Spending time with a dog while pregnant can help the immune system of your future child. A study published in the journal Microbiome looked at data collected by researchers at the University of Alberta. It showed that in households with a furry pet, babies were born with higher levels of certain good bacteria in their gut. The bacteria is specifically associated with a reduced risk of allergies and obesity. Seventy percent of the furry pets in the households studied were dogs.

Interestingly, the good bacteria and subsequent health benefits were still present in the babies even if the child itself wasn’t exposed to the pet. Not everyone is able to keep a dog in their home for a variety of reasons. If a pregnant woman visits a friend or relative who owns a dog, this gives her future child enormous health benefits.

In recent years a great deal of research has been done on the relationship with the gut and overall health. We now know that the composition of bugs in your intestines affects many different aspects of your health, including your risk of developing allergies and becoming overweight. Unfortunately the gut bugs of most people are far less diversified than they were several generations ago. This is due to a combination of factors such as antibiotic use, disinfectant use, chlorine in drinking water, stress and diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrate.

Good personal hygiene is always important, but it’s good to remember that you need exposure to good bugs. They help to strengthen your immune system and improve your metabolism. Apart from contact with dogs, other good sources of probiotics are via a supplement, or eating fermented foods regularly such as yoghurt, kefir, kim chi and sauerkraut.