Your best defense during the time of year when cold bugs are common is prevention. Nutrition & lifestyle practices that you integrate into your daily or weekly habits have a significant impact on your immune health.
Here are my top six pregnancy & breastfeeding safe recommendations for loving your immune system:
1. Hand Hygiene to Minimize Immune Exposure to Germs
Yep – it’s simple & we hear it often – wash those hands often with warm water and a gentle, natural soap. And, be mindful about not touching your face while you’re out & about, unless you’ve just washed your hands. Hand sanitizers are OK in a pinch, but some contain chemicals like triclosan (antibiotic, hormone disruptor), phthalates (hormone disruptors), synthetic fragrances & parabens. Looking for a handy alternative? Reach out to your local Norwex consultant. Their mini Enviro Cloths (wet) & small wet bags are perfect for tucking into a purse or diaper bag for a day out.
2. Whole Foods Nutrition to Optimize Immune Resources.
Fresh foods, naturally & locally grown (when possible), combined into home made meals are most ideal. This approach minimizes our exposure to additives, preservatives, processed sugars, grains & fats, pesticides & herbicides – freeing up valuable resources for the immune system & giving it the building blocks it needs for its defenses.
3. Immune Boosting Foods, Every Day.
Foods naturally rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, zinc & omega 3 oils can be regularly included in your nutrition. Organic, dark berries, broccoli, pineapple, sweet peppers (any colour!) & mango are great options for antioxidants & vitamin C. You’ll find zinc in grass fed meat, legumes, raw nuts & seeds & eggs. And omega 3 oils in raw nuts & seeds (chia seeds are one of my favourite recommendations), along with fatty fish like salmon & mackerel or good quality fish oil supplements. Medicinal mushrooms (reishi, maitake, shiitake) contain immune boosting polysaccharides (starches). They are great added to soups along with warming spices like garlic, ginger & turmeric, which all have germ fighting properties.
4. Love Your Gut Too!
Healthy digestion & elimination are key processes involved in optimizing immune response. Homemade bone broths are a great source of nutrients for soothing & healing the gut & supporting the immune system. Probiotic foods (sauerkraut, kefir, lactofermented veggies) are another great addition. If digestive health is a challenge for you, seek the support of a qualified naturopathic doctor for more individualized care.
5. Minimize Stress + Optimize Resilience = Improved Immune Responses
When our bodies are consistently exposed to stress hormones our immune systems struggle. Exploring ways to support the relaxation response & nourish your resilience will have a beautiful ripple effect towards immune health. Looking for ideas? Head over to the videos on my Facebook page that are focused on nourishing mothering resilience, where we chat about grounding, breathing & meditation practices. Gentle movement (walking in the fresh air!) can also be helpful in both reduce stress & increasing the circulation of blood & lymph – all give love to the immune system!
6. Listen to Your Body & Respond at First Sign of a Cold with Additional Gentle Support.
Rest. It’s simple & it’s necessary. When we rest, we allow our bodies to focus on healing. Sometimes it’s hard to do, especially when we have a lot going on in Life. But, it’s the perfect opportunity to call in your human resources (Who can make you some homemade soup? Who can give you a hand around your home? Who’s willing to snuggle a baby while you have a nap?). Warming Socks &/or this Homemade Cold & Cough Syrup, are additional, gentle, safe options for most pregnant & breastfeeding women (unless there’s an intolerance or allergy to any of the ingredients). If you’re breastfeeding, you can also try an Elderberry Syrup (containing only elderberry & honey). Elderberries have compounds in them that are immune modulating, antioxidant & antiviral. They also contain vitamin C & vitamin A.
Remember, fever is a way for the body to better recruit optimal immune responses.
If you’re pregnant & have a fever contact your local healthcare line (811, here in New Brunswick) or medical provider for recommendations – fever (especially when high) can be risky for baby.
If you’re breastfeeding, have a fever & you’re able to stay hydrated, it’s OK to let the fever ride a bit to allow your immune system an improved response to the germ(s) you’re fighting. In most cases, it’s absolutely safe to continue breastfeeding your baby while you are sick. In fact, the antibodies made by your immune system will be passed to your little one. Keep up with your hand hygiene & have a handkerchief handy for sneezing & coughing into, to minimize the spread of germs in your home.
Looking for additional tips for your health while pregnant or breastfeeding?
Individualized support is available in person (via house call in the Greater Moncton, Shediac & Sackville areas) or virtually (via a secure telehealth system). Request an appointment right here.