Researchers have discovered that the symptoms of nausea, constipation, and vomiting related to pregnancy can be significantly improved with the use of probiotics. Approximately 85% of pregnancies are affected by vomiting and nausea and quality of life can be significantly impacted, especially throughout early pregnancy.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
To date, the reason for vomiting and nausea while pregnant is unknown. A variety of theories have been suggested, but none of them have been conclusive. Quality of life can be significantly diminished from vomiting, nausea, and constipation while pregnant. These symptoms can become hard to control once they progress, and in some cases, the individual even has to be hospitalized.
Probiotics are known as “beneficial bacteria”, and can be found in foods like kimchi, yogurt, kefir, tempeh, and sauerkraut. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements, which are the 3rd most commonly used dietary supplement besides vitamins.
Probiotics are believed to support the community of various microbes found in the gastrointestinal tract, sometimes called the “gut microbiome.” When pregnant, hormones such as progesterone and estrogen increase, leading to many physical changes. The gut microbiome can also change from these increases, which probably has an effect on the functions of the digestive system and leads to unwanted symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and constipation.
The study set out to establish if a probiotic supplement could be helpful for gastrointestinal function while pregnant. A total of 32 individuals took a probiotic capsule twice daily for 6 days and then took 2 days off, repeating the cycle and lasting for 16 days. The probiotics were over-the-counter available supplements and for the most part contained a kind of good bacteria known as Lactobacillus. Each capsule contained about 10 billion live cultures when manufactured.
Individuals kept 17 observations of their symptoms daily throughout the study duration, for a total of 535 observations to be statistically assessed. It was discovered that vomiting and nausea were significantly reduced from taking the probiotic. The number of hours of feeling nauseous was reduced by 16%, and there was a 33% reduction in the number of times they vomited.
Supplementing with a probiotic also significantly improved symptoms associated with quality of life as scored by questionnaires, such as poor appetite, fatigue, and finding it difficult to maintain normal social activities. Constipation was also significantly reduced with probiotics.
Fecal specimens were also provided before and throughout the study. These sample specimens were analyzed to identify the number and kind of microbes and the different digestion byproducts. The purpose of this analysis was to look at if biomarkers in the sample specimens corresponded with nausea that was more severe and also assess how the probiotics had an effect on individuals who started the study with different baseline biomarkers.
A low amount of bacteria that carry an enzyme that generates bile acid for absorbing nutrients, called bile salt hydrolase, was linked to more vomiting related to pregnancy. Bacteria that produce the bile salt hydrolase are increased with probiotics, which may explain why the levels of vomiting and nausea are reduced with the supplements.
It was also found that high levels of the gut microbes A. muciniphila and Akkermansia were linked to more vomiting at the start of the study. The quantity of these particular microbes was significantly reduced with the probiotic and vomiting was also reduced. This suggests A. muciniphila and Akkermansia may be reliable biomarkers for predicting vomiting while pregnant. Vitamin E levels were also found to have increased after taking probiotics, and higher vitamin E levels were linked to low vomiting scores.
Key insights about how gut microbes impact gastrointestinal function while pregnant are provided by this research. The researchers however caution that because of the small sample size, further research will be required to verify the effects of the probiotics.