It’s that time again… the kids are back in school! For many parents, this time of year brings a mixture of relief and dread. There is relief in no longer having to keep your child occupied all day. There is dread in knowing that you have officially entered the “germs” season. You and your family can now look forward to bouncing from one illness to another as if you were playing a game of viral hopscotch! Not to worry, here are some steps you can take to keep your family healthy this year.
- Eat A Healthy Diet. I know this one seems obvious, but as a real foodie, I just can’t help saying it. Eating a diet full of processed foods weakens our digestion and creates more inflammation. More inflammation means it’s harder for our bodies to fight off viral and bacterial infections. Sugar is particularly detrimental to a healthy immune system.
- Relax and get plenty of sleep. More stress and less sleep mean our bodies are bombarded with cortisol and adrenaline. When these hormones are elevated, our immune response is decreased.
- Stock up on Vitamin D. Research just keeps finding more benefits to the sunshine vitamin. With the increased use of sunscreen as well as increased time indoors, many of us are deficient in this essential nutrient. Simply put, this vitamin helps our bodies fight infections. A research study in Japan showed that children who took 1000 IU of vitamin D a day were forty percent less likely to get the flu.
- Heal your gut with probiotics. The good bacteria that live in our gut are an integral part of staying healthy. They help our bodies absorb nutrients, keep our intestinal lining intact, and support a healthy immune system. In fact, 80% of our immune system is located in our intestines. Due to poor diet and frequent antibiotic use, many kids are lacking in good bacteria. Food sources of probiotics include: kefir, yogurt, kombucha tea, and lacto-fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut. If your diet is low in probiotic food, try a supplement. Look for a probiotic with multiple strains of good bacteria. For toddlers and children, I typically recommend a dose of 10-20 million CFU.
- Get antiviral with elderberry syrup. Elderberry syrup is my favorite herbal remedy for children. Why? Because they actually like taking it! Elderberries are rich in vitamins A and C. They are full of antioxidants and increase the body’s immune activity. Research has shown elderberry to lessen the severity as well as the length of the flu. It also can reduce mucus and swelling in the upper respiratory tract. I recommend the brand Gaia Black Elderberry Syrup.
- And, my favorite: give acupuncture a try! Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can strengthen our immunity. Acupuncture has a regulating effect on the immune system and decreases inflammation in the body. Chinese herbal remedies have antimicrobial properties to kill germs and at the same time can build up our bodies’ natural defenses. When you see the first signs of a cold, a visit to your acupuncturist can keep it from developing into something more serious like bronchitis or a sinus infection. For kids who may be wary of needles, there are other techniques available.