Pregnancy is a time when moms-to-be are full of questions about how to make the safest and best choices for their growing babies. One of the nutritional topics that can be confusing for pregnant moms is regarding probiotics and their role in a healthy diet. If you are pregnant, you should know that probiotics are generally healthy and safe “good” bacteria that offer many benefits.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are actually live bacteria and yeasts that aid in the digestive system. They are considered “good” microorganisms because they exist naturally in many foods and help to reduce the number of “bad” bacteria in your digestive system. It is important to have an appropriate balance of the bacteria within your body in order to avoid and treat conditions including:
Diarrhea – especially after treatment with antibiotics which can destroy the “good” bacteria in your digestive system because it doesn’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria
Colitis – inflamed colons that are the symptoms of conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and even constipation (a common occurrence in pregnancy) can be naturally treated with probiotics
Eczema – some people report alleviation of symptoms in skin infections and rashes with increased probiotic uses
Allergies and asthma – probiotics can help provide balance to your body’s natural defense system
How Can I Get Enough Probiotics?
There are already probiotics naturally occurring in your digestive system, but there are foods you can select that will provide additional probiotics.
Yogurt – This is probably the most popular food choice for people searching to add probiotics to their diets. Any yogurt that lists “live and active cultures” as part of the ingredients will contain a certain level of probiotics. However, you can pay more for yogurts specifically fortified with additional probiotics and advertised as special types to treat digestive issues.
Some sourdough breads – This is where reading labels becomes important. Some sourdough breads contain lactobacilli, a specific type of probiotic.
Some milks – Some brands and types of milk are fortified with probiotics. Read the labels, but make sure that the milk is pasteurized.
Probiotic supplements – Probiotics are also available in supplement form in capsules, tablets, powders, and even liquids. They are not inherently better than the natural food sources, but if the foods that contain probiotics are not available to you or work with your specific dietary needs, supplements can be helpful. Before taking any kind of supplements while pregnant, consult your healthcare provider first to make sure that the supplement is beneficial and safe for your pregnancy.
Should I Worry About Probiotics?
Once you have consulted with your healthcare provider about the appropriateness of probiotic supplements in your diet, it is also important to remember that not all foods that contain probiotics are recommended for consumption during pregnancy.
Foods such as sauerkraut and soft cheeses have probiotics, but these are found in their highest form when they are unpasteurized. Consuming unpasteurized foods during pregnancy puts you and your baby at increased risks for foodborne illnesses. Make sure that your dietary selections are pasteurized, which is more important than whether or not it contains probiotics because you can find those benefits in other forms.
What About Prebiotics?
If you’ve heard of probiotics before, chances are that you have also heard about the value of prebiotics in your diet. Prebiotic foods help to support the probiotics, acting as their food source in your digestive system. Foods that contain prebiotics include asparagus, bananas, oatmeal, and legumes. Consuming these types of foods can help to boost the positive effects of the probiotics you are also consuming.