How to Boost Kids’ Immunity Naturally
Does cold and wet weather affect kids’ immunity?
At our Perth clinic we definitely see more cases of colds and flu in the cold, wet winter months. They respond well to natural treatment. As well, there is a lot you can do at home to ensure your child’s immunity is adequate to the winter challenge.
This article will include tips on natural ways to boost your child’s health. Also it will outline how our naturopathic and homeopathic treatment can help in two ways. It can deal quickly with acute infections, often replacing the need for antibiotics and preventing secondary infections. At the same time, it also help with the recurring tendency to these infections. In this way, it boosts general immunity and future resistance.
It is a controversial topic. Recently, we had a client, a mother whose child was sent out with the class to play in the cold and wet without raincoats. The child, who is prone to asthma, got sick. The teacher said that the idea that cold weather causes colds is a myth. When she complained, the principal supported the teacher. The mother was understandably upset. Everyone thinks they’re an expert on this, but we know what we see at our clinic.
While it is true that the cold itself is not the culprit, some studies have shown that sudden changes in temperature can affect the body’s immune system. Rhinoviruses, the cause of the common cold, peak at change of season. Influenza viruses flourish in winter. Being outside in cold weather inhibits the ability of mucus and nasal hairs to work disease agents out of your nose.
The child is more likely to be exposed to viruses when you get back inside the warm classroom. Heating in the room dries out the clothes and the respiratory membranes, making them more susceptible. All things considered, it is obvious that respiratory infections are more prevalent in winter. Plus stresses on the body from change of temperature – either way – are more common at that time.
Other pages relevant to this article include: Naturopathic and homeopathic treatment of children, of babies and infants, coughs and bronchitis, colds and flu, tonsillitis, ear infections and glue ear, natural winter remedies for kids’ coughs and colds and asthma.
Foods and Diet to Boost Kids’ Immunity
Diet and healthy foods are vital to maintain the integrity of the immune system. Fruits and vegetables are the most important, as they contain antioxidants, which protect immunity. That means the brightly coloured vegetables and fruits – yellow, red, orange and green – especially leafy greens. You should encourage your kids to “eat a rainbow” every day.
Fermented foods in particular have immune boosting properties. Studies show that kimchi, the fermented Korean cabbage, is very beneficial. It is the same with miso soup. Here you need to get the unpasteurised form, which preserves the probiotic culture. Natural, unheated sauerkraut pickles, apple cider vinegar, kombucha and unsweetened full fat yoghurt are also useful.
Mushrooms are potent immune boosters. They are anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Some of the more exotic varieties such as reishi, cordyceps and shiitake have been more studied, but it appears that even the common button mushroom has some benefit for immunity. Portabella mushrooms are the best among the commonly available cheaper varieties.
It is very important for the child to avoid sugar. Studies show lowered immunity within thirty minutes of eating simple sugar. This results in a fifty percent reduction in your white blood cells’ abilities to kill bacteria and viruses. The effect is strongest two hours after eating sugar, but this is still present after five hours. This is one reason why your child always seems to get sick after birthday parties with lots of cake, juice and soft drinks. On the other hand, keeping blood sugar levels stable through a balanced diet has been shown to improve immune system activity.
Other factors may seem common sense, but are often forgotten. Lack of sleep and exercise impair immune function. However, too much of both can have the opposite effect. Stress also makes us more susceptible to illness. It lowers our white blood cells’ ability to kill germs, and creates more inflammation that may make us feel even sicker. A healthy diet and naturopathic and homeopathic treatment at this clinic can help balance the person on the mental and emotional level and improve our response to stress.
Nutritional Supplements for Kids’ Immunity
While a balanced, healthy diet will supply most of the nutrients necessary for a child’s immunity, sometimes supplementation will be useful. This is especially the case with kids who are fussy eaters. Here are the most important vitamins, mineral and other natural supplements for children’s immune systems.
Probiotics. As mentioned above, beneficial bacteria are important for immunity. Kids are not always fond of fermented foods. So capsules, that may be mixed with other foods, can be useful. Studies show that children who took a probiotic with a specific combination of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium daily throughout the cold and flu season had a marked reduction in fever and upper respiratory tract infections.
Zinc. The mineral zinc is important for immunity. It is responsible for the health of white blood cells or leucocytes, the body’s main defence against germs. Nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds, are a good source, but supplementation, especially during infection with a cold or flu can shorten the duration. We can advise on the specific form and dosage for your child.
Vitamin C. While studies on the benefits of vitamin C in preventing and shortening colds has shown mixed results, we have found it beneficial if used in conjunction with bioflavonoids, the natural co-factors, and zinc. We can determine the dosage for your child based on their history.
Vitamin D3. This is a very important vitamin for immunity that is often lacking in the winter months. Even more so because of our paranoia about sun exposure and use of sunscreen.
Herbs for Kids’ Immunity
There are many herbs that are useful for boosting the immune system. Not all are relevant for children due to their taste. In general we prefer homeopathy for kids, as it is more easy to take as well as more balancing and healing. However, we will mention some that are particularly relevant.
Elderberry. This is very useful for colds and flu with fever, sinus problems and cough. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that elderberry can be used as a safe treatment for influenza A and B. It has large amounts of quercetin, an antioxidant with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects.
Astragalus. This is another antiviral herb. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Scientific studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it may help prevent the common cold or flu.
Olive leaf. Olive leaf extract is a traditional herb that is used to reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms. It contains some of the most powerful antioxidants known, including oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. Antioxidants help to stabilise the free radicals that form naturally in our bodies. They support all aspects of health, including the immune system.
Homeopathy for Children’s Immunity
Homeopathy is our treatment of choice for kids with immune problems. See our page Homeopathy Explained for further explanation of the principles. The most important aspect is that it works by stimulating all aspects of the body, if correctly chosen for the patient’s spectrum of symptoms on all levels: mental. emotional and physical. In this way it promotes health of the whole person and the immune system especially.
There are two aspects to treatment with homeopathy for immunity issues. The most important is what we call “constitutional treatment”. This means that we choose a remedy that treats all aspects of a patient. We know that stress has a major impact on the immune system, so the fact that homeopathy balances the emotions and the stress response of the person is important. It is thought that one way that homeopathy works is through the immune system. But it goes to the heart of the body’s healing response, which is far more than that.
The second aspect is that, for children as for adults, we can also choose remedies that can treat the acute illness itself. These homeopathic medicines must also be individual and suit the unique pattern of disease in that patient. They can work quickly, without side effects, and reduce or eliminate the need for antibiotics. We educate our patient’s parents to choose the correct medicine for the particular pattern of symptoms in each case.
Typical “acute” homeopathic remedies for colds are Aconite, Allium cepa, Arsenicum album, Euphrasia, Oscillococcinum, Pulsatilla, Kali bichromicum and others. For sore throats, Hepar sulphuris, Belladonna, Mercurius cyanatus, Phttolacca, etcetera. For coughs, Ipecacuanha, Antimonium tartaricum, Drosera and Carbo vegetabilis to name a few. Each remedy covers a different pattern of symptoms, so the choice must be individual.
Homeopathy and Naturopathy for Kids at our Perth Clinic
The focus of this article has been on empowering you to take care of your children’s health and immunity. However, serious and recurring issues need professional, holistic help. Anything that you find out by Googling “What’s the best natural treatment for (insert condition)?” will not give you individual advice for your child that will cure their chronic condition for good. It may well help you manage a one-off acute issue, but that’s all.
That is where Cottesloe Naturopathic Clinic can help. We deal with a wide range of recurring chronic conditions with naturopathic treatment and homeopathy: asthma, tonsillitis, bronchitis and coughs, recurring colds and flu, ear infections and glue ear and other miscellaneous children’s problems and those of babies and infants. As always, the focus is not just on manage the acute episodes but on restoring true health.Back TO Blogs