Our immune system undergoes tremendous changes during pregnancy. If it didn’t, our body’s immune system would attack our baby as a foreign object! These immune system changes make us MORE resilient against some conditions, but less able to fight off others. Unfortunately, what may be nothing more than a funny tummy or some loose poo normally, may have serious repercussions during pregnancy. To make matters even more complicated, it’s recommended that we do all we can to avoid medications such as antibiotics during pregnancy.
So, what CAN you do? Well, boosting your immunity with the power of good food may help.
Immunity during pregnancy
The flu, toxoplasmosis, urinary tract infections, the common cold and Covid 19 are just some of the infections that you are at greater risk of during pregnancy.
I don’t say this to make you stressed, but just so you can be vigilant about prevention. Make sure you’ve spoken to your doctor about appropriate vaccinations; be meticulous about washing your hands before eating, after touching animals and after using the bathroom; keep meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables refrigerated; cook foods thoroughly, and eat a nutrient-rich immune boosting diet.
Research suggests that a healthy gut microbiota is one of the most important strategies for boosting your immunity. Ensuring that you meet your micronutrient requirements such as zinc and vitamin C is also essential.
You can help to optimise your gut microbiota and meet key micronutrients requirements for immunity by including these 7 foods in your diet…
Number 1 – garlic
Research suggests that 4-5 cloves of garlic per day may help to reduce the risk of developing the common cold. This is believed to be due to the antimicrobial properties of a compound in garlic called allicin. Garlic is also great for our gut microbiota, so is a fantastic food to include in your pregnancy diet.
Number 2 – Cow’s milk
There’s a compound in cow’s milk called lactoferrin which seems to boost immunity by interrupting the interactions between viral cells and body cells so that viruses are less able to affect the body. Include a glass or two each day!
Number 3 – Kiwi fruit
Everyone knows that vitamin C is important for a healthy immune system, but it’s important to note that we only need moderate amounts. Current research suggests that large doses found in supplements generally don’t boost immunity any more than meeting basic requirements with food. Many fruits and veggies are rich in vitamin C, but one of my favourites is kiwi fruit. One kiwi provides around half of your daily vitamin C requirements and it’s much more delicious than a tablet.
Number 4 – Switch to green tea
Now, this one’s a little controversial as I recommend that you limit caffeine intake during pregnancy, and green tea DOES contain caffeine, but there’s some good evidence that green tea may be beneficial for immunity. Green tea contains compounds known as catechins and theanine, which are thought to play a role in preventing influenza by improving the functioning of the immune system. In fact, one study found that 13% of healthcare workers caught influenza throughout a 5-month period, whereas only 4% of the group consuming green tea compounds caught it. Now in this study, the subjects were consuming much higher doses than I’d want you to take, and there’s not yet enough evidence to suggest whether lower doses are just as effective, but given the benefits of the green tea compounds, if you’re drinking coffee or black tea anyway, I’d recommend switching over to green tea instead.
Number 5 – Sweet potato
Vitamin A plays an important role in immune function. Obviously, most women shouldn’t take high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy, so most women will need to avoid vitamin A supplements. However, just half a cup of sweet potato will provide all of your daily vitamin A needs.
Number 6 – mixed nuts
Just two Brazil nuts will help reach your selenium requirements and almonds are a super rich source of vitamin E. Both selenium and vitamin E are powerful antioxidants which help protect your immune cells from damage. Furthermore, nuts are also a fantastic food for your gut microbiota.
Number 7 – Homemade chicken soup
Whilst there’s no good evidence to show any immune-boosting benefits of chicken soup, we do know that stress weakens the immune system, so if a little comfort food helps to reduce your stress levels, I think that’s a good thing! Besides, chicken soup contains chicken which is a good source of zinc, veggies which are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants and you can even add in some garlic for the allicin.
But, overall, just remember that a nourishing diet rich in fresh fruits, vegies, wholegrains, lean proteins and dairy products is going to be the best recipe for boosting your immunity during pregnancy.
Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below and if you haven’t already done so, ensure that you download my free pregnancy meal plan. Just go to www.melaniemcgrice.com/pregnancy.
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