This post was written by Megan Garcia
Can your pregnancy be healthy and paleo?
Are kettle bells heavy? Is the sea wide?
(Psst… the answer is yes!)
There are many variations of the paleo diet. Some folks do dairy and then there’s #teamwhiterice.
But one thing is consistent: Paleo celebrates simplicity, quality, and digestive health.
And as it turns out, if you do pregnancy right—you will be rewarded with a babe that is less likely to face digestive troubles or the medical ills of modern society. 1 Like:
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune imbalance
And by “right,” I mean simply.
It doesn’t take much to go back to the roots of food, community, and wellness.
Your Baby’s Gut = Your Baby’s Health
Bacteria. Yeast. Viruses.
Each one of us is literally a walking cloud of microbes. And they outnumber your own cells 10 to 1. Roughly.
Most of these microbes hang out around your barriers—the flesh (which often includes a mucus layer) separating your internal organs from your external environment. This means:
- Your skin
- Your digestive tract
- Your birth canal
When we talk about healthy babies, we are talking about a healthy digestive system and a healthy mix of microbes.
SO. MUCH. Hinges on your babe’s gut and his collective microbiome—which is the word used to describe the microbes (and their genes) that live in and on your baby.
These microbes play a massive role in health and disease. In 2006, a very savvy group of researchers even called the human microbiome a “forgotten organ.” 2
This is because your baby’s gut bacteria are in constant dialogue with intestinal cells, immune cells, and the brain.
Where To Find Healthy Baby Bacteria
Scientists once believed that the womb was sterile.
And that your baby’s first exposure to microbes were those found in your nether regions—as your babe passes through your birth canal (face turned toward your spine and, ahem, rectum—where the microbial environment is more enriched).
But it looks like your babe’s very first exposure to microbes happens in utero. 3
Besides the placenta, researchers have found traces of bacteria in:
So, it stands to reason that anything threatening your own unique mix of bugs during pregnancy will also impact your baby.
Indeed, antibiotic use during pregnancy has been linked to:
- Low birth weight 7
- High birth weight
- Increased risk of allergies 8
- Asthma 9'10
- Changes in genetic programming 11
The risks that come with low and high birth weight include our list of moderns ills (specifically: obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease).
Long story short: Antibiotic use during pregnancy interferes with the development of your baby’s immune system and metabolism.
The 5 Tips You’ve Been Waiting For…
As you may have already guessed, I’m not going to talk about specific nutrients that you need during pregnancy (but heeey, shout out to liver.)
What I’m really interested in is the ancestral microbiome. Because your babe’s immune system, nervous system, hormonal system, and digestion all rely on a healthy mix of microbes.
While it’s nearly impossible to get back the microbiome of our hunter-gather ancestors (but fecal transplant, holla!), there’s a handful of things you can do to support your personal community of microbes during pregnancy.
- Eats lots and lots of fermented foods. If you have a long history of antibiotic use or a history of gut troubles, also take a wide-spectrum probiotic.
- Spend time around animals—preferably farm animals.
- If possible, avoid antibiotic use during pregnancy and delivery.
- If possible, avoid Cesarean section delivery.
- If possible, breastfeed your babe (breast milk is full of healthy bacteria and milk sugars to feed those bacteria).
Fermented foods are something to include before conception, during pregnancy, and after.
This can mean kefir—made with raw milk, if ya can—and yogurt.
Also, explore the world of wild fermentation, whey, and starter cultures. There are a million-and-one ways to ferment your vegetables at home and nourish a healthy baby microbiome.
About Megan Garcia:
Simple. Safe. And effective. This is my mantra. And it matters most when working with babies. I believe that baby wellness begins before conception and is guided by more than diet. Being excessively geeky, I put together a free little toolkit—tips to naturally support your baby’s health. Get it HERE.
- Raiten, D. J., Raghavan, R., Porter, A., Obbagy, J. E., & Spahn, J. M. (2014). Executive summary: evaluating the evidence base to support the inclusion of infants and children from birth to 24 mo of age in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans—“the B-24 Project”. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(3), 663S-691S. ↩
- O'Hara, A. M., & Shanahan, F. (2006). The gut flora as a forgotten organ. EMBO reports, 7(7), 688-693. ↩
- Aagaard, K., Ma, J., Antony, K. M., Ganu, R., Petrosino, J., & Versalovic, J. (2014). The placenta harbors a unique microbiome. Science translational medicine, 6(237), 237ra65-237ra65. ↩
- Bearfield, C., Davenport, E. S., Sivapathasundaram, V., & Allaker, R. P. (2002). Possible association between amniotic fluid micro‐organism infection and microflora in the mouth. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 109(5), 527-533. ↩
- Jiménez, E., Fernández, L., Marín, M. L., Martín, R., Odriozola, J. M., Nueno-Palop, C., ... & Rodríguez, J. M. (2005). Isolation of commensal bacteria from umbilical cord blood of healthy neonates born by cesarean section. Current microbiology, 51(4), 270-274. ↩
- Jiménez, E., Marín, M. L., Martín, R., Odriozola, J. M., Olivares, M., Xaus, J., ... & Rodríguez, J. M. (2008). Is meconium from healthy newborns actually sterile?. Research in microbiology, 159(3), 187-193. ↩
- Czeizel, A. E., Rockenbauer, M., & Olsen, J. (1998). Use of antibiotics during pregnancy. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 81(1), 1-8. ↩
- McKeever, T. M., Lewis, S. A., Smith, C., Collins, J., Heatlie, H., Frischer, M., & Hubbard, R. (2002). Early exposure to infections and antibiotics and the incidence of allergic disease: a birth cohort study with the West Midlands General Practice Research Database. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 109(1), 43-50. ↩
- Blaser, M. J., & Bello, M. G. D. (2014). Maternal antibiotic use and risk of asthma in offspring. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 2(10), e16. ↩
- Mulder, B., Pouwels, K., Schuiling-Veninga, C., Bos, J., de Vries, T., Jick, S., & Hak, E. (2014). Antibiotic use among Dutch pregnant woman and the development of toddler asthma: The influence of confounding. European Respiratory Journal, 44(Suppl 58), 440. ↩
- Vidal, A. C., Murphy, S. K., Murtha, A. P., Schildkraut, J. M., Soubry, A., Huang, Z., ... & Hoyo, C. (2013). Associations between antibiotic exposure during pregnancy, birth weight and aberrant methylation at imprinted genes among offspring. International journal of obesity, 37(7), 907-913. ↩