If you haven’t noticed yet I talk a lot about the mom’s struggle to find the time and energy to take care of herself. While it can be a challenge to eat well and exercise regularly, moms are also often plagued with health concerns like poor digestion, hormone imbalance, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances, to name just a few. What if there was one recommendation that could help improve all of the above and more? Well, I believe there is.
I want to preface this blog post with the following statement. I generally do not believe that supplements are one size fits all. What I mean by this, is that as a physician, I believe nutritional, herbal, and homeopathic supplements should be recommended or prescribed by a licensed professional, and that they should be tailored to an individual’s specific lifestyle and health concerns. However, there is occasionally a supplement that is so beneficial and so important for our general health that it is important to talk about and highlight.
Much is being revealed about the health benefits of probiotics. Probiotics is the term used for the beneficial bacteria in our body. You may have heard of acidophilus, which is the most well-known of the many species of friendly bacteria that inhabit our digestive tract. And you may have heard that acidophilus and/or probiotics are important to take during and after a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics wipe out intestinal bacteria indiscriminately, and as a result, the good bacteria necessary for healthy digestive and immune function must be replenished by supplementation or eating fermented foods. Stress itself can tip the balance toward unfriendly bacteria in the gut. Both current research and clinical practice are finding that there are many more health benefits that can be attributed to taking probiotics … and many that can help the busy, overworked and exhausted mom.
One complaint I hear from both new moms and moms of school-age children is hormonal imbalance. Whether it is PMS, night sweats, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, fibroids, migraines, or low/diminished libido, moms experience it all. Often times these frustrating symptoms have a similar etiology – an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone or more specifically an excess of estrogens. Well, guess what … probiotics help our bodies to eliminate excess estrogens and help restore hormonal balance in the body. Friendly bacteria produce a substance which is necessary for the excretion of hormones from our body, a necessary step for hormonal balance. In layman’s terms, without beneficial bacteria in out gut, our hormones are off-kilter.
Beneficial bacteria in our gut also influence the production of certain nutrients and neurotransmitters in our body. For example, gut bacteria manufacture the majority of the body’s serotonin supply; imagine the implication of improved gut bacteria and elevated mood! Beneficial gut bacteria are also needed in the production and absorption of certain vitamins and minerals in our bodies. Vitamin K is dependent on friendly flora for its production, and gut bacteria increase the bioavailability of calcium and magnesium. Isn’t it remarkable how both our bone health and our mental health benefit from the presence of good bacteria in our digestive tract?
Many moms experience recurrent vaginal or urinary infections. Whether it is a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or a UTI, there is strong scientific evidence to support the use of probiotics to protect against and decrease the recurrence of these infections as well as improve their aggravating symptoms.
If you think you may have a lack of good gut flora, ask yourself the following questions. Do you find yourself experiencing bloating, discomfort, and gas after meals? Have you been prescribed numerous courses of antibiotics in your life or over the past year? Do you experience recurrent vaginal or urinary infections? Do you find your PMS symptoms worsening the week before your period? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may benefit from supplementing with beneficial flora. Eating more fermented foods, like yogurt, miso, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and tempeh, is another way of tilting the gut’s bacterial balance toward friendly flora.
Once again, I am not one to push “one supplement for all people.” But if you have been recommended acidophilus or probiotics by your healthcare professional or if you see you own symptoms or struggles above, it is worth consideration. We really can all benefit from having more friendly bacteria in our gut. And for a busy mom it can be a great strategy for improved health.
The Mommy Tune-up is a blog solely devoted to the busy mom’s pursuit of sanity and good health!