If you listened to the Podcast of Sunday the 22nd of March you can skip this one 🙂
Here’s a little link to it if you have half an hour to spare.
So we’re on Day 3 of the UK lockdown now and I’m slowly losing my mind, I’m sure you’re the same though so I thought I’d give you something to read 🙂
With this Covid-19 virus wreaking havoc I decided to do a podcast on the Post-natal immune system and then today, after editing some new exercise videos, I thought I’d also do a little blog about it for those of you who prefer to read…and the search engines 🙂
I used to just look at post-natal health from just the diet and exercise perspective, I am a personal trainer after all. And then I started training a client who was a black-belt in nutrition and the immune system. There wasn’t a book she hadn’t read and there wasn’t a question she didn’t know an answer to. The problem we had was that a lot of the books she was reading were not that scientific and some of the opinions or “facts” in those books sounded a little bit off to me. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the stuff she was reading and saying made complete sense but quite a bit of it just didn’t seem right to me. Of course, since my main focus was always “diet and exercise” (and diet mainly to do with general health and weightloss) we were just not discussing things on an equal level. So I had to look into things a little more and I was quite surprised at how little I actually knew!
So I’m going to assume you are roughly where I was and start with some basics; For the Doctors and Medical staff amongst you..look away now as I butcher and over-simplify things massively 🙂
I used to think it was mainly the gut, white bloodcells etc. but, as it turns out, it’s a fair bit more than that and that “the gut” isn’t even really part of it!
The immune system is made up of the following. I won’t go into too much detail on each but will link to each item’s Wiki page for those of you as nerdy as I am 🙂
The complement system (Yeah me neither)
For the purposes of Post-Natal health we’ll have a look at the adaptive part as that’s the interesting bit.
Part of what the immune system is supposed to do is prevent “foreign objects” from messing up your body. Obviously a foetus is “part foreign object” as it’s 50% someone else’s DNA. So to make sure you can grow little bambinos your immune system lowers it’s response a bit.
As an aside; At least this is the theory as nobody seems to REALLY know what’s happening. This is how ridiculously complex the human body, and it’s immune system, really is. It made me feel a lot better about my own ignorance when I found out that nobody had really cracked this yet.
The lowering of your immune response also means you’re more likely to get the flu which is why pregnant women are recommended to get the flu-jab. It is also why they are classed as “at-risk” during this whole Covid-19 epidemic.
And this is where the “fun” really begins.
From what I can find there isn’t a tremendous amount of solid research that has come up with any specific answers to this one yet. Even a statement like; “Healthy eating boosts your immune system” can not be backed up by a scientific study that shows by what % healthy eating actually “boosts” the immune system. Now obviously it makes sense that it does and I am not disputing that it does. I only highlight this to show just how tricky this all is.
We know that in recently post-partum women the hormonal balance takes a long time to “settle back down”. I have spoken many times about Prolactin, Relaxin etc. and we know that the hormonal balance takes a while to be restored post-natal. It makes sense that the immune-response levels also take a while to get back to Pre-natal levels. This article mentions it can take about 3-4 months. If we add to that new hormonal balance a lack of sleep, higher levels of stress etc. and it is likely to take a bit longer still. If you were to then add any dietary difficulties, lack of nutrients etc., you can see how even women who are 4-6 months post-partum might find their immune system not working as well as it did pre-natal.
When we are exercising we have to take this in to account. You’re not as robust as you were pre-natal and everything has to build up at a nice, controlled pace
I don’t like the term “boost” the immune system because a boosted immune system is not one that actually functions all that well. An immune system “boosted” above normal functioning levels leads to eczema, asthma, allergies, arthritis etc. A boosted immune system is not a good thing at all.
Actually, it could be.
It makes sense that a healthy life-style would help. I know I mentioned before that we can’t say for sure how much a healthy diet helps but you can rest assured that a nutritious diet will help your body function better. An engine runs better on quality fuel, right? A normal, nutritious diet is a big help. This is one of many reasons why I think focussing on weight-loss post-natal is soo ridiculous. You need to eat enough and make sure you get your nutrients in. There’s no need to go low-fat or low carb, just normal tasty, healthy food.
The same goes for exercise, a decent level of sleep and managing your stress-levels properly. I know this is easier said than done but I find that my clients who manage to get their daily 10 minute home routine in feel like they function a lot better.
Especially if you can combine this with some quiet time, which will then allow you to really focus on your exercise and on working the right muscles in a mindfull way. Mindful exercise, if you will. I also find that clients who don’t drink too much coffee, or alcohol, and who don’t eat too much sugar, including a carb-heavy diet, sleep better and have lower stress levels. Caffeine in large quantities is just not your friend, even though it sometimes feels like it’s the only thing keeping you awake 🙂
Something like this is outside of my scope of expertise. However, I can tell you that I cancelled face to face training with all my recently post-partum (up to 5 months) clients as soon as there was any talk of this becoming a problem in the UK. It just seemed to me to be the sensible approach to take. I know there was some chat about kids not being affected but my concern isn’t with the baby. My concern is, almost, solely with the mother. I don’t want my clients to get sick,especially not when they have enough on their plate. I try to be part of the solution, or at least not part of the problem, and I thought it’s better to be safe than sorry.
A lot of my clients, and some members here, are doctors, nurses and surgeons and if you have any comments or feedback, things that you’d like to clarify or would like me to amend please let me know. Just leave a comment below, on the forum or email Peter@healthypostnatalbody.com. If you’re bored and you’d like to write a post about any of this stuff PLEASE do so. I love input from real experts 🙂
And before I forget; remember you get 3 months FREE access during this whole Covid-19 thing by using coupon code 3 months
Here are some links to some other studies/papers that I quite “enjoyed” reading and that I found helped my understanding a lot
University of Delaware 2016
Ohio state uni November 6, 2018
Another study November 2007
Swansea university 2019
April Rees, Ben Jenkins, Catherine Thornton, Swansea University