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The Correlation between Pregnancy and the Gut

Thursday, April 18, 2019


The Correlation between Pregnancy and the Gut

What is Microbiome?

Microbiome is the name given to the genetic makeup of the microbes that populate the inside and outside of our bodies.

Did you know that there are an estimated 100 trillion microbes that live in our gut? Did you also know that these microbes provide many benefits to our body and include bacteria, viruses, fungi and other living organisms, collectively referred to as the multibiome?

Humans and their gut microbiota have co-evolved to possess a friendly relationship. The bacteria are provided with a home and their hosts are aided with food digestion. This causes the good germs to overpower potential pathogens by releasing beneficial substances, keeping us healthy. However, when an imbalance in bacterial composition and lack of bacterial diversity occurs, microbial functionality is often disrupted.

The multibiome is influenced by several factors including mother’s diet, route of delivery (vaginal vs. caesarean section), environment, breast-feeding, diet, genetics, infections, antibiotic usage, age, and hygiene. A healthy gut microbiome can also direct the production of anti-inflammatory mediators, which promotes normal mucosal immune function and maintains intestinal homeostasis.

How Does Diet Influence the Microbes in your Gut?

Thirty to forty percent of adults’ gut microbiota can be modified during their lifetime and the most powerful way to do that is through diet intervention. The intake of prebiotics (foods that that feed and maintain the good intestinal bacteria: garlic, onions, asparagus, leeks, bran), probiotics (fermented foods that have live bacteria within them: yogurt, miso, kefir, kimchi, honey), and diets with high nutritional value increases the good bacteria in your gut. The avoidance of certain foods that contain lactose, wheat, corn and refined sugars helps to starve out the bad bacteria in the gut.

A crucial component of the human diet is fiber. Thus, a minimum of 25 – 35 g of total fiber a day is recommended from both insoluble and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel like mixture in the digestive system. It helps to maintain good intestinal bacteria, the probiotics, which help us with immunity, inflammation, and nutrition. Soluble fiber also aids in binding with excess cholesterol and can be found in barley, flax seed, oats, lentils and beans.

Insoluble fiber is not broken down in the digestive system and therefore makes up the bulk of our stool. It is useful for managing diabetes, constipation, hemorrhoids and may help to prevent some cancers. It is found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grain.

How the Gut Microbiome is Affected During Pregnancy and Birth? 

A mother’s diet before and during pregnancy affects the development of her child’s gut microbiota. A maternal diet that is gluten-free increases the number of Akkermansia, Proteobacteria and TM7 bacteria in the infant’s gut microbiota. This reduces the incidence of diabetes and low-grade inflammation in the baby. Infants who are exposed to an unhealthy mother’s diet during pregnancy and have poor childhood nutrition are faced with lean defective intestinal microbiota. This leads to a dysregulation of genes involved in lipid and glucose metabolism.

The method of delivery is also known to affect the microbiota of the child. Vaginally delivered infants acquire a microbiota similar to their mother’s vaginal microbiota, which is represented mainly by Lactobacillus and Prevotella. On the other hand, babies born via cesarean delivery acquire microbiota similar to the mother’s skin microbiota, represented mainly by Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium. It can be inferred that the difference in the gut microbiota explains why infants born via C-section are at a greater risk of dairy allergies.

University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai conducting the MELODY Trial, to study whether a non­invasive diet intervention implemented during the third trimester of pregnancy can beneficially shift the microbiome, or the bacterial flora of the body.

If you are pregnant and interested in the MELODY trial, click here for more information about enrollment process!