In a one-of-a-kind study, researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine found that probiotics significantly improve symptoms of pregnancy-related nausea, vomiting, and constipation. The results were published in the journal Nutrients.
Nausea and vomiting affects around 85% of pregnancies and can have a significant impact on quality of life, especially in early pregnancy.
“The cause of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is unknown at this time. Various theories have been proposed, but none of them are conclusive,” said Albert T. Liu, lead author of the study and professor. of obstetrics and gynecology.
“Nausea, vomiting, and constipation during pregnancy can dramatically decrease a patient’s quality of life. Once the nausea and vomiting during pregnancy progresses, it can become difficult to control, and sometimes the patient even needs to be hospitalized. “Liu said.
Probiotics are called “beneficial bacteria”. They are found in foods like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and tempeh. Probiotics are also available in the form of dietary supplements. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, other than vitamins, probiotics or prebiotics were the third most commonly used dietary supplement for adults.
Probiotics are believed to support the community of different microbes, often referred to as the “gut microbiome,” found in the gastrointestinal tract.
During pregnancy, hormones like estrogen and progesterone increase, causing many physical changes. These increases can also alter the gut microbiome, which likely affects the functions of the digestive system and causes unwanted symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
Researchers set out to determine if probiotic supplementation could benefit gastrointestinal function during pregnancy.
The study lasted 16 days. A total of 32 participants took one probiotic capsule twice a day for six days, then took two days off. They then repeated the cycle.
The probiotics were available over the counter and mainly containedLactobacilli., a type of good bacteria. Each capsule contained approximately 10 billion live cultures at the time of manufacture.
Participants kept 17 daily observations of their symptoms for the duration of the study, for a total of 535 observations for researchers to statistically assess.
Researchers found that taking the probiotic significantly reduced nausea and vomiting. Nausea hours (the number of hours participants felt nauseous) were reduced by 16% and the number of times they vomited was reduced by 33%. Intake of probiotics also significantly improved symptoms related to quality of life, such as fatigue, lack of appetite, and difficulty maintaining normal social activities, as noted by questionnaires.
Probiotics have also been found to significantly reduce constipation.
“Over the years, I have observed that probiotics can reduce nausea and vomiting and relieve constipation. It is very encouraging that the study has proven this to be true,” Liu said. “The probiotics also benefited a lot of my other patients who weren’t in the study,” Liu said.
New clues about gut microbes and byproducts
Participants also provided stool samples before and during the study. The samples were analyzed to identify the type and number of microbes and the various by-products of digestion.
This allowed researchers to examine whether biomarkers in fecal samples correlated with more severe nausea, and to assess how probiotics affected participants who started the study with different baseline biomarkers.
One of the findings was that a small amount of bacteria carrying an enzyme called bile salt hydrolase, which generates bile acid to absorb nutrients, was associated with more pregnancy-related vomiting. Probiotics increase bile salt hydrolase-producing bacteria, which may explain why supplements lowered levels of nausea and vomiting.
Another finding was that high levels of gut microbes Akkermansia and A. muciniphila at the start of the study were associated with more vomiting. The probiotic significantly reduced the amount of these particular microbes and also reduced vomiting. This suggests Akkermansia and A. muciniphila may be reliable biomarkers that can predict vomiting during pregnancy.
Another finding was that vitamin E levels increased after taking probiotics. Higher levels of vitamin E were associated with low vomiting scores.
“This research provides key information on the impact of gut microbes on gastrointestinal function during pregnancy. Our gut microbiota explains why we are what we eat and why metabolites and products generated by bacteria have a huge impact. on our health, ”Wan said. “They affect the gastrointestinal tract as well as skin health and neurological function.”
While the results are intriguing, the researchers warn that due to the small sample size, more studies will be needed to confirm the effects of probiotics.
“Our previous work has shown the benefits of probiotics in preventing inflammation of the liver. The current study may be one of the first to show the benefits of probiotics during pregnancy,” said Wan. “It would be interesting and important to test further whether probiotics can reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients.”
Other authors of this study include Shuai Chen of the Department of Public Health Sciences, and Prasant Kumar Jena, Lili Sheng, and Ying Hu of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of California at Davis.