The gut microbiome is such an important aspect of overall health. Every day seems to bring more research about the many aspects of your body that are influenced by gut health. One important, but possibly overlooked topic regarding gut health is how it affects babies in the womb and their gut after birth.
Keeping Your Gut Healthy
For the most part, it isn’t difficult to keep your gut microbiome in good shape. There are certain foods to avoid and some to include more of in your diet.
Foods to avoid:
- Over the counter drugs like Advil, Aleve, and other NSAIDs
- (Too much) antibacterial soaps and gels
- Chlorinated water
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Starchy carbohydrates
Some of these are obvious, others not as much. While it makes sense to avoid drinking chlorinated water and steer clear of pesticides, most people over look consumption of gluten and/or sugar. Both of these foods are inflammatory and damage the gut.
Foods to include in your diet:
- Fats: Good for you and filling. Avocados, nuts, meat, and eggs are all good sources of fat that will help populate your gut with good bacteria.
- Pre-biotic foods: Fibrous vegetables support the growth of beneficial bacteria. Think things like sweet potatoes, carrots, and asparagus.
- Probiotics: A good quality probiotic with a high number of live bacteria is a great way to promote gut health before, during, and even after pregnancy.
- Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and pickles are good examples of fermented foods. I can eat a half a jar of kimchi if given the opportunity.
Your Gut and Your Baby
In addition to the above foods to eat/avoid, there are other steps you can take to help your baby develop a healthy gut before and after birth.
- Avoid antibiotics whenever possible
- Vaginal birth. Again, if possible. There are good data showing that as a baby passes through the vaginal canal it will be exposed to “vaginal microbes that help to shape her immune system in beneficial ways…less susceptible to conditions like asthma and allergies, including food allergies”
Once your baby is born make sure to:
- Breast-feed. If not, use a goat or sheep milk based formula. So many beneficial bacteria are found in breast milk.
- Try placing some probiotic on the nipple for feeding. This will help to ensure that your baby is developing healthy gut flora. If using formula, add some probiotics to the formula. Of course, consult with your doctor first.
- Go outside. Simply being outdoors is so beneficial to the everyone, but especially babies. Most of the immune system is in the gut, so to have a capable immune system one must have a healthy gut. Being outdoors and exposed common microbes and bacteria will help to establish the immune system and gut. Not to mention the added benefits of sun light and social interaction.
- Once your baby can eat solid foods, make sure to introduce them to a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods. The greater the variety of food, the more diverse their gut flora will be, which leads to better gut health.