The Microbiome is something we were never really taught about at medical school. However it is something that I find an essential part of including when consulting with my clients. The research is certainly growing about the importance of the microbiome in many parts of our health.
The thing is that the most important time to set the scene and a very positive strong and healthy foundation for our future health is what happens with the microbiome around birth and postpartum.
We tend to consider it as part of our gut health now. We consider our micrbiome with digestive health and symptoms like constipation, bloating, food absorption. We might use the terms leaky gut and dysbiosis. We kind of know it is of some importance, and some doctors may prescribe probiotics with their script of antibiotics. Or tell you to eat plain yoghurt perhaps.
However we are realising that our gut health and our microbiome affects our brain, our mind and mental health through the gut-brain barrier, our vagina has its own microbiome that is essential in care for vaginal, womb and general female health, dealing with infections or inflammation as well as during pregnancy and childbirth and so much more than simply around digestion.
The Microbirth movie bought a lot of this into our knowledge and I thank Toni Harman for all the information she shares about this topic. This talk is based on a lot of the Microbirth resources and I highly recommend you to follow their work if you are interested.
The other resource credit is Metagenics and the webinars they share on this topic too. Both parties interview and speak with experts in the field specifically around microbiome – during pregnancy and postpartum.
This is THE essential point. As we uncover how it is during this time that it is so essential for a baby to be building his own microbiome and how it is this creation during this critical time period that has been shown to have a life long impact, the biggest life long impact on our immunity and inflammation status.
My personal interest in the microbiome perhaps comes from really trying to fit in the missing pieces to healing that I have had to find myself in my healing journey and work.
After my personal training took place in medical school and then working at hospitals and clinics for several years, I was quite fed up with a very limited approach to health. So I am always searching for deeper aspects. Although I tend to focus on the spiritual – emotional make up of health and healing, I still love keeping up to date with the information from functional medicine, elemental herbalism and other pathways that excite my brain and have enormous potency for healing.
So I have decided to include a more medical or more clinical aspect in my writing as this is also an important part of my work that is maybe not so visible beyond my personal clients and mums that consult with me.
As a short introduction – I am Dr Gauri. Although I studied medicine I always had an interest in natural medicine. My first baby was born at home and that swerved my whole career and life interest really to become around supporting, canvassing and educating mothers around the importance of sovereign, gentle and conscious births.
I went on to train to do homebirths under my midwife, as I had to lose a lot of the fear based training I had received during my medical work. From there I continued holding courses, conferences, circles and consulting privately.
My work expanded to womb work as the more I worked with mothers and the amazing woman body I realised how much healing there is simply from connecting and working with our wombs. So I now practice what I call Womb Wisdom as Medicine.
The Microbiome is essential to know about for parents and professionals working with birth.
This morning I was just thinking how amazing it would be if we were taught about this very importance and the information I will now share – during school. Imagine if every child was being taught that how we give birth and the contact afterwards is so important and essential for our future health and immunity.
Imagine if we left school with the imprinting that how we birth matters and that Mother Nature has the most infallible, perfect design and if we just keep to that we can mitigate so much suffering, illness and disability.
If anyone is inspired to create this class for school kids please be in touch with me as I would like to collaborate with you.
If you consider birth for mammals – the whole process is unique, and perfectly unfolds when biology is left alone. There is always a place and the safety of having the backup if needed for emergencies or complications and that is there and that is the very rare exception, when we know how to support our innate biology.
On a whole when birth is approached from a biological point of view and we follow what Mother Nature knows – you can witness the most perfect unfolding of so many factors that are incorporated in a baby’s healing. Healing for now and over his entire lifespan. That happens when birth is held in that physiological, primal and mammalian wisdom.
The mammal, and we humans are Mammals – are the only species that give birth to live young vaginally and produce milk to breastfeed their baby. If you think about the design of this intelligence by Mother Nature we see – absolute perfection.
Instead of trying to minimize, complicate and fashion this design by all the interventions we get offered by the so called science of medicine – it is better and far more intelligent, and less arrogant – to look at the design itself and seek to understand the divine intelligence in this design and see how we can further support and honour it.
The medicine we are seeking is all there anyway. The health, vitality, longevity and feeling good is all there anyway.
When birth is taken away from this we are dealing with the short and long term sequelae of complications that we do not even know how they are interfering with a human’s evolutionary biological unfolding and development. We do not know all the costs and benefits of the interventions we are witnessing.
But I think we are actually indeed seeing the fallout right before our eyes. We have just to look at the rising numbers of auto-immune diseases, chronic inflammatory conditions, obesity, anxiety, depression and brain fog.
What we are witnessing over the generations is profound maladaption by our immune system which are affecting a quality of life for individuals. We are witnessing conditions of high inflammation, immune systems turning on themselves as auto-immune diseases, and simply weakened immunity in general.
From the Microbiome courses shared by Microbirth we learn from expert Immunology professors that
the most important thing we can do to ensure a healthy immune system is to make sure that microbial seeding occurs.
And this comes down to 3 essential aspects:
Seeding of microbiome via Vaginal birth
Immediate and continued skin to skin
Breastfeeding initiated and continued for a length of time
These are what every person working with birth and every mother should know as this is a single most important factor that will influence the health of a baby across his lifespan.
Let’s unpack a little more – let’s start at the beginning again – so we can understand the importance of this microbiome.
What is the Human Microbiome?
It is the collection of micro-organisms that live on and in us. Our planet is covered with microbes and so are we. These include bacteria, fungi, viruses, protists and arachae.
Protists are single celled organisms living in the layer of soil also including algae. And Arachae are a subtype of bacteria that perform essential functions in our ecosystem such as nutrient cycling, stress response, and phytohormone biosynthesis.
Interestingly just as an example – Archae include methane producing organisms. There function in our digestive system is to help to get rid of excess hydrogen by utilizing it to produce energy. This hydrogen is a waste product produced by the bacteria that help break down the food we eat, so getting rid of the excess means bacteria can do their job more effectively and efficiently.
These microbes live on our skin, in our nose, our lungs, vagina, and gut.
They interact with our nervous system, our immune system, they have anti-infective properties, affect our hormones, digestion and metabolism.
And now we also know now that there is a gut-brain barrier that means our microbes also affect our emotions, and moods.
Every single persons microbe ecosystem is individualized for them. It is different for everyone.
These microbes are passed down at birth via a vaginal birth as the baby passes through the vaginal canal, skin to skin and breastfeeding – they are passed down via vagina, gut, skin and breastmilk.
Did you know that during pregnancy – a mothers microbes in her gut and vagina changes in preparation for birth and baby?
The moment that this all starts is during labor when the waters break – the the main seeding event. Baby gets exposed to microbes from mums vagina and her gut.
We witness Mother Nature’s inoculation.
There has been research that shows by studying a baby’s meconium under a microscope – you can identify who his mother is – by matching the microbiome diversity.
The microbiome seeding that occurs during a vaginal birth is the most important initial seeding that occurs for a baby.
If you are having a caeserian section then a practice called vaginal seeding can be done.
Here is the process:
The mum takes a gauze swab and places it in her vagina. After a few minutes she can remove it and after the birth she wipes the gauze over her babies face, head and body.
If you miss this opportunity – the following 2 steps are also essential for preserving the health of our future generations.
Breast Milk and Microbiome
Every mammal species produces species specific milk that is perfectly adapted to that baby’s specific needs. For example a cow produces milk that will help the calf make more muscle whereas a human will make milk that is more adapted to support brain growth being higher in the right fats needed.
The environment that a mother is in affects the quality of her milk. So there is this subtle or invisible way of communicating generation through generation, which takes on certain nutritional qualities as they are expressed and known by the simple evolution that occurs through the generations and various environmental exposures.
This milk also changes to perfectly suit the babies, it is perfectly personalized for that baby as the baby grows. It changes according to his situation and his age.
The intelligence in this design of Mother Nature is far beyond us and there is really no way to replicate it.
The Metagenics institute quote that the ”In Utero events predict for generational function or dysfunction across all physiological systems…. and go on to include delivery method, feeding method and food introduction in the first 1000-2000 days.”
Breastmilk is far more than a fluid liquid but is actually like a tissue as there is so much in it. Everything the baby needs is in the breastmilk and it is most optimal for baby to absorb easily.
So back to the microbiome – we find this in breastmilk as oligosaccharides which is also known as prebiotics and are the food for the baby’s microbiome. It helps to farm, direct and grow the correct colonies of gut bacteria in a baby’s gut.
For example a probiotic species that is extremely protective and important for us is called Bifidobacter. Due to antibiotics we now witness generational loss of Bifidobacter within the human species. Bifidobacter is very sensitive to antibiotics.
When a baby is born vaginally and there is skin on skin – these good bacteria are seeded in the baby’s microbiome. If there is a caeserian and no skin to skin this Bifidobacter will not be seeded in the baby. Human milk is the only milk form that contains the correct oligosaccharides to feed the Bifidobacter. Formula does not contain these oligosaccharides.
Bifidobacter is the MAIN bacteria in our microbiome for the first couple of years of life.
We can see how breastfeeding IS the babies immune system developing through its own mothers milk. It is teaching and guiding the babies immune system. This is occurring in the first 2 years of a babies life.
It is by breastfeeding that we are creating life long protection and immunity, balancing inflammation and the corresponding diseases later in life. For example obesity, asthma, allergies and even Alzheimers.
So what can we do to support and enhance this?
The most basic tenants of what affects our microbiome is
what we eat
other medication exposure for example PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors)
PPI’s are most popular as people are eating more western diets we have an epidemic of heartburn, reflux and ulcers. I can attest to this after working in the clinic and seeing the health status of general community populations AND how it is managed on a clinical level. I made a handout for people to give natural and nutritional advice to care for this rather than always dolling out the PPI. It also became unavailable at some points and patients were having tantrums outside the pharmacy sometimes. So this is a very real dilemma. Unfortunately PPI’s reek havoc with our gut biome and create an environment where our nutrients don’t get absorbed so we become malnourished really, as a consequence.
The best way to support our microbiome is to eat a wide variety of plants everyday!
Think about what you have eaten today – and what you will still eat. That is one thing I love about being in India is that we eat very local. We eat seasonal. The food is mostly freshly harvested. The only thing and it is a very important thing – is the soil quality in which it is grown.
The soil quality is key to the quality of our food and especially in terms of supporting our microbiome.
The good thing is that research shows that it does not take long to see results. Simply by including more qood quality and variety of plants in our diet we can see the results in our microbiome.
By eating a lot of vegetables, plants, fruits daily we are also ensuring that we are giving our microbiome the food that it needs to continue growing well. These are called prebiotics.
Some examples of good prebiotics include leeks, artichokes, asparagus, alum family, and radish.
How can we avoid antibiotics around birth and pregnancy?
This can be a fine line as the medical institution love to dose us up at any slightest sign of inflammation. Approaching this is really an individualized response that would need to possibly be under the care of a natural health care provider as well as doing your own research on naturally and safely boosting your immunity at this time, understanding the pros and cons of antibiotic use for your situation, monitoring your own symptoms and signs, using natural herbal antimicrobials.
If antibiotic use for you is an issue, I would highly recommend working with a homeopath, a functional medicine doctor or a naturopath, a versed midwife or consulting with me to navigate the alternatives in a safe manner.
For your own research I recommend reading the profuse articles written by Aviva Romm in her healthy kid series and on her site.
There are certainly times when we can avoid antibiotic use as they tend to be over-prescribed, and there are times when we can optimally support ourselves if we cannot avoid them (for example during a caeserian section as they are given as a prophylactic to prevent infection after major abdominal surgery.)
Skin to Skin
Another tip is lots of skin to skin. I don’t mean baby wearing clothing and snuggling up on your chest over your tshirt, nightie or bra. I mean baby is absolutely naked (at the most a small nappy and baby is lying directly on your skin for most of the day.) This can also be daddy or grannys bare skin if mom is not able to or needs some time.
And then an additional tip – if you have managed to listen to the end – is for postpartum depression it has been shown that diet has a huge impact. When depressed or simply not having time – we tend to grab the quickest and easiest foods which tend to be high in carbs and totally against supporting our microbiome – because we are stressed.
A good tip is to simply focus on your diet to support your postpartum mental wellness.
The probiotic supplement shown to support ppd is Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (6 × 109 CFU).