Thinking About Getting Pregnant?
Congratulations on Your Pregnancy! (for those who are newly pregnant)
What is a healthy pregnancy weight gain?
Can I continue to eat a vegetarian diet during pregnancy?
A Pregnancy Menu For You and Your Baby
Treating Nausea and Vomiting
What About Seafood?
Don't Eat That!
Pregnancy and Cholesterol
Wash Those Veggies!
Breastmilk, the Healthiest Diet for Babies
What DOES that Broccoli Do for My Baby?
Vitamin D Supplements in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
New Research Affirms Individualized Vitamin D Supplementation for Pregnant Women
Breastfeeding: Developing a Future Gourmet
What to Do About The Flu
Decreasing the Risk of Gestation Diabetes
Keeping and Storing Breastmilk
Pregnancy Weight Gain Guidelines – Do We Need New Ones?
Breastfeeding: A Woman's Health Issue
Eating During Labor
Probiotics and a Decreased Risk of Gestational Diabetes
Pregnancy - a Time to be Active!
Clearing the Air : Quit Smoking for You and Your Child
What is a Healthy Pregnancy Diet for Obese Women?
Does Iron Intake Matter?
One Fish, Two Fish... Full Term Birth?
Folic acid in pregnancy and language development
A Mediterranean Diet, Pre-Pregnancy
There is No Substitute for a Healthy Diet
Honest Healthy Diets for Babies
Exercise for New Moms
A Healthy Pre-Pregnancy Diet and Gestational Diabetes
Vitamin D and Gestational Diabetes
Great News About Breastfeeding
Peanuts and Pregnancy
Fried Foods and Gestational Diabetes
Iodine supplements - should you take them?
Prevent Gestational Diabetes with a Mediterranean-style diet
FDA Updates Recommendations for Fish Consumption in Pregnancy
Faith's passion in nursing is to help people find the options they need to discover their personal path to optimum health. Ask her friends and they will tell you that their appreciation of nutritious food has grown through Faith. About Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN
You know that it is flu season and in addition to the seasonal flu, you need to be aware of H1N1 ("swine flu"). You may or may not know that pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to be hospitalized or have complications than non-pregnant women.
The CDC recommends that pregnant women be vaccinated for BOTH the seasonal flu and H1N1. They should have the shot (the killed virus) not the nasal mist (a weakened live virus). For more information about flu vaccinations during pregnancy, here's a Q & A from the Centers for Disease Control.
But what if you haven't been able to get your flu shot yet (or even if you have)? Is there evidence that nutrition can play a part in keeping you healthy during flu season? YES! (Did you really think I would say no?)
Here are some nutrients that may help you prevent the flu.
In animal studies, mice that were deficient in selenium were much more vulnerable to the flu than those with adequate diets. Need some selenium? Try Brazil nuts, chicken or turkey, tuna, roughy, halibut, or whole wheat products. (More info from the National Institute of Health.)
The bioflavonoid/antioxidant quercetin, found in apples, red onions, grapefruit, black tea and other foods, may be significant in fighting infections. (More info from the National Institute of Health.)
In mice studies, a diet rich in vitamin E provided significantly more protection from influenza than one deficient in vitamin E.1
Vitamin D is important for a healthy immune system including fighting off both viral infections as well as preventing chronic disease. Recent studies have shown that a startling number of Americans have low Vitamin D levels.
Mucus membranes in the mouth and nose are important defenses against influenza. Vitamin A keeps mucus membranes healthy and is important to body defenses against viral infections in other ways as well. Food sources include yellow vegetables (carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes), spinach, collards, kale and many others.
There have been volumes written about vitamin C and its role in preventing infection. While our best understanding is that (contrary to popular opinion) vitamin C does NOT prevent the common cold, it IS important to the immune system. The exact amount that you need is hotly debated but do include generous servings of foods rich in vitamin C. Most people think of citrus foods as THE source of vitamin C and they are great but so are peppers, peaches, papayas, kiwi, and broccoli.
Zinc is an essential mineral. It is important for your baby's growth and development but it can also help you fight infections. Oysters are a great source (don't eat them raw during pregnancy!) but it is also in most fortified cereals, most meat, barley, and beans.
While the above nutrients are important, there is NOT one "super nutrient" that will protect you from the flu. Eat a well balanced diet. A person that is well nourished is significantly less susceptible to the flu than someone with a poor diet. If they do contract the flu, they are less likely to have serious side effects.2
There has been a lot of discussion about taking various supplements to prevent the flu. Supplements may be helpful in some cases. However, when used, they should be seen as just that "supplements to a healthy diet" not "replacements for a healthy diet." Nutritious food is the foundation for good nutrition.
A number of health sites recommend probiotics to help fight infection. Probiotics are cultured foods such as yogurt, kefir, miso, and buttermilk. These healthy bacteria live in the intestine and help the body fight off disease. While probiotics have not been studied for effectiveness against H1N1 or this year's seasonal flu, they can play a part in a healthy immune system.
We used to believe probiotics worked only in the intestine (and therefore would at best only be effective against GI infections) but research has indicated that they help activate systemic responses as well. Will they help fight the flu? We don't know. Maybe. They are healthy foods and easily digested so if you like them, include them in your diet.3, 4
Drink water. Fruit juices and non-caffeinated beverages are OK to enjoy but they can't take the place of adequate water.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, exercise moderately.5 When it comes to disease prevention, moderate exercise protects you better than no exercise or strenuous exercise. 30 minutes per day on most days is a healthy level for most people. If you have had pregnancy complications, talk with your doctor about what level of exercise is right for you.
Get your sleep. Being tired (or stressed) reduces your capacity to fight infection.
Whenever possible, avoid sick people and crowds.
Wash your hands well with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Educators currently teach children to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice while washing. You can substitute a different song if you like but there isn't a good substitute for clean hands! When soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Use the amount recommended on the label (amount varies by type) and rub until the sanitizer disappears.
In short, do all the things your mother taught you (and you will no doubt teach your child). Wash your hands before dinner. Eat your vegetables. Clean your (moderately-sized) plate (and make sure you have a variety of food on the plate!). Have some fruit for a snack. Drink your water. Get a good night's sleep.
Or as I like to say… Nourish yourself and your child.
1. Mevdani SN, et al. Vitamin E and immune response in the aged: molecular mechanisms and clinical implications. Immunol
Rev 205:269-84 June 2005
2. Beck MA, Levander OA. Dietary oxidative stress and the potentiation of viral infection. Annu Rev Nutr 1998;18:93-116
3. Harsharnjit, SG, et al. Enhancement of immunity in the elderly by dietary supplementation with the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis HN019. Am J Clin Nutr 74,#6, 833-838 Dec 2001
4. Saavedra, J Clinical applications of probiotic agents. Am J Clin Nutr Vol 73, # 6 1147S-1151S, June 2001
5. Kohut, M et. al. Chronic exercise reduces illness severity, decreases viral load, and results in greater anti-inflammatory effects than acute exercise during influenza infection. J Inf Dis 2009;200:1434-1442