If you’re pregnant, you may have been disconcerted to see that pregnant women were placed in a vulnerable group for coronavirus by the UK Chief Medical Officer on 16th March 2020. This means that you are advised to reduce social contact through social distancing measures, along with people over age 70 and those with pre-existing health conditions.
Why is that?
When you are pregnant, your body naturally weakens your immune system at certain points in the process. This is to help your pregnancy continue successfully. It means that when you are pregnant you may pick up infections more easily.
70% of your immune system sits inside your gut, where there are constant complex interactions between your human cells and the trillions of living bacteria that live there, called your microbiome. Imagine this living system like a symphony – a lot of individual players, all cooperating to create a magnificently complex effect.
Sometimes the orchestra needs to play loudly; sometimes it needs to play very softly. Ideally, your immune system should be able to tune itself up and down, as needed, to achieve the best outcomes for both the mother and the child. The requirements change through the course of your pregnancy.
What happens to your immune system during each stage of pregnancy?
In the early stages of pregnancy, in order for an embryo to implant successfully, immune cells flood into the lining of the womb and cause inflammation. The heightened state of the immune system lasts for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to allow for the fetus to get fully established.
Then over the following 15 weeks, the mother’s immune system is repressed to allow for the fetal cells to grow and develop. Some of these fetal cells have antigens from the father that would be at risk of attack if the immune system was running at full speed. An aggressive immune system returns near delivery when inflammation helps with the labor response.
With your immune system in an altered state, you’re more at risk for certain illnesses, such as colds, the flu, food poisoning, and urinary infections. According to Dr. James Betoni, board-certified expert in high-risk maternal-fetal medicine and OBGYN in Boise, ID, “The alterations in the immune system result in increased susceptibility to certain viral, bacterial and parasitic infections.”
So the idea, in order to both protect yourself from infection and give your baby the best possible start, is not to simply boost your immune system, but to improve its ability to modulate itself. Your immune system needs to run flexibly up and down the scale, responding as needed with the “Goldilocks solution” of just the right amount, at the right time.
Damage to the trillions of living organisms inside your gut, called “dysbiosis” can harm your immune system’s ability to respond appropriately to the circumstances. This damage can be caused by sugar, stress, antibiotics and environmental toxins like the ones found in many household products and pollution.
The simplest way to repair this damage and improve your immunity is to boost your gut health. The good news is that this can be accomplished simply and naturally, by making some straightforward changes to your diet.
Here are five evidence-based way to boost your gut health, and give your baby the best possible start:
Drink probiotic kefir
Dr. Michael Mosley in NHS trials on his BBC2 television show Trust Me I’m a Doctor found that kefir was the most powerful of all probiotic foods, surviving the digestive process to make a measurable impact on gut health. Choose an unflavoured, therapeutic-grade kefir, as sugars and sweeteners do more harm than good inside the gut, and opt for goats milk kefir, as cows milk contains the allergenic A1 casein which can increase gut inflammation inside the gut.
Take a Pregnancy Prebiotic
To maximise the impact of your probiotic. Prebiotics are food for probiotics. If you imagine that a probiotic puts the “fish into the fish tank,” a prebiotic feeds those fish. The combination of probiotic + prebiotic is the best way to achieve gut health. A complex prebiotic powder is the easiest way to add multiple types of prebiotic fibre into your diet quickly and easily.
Eat whole grains
Whole grains contain lots of fibre and non-digestible carbs, such as beta-glucan. These carbs are not absorbed in the small intestine and instead make their way to the large intestine.
In the large intestine, they are broken down by the microbiota and promote the growth of certain beneficial bacteria. Whole grains can promote the growth of Bifidobacteria, lactobacilli and Bacteroidetes in humans. These strains of bacteria are known as “nursemaid strains” that promote the growth of other good bacteria inside the gut, and suppress pathogens.
Eat foods rich in polyphenols
Polyphenols are plant compounds that have many health benefits, including reductions in blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels and oxidative stress. Polyphenols can’t always be digested by human cells. Given that they aren’t absorbed efficiently, most make their way to the colon, where they can be digested by gut bacteria. Good sources of polyphenols include:
- Cocoa and dark chocolate
- Grape skins
- Green tea (one or two cups per day during pregnancy, as it contains a small amount of caffeine)
Avoid artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are widely used as replacements for sugar. However, some studies have shown that they can negatively affect the gut microbiota. One study in rats showed that aspartame, an artificial sweetener, reduced weight gain, but it also increased blood sugar and impaired insulin response. The rats fed aspartame also had higher Clostridium and Enterobacteriaceae in their intestines, both of which are associated with disease when present in very high numbers. Another study found similar results in mice and humans. It showed changes in the microbiota made artificial sweeteners have negative effects on blood sugar levels.
Pregnancy Prebiotic is available here Chuckling Goat Pregnancy Prebiotic
For free advice on improving your gut health from a Nutritional Therapist, go to Chuckling Goat
Article from Shann Jones: Gut health expert and founder of Chuckling Goat
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