How to Boost your child's immunity and prevent illness

Boosting Your Child’s Immune System: Preventing illness

Prevention is one of the six principles of naturopathic medicine, and it’s a powerful one. It requires a bit of organization and a proactive mentality on our part, but if we can prevent an illness from happening, life becomes just that much easier down the road. Future you will thank the present you. Some of these practices may seem like common sense, but I cannot stress enough their importance.

This is a guest contribution from Dr Kira Lewis. Please see the medical disclaimer at the bottom. This post is entirely informational and consults with your health care provider.  

Boosting Your Child’s Immune System

  • Hygiene:
    • Proper hand washing. When your little ones are old and big enough to do this on their own, take the time to educate them on how to and why they wash their hands to help solidify the practice. Also, make sure those little copycats see you washing your hands too to reinforce the habit.
    • Coughing or sneezing into their elbow crease or a tissue. I know, sometimes sneezes sneak up on you and it’s hard to catch them in your elbow crease, but if you can set the intention for your child to catch their coughs or sneezing, you’ll help them prevent the spread of germs. Again, similar to the handwashing, try your best to educate them on why and how germs spread, because the more they understand about the process and are interested in it, the more they can try and help control and prevent the spread of germs!  

 

  • Probiotics.
    • Even though it is located on the inside of the body, the digestive tract has the potential to come in contact with external pathogens. This is why you want to prepare the digestive system defenses best you can, and a front-runner for this line of defense is the bacteria that live inside the digestive system. A probiotic is ensuring that there is a good number of healthy beneficial bacteria present at this level of your bodies defense. If the good guys are settled and colonized there, it leaves little room for the bad guys to take root. If your digestive system is happy and healthy, it allows the body’s immune resources to be allocated to other systems that may be fighting off infection during this cold and flu season.

Some probiotic rich foods are:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Miso
  • Kombucha

For this list of foods, I would recommend organic, minimal additives and minimal sugar is best!

 

  • Vitamin D
    • More and more research is coming out with respect to the importance of Vitamin D and a healthy immune system. A deficiency in vitamin D has been linked with an increased likelihood of contracting an infection. We ingest a form of Vitamin D in our diet, however it requires activation in our skin by UV B rays from the sun. This proves slightly problematic living in northern British Columbia heading into the winter, where our sun exposure during the day is minimal. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) of Canada say that 400-800 IU of Vitamin D supplementation is appropriate. However, I would suggest talking to your healthcare provider to make sure your child is getting an appropriate dose for their individual requirements, because no two immune systems are the same!

 

  • Minimize Sugar
    • And when I say sugar, I don’t just mean the white stuff you add to the cookies you bake for your little ones. Sugar in this case means ALL processed carbohydrates or in other words “simple” carbohydrates. Yes, the body does need carbohydrates as a form of energy, however there are much more nutrient dense and wholesome foods for your little ones to eat, packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants their bodies require to help fend off infection. For example, swapping out a package of animal crackers (simple carbohydrate) for a homemade granola bar – or if time doesn’t allow to make homemade granola bars, (confession: I know I set intentions to make homemade snacks and more times than not, it doesn’t happen), at least a store-bought snack that is natural and packed full of nutrients, healthy fats and proteins. Also, it is important to avoid the artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame etc.) as these substitutes have a negative effect on the immune system hindering your child’s ability to fight off infection.

 

  • Herbal Medicine
    • Even after practicing proper hygiene, consuming probiotics, vitamin D supplementation and minimizing sugar in their diet and your child still is burdened by the seasonal cold or flu, my next approach to their immune health would be using botanical medicine. Botanical medicine is safe, effective and a natural option to give your child’s body that extra bit of support it may need to fight off and clear out that infection. The dosing and combination of herbs is individualized to the illness and other contributing factors that may be presenting in your child’s case, so I would recommend connecting with your friendly local naturopathic doctor to make sure that botanical medicine would be an appropriate next step. Some safe and effective immune herbs I like to use are:
      • Echinacea spp. (I would recommend a glycerite syrup so it tastes better!)
      • Sambucus nigra (Elderberry syrup)
      • Gycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice)
    • However, I would like to stress that before visiting your health foods store and picking up a herbal supplement for your child, to have a visit with your family doctor or naturopathic doctor so we can make sure that we don’t miss a more serious diagnosis that requires a more aggressive and targeted treatment.
  • I hope you find those five tips handy, and that you can start to implement them, so you and your family can have a healthful winter season!

 

In Health,

Dr. Kira Lewis, N.D.

 

Dr. Kira Lewis is a naturopath doctor in Prince George, BC. To learn more about her practice check her out website, and find her on Instagram for inspriation for a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to Boost your child's immunity and prevent illness

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