Your pregnancy diet, your baby and asthma

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Worried about chronic illness befalling your little one? What you eat now, when you're expecting, can help strengthen your baby's immunity and ward off certain diseases later in life. How's that for motivation to put down the powdered donut and reach for the veggie drawer?

A new report published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that a mom-to-be who eats a high-fiber diet can help her offspring stave off asthma. This illness is incurable, but it's also treatable. However, if not properly managed, it can cause serious health complications in children. Asthma affects the airways and can cause difficulty breathing. 

The research, which came out of the Department of Immunology at Monash University in Australia, put three groups of mice and their babies to the test. Researchers fed expectant moms high fiber, moderate fiber or low fiber diets during the course of the study. Once the baby mice had reached adulthood, the scientists attempted to trigger an asthmatic reaction by subjecting them to dust mites. The group that developed asthma were born to the mothers who ate a low fiber diet. Mice whose moms consumed a high fiber diet showed no asthmatic symptoms.

How fiber plays a role

The study's authors explain that a fiber-rich diet changes mom's gut bacteria and acts as an anti-inflammatory, creating an environment hostile to asthma genes – thus preventing them from being activated in offspring. Intrigued by this animal study, researchers turned to humans, hoping to replicate the positive results with expectant moms. They brought 40 pregnant women into the lab, analyzing blood work and diet. Then, they tracked these women well into their postpartum lives, following up until their babies were past the one year mark. Collecting data on pediatrician visits due to respiratory issues, researchers were able to link mom's diet to health outcomes for baby. The results mirrored the mice study, showing a strong link between fiber-rich diets and asthma-free babies.

The bottom line

As an expectant mom, what you eat matters. A balanced and healthful diet today makes for better outcomes for baby tomorrow. Take a moment to weigh in: How have you changed your diet to accommodate for baby's growth and development? What are some dietary sacrifices you're making? Tell us about your healthy-eating (or not so healthy-eating) plan in the comments below.

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