Many women may experience a sudden loss of appetite or digestive pain during pregnancy, contributing to the pregnancy blues. In such cases, the woman may consider chewing betel leaves during pregnancy to improve digestion and help with other related problems.
The betel leaf has been a part of Indian culinary and diet for centuries. It was a usual habit among kings and nobility to consume betel leaves after a meal. The eating of betel leaf provides many health advantages. However, you might wonder if betel leaves are safe to eat while pregnant. Continue reading this post to find out the answer to this question.
The Benefits of Betel Leaf
According to a research study, Betel nut and Betel leaf could have many valuable health benefits because of its anti-infective, immunomodulatory, hepato-protective, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular, anti-diabetic and many other valuable properties (1). Betel leaf is also an effective mouth freshener. Consumption of Betel leaves also boosts oral hygiene. Studies suggest that Betel leaf extracts have a chemopreventive effect, and reduced benign tumor growth in mice (2). Betel leaves also have many antiseptic and stimulating benefits.
Why is Betel Leaf Consumption Common During Pregnancy?
As per traditional belief, eating Betel leaf during pregnancy improves digestion and stimulates appetite. Some also believe that the application of Betel leaves during breastfeeding improves milk production in lactating mothers.
In addition, Betel leaf is also a rich source of antioxidants. It is also a natural and effective cure for cough, bleeding gums, dehydration, wounds, inflammation, constipation, diabetes, headache and lower back pain.
Is it Safe to Consume Betel Leaves During Pregnancy?
While Betel leaf has many health benefits associated with its consumption, it is best to say no to it during pregnancy.
- Reports from the World Health Organization reveal that chewing Betel nuts with Betel leaves during pregnancy could increase the risk of cancer and adverse pregnancy outcomes significantly. Also, the prolonged consumption of betel nut may also cause cancer, particularly oral cancer (3).
- According to the International Journal of Medicine and Public Health, the women in rural areas of Bangladesh regularly consume Betel nut and Betel leaf and therefore suffer from folate deficiency. Such a deficiency during pregnancy could lead to neural tube defects, preterm birth, low birth weight, defects in the nervous system, and retarded growth. (4)
Staying Safe During Pregnancy
Considering the contradictory opinions on the consumption of Betel leaf during pregnancy, it is best to avoid it. There are several other ways to stimulate the appetite and improve digestion during pregnancy.
- Consume smaller, more frequent meals. Take a balanced diet. Avoid the intake of fatty foods that are too heavy and difficult to digest.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Make sure you have eight glasses of water per day.
- Consult your doctor and engage in some light physical activity or yoga to improve digestion and overall health during pregnancy.
- Seek your doctor’s advice if your tummy is still troubling you.
Betel leaves are popular ways to improve digestion and other problems. Women from certain cultures may have a habit of chewing on a betel leaf after their meals. Anecdotal evidence suggests several benefits of eating betel leaves, such as increasing appetite, improving digestion, and also helping in increasing milk production in lactating mothers. However, medical research suggests some risks associated with betel leaves consumption, such as folate deficiency and associated problems with the babies such as premature birth, low birth weight, issues with the nervous system, and growth retardation. Therefore, it is best to consult your doctor before consuming betel leaves during pregnancy.
- Rajendra Toprani and Daxesh Patel; (2013); Betel leaf: Revisiting the benefits of an ancient Indian herb.
- S V Bhide et al., (1991); Chemopreventive efficacy of a betel leaf extract against benzo[a]pyrene-induced forestomach tumors in mice
- Review of areca (betel) nut and tobacco use in the Pacific: a technical report.
- Manzur Kader; (2013); Association between betel nut consumption and folate deficiency among pregnant women in rural Bangladesh.
Jenny Champion(MS, RD, CPT)
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