Probiotics: benefits in pregnancy and after…

My nanny’s 16 month old son, Harry, was recently prescribed a course of antibiotics for tonsilitis. The poor lamb also ended up getting a rather upset tummy as a result of the antibiotics.

Thankfully, most GPs tend to be somewhat reticent to prescribe antibiotics, in particular to children. Although I know that this can be frustrating to parents hoping for some kind of cure from their GP, it’s a view that I definitely support given the side effects. (Unfortunately, both my boys were put on antibiotics at birth as a precautionary measure, due to my being a GBS carrier, and I am therefore very wary of further courses of antibiotics being bombarded on their tiny bodies).

Harry’s encounter with antibiotics reminded of my own experience with frequent courses of antibiotics when I was pregnant last year.

I am definitely not the category of women who bloom during pregnancy: does putting on around 4 stone in weight count?! (I am pleased to report that I have since lost most of this weight – more of this in a soon to follow blog entry! ;)).

My biggest joy during this pregnancy was spending pretty much 60-70% of my time on one kind of antibiotic or another due to my increased risk of various infections.

Antibiotics can cause all manner of hideous side-effects; not least an upset tummy and thrush; as well as resistance to some strains of bacteria if taken regularly, as I was. This is mainly due to the fact [apologies, this next bit really does sound like a well know ad, but it’s the only way of putting it really!] that while killing the harmful bacteria it is supposed to, it also kills the good bacteria that inhabit our gut. This can lead to all manner of problems.

Having done quite a bit of of internet research on how to fight the negative effects of antibiotics, I started taking a regular course of probiotics, to try and correct the imbalance created by antibiotics. I’m not talking about a nice little Yoplait yogurt drink here. To really get the full benefits that probiotics can offer I started taking probiotic with a decent concentration of good bacteria. (I ordered mine from ‘Natures Best’ (www.naturesbest.co.uk), although there are loads on the market (I was taking a supplement with a high contentration of acodophilus (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactobacillus_acidophilus if you want to find out more about the benefits of this).

There doesn’t seem to be any harm to taking probiotics during pregnancy, in fact I just stumbled across a study undertaken in Norway that suggests that taking probiotics in pregnancy can actually lead to a reduced incidence of childhood eczema. (Although another later study has apparently disapproved this research).

I’ve continued taking probiotics since having my little boy, Zak, and am currently on a brilliant combination available from Boots of Probiotics and Vitamin C (‘Boots Feel the Difference Instant Vitality Probiotics and Vitamin C’) which helps boost the immune system. It also has the added benefit of containing a small amount of caffeine to give added energy, as well as B vitamins.

Going back to my nanny’s little boy, I have since also done some research into whether there are any probiotics on the market for babies. It goes without saying that breast milk is the best thing for babies. For one thing, it naturally contains all the relevant bacteria a baby needs. Most infant formulas have tried to replicate this combination of prebiotics and probiotics contained in breast milk.

Interestingly, there are no probiotic supplements available for babies or older children in Boots or Holland & Barrett. I have , however, found a number available online, and may give them a try.

The bottom line for me: they don’t seem to do any harm, and, if anything, they may do a lot of good.

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