Probiotics in your Paleo Pregnancy. Meg the Midwife approved!

If you've been following me on Instagram or listening to the Fertility tips on the Balanced Bites Podcast, you've likely heard some chatter about the benefits of probiotics in pregnancy. 

Liz and I are going to have an ENTIRE section on Baby Making and Beyond dedicated to probiotics, just what to take, when, why and how, but until that program launches late in the spring of 2015 I wanted to share a brief run down of just why you should consider daily supplementation of probiotics during pregnancy. 

While it's great to consume probiotic foods such as raw sauerkraut, fermented veggies (carrots are my faves) and natural yogurts as a part of your daily diet, you may want to consider the addition of a probiotic supplement during pregnancy. Foods are great to support your digestive health but probiotics are even better to support your vaginal flora and the development of your babies bacterial kingdom. 

Not only do certain strains of bacteria found in your vaginal tissues influence the types of bacteria (harmful and beneficial) that will be found in your babies gut, but recent research shows that bacteria can actually cross the placenta and may affect fetal health and wellbeing. This is mind blowing research! Literally, it's blowing my mind over here. Previously, we used to thing that the infant was born 100% sterile. Obviously this isn't the case. 

Probiotics are great and here's why :

  • Reduce the chance of swabbing positive for Group B Strep (GBS) at term
  • Reduce the risk of developing Bacterial Vaginosis, a risk factor for preterm labour
  • Reduce the incidence of yeast infections, which can be common when your pregnant.
  • Reduce the incidence of constipation both prenatally and postpartum
  • Aid in the formation of short chain fatty acids, which are made in the small intestine. These fatty acids are key building blocks for your baby's nervous system and critical for your own mental and physical wellbeing. 
  • Reduces your overall systemic inflammation
  • May reduce your risk of gestational diabeties
  • Increase the number of lactobacillus species in your vaginal tract. These are associated with infant health and wellness and will form the backbone of your babies GI and immune systems. 
  • Reduce your risk of mastitis after the baby's born

What to take? 

I just became aware of this AMAZING new company called Hyperbiotics. They make a product called Pro-Mom's. This proboitic is a combination of 8 strains of high potency proboitics that are clinically proven to support a woman during her childbearing years. 

Pro-Mom's is awesome BECAUSE:

  • It's formulated with Kiwi extract which helps: Act as natural  insoluble fibre to support healthy bacterial growth. It contains an enzyme called actinidin, which aids in digestion AND it contains a polyphenol, which is a natural antioxidant. 
  • It contains the strains clinically proven to be beneficial for pregnancy and is highly potent, having just the right amount! 
  • It has a long shelf life and requires no refrigeration aka you can keep it in your purse.
  • You only need to take it once a day. It's time released.
  • It's Paleo friendly, contains no gluten, dairy, soy, corn, sugars or artificial anything 

Go out and get some! You can order it directly from their website and it's ON SALE right now

As always, check out Baby Making and Beyond and sign up for updates. You can also check me out on Balanced Bites where Liz and I will be sharing weekly fertility tips :) 

Is Kombucha Safe? The great Alcohol Debate

If you're a listener to the most amazing Balanced Bites Podcast, you may have heard Liz Wolfe teasing a new fertility program/site, Baby Making and Beyond, that we are hard at work on. I'm SOOO excited to share this comprehensive information source for everything from fertility, pregnancy, trimester by trimester real food nutrition and popular postpartum topics. We want to have answers to all your questions so if you have something you'd like us to include, please send me a message! This program hopes to launch mid-2015 and will be kicked off with a fantastic 28 day Baby Makin' Bootcamp. Stay tuned for more info on that. 

One of the topics covered on the podcast last week was a question regarding the safety of Kombucha during pregnancy. I wrote about this topic a while back. Here's the link to the Kombucha Saved My Life Post.  Our Baby Makin' and Beyond program will answer questions just like this but until it's launched here's a brief rundown on the safety of Kombucha consumption in pregnancy.

Let's start by breaking down just what's in commercially made Kombucha. As I wrote about in my previous post, I ONLY recommend commercially made Kombucha during pregnancy. 

Kombucha Composition in a Nutshell

Tea (green, black, white): contains caffeine ~ 8-14mg/ 8oz

Sugar:~ 2-6g/8oz

  • This isn't much sugar at all. Kombucha's low sugar content is considered safe for women with blood sugar regulation issues and one serving of Kombucha is even considered acceptable on many Paleo 30 day challenges or while on the 21-day Sugar Detox Program.

Scoby: good bacteria to feed your gut flora

  • Optimizing gut flora is a great idea for both fertility and during your pregnancy. Kombucha was originally used as a digestive aid because the bacteria helps you optimize your gut flora and thus digest your food more efficiently. This can help to maximize the nutrient absorption from your diet. Adding a new probiotic into your regime can sometimes cause a "cleansing effect". If you are newly pregnant and aren't already a long time Kombucha drinker, I would recommend starting with very small doses (2-3oz/day) or just avoid it entirely just to be on the safe side. Once your system has gotten used to the bacteria, it is theoretically safe to continue during pregnancy and many of my pregnant friends happily enjoy 8-16oz/day with no side effects. In fact, a number of friends use GT's Gingerade as a pretty effective remedy for first trimester nausea. 

Alcohol: ~0.5%

  • This is the big concern for most women. While we don't know if there is ANY safe amount of alcohol consumption in pregnancy, we do know that 0.5% is a very small amount. In Canada and the US, non- alcoholic beer and wine are defined as anything 0.5% or less. I know many physicians who have told friends that it's okay to enjoy a non-alcoholic beer (0.5% alcohol content) a day with no evidence of harmful effects. One study even indicated that upwards of 40% of physicians tell their patients that even the occasional glass of wine (11-14%) is safe after the first trimester.  If drinking the occasional glass of 13% wine a week is considered by some to be safe and a bottle of 0.5% O'Dooles beer a day is safe can we say the same for Kombucha?

Some of GT's Classic Synergy products in the United States are labeled a must be "21 or over" with contents at or above 0.5%, while the Enlightened and Classic Kombucha versions have lower amounts of alcohol and do not require special labels. In Canada, there are no such label regulations or warnings on any GT products.

But is it really safe? Well, we don't totally know. Obviously it is unethical to run randomized clinical trials on pregnant women, but, there have been some studies that analyze long term data from pregnant women that we can use to make our assumptions. Once study of over 7600 women measured levels of behavioural problems among 2-year olds. The results were similar between women who reported zero drinking (11%) vs < 1 drink/wk (13.7%) vs light drinking 2-3 drinks/ wk (9%). Multiple studies seem to conclude that very light alcohol consumption may be safe during pregnancy. 

Studies indcate that it isn't the occasional small amounts of alcohol that put our babies at risk for Fetal Alcohol Disorder but it is the BINGE type drinking that is most dangerous. This makes perfect sense when we consider the science behind alcohol metabolism. 

Alcohol is metabolized in the body by a variety of enzymes including alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), cytochrome P450 (CYP2E1) and catalase. ADH is the powerhouse of the metabolizers and is found in our liver. It's a supply and demand system. The more you drink, the more dehydrogenase you produce. This is why midwives, who live a life on call, are classically cheap dates :) This enzyme is also present in variable amounts depending on your ethnicity. Aboriginal and people of East Asian decent tend to have less and metabolize alcohol at a much slower rate. When you overwhelm this system with LARGE amounts of alcohol in one sitting, like when you binge drink, your body can't keep up with the demand for the ADH enzyme and your blood alcohol content goes up dramatically, crossing the placenta and potentially causing great harm to your developing baby. Bottom line...NEVER binge drink during pregnancy.

So what happens when we consume small amounts of alcohol like what's found in Kombucha or even baking extracts (like vanilla)? While we have no proof that this level of consumption is 100% safe, I feel like it's pretty fair to say that it's likely fine. While I'm not advocating going out and drinking a glass of wine every night, I am suggesting that perhaps the 0.5% we find in our daily 8oz of GT's may be totally safe. What do you think? Send me you're thoughts. 

Eat your Boogers, Spanish Sunshine and Reflections on Motherhood

Hold the phone! It's May and I've totally fallen off the wagon with blog posts. It's been a busy spring here in Midwife land....I've caught a lot of babies recently and even squeaked in a week- long climbing trip to Spain (I wish I could have stayed a month!). While I work on a more intelligent post, here's a few things of things that have caught my attention lately. 

Mark Sisson's Post on "How to Establish a Healthy Gut in your Primal Baby ".  I've talked about this before but gut bacteria is a passion of mine! This is a good overall summary. I especially like the research about letting kids eat their boogers :) I knew there was a reason EVERY kid does this...hilarious

Megan Over at Detoxinista shares a great guide to help you get started with cloth diapers. I don't usually recommend them in the first few weeks when mom's are deprived, babies are clearing out all that sticky black meconium and it's just best to keep things easy. But, after the first few weeks, cloth is a great option and good investment especially if your planning on having a few more little paleo babies in the years to follow. 

This post on Mind Body Green is a beautiful reflection on what Pregnancy can teach you and how your changing body be a vessel for finding inner peace and acceptance. In celebration of Mothers Day today, check this article out. 

Finally, I connected with a lovely friend who is one inspirational woman! She flew from France to Spain to meet us for a few days of climbing. She flew by herself,  with a 4-month old baby and only carry on luggage (my packing hero!). Her baby was also insanely adorable!

Food and Feelings: The Effects of Gut Microflora on our brains and babies

Thank you for all your kind emails. I get so amped up and totally inspired by all your questions. I try my very best to answer each one, but these days it's been tough. I'm a bit run off my feet getting my midwifery practice re-established, buying my first house and trying to find some time for a social life..maybe even a love life too (?) 

Still trying to find time for a little bit of ski time paleo friendly sandwich during this ski day had fermented pickles in in :)&nbsp;

Still trying to find time for a little bit of ski time paleo friendly sandwich during this ski day had fermented pickles in in :) 

With this insane schedule, I've had to work hard to keep myself healthy. Recently I've added fermented foods into my daily routine. I'm happy to report that I've noticed big changes in my immune function, gut health and even my mental wellbeing.  I've been consuming daily doses of Kombucha, kimchi and raw kraut and find that my body just can't get enough of this good stuff!   I firmly believe in the amazing power of probiotics and am fascinated by all the kick-ass research coming out about the effects of gut micobotics on both our physical and emotional selves.  

 In a spontaneous moment of nerdy pleasure this week, I came across a recent journal article that looks at a phenomenon called "developmental programming". This fascinating theory explores how environmental influences early in an organisms development affect an organism's later structure, and function. More specifically, this theory examines the effects of gut microflora and early colonization on human development. Most of the early data indicates that gut microbiota may have systemic effects on liver function. This raising the possibility that gut microbiota can and most likely does, have developmental effects in other organs elsewhere in the the human brain.

How does bacteria get into our guts in the first place?

Good question! I'm glad I asked :) 

Before we are born, our guts are sterile, a.k.a free of all bacteria. It is the process of birth that starts the colonization process.  A recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal  found that the mode of delivery significantly impacts the types of bacteria found in our guts. For example, babies born vaginally have significantly more of the health promoting Escherichia-Shigella and Bacteroides species while babies born by c-section have significantly more c.difficile bacteria. C. difficile is associated with increased risk of asthma, obesity and type 1 diabetes.

So how does this affect our brains if the bacteria is in our bums?

The human brain is suceptible to cues from both internal and external sources especially during the period of  infancy when it undergoes most of it's growth and development. Some studies have indicated that there is a possible link between common neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, and microbial pathogen infections during the perinatal period. Animal studies have show that exposure to microbial pathogens during early developmental periods result in behavioral abnormalities, including anxiety-like behavior and impaired cognitive function. Interesting stuff! 

I'm no microbiologist...but this is pretty cool

I'm no microbiologist...but this is pretty cool

Our bellies are filled with neurotransmitter receptors for tryptophan, serotonin and GABA (AKA all the feel good chemicals) ...just like our brains. This is the reason that the gut is often called our "second brain".  So if these neurotransmitter receptors exist in our does the health of our bellies and bacteria that colonize our guts effect our happiness?? 

Well....cliffhanger...I don't have all the answers..but it would stand to reason that if our guts help produce many of the chemical compounds that affect mood patterns in the brain, it could significantly contribute to our overall happiness and wellbeing. Perhaps overly simplified...but hey...simple is good. I'm so pumped to learn more about the science behind this all. 

" Oh man...I had to have a c-section. Does this mean my baby is at risk? "

Paleo Mama's, if you required a c-section for medical reasons don't play the blame game! Mama guilt is the worst....fear not....these things can be fixed and here are a few good places to start: 



Bio Gaia - From a swedish company, this baby friendly probiotic will help support the development of beneficial bacteria in your babies little belly. 

Therbiotic Infant- Another great probiotic formula that can help optimize an infants gut colonization.

Breastfeed- Breastfed babies are have greater colonies of good bacteria. Breastmilk contains natural probiotics in addition to  large amounts of prebiotic oligosaccharides. Preboitics help support the healthy growth of beneficial bacteria in the belly. 

Further Reading:

Human Microbiome Project 

Daily Beast Article 

Chris Kresser Podcast Episode


Kombucha has saved my life

 Do you ever feel like a fish out of water? Like you just don't fit in? This has pretty much been my experience since leaving my mountain home about 18 months ago. I traded fresh air, trail runs and mountain vistas for big city lights,  treadmills and smog alerts. I moved with the intention to be closer to my family during a difficult time, but now that things have settled, this cavegirl is packing up and moving home to the mountains! 

I'm headed back to  Canmore Alberta to re-establish my small midwifery practice. I hope to bring some more birth choices back to the women of my community.  I'm so excited and feel like this is the best decision I've ever made. You know when something just feels SO right? Sometimes you have to leave to find out just where your "home" really is.  

All that being said, it's been a long and busy few months and I thank you all for the kind emails of support I've been receiving. There is a lot of work to be done and my blog and site has fallen a bit by the wayside as I re-establsh myself and move across the country.

All this stress has got me do you keep yourself healthy during times of turmoil and STRESS? For me, Kombucha is a key part of staying healthy, plus it tastes great. GT's Gingerberry is amongst my favourites. I'm yet to try making my own. My friend Laurie is making some experimental brews and I'm hoping to learn from her mistakes and start my own batch this summer when I have a bit more time on my hands! 


This lovely naturally fermented tea is chock full of everything that is good for you and it tastes soooo good.

Kombucha is made from tea which is fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (a SCOBY, a.k.a. “mother” because of its ability to reproduce, or “mushroom” because of its appearance). Most commercial Kombucha is blended with a fruit juice of sorts. A lot of people I've spoken to worry about the  sugar content, however the sugar is an essential part of the fermentation process and the end result isn't very high in sugar. In fact, up to 8oz is permited on the popular 21-day sugar detox and it is whole 30 approved.  

Kombucha is well known to be full of probiotics. Probiotics are not only important for good gut health, but they are also a key componet in a healthy immune system. Kombucha has anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. In rats, it's been shown to improve liver function and protect against oxidative stress.

Kombucha is also full of organic acids including glucuronic acid, lactic acid and oxalic acid, all of which aid the body in detoxification and protection from viruses, fungus and bacteria. 

Kombucha also is amazing at regulating bowel function in times of stress. I don't know about you, but when I travel or get stressed out, I just DONT go (I bet you always wanted to know that). However, when I drink a bottle (2 servings) of kombucha a day during these times, my guts thank me and I'm able to eliminate with much more ease. 

My Best-y Laurie's fine looking brew

Even pregnant women can enjoy this tasty beverage. If you make your own however, I caution you to master your skill before you get knocked up. Great recipes are found in Jill's book Fermented, I also like Wellness Mama's Kombucha Soda recipe. I often mix half a bottle of GT with lemon juice and carbonated water from my sodastream to make a yummy "pop".  I digress...Back to the safety piece....The tea must ferment properly and under sanitary conditions to prevent contamination by airborne pathogens. You should also ensure your Kombucha pots and containers are free of lead-tainted ceramic glaze as the acidic compounds in kombucha may cause this to leach into the mixture, contaminating it with the heavy metal. This is the one time where I kinda trend towards purchasing your drinks from a company such as GT's over making your own but hey...this could possibly be because I am a Kombucha virgin. 

Worried about alchol content? When I was recently in Florida visiting my folks I noticed the packaging was WAY different there than it is in Canada. You have to be over 21 to buy Kombucha? After some investigation, the alcohol content in Classic Kombucha is less than 0.5%...totally safe for pregnant cavemama's so please enjoy! 

What's your favourite flavour or recipe?