Cold and flu season.
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. The media is already having a field day with the new respiratory virus hitting several states in the US. The image of a young girl with an oxygen mask over her face is enough to send a shiver down any mom’s back. Personally, I try to ignore the fear-based media reporting as much as I can. Yes, I think it’s important to be aware of current events and especially of new viruses our children might encounter in school. But I also know that the severity of any virus is also influenced by the strength of a person’s own immune system.
For instance, two children can catch the exact same virus and each will experience a different severity of the virus depending on individual immune function. The media is reporting on worst case scenarios and we really have little-to-no background on each child’s health history. So, instead of worrying about the worst case scenarios we hear about on the news, let’s instead focus on what we can do to increase immune function today.
You can help your child stay healthy and strong in the face of new and unidentified viruses this season by incorporating proactive and positive immune boosting habits into your child’s life NOW. So if and when a virus visits your home the illness stays mild and resolves quickly. Here are 8 ways to keep children healthy this winter.
1) Increase immune boosting food and drink. Immune boosting food and drink keeps the body well-nourished so when viruses do strike the immune system has fuel to work efficiently. Immune boosting foods like garlic, ginger, fresh green juices, and foods packed full of vitamin C like cut orange slices or pomegranate seeds are a great addition to your weekly meal planning. Fermented food and drink is also very important to keep healthy gut flora populated in the digestive tract. Read more about natural immune boosters for kids here. Also learn about properly preparing your food for optimal nutrient absorption.
2) Simmer bone broth ALL WINTER LONG. As soon as September rolls around I pull out my bone broth stock pot and it basically runs all winter. Bone broth is a full of gut healing gelatin (this helps lower inflammation and increases immune function) and packed full of trace minerals. It’s highly absorbable and nutritionally dense making it the perfect winter tonic. Often nutritional deficiencies in children impact immune function so bone broth is an easy to digest remedy. I make weekly soups, use the broth instead of water to make rice or quinoa and I also encourage (um, require) my kids to drink at least a ½ cup a day like tea (we use metal straws and the kids actually like it). I also sneak a little extra grass-fed collagen peptides (this is a supplement that provides extra gelatin like the kind found in bone broth) to their morning oatmeal or to any drink. It’s tasteless and dissolves even in cool liquid. To learn how to make bone broth with extra minerals read my recipe here.
3) Increase immune boosting supplements. During the winter I change my children’s supplement protocol to make sure we focus on immune function. I increase their vitamin d3 and add a daily dose of elderberry syrup. We also continue with daily probiotics and weekly cod liver oil. This season we will also add some daily buffered vitamin C to the mix too. Also, make sure you are prepared for any winter virus by stocking a holistic medicine kit now. Your kit might include a few essential oils shown to support a healthy body like: melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree), myrtle, and basil which are all safe to use on children over 2. If you have an older child (over 6) consider using: rosemary and eucalyptus. Please make sure if you use oils you dilute them properly (1 drop essential oil plus 1 teaspoon carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil) and only use pure/therapeutic grade oils.
4) Keep sugar to a minimum. I know I’m no fun, but sugar really isn’t a great treat for kids, especially during the winter. Consuming sugar has been shown to decrease immune response and increase systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is the root of all disease. So, if your children eat sugar on a regular basis they could very well be walking around with chronically depressed immune systems. Couple this with chronic sugar-induced inflammation and your child is a good candidate for catching every cold and flu around.
5) Detox regularly. If our immune systems are constantly overburdened with toxins from food, the environment and personal care products, they can’t properly protect us from seasonal viruses. Add a weekly detox bath to your child’s bath schedule to help the body detoxify. Herbs like cilantro are great detoxifiers, so try to sneak some into green smoothies or juices. Also make sure you get out and MOVE as a family—sweat is the body’s way of eliminating toxins, too.
6) Make sleep a priority. Sleep is the way our bodies repair and heal during the night so make sure your children get enough sleep during cold and flu season. We also use magnesium oil a few times a week because we find it helps us all get into a deep, restorative sleep. I diffuse essential oils like lavender or chamomile before bed to help us unwind and relax. If we are struggling with a virus I also add some immune boosting essential oils to my diffuser or the bottom of our feet, too.
7) Protect your child’s schedule. Stress is one of the biggest immune system busters around. When we are under stress, our immune function is greatly impaired. The problem is that the body can’t tell the difference between different types of stress. The body reacts to over-scheduling activities the same way it reacts to a food we are sensitive/allergic to or an emotional worry we are thinking about. For all three of these very different stressors… the body elicits the same reaction: A STRESS RESPONSE (known as the fight or flight response). When the body is in a stress response, immune function declines. During the school year stay protective of your child’s schedule as much as possible.
8) Practice gratitude. Over and over again research is finding that gratitude practices actually increase immune function! If ever there was a time to start a mindfulness practice, it’s now. Help children to give thanks to their bodies on a daily basis for being so strong and healthy. Saying thank you goes a long way. Our bodies are always listening to our thoughts and appreciate our thanks and gratitude.
Are you interested in learning more about natural remedies?
Then you might love my ebook, Natural Remedies for Children. This book saves you time and money by detailing easy and safe natural remedies for the 11 most common childhood ailments our kids face today. Learn how to build a holistic medicine kit and build strong immune function, too. Click here to get all the details!
How are you keeping your children healthy this winter? Comment with your tips below!
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