Monday, December 13, 2021

Probiotics found to improve nausea and vomiting in pregnancy

Researchers at the University of California, Davis have found that probiotics significantly improve the symptoms of pregnancy-related nausea, vomiting and constipation. Their findings were published in the journal Nutrients.

During pregnancy, hormones like oestrogen and progesterone increase, bringing about many physical changes. These increases can also change the gut microbiome, which likely affects the digestive system functions and causes unwanted symptoms like nausea, vomiting and constipation. The researchers set out to determine whether supplementing with a probiotic could be beneficial for gastrointestinal function during pregnancy.

A total of 32 participants took a probiotic capsule twice a day for six days and then took two days off; they then repeated the cycle. The probiotics were available over the counter and mainly contained Lactobacillus, a type of good bacteria. Each capsule contained approximately 10 billion live cultures at the time of manufacture.

The 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 participants vomited was reduced by 33%. Probiotic intake also significantly improved symptoms related to quality of life, such as fatigue, poor appetite and difficulty maintaining normal social activities, as scored by questionnaires. Probiotics were also found to reduce constipation significantly.

“Over the years, I’ve observed that probiotics can reduce nausea and vomiting and ease constipation; it’s very encouraging that the study proved this to be true,” said Albert T Liu, lead author on the study and a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology. “Probiotics have also benefited many of my other patients who weren’t in the study.”

Participants also contributed faecal specimens before and during the study, which were analysed to identify the type and number of microbes and the different by-products of digestion. This allowed the researchers to examine whether biomarkers in the faecal specimens corresponded with more severe nausea and assess how the probiotics affected participants who began the study with different baseline biomarkers.

One finding was that a low amount of bacteria that carry an enzyme named 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 the supplements decreased levels of nausea and vomiting.

Another finding was that high levels of the gut microbes Akkermansia and A. muciniphila at the beginning of the study were associated with more vomiting. The probiotic significantly reduced the amount of those particular microbes and also reduced vomiting. This suggests Akkermansia and A. muciniphila may be reliable biomarkers that can predict vomiting in pregnancy.

The researchers caution that due to the small sample size, further studies will be needed to confirm the effects of the probiotics. They are also keen to test the impact of probiotics in other areas, such as for the reduction of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients.


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