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Pregnancy and Nutrition during COVID-19

By Emily Mbanga

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Ms Emily Mbanga, Public Health Nutritionist

Although there is no specific empirical evidence on specific dietary recommendations that can reduce risk of COVID 19 and associated mortality, having a healthy balanced diet combined with moderate physical activity, managing stress, and getting enough sleep are critical to keep our immune systems strong and withstand acute infections. No food or supplement, can protect you from getting the coronavirus (COVID-19). Nevertheless, having a healthy diet is important in supporting our immune function and many nutrients influence the body’s ability to fight infection. Having a healthy, varied diet is the best way to get all the nutrients that are important for your immune system, as well as all the other systems of the body.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that has reached pandemic status. While all population groups are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions are at the greatest risk as they pose more of a risk for the poor outcome in COVID-19. These underlying chronic illnesses include being overweight or obese, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, TB, HIV and asthma, among many others

The high rate of consumption of diets high in saturated fats, sugars, and refined carbohydrates contribute to the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and could place these populations at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 pathology and mortality. These types of diets activate the innate immune system and impairs adaptive immunity, leading to chronic inflammation and impaired host defense against viruses. Thus, now more than ever, wider access to healthy foods should be a top priority, and individuals should be mindful of healthy eating habits to reduce susceptibility to and long-term complications from COVID-19. Making a simple lifestyle change, being more mindful and changing behaviour can reduce these increased risks thus, changes in the diet can assist in healing — often times very quickly.

As the world is struggling with COVID 19 pandemic, it has become even more crucial to take care of the diet and well being of the pregnant woman. Eating a balanced and varied diet is very important for the pregnant woman and her unborn baby. During pregnancy it is also important to get adequate calories, exercise, plenty of sleep and to stay very hydrated. Right from washing vegetables thoroughly to cooking up a healthy meal, one needs to take extra precaution at this time of crisis. Social distancing and self- isolation, is causing some pregnant women to experience changes in their usual eating routines and at times may not able to follow usual patterns of exercise.

Adjusting to life during the Covid 19 pandemic may add to a difficult mix of emotions already being felt during pregnancy. Food can be a comfort and treat in the short term but it can lead to negative eating habits. Boredom, stress and loneliness can cause pregnant women to eat more foods than they actually need or want thus, it is also important to keep balance and moderation as much as possible. If a pregnant woman sticks to structure around eating at home such as a routine for snack time and for mealtimes this can help to maintain balance in the eating habits. Snacks can actually be made into ‘mini meals’ to ensure that they are balanced and nutrient rich.  Although junk food is tempting during this period, we don’t feel good when we eat it. Ideally pregnant women should eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Eating healthy can actually alleviate morning sickness and boost the immune system of the expecting mother. A balanced diet nurtures the overall development of the unborn child.

In conclusion, pregnant women should focus on eating better and feeling better because going for a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits can help in sailing through this phase.

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