Winter has truly set in, especially if you live in Melbourne like I do! During pregnancy it can be extra hard to keep those cold and flu at bay.
Your immune system changes during pregnancy. This is because you now have ‘foreign’ DNA in your system. That may sound strange but the wonderful new life growing inside you is of course made up of a unique combination of your DNA plus your partners. This new DNA combination is something your body is not used to. Our immune system is primed to attack anything it sees as new or foreign in our body therefore, during pregnancy, our immune system must adapt to accept this new DNA. Unfortunately, this change in the immune system can also leave you more susceptible to colds and flu.
So how can you help support your immune system to fight colds and flu during winter?
1. Immune boosting foods
You are what you eat! May be cliché, but it still rings true. A good diet helps keep your body functioning at it’s best. Boost your diet with plenty of brightly coloured food such as strawberries, blueberries, red peppers, tomatoes, spinach and oranges, these colourful foods are a great source of antioxidants. Other good immune boosting foods including garlic, which posses natural antibiotic properties and ginger which is warming and nourishing (as well as being a great anti nausea for morning sickness!).
Getting adequate good quality sleep is important for many reasons but a recent study published July 2013 has shown that lack of quality sleep during pregnancy interferes with proper immune function and increases the risk of low birth weight babies and other complications. This was mainly due to an increase in stress hormones caused by the lack of sleep, so if you’re having trouble sleeping don’t stress! Setting aside time to relax can be just as important.
3. Nourish your gut
Around 70% of our immune system is actually located in your gut. This is where your food, or in fact anything you ingest, is processed. The digestive system is responsible for breaking down, absorbing and metabolizing your food as well as identifying and helping eliminate anything nasty that may make its way into your system. So keeping your gut healthy is a great first line defense to support healthy immune function.
Consuming plenty of ‘good’ bacteria in the form of natural yoghurts or probiotic powders and capsules can help support the balance of good bacteria to help keep your gut, and immune system, healthy.
Yes, exercise is still important during pregnancy. Daily exercise has been shown to reduce the incidence of cold and flu. Although running and marathon or horse riding should not be on your list, keeping active is important for your health and your baby’s. Low impact exercises such as walking, yoga, Pilates and swimming are great ways to help stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy.
5. Good prenatal multivitamin
Supplements should never replace a healthy diet, however during pregnancy you have a much greater demand for essential nutrients to support the precious baby that’s growing inside you. The nutrition you provide during these crucial months can impact your child’s development and long-term health.
Unfortunately we don’t source all our veggies from the patch in the backyard anymore, much of our food is shipped, stored, packed and processed before it reaches our plate. All these steps reduce the nutrient content of our food, particularly unstable nutrients such as folate, or choline and vitamin D, which can be hard to source from the diet. A good prenatal multivitamin provides a baseline of essential nutrients to support the health of both Mum and bub during this important time.