Editor’s Note: While we are gearing our kids up for getting back to school, one thing that’s easy to overlook is getting their insides ready to go as well. The school year is what we refer to as the “Goo Season” around our house where the kiddo brings home everything that the classroom can hand her and then passes it around. While it’s nearly impossible to avoid all of the flu, colds and other things that come hand-in-hand with large groups of kids, you can give your kids and yourselves a leg up with immune system boosters that can shorten the length and severity of colds – even keep a few at bay. Comox Valley Naturopathic Doctor Amy Wells shared those with us last year. So, let’s do a little refresher course this morning to get our bodies and minds headed in a solid direction:
While autumn signifies the end of summer and our green leafy trees, it also denotes the beginning of school and fun activities for our kiddos. As I send my son off to gymnastics, story times and preschool groups, I can’t help but think that I’m setting him up for colds and flus galore. Short of quarantining him to his room for the next six months, the only thing to do is support his immune system.
Prevention is an important principle in naturopathic medicine and during cold and flu season, it rings especially true. The idea is to prepare the terrain with kids, so in the face of bacteria and viruses, the body is able to cope with them and restore balance.
This month I thought I’d put together my favorite 10 naturopathic treatments that can help our little ones muster through the season relatively unharmed.
1. Zinc: A vital mineral for enzymatic function, blood sugar metabolism, protein metabolism and DNA formation. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for immune function, hormonal regulation and healthy bones, skin and joints. Children that suffer from recurring ear infection, allergies or respiratory infections have an increased demand for zinc.
2. Coconut Oil: A solid at room temperature, coconut oil contains a high source of lauric acid (along with breastmilk) and is recognized for its strong antimicrobial and antifungal properties. This oil can be given to kids as a butter substitute, hidden in smoothies or enjoyed straight off the spoon.
3. Sugar free diets: A study concludes three ounces of sucrose at one sitting reduced the phagocytes ability to engulf bacteria and other invaders by 40%. The effect started within 30 minutes of ingestion and lasted five hours. During a time when bacteria and viruses are flying about, we want our immune systems on guard, not on siesta!
4. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): This herb is very kid friendly since it is easily prepared in a syrup form rather then an alcohol based tincture, and has a more pleasant taste (albeit a little tart!) Extract inhibits influenza virus replication in 10 strains of the virus in vitro, and enhances inflammatory and anti inflammatory cyctokines in human cells.
5. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is produced in our body with the help of sunshine, but its suggested now that we supplement, especially in the long dark winter months. In one study, the Vitamin D dose for children equivalent to the 4000IU adult dose completely prevented all respiratory infections over a winter in a group of children who had experienced three or more infections the previous year.
6. Homeopathic Influenzinum & Oscillococcinum: This remedy can be taken prophylactically or at the onset of cold or flu symptoms and is very safe and easily taken by children. This remedy decreases duration and severity of influenza infections without side effects.
7. Probiotics: These friendly bacteria have the ability to favorably impact local gastrointestinal tract ecology, thereby promoting health. The most studied include Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. sporogenes, Bifidobacterium bifidus and Saccharomyces boulardii.
Probiotics act in numerous ways that benefit human health. They inhibit colonization of pathogens in the intestinal tract, degrade toxins, stimulate local and peripheral immunity, promote enzyme activity, and produce antimicrobial substances. Because of these multi functions, it is highly unlikely that pathogens will develop resistance to probiotics. Probiotics are considered safe and well tolerated, making it a great supplement for kids.
8. Fish oils: Fish oils are a source of omega 3 fatty acids, in particular eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Along with its immune boosting effects, fish oils also provide a source of Vitamin A and Vitamin D, which have their own immune benefits. When choosing a fish oil supplement, ensure that the product uses an extraction that is purified by a process that removes heavy metals, and environmental toxins such as dioxins and PCBs.
9. Arabinogalactan: This is a long chain polysaccharide powder derived from the larch tree Larix occidentalis. Arabinogalactan is an excellent source of fiber that is able to increase the production of butyrate in the bowel which acts as a protectant against intestinal disease.
Arabinogalactan increases levels of benefical intestinal microbes, such as Bifidobacterium longum and enhances immune response to bacterial infection by stimulating phagocyctosis. It’s been particularly useful in decreasing occurrence and severity of otitis media in children supplemented with it prophylactically. This powder has a mild taste and is easily mixed into water and juice for our little ones with few side effects and no toxicity levels.
10. Astragalus: This herb is commonly used in Traditional Chinese medicine for its immunomodulating activity. This herb has the ability to enhance natural killer cells and increase white blood cell immune activity. Although, not the most pleasant tasting herb, it has amazing healing properties for recurring infections.
Children respond amazingly to naturopathic medicine. With so much attention on flu pandemics, we as parents have a responsibility to our children to protect them to our best ability. With a little help, we’ll see you on the other side of winter with stronger immunity!
© Dr. Amy Wells, Naturopathic Physician