I came to the realization the other day that over the last five years I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding. I have had to be conscious of the supplements and medications I take because as we know, not all medication and supplements that are normally safe, are safe in pregnancy or breastfeeding.
My oldest, who is currently 4.5 years old, started daycare when she was eight months old. No matter how much immune support we did, we could not entirely prevent her from bringing home the common cold.
The truth is, I am a big believer that getting sick is good for you. Getting sick is how our body learns to fight infection. It’s how we build our immune system. So really, it was expected that when she’d get sick, we’d get sick. What was most important is that we could fight it easily and quickly and get back to our day-to-day routine.
The thing is, getting sick when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding is annoying.
Besides the fact that your options are limited, it is well known that nasal congestion in general is common in pregnancy. Compound that the common cold and you’re at risk of maximal discomfort.
Did I mention pregnancy also depresses the immune system? Basically that means if you’re pregnant, you’re more likely to get sick because your body is working so hard to support the growth of a healthy baby.
It doesn’t get much better if you’re breastfeeding. Just like in pregnancy where substances can cross the placenta, substances can cross through breastmilk. That means you can’t just throw caution to the wind if you’re nursing. You always have to consider what you’re taking because it can have a direct impact, both positive or negative, on your baby.
So what should you have on hand? Here are a few supplements I swear by. They can be used preventatively or at the onset of a cold.
Vitamin D plays a major role in immune functioning and deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infection. (1) In fact, multiple studies have found that lower levels of vitamin D were associated with increased infection and longer recovery times.
Most Canadians have low levels of vitamin D so supplementing may be necessary. The caveat: too much vitamin D can be toxic (2). Before supplementing with vitamin D it is important to have your serum levels tested. With that being said, vitamin D testing is not covered by OHIP. Testing does require payment out of pocket and is around $40. Both Medical Doctors and Naturopathic Doctors can send patients for vitamin D testing.
Echinacea is well known to be safe and effective for treating colds in the pregnant and breast-feeding populations. Studies have found that Echinacea not only prevents infection but can reduce the number of sick days caused by the common cold or flu (3). While there are many different brands of echinacea, my favourite is echinacea premium by Mediherb because of its combination echinacea formula. Echinacea is not safe for all people and dosing varies among individuals so be sure to speak with your healthcare provider for specific recommendations. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding and looking for a unique supplement protocol, click here for a free consultation.
Ribes Nigrum (Black Current):
Gemmotherapies use plant bud and shoot extracts, freshly harvested from a growing plants. These embryonic plant tissues are considered to contain the peak life essence Of the plant and offer the greatest therapeutic benefits and Studies on black current have confirmed its immune stimulating effect (4, 5). It is often recommended for allergies and is a safe adrenal support option in the pregnant and breastfeeding population. This gemmotherapy, is truly a favourite of mine! Like all supplements, dosing dose vary. Be sure to book a free consultation if you want an immune support or cold response protocol.
Taken as a syrup, gummy or capsule, elderberry can reduce both the symptoms and duration of the common cold (6). Morever, studies have found that elderberry supplementation can prevent or reduce the duration of the flu which is important if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding anytime between November and May. Like echinacea, elderberry’s immune-stimulating properties are not safe for everyone. Effectiveness is dose dependant so be sure you’re taking the right amount to optimize its benefits. If your primary health care provider does not normally work with supplements, be sure to speak with myself or another Naturopathic Doctor who can safely guide you.
Honey has been well documented for its medicinal properties. Manuka honey, a specific type of honey that is sourced from the Manuka plant in New Zealand, has become popular over the last few years, and with good reason. Manuka honey usually has a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) or methylglyoxy (MGO) value on the packaging. These 2 rating systems are mutually exclusive; the UNF rating means the batch of honey has been tested for its antibacterial activity. The MGO corresponds to the amount of antibacterial activity. Similar to the SPF seen on sunscreen, the higher the UMF or MGO rating, the greater the medical properties (7). Not all Manuka honey is the same! I always look for a UMF rating of 10+ or an MGO rating of 300+.
Onion, Garlic and Mustard Poultice:
Have you ever gotten sick and felt that tightness-in-the chest type of congestion? If you know what I’m talking about, this easy home remedy is for you. Onions and garlic have been long known for their therapeutic effectiveness in treating lung infections, whooping cough, colds and ear infections (8). Mustard powder can relieve congestion and can improve breathing, amongst other things (9). These simple ingredients can be found in your kitchen and often provide instantaneous relief so next time you’re feeling congested, be sure to put this remedy to the test.
1 large onion, freshly chopped
3-4 large cloves of garlic, freshly chopped
2 tbs mustard seed powder, divided in 2
Sauté chopped onion for about 5 minutes, until it starts to become translucent.
Add garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
Take 2 thin dishtowels and place half of the onion-garlic mixture in the middle or each.
Sprinkle 1 tbs of mustard seed on top of mixture.
Fold dishtowel so that poultice is secure and mixture cannot fall out.
Apply one dishtowel to your back and one on your chest. This is easiest to do when lying down.
Leave on for approximately 20 minutes.
If you are currently pregnant or breastfeeding and would like a unique immune support plan, I am happy to chat. Visits are currently available to all Ontario residents online with in-person visits returning in September. I will be returning to Uptown Midwives and Family Wellness in October, 2021.
Wishing you best,
Dr. Shelly Ordon, N.D.