Why Mama's Microbiome is so Important for Baby

Over 25% of births are c-section and that number continues to rise each year.

In a c-section birth, baby is not exposed to mama’s vaginal flora. Baby’s that are born c-section have a flora that reflects the environment of which the baby is born (aka hospital) and will resemble more of the mother’s skin micro biome. Baby’s born vaginally have the mother’s bacteria which overrides the hospital environment - allowing them to receive the beneficial bacteria to set up shop in their gut.

A Swansea medical school trial with over 400 babies, discovered that babies delivered by c-section, bottle-fed and given no probiotics had 99% staph. Aurues in their gut and extremely low lactobacillus compared to vaginal delivered babies (the bacteria we want the most of). These bacterias drive immune system development and imprint as colonizing bacteria that are still found in the gut decades later in life. Essentially these bacterias never leave the body.

Why is this important for expectant mamas to understand? Baby’s microbiome from birth and early life sets the stage for their immune system and health for the rest of its life. An allergy or sensitivity that shows up at 6 years of age or even 20 years of age is usually traced back to those first few months of life even if it does not show or become evident until years later. It is also crucial that mama has a good microbiome prior to and throughout pregnancy because she is the one passing on the bacterias. We need to make sure we are making as many good choices that we can, to promote a healthy gut in the first few months of life to create a strong gut flora and base of our immune system.

Increase of c-sections, little to no breastfeeding, and overuse of antibiotics during the first few months and years of life, are just a few reasons why we are seeing a huge increase in poor immunity, ear infections, eczema, allergies, and more. As someone who cared for babies and children for about 5 years, I could make a pretty well educated guess of which kids were c-section vs vaginal birth, breastfed, and had repetitive antibiotic use, high sugar/processed diets, based on their immunity and overall health.

Birth is something we don’t always have control over - we can create a plan but it doesn’t always go according which is okay. Don’t panic. It just means we need to be prepped with the tools in case c-section becomes the only option. And if you are reading this and panicking about what you did or did not do with your pregnancy and child, do not freak out. When we know better, we can do better, and there are plenty of things we can do to improve gut flora and our immunity (it will just take more effort and work as opposed to starting from birth).

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A super easy, free way to improve baby’s microbiome if you do have a c-section? Take a vaginal swab prior to birth and store it in a sterile container. After baby is delivered via c-section wipe it over babies mouth, eyes and ears, face and then the rest of the body.

Breastfeed! Breast milk is a wonderful source of bacteria and we are now aware that it is also beneficial for seeding an infant’s gut. We are discovering that bacteria from the gut of the mama is transferred through the lymphatic system by dendritic cells migrate to developing breast tissue milk where it deposits the bacteria. Everyday I am blown away by how amazing our bodies are.

Supplement with probiotics! Genestra is my favourite brand of probiotics. They have both a formula and breastfed probiotic which I love. It’s also beneficial for mama to take probiotics during pregnancy and if possible deal with any gut flora imbalances prior to conceiving so we have an optimal micro biome. As mentioned earlier, the Swansea trial showed that Mothers that supplemented with probiotics during pregnancy and babies that were given probiotic for the first 6 months of life were 44% less likely to develop reactions to common allergens such as dust, pollen, dairy, etc. and over 50% less likely to develop eczema. Probiotics are really a no brainer especially if you had a c-section and are unable to breastfeed.

Considering the benefits and prevention of future health issues, those options to improve baby’s gut flora are definitely some things to consider if you are planning on having babies soon or are currently pregnant.

I have articles linked below if you want to research for yourself (I highly recommend) and share them with your partner, midwife, OB, etc so you are all on the same page and communicate clearly what you want during your birth plan.

Knowledge is power and if you take away anything from my page is that we need to take our health into our own hands.

References:

https://www.provenprobiotics.co.uk/proven-research/early-immune-system-development#_ftn4

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181130094328.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5710346/

https://adc.bmj.com/content/archdischild/99/11/1014.full.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292676440_Partial_restoration_of_the_microbiota_of_cesarean-born_infants_via_vaginal_microbial_transfer


Coffee + Hormone Imbalances

Why coffee may not be serving you while you heal your hormones and gut👇☕

Now hear me out - this is what I have learned from both personal experience and research. But everyone is different! You have to try it for yourself and see if it works. I removed coffee because I felt anxious, stressed, and my jawline acne got far worse. Since improving liver health, focusing on my gut and hormones I can tolerate it a lot better. If you can't tolerate it well that is an indicator of underling issues such as liver detox pathways not running properly.

I have removed it for a few months to a year at a time, and I used to live for that morning cup. If I can do it, so can you🙌

Why consider removing coffee?

✨ Triggers pre-emptying of stomach before food is digested to proper pH. This throws off the rest of the breakdown and absorption in the GI tract.
✨ Inhibits absorption of certain nutrients such as iron and B-vitamins (crucial for energy!)
✨ Stimulates adrenals to make more cortisol, adding to our stress load.

✨ Raises blood sugar (even if you don't have sugar!) Which impacts women with PCOS and affects our overall hormonal profile.
✨ Non-organic increases exposure to pesticides since the beans are heavily sprayed. They are also prone to mold! Not good for women experiencing candida overgrowth, yeast infections, brain fog, acne, etc.

Caffeine free options:

✨ Dandelion root tea - good on its own or add in coconut milk and cinnamon. Supports the liver, bitter tasting, grounding as well. Perfect coffee substitute! I love @dandyblend or @traditionalmedicinals 

✨ Honey lemon ginger tea - antibacterial, grounding and promotes circulation. It is prokinetic meaning it improves transit time of your bowels - good for those of you with slow digestion. 

✨ Turmeric latte - anti-inflammatory and liver supportive


With everything I always say look at how it is making you feel. Remove it for a few days or weeks and add it back in. Even if you can only cut down to one cup a day from having multiple cups that can make a difference. If you're relying on it to spike your cortisol in the mornings to wake up, or need it to have a bowel movement, there are deeper issues that need to be addressed! I am not a fan of keeping things in your diet/lifestyle if it is covering up/masking health concerns.

Foods That Love Your Liver

The liver is a hot topic on my page because it has over 500 jobs! It's pretty important when it comes to hormonal health.

The liver is impacted every day by chemicals we come into contact with, medications, synthetic hormones, and emotional stress/anger. When it is sluggish we see skin issues, hormonal imbalances, difficulty digesting fats, chemical sensitivities, caffeine intolerance, and more. 

Liver lovin' foods:

-Broccoli and cruciferous veggies
-Dandelion greens
-Grapefruit
-Garlic and onion
-Leafy greens
-Turmeric -Dandelion root tea
-Artichoke
-Beets
-Grass fed/pasture raised liver (like heals like)
-Lemon

These foods are beneficial for any skin issues such as acne, estrogen dominance, irregular cycles, post pill healing and more. 

Lately I have had such a craving for grapefruit so I have one every day before breakfast 🍊(let's just pretend that's a grapefruit)

Blood Sugar Management

Whenever I thought about blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance, I thought about diabetics, but never myself. I was young, active, wasn’t overweight and ate what I considered to be “healthy”. But truth be told my body was screaming blood sugar dysregulation for years. I didn’t fit the typical mold for blood sugar issues but our outer appearance has nothing to do what is going on. Thin does not always = healthy.

My family always joked I had to eat every hour or two and was easily “hangry”. We thought it was funny I had to eat so much food during the day and always have snacks on me. I would get nauseous, light headed or headaches if I didn’t eat on time or had to wait a little longer between meals. It was actually quite a pain because most of my life revolved around food, if I wasn’t eating I was thinking about my next meal or getting a snack ready.

My meals were majority carbohydrates, minimal fat and moderate protein. I was a pescatarian, not necessarily a healthy one. I was also on the pill, which as of recently I learned was also a contributing factor.

Now how could the pill possibly contribute to this? A 2016 study discovered that nondiabetic pill users had significantly elevated levels of insulin and were more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes at a younger age.. Elevated insulin increases our risk of diabetes therefore having blood sugar dysregulation. The pill also affects our gut flora and contributes to overall inflammation, which is another factor with insulin resistance. We end up with hormone havoc in the body.

Proper blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity is so key in overall hormonal health. Our blood sugar runs the show!

What exactly is insulin and why is it so important?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and is essentially the lock that is needed to open the cell, and allow glucose from the bloodstream to enter the cell and be used. The first way we can have insulin resistance aka low insulin sensitivity is when we are consuming excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugars, and the pancreas is constantly pumping out insulin. Eventually, the cell ignores the insulin that is “knocking” on the cell and we end of with both elevated insulin and glucose floating around in the bloodstream wrecking havoc.

The second contributor to insulin resistance is inflammation. Inflammation whether it is hidden or obvious, creates cell rigidity. Inflammation could be dysbiosis in the gut, low grade infections, consumption of prcocessed foods, etc. A lot of people may not realize it is going on in the body because it has minimal symptoms. With cell rigidity, insulin is not able to lock into the cell, so we end up with tons of glucose and insulin floating around in the bloodstream. In the past, the medical field believed that PCOS caused insulin resistance but it could actually be the opposite, insulin resistance and low grade/systemic inflammation could in fact be a large cause and contributor to PCOS and its symptoms.

If you experience:

  • Nausea if you don’t eat frequently

  • Headaches, light headed, dizzy, shaky between meals

  • “Hangry”

  • Never satiated

  • Hungry shortly after meals

  • Cravings for sugar and carbs

...Then you should work on blood sugar management.

Why is this something you should be concerned about? Well for starters blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance will have you on a fast track to diabetes and hormonal imbalances. But luckily with nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes we can balance our blood sugar levels.

Nutrition guidelines for balanced blood sugar:

  • Choose complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato, banana, apple, etc. These whole foods contain minerals, vitamins and fibre which help stabilize blood sugar and isn’t broken down as quickly as refined carbohydrates like bread or pastas.

  • With every meal be sure to have a source of fats. Fats take up to 3 hours to digest meaning they will keep you fuller for longer, they are also needed for the production of hormones, and when paired with carbohydrates will prevent blood sugar from spiking.

  • Protein with every meal. Protein also take longer to digest and is a great source of energy.

  • Cut out the refined and processed foods. This is a big culprit for imbalanced blood sugar and inflammation.

  • Half of your plate should be a variety of colourful non-starchy vegetables for fibre, minerals and vitamins.

  • Foods to include: avocado, chicken, nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, grass fed beef, and ground flax.

  • Add cinnamon into smoothies, drinks, yogurt bowls, onto snacks, etc. You want to look for Ceylon cinnamon because it is the one with all of the blood sugar benefits, anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. Cassia cinnamon can actually be toxic to our liver if consuming 1/4 tsp or more per day and does not have all of the benefits.

  • Reduce or remove coffee for a bit. Coffee can actually spike our blood sugar even if there is no sugar in it. So for that reason I get my clients to either remove it completely or stick to one cup a day and mix in collagen, coconut oil, nut milk, etc to help stabilize blood sugar and give a more steady energy.

Exercise:

  • Believe it or not, weight training will help increase insulin sensitivity which is beneficial for getting sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cell.

  • Lift weights 2-3x per week or more to see benefits.

Sleep:

  • Sleep is crucial for so many reasons, our hormones are regulated by amount and quality of sleep we get. Our liver heals which processes hormones. Leptin and Ghrelin are the two hormones affected by sleep which are responsible for creating the feeling of hunger as well as giving us feelings of satiety. Ever wonder why you are hungry and want to eat everything in sight after a late night? It may not be just self control but rather your lack of/excess of hormones controlling these urges. We tend to choose the more processed and sugary foods such as chips, ice cream, candy, bread, pasta, etc.

Supplement Recommendations:

  • B Complex - needed for carbohydrate metabolism. B6 specifically is depleted by the pill and has been shown increase a specific compound that has a negative effect on insulin.

  • Omega 3 - anti-inflammatory and essential in hormone production.

  • Turmeric - anti-inflammatory

  • Chromium - has been shown to help enhance function of insulin paired with proper nutrition.

  • Magnesium - the body needs magnesium to help in the breakdown of sugar and usage of insulin. Taking 300-400mg of magnesium before bed helps with sleep, relaxation, as well as improving fasting blood glucose and insulin levels. Win-win for our hormones.

I hope you found this helpful and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out!

Cooking Oils + Your Hormones

What oils or fats do you cook with? This is a question I include on intake forms with clients because the oils we cook with can wreak havoc on our hormones!

We like our oils like we like our people, non-toxic. 

Oils to avoid: canola (aka rapeseed), safflower, sunflower, vegetable oils, becel spreads/oils, soybean oil

Why? Canola oil and other vegetable oils are a huge health issue for many reasons.

1) The way it is processed is straight up toxic. It is expeller pressed/refined meaning it is placed under high heat. After being processed this way, it goes rancid because it is really high in Omega 6 which is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that can easily go rancid depending on how it is processed and stored. This is because of its multiple double bonds that are more susceptible to damage. After that the oil has to go through hexane solvent and deodorized because it could not be sold and consumed in its post-processing state. 

2) Most canola is GMO and full of pesticides, glyphosate and chemicals. No explanation needed there.

3) These oils are stored in plastic and clear bottles which does not prevent heat and light from getting to it. That worsens the rancidity of the oil (but let’s be real it is already rancid before it even goes into the bottle). Plastic also leaches more toxic by products when a fat is being stored in it.

4) Contributes to chronic inflammation, imbalanced hormones, poor nutrient absorption and poor brain health.

Best oils and fats for cooking and consuming: coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, grass fed butter or ghee. These are safest to use at medium to high temps! My go-to oil is organic, unrefined coconut. 

Don’t be convinced by the price tag. Canola and vegetable oil are stupidly cheap which is super tempting especially if you're on a budget. You can buy a huge jug for jut a few dollars. For that reason it is in most packaged foods and used at restaurants too, so just keep that in mind. Consuming it occasionally isn't the end of the world, but make sure the oils you are using daily and foods you are consuming are using good quality oils!

What is your go-to fat or oil for cooking?


All About Progesterone

Yesterday we were chatting about estrogen. Today it is all about progesterone! I am so so happy you all want to learn more. I get that hormones can be overwhelming and confusing, but as women, we should understand the basics of our cycles, even if we only learn the bare minimum we should know what is going on throughout our cycles. A better understanding of our hormones allows us to tap into our awesome abilities during our cycle and not be weighed down by hormonal imbalances. Just because these symptoms are common among the population, does not mean it is normal.

Progesterone is the dominant hormone in the second half of our cycle aka the luteal phase. Once we ovulate the corpus luteum produces progesterone and it rises to balance out the effects of estrogen. Progesterone is also vital for a healthy pregnancy, so if you fertilize the egg, its levels will remain steady. But if you did not fertilize the egg in that cycle, your lining will be shed (aka your period), progesterone will decrease and estrogen levels will rise again. This is how they work as a sort of yin and yang naturally flowing in and out during the cycle. Low progesterone is an epidemic right now especially with women being on hormonal contraception, especially women with PCOS.

Why is progesterone so important?

  • Natural anxiety and natural antidepressant

  • Natural diuretic

  • Helps the body burn fat

  • Protective against estrogenic cancers

  • Promotes regular sleep patterns

  • Restores normal libido

  • Prevents autoimmunity

  • Anti-aging

  • Anti-inflammatory

Why might progesterone be low?

Lack of ovulation caused by:

  • Stress - the same precursor needed to make progesterone, is needed to create cortisol. If we are under constant stress our body priorities making cortisol to keep us alive. In addition, when our body thinks we are in an unsafe environment, it lowers sex hormones so we can't reproduce. Makes sense right? Our body's are always trying to protect us and it doesn’t want to bring life into an unsafe environment especially if there were no food, shelter, etc. Stress can be high in your body, even if you don't actually feel stressed. Stress can be inflammation in the body, low grade infections, gut issues such as parasites, candida overgrowth, excessive caffeine consumption, or being exposed to toxins daily - something we don't even realize is affecting us.

  • Insulin resistance - this is a major factor in PCOS because high insulin stimulates the ovaries to produce more testosterone and we have no ovulation therefore no progesterone.

  • Birth control pill and other hormonal contraception - shuts down our body’s natural production of hormones and prevents ovulation.

  • Hormone disrupting chemicals - adds stress to the body and can mimic estrogen (read yesterdays post and my post on xenoestrogens)

  • Age - at 35+ we see a decline in progesterone levels.

It is important to note that you can have a regular looking cycle, bleed for 5-7 days every 28-30 days but you may not ovulate. This is called annovulatory cycles.

We tend to focus so much on our period as being the main event and the problem with our cycles. But ovulation is really the main event, and dictates whether or not we have enough progesterone to counteract the effects of estrogen. To find out if you are ovulating, track your basal body temperature. When charting, you will see a spike and dip when you ovulate. You can also check cervix position, cervical mucous, it will be stretchy like egg whites when you separate your fingers, and you can also do ovulation test strips as well.

Symptoms of low progesterone:

  • sore breasts

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Mood swings

  • Short periods

  • Unable to maintain pregnancy

How can we naturally boost progesterone levels and get to the root cause of why our levels are low?

  • Reduce Stress!! This is #1 priority. Supporting the adrenals and doing stress management activities like walking in nature, playing with your dog, gratitude journaling, deep breathing exercises, etc. Find what is easiest to fit into your routine and makes you feel calm.

  • Supplements: vitex, ashwaghanda, reishi, B complex, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin C, camu camu powder, acerola cherry, are all great supplements to support the body during times of stress. If you also just came off of the pill, working alongside a practitioner can help you address any nutritional deficiencies caused by the pill which will impact progesterone levels.

  • Make sure you are eating enough and getting gentle complex carbohydrates. Low carb/low calorie diets and excessive exercising is a recipe for lack of ovulation and poor fertility.

  • Balancing blood sugar levels - ensure each meal has a complex carbohydrate, fat and protein source. Focus on lots of veggies, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, good quality meats, eggs, etc.

  • Focus on liver and bowel health - 30-40g fibre each day, dandelion root tea, lemon water, lots of leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, fermented foods.

  • Ensure good quality sleep and adequate melatonin levels. Make sure you get sun exposure every morning, make sure your room is blacked out, turn your phone off or on airplane mode, blue light blocking glasses/filters and turn off electronics an hour before bed.

  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine - this can be a huge stress on the body and adrenals. Try eliminating it and reintroducing in small amounts to see how your body reacts.

  • Last resort use a progesterone cream, prescribed by a doctor that is educated in hormones. This can be super beneficial for individuals and sometimes it is necessary to boost levels that are extremely low.

Most importantly be consistent with these changes you are making! It takes 100 days for ovarian follicles to mature for ovulation. So your stress, nutrition, etc, from months ago affects what you are going through right now. If you feel discouraged not seeing improvement, remember it takes time to heal but you will get there. Small sustainable habits make the biggest impact and it is important to do what is realistic for you and your lifestyle.

I really hope this post is helpful for you! If your doctor has led you to believe or pressured you into only having one option - do not feel stuck. There are always options and you can get the help you need.

If you want to chat and see if I could help you, email me hello@gabbyborgerink.com and we can set up a complimentary discovery call!

If you have any other topics you want me to touch on or dive deeper into, let me know and I can add to this post!