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It is an example of the elegant symbiosis between mother and child: at birth a mother provides her child with the building blocks of his or her lifelong inner ecology, now referred to as our microbiome. 

Nature has created all the steps necessary for this to happen in succession from the first trimester to a vaginal birth and then continuing through breastfeeding. Parallel advancing studies in the microbiome as a whole and its genesis at birth are leading to what may be the most beneficial knowledge of human health.

What is the Microbiome?

A microbiome is the totality of microbes, their genetic elements (genomes), and environmental interactions in a particular environment.

Predominantly, these microbes are found in the gut and are what help us digest and assimilate food. Some microbes have evolved to fight undesirable bacteria and some undesirable bacteria has evolved to proliferate when beneficial bacteria is low. In this way, they are in constant communication with our immune system and are the root of allergic and auto-immune responses. If you have a complex microbiome, you are well set to assimilate nutrients and fend off bad bacteria.

A Gift From Mother to Child

Studies have shown that the microbiome of a pregnant woman is different from other women. During the first trimester of pregnancy, there is a dramatic shift and the bacteria Lactobacillus, normally found in the gut, begins to increase in the vaginal tract. Lactobacillus is needed to digest milk. During birth, the lactobacillus coats the baby and the baby ingests some of it. These microbes then begin to colonize in the infant’s digestive tract, helping him or her to digest milk. In studies, C-section babies were colonizing strains of the more harmful bacteria found on our skin and in hospitals, Staphylococcus and Acinetobacter. Interestingly, in one study, the C-section babies were developing a general composition of bacteria found on the skin of all of the delivering mothers, whereas the vaginally delivered babies bacteria was like a fingerprint of the mother’s system.

The foundation of the microbiome continues to build via breastfeeding. Six hundred strains of bacteria have been found in breast milk along with sugars called oligosaccharides that babies cannot digest but which feed the beneficial bacteria, ensuring a strong and useful microbiome. “As the child grows and the microbiome becomes more ecologically complex, it also tutors the immune system.”

What Does This Mean for Pregnant Women?

Pregnant women need to be informed about the importance and many benefits of vaginal birth and breastfeeding. Of course, C-sections are an important life saving option in an emergency. The wonderful thing about this new branch of research is that in cases of C-section delivery or inability to breastfeed, we are gaining the knowledge needed to provide another chance to build a baby’s ecosystem if there is a re-route from the way nature intended this process.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Has Long Known a Child’s Health Begins In the Gut and With the Parents

TCM doctors are adept at diagnosing imbalances rooted in the gut and digestion, which is the most common root problem in children. If your child has digestive or other constitutional issues, or was born via C-section and you want to make sure he or she has the strongest beginning possible, a TCM practitioner can help. If you have questions, please feel free to call. We offer a free ten minute consultation so you will have time to ask your questions.


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Western medicine has discovered a link that Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have understood for centuries: a healthy gut is essential for fertility. This recent study (abstract below) outlines the importance of healthy flora as it relates to positive outcomes for IVF patients:

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
Perturbation of the normal lactobacilli-dominated vaginal microflora is associated with reproductive failure and adverse pregnancy outcomes, ranging from early pregnancy loss to late miscarriage and preterm birth. As high rates of bacterial vaginosis are observed with IVF patients, abnormal vaginal microflora presumably explain, at least to some extent, reproductive failure as well as the increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcome seen in these patients. Accordingly, there may be a window of opportunity for improving IVF success rates and outcomes. At present, a screen-and-treat procedure to restore the normal vaginal microflora is not a routine part of the infertility work-up and treatment. While Gram staining of vaginal smears would offer an inexpensive and validated means for screening and diagnosis, probiotics that contain live lactobacilli capable of re-colonizing the vagina may offer an elegant and safe choice of treatment. Carefully designed trials using well characterized probiotic strains and treatment regimens are still required to evaluate the effect of probiotics on IVF-embryo transfer pregnancy rates.

What do saurkraut, kimchee, yogurt and torshi, all have in common? Answer: they are global proof that beneficial bacteria (ie. probiotics) have been utilized by all the cultures of the world for thousands of years. Now Western science is beginning to understand the correlation between a healthy digestive system and a healthy person, and the role that probiotics can play.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM) the earth element (spleen and stomach) is central due to that fact that the spleen and stomach take in food and drink and turn them into usable energy and blood. In Chinese Medicine there is a saying “Qi and blood deficiency are the cause of 1,000 diseases.” What does that mean? It means that when the body does not properly digest, good quality energy and blood are not being generated and the body becomes vulnerable to imbalance and illness. This is an extremely important concept from a Chinese Medical perspective—energy and blood benefit the entire body, since they nourish and strengthen the internal organs as well as ensure proper functioning of the body as whole. The quality of energy and blood is an essential factor to consider when evaluating women who are trying to conceive. Women lose blood monthly through menstruation; rebuilding and supporting the blood afterward is vital—blood is the foundation that supports hormone and cycle regulation, proper ovulation function, and, ultimately, the ability to conceive and nourish a healthy pregnancy. Abundant blood supply is built through healthy digestion. Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, proper diet, and the addition of a high quality probiotic can assist the body in producing the abundant blood supply that is so necessary for good health and the development of a healthy baby.

Digestion is negatively affected by the use of antibiotics, birth control, steroids, pharmaceutical medications, chronic health conditions, illness, stress/overwork, and poor nutrition. If digestion is compromised, the body lacks the support it needs to function.  A high quality probiotic restores the necessary beneficial bacteria in your intestines which enables healthy digestion and a strong immune system.

How does one know if they suffer from weak digestion? Here are some clues: headaches, skin issues, food sensitivity, allergies, candida, anxiety, loose stools, diarrhea, constipation, IBS, fatigue, irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, hormone imbalance, irregular ovulation/anovulation, fertility issues, and miscarriage. You get the picture.  Chinese Medicine theorizes, and our experience tells us, that if the body is unable to properly digest and assimilate the food and drink that we ingest, we are not fully nourishing our internal organs, and in turn, the body can not function properly—i.e. support a pregnancy.

The Nest is now carrying Natren brand probiotic (available only through licensed practitioners). Natren probiotic is made by the pioneering family that introduced a high quality probiotic via yogurt to the United States in the 1970s. We guarantee the potency and quality of this dairy-free product—one that is considered the best in the industry.

If you have questions about probiotics, call our office at 773.267.0248, or stop by during business hours to pick up some Natren!

For more information on Western science’s new understanding and appreciation of the importance of probiotics, check out Brenda Watson’s website or tune in to PBS and watch “The Road to Perfect Health,” an ongoing series that clearly explains from a Western medical perspective how invaluable probiotics are for your overall health.

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