Cold and flu season is upon us and if you’re pregnant, you want to do everything you can to boost your immunity and fight infection. Pregnancy itself makes you more susceptible, so making strategic changes to your everyday routine may make all the difference. There are so many simple strategies worth implementing and safe supplements worth taking! Here are some of my favourites:
1. Wash your hands regularly
You don’t have to be pregnant to benefit from frequent hand washing. Germs are easily spread through respiratory droplets and can be found on hands, doorknobs, tables and clothes. Most people aren’t conscious that they are coming into contact with viruses or bacteria and they often touch their faces, rub their eyes or itch their nose giving these bugs a route of entry into their body. Washing hands regularly with soap and warm water is a simple solution to kill pathogens and stop the spread of infection. Make sure you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
2. Limit your sugar intake
Did you know that sugar reduces immune function for up to 5 hours after its consumption? Since pregnancy already makes you more susceptible to catching a cold, you may want to think twice about eating refined sugars. Stick to fresh fruits if possible such as tangerines that are high in Vitamin C. Avoid white breads, pastas, pastries and chocolate bars, which lack nutrients all together and do nothing to strengthen you immune system.
3. Get enough sleep
If you’re already pregnant you may be finding yourself more tired than usual and I encourage you to listen to your body! Sleep drives your body into a state of repair and regeneration and studies have found that people who sleep for an average of 8 hours a night are 3 times less likely to come down with a cold compared to people who sleep for 7 hours of less. Rest up when you can and don’t overexert yourself.
4. Moderate exercise helps
Physical activity not only helps with energy, mood, gestational diabetes and pre eclampsia prevention; it also reduces cortisol levels, enhances sleep and overall supports immune function. Moderate exercise can temporarily increase your body temperature making it difficult for bacteria and viruses to survive and multiply. It gets your blood and lymphatic system pumping more efficiently which further allows your body to combat infection. Elevated cortisol levels reduce immune function but physical activity aids to reduce these levels. As already mentioned sleep is essential to a healthy immune system and since exercise can improve sleep quality it can also reduce your chances of catching a cold!
5. Hydrotherapy heals
I am a big believe that small changes make big differences and hydrotherapy is one of those practices that can be easily incorporated into your day-to-day routine. There are many forms of hydrotherapy that can be implemented but the easiest by far is hot and cold showers. Alternating between hot and cold increases your blood flow and lymphatic functioning, which enhances immunity and reduces the incidence of colds and flu’s. The strategy? 2 minutes of hot followed by 30 seconds of cold and always end your shower with cold water.
6. Take a Vitamin C supplement
Vitamin C is well known to boost immune functioning and fight infection. Is it the end all and be all? I don’t think so but if it’s a part of a more comprehensive supplement regimen it definitely has its benefits. In pregnancy I like to limit Vitamin C to 1000mg per day, either taken in capsule or powder form, at one time or in divided doses. Choose a Vitamin C that is free of additives and preservatives that are commonly found in generic brands. Always speak with a licensed Naturopathic Doctor before taking any supplements to make sure its right for you.
7. Incorporate Manuka Honey
Manka honey is not your typical honey. It comes from New Zealand and functions as an antibiotic. Its active ingredient is called methylglyoxal, also known as MGO. Not all manuka honey is made the same; the amount of MGO present can greatly vary and the quality can be significantly different. If you want to benefit from the antibiotic effects of manuka honey, you want to ensure you use one with an MGO greater than 300. There are few high quality manuka honey products but my favourite one to take internally comes from the brand Manuka Health. I like to recommend 1 tsp 3x/day at the start of an infection.
8. Echinacea really works!
Echinacea is well studied to be safe in pregnancy and is often a go-to for many women. Like manuka honey, not all Echinacea products are equally effective. Different brands use different forms of Echinacea in different doses. I have tried many different Echinacea formulas but the one I find to be the most effective is Echinacea Premium by Standard Process. As always, I suggest speaking with a Naturopathic Doctor who can recommend the best product for you since self-prescribing can have dangerous consequences.
9. Elderberry Syrup is truly amazing
Elderberry is also safe to use in pregnancy and can be purchased as a syrup, lozenge and even made at home! Black elderberry extract is known to activate a healthy immune system and fight viral antigens including the flu. It is useful for breaking a fever, reducing congestion in the upper respiratory tract and treating inflammation.
10. Try acupuncture
If you’re pregnant and already receiving acupuncture treatments for another pregnancy-related concern, make sure you ask your practitioner to include immune boosting points. If you’re already battling a cold or flu definitely let your practitioner know so that they can incorporate some effective acupuncture points into your existing protocol. Some Naturopathic Doctors or acupuncturists will use small ear seeds for certain points so that you can keep them in long after your treatment is over.
It’s not always possible to avoid cold’s and flu’s but I truly believe that small changes make big differences. These 10 strategies can make all the difference in the world, both in preventing and reducing the severity and length of your illness. Do you have other remedies you swear by? I would love to hear about them!
Live in the Greater Toronto Area? Be sure to book a free consultation with me and learn how I can help you enhance your fertility, pregnancy and birth experience!