After more than 20 years in practice, pharmacist and author Sherry Torkos, BSc, Phm, RPh, has seen a lot of changes in prenatal nutritional care. “Once pregnant women were only advised to take folate (folic acid) supplements. Now, we’re even smarter about their dietary needs. We know, for example, that DHA helps the developing brain, magnesium helps with leg cramps and certain probiotics can offer digestive and immune support.”
Torkos is also happy to report that these standard prenatal options are getting cleaner, in great part due to consumer demand. “More women are insisting on using products that are free of dyes and chemicals,” she confirms.
Why the conversation frequently turns to probiotics
“I frequently talk with expectant moms about the advantages of taking probiotics, especially if they are dealing with pregnancy-related constipation or vaginal and urinary tract infections. Having regular bowel movements is so important because constipation and straining can aggravate hemorrhoids,” says Torkos. “The right probiotics also help improve nutrient absorption, which is important both while a woman is pregnant as well as while she’s breastfeeding.”
A child's gut bacteria is passed on from the mom through the birth process and breast milk. These are nature’s sources for the child’s immune system foundation. Probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding are tremendously important for the health of the baby in addition to the health of the mom.
How moms-to-be can choose the right probiotics supplement
Torkos acknowledges that some fermented foods are good probiotics sources. “But it’s difficult to get a sufficient amount through diet alone, plus some expectant moms may not want to include kimchee or sauerkraut in their daily meals as these foods can cause gas.”
As with the rest of prenatal care, consistency matters. “You’re more likely to stick with something that’s affordable, easy to find or that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Hyperbiotics, for example, has a shelf-stable PRO-Moms formula available at Target, which is designed for expectant and lactating women.”
Other things to consider:
• Check the label for a guaranteed shelf life. “Probiotics are fragile. They can easily be destroyed by stomach acid. Look for a time-released formula, which helps ensure they arrive in your gut intact so you’ll get their full benefit.”
• Choose only strains that are natural residents of the human gut. “Hyperbiotics PRO-Moms contain six targeted probiotic strains specifically chosen for the benefit they provide to pregnant and breastfeeding moms, such as supporting nutrient absorption, producing natural (non-synthetic) folate, improving the odds of successful breastfeeding, and promoting a healthy immune system for both mother and child.”
• Stay away from anything artificial. “Studies show that you will pass the probiotics on to your baby through the birth process and through your breast milk. That’s why many moms choose a formula that is vegetarian, non-GMO, and free of lactose, gluten and yeast. Many expectant moms also look for clean formulas that don’t contain soy, sugar, iron, nuts, artificial flavors, artificial colors or preservatives. Also, always choose products made with human strains of beneficial bacteria.”
• Make sure you are also feeding your probiotics. “Probiotics need their own nourishment – in the form of prebiotics – to thrive. Consider the combination of probiotics and kiwifruit powder, which is a good prebiotic and supports regularity. Kiwifruit powder also contains healthful polyphenols, a kiwi-unique enzyme called actinidin and insoluble fiber.”
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