Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pump Up the Immunity

This time of year we are always keeping our ears open for ways to boost our immune systems and help prevent the cold and flu bugs floating around.  Especially with little people who are around other little people, who are around other little people, who are around other little get the idea.  Daycares, nurseries, libraries, museums...all those places seem to be breeding grounds for germs that turn into some pretty nasty results.

Now I by no means claim to have all this figured out but these are  some things that seem to work for our family at this point in our journey.  It's like most choices you make for your kiddos.  Do your research and find out what works for you and your family.  I want to simply share some things we've learned along the way that have seemed to work well for us and helping our kiddos reduce the amount of bugs they catch.  I think we can all agree that it's good for kiddos to get some bugs to build their immune system but when they are constantly sick that wears everyone out and can be overwhelming.

This is our winter time prevention list. I've added additional links to some categories if your interested in going deeper into that particular area.  I wanted to give you some ideas to navigate through but didn't want to overwhelm you with to much info.  Take a peek through the list and see if anything might be a good addition to you or your family's lifestyle.  By all means if you have a favorite prevention prescription please leave a comment and share.  Cheers to a healthy, happy winter!

1) Friends don't let friends eat processed foods .  Eliminate as much processed food as possible.  Why you ask? Well because processed foods contain so much "non-real food".  Additives, preservatives, food dyes, sugar, salt, and on and on.  Now this includes what I like to call "Health Store Junk Food."  Just because it's at the health food store doesn't qualify it as healthy or wholesome.  Just because it's Vegan, Vegetarian, Dairy-Free, or Gluten-Free doesn't qualify it as healthy or nutritious.  Read labels. Even in the health food store.  When processed food is being consumed it often limits the amount of whole foods being consumed.  By eliminating as much processed food as possible, it becomes easier to incorporate more vegetables and fruits.  Now I don't like to say never so that's not what I'm saying here. I know sometimes these things are just easy and sometimes we need easy, but as much as possible get them out of the normal day to day routine.

2)Veggies. Increase the amount of vegetables in the diet.  Whether your vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free doesn't necessarily matter.  Have vegetables as the main focus of the meal, and then other foods secondary. Vegetables contain amazing amounts of antioxidants and other healing properties.  Find recipes that incorporate lots of veggies in meals.  Let food be thy medicine. That medicine is found in fresh vegetables and fruits.

3)Say NO to Sugar.  Eliminate as much sugar as possible, especially refined sugars.  Refined sugar is the most toxic but also staying away from other forms of sugar as much as possible (organic sugar, evaporated cane juice, etc,).  Sugar is sugar is sugar.   This goes along with the first suggestion of reducing or eliminating processed foods.  Start paying attention to labels and how much sugar is in processed foods.  I think you'll be amazed.  Spaghetti sauce, ketchup, juices, granola bars, crackers, pre-packaged dinners.  Sugar weakens and suppresses the immune system making a person much more susceptible to a nasty bug that may be floating around. The surprising thing is that it doesn't take much sugar at all to cause the immune system to be temporarily impaired.  Not only that, but sugar affects the gut, which is the powerhouse of the immune system.  Experiment with sweetening things with whole foods like dates, figs, bananas, avocados, applesauce, pears, and other sweet fruits and veggies.  Adding more of these naturally sweet whole foods can help decrease the cravings for more processed, sugar laden foods. 

4) Eliminate/Reduce Dairy. This is a personal one that has made a world of difference in my life.  It might be worth exploring if you or your little one is constantly battling colds, congestion, or even ear infections.  I removed dairy.  Viola' my seemingly constant congestion disappeared.  I tend to avoid foods with dairy in it all costs, but if I happen to have something containing dairy, without fail the next day I wake up feeling as though I have a cold.  It took months of experimenting with this long ago before I realized that dairy and my body don't get along.   Dairy for lots of people creates excess mucus in the body, which isn't a good thing if your trying to fight an infection.  Some argue that this isn't true but I know for myself it is true.  Dairy causes cold like symptoms for me.  There's no question in my mind.  It's one of the big allergens a lot of doctors and natural health care providers will encourage parents to remove from the diets of babes with reoccuring ear infections.  Also it is a big one that is being advised to be removed from nursing mamas diets, if their babies are "colicky" or battling colds and/or frequent ear infections.  It may or may not work for you or you kiddos but it's good to pay attention to rhythms and symptoms and notice, or even try eliminating for a time and see if symptoms improve. 

5)Greens & Greens. Greens are constantly raved about in their ability to prevent disease and create overall health and well-being.   Increase the amount of leafy greens your family eats. Choose from broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choy, spinach, or collards.  Whatever you or your kiddos will eat. Even adding leafy green herbs like parsley or cilantro.  Green veggies are on the most alkaline foods, and raising the body's PH to be more alkaline is one of the best ways to boost immunity.  Green smoothies are a great way to do this.  Combine some greens and berries and you've got yourself and "super food" smoothie! 

6)Probiotics.  Probiotics are healthy bacteria found in supplements and certain foods that help create a healthy gut.  Cultured milk products (yogurt, kefir) are the most popular source of probiotics found in whole food sources.  However, if your staying away from milk products this can pose a challenge.  Also a lot of these mainstream brand contains heaps of sugar which as we discussed above stuns or impairs the immune system, making it not as effective at fighting illness.  There are non-dairy versions of these foods but they can get expensive.  I will occasionally buy coconut milk kefir or a non-dairy yogurt but I don't do it often because those things get real expensive and I find we can get the probiotics in other, more cost effective ways.  Kombucha is also a good source of probiotics.  We've found all of us do really well taking a probiotic supplement.  If the gut isn't healthy, it's hard for the whole body to be healthy.

7) Garlic.  Add fresh garlic to meals.  Garlic has long be revered for it's antibacterial and antiviral properties. My husband and I love garlic.  The more the better in our view.  My girls don't always feel the same way so I try to be mindful to get some in their food without overdosing it to the point that they won't eat it.  Cooking garlic lessens the intensity of the flavor and roasted garlic is amazing, which can be helpful in getting little ones to eat their garlic.  Garlic can be chopped or minced and added to soups, stews, stir-frys, casseroles, pizzas, hummus, dips...

8) Vitamin D3.  The "sunshine" vitamin.  Now I'm not normally a vitamin and supplement kind of girl but the more I've read the more I feel good about adding this to our routine. Pediatricians, Chiropractors, and Naturopaths have told me that this is an important vitamin to add. It's not often all these health care providers agree on something so when they do I take note.  No matter how much we get out in the winter we'd never get the amount of Vitamin D that our body needs.  Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and also has been found to help increase immunity. This is why it's added to our routine. 

9) Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is well-known for it's help in supporting immune function.  Vitamin C is readily available in whole foods. Dr. Weil has good sources of Vitamin C listed as:  Apples, asparagus, berries, broccoli, cabbage, melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), cauliflower, citrus fruits (lemons, oranges), kiwi, fortified foods (breads, grains, cereal), dark leafy greens (kale, spinach), peppers (especially red bell peppers,which have among the highest per-serving vitamin C content), potatoes, and tomatoes.  We eat a variety of these foods but have found during the winter months a little extra boost of vitamin C is quite helpful for all of us.  I found a sugar free, orange flavored brand that I am happy with and that my girls beg me for each morning.  I don't do these all year but during the winter I give them to my girls daily. 

10) Kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented tea that has long been acclaimed for it's health benefits, including immune boosting because of the amount of probiotics it contains. I honestly swear by this stuff for our little family.  This is where I head at the first sign of a cold coming on, but also drink it a few times a week as a preventive.  My girls LOVE kombucha, which is so funny to me but I embrace it, and it does wonders on helping them fight things off and just keeps their digestion healthy and well.  We brew our own at home, which is way more cost effective.  There are lots of websites and info on starting your own kombucha brew. 

11) Sleep.  It's so vital to a healthy well-being.  I'm not always the best at being disciplined in this area but I am working on being more intentional with going to bed earlier.  I always notice the difference when I'm taking care of myself in this way.  Same goes for kiddos.  Sleep is crucial.  Rest is crucial.  It's so easy to get caught up in the cycle of constantly going and doing but that exhausts everyone and makes everyone much more susceptible to getting sick.  Creating space for rest is so important in maintaining a healthy immune system.  I'm sure we can agree that we all have been in a place of having been overly exhausted for whatever reason and then catching a bug of some sort. 

12) Humidifiers.  Our house gets really dry and we've found that a humidifier in each of our bedrooms helps tremendously.  I like to add a few drops of eucalptyus essential oil to each of the humidifiers, which helps keep our sinuses open.  This is also fabulous if for a little one that is struggling with a cough or lots of congestion that seems to be more aggravating at night time. 

13) Netti Pot.  Also referred to as nasal irrigation.   The nasal passages are lined with a layer of mucus.  This mucus is the bodies first defense in preventing illnesses.  If the mucus becomes too thick and dry or too thin and runny, it is easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate the nasal lining and cause the swelling and excess discharge of mucus we call a “cold.”  While a Netti Pot isn't for a little one saline drops in the spray or drop bottles come in handy for little noses.

14) Tea.  We've been drinking more tea, my girls included.  They think it's fun to have a warm cup of tea with mom and/or dad.  I've been learning a little bit about the benefits of different varieties and am so intrigued and hoping to learn more.  We've been buying loose leaf teas and creating our own concoctions.  I'm amazed at the healing benefits and antioxidant values of so many of the teas.  This is an area I've just really started to explore deeper in the past year.  At this point we've played around with loose leaf rooibos and herbals teas (I think this is important to note because while other teas have a lot of benefits, I personally don't want my kiddos having the caffeine component of those teas.  My girls have enough energy as is!) Check out the benefits of teas with nettles, echincea, alfalfa, elderberry, and how they affect or boost immunity.  I've had fun buying loose leaf teas and making my own tea blends.  If your in the Grand Rapids area Global Infusion has an amazing variety of tasty, loose leaf teat.

16) Turmeric.  Turmeric has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine for healing inflammation. I've heard it referred to as nature's perfect antibiotic.  It's long been recognized for it's antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which  comes in handy when your fighting off a cold or flu bug.  This makes it a fabulous spice to include in your meals on a regular basis to prevent those nasty bugs from ever developing into something.  Why not flavor your dinner while adding a dose of prevention to your life.  At the first sign of a cold, I make a paste of raw, local honey and turmeric and give that to my girls.  Because the honey is so sweet they take it very willingly.  This is an Ayurvedic theory that I've found to be very effective.  (Obviously this isn't helpful unless the babe is old enough to have been introduced to honey). 

15) Elderberry.   The flowers and fruit of this shrub have a long history of use for treating colds and flu.  They are said to be especially good for respiratory ailments by helping to reduce the inflammation, which is beneficial when battling coughs and colds.  Elderberry is making a name for itself in our country in the past few years making appearances in cough syrups, tea blends, and vitamins.  I have found I prefer to just actually buy dried elderberries and make my own elderberry tea, and mix that into smoothies, juices, popsicles, or simply sipping on some sweet elderberry tea.  

I wanted to leave you with one of my new favorite concoctions.  I've been making Elderberry Popsicles. Immune boosting Pops, if you will. 

Elderberry Pops

*Add elderberries  to a small pot of water and bring to a boil.  
*Simmer for on low for 15-20 minutes.
*Cool.  Blend some of the tea with frozen blueberries or a mix of frozen fruits.
*Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. 
*Save remaining tea to sip or add to smoothies, juices, or think of other creative ways to slip it into your lifestyle.  
*Easy way to add a little extra "boost" to your kiddos immune system. 


*****If your interested in learning more on diet and immunity for children, one of my favorite reads is, John Douillard's "Perfect Health for Kids: Ten Ayurvedic Health Secrets Every Parent Must Know."

1 comment:

  1. I love the tip about the honey and turmeric and the elderberry popsicles! Great new ideas for our family.