Expectant mothers are often prone, more so than usual, to colds and flus, coughs and sore throats especially as the winter season progresses. Good rest, a healthy balanced diet and plenty of water is of course important for a quick recovery, however there are some other useful safe natural remedies that can help reduce the uncomfortable cold and flu symptoms whilst also helping your immune system to fight off viruses faster and more effectively.
At the first sign of a cold, if you have been exposed to someone who has a cold it may be helpful to take Echinacea purpurea, a herb that has been used for centuries in Western herbal medicine.1 It is used in acute and chronic viral and bacterial `\respiratory conditions including the common cold, sinusitis, ear infections and bronchitis. Echinacea is a category A medicine in pregnancy, indicating that controlled studies in healthy pregnant women demonstrated no foetal risk 2. So Echinacea can be safely taken during pregnancy.
Other nutrients that are essential in the maintenance of a healthy immune system during pregnancy are zinc and vitamin C.3 When taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms of infection, zinc reduces the severity and duration of colds by boosting the production and function of WBCs.4,5 Similarly vitamin C reduces symptom severity and duration of the common cold by an average of 23%.6
Great sources of vitamin C in winter include potatoes, broccoli, parsley, thyme, peppers, brussel sprouts, savoy and red cabbage, cauliflower, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, citrus fruits such as mandarins and oranges, kiwifruit and strawberries.
Frozen vegetables and fruit picked at their season best and frozen immediately before nutrients like vitamin C have deteriorated are great healthy and convenient choices during the winter months. For example frozen spinach can be thrown into a pasta sauce, casserole or soup to add extra nutrition. Likewise peas can be added to many meals such as brown rice and quinoa with herbs and spices. Frozen berries are a fantastic source of vitamin C and can be used in smoothies, a crumble or added to yoghurt and muesli for a wholesome breakfast.
Food high in zinc include organic grass fed meat, poultry, fish, legumes including beans, lentils and chickpeas (best soaked overnight for better absorption). Seeds are a great source of zinc including hemp, chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Nuts are an easy way to get zinc as well as many other minerals and are a nutritious snack particularly peanuts, cashews, almonds and pine nuts or alternatively try a nut butter. Other sources of zinc are whole grains, eggs and dairy such as cheese and milk. In general, zinc absorption from a diet high in animal protein will be greater than from a diet rich in plant derived proteins.3
Getting enough rest and sleep is essential for a quick recovery from colds and flus. Traditional remedies such as chicken soup, lemon grass and ginger tea with a teaspoon of honey, consumption of plenty of garlic and fresh vegetables and steam inhalations to help clear blocked sinus’ all help with the uncomfortable symptoms of a cold.
It is important to speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about supplementation that is specifically indicated for you at this precious time.
1. Mills S, Bone K. The essential guide to herbal safety. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2005
2. Echinacea purpureamonograph. Health Canada. Viewed 17 May 2017, http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/
3. NHMRC. Nutrient reference values 2006. Viewed 7 August2019, https://www.nrv.gov.au/
4. Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Feb 16;(2):CD001364. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub3.
5. Barnett JB, Dao MC, Hamer DH, Kandel R, Brandeis G, Wu D, et al. Effect of zinc supplementation on serum zinc concentration and T cell proliferation in nursing home elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jan 27;103(3):942-51. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.115188.
6. Hemilä H. Does vitamin C alleviate the symptoms of the common cold?-a review of current evidence. Scan J Infect Dis. 1994 Jan 1;26(1):1-6. PMID: 8191227.