Blog content courtesy of Healthy Bellies, Happy Kids
At this time of year, we seem to be bombarded with coughs and snot at every turn. Here are some tips for keeping your family healthy during cold and flu season and all year-round.
- Limit sugar consumption.
Several clinical studies have shown sugar consumption to physically inhibit immune function for a significant period of time. The impairment of immune function is said to begin less than 30 minutes after sugar ingestion and remain that way for more than five hours!! The height of immune suppression was typically two hours after consumption when the function of white blood cells was lowered by as much as 50%. Importantly, studies showed that more sugar meant greater immune suppression. Even the simple sugar found in fruit juice may inhibit immunity so be mindful of how much sugar is being regularly consumed. If your little one is already fighting an infection, give their immune system a helping hand by avoiding added sugar altogether until they are well.
- Eat a rainbow.
In terms of diet, focus on eating plenty of fresh veggies, whole fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, and meat. Eating colourful fresh whole fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants is an important part of maintaining good immune system function.
- Support your child’s gut microbiota!
Did you know that 70-80% of our immune system is located in the gut?
The friendly bacteria that naturally occur in our gut have many functions including helping us to digest food, assisting in the clearance of toxins and shielding us from other bacteria and viruses. When the bacterial balance is disrupted our immune system can be compromised. Antibiotic use is one common way that this balance can be disturbed. I generally recommend starting children on a probiotic beneficial bacteria supplement containing a combination of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains. Dosage between 5 and 20 billion CFUs per day depending on age and medical history. Eating fermented veggies, like raw sauerkraut, is an even better way to support the gut mircobiome and a great habit to get started with your kids early in life.
While sometimes easier said than done, ensuring your child gets plenty of restorative sleep is vitally important for their immune health. Studies have shown that sleep loss causes changes to the system that regulates our immune defence. In addition, some of these changes appear to be long-term. Since electromagnetic frequency has also been shown to affect sleep quality, make sure any electrical devices in your child’s room are unplugged. For proper secretion of our sleep hormone, melatonin, children should sleep in the dark, without a night-light. If your child must use a night-light opt for a red hue rather than blue. Similarly, ban the use of stimulating bluescreen iPads and tablets for a minimum of 2 hours before sleep.
- Supplements and herbs
I prefer to promote nutrition through diet, over supplements, wherever possible. Having said that, there is sometimes a place for supplements and zinc and wholefood Vitamin C, in particular, can be great for boosting immune systems. However, I recommend you work with a qualified nutrition practitioner before embarking on any new supplements as there is delicate balance that needs to be maintained in our bodies. Over supplementing with one thing may have a knock-on effect to others!
Elderberry is my all-time favourite herb for colds and viral infections. Dosing up on elderberry syrup at the first sign of a sniffle can quite often nip it in the bud completely. It can also be taken preventatively if, for example, another family member is ill. Research has shown its ability to stop viral replication, even of the flu virus. Avoid any elderberry syrup products loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Pukka Herbs is my favourite store bought elderberry product as its also packed with our immune boosting herbs.
 Murray, Michael, ND., Pizzorno, Joseph, ND., and Pizzorno, Lara, MA, LMT. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2005.
 Murray, Michael, ND, and Pizzorno, Joseph, ND. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1998.
 Hughes, D. A. Nutrition and immune function. 2002 ISBN 0851995837 DOI 10.1079/9780851995830.0171
 Kau et al Human nutrition, the gut microbiome and the immune system Nature 474, 327–336 (16 June 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10213
 Partial Sleep Restriction Activates Immune Response-Related Gene Expression Pathways: Experimental and Epidemiological Studies in Humans Published October 2013 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0077184
 Elderberry, University of Maryland https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry