therefore, the health of the intestine depends on the good bacteria that are present within it. It is no wonder that Scientists call them the “Forgotten Organ” because they influence our life, safeguard our immunity, and shape our intestinal health.
Therefore, good nutrition and the right balance of bacteria (more probiotic bacteria) in the intestine, are both very important, to ensure that all the effort that goes into choosing the right nutrition, is also best utilized by the body.
Including a probiotic as a part of the daily diet could be extremely beneficial during the nine important months of your life.
Some of the well – known benefits include –
- Improvement in bowel movement – Severalstudies suggest that certain probiotics may improve bowel movements and ease constipation.A study on women who suffered from piles and complained of constipation after childbirthfound a significant benefit after consuming a probiotic fermented milk drink containing Lactobacillus casei Shirota (LcS) for only six weeks.
- Reduces heart burn and acidity – Including a probiotic as a part of the daily diet during pregnancy has shown to reduce heart burn, bloating and acidity.
- Lowers the risk of allergies – Women who take probiotics while they are pregnant and then breast feeding their newborn, are less likely to have children with allergies than mothers who don’t, suggests a research review.
- Reduces Vaginal infections – Probiotics may benefit in reducing the risk of vaginal infections by increasing the beneficial bacteria in the vagina, which prevent the growth of harmful infection causing organisms.
- Better immunity – Many women get sick less often because of a stronger immune system that helps to fight and resist infection. Several studies across the globe have shown that LcS fermented milk drink helps to build immunity by increasing the activity of Natural Killer (NK) cells which play a critical role in fighting infections, especially viral infections and other cell damage.
- Reduces risk of high blood pressure during Pregnancy – A large study done on Norwegian pregnant women which was published in the British Medical Journal in 2018 showed that consumption of a probiotic especially in the third trimester of pregnancy reduced the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Reduces the risk of Gestational Diabetes – Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy. An important study in the British Journal of Nutrition conducted by researchers in New Zealand showed that consumption of a probiotic during pregnancy significantly reduced the risk of gestational diabetes.
- Probiotics – Gut – Brain connection – Did you know that the gut talks to the brain? Yes, anything that affects the gut affects the brain. The gut and the brain are connected by nerves. These nerves carry information from the gut to the brain e.g. hunger/ thirst and from the brain to the gut e.g. stress or anxiety. Probiotics which keep the gut healthy may also help reduce stress, anxiety etc.
- Improves overall health – Probiotics when consumed as a part of the daily diet can improve overall health and keep you healthy, strong and protected. Probiotics hold the key not just for better digestive health and immunity, but have also shown benefit in reducing stress, overcoming the harmful effects of antibiotics and reducing the risk of cancer.
Among the most popular probiotics, there are a handful which have been scientifically validated, for their health benefits. Yakult is one such product which has a history of more than 80 years and has demonstrated a health benefit of better digestion and immunity, across populations and age groups. There are others of course, however, it is important that they are carefully scrutinized for the probiotic bacteria and its health benefits.