Supporting your immune system during pregnancy
Pregnancy can be a very trying time. There is so much to think about, from the well-being of your baby to managing morning sickness or fatigue. It's easy to forget that your body goes through some pretty big changes too! Pregnancy is actually one of the most vulnerable times for your immune system, which makes it even more important to protect yourself against germs and viruses. Here are some steps you can take to support your immune system during pregnancy:
Eat a balanced diet
There are a number of things you can do to support your immune system during pregnancy. Eating a balanced diet is one of them.
Eat a variety of foods that provide nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits every day (at least 5 servings).
Eat whole grains, beans and nuts as part of every meal; they provide fiber as well as protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Eat fish at least twice a week because it contains omega-3 fatty acids that can help protect against heart disease. If you don't eat fish regularly, consider taking an omega-3 supplement during pregnancy. However, avoid shark or swordfish because they may contain high levels of mercury which could harm your baby's developing nervous system. You should also limit how much tuna you eat during pregnancy because it has high levels of mercury too. You need about 8 oz (227 g) per week for your baby's growth but only about 6 oz per week for yourself. If you're pregnant with more than one child at once instead limit yourself to 12 oz per week total on average throughout your entire pregnancy period. Research shows that eating one large serving per week would give most people enough additional benefits without causing any harm even though there are no precise guidelines yet(8). Some types such as walnuts are especially good sources but all nuts have their own unique benefits so try them out sometime!
This is a no-brainer. We've already touched on how exercise can increase the production of natural killer cells, which bolster your immune system by attacking foreign cells. Not only will you feel better and stronger, but getting regular exercise also has plenty of other benefits for your health and wellbeing:
Exercise increases the production of natural killer cells, which help defend against infections.
Exercise reduces stress levels and helps you sleep better—both important factors in keeping colds at bay.
Exercise can help boost your energy levels when you're feeling tired or run down (which is likely to happen as your body changes with pregnancy).
Finally, exercising helps regulate appetite; it's been shown that resistance training can suppress hunger pangs between meals more than cardio exercise does!
Get enough sleep and rest
Get enough sleep and rest.
Limit your time in bed to the hours you need to feel rested, rather than sleeping "just in case." If you're not sleepy at bedtime, don't force yourself to go to bed. Instead, do something relaxing until you start feeling tired and then go to bed. For example: read a book; watch television or eat dinner with your family; take a warm bath or shower; listen to music; do whatever helps you relax and fall asleep faster once you're ready for it.
Naps can be helpful during pregnancy because they provide some of the benefits of nighttime sleep—including increased alertness and reduced fatigue—without disrupting regular nighttime sleep. In addition, naps may offer extra protection against stress-induced changes in blood pressure compared with daytime activities alone.*
Avoid stress, work on your mental health
The stress hormone cortisol is released when your body perceives a threat. In the short term, this response can help you fight off infection and heal wounds faster. But prolonged stress can cause cortisol levels to remain elevated, which can be damaging to your immune system—especially if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Your immune system is also negatively affected by low-level chronic inflammation caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices like smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of sleep and physical inactivity (or overtraining).
One way to reduce stress is through meditation and other relaxation techniques like yoga or quiet time alone with nature. If you're having trouble managing stress during pregnancy or postpartum:
Set aside some time each day for exercise (even just 15 minutes)
Learn how to manage your emotions so they don't get out of hand
Reduce exposure to chemicals and toxins
During pregnancy, it's important to reduce exposure to chemicals and toxins. Some of these may affect the immune system, which can make you more vulnerable to infections. To reduce your chances of getting sick and stay healthy during pregnancy:
Use nontoxic alternatives for household cleaning products, cosmetics and personal care products.
Avoid pesticides in your outdoor environment and the foods you eat.
Avoid plastics that contain BPA (bisphenol A).
Take a probiotic
Probiotics are good for your digestive system, but they’re also great at supporting a healthy immune system and helping you stay healthy during pregnancy.
Probiotics are naturally occurring bacteria that live in the digestive tract, and they help keep your gut healthy. They may even have anti-inflammatory effects on their own, which is why they can be so effective at fighting off infections. And since your immunity relies on a strong gut microbiome, probiotics have been shown to boost immunity during pregnancy—specifically by reducing inflammation while increasing microbial diversity as well as stimulating maturation of certain immune cells.
Nouri's Prenantal Probiotic is available online and at retailers nationwide.
Pregnancy takes a toll on your immune system, but you can support it with a few simple steps.
Pregnancy is a time of heightened risk for immune-related disorders. The immune system can be weakened by stress and poor nutrition, making you more susceptible to infections like the flu or colds. In fact, your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy that affect your immune function:
Your body produces higher amounts of estrogen during pregnancy to help prepare for breastfeeding later on. This causes changes in cells throughout your body, including those in your digestive tract and respiratory system.
Pregnancy also causes changes in blood vessels that lead to an increase in blood volume (about 50% more than normal). This makes it easier for viruses and bacteria to travel through the bloodstream and cause complications such as sepsis (blood poisoning).
Hormones released during pregnancy cause inflammation throughout the body; this helps tissues grow but also makes them more vulnerable if they're injured or infected by another pathogen.
The immune system is one of the most important systems in your body, and it can be easily compromised during pregnancy. It’s important to take steps to support your baby’s health from day one, and these tips will help you do just that.
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