So you’re preggo. Yay! It’s not too early to start the “trying-not-to-mess-up-too-badly” process that will define the rest of your activities henceforth (but no pressure).
Here is something you can start doing right now and which may pay great dividends down the road: fix your gut biota.
WTF is gut biota?
It’s the miiiiiilllllioooons of bacteria that live inside your digestive system and which play a huge, and mostly unrecognized and unappreciated role in your health. The “unrecognized” part is beginning to change: just this morning NPR did a report on the role of gut bacteria in mental health (click the link just to see the very cute drawing of gut bacteria – might look nice in a nursery. Oh and there’s an even cuter cartoon!). The short of it is: the number and especially nature of the bacteria in your gut are REALLY REALLY important. They affect not just your digestive system but many other parts of your body, including your brain. This TED talk gives a cool overview of what bacteria in your body are, and goes into how they communicate and other kind of unbelievable stuff… Just watch the first 5 minutes, at least.
Why is this important to pregnant chicks? Because, get this: we inherit our gut bacteria from our moms. Brace yourself, because this is a little gross. In utero, fetuses supposedly have a “virgin gut” meaning it is free of all bacteria (and actually this is being disputed as there is evidence that even fetuses have bacteria, despite placenta, etc.). Traditionally, the first bacteria that babies get, and which subsequently begin to colonize their tiny cute little baby intestines, gets there before they are even born. Actually during birth itself: as baby squirms through the vaginal canal, she’s rubbing her face in the bacteria-rich surface, and some gets in her mouth, is swallowed, and voila, a colony is established.
Now here’s the thing: if mom has unhealthy bacteria, she will pass unhealthy bacteria to baby. So we’ll have evil colonizers taking over baby’s gut and doing bad things there. Kind of like Belgians in the Congo. This is no small matter: unhealthy gut flora is being linked to more and more health problems, including obesity, arthritis, dementia, autism, and much more. Remember this is a brand-new area of medical research. It hasn’t gotten much attention because there’s not a whole lot of financial incentive for drug companies, at least not yet.
How do you know if you have unhealthy gut biota? Answer the following questions:
1) Have you ever been on antibiotics?
2) Were you breastfed?
3) Was your mother breastfed?
4) Were you born via C-section?
5) Do you eat processed foods?
6) Do you eat lots of grains and carbs?
7) Are foods containing live cultures part of your daily diet?
If you answered: No, Yes, Yes, No, No, No, Yes, then congratulations, your gut flora vie with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in beauty, abundance and balance. If you didn’t answer in that exact sequence, chances are you have less-than-optimal gut bacteria, and you are about to pass them down to your innocent babe.
Let me clarify one point, lest you think the best choice at this point might be to avoid the whole baby’s-mouth-in-vagina thing by opting for the C-section route: it’s worse for baby not to get any of mom’s vaginal flora than for her to get sub-optimal flora. In any case, even if you do have a Caesarian, your bacteria will be passed down through breastmilk to your baby. (And of course you plan on breastfeeding, what are you, a FREAKING COMMUNIST?)
So what is to be done? The one easiest thing to do is simply to add fermented products to your diet, starting TODAY. Examples of products with live cultures (bacteria) are:
– Homemade sauerkraut
– Homemade yoghurt
– Unpasteurized cheeses (which are basically illegal in the US, so plan on moving to France)
Other stuff, too. But beware: not all foods that claim to have live cultures actually do. E.g. yoghurt. Studies have found that even those yoghurt brands that claim to be full of pre and pro biotics actually… aren’t. Maybe they are in the factory, but by the time they reach the consumer, the little buggers are gone. Your best shot when it comes to yoghurt is plain, unsweetened organic yoghurt.
Absolute easiest thing to do? Buy kimchee, eat a spoonful every morning with your fried eggs. Buy unflavored, unsweetened yoghurt and add a bit of raw honey, eat some every day. If available, choose Kombucha over juice or softdrink. Just doing those three things should start improving the lives of the oppressed, downtrodden, victimized, good bacteria and diminishing the numbers of the evil Belgian overlord bacteria.
Second thing to do is reduce the proportion of carbohydrates in your diet. This is good to do anyway because you don’t get much nutrition from carbs anyhow, just empty calories. But more importantly, carbs are what the bad bacteria love: when you feed yourself carbs, you’re feeding the bad guys. Feed yourself meats, healthy fats, veggies, nuts, and fruit, and the good guys flourish.
BTW, if this sounds a lot like the Paleo Diet, that’s cause it is. Except that most people forget that Fred and Wilma didn’t own a fridge or freezer, so a lot of what they ate was… ah… shall we say “fermented.” And though some kinds of fermentation (rot) are gross, others are not only tasty, but necessary to our health.
So start fixing your gut! Down with the Evil Belgian Colonizers!!!
Update: if you like science, and stuff, definitely read this: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/23/trimester-pregnancy-affects-baby-health.aspx