gestational diabetes and prebiotic fibre

The relationship between gestational diabetes and prebiotic fibre

Dive into the link between gut health and gestational diabetes. Our latest blog talks about how prebiotic fibres can empower our metabolic health, offering a promising avenue for those navigating the challenges of pregnancy-related blood sugar fluctuations.
Caitlin Hall
by Dr Caitlin Hall (APD, PhD)
Head of Clinical Research & Gut Health Dietitian

Gestational diabetes, a condition that affects some pregnant women, is characterised by elevated blood sugar levels which can potentially pose risks for both mother and baby. As we increasingly recognise the importance of diet in managing and potentially reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, one component that's receiving significant attention is prebiotic dietary fibre.


What are prebiotic fibres?

Prebiotics are fermentable dietary fibres that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiome, made up of trillions of bacteria, plays a vital role in our overall health, including influencing inflammation, immune function, and potentially, glucose metabolism.

How do prebiotics benefit gestational diabetes?

At the heart of this discussion is the gut microbiome, the vast community of microorganisms in our digestive system. These tiny organisms can impact our health in big ways. One major way they help is by breaking down prebiotic fibres we can't digest. When they ferment, or break down, these fibres, they produce compounds called Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs - mainly butyrate, propionate, and acetate - have multiple benefits for our bodies.

In our gut, SCFAs ensure the cells that line the gut (called colonocytes) remains healthy. They provide energy for cells in the colon, boost mucus production, which can help protect the lining, and regulate some immune responses, reducing inflammation. Beyond just the gut, SCFAs can influence the body's inflammatory response by impacting the release of certain inflammation-related proteins. Considering inflammation plays a role in diabetes, managing it could be crucial in slowing or preventing the disease's progression.

Another interesting point about SCFAs is how they interact with certain receptors in the gut, promoting the release of GLP-1. This compound helps manage blood sugar levels by affecting insulin and glucagon, two hormones that control how our bodies handle sugar. 

Additionally, some dietary fibres have properties that directly help in managing blood sugar levels after meals and improving our body's response to insulin.

In essence, foods and supplements rich in prebiotic fibres might offer a two-fold advantage: they support our gut microbiome's health and directly aid in managing blood sugar levels.

What does the research say?

Early research on prebiotic fibre supplements in patients with gestational and Type 2 Diabetes has shown promise. Many patients experienced better insulin sensitivity and reduced blood sugar levels. They also had lower levels of inflammation markers. However, it's essential to note that studies varied widely in terms of their duration, the kind of prebiotic fibres used, and the doses given. Hence, while the results are promising, there's more we need to understand.

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