We think of winter as influenza and cold season. There are easy, natural ways to bolster your children’s immune systems to avoid or shorten the length of these viral illnesses. Some of these methods are common sense and others are natural remedies that I have come to rely on.
The 6 best ways to boost immunity:
- Healthy Eating: Eating a healthy, whole foods diet is one of the most important ways to stay healthy all year round. It is important to avoid sugar, which suppresses the immune system, and all artificial sweeteners, flavorings and colorings. Try to focus on fresh (organic as much as possible) vegetables, whole fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes. Soup is a wonderful, healthy, warm meal for winter. Rebecca Katz has a recipe that I like called ‘Magic Mineral Broth’. I like to add an ounce or so of dried astragalus root slices and shitake mushrooms to the broth to boost it’s immune-building capacity.
Healthy Microbiome: Nurturing your children’s gut microbiome will promote resistance to illness. The ‘good’ bacteria in the gut protect from invading viruses and bacteria and are in communication with the body’s nervous and immune systems. Read more about the gut microbiome in our recent blog post. Consider adding a small amount of fermented food like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, or miso to your diet. You can buy cultures to make your own fermented foods at www.culturesforhealth.com. A good book is "The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World".
- Sleep: Disruption of the circadian rhythm and sleep deprivation have been linked to a weakened immune system. Develop a consistent bedtime routine that your children can count on. A warm bath, reading, listening to calming music and/or short mindfulness exercises can be helpful for falling asleep.
- Stress Reduction: Managing stress is a very important factor in reducing illness. Maintaining strong social support and community is healing in many ways and is as important as a healthy diet and sleep. Children need down time for creative free play. Reducing screen time will lead to stress reduction and will encourage kids to become imaginative with play.
- Exercise and Playing Outside: Moderate daily exercise enhances our immune system. Quoting Richard Louv in ‘Last Child in the Woods’, ‘Yet, at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature-in positive ways. Several of these studies suggest that thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can even be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorders and other maladies. As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.’
- Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is indigenous in the northern hemisphere. Native Americans used elderberries to treat colds and fever. All parts of the plant have been used medicinally. The berries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants which enhance the immune system. In clinical studies, people taking elderberry syrup recovered from influenza earlier and had less severe symptoms. The dosing for influenza prophylaxis for under 12 years of age is 5 ml (1 tsp) once a day and 10 ml (2 tsp) for over 12 years of age. For influenza infections, start at the first sign of influenza. Give 5 ml four times a day for under 12 years and 10 ml four times a day for over 12 years.
- Andrographis reduces the severity and duration of viral infections. The extract is very bitter. I put 10-20 drops of the extract on a large spoon, then add elderberry syrup to make it more palatable.
- Astragalus is a very important herb in traditional Chinese medicine where it is commonly made into tea or simmered in soup. It strengthens the immune system and prevents upper respiratory infections. Buy organic dried herb and place in a tea bag for making tea or to simmer in soup.
- Echinacea stimulates immune fighting cells. Take 1-3 times a day for 48-72 hours at the start of a viral infection . It is not recommended to take every day.
- Mushrooms like shitake, maitake and reishi are known to enhance immune health. Mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, vitamin D and polysaccharides with immune boosting and antiviral activity. https://us.foursigmatic.com/
- Here is a lozenge that I like to take at the start of a cold or sore throat that has elderberry, vitamin C and zinc.
- Plenty of vitamin C
If you incorporate these methods in your life, you will notice an increase in health and vitality for yourselves and your children.