For starters I am going to say this kids are going to get sick, no matter what you do, so drop the guilt factor about them getting sick. Their immune systems are fairly new to this world, so they are experiencing a lot of bugs for the first time. When their body encounters these bugs it is going to mount a response. Part of this response is the production of “memory cells” so that the next time their body sees this bug it will know how to fight it.
With that being said, it is not fun for anyone to have a sick child from Sept- April! There is plenty that can be done to help their immune system work as efficiently as possible
Immune Supporting Foods- food is key ingredient to how our immune system responds. In the Fall it is especially important to incorporate immune supporting foods
- Protein- Protein is vital to help the immune system form the “memory cells” it needs to effectively fight off viruses and bacteria. Good sources of protein for children include: meat, nuts, nut butters, seeds, legumes, beans. You can try adding sunflower or pumpkin seeds to a smoothie as a sneaky way to increase their protein intake.
- Vegetables- of a variety of colors (purple, green, red, orange). They contain different phytonutrients that help support the immune system. You can sneak some veggies into baked goods (zucchini, spinach). Another way to sneak veggies in is again via a smoothie (my favorite sneaking agent). Spinach can be added without altering the flavor of the smoothie.
- Ginger- Is a great anti-viral and can help with nausea. It’s not the easiest to get into most children, but you can add some to your elderberry syrup, or make a soup with that contains it like Carrot Ginger. This recipe is a favorite in my house! If your child likes warm drinks, you can also do a golden milk latte, and add a bit of extra honey, as a way to sneak some nice warming anti-viral herbs in.
- Garlic- Again, not most children’s favorite, but it is a great anti-viral. You can roast cloves of garlic to reduce the severity of the taste, and blend them into foods like soup or potatoes.
- Mushrooms- They are great for the immune system. Again if you child does not like them the easiest way may be via a soup
- Foods That are High in Zinc- Zinc is vitally important for the immune system. Foods that are high in zinc include: pumpkin seeds, beef, sunflower seeds, lentils, cashews and quinoa.
- Reduce Sugar- Sugar is well known to suppress the immune system. This means to prevent sickness it is best to not only remove sugary treats, but to also not give your child something that is carbohydrate rich without some protein or fat alongside.
- Sleep- Our immune system repairs and replenishes itself while we are sleeping. Try instituting an earlier bed time going into fall as their body is under more stress from the big fluctuations in the weather.
- Shower- Taking your child into the shower (or bringing them in the bathroom after your shower) allows the steam to help loosen any congestion that may be happening in their nose. A runny nose is one of nature’s ways of “getting the germs out” so doing a little steam inhalation with them can help to expedite the process
- Change Their Pillowcase Nightly- This one is fairly simple, but it has a big impact. By changing their pillowcase nightly, you remove any of the virus or bacteria that is living on there just waiting for a way back into your child while they sleep. Changing nightly is important when they are actively sick. The rest of the time it can be done once a week, unless there is a lot of sickness going around, then I would increase to changing it nightly. Stock up on some inexpensive pillow cases, so you are not having to do extra laundry to do this.
Supplements- Before supplementing your children you should always check with your doctor or naturopathic doctor. My favorites for the immune system are
- Vitamin D- Plays a critical role in immune system function. People who live in places where there is winter (i.e. Canada), cannot make Vitamin D via their skin from Nov-May because of the angle of the sun.
- Probiotics- The more we learn about the gut, the more we understand what an active role it plays in immune function. Along with taking probiotics, it is important that children get outside and play in the dirt to help support their immune systems.
- Elderberry Syrup- The elderberry is high in vitamin A, B and C as well as carotenoids. It can help reduce the duration and severity of colds and flus. If you make your own syrup, ginger is a great addition.
So there you have it, my top tips for preventing sickness in children. If you have a child who is already under the weather, you should check out my blog on the Top Cough and Cold Remedies for Children.
I talked a lot about how smoothies are an easy way to sneak in nutrients.
Here is one of my favorite immune supporting smoothie recipes for children
1 cup water
½ frozen strawberries
Handful of spinach
2 TBSP pumpkin seeds
¼ of a banana
Blend all ingredients and serve
If you have any questions, feel free to email me or comment below
Dr Alexis practices in Kanata, and is currently accepting new patients
Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended health benefits