I’m not going to tell you that there is a magic supplement or superfood that will make your child immune to colds and flus. But taking the time to support your child’s immune system will give your family a better chance of staying healthy.
Before I get into how to support your child’s immune system, let’s remember how winter colds and flus are spread. Colds and flus are caused by a virus that is spread through contact. Kids are notorious for picking their noses and coughing into their hands. Encouraging good hand washing and hygiene will go a long way in preventing illness in your household. And don’t go crazy with the antibacterial soaps as good old warm water and soap will do the trick.
1. REAL Food Diet:
Good nutrition is is the backbone to a healthy immune system. Kids that eat unhealthy diets are far more likely to get sick and tend to be sick longer than children who eat a diet of unprocessed, REAL food.
The first step is to eliminate processed food from your child’s diet. They are loaded with harmful chemicals and additives and offer no real nutritional value. Filling your child’s plate with nutrient-dense foods loaded with good quality fats , clean, pastured meats and dairy, and seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables will ensure that she/he is getting all the nutrients essential for a healthy immune system.
And skip the low fat and processed vegetable oils with kids. Kids need a healthy amount of SATURATED fats to thrive and grow.
2. Proper Sleep:
Ensuring that your little ones get enough sleep is an easy way to boost the immune system. Lack of sleep makes children (and adults) more susceptible to illness by reducing T-cells in the body. Without enough T-cells, your kids are more likely to catch viruses and have a hard time fighting them off once they are sick. Getting a good night’s rest allows the immune system to regenerate itself, making it more effective in fighting off illnesses.
All kids are different but here are some basic guidelines for sleep:
Newborns may need up to 16-18 hours of sleep a day
Toddlers require 12 to 13 hours
Preschoolers need about 10 hours
School-age kids need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night
Adolescents need about 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep per night.
3. Cod Liver Oil:
Cod Liver Oil is one of our family’s number one immune defense during the winter months. Did you know that over 50% of the US population is deficient in Vitamin D? Extra virgin cod liver oil contains 400-500 of Vitamin D3 per tsp – all naturally occurring.
Extra Virgin cod liver oil also is a good source of Vitamin A and the essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA), both of which supports the immune system.
4. Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is an essential component in the creation and function of “T-Cells” which protect your body against bacteria and disease. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of viral infections.
Adding a Vitamin D supplement to your child’s diet is an easy way to boost immunity. Dr. Mercola recommends a blood level of 50-70 ng/ml. Be sure that your health care provider is using the right test, which is measuring your Vitamin D3 levels, called 25(OH)D. And be sure that if you are giving a supplement that you are giving Vitamin D3 (not Vitamin D2), as Vitamin D3 is the type of vitamin D your body produces in response to sun exposure.
Dr. Mercola’s recommendations for daily dosage:
For children under five – 35 units per pound per day
For children 5-10 years old – 2,500 units per day
For adults – 5,000 units per day
5. Support The Gut:
Did you know that over 75% of the immune system stems from the gut? Everything we eat and drink passes through the gut along the gastrointestinal tract. The tube-like GI tract is embedded with millions of bacteria that live, grow, and metabolize (digesting and absorbing) in what’s considered a complex ecosystem comprised of both beneficial and harmful bacteria.
Imbalances within this ecosystem will impair the gut barrier and increase risk of developing disease. And having healthy and balanced gut bacteria has been linked to stronger immune function, better digestion, and fewer allergies.
Fermented foods are the easiest and most economical way to get good bacteria in the gut. Our families favorite fermented foods are Ginger Carrot Sauerkraut and Fermented Ginger Carrots. Other good fermented foods include kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and kimchi.
Probiotics are another way to support gut flora. Adding a probiotic supplement to your child’s diet will help boost the immune system and keep the digestion working properly.
And don’t forget about gelatin. A homemade bone broth is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your child. It is loaded with minerals and gut healing gelatin. Take some time to prepare real bone broth and add it to your weekly soups, stews, and sauces. A good quality gelatin from a grass fed source is a also a wonderful way to promote gut health.
6. Immune-enhancing Supplements
Essential Oils: Essential oils support the body’s natural defenses without harmful side effects. We use Thieves Oil (diluted in a bit of carrier oil) on the bottom of our feet every night during cold and flu season to support our immune system.
Essential oils should be used with caution on children under the age of 2. See THIS handy list for age-related precautions.
Elderberry Syrup: This antioxidant-rich elixir is a great antiviral, boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, and has been shown to shorten the duration of colds and flus. You can buy it already prepared or you can make it easily at home.
7. Get Them Moving:
The common trend of hours of media and screen time has created a culture of children who are not accustomed to moving their bodies. Keep your child active. Kid need to move, play, run, and jump. Regular exercise boosts the immune system by providing a boost to the cells in your body that are assigned to attack bacteria and viruses. So, just let your kid be a kid.