Perhaps you're a longtime fan of probiotic supplements, or maybe you've heard about them but haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet.
No matter where you are, it's never too late to consider adding a robust probiotic supplement to your daily routine.
If you're a nursing mom, it's only natural that you would wonder if it's all right for you to get probiotics from food or a supplement.
In general, the answer is a resounding yes.
Read on to learn more about what probiotics are, why you might want to add them to your diet and how they can even benefit your breastfeeding baby.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics naturally reside within your body. These are good, live bacteria and yeasts that help to keep your body healthy and functional. Don't confuse these beneficial bacteria with bad bacteria. In fact, probiotics actually help to keep bad bacteria in check so that you don't get sick as often.
The bacteria that is found in your body is part of your microbiome. A microbiome is kind of like a community of organisms, all of which work in concert to keep you healthy. Included in this community are trillions of microbes. Microbes include organisms such as:
- Fungi and yeasts
No two microbiomes are alike. Even identical twins are born with different microbiomes.
To be categorized as a probiotic, a microbe must have these characteristics:
- Be safe for consumption
- Be isolated from a human
- Be capable of surviving in the intestine after being eaten
- Have a proven health benefit
Where Are Probiotics Found in the Body?
Most probiotics are found in the large intestines, or gut. Other places that contain probiotics are the lungs, skin, urinary tract, vagina and mouth.
No matter where they are found in or on your body, probiotics have important work to do because they help to keep your body in balance. Good bacteria are responsible for supporting your immune system and helping to control inflammation.
Additionally, probiotics help to keep your digestive system moving, prevent bad bacteria from taking over and making you sick, help your body break down and absorb medications and even create vitamins.
Perhaps the most common types of probiotic bacteria are called lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. The most common type of probiotic yeast is known as saccharomyces boulardii.
Can You Breastfeed and Take Probiotics?
Absolutely! In fact, many probiotics are naturally present in breast milk, even if you don't eat foods that contain probiotics or take a probiotic supplement.
Scientists have known for years that breast milk contains as many as 700 different bacteria. Included among these bacteria are streptococcus, lactobacillus, staphylococcus and bifidobacterium.
The number and diversity of bacteria in breast milk is critical to the development of your baby's immune system. It also protects them against infection and helps them to develop a healthy microbiome in their gut.
It's also worth noting that many of the beneficial bacteria that pass through breast milk are found on the skin's surface. Accordingly, your baby's immune system has a better chance to develop when she is breastfed as opposed to being fed with a bottle.
How Do the Probiotics in Breast Milk Help Babies?
Researchers believe that probiotics may be able to protect babies against the development of eczema. This common and irritating skin condition frequently results from inflammation, a problem that probiotics can help to resolve. Because eczema is a fairly common condition in babies, making certain that your baby gets plenty of probiotics may be an excellent way to protect her.
Probiotics also may be beneficial for preventing constipation. Studies demonstrate that the probiotics in breast milk, when introduced into the infant's gut microbiome, can help to improve and regulate the baby's bowel movements. That translates to less fussing and crying from constipation.
Some experts even say that babies who get a good dose of probiotics from mom's breast milk are less likely to experience acid reflux. That's the kind of benefit that both moms and babies can appreciate.
When babies are born, their immune systems are quite delicate. Accordingly, anything that mom can do to build up her baby's immune health is a good idea. Researchers estimate that about 70 percent of the immune system is located in the gut. This means that the more probiotic bacteria that your baby gets from your breast milk, the stronger his immune system will be.
Probiotics further may reduce the risk of fungal infections, such as thrush. There also are promising findings with regard to probiotics supporting good mental health. Scientists know that there is a connection between digestive and mental health, so it certainly can't hurt to ensure that your baby gets plenty of probiotics to ensure that she is less likely to develop conditions like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and ADHD.
How Do Nursing Moms Benefit from Taking Probiotics?
Busy moms who are breastfeeding a child are wise to consider taking a probiotic supplement or eating foods that are rich in these substances.
Perhaps the most important reason for nursing moms to take probiotic supplements is that it enhances their own microbiome. The health of your microbiome has a direct impact on your baby's overall health. Too many new moms don't realize that breastfeeding actually leaches nutrients from their bodies. This includes beneficial bacteria.
When you are running low on beneficial bacteria, then your immune system gets weaker. This means that it's more likely that you will get sick. At the same time, your metabolism will begin to slow. However, if you take a probiotic supplement to replace the bacteria you are losing through breastfeeding, you will likely be healthier and feel more energetic.
Taking probiotics is also a good idea for nursing moms because it helps to build their child's immune system. You want to have extra amounts of these beneficial bacteria in your system so that you can pass them along to your baby. With a stronger immune system, your child is less likely to get sick.
Similarly, a probiotic supplement is in your best interests because probiotic bacteria help your body to absorb critical nutrients and minerals. Not only that, but probiotics also help your body to produce vitamins, like folate.
There is even research suggesting that when you ingest probiotics, they help you to feel fuller longer. This means that your overall food intake is decreased, and this may contribute to you shedding the baby weight faster than you otherwise would.
When seen from this perspective, it becomes clear that nursing moms can't afford to ignore the roles that probiotics play in their bodies.
Some new moms prefer to try to add probiotic-rich foods to their diets rather than taking a supplement. Fortunately, probiotics are found in numerous food sources.
These include buttermilk and probiotic fortified milk, which may be referred to as acidophilus fortified milk. Some people get their probiotics from soft cheeses, such as Gouda, or from drinking kombucha tea.
Yet another source of probiotics is the side dish of fermented cabbage known as kimchi. Tempeh, an alternative for tofu that has plenty of probiotics, is another favorite.
Sauerkraut, pickles, dark chocolate, kefir and miso soup are other examples of probiotic-rich foods.
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