The lovely Kirsty Wirth from Kultured Wellness, the creator of delicious, therapeutic grade cultures, derived from coconut, 100% dairy free and Paleo friendly, has very kindly taken time out of her very busy schedule to write a guest blog post for us.
Her post outlines the huge benefits to Mum, Dad and Baby of consuming therapeutic grade cultured coconut yogurt and coconut kefir during pre conception preparations, pregnancy, breastfeeding and for your new baby.
Over to you Kirsty….
Research is now showing that health begins in the womb. It is now suggested that a range of health conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, asthma, autism and allergies can all begin during foetal development if maternal health and nutrition is suboptimal. So we’re talking health conditions that don’t show up for years and years can actually be pre-established before you even take your first breath of air.
These same ailments can be directly associated with an improper functioning gut and irregularities amongst our normal gut microbiome.
What is the gut micro biome?
The human gut is made up of a community of trillions of micro-organisms. All of these micro-organisms also harbour genes and this collection of micro-organisms and their genes is what make up our microbiome. The genes and micro-organisms comprising our microbiome outnumber our human genes and human cells by 100 fold and have such a broad influence over our physiological regulation and health that they are sometimes considered as another organ.
Now, we all know that our genes and cellular DNA are huge driving forces behind our health. So if we actually have more bacterial genes than human genes, it makes sense just how big of an influence these tiny bugs actually have over our health and considering our gut bacteria actually begin taking hold while we are still in the uterus (unlike previously thought that it was a sterile environment) it is absolutely no surprise that our health really does begin in the womb.
When planning for a baby I guarantee the last questions on anyone’s mind is “hmm… I wonder how my gut flora are?” Usually it’s all about ovulation, cervical mucus (sorry men) and ensuring you’re taking the right multi-vitamin. However, let me challenge you for a moment and suggest that the first question should actually be about your gut microbiome and then everything else should fall into place.
You see, digestive health is a key pillar to healthy fertility and is frequently over looked, especially in men!
Research is now suggesting that men who consumed therapeutic grade Probiotics showed a higher sperm count and a higher level of testosterone and testosterone producing cells. It’s indicated that lactobacillus species are significantly higher in good quality, highly fertile sperm (if this doesn’t want to make men take Probiotics, I don’t know what will!)
Systemic inflammation is a huge dampener on fertility-in men and women. Inflammation can be caused by a multitude of factors including lifestyle, dietary and physical. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium have both shown to reduce systemic inflammation and inflammatory biomarkers.
The following are all inflammatory female issues that can cause fertility problems that can be helped by beneficial bacteria in fermented foods:
• Irregular periods
• Thyroid problems
• Oestrogen dominance
• Autoimmune related infertility
• Yeast Infection (chronic and vaginal)
• Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
It is also suggested, that within the first few months of life, a child’s microbiome resembles that of the mothers in the first trimester, not the third. It is thought that this is when the sharing of microbes actually begins and because of all the hormonal changes that make huge changes to a mothers microbiome towards the end of pregnancy (discussed later), it is almost mother nature’s way of ensuring that the ‘crème de le crème’ of gut bugs get passed over to baby first. So this makes it extremely important to have a good set up before falling pregnant.
Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life that is filled with extra hormones. Although these hormones can bring with them that glorious pregnancy glow and thick, shiny pregnancy hair; they can also bring with them a raft of unwanted digestive and gastrointestinal health issues.
All the extra hormones can relax the muscles of the digestive tract and slow gut motility, food digestion and breakdown. This sluggish bowel contributes to a change in gut bacteria; it sees a decrease in our beneficial strains and an increase in our more pathogenic strains. Also, those changes in hormones influence the overall metabolism; they make the pregnant female more sensitive to insulin, they suppress the immune system, raise cortisol and promote fat storage. All these metabolic changes influence the diversity of our gut flora. In fact, research shows that our gut flora change considerably from the first to the third trimester due to all these hormonal influences. So it’s important that we keep up a steady intake of our beneficial bacteria to help keep these guys in charge.
The intake of Probiotic rich fermented foods have also shown to have a beneficial effect on the development of preeclampsia during pregnancy. The rationale behind this is because they have a direct effect on systemic inflammation and can regulate the inflammatory response by modulating renal function. Lactobacillus species are the ones shown to help this.
It is also widely known that the babies of women who regularly consume therapeutic grade Probiotics and fermented foods during pregnancy have a lower risk of allergies and allergy related conditions such as eczema and asthma.
Bacterial vaginosis is also common during pregnancy and it caused by vaginal pH changes which are again influenced by hormones, this can also lead to vaginal thrush. The consumption of fermented foods containing beneficial Probiotics significantly decreases the risk and occurrence of vaginal dysboisis and thrush.
Now your baby is here, you have done all you can since before you were even pregnant to ensure you gave your new little addition the best chance at a long and healthy life.
A baby with a robust gut that can digest breastmilk is a happy settled baby that sleeps well and develops which in turn results in a happy new Mum. Fermented foods therefore makes the perfect first foods for babies and can actually be given from the new born stage of life. Fermented foods have been shown to help reduce the symptoms of colic and gastric reflux in babies-two very common conditions that can cause great stress in those early months. And a stressed baby can’t settle, sleep and struggles to develop appropriately.
You can start by rubbing small amounts of Kultuerd Wellness yoghurt onto baby’s gums or letting them suck a tiny bit off your finger, you are helping to introduce bifidobacterium strains first. These guys are most important for babies as they help the immune system develop appropriately and are also the guys behind reducing the incidences of colic and food allergies.
As baby grows they can have a greater quantity; by 6 months of age, or ideally when they can sit unaided, Kultured Wellness yoghurt can be introduced by a full teaspoon daily, working up to ½ cup by age 1 and a full cup by age 2.
Kultured Wellness kefir can be introduced after the age of one with ½ cup daily. This just helps those bifido strains take hold first.
When trying to fall pregnant it is vital for both men and women to take very good care of their gut health. I recommend 2-3 glasses of Kultured Wellness coconut water kefir a day and 1 cup of Kultured Wellness coconut yoghurt a day for both men and women. Women can continue this dosage throughout their whole pregnancy (men can too!) and throughout breastfeeding. Our kefir is full of lactobacillus species which are the beneficial strains that will improve sperm health, inflammation and preeclampsia and decrease the incidence of bacterial vaginosis and thrush. Our Yoghurt is full of bifidobacterium which supports healthy digestion and the immune system during pregnancy. Babies should be firstly introduced with our yoghurt, then our kefir after the age of one.
Now of course, following this program perfectly would be ideal, however I know that this is not always possible. Some people don’t become aware of the importance of our gut health until after they have had babies, some have medical emergencies and require antibiotics or other medications whilst pregnant or in labour. Some babies require antibiotics-life happens, I get it! However that’s the beauty of our gut – it is never too late to start making improvements to our gut to change our health. Our cultures can be taken at any stage of life, however just keep in mind that by planning ahead and consuming fermented foods before, during and after pregnancy, you are giving your baby the best possible start at life.
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