In the extraordinary times we’re living in, it’s more important than ever for expecting moms to be extra cautious as we approach cold and flu season. When it comes to pregnancy, determining what’s safe for both mom and baby to support a healthy immune system can be overwhelming. Even conventional over-the-counter options often contain warnings about use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
It can feel a bit hopeless flipping through a packet of restrictions with little advice on what can safely be done to support the immune system and a quick return to health during this time of year. In a time of face masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing, I myself am embarking on my first pregnancy journey, grateful for my background in holistic nutrition and empowered with the knowledge of gentle herbs midwives have been using for thousands of years. If you’re an expectant mom like me and felt the doom and gloom of those first initial appointments that you attended alone due to the pandemic, then this post is for you!
As a nutritionist, I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with a solid foundation of plenty of water (I can’t emphasize this enough), balanced nutrition, and light activity. The antiquated advice to “eat for two,” has long since been proven unnecessary and potentially harmful. In fact, there’s no need to increase caloric intake at all during the first trimester. The best approach for supporting a healthy immune system is to be sure you’re consuming a balanced diet with about 75 – 100 grams of protein per day (about 20% of your calories), 40 – 60 grams of quality fat per day (33% of your calories), and at least 175 grams of fiber-rich carbohydrates per day (45 – 65% of your calories). Needs vary from person to person, so it’s best to consult a prenatal nutritionist, midwife, or naturopath for individual requirements.
Nutrition is so important when it comes to immune function for a number of reasons. First, a poor diet can lead to malnutrition, or lacking one or more nutrients that impair the production and activity of immune cells and antibodies whereas a balanced whole foods diet rich in nutrients supports the function of all cells, including immune. In pregnancy, the mother’s body will prioritize nutrition to the baby, so it’s extra important for mom to get all those key vitamins and minerals in abundance. Diets high in refined sugar, conventional animal products, and low in fruits and vegetables tend to promote inflammation and suppress immunity.
It’s also worth mentioning the importance of the microbiome that exists mostly in our intestines where 70 – 80% of our immune system resides. The microbiome is made up of trillions of live microorganisms that play a key role in immune function. Certain foods act as prebiotics to feed those beneficial bacteria, where other cultured or fermented foods can directly contribute healthy live probiotic strains. In a nutshell, digestive wellness, which is largely dependent on what we eat, plays a critical role in our immune function.
Now let’s say that you’ve been eating a balanced whole foods diet, or eating a rainbow, as you’ll often hear nutritionists advise, but you’re seeking additional support during these cautious times. It’s well known that pregnancy increases susceptibility. What’s a mom to do? This is where your herbal allies come in!
I want to preface this by saying that full strength alcohol tinctures are not advisable during pregnancy without consulting your OB/GYN, midwife, or another qualified healthcare provider. The products I’ve mentioned below have been specifically formulated for pregnancy with a proprietary process that reduces alcohol content to about what you’d find in a ripe banana. Additionally, the herbs in these formulas have been carefully selected for safety and efficacy.
Immune Boost for Pregnancy – a true herbal tonic! Immune Boost is best used daily to nourish the immune system while simultaneously providing light active support. When it comes to pregnancy, we want to avoid anything that could be too stimulating. Burdock root supports a healthy pH (acid/alkaline) balance. When the body becomes to acidic, it invites problems with foreign bugs. Additionally, burdock is very liver-friendly, helping the liver to process all the extra pregnancy hormones that tend to congregate in the liver clogging the primary organ for detoxification. Immune Boost also offers lymphatic support without any of the heavy hitters you’d find in a typical adult immune formula. Red clover is a nutritive and tonifying herb that can gently support healthy lymphatic function. Echinacea is well known for its immune supportive properties. Calendula supports a healthy inflammatory response and also acts as part of the lymphatic team in this formula, while marshmallow is soothing to mucosal membranes. Moms can use this formula 1 – 4 times per day as part of their gentle immune support regiment.
Cold Seasons for Pregnancy – for those more active situations! Cold Seasons is a great formula for moms to keep in their immune toolbox, as it offers respiratory support along with soothing herbs for the throat and sinuses. Hyssop is a member of the mint family and is great support for coughs. Like hyssop, thyme also helps support healthy mucus formation in the lungs and sinuses. Wild cherry is traditionally used in cough syrups because of its calming action while simultaneously supporting healthy mucosal lining in the lungs. Wild cherry and elderflower both offer gentle lymphatic support, while elderflower goes a step further providing a soft balance between immune building and active support. By helping to support a healthy balance of microorganisms in the body that positively influence our immune response, elder flower, yerba santa and peppermint leaf polish off this in-the-moment immune formula. Rather than using daily, you’ll reserve Cold Seasons for those times when you need your immune system to shift into gear.
Kick-It Allergy for Pregnancy – allergies are very common during pregnancy! Whether moms have a history with allergies, or they’re brought on for the first-time during pregnancy, they can leave you feeling miserable. Pregnancy is a time when it’s normal to experience leaky gut, possibly as the body’s way of enhancing absorption of nutrients, but it can also increase your susceptibility to allergies from airborne irritants (pollen, pet dander), environmental allergens, mold, and foods. Kick-It Allergy for Pregnancy combines yerba santa leaf, nettle leaf, and Echinacea purpurea root for a healthy response to histamine. If it’s leaky sinuses and watery eyes, sneezing, or excess mucous bogging you down, yerba santa provides mucosal membrane stabilization to restore balance. Nettle leaf has a long history of use in supporting a healthy response to histamine and supports a healthy inflammatory response in the sinuses. Lesser known are the benefits of Echinacea purpurea in allergy support. Echinacea supports healthy hyaluronidase activity, which plays a role in the watery eyes and nose response to allergies.
Aghaeepour, Nima, et al. “An Immune Clock of Human Pregnancy.” Science Immunology, Science Immunology, 1 Sept. 2017, immunology.sciencemag.org/content/2/15/eaan2946.full.
Barnes, Courtney, and Ashley Peterson. “’Eating for Two’ – A Quick Guide to Nutrition During Pregnancy.” Missouri University Health Care, www.muhealth.org/our-stories/eating-two-quick-guide-nutrition-during-pregnancy.
“Nutrition and Immunity.” The Nutrition Source, 23 July 2020, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/.
“Pregnancy and Allergies.” ACAAI Public Website, 14 Nov. 2018, acaai.org/allergies/who-has-allergies-and-why/pregnancy-and-allergies.
Writer Danielle Cicak is the Northern Colorado and Wyoming Sales Representative and Regional Educator for WishGarden Herbs located in Louisville, Colorado. In 2003, Danielle began her career working in the supplement aisles at Natural Grocers. Inspired to help others with their health and wellbeing, she pursued an education in holistic nutrition from the Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver, Colorado. As a Master Nutrition Therapist (MNT), Danielle served as a Nutritional Health Coach (NHC) before advancing to become the NHC Development Specialist where she led and developed the NHC training program for Natural Grocers. As a Colorado native, Danielle is thrilled to work with another local, family-owned business that promotes health and activism through education: WishGarden Herbs! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, creating healthy dishes in her kitchen, and enjoying the beauty Colorado has to offer!
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.