You’re pregnant! Congrats! Mazel Tav! Hooray to you, your partner, and your growing baby!
Building and maintaining a healthy immune system both before, during and after pregnancy is vital to you and your baby.
Let’s face it, that little bundle inside you needs a safe and healthy place to grow, develop and relax right? So, take a second and continue reading for the both of you.
Research has shown that 90% of moms will experience a decrease in their immune system during pregnancy. Why you ask? Multiple reasons, such as fatigue, nausea, lack of nutrition, sleep and exercise, not to mention you are growing another human! But something you may not be aware of is the science behind keeping the pregnancy going.
Your body is an amazing machine! The brain is super smart during pregnancy and will down regulate (decrease) and then up regulate (increase) the mom’s immune system activity during her entire pregnancy. This increase and decrease is both to prevent it from attacking the fetus and also with delivery of the fetus. (1) Go brain! Maybe you are asking yourself, why should I worry about my immune system if it’s on “auto-pilot” during pregnancy? You should worry because while your brain is on auto- pilot regarding your immune system and the growing fetus, you’re still just as susceptible to colds, virus’s and the dreaded flue as any other person.
So, while you’re nurturing your developing baby from the inside, here are a few tips to boost your immune system from the outside.
1. Probiotics: I know you hear a lot about probiotics, and for good reason. They are the good guys, the “friendly bacteria”. Over 50% of our immune system is in our gut/intestines, which is exactly where probiotics work. “(3) Probiotics boost our immune system by keeping the bad bacteria in our body from taking over, helping ease digestion and have been shown to decrease food and skin allergies in babies. (2) Probiotics can improve intestinal function and maintain the integrity of the lining of the intestines,” says Stefano Guandalini, MD, professor of pediatrics and gastroenterology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. (3)
2. Diet: Easy enough right? That is unless you suffer from morning sickness, or the dreaded all day sickness. What you eat, not only builds your immune system but builds your babies immune system as well. Lean meats (unless you are vegetarian or vegan), lentils, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables (organic and non-gmo if possible) should be the cornerstone of your diet right now, and carry through to after the baby is born and during nursing. Dark colored berries like blueberries, blackberries, red raspberries are full of antioxidants the help decrease free radicals, inflammation and boost immunity. Dark leafy vegetables contain healthy immune boosting vitamins such as Vitamin A, C and K as well as a good source of Calcium. (4), (6)
3. Exercise: If you were an avid exerciser before pregnancy, keep it up, but decrease your intensity as your pregnancy continues. If you want to begin an exercise program after you got pregnant, take it slow. Try a prenatal yoga class, prenatal pilates class or consider light weights, walking, stationary bike or elliptical machines. Exercise has shown to promote the immune system during pregnancy by decreasing systemic inflammation. Inflammation creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and viruses. (5)
4. Vitamin D: Via sunshine if possible! If not, then supplements are a great option. “ Exposing your skin for a short time will make all the vitamin D your body can produce in one day…in just a little under the time it takes for your skin to turn pink” (9) This could be 20 minutes to a few hours depending on the fairness or darkness of your skin. And always apply a sun block after you’ve collected the necessary vitamin D. The role of Vitamin D and the immune system are on going but most recent research demonstrates its effectiveness on our Innate Immune System (first line of defense). The best sources of Vitamin D are sunshine, and Vitamin D3 from fish oils. (6), (7)
5. Omega 3’s: Are another supplement we hear a lot about. Omega 3’s are increasingly important during pregnancy because they decrease inflammation for mom and baby but more importantly they help ensure proper neurological and brain development in your baby. The high level of mercury in fish can be a problem during pregnancy, because this is the best source. If you’re concerned about your Omega 3 intake talk to your doctor. (4)
6. Sleep: I put this last because it seems to be the last thing we think of when we think of building our immune system (unless we are sick), and it’s difficult to get extra sleep if you work, are a mother already or are in that last trimester of pregnancy. But it really should be number one. “Although there is little or no data on how sleep deprivation in the mother affects her baby, since sleep deprivation affects your immune system, you can be sure that it also affects your baby’s.” (6) Aim for that 7-8 hours of sleep, and if you can’t get it in one dose, nap when you can, put your feet up on the weekends and relax. Research has shown that to get the most bang for your buck 10-20 min of napping will leave you refreshed and not groggy. (8) Take care of yourself, you’re gonna be a mom soon or again!
Along with these 6 tips, I can’t leave out what I do for a living. Chiropractic adjustments decrease nerve irritation, and restore balance in your body. Specific adjustments have been shown to increase your white blood cells, therefore improving your immunity. Adjustments during pregnancy are gentle, safe and effective for you and your baby. (10)
- Mor, G. Immunology of Pregnancy. Series: Medical Intelligence Unit. Springer. 2006.
- 2. Beneficial Bacteria (Probiotics) May Halt Allergies In Babies,http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2001/04/14/probiotics-part-one.aspx, (Accessed January 12, 2009)
- 3. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/what-are-probiotics
- 7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/
- 8. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323932604579050990895301888
- 9. http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/
- 10. http://www.icpa4kids.com/