Beneficial bacteria: The foundation of fertility health
Probiotics… What are they?
Probiotics contain live micro organisms that replenish good bacteria in our intestines. We can find them in fermented foods and supplements. Beneficial bacteria protect our health in so many ways – moderating our immune system, aiding digestion so we can access as many nutrients from our food as possible, helping with the synthesis of B vitamins in the bowel and making Vitamin K, impacting on genetic expression, preventing infection. Long term supplementation is safe and without known negative side-effects.
Sources of probiotics include yoghurt, Kombucha, Kefir, fermented and cultured vegetables and probiotic supplements. Home-made is superior to commercial products.
How do we establish a healthy microbiome
Microbial cells outnumber human cells by 10:1 and contain thousands of strains of bacteria. The term ‘microbiome’ is used to describe the ‘community’ of these microbes. Throughout the body there are many different communities of microbes, depending on the job they do which is why we need to be particular about the strains our probiotic contains. The maternal microbiome is passed on to the baby through pregnancy and breast feeding and has a great impact on the development of the infant microbiome. Colonisation begins inutero, is further impacted by mode of delivery (vaginal rather than caesarean is critical for the transfer of many important bacteria) and continues to develop during breast feeding. A child’s microbiome is fully developed by three years of age. Probiotic supplementation influences both the maternal and infant microbiomes and supports health through and after pregnancy.
Nourishing our microbiome requires healthy eating choices - limiting gluten, avoiding processed sugars and carbohydrates as they feed pathogenic flora, eating an abundance of probiotic and prebiotic foods, eating a predominantly plant-based diet.
How we damage beneficial gut flora
Diet and lifestyle choices can damage our microbiome - stress, antibiotics (which destroy the gut microbiome), poor nutrition, inflammation, toxic food. Antibiotics should be taken only when absolutely necessary! Probiotic supplementation is necessary during and following a course of antibiotics. Avoiding environmental toxins is also important. Herbicides like Round Up destroy our gut microbiome, so opting for organic foods is always preferable.
How do probiotics assist fertility?
Probiotics should be part of a regular protocol when treating subfertility. Digestive health is improved allowing greater supply of nutrients and reduced autoimmune responses. Pathogenic bacteria in the reproductive organs can prevent pregnancy. It is now known that all reproductive organs are rich with bacteria, particularly the Lactobacillus genus. Researchers are now suggesting that the microbiota have influence over everything from ovulation, embryo maturation, sperm numbers and implantation and IVF. A healthy microbiome throughout the reproductive organs can prevent Bacterial Vaginosis, Staph aureus and chronic yeast infections. Preventing oxidative stress and, in turn, reducing the opportunity for inflammation is another critical role of a healthy microbiome. Chronic inflammation is responsible for many conditions that lead to infertility and pregnancy complications - endometriosis, PCOS, uterine fibroids, thyroid defects, auto immune symptoms, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), pre eclampsia and pre-term births.
Do you know what probiotic ‘strains’ assist fertility?
It’s all about the strains. Probiotic strains to look for in pregnancy probiotics include – L. rhamnosus GG, Bifidobacterium bifidum, L. lactis, B. breve
What to look for when buying a probiotic.
· Choose a live probiotic. Ones that require refrigeration and says ‘contains live cells’. Supplements should contain at least 1 billion CFU’s (colony forming units)
· Make sure the genus, species and strain(s) are listed
· Different strains are suited to different health conditions.