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Benefits of Daily Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines between harmful and beneficial bacteria and work to remove toxins from the body. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, found in yogurt with live cultures, is the best known. Yeast is also a probiotic substance.

Probiotics promote healthy digestion by providing beneficial bacteria to recolonize and balance the GI tract, and hinder the growth of harmful, toxic bacteria, while also promoting a healthy immune system.

Probiotics may seem new to the food and supplement industry, but they have been with us from our first breath. During a vaginal birth while the newborn passes through the birth canal, a newborn picks up bacteria from his/her mother. These good bacteria are not transmitted when a Cesarean section is performed and have been shown to be the reason why some infants born by Cesarean section have allergies, less than optimal immune systems, and lower levels of gut microflora.

What are probiotics used for?
Some people use probiotics to prevent diarrhea, gas, and cramping caused by antibiotics. Antibiotics kill “good” (beneficial) bacteria along with the bacteria that cause illness. A decrease in beneficial bacteria may lead to digestive problems. Taking probiotics may help replace the lost beneficial bacteria. This can help prevent diarrhea.

A decrease in beneficial bacteria may also lead to other infections, such as vaginal yeast and urinary tract infections, and symptoms such as diarrhea from intestinal illnesses.

Probiotics may also be used to:

• Help with other causes of diarrhea.

• Help prevent infections in the digestive tract.

• Help control immune response (inflammation), as in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Poor food choices, emotional stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, other drugs, and environmental influences can all shift the balance in favor of the bad bacteria.

When using probiotics, the idea is not to kill off all of the bad bacteria. Our body does have a need for the bad ones and the good ones. The problem is when the balance is shifted to have more bad than good. An imbalance has been associated with diarrhea, urinary tract infections, muscle pain, and fatigue.

Maintaining the correct balance between the “good” bacteria and the “bad” bacteria is necessary for optimal health.

When the digestive tract is healthy, it filters out and eliminates things that can damage it, such as harmful bacteria, toxins, chemicals, and other waste products. On the flip side, it takes in the things that our body needs (nutrients from food and water) and absorbs and helps deliver them to the cells where they are needed.

The other way that probiotics help is the impact that they have on our immune system. Some believe that this role is the most important. Our immune system is our protection against germs. When it doesn’t function properly, we can suffer from allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders (for example, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis), and infections (for example, infectious diarrhea, Helicobacter pylori, skin infections, and vaginal infections). By maintaining the correct balance from birth, the hope would be to prevent these ailments. Our immune system can benefit anytime that balanced is restored, so it’s never too late.

Probiotics convert the fiber in food into healthy fatty acids that nourish the cells that line the intestines. They also help the intestines make short-chain fatty acids, which contribute to the overall health of the body.

Benefits of Probiotics in Pregnancy
Many women suffer from digestive issues, such as heartburn, diarrhea, constipation and intestinal cramps, during pregnancy. Probiotics help relieve constipation and other intestinal issues by improving gastrointestinal function. The healthy bacteria can also improve the immune system of both the mother and baby during pregnancy. Probiotics can help you fight off or avoid colds and other illnesses, which is essential during pregnancy due to a suppressed immune system. Taking probiotics during pregnancy may also help prevent allergies and eczema in both mothers and infants.

A study performed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology discovered a lasting impact on babies whose mothers took probiotics during pregnancy. According to this study, babies and toddlers up to 2 years old were 40 percent less likely to suffer from eczema compared to babies whose mothers did not drink probiotics. Additionally, babies who did experience eczema had less severe cases. This study, which was published in the “British Journal of Dermatology,” highlights the effectiveness in preventing eczema in children and did not indicate any adverse risks to the mother or baby.

References
Parenting; Ask Dr Sears: Probiotics During Pregnancy?; William Sears;
http://alturl.com/354h8
Pregnancy Today; Probiotics and Pregnancy; Teri Brown
Colorado State University Extension; Food Safety During Pregnancy; J. Dean & P. Kendall; December 2006
San Mateo Medical Center; Acidophilus and Other Probiotics; 2011

Choosing Your Pediatrician for Your Baby

presented by Angel J. Miller, MSN, CNM

The following is an excerpt of a chapter from the book Raising Your Child in Washington, DC, a resource for parents available in local bookstores.   by Dr. Michele R. Berman

One of the most important tasks a parent must undertake is the selection of a pediatrician for their baby or older child.  Besides being a place to take a sick child, or a place to get “baby shots,” a pediatrician’s office is an important resource for new or experienced parents.  Today, many families find themselves without the traditional support systems that their own parents had available to them.  Family members are often separated by many miles.  For these families, the pediatrician provides advice and encouragement, as well as basic child-care knowledge.  Many pediatricians see patients from birth through adolescence, so picking the right pediatrician may well be the beginning of a “long term relationship.”

Pediatrics, in general, is a preventive health care specialty.  Well-care visits provide the framework of information to keep your child happy and healthy.  A typical well-care visit starts with weighing and measuring the child and plotting those measurements on a growth chart to follow their progress.  The pediatrician will then ask several questions about your child’s eating, sleeping, and bowel habits, and about what new developmental milestones have been passed.  Then it’s your turn to ask the doctor about any questions or concerns you may have.   Write them down as you think of them at home, and bring the list with you.  After examining the child, the pediatrician may discuss a variety of topics, such as immunizations, safety issues, or behavior issues.  Some will also have handouts to supplement the discussion.  On average, there are seven well visits in the first year, three in the second year, and one every one to two years thereafter.

The Prenatal Appointment

If this is your first child, the decision as to who the baby’s pediatrician will be should be made well in advance of your due date.  (Remember – babies often come earlier than expected!)  This allows the pediatrician you choose to give your newborn its very first exam in the hospital, and to support you during those joyful, yet overwhelming first days.  Although all pediatricians are dedicated to helping you raise healthy, happy children, each has his or her own approach.  You will, therefore, want to meet with several pediatricians so that you can pick the one with whom you feel most comfortable and whose approach is most consistent with your own ideas about child raising.

Most pediatricians encourage parents to come for a prenatal appointment.  This is your opportunity not only to meet the pediatrician but look at the office itself.  If possible, both parents should be present, so you will both agree on your choice.  When you set up the visit, find out who you will be seeing (one or more doctors? Office staff?), about how long it will last, and if there is a charge for the visit.  If the visit consists of a quick hello by the pediatrician while the office staff shows you around, there may not be a fee.  However, there may be a charge if the pediatrician sets aside a block of time specifically to talk with you and answer any questions you have.  Many insurance companies will pay for this, but check with your plan first.

During the interview you should first find out about how the practice works.  What are the office hours?  Do they include evening or weekend hours?  How are after-hours calls handled?  Who are the doctors in the practice and what are their qualifications?  Can you see any of the doctors in the group, or are you assigned to one doctor?  How far in advance do you have to call to get a well child appointment?  A sick child appointment?  To what hospitals do the doctors admit their patients?  Do the doctors come to the hospital where you are delivering?  Who handles phone calls during the day and after hours?  What is the schedule of visits and immunizations?  Most pediatricians follow the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics for these.

Secondly, try to get a feel for the pediatrician’s personality.  How does he/she respond to your questions?  Does he/she seem open to your concerns or does he/she seem to shrug them off?  Are they stiff or relaxed?  Distracted?  Do they have a good sense of humor?  Observe how he/she interacts with the patients that may be in the office at the time of your visit.  The feelings you get during your visit will set the time for the relationship you will develop with the pediatrician you choose.  You want to feel comfortable and confident about someone who is going to help you take care of that special baby of yours.

Ask the pediatrician questions about topics such as: What is their thoughts about circumcision, breast feeding, or the use of antibiotics or other medications?  If you are going to breastfeed, what kind of support can they give you?  What is their philosophy about the role of a pediatrician?

Lastly, look around the office.  Does it seem inviting to children?  Are there things for the children to do if they have to wait to see the doctor?  Will older children and adolescents also feel comfortable here?  Are there ways to separate sick from well children?  What kind of feelings do you get about the office staff?  The nursing staff and front desk personnel are also important in making a trip to the doctor a pleasant experience.

Looking for Dr. Right

So, where do you find your dream pediatrician?  There are several ways.  First, ask your friends and neighbors who they use.  Are they happy there?  What do they like about the office?  Is there anything they don’t like?  Next, ask your nurse-midwife for a list of pediatricians they frequently recommend and on whom they have gotten positive feedback.  Your internist, family practitioner and other medical professionals can also be good resources.

Increasingly, families find themselves as part of health plans that limit their choices to physicians who are members of the plan.  In this instance, start with the list provided by the health plan and see which physicians are available in your area.  Then ask the resources listed above what they know about those physicians.  Make an appointment with the pediatricians you’d like to know more about.

Pediatrician’s fees may vary widely.  Don’t be afraid to ask about fees before you go to the office.  Ask if you will have to pay for services at the time of the visit, or whether they will bill you or submit the insurance claim for you.  If you are a member of a health plan, and the pediatrician is a provider for that plan, they will file for you, but you must usually pay a small co-payment at each visit.  Look at your health plan or insurance coverage carefully.  Not all insurance plans cover well-child care, or you may have to meet a deductible, or they may only cover a certain number of well visits.  For these financial matters, it’s best to know what the office policies are before you get there.  If you anticipate a problem with payments, many offices will work with you, as long as you talk to them up front.

As mentioned earlier, many families find themselves using the same pediatrician for many years, so you want to choose one with whom you feel comfortable, and in whom you have confidence.  Shop around.  Ask questions.  Use and trust your instincts.  Remember, your decision does not have to be a final one.  If you are unhappy with your choice, there are many other fine physicians in the area.  Good luck, and happy parenting!

Dr.Berman practiced pediatrics in the Washington, D.C. area until the year 2000 She currently is co-founder with her husband of www.celebritydiagnosis.com.

What is Thrush?

Thrush/nipple yeast and vaginal yeast are caused by the one-celled organism, Candida albicans. It is a fungus that thrives in moist, dark environments (like the nipples, milk ducts, mother’s vagina, baby‘s mouth and/or baby’s diaper area). The use of antibiotics by mom or baby is a contributing factor in the occurrence of yeast. A cracked or sore nipple can also contribute to yeast occurrence.

Here are a few questions to help you determine if you or your baby has a yeast overgrowth. A consultation with your health care provider is also important. If you answer yes to one or more of these, you may have thrush.

  • Have you noticed white spots in your baby’s mouth?
  • Does your baby have a bright red, pimply diaper rash?
  • Is your baby gassy, fussy or not nursing well due to oral thrush?
  • Is the area around your nipple pink, red, itchy, flaky or shiny?
  • Do you feel a burning sensation on your nipples either during or between feedings?
  • Do you have a cracked nipple that won’t heal? 
  • Do you feel shooting pains in your breast (different from the sensation of let-down)? Some women describe the feeling as “a piece of glass” or “stabbing”.
  • Have you or your baby completed a recent course of antibiotic treatment?
  • Did you have a cesarean birth or were you diagnosed with a vaginal Strep-B infection?

**Note: It is rare for a mom to have a red rash or white spots on her nipples with a nipple yeast infection.**
Here are some common treatment for thrush:

It is very important that both mom and baby are treated at the same time, even if only one of them show signs of yeast. Yeast/thrush is highly contagious, and if not treated together, they will keep passing it back and forth to each other. Be sure to continue treatment for at least 2 WEEKS after the signs of thrush/yeast have gone away.

Your health care provider can prescribe a prescription of Nystatin for you and baby -a cream for mom to use on her nipples and oral liquid for baby. Make a run to the store for yogurt containing live, active cultures (especially l. acidophilus). The yogurt cultures (acidophilus) will help get rid of the yeast. If your baby is old enough, you can offer him some, too.

Acidophilus supplements. This does the same thing as the yogurt. You should be able to find acidophilus in the health food section of your grocery store/pharmacy or at a natural foods store. This can also be crushed (or, if you have the caplets, opened) and sprinkled directly on your nipples. If you wish, you can do this just prior to feeding so your baby gets a dose of acidophilus, too.

Gentian Violet. You should be able to find this in your local health food/natural foods store or in the natural food or vitamin section of your store. Using a clean cotton swab, rub some on each nipple. In order to treat baby, also, it works best to put some on your nipple and then latch baby on to nurse. It will coat baby’s mouth while he is nursing. It is a bit messy, so you’ll want to make sure you are wearing clothes you won’t mind get-ting purple stains on. This should only be used for 3 days.

Grapefruit Seed Extract. (not grape seed extract, ACTIVE INGREDIENT MUST BE “CITRICIDAL”), 250 mg (usually 2 tablets) three or four times a day orally (taken by the mother), seems to work well in many cases. If preferred the liquid extract can be taken orally, 5 drops in water three times per day (though this is not as effective). Oral GSE can be used before trying fluconazole, instead of fluconazole or in addition to fluconazole in resistant cases.

Dr. Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment (from his Candida protocol handout): Mupirocin 2% ointment (15 grams), Betamethasone 0.1% ointment (15 grams), and miconazole powder so that the final concentration is 2% miconazole. This combination gives a total volume of just more than 30 grams. This cream requires a prescription.

The combination is applied sparingly after each feeding (except the feeding when the mother uses gentian violet). “Sparingly” means that the nipple and areola will shine but you won’t be able to see the ointment. Do not wash or wipe it off, even if the pharmacist asks you to. I used to use nystatin ointment or miconazole cream (15 grams) as part of the mixture, and these work well enough, but I believe the use of powdered miconazole (or even clotrimazole powder) gives better results. These ointments can be used for any cause of nipple soreness (“all-purpose nipple ointments”), not just for Candida (yeast). Use the ointment until you are pain-free and then decrease frequency over a week or two until stopped. If you are not having less pain af-ter 3 or 4 days of use, or if you need to be using it for longer than two or three weeks to keep pain free, get help or advice.

Vinegar Wash: 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Use at least 4 times per day, after nursing. Use a clean cotton ball/swab to apply every time and let air-dry.

Cut back on your sugar intake. Yeast loves sugar, so the less that is in your body, the less the yeast has to thrive on.

Sterilize anything that goes into your baby’s mouth or has contact with your nipples. This is necessary to kill the yeast that is on those items and prevent it from reinfecting you. This includes any toys, pacifiers, bottle nipples, breast pump parts and your bras.

Wear disposable breast pads. Change them with each nursing and just toss them out. This way, you’re not sterilizing your bra every night.

Some moms have found swimming in a chlorinated pool to clear up their nipple yeast very quickly.

Diflucan/fluconazole is a prescription medicine that is commonly used to treat vaginal yeast infections. It has been shown to be effective against nipple yeast/thrush, especially when the yeast has survived all other treatments or it is a ductal yeast infection (meaning it is in your milk ducts, not just in the nipple area). The dosage for proper treatment is: 400mg loading dose on day one, then 200 mg per day for 13-28 days after, depending on what your health care provider designates as course of treatment.

Delaying Umbilical Cord Clamping

Clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord should be delayed for three minutes after birth, particularly for pre-term infants, suggests a senior doctor, Dr. Andrew Weeks, in the British Medical Journal. 28/08/2007.
Early clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord is widely practiced as part of the management of labor, but recent studies suggest that it may be harmful to the baby. Dr Andrew Weeks, a senior lecturer in obstetrics at the University of Liverpool, looked at the evidence behind cord clamping. For the mother, trials show that early cord clamping has no ill effects, he writes. But what about the baby?

At birth, he says, the umbilical cord sends oxygen-rich blood to the lungs until breathing establishes. When a baby is born it must transfer from receiving oxygen from the placenta to receiving oxygen from its lungs. For this to happen, the baby’s lungs must first expand, and the burst of blood from the umbilical cord helps to get the newborn’s lungs to expand properly. So as long as the cord is unclamped, the average transfusion to the newborn is equivalent to 21 percent of the neonate’s final blood volume and three quarters of the transfusion occurs in the first minute after birth. For babies born at term, the main effect of this large autotransfusion is to increase their iron status.

This may be lifesaving in areas where anemia is endemic. In the developed world, however, there have been concerns that it could increase the risk of abnormally high levels of red blood cells and bile pigments in the bloodstream often leading to jaundice. But trials has shown this is not the case.

Umbilical cord blood is a baby’s life blood until its birth. It contains stem cells, red blood cells, and more recently scientists have discovered that umbilical cord blood contains cancer-fighting T-cells.
For pre-term babies the beneficial effects of delayed clamping is greater, he says. Delayed clamping is consistently associated with reductions in anemia, bleeding in the brain, and the need for transfusion.
He proposes that in normal births, delaying cord clamping for three minutes with the baby on the mother’s abdomen should not be too difficult. The situation is a little more complex for babies born by caesarean section or for those who need support soon after birth. Nevertheless, it is these babies who may benefit most from a delay in cord clamping. For them, a policy of ‘wait a minute’ would be pragmatic, he says.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) policy supports delayed cord clamping, stating:

“The optimal time to clamp the umbilical cord for all infants regardless of gestational age or fetal weight is when the circulation in the cord has ceased, and the cord is flat and pulseless (approximately 3 minutes or more after birth).” 

They continue:
“Clamping the umbilical cord immediately (within the first 10 to 15 seconds after delivery) prevents the newborn from receiving adequate blood volume and consequently sufficient iron stores.
Immediate cord clamping has been shown to increase the incidence of iron deficiency and anemia during the first half of infancy, with lower birth weight. Waiting to clamp the umbilical cord allows a physiological transfer of placental blood to the infant which provides sufficient iron reserves for the first 6 to 8 months of life, preventing or delaying the development of iron deficiency …

For premature and low birth weight infants, immediate cord clamping can also increase the risk of intraventricular hemorrhage and late-onset sepsis.13 In addition, immediate cord clamping in these infants increases the need for blood transfusions for anemia and low blood pressure infants and infants born to iron-deficient mothers being at particular risk …

Numerous research studies and experts are also confirming that waiting to clamp the cord offers significant benefits. Among them:
• In the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, researchers say delayed cord clamping is “mankind’s first stem cell transfer and propose that it should be encouraged in normal births.”
• In a BMJ editorial, James Neilson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, states that delayed clamping should be practiced.

Resources, Support:
“Early versus delayed umbilical cord clamping in preterm infants”. Rabe H, Reynolds GJ, Diaz-Rosello JL http://tinyurl.com/4w63wv8 (Cochrane Review)

ACOG Recommends Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping for All Healthy Infants http://tinyurl.com/lopdtn8