The chill of winter is upon us.  With it, come the colds and flu, the blocked and runny noses and those annoying sore throats.

Fighting these nasty bugs becomes even harder during pregnancy.

During pregnancy your immune system changes to adapt to all the changes that are occurring.  You now have ‘foreign’ DNA inside you.  Half of the DNA in that precious growing baby is not yours.  Our immune system is designed to attach anything foreign in our system.  Therefore our body has to make changes to accomodate rather than reject this growing.  Alongside the fact that pregnancy is an extremely nutritionally taxing time, this can mean you are more susceptible to catching colds and flu.

These dreaded bugs are also more difficult to treat during pregnancy, as you need to be careful which medications and supplements you consume.

Here are my top 5 tips to support your immune system and stay healthy this winter

1. Nourish your gut

The gut is where it all begins.  This is where your food, or in fact anything you ingest is processed and anything ‘nasty’ eliminated.  In fact around 70% of the immune system is located in your gut.  So keeping your gut healthy is a great first line defence to support healthy immune function. Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir are packed with beneficial bacteria.  Including these in your diet where possible will do wonders for your gut health.  Natural yoghurts or probiotic powders and capsules are also great to support the balance of good bacteria and help keep your gut, and immune system, healthy.

2. You are what you eat

Eating plenty of wholesome, nutrient rich foods is a great way to support your immune system and your growing baby! Avoid processed, packaged food where possible.  Be inspired at your local farmers market or fruit store.  Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially colourful foods like tomatoes, oranges and red peppers, which are packed with nutrients and nutritional 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!).

3. A good nights sleep

This can be easier said than done when you’re pregnant, but make it a priority this winter.  Lack of good quality sleep during pregnancy interferes with proper immune function and can also increase the chance of pregnancy complications.  If you’re having trouble sleeping, invest in a supportive pillow, try some guided meditations and ensure a calm, dark, peaceful bedroom environment.  The calm rest can be just important as the actual sleep.

3. Get moving

Daily exercise is shown to greatly reduce the incidence of cold and flu.  And yes, even during pregnancy, exercise is still important.  Ok, running a marathon should probably not be a top priority but participating in daily low impact exercise like walking, yoga, swimming or Pilates are great options to help you stay fit and healthy during winter.

5. Take your vitamins

During pregnancy there is a much greater demand for essential nutrients.  Your baby is growing and developing at a rapid pace, and you alone are fuelling this growth!  This can leave you feeling tired, run down and more susceptible to colds and flu.  Supplements should never replace a healthy diet, however a good prenatal multivitamin can act like your insurance policy, to support your nutrient intake during this crucial time.  Look for prenatal multivitamin with a good dose of vitamin D, choline for brain development, folate and vitamin B12.  Ideally choose a supplement which includes folate in the form of both folic acid and the active form folinic acid to optimise absorption.

 

Tasha Jennings ND

Naturopath, Nutritionist, Natural Fertility Specialist, Author

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