When the weather is changing, illnesses like a cold seem to spread like wildfire. Although preventative actions like washing your hands are important, when your immunity is low (as in you’re very stressed out) and your exposures are high (think interacting with a toddler, being at school, or taking public transit) your chances of getting sick are pretty darn good. Unfortunately, when you’re pregnant and/or breastfeeding, it can be confusing as to what is safe for you to take to help you combat a cold. Many things have not been approved for use in these situations, leaving you tired, sick and resource-less. But look no further! I share with you my top tips to fighting a cold while pregnant/breastfeeding or when you don’t have access to any supplements right here:
1.Warming socks- this classic naturopathic trick may help to decrease the length of a cold as well as may help you fall asleep easier (rest is extremely important for recovery).
What you will need:
1 pair of wool socks,
1 pair of cotton socks.
What you will do:
At bedtime, run the COTTON socks under cold water until they are completely saturated. Make it as cold as you can handle, however, not cold enough to cause frostbite!
Wring the socks out as much as you can so they are now lightly damp.
Put on these socks (this may be cold for a second but they warm up soon-I promise!)
Put on the pair of DRY WOOL socks overtop of the damp, cold socks and hop into bed.
This works by stimulating the body’s natural defenses, triggering the immune system and bringing blood to the feet. The cold causes vasoconstriction (blood vessels get smaller) in the feet which brings the body’s attention to this area to send more blood and warm it up causing vasodilation (blood vessels get bigger). This occurs cyclically throughout the night creating a pumping action which helps to relieve congestion as well as stimulate the immune system to fight off the infection. Repeat this for 3 nights in a row for maximal benefit. You can do this at first sign of getting a cold to stimulate your immune system and nip that cold in the bud.
2. Irrigating those sinuses- when you have congestion, using something such as a Neti Pot is a life saver. Neti Pots basically drain salt water through your nasal passages, clearing any debris in the sinuses and directly fighting any pathogens (viruses & bacteria) in there. You have to tilt your head a certain way over the sink or else you may get the water coming out of your mouth but you’ll quickly get the hang of it! Neti Pots are available at your local drug store and come with the salt packs that can be mixed into it or you can do ¼ tsp of sea salt/pot. Make sure the water isn’t too hot as your mucus membranes (lining of your nose and sinuses) are very sensitive! Use the Neti Pot 2x/day and make sure to irrigate each nostril every time you use it. I tend to split the pot in half regardless of which side is plugged. Since nothing is being absorbed, you do not have to worry about any negative side effects to the baby or breast milk!
3. Bone broth- bone broth is a great addition to your infection fighting regime as it is full of immune-boosting minerals, contains collagen for skin health as well as anti-inflammatory amino acids. Making bone broth is easy and is a great way to completely use the body of an animal after cooking it. Next time you have a roast chicken, throw the carcass in a pot and make some bone broth then freeze it for the next time you’re feeling ill!
-Bonesàcan be beef, chicken, fish (grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised is best)
-Water (enough to cover bones)
-2 tbsp White or Apple Cider Vinegar
-Veggies of your choice (carrots, onion, turnips, or garlic are great options)
Place bones in a pot or a crockpot, add vinegar and water, and let the mixture sit for 30 mins so the vinegar can leach the mineral out of the bones. (If using raw bones then roast them in a roasting pan first for 30 mins to improve flavour and availability of nutrients)
Add the vegetables and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a low simmer, cover, and cook for 8-48hours. Cooking times are dependant on type of bone and are approximately: Fish: 8 hours, Chicken or poultry: 12-24 hours, Beef-48 hours (If you're not comfortable leaving the pot to simmer overnight, turn off the heat and let it sit overnight, then turn it back on and let simmer all day the next day.
Scoop off any frothy/foamy layer or impurities that develops on top for the first few hours. Organic animals will produce less of a layer than conventional.
Let the broth cool and strain it, making sure all marrow is knocked out of the marrow bones and into the broth.
Add sea salt to taste and drink the broth as is or store in fridge up to 5 to 7 days or freezer up to 6 months for use in soups or stews.
4. Fluids fluids fluids- we all hate to admit it BUT Mom was right-when you have a cold you need more fluids! Water is integral for all of your body’s processes and when you’re sick it is working in overdrive-therefore it needs MORE WATER! Dietitians of Canada recommends 9.5 cups if you’re pregnant and 12.5 if you’re breastfeeding on a regular day to remain hydrated. Aim for these numbers as a minimum when you're sick. Keep that water intriguing by squeezing a slice of lemon in a cup of warm water.
5. More fluids, different avenue- water is the best thing going when your sick and this not only includes drinking it but inhaling it as well. Inhaling steam helps to loosen and dilute mucus, making it easier to pass through your respiratory tract. Sleep with your humidifier on (doors closed to keep the steam in your room) or you can do a simple steam inhalation by:
Boil a cup of water
Pour it into a bowl
Put your head over the bowl and drape a towel over your head, locking in the steam
Sit there and breathe in the steam for 2 minutes or as long as needed
Do this 2x/day to loosen up that mucus and clear your nasal passages.
6. REST- I saved this for last because it is a no-brainer. When we are sick, most of our reserves need to go toward fighting the infection, which leaves you fatigued. It is like your body is forcing you to slow down to allow yourself a better chance at defeating the illness. The quicker you surrender and rest, the quicker your immune system can fight and clear the infection. As moms, we tend to push through when we are sick and feel the need to handle everything as if we were healthy. This will end up backfiring as if you do not rest, your body cannot fight efficiently and may prolong your illness. So I’ll just say it- YOU NEED TO REST MAMA. The house does not need to be spotless (realistically if you have children, your house won’t be clean until they move out-sorry but it’s the truth) and ask for help when you can. If you have family close by, ask someone to take your child(ren) while you have a nap, or ask your partner to do whatever chores you can’t get done. This is an important time to listen to your body and rest when you can. You are still an amazing mother even if you need to take a rest instead of washing all of the laundry <3.
These are all lifestyle hacks to help you fight a cold whether you are pregnant, breastfeeding or just do not want to take anything for it! Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor if you’re looking for supplements or herbs that can help you fight illness while pregnant and or breastfeeding.
The advice in this article is for informational purposes only NOT to replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
Dietitians of Canada. “Guidelines for Staying Hydrated”. https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Water/Why-is-water-so-important-for-my-body---Know-when-.aspx