It’s been said that one of the bravest things we can do is to bring a new life into the world. In today’s time of uncertainty, that’s never been more true.
So you take your prenatal vitamins and get plenty of sleep. You choose every morsel you eat with care, and scrutinize labels like never before. Every time you leave your house, you follow safety guidelines.
Every time you come home, you wash your hands thoroughly.
But as you navigate the journey of your pregnancy, you still may have niggling doubts. Will it be enough? What else can you do to protect the health of your baby? What else can you do to protect your own health?
Probiotics: the new frontier for immune health
Everything you consume influences your health and the health of your baby. Probiotics are no different. They can help provide your body with the good bacteria it needs for optimum health.
Probiotics have been making health headlines for almost 30 years, but we’re only beginning to understand their many benefits and how best to use them.
It all starts with the microbiome. Everyone has a microbiome – that is, their own personal collection of microorganisms that include bacteria, fungi, and even viruses.
Much of it is in your digestive tract, but it also exists on your skin and other places. We don’t just peacefully coexist with our microbiome; we depend on it. A healthy microbiome works for us and protects us in numerous ways – and chief among them is immune function.[i], [ii], [iii]
Your gut microbiome is not static; it changes all the time. We have the power to shape our own microbiome – by what we eat, how we manage stress, and more.
A baby inherits her microbiome primarily from her mom, and that’s why it’s so important to make sure you pass on a good one.
During pregnancy – and even before conception – you have the opportunity to create a healthy microbial legacy to pass on to your baby.
Probiotics can contribute to a healthy microbiome. Research published in the journal Nutrition Bulletin in 2018 explained how they work to support health.
“Mechanisms of action that researchers have discovered in different probiotic strains include modulation of immune system [and] interactions with gut microbiota.”[iv] In plain English, probiotics help regulate the immune system by communicating with a person’s existing microbiome. (How cool is that?)
Early probiotics can yield lifelong benefits/h2>
Probiotics have both short term and lifelong benefits. A 2019 study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology revealed that getting the right probiotic early in life can have a big impact later in life.
The study authors reported, “Specific probiotics could become potentially valuable tools to modulate the gut microbiota during this early critical window of opportunity for targeted health outcomes throughout the entire life span.”[v]
In fact, even though that study was published in 2019, another team of researchers were already on it.
Studies published in 2008, 2012, 2013, 2017, and 2018 show what a game changer one particular probiotic strain may be.
That strain is called Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001.
(Don’t worry, we won’t make you say it out loud.) It’s not only notable for its health benefits for pregnant women, but also for their babies.
And here’s the most exciting finding: when a baby gets HN001 probiotic during pregnancy, and continues to get it in breast milk or through supplementation until age 2, the immune-boosting benefits last at least 11 years![vi]
Here’s a summary of those findings. In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, a daily dose of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 was given to expectant moms who were 35 weeks pregnant.
The mothers continued to receive the HN001 strain for 6 months while breastfeeding. After their babies were weaned at 6 months, the babies were given HN001 daily until age two.
Follow-up assessments were made when the children were 2, 4, 6, and 11 years old.
Compared to the control group, the babies who got HN001 had significantly less eczema, hay fever, and atopic sensitization. (Atopic sensitization is a positive prick test result for common allergens).
There’s yet another exciting research finding that’s especially relevant today. HN001 helps the immune system protect against viruses, according to a 2008 study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy.
That study looked at immune markers of babies whose mothers had received HN001 probiotics compared to babies who received a different probiotic, and to a placebo group.
They found that infants who received the HN001 had higher levels of IFN-gamma (also known as interferon gamma). IFN-gamma is a cytokine that is part of the immune defense against mostly viral infections, but also some bacterial infections as well.
In addition, higher levels of IgA, or immunoglobulin A, were found in breast milk and were thus passed on to the babies.[vii] IgA are antibodies found in mucus secretions in the intestines and respiratory system that also play a large role in immune defenses.
The researchers said in conclusion, “The findings suggest that supplementation with probiotics in pregnancy has the potential to influence fetal immune parameters as well as immunomodulatory factors in breast milk.”
Translation? When mom takes probiotics during pregnancy, her baby’s immune system benefits.
And the benefits don’t stop at birth; the baby will continue to get those vital immune-boosting components in breast milk as long as mom continues taking the probiotic.
This is good news for C-section babies, too. One of the ways a baby inherits his microbiome is his journey through the birth canal.
Since C-section babies don’t take this trip, they miss out on that opportunity to collect mom’s bacteria.
By supplementing with a clinically studied probiotic during pregnancy, through breastfeeding, and longer with supplementation, C-section babies have a better chance to build a healthy microbiome.
Probiotics for mom’s mood
New motherhood is stressful. New motherhood in these crazy times we’re living in is even more so. The gut has often been called the second brain, and for good reason.
A healthy gut microbiome is linked to better mood. Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 also helps boost mom’s mood and promotes a sense of calmness after the baby is born.[viii] (Can I get an amen?)
In a study published in EBioMedicine by The Lancet in 2017, researchers looked at the effects of supplementing with HN001 during pregnancy and for the six month period of breastfeeding that followed.
The researchers concluded, “The probiotic treatment group reported significantly lower depression and anxiety scores than those in the placebo group.” What’s not to love about that?
The right probiotic makes all the difference
We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to identifying and cataloguing what will likely amount to hundreds, if not thousands, of different strains of probiotics.
The Lactobacillus genus includes 38 different species (including rhamnosus), and each species includes multiple strains.
There are at least 40 strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, each one genetically different and each performing different functions.[ix]Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 is the only one of those strains that has been clinically shown to support immune health in pregnant and nursing mothers.
When our formulators and researchers at UpSpring set about to create an immune-supporting supplement for moms and babies (Dual Prenatal Immunity), it was clear that we couldn’t do it without HN001.
You’re probably very careful about avoiding sushi, soft cheeses, and certain over the counter medications while you’re pregnant. It makes sense to be just as careful with the supplements you choose.
Many if not most supplements haven’t been studied in pregnant women. When it comes to taking supplements for you – and your baby’s – immune system, a clinically studied supplement gives you peace of mind. (Who doesn’t need more of that these days?)
With so many probiotic species and strains to study, we expect that there will be more exciting health discoveries in the coming years. Stay tuned!
[iv] Sanders, ME. Probitics for human use. Nutrition Bulletin, 2018 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nbu.12334
[vi] Wickens, K. et al. Effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in early life on the cumulative prevalence of allergic disease to 11 years. J Pediatr Allergy Immunol, 2018. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30430649/
[vii] Prescott, SL et al. Supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus or bifidobacterium lactis probiotics in pregnancy increases cord blood interferon-y and breast milk transformin growth factor-B and imunoglobin A detection. Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 2008. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18631345/
[viii] Slykerman, RF. et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in Pregnancy on Postpartum Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Randomised Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial. Ebiomedicine. 2017. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352396417303663
[ix] Ceapa C, et al. The Variable Regions of Lactobacillus rhamnosus Genomes Reveal the Dynamic Evolution of Metabolic and Host-Adaptation Repertoires. Genome Biol Evol., 2016 Jun;8(6):1889-1905. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4943194/