5 Tips for a Healthier Immune System During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, or have been pregnant, you've probably experienced it: you've gotten sick more often than you ever did non-pregnant. And I don't mean morning sickness type of sick. I mean the annoying colds and other immune system yuckies that have you really feeling down.
Without getting into too advanced of an immunology lesson, you have two different "modes" of immune system function. The first one is called, "Th1 dominance." And this one is awesome. This one reigns supreme in people who seem to never get sick. It's great at acting as your first line of defense and recognizing that something is foreign, and shifts into kill mode without asking questions! This is what we want most of the time. However, during pregnancy, rising levels of progesterone cause us to shift into "Th2 dominance." This one is still good at recognizing what's not supposed to be there, but is quite a bit slower to kill. This Th2 dominance is actually a really good thing during pregnancy, as the baby in our belly would otherwise be considered a foreign object...and in Th1 dominance, this may cause keeping the baby to be very difficult. And nobody wants that.
But at the same time, I know I'm not the only one who's sick and tired of being sick and tired! Right?! Colds (and other similar ailments) are really irritating to deal with! So what can you do to keep your immune system as strong as possible during this time?
5. SKIP THE MEDS
DE-congestants, Cough SUPPRESSANTS, ANTI-nausea medications, and so on. In theory, it sounds like a great idea to get rid of these annoying symptoms. But the fact we need to accept is that symptoms like cough, congestion, nausea, etc. are all our body's ways of fighting off and eliminating the invaders! So if we suppress these immune responses because they're irritating to deal with, then we are actually counteracting our body's killing and elimination mechanisms!
On top of that, most medications are not known to be safe for pregnancy. And even the ones that are considered, "safe"... I'd recommend you skip if you can. Remember, the fewer toxins, the better! What you put in your body during pregnancy become the building blocks used to make your baby. And there's lots of stuff in these meds that I have no interest in my baby having exposure to!
4. DE-SRESS & EXERCISE
I know I talk about fight or flight nervous system function all the time, but here it is again. When we add stress into our system (emotional, chemical, and physical), it causes us to shift into a STRESSED response within our nervous system. This is also known as sympathetic dominance. A sympathetic response is really great when a bear shows up and your body has to make one choice: Do I fight this bear? Or do I run away from it? So if the bear shows up at the same moment that a cold virus floats into your respiratory passageways, your body is going to say, "Psh. Forget about that virus. We can worry about that later. WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THIS BEAR?!" What I mean by all of this is that when you're in sympathetic dominance, you also shift into Th2 dominance.
So eliminate as much stress as you can! Take some extra time for self care. Allow yourself to meditate. Commit to making the time to do things that are relaxing to you.
Exercise itself is not only good for your mental health (so GREAT for de-stressing), but it also has really profound effects on lymphatic circulation, helping to improve your immune response! Don't skip out on regular physical activity!
3. REGULAR SUPPLEMENTS
Fish Oils: The Omega 3's that are found within your fish oils are vital to activating T cells (as in Th1 and Th2 cells) to respond to an invasion.
Probiotics: A great deal of your immune system lives within your gut. Keeping your gut healthy with lots of good bacteria is a great place to start to help keep your immune system healthy!
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is incredibly important for many aspects of human health, but it is known especially to positively impact the immune response. Vitamin D plays the role of turning on and off certain genes. This includes genes and cells that mediate our immune response! Make sure you're getting ample natural sunshine when you can, and getting quality vitamin D supplementation for seasons when you're not!
A HIGH Quality Prenatal Vitamin: Your prenatal vitamin will help to fill in nutritional gaps. Having a health and balanced diet PLUS supplementation to help fill in any gaps you may have will ensure your body has all the nutrition it needs in order to carry out all of its processes, including immune function.
2. EAT CLEAN
Sugar: Sugar is known to lower your immune response for 4 hours following consumption. Make sure to keep your sugar intake low (for lots of reasons!) if you're trying to boost your immune system function
Eliminate Chemical Stress: Remember that the food we eat either nourishes our body and FIGHTS disease, or it FEEDS disease. Make sure you are eating clean, organic, non-processed foods that will nourish your body and not be a chemical stressor.
1. GET ADJUSTED
A healthy balance in your nervous system is the #1 key to having a healthy balance between Th1 and Th2 in your body. Patients who are getting adjusted regularly report that they get sick less often, and in the rare occasion that they do get sick, they get over it more quickly.
Give your nervous system, and therefore your IMMUNE system the boost it needs to stay healthy through your pregnancy!