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Fending Off The Flu In Pregnancy: Flu Shot Or Vitamin D? Or Both?

Last week, I posted about whether to get the flu shot while pregnant. While the Centers for Disease Control are recommending the shot for all pregnant women, the holistic community is not entirely on board.

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time talking with nutritionists, doulas and midwives while on a childbirth education retreat. When I brought up the flu shot, there were mixed reactions. Some were fine with the flu shot, others talked about the option of a healthy diet rich in vitamin D as an alternative way to fend of illness. Once vitamin D was mentioned, everyone chimed in.

It seems that D is the new C, when it comes to trendy immune-boosting vitamins.

They couldn’t say enough good things about vitamin D in pregnancy. Deficiency of this crucial vitamin, which acts like a hormone, increases the risk of preecclampsia, preterm birth and other complications. According to the Mayo Clinic, good levels of vitamin D in pregnancy can impact your baby’s future health, reducing the risk of diabetes, asthma and schizophrenia.

There’s also a connection between vitamin D deficiency and increased chance of contracting a cold or the flu. Last year researchers at University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School found that people with vitamin D deficiency were 36 percent more likely to suffer respiratory infections than those with sufficient levels. The study included 19,000 participants.

One theory about why we tend to get fewer illnesses in the summer is that many of us have more vitamin D stores (from the sun) to help our immune systems. If you decide not to get the flu shot, you could go the holistic route: Family nutritionist Dawn Lerman has written up a list of tips for avoiding the flu and staying healthy during pregnancy. The list includes vitamins D, C and E, zinc.

Either way, it seems there’s no harm in shoring up on the vitamin D. The key, I’ve been told, is to get it via multiple sources: it’s found in wild salmon, eggs and fortified milk as well as cod liver oil and supplements. If you can get some (non-skin burning) time outside in the winter sun– especially if you have darker skin–that helps, too. Here’s to a sunny, healthy winter for all of us, vaccinated and otherwise.

photo: aresauburn™/flickr

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