Supporting mother & child during pregnancy with functional nutrition

Mar 11,2021


Functional nutrition (FN) is considered a type of functional medicine where healthy, natural foods are used to improve patients’ overall health, a necessity during pregnancy.[1]

FN offers flexible care to each patient based on their unique needs.1 This means that there are various types of FN treatments focusing on what will be most effective to improve a specific patient’s physical, mental and even spiritual health.1

FN considers maternal nutrition and a healthy microbiome

It is not new information that maternal nutrition is one of the major determinants of pregnancy outcome,[2] making FN ideal when addressing mothers’ and foetus’ overall wellbeing. Additionally, the gut microbiome is a critical component of any individual’s metabolism, immunity and overall health.[3]

The gut microbiome has been shown to impact various physiological and pathological conditions, including obesity and the metabolic syndrome, termed dysbiosis.3

This makes the gut microbiome of the mother a critical component to the health of the child,[4] which, is addressed by FN through suggesting healthy and organic foods.

The “Brain-Gut Axis” and pregnancy

The “Brain-Gut Axis” is the significant bidirectional relationship between the gut and the brain, involving multiple neurologic and endocrine signalling systems. [5] [6].

In any healthy individual, the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the enteric nervous system (ENS), the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and the immune system work in synchrony bidirectionally between the brain and the gut.[7]  Yet, with a disruption of any of the components of this system, disease may develop.[8]

Both the gut microbiome and the brain-gut axis have an essential role during the critical prenatal period.5 At this time, the maternal and foetal microbiome are particularly sensitive and changes can influence foetal brain development.5

Dysbiosis and negative interference with the brain-gut axis during pregnancy has been linked to higher maternal and child risk for chronic intestinal disorders, conditions which affect weight and growth, and even neuropsychiatric disorders.5

Yet, FN can support the health of the microbiome and the brain-gut axis, ultimately supporting the health of both mother and child.

FN promotes a healthy microbiome during pregnancy

Common Western DietsThe gut microbiome is influenced by diet,4 which FN recognises in the focused treatment of each patient.

Common Western diets consist of excessive processed foods, dietary fat and sugars,[9] which promote excess weight gain and a dysbiotic gut, and is associated with adverse maternal and child health outcomes.[10]

Yet, conversely, much like FN recommends, specific dietary nutrients have been found to promote a healthy gut microbiome, enhance intestinal integrity and reduce excessive systemic inflammation.[11]

These dietary nutrients include:11

  • Low-fat protein (such as beans, skinless chicken, lean beef)
  • Organic proteins & produce (incl. proven probiotic strains, whole & organic foods without processing)
  • Unsaturated fatty acids (such as those in vegetable oils, canola & olive oils, flaxseeds& salmon)
  • Whole grains
  • Specific strains of probiotics

Furthermore, in the identification of food sensitivities (gluten, dairy, nuts) and, in turn, the removal of those foods from an individual’s diet, systemic inflammation is reduced and gut health is improved.4

This recommendation is an essential part of FN, as it is constantly assessing and considering an individual’s health requirements and particular sensitivities when treating them with nourishing foods.

Conclusion: FN supports both mother and child

FN proves a holistic and wholesome option to support women and infants during pregnancy, as diet and lifestyle regimes are adaptable factors that can affect the brain-gut axis and long-term health.4


[1] PCC Institute for Health Professionals., 2017. Why Functional Nutrition is a Future-Focused Field. [online] Available at: <,person%20based%20on%20their%20needs.> [Accessed 25 February 2021].

[2] Dhobale, M., 2017. Neurotrophic Factors and Maternal Nutrition During Pregnancy. Vitamins and Hormones, pp.343-366.

[3] Isolauri, E., Sherman, P. and Walker, W., 2016. Intestinal Microbiome: Functional Aspects in Health and Disease: Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series. 88th ed. Vevey (Switzerland): KARGER, pp.1-5.

[4] Edwards, S., Cunningham, S., Dunlop, A. and Corwin, E., 2017. The Maternal Gut Microbiome During Pregnancy. MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 42(6), pp.310-317.

[5] Mayer, E., Knight, R., Mazmanian, S., Cryan, J. and Tillisch, K., 2014. Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(46), pp.15490-15496.

[6] Foster, J. and McVey Neufeld, K., 2013. Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in Neurosciences, 36(5), pp.305-312.

[7] Cepeda, M., Katz, E. and Blacketer, C., 2017. Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis: Probiotics and Their Association With Depression. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 29(1), pp.39-44.

[8] Gareau, M., 2014. Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis and Cognitive Function. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, pp.357-371.

[9] Morrison, J. and Regnault, T., 2016. Nutrition in Pregnancy: Optimising Maternal Diet and Fetal Adaptations to Altered Nutrient Supply. Nutrients, 8(6), p.342.

[10] Dunlop, A., Mulle, J., Ferranti, E., Edwards, S., Dunn, A. and Corwin, E., 2015. Maternal Microbiome and Pregnancy Outcomes That Impact Infant Health. Advances in Neonatal Care, 15(6), pp.377-385.

[11] Kashtanova, D., Popenko, A., Tkacheva, O., Tyakht, A., Alexeev, D. and Boytsov, S., 2016. Association between the gut microbiota and diet: Fetal life, early childhood, and further life. Nutrition, 32(6), pp.620-627.