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Your immune system is amazing. It protects your body from the millions of microbes, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more that want to invade it every day. Keeping your immune system strong is important, especially now that you are pregnant. Following are four ways to fortify your immunity and keep it in top form to protect you and your baby!
Iron is a key mineral that helps keep your immune system strong during pregnancy. Iron boosts your energy levels and increases your resistance to stress, infection, and disease.1 Yet, did you know that an estimated 50% of all pregnant women experience iron deficiency anemia, notably during the third trimester?2
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of iron for pregnant women between the ages of 14 and 50 is 27 mg daily; for lactating women between the ages of 14 and 18, it is 9 mg daily; and lactating women between the ages of 19 and 50 years of age should consume 10 mg of iron daily.3
You can get these amounts from a quality prenatal vitamin. Good dietary sources of iron include dark green, leafy vegetables (spinach, kale); whole grains; fortified cereals, pastas, and breads; and lean poultry, red meat, and pork.
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine” vitamin because the body creates it naturally when skin is exposed to the sun’s UV rays.
Vitamin D supports the body’s immune system by helping to regulate cells focused on fighting infection.4
An estimated 5-29% of pregnant women in the U.S. have inadequate levels of vitamin D.5 During the third trimester, the body’s increased calcium demands make sustaining vitamin D levels even more necessary.6
Since it may not always be possible to get your daily dose of vitamin D from the sun, you can obtain it through a combination of diet and supplementation.
Food sources of vitamin D include wild caught fish (salmon, mackerel), egg yolks, shiitake mushrooms, and fortified foods (dairy products, cereals, and breads). The RDA of vitamin D for pregnant and lactating women between 14-50 years of age is 600 IU (15 mcg).7 The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports, “When vitamin D deficiency is identified during pregnancy, most experts agree that 1,000–2,000 international units per day of vitamin D is safe. Higher dose regimens used for the treatment of vitamin D deficiency have not been studied during pregnancy.”8
Approximately 70% of your immune system resides in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.9 A number of factors including poor diet, medication, and stress can deplete levels of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract, which may compromise healthy immune function. Probiotics are "friendly" bacteria that help create a healthy balance of intestinal “microflora,” benefitting your overall health and immunity.
Add probiotics to your diet through supplementation and through natural food sources, including yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, tempeh, and kimchi.
If you choose a probiotic supplement, ask your healthcare provider about which strains and amounts are right for you to support your immunity during pregnancy.
According to an online Mayo Clinic article, sleep can have a profound affect your immune system. If you don’t get enough sleep, you “are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”10
How does sleep affect immunity? When you sleep, your body produces proteins called cytokines. Some of these cytokines help protect the body from inflammation, infection, and the effects of stress. If you don’t get enough sleep, however, cytokines and other protective organisms, namely infection-fighting antibodies, decrease or are no longer produced, leaving you more susceptible to getting sick.
To keep your immune system going strong, aim for getting between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep each night.
The information included in this article and on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation.
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