Winter may bring a reprieve of heat, but pregnant women need to start preparing thei bodies and unborn babies for the colds and flu's that winter can bring too.
During pregnancy your immunity may already be compromised a little so it’s worth your while to be proactive and start protecting yourself against the flu. There are several things you can do to build your immunity naturally.
The key to staying healthy and to avoid the nasty flu bugs is to strengthen your immune system. Your immune system is your body’s number one defense when it comes to fighting off the cold and flu. If you get the lurgy though, get help.
Soak up some rays
Fortunately we live in South Africa and our winter weather boasts wonderful sunny and warm winter days. Researchers are adamant that vitamin D may be the secret to avoiding the cold and flu. Vitamin D plays an important role in strengthening our defense system to better fight any invading viruses and bacteria. Ladies – our sunshine is free – so spend some time outdoors and soak up those healing rays.
Move it, Mama
Exercise is one of the most powerful ways to boost the immune system. Not only does exercise improve the circulation of white blood cells throughout your body, but it has been shown to increase the production of natural killer T cells, which are essential for maintaining an optimum immune response.
A regular exercise programme of low-to-medium intensity workouts for 25-30 minutes three to five times a week is recommended to build and maintain a strong immune system. Twenty minutes of brisk walking for to five times per week has also been shown to significantly improve the body’s immune response. This is also a good opportunity to get a little bit of sunshine to stimulate vitamin D production. But please remember, don’t exercise when you are already ill.
Sleep and stress less
Few of us are aware of how stress actually impacts the health of the body. Stress takes an enormous toll on the immune system. When we experience stress, the natural balance of the body is affected in so many ways.
Your body needs rest from the stress and strain of daily life to get recharged. Especially when you are pregnant. We depend on adequate restful sleep to restore our bodies and refresh our minds. During deep sleep, our bodies release potent immune-enhancing substances that strengthen immune function.
It is especially important to get additional rest when we are pregnant and/or ill. Women are notoriously bad at doing this, due to heavy demands placed upon them both at their place of work and at home. During pregnancy this is worse and many women find it nearly impossible to get rid of the flu. It is important to find ways to bring the body back into balance.
Meditation, exercise, and yoga are all great ways of destressing. Chiropractic adjustments also have a significant effect on the nervous system, creating balance, helping to restore the body’s natural healing potential.
Fight flu with food
It’s estimated that 80 percent of your immune system resides in your digestive tract, so it’s vital to keep your digestive system healthy when trying to avoid getting sick. Eating a well-balanced diet is critical for you to have a properly functioning immune system, as is having probiotics in your diet too.
A diet high in fruits and vegetables has many of the phytonutrients critical to enhance immunity as well as many of the important vitamins and minerals. A steady and balanced intake of essential vitamins and mineral helps to keep our immune systems working properly by providing us protection from infections and disease.
Top flu-fighting foods
Red peppers have twice as much immune-enhancing vitamin C as an orange. Vitamin C is an essential weapon in your flu–fighting food arsenal — it can decrease the duration of a cold by 80 percent and the
severity of symptoms like sniffles and a cough. Red peppers can be chopped up and used in salads, pasta dishes, omelettes or on sandwiches.
Yoghurt contains probiotics, the good bacteria that line
our intestines and defend our body against invading germs. Plain low fat yoghurt has fewer calories and less added sugar than fruit flavored versions. To make sure your yoghurt contains probiotics, read the label.
Believe it or not –chicken soup really does have healing properties. A steaming bowl of soup is like a “hug in a mug”.
To get the antiinflammatory and other health benefits of produce, it is recommended to make your own chicken soup with vegetables rather than using store bought condensed-soup or cooking with chicken alone.
A research study published in the medical journal Chest found that chicken soup has mild anti-inflammatory properties, which may help prevent colds and flu by decreasing mucus production and throat swelling and irritation.
Make your next batch of soup with similar ingredients to the ones in the recipe from the study: chicken, onion, sweet potato, turnips, parsnips, carrots, celery and some parsley.
We all know garlic wards off anything bad! Flu is no exception. Sulfur compounds in garlic may make us 2.5 times less likely to get sick this season as these compounds have been shown to kill viruses. Fresh garlic has more immune-boosting potential than cooked, so add a clove of fresh minced garlic at the end of cooking.
The natural plant compound gingerol, found in ginger can help fight off infection. Put a chunk of the spicy root into a cup of boiling water to make ginger tea, or make fresh ginger vinaigrette to top raw or cooked vegetables.
Mix two tablespoons olive oil, two tablespoons vinegar, one teaspoon grated ginger and one teaspoon sugar. Of course ginger helps with nausea in pregnancy as well.
Sweet potatoes’ beta carotene content makes them an
immune-enhancing food. Beta carotene is the vitamin that gives sweet potatoes their darker pigment. It is converted to vitamin A in the body, which research suggests may be particularly helpful in the treatment of respiratory infections.
Green tea has been thought to be a health promoting drink since ancient times. Claims for the benefits of green tea are based on the fact that it is rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are chemical compounds that can help to prevent cell damage in our bodies. Recent research has cast doubts over its benefits during pregnancy.
Green tea, like other teas, contains some caffeine, which should be limited in pregnancy. Although green tea is relatively low in caffeine it would be unwise to drink vast quantities of it during pregnancy.
Green tea, like other teas and coffee, can also make it difficult for our bodies to absorb iron from food, which is another reason why it should be drunk in moderation.
Drink six to eight glasses of water per day. Body fluids, made up mostly of water, bring to each system all the good stuff and carry away the body’s waste in form of urine.
Water is also necessary for many chemical reactions in the body. It can act as a lubricant around joints and protect sensitive tissues and organs, including the spinal cord, eyes, and the amniotic sac in pregnancy from shock. It is absolutely essential to stay well hydrated throughout pregnancy.
Almonds are an excellent source of the disease-fighting antioxidant vitamin E. Use chopped almonds on oatmeal, salads or stir-fries.
Watch the sugar
When it comes to fighting colds and flu, it is essential to decrease your amount of sugar intake. Sugar has devastating effects on the immune system. Not only does sugar increase the production of hormones that suppress the immune system, refined sugar needs micronutrients to be metabolised.
This requires your body to use stored vitamins and minerals, further harming your defenses. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will make sure that your body is getting all of the vitamins and minerals that are essential to fighting colds and flu.
Each and every fruit and vegetable is packed with thousands of phytochemicals. No supplement could ever match the power of eating a whole food. Regardless of what vitamin and mineral you take, it should always be as a supplement to a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Keep your distance from and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay at home and keep your distance from other people to prevent spreading the flu virus.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and turn your head away from other people when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands often to protect yourself from germs.