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In a recent article I explained how new scientific evidence shows that babies are seeded in utero with maternal symbiotic bacteria from a variety of maternal organs. Unlike the popular belief that vaginal birth is actually the most important event in ensuring that the newborn baby is seeded with beneficial bacterial strains, we now know that this is a multi-step process that starts with the implantation of the fertilized egg and finishes many months later with birth and hopefully breastfeeding. Here is a short summary of the contributions of the different bacteria found in maternal organs to the growing baby.
“The bacteria in the uterus, vagina and placenta practically surround the developing fetus and collectively determine which types of bacteria will be seeded in the baby´s body. From a microbiological point of view, the fertilized egg is embedded during implantation in the uterus, an already established bacterial community, whose composition depends on the mother´s previous diet, lifestyle and apparently oral health. The role of the vagina is not just about birth anymore. Ideally, vaginal bacteria partially safeguard microbiological balance which is necessary for a full-term pregnancy. The mouth unexpectedly shows up as a significant reservoir of bacteria, which populate the organs closer to the baby, most prominently the uterus and placenta. Finally, the gut also seems to affect indirectly the course of pregnancy and baby´s wellbeing, since intestinal infections can pave the way to preterm birth.”
Knowing that the bacteria from so many maternal organs contribute to the baby´s wellbeing, the question is how we can better support these guys, so that we can have the healthiest possible baby. Unfortunately, this is not just about taking a probiotic supplement. There are quite a few factors that can support or suppress beneficial symbiotic bacteria in the human body. For example, taking religiously a probiotic supplement, while at the same time we eat food that contains antibiotics that kill all the good bacteria in our body is leading nowhere.
Here are my best 4 practical tips that will help you maintain a healthy and beneficial bacterial flora throughout the body during pregnancy and beyond.
The right oral hygiene
Since the mouth lends bacteria to the uterus and placenta, keeping oral bacteria happy and balanced is essential. Harsh, alcohol-based flavored mouthwashes or hydrogen peroxide washes certainly give a refreshing feeling, but at the same time kill randomly beneficial and pathogenic bacteria and irritate mouth tissues. A much more effective and natural alternative is oil pulling (using a natural oil as a mouthwash), which respects and supports mouth bacteria. Organic sesame oil and cold pressed coconut oil are the best options, because they are loaded with natural antimicrobials and health-giving substances.
You can take extra shots of beneficial bacteria with naturally fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. The bacteria in these foods and drinks remain temporarily in the gut, encouraging the establishment of healthful microorganisms. Alternatively, probiotic supplements rich in different Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species can also enrich the gut and vaginal flora with beneficial bacteria.
Prescribed antibiotics inevitably mess up the bacterial balance in the gut and often in the vagina, because they kill good and bad bacteria randomly. If you have to take antibiotics of any kind, make sure to eat or drink fermented foods and drinks or take probiotic supplements at the same time until a week after the treatment is finished.
Commercial meat and dairy products
If you are an omnivore like me, you should know that the vast majority of animal products that are available in the supermarkets come from industrially raised, confined animals, receiving large doses of antibiotic cocktails on a daily basis. Small quantities of these antibiotics are found in all types of animal products and therefore eating them can throw the intestinal and vaginal bacterial community out of balance and of course sabotage your efforts to maintain a healthy body flora. It is much more sustainable, ethical and healthy to consume animal products coming from humanely raised, pastured animals. The products coming from such animals are of premium quality, do not contain antibiotics or hormones and have superior nutritional value.