I first became interested in gut health before getting pregnant with Anjali. As soon as I learnt that a babies gut health is influenced by their mothers I wanted to do everything I could to ensure my gut was in the best shape it could be. This is what started my journey into health and led me to fermented foods.
Now that I've been on this journey for the last few years I feel like my gut is in pretty good shape but being pregnant again I want to ensure my gut is the healthiest it can be so I can pass on a good balance of microbes to the new baby.
These are the 5 things I'm doing specifically for my gut health this pregnancy:
1. Eating fermented foods
Fermented foods have been a regular part of my diet since my first pregnancy 3 years ago. I try to include something fermented at every meal whether it be a side of sauerkraut for lunch or dinner, a glass of kefir or kombucha with my meal or some coconut yoghurt dolloped on my breakfast.
Fermented foods work like a probiotic replenishing the gut with good bacteria and helping keep the bad bacteria away. Having a healthy gut helps support the immune system throughout the pregnancy and ensures you pass on a healthy balance of bacteria to your baby through the birth canal when they are born.
2. Increasing my intake of foods high in fibre
Your gut bugs love fibre! It gives them fuel to grow and thrive. Foods like leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds, properly prepared whole grains and a small amount of fruit are a great source of fibre. Beans and legumes are not for everyone but if you can tolerate them they also provide a great source of fibre.
This pregnancy I'm making an effort to up my intake of leafy greens and vegetables. I try and fill half my plate with these then add a small serve of protein and a small serving of carbs.
3. Reducing stress
Exposure to stress can change the balance of bacteria in your gut. When you are stressed the blood flow to your digestive system is restricted and overtime this can lead to a reduction in diversity and number of good bacteria in your gut. This in turn has an impact on your immune system which explains why sickness usually occurs during periods of stress.
No matter how good a diet you eat if you have a high amount of stress in your life you will feel the affects on your health. I discovered this first hand after working in a high stress environment for years before having children. Now I find that stress affects me really easily. The slightest amount of stress and I feel my digestion slowing down, my stomach getting achy and my mood changing.
Stress can be hard to avoid and for me this year is shaping up to be a pretty huge one. As well as being pregnant we are about to start renovating our unit we live in so I'm trying extra hard to keep the stress down and stay as chilled out as possible through this process!
When I do feel stressed out I try and manage my stress levels as much as possible. The things that really help me are - practicing yoga, getting outside, walking in nature, taking time out for myself (this can be hard with a 2 and a half year old), writing in a gratitude journal or doing something creative like cooking, drawing or colouring in.
4. Reducing my intake of sugary foods and refined carbs
The bad bacteria in your gut love foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. If you have a diet high in these foods it can cause the bad bacteria to grow and multiply leaving you with an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. When you've got a bad imbalance of bacteria in your gut it can cause you all sorts of problems such as low immunity, digestive problems, skin problems, sleep issues and allergies. Not to mention when you're pregnant you will transfer this bad balance of bacteria to your baby when they are born.
I generally consume a diet free of refined sugars and refined white carbs but I do love my sweets and often get into the habit of consuming lots of things with 'natural' sugars like honey, coconut sugar and dates. Too much of even these good natural sweeteners can also feed your bad gut bugs. So this pregnancy I'm making an effort to cut down on these sweet snacks and ease back on my sourdough addiction.
5. Taking a high dose probiotic supplement
Generally I find the good bacteria in fermented foods enough to maintain my health but in certain times of need such as after recovering from an illness, taking an antibiotic or throughout my pregnancy I feel that the gut needs some extra support with high strength probiotics that traditional fermented foods don't provide.
After a bit of research I discovered Kultured Wellness cultures. These cultures are high potency and packed full of probiotics that have been specially formulated for gut healing. They come in 2 forms - coconut yoghurt and coconut kefir. They've got a higher count of good bacteria than your standard probiotics and I love that they are in a food form so you can make them into delicious ferments. I've been using both the coconut yoghurt and the kefir cultures for about 2 months now and I'm loving them so far! They are really simple to make and I feel like my digestion has defintely improved since taking them which is something that usually slows down during pregnancy.
So these are the things that I'm doing to ensure I pass on good balance of bacteria to baby number 2. That is hoping I can have a natural birth this time. I had an emergency c-section with Anjali so she missed out on the good bacteria through the birth canal but this didn't mean all the good work was lost! I will share what I did in another post to increase the good bacteria in her gut after she was born.
Do you have any other things you do for your gut health either during pregnancy or in times of need? I'd love to hear them! Share in the comments below.