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Benefits of Daily Probiotics

goodbacteriaProbiotics 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

The Benefits of Red Raspberry Tea

Red Raspberry leaf tea is one of the safest and commonly used tonic herbs for women wanting to get pregnant or for women who are already pregnant. Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus) tones the uterus, improves contractions and decreases constipation. Most tonics need to be used regularly, for a tonic is to the cells much like exercise is to the muscles; it is not much help when done irregularly . But you will still  benefit even from occasional use of tonics during pregnancy, since they contain nourishing factors. The herb comes in forms of leaves to make teas or tonics as well as pill like capsules you can swallow. Most of the benefits given to regular use of Red Raspberry leaf tea throughout pregnancy can be traced to the strengthening power of fragrine, an alkaloid which gives tone to the muscles of the pelvic region, including the uterus itself; and to the nourishing power of the vitamins and minerals found in this plant. There is rich concentration of Vitamin C, the presence of Vitamin E and the easily assimilated calcium and iron. Raspberry leaves also contain vitamins A and B complex and many minerals, including phosphorus and potassium.

When to use: There are two basic points of view on the subject. There is agreement among many
clinicians that in the 3rd trimester frequent (2- 3 cups per day of tea or 1 – 2 cups per day of infusion) isred raspberry leaf tea
beneficial to the uterine and pelvic muscles.

The more radical point of view is that drinking one cup of tea per day in the 1st trimester and 2 cups in the 2nd trimester and switching to the infusion in the 3rd trimester ensures a strong uterus, is good for you nutritionally and prevents miscarriage. Some say it is advised to not use it in the first trimester, particularly if you have a history of miscarriage. If a mother is prone to miscarriages she may feel safer avoiding raspberry until the third trimester. This is an herb with centuries of safe use behind it, there is usually little cause for concern, but check with your healthcare provider before using.

According to Susun Weed, author of “Wise Woman, Herbal for the Childbearing Year,” the benefits
listed below for drinking a Raspberry leaf brew before and throughout pregnancy are as follows:

  • Increasing fertility in both men and women. Red Raspberry leaf is an excellent fertility herb when
    combined with Red Clover.
  •  Preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage. Raspberry leaf tones the uterus and helps prevent
    miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage from a relaxed or atonic uterus.
  • Use raspberry leaf infusion to help facilitate placenta delivery. Chips of frozen raspberry leaf infusion
    sucked throughout labor help keep the uterus working strongly and smoothly.
  •  Easing of morning sickness. Many women attest to raspberry leaves’ gentle relief of nausea and
    stomach distress throughout pregnancy. Drink a cup or two of raspberry leaf tea or infusion each day.
    Sipping the infusion before getting up or sucking on ice cubes made from the infusion increases the
    strength of this remedy.
  •  Reducing pain during labor and after birth. By toning the muscles used during labor and birth,
    Raspberry leaf eliminates many of the reasons for a painful birth and prolonged recovery. It does not
    counter the pain of dilation of the cervix.
  • Red Raspberry Leaves do not start or encourage labor. It can help the contractions to be productive
    once true labor has begun because it strengthens the uterine and pelvic muscles but it is not an oxytonic
    herb (one that would induce labor). That being said, it’s important to talk with your midwife,
    obstetrician or herbalist before beginning drinking red raspberry leaf tea or taking a supplement. Some
    will recommend you wait until you are 36 weeks along before incorporating the tea into your health
    regime while others may encourage you to begin right away. Each situation and pregnancy is different
    so it’s best to get other’s opinions before beginning red raspberry leaf tea.

Tea recipe: To make a tea, pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 teaspoons of herb and steep for ten minutes. Strain. During the first two trimesters, drink 1 cup per day. During the final trimester, drink 2-3 cups per day.

Excerpts from Weed, Susun. “Wise Woman Herbal Childbearing Year.”http://www.motherandchildhealth.com/Prenatal/raspberry.html

Presented by Angel J. Miller, MSN, CNM

www.midwiferycareassociates.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/angeljmiller

What is a Perinatal Mood Disorder?

Recently, the media has reported several stories relating to perinatal mood disorders (more commonly considered to be post-partum depression, but are not limited to depression). Guidelines around who should get screened and when have taken center stage. Despite this attention, many don’t realize what perinatal mood disorders are or whether or not they are at risk for one.

black-and-white-person-woman-girl-mediumQuite simply, a perinatal mood disorder is a mental health concern that occurs either during pregnancy or post-partum. This can include depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, paranoid thinking, and thoughts to harm yourself or your baby. While these concerns exist prior to pregnancy for individuals, they can be exacerbated during pregnancy and after for several environmental reasons: changes in hormones and lack of sleep are two prevalent factors. Of course, not everyone who has a baby experiences changes in mood, and certainly, some people seem to be more resilient during this transition.

Common symptoms of a perinatal mood disorder may include:
*Changes in sleep (not being able to sleep at all, even when the baby is or
oversleeping)
*Irritability
*Fears of something happening to the baby (being dropped, not
breathing, etc)
*Concerns (despite weight gain) that baby isn’t eating enough
*Uncontrollable crying
*Disinterest or lack of connection to the babypexels-photo-48566-medium
*A feeling of not being yourself

Nearly 1 in 8 women (and 1 in 10 men) experience a perinatal mood disorder. Treatment is simple and can range from therapy, medication, or both. However, without treatment, there can be long-term consequences that are dangerous for both mother and baby, as studies of depressed mothers have shown difficulties in their children as they age. There is a simple screening that you can opt to take to see if you might be experiencing a perinatal mood disorder and it can be found here. People who are are risk for developing a perinatal mood disorder include those that have experienced depression or anxiety during pregnancy; those that have a family member who had a perinatal mood disorder; those with a history (or family history) of depression or anxiety; those that have suffered a pregnancy loss; those that conceived through infertility; those with a baby that was in the NICU; teenage mothers; those that are having financial/housing/medical concerns; and those that do not have a social support system or a limited one. Certainly, this is not an exhaustive list, but is inclusive of many “red flags”.

 

If you are concerned about you or someone you know that might be having difficultly adjusting to life postpartum, you can contact your OB-GYN/Midwife/Primary Care Physician about a mental health referral. It is important that the clinician you meet with has experience and training in treating perinatal mood disorders as it is not something that most graduate programs cover.

By Julie Bindeman,  Psy-D

http://www.greaterwashingtontherapy.com/

Best Exercises for Your Pregnancy

yogamomCongratulations on your pregnancy! Now you can sit back, relax and put your feet up for the next nine months, right? Not so fast! Attitudes and beliefs about prenatal exercise have drastically changed over the past twenty years. No longer is pregnancy viewed as a time to sit, watch TV and each chocolate. These days, moms can actually maintain and improve their fitness levels while pregnant. And exercise provides many numerous benefits such as a boost in your mood and energy levels, helps you sleep better, helps prevent excess weight gain and increases your stamina and muscle strength. You cannot lose!

Regular exercise during your pregnancy can improve not only your heart health and boost your energy, but improve your overall health. Maintaining a healthy body and healthy weight gain can help reduce common pregnancy complaints and discomforts like lower back pain, fatigue and constipation and can even help with shortening your time during labor by strengthening your endurance.

First, consult your health care provider if it is okay to exercise. If you have been participating in a regular exercise regimen and are having a healthy pregnancy, there should not be a problem continuing with your regimen in moderation. You may have to modify your exercise according to your trimester of pregnancy.

If you have not participated in an exercise regimen three times a week before getting pregnant, do not jump into a new, strenuous activity. Start out with a low-intensity activity and gradually move to a higher activity level.

The best type of exercise during pregnancy:
• Increases your heart rate steadily and improves your heart circulation
• keeps you flexible and limber
• manages your weight gain by burning calories
• prepares your muscles for labor and birth
• won’t cause you to push your body too hard

Research shows that healthy pregnant women who exercise during their pregnancy may have less risk of preterm labor and birth and a shorter labor process, are less likely to need pain relief, and recover from childbirth faster.

Regular, moderate exercise not only gives you a healthier pregnancy, it may give your baby a healthier start. Research shows that when pregnant women exercise, their developing babies have a much lower heart rate. Babies of active moms may also have a healthier birth weight. Experts recommend that you exercise for 30 minutes a day, on most days. Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and do not overdo it.

Your pregnancy exercise regimen should strengthen and condition your muscles. Always begin by warming up for five minutes and stretching for five minutes. Following your choice of exercise, finish your regimen with five to ten minutes of gradually slower exercise that ends with gentle stretching.

The safest and most productive activities to perform during your pregnancy are brisk walking, swimming, indoor stationary cycling, prenatal yoga and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified aerobics instructor). These activities carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body, and can be continued until the birth of your baby. Other activities such as jogging can be done in moderation. You might want to choose exercises or activities that do not require great balance or coordination, especially later in your pregnancy.

Use common sense:
• Avoid exercising that involves lying on your stomach or flat on your back after the first trimester of pregnancy.
• Stay well hydrated and drink plenty of fluids before, during and after you exercise.
• Avoid overheating and humidity, especially during the first trimester when the fetus is undergoing its most important growth and development.
• Stop exercising if you feel fatigued, develop persistent pain or experience any vaginal bleeding; check with your healthcare provider if regular contractions occur more than 30 minutes after exercise (possibly a sign of pre-term labor).
• Avoid heavy weightlifting and any activities that require straining.
• Avoid exposure to extremes of air pressure, as in high altitude exercise (unless you’re accustomed to it) or scuba diving.
• Do not increase the intensity of your workout beyond pre-pregnancy intensity level
• Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Sedentary pregnant women need about 3,000 calories per day during the second and third trimesters; if you are physically active, your caloric needs will be higher to make up for the calories burned up during your exercise regimen.

Basic exercise guidelines:
• Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes, as well as a good support bra
• Choose shoes that are designed for the type of exercise you choose. Proper shoes are your best protection against injury
• Exercise on a flat, level surface to avoid injury
• Finish eating at least one hour before exercising
• Get up slowly and gradually to prevent dizziness
• Never exercise to the point of exhaustion. If you cannot talk normally while exercising, you are probably over exerting yourself, and you should slow down your activity.

Physical changes during your pregnancy will create extra demands on your body. Keeping in mind the changes listed below, remember you need to listen to your body and adjust your activities or exercise regimen as necessary.
• Your developing baby and other internal changes require more oxygen and energy.
• Hormones (relaxin) produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments that support your joints to stretch, increasing the risk of injury.
• The extra weight and the uneven distribution of your weight alters your center of gravity. The extra weight also puts stress on joints and muscles in the lower back and pelvic area, and makes it easier for you to lose your balance

If you have any medical condition, such as asthma, heart disease, hypertension or diabetes, exercise may not be advisable. Again, consult with your health care provider before beginning any exercise regimen.

Exercise may also be harmful if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as:
• vaginal Bleeding or spotting
• Low placenta (low-lying or placenta previa)
• Threatened or history of recurrent miscarriage
• Previous premature births or history of early labor
• Weak cervix

Talk with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program. Your health care provider can also suggest personal exercise guidelines, based on your medical history.

Stop exercising and consult your healthcare provider if you:
• Feel pain
• Have abdominal, chest, or pelvic pain
• Notice an absence of fetal movement
• Feel faint, dizzy, nauseous, or light-headed
• Feel cold or clammy
• Have vaginal bleeding
• Have a sudden gush of fluid from the vagina or a trickle of fluid that leaks steadily (when your bag of “water” breaks, also called rupture of the amniotic membrane)
• Notice an irregular or rapid heartbeat
• Have sudden swelling in your ankles, hands, face, or experience calf pain
• Have increased shortness of breath
• Have persistent contractions that continue after rest
• Have difficulty walking

Regular exercise will keep you and your baby healthy while staying fit, and enjoying your pregnancy!

Written by: Angel J. Miller, MSN, CNM, certified nurse-midwife, Midwifery Service Director, Washington, D.C. Area and co-author: Nine Months In ~ Nine Months Out.
References
Miller, Angel, Kelly, Stacia, Kirkbride, Shelia, Matthews, Corry. Nine Months In ~ Nine Months Out. Sterling, Va. Ironcutter Media, 2011.
http://www.webmd.com/baby/exercise-during-pregnancy
http://kidshealth.org/parent/index.jsp?tracking=P_Home
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-exercise/art-20046896