As a Nutritional Consultant that works with families, I often work with parents that are looking to strengthen their own immune system as well as those of their children. Cold and flu season can hit hard some years and then we move right into allergy season. I know in my family when my children are sick they don’t sleep and then I don’t sleep and it can be a downward spiral for us all! I’m sure many can relate to that. So we work hard to boost immunity to the benefit of the whole family.
Many potential pathogens can enter our bodies through our food, so it make sense that 70-80% of our immune system is located in the digestive tract. Making sure we have a diversified amount of healthy bacteria is the base of our body’s defense. This is especially important if you or your children have recently taken antibiotics or if they have taken several rounds already. A daily dose of high quality probiotics can make a huge improvement in immune function. I personally like Biocult Probiotics as I think they are received well by many. The capsules can be broken open and taken with food for smaller children.
Vitamins A and D
These vitamins are crucial components of our immune system and work on many different levels to fight infections. New research shows how they specifically support the immune system in our gut. A daily dose of cod liver oil will include both vitamins A and D and traditionally many mothers gave their children daily doses to ward off illness! Other ways to get these vitamins include:
Vitamin A can be found in liver from any animal, pastured butter, egg yolks (more if chickens were on pasture), cream from grass fed cows, and cod liver oil. There are many other sources of pro-vitamin A (squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.) and these are wonderfully nutritious foods. However, it is difficult to convert even a small percentage of these foods into the active form of vitamin A so if our dietary preferences are such that we eat animal products, I highly suggest getting Vitamin A from the above sources.
Getting Vitamin D from sun exposure is wonderful but this time of year it can be challenging. Great food sources are: pastured eggs, grass fed milk or dairy products, liver, wild salmon, and sardines.
Another incredible member of our defense team is Vitamin C. This vitamin gets depleted quickly when our body is fighting illness so it becomes extra important to get while we are sick. We can get it in all sorts of foods such as: cantaloupe, citrus fruits, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, and mango (and also liver). I think taking a powdered form of vitamin C from acerola or camu can be a wonderful addition to the vitamin c we get through food. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and any excess will be carried out of the body safely. Too much vitamin c can cause loose bowels so it should always be taken to “bowel tolerance” and this amount is different for everyone.
Elderberry Syrup (with local honey)
Elderberry syrup with honey can be a wonderful immune boosting tool for the toolbox. Elderberries are full of vitamin C and elderberry syrup has been shown to boost immunity. If you use local honey in the recipe then you are also getting the immune boosting properties of the honey too. Honey should not be given to babies under one year. Here is a great link to an elderberry syrup tutorial by Mommypotamus.
A spoonful of honey has also been shown to help us all sleep better which is why I give it to my kids before bed!
I know first hand how challenging it can be to keep sugar to a minimum! While we really don’t consume sugar in our home, it is difficult to avoid since it seems such an integral part of our society. Keeping vigilant about limiting sugar intake for my kids takes up SO MUCH of my time but I do it because the research is very clear that ingesting sugar impairs the body’s white blood cell’s ability to kill germs for several hours. There are many other reasons to avoid sugar but we’ll just stick to that one reason right now. We try to focus on treats sweetened with maple syrup or honey. My next post will expand more on this subject since it’s such a big one!
I hope you all stay healthy!