Pregnancy Tip: Fiber-Rich Diet Could Help Avoid Preeclampsia

A fiber-rich diet has long been recommended by health experts to people trying to stay healthy and active. And there is a new reason to enjoy this approach, especially for women during pregnancy.

A new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that fiber can help improve well-being of both the mother and child. Researchers said that during pregnancy gut bacteria helps break fiber into factors that support the immune system.

"The mother's gut bacteria and diet appear to be crucial to promoting a healthy pregnancy," Ralph Nanan, senior study author and a professor at the University of Sydney, said in a statement.

Fiber-rich diets promote better health in women and children by maintaining proper levels of acetate. The researchers found that lower levels of acetate, which comes from fiber fermentation in the gut, contribute to preeclampsia, a common and serious pregnancy-related condition.

Preeclampsia causes high blood pressure, protein in the urine and severe swelling in the mother. The condition also harms the immune development of babies while in the womb that could lead to allergies and autoimmune disease later in their life, according to the study. 

Effects Of Preeclampsia & Prevention

In the study, the researchers said that the condition mainly affected the development of thymus in babies. This organ plays a key role in the immune system of children. 

Thymus supports the production of T cells, which work to prevent allergies and autoimmune conditions, such as diabetes. The researchers said that the cells were low in babies affected by preeclampsia even four years after delivery.

However, simple changes to the diet of mothers could help prevent the condition. Consumption of fiber could trigger production of more acetate that then supports the development of thymus and T cells in babies. 

In lab tests with mice, the researchers saw the effects of fiber by promoting specific metabolic products of gut bacteria during pregnancy. Results showed that the approach helped maintain healthy pregnancy.

The researchers noted more studies are required to better understand how fiber-rich diets can help reduce immune related diseases in the future. The team said that the latest study comes amid the growing rates of allergies and autoimmune conditions in the U.S. due to high consumption of processed foods, which lack fiber.

Pregnant Illustration picture shows a doctor doing an ultrasound examination during a visit of a pregnant woman to her gynaecologist, in Mechelen, Thursday 31 January 2019. Scientists successfully created artificial ovaries from a biodegradable material and gelatine, which could mimic the natural organ and restore fertility. Jasper Jacobs/AFP/Getty Images