Benefits of probiotics during pregnancy & lactation
You often hear about how great probiotics are for health. But pregnancy can be a delicate time in a woman’s life, and deciding on the right kind of nutrition might be challenging. So, before you start taking probiotic supplements, it’s important to understand how probiotics work, how they benefit your body during pregnancy, and which probiotics are good for pregnancy.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are microorganisms that are usually bacteria, and sometimes yeast. The important thing to know about probiotics is that they are very similar to the naturally occurring microorganisms or the “good bacteria” that are present in the gut or intestines. Some of the most common probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces.
Benefits of probiotics
While research on the benefits of probiotics is still ongoing, you need to be aware of some well-known benefits of probiotics during pregnancy.
- Due to all the changes happening in the body, pregnant women often end up suffering from a number of digestive issues, like diarrhoea or constipation. Probiotics lessen the presence of bad bacteria in your gut. Since probiotics mirror the healthy bacteria in your gut, consuming them can actually help promote good digestion and improve your overall gut health.
- Probiotics are known to help with issues like infectious diarrhoea, antibiotic-related diarrhoea, IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome), inflammation of the bowels, and bacterial vaginosis.
Is it safe to take probiotics during and after pregnancy?
While probiotics are generally considered safe to take during pregnancy, there is limited research on its use during pregnancy. However, probiotic supplements are considered safe because they are rarely absorbed. In fact, the likelihood of contracting bacteremia from taking Lactobacillus probiotics is less than 1 per 1 million. Moreover, all the research done on probiotic use during pregnancy indicates that there is no link between probiotic use and miscarriages or malformations.
As far as probiotics during breastfeeding are concerned, your baby gets a lot of good bacteria because breast milk contains something called prebiotics which encourages the good bacteria. This means that as long as your baby is breastfed, he will have sufficient amounts of healthy bacteria in his gut. If a mother chooses to consume probiotics during breastfeeding to maintain her own intestinal health, this shouldn’t affect the baby adversely in any way.
Sources of probiotics
If you choose to consume probiotic supplements during or right after pregnancy, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider before you do so. On the other hand, it’s perfectly alright to consume natural foods that contain probiotics as part of a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy. Here are some traditional Indian foods that are among the best probiotics during pregnancy:
Curd or dahi is one of the best sources of probiotics for pregnant women as it contains live active cultures that are great for the digestive system. According to experts, it’s best to go for homemade curd and let it ferment for 24 hours. This makes sure that the majority of the lactose is used up and the probiotic culture is strong.
While idli/dosa makes for a light and nutritious meal, they’re also a great source of probiotics. They are rich in live cultures of good bacteria, as they are prepared with fermented rice and urad daal. So, including idli/dosa in the pregnancy diet is a great idea.
Health-conscious people often tend to avoid pickle, because of all the oil and salt. But pickle has traditionally been a part of a balanced Indian meal for a reason. The process of making the pickle involves fermenting the fruits and vegetables mixed with oil, sugar, and spices under the sun. This fermentation that takes place over a few days helps in the growth of probiotics. Once again, pick pickles from reputed brands as they contain natural enzymes.
Kaanji is a traditional Indian drink which is a great source of probiotics. It’s made by soaking beetroots/black carrots in water and adding salt and rai (mustard seeds) and then fermenting the concoction for a few days. Kaanji is not only delicious but a great drink for your gut.
A traditional Gujarati delicacy, dhokla is made with fermented besan, daal, or rice. Some people even add curd to the recipe, making it a great probiotic food.
Probiotics are great for your overall gut health and digestive system, something that certainly gets tested during pregnancy. While you should consult your doctor before opting for probiotic supplements, including probiotic foods in your diet is a simple and effective way to promote better digestion during and after pregnancy.