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Winter Wellness for our Children By Tabitha McIntosh

Winter is the peak cold and flu period and prevention is the most important strategy for our littlies, however – particularly when Kindy or Pre-school are involved – some infections are almost inevitable. These simple strategies will help protect against winter infections and speed recovery if a cold or flu takes hold.

Good Hygiene
The first line of defence is to keep germs at bay and stopping spread. Encourage hand washing with a gentle soap, covering mouths when coughing or sneezing, and always have a chemical-free hand-sanitiser gel handy.

Encourage Vitamin C and Betacarotene rich foods plus garlic
Encourage foods such as red capsicum, citrus fruits, papaya, parsley, kiwi fruits, dried apricots, berries, broccoli, pumpkin, spinach and tomatoes. Garlic has antimicrobial and immune support properties. Mashed sweet potato with garlic and parsley is a winner with my kids when they are sick.

Boost Vitamin C and Zinc
Best taken as low, divided doses throughout the day – see your healthcare provider for specific formulas, as children always need their dose individually assessed based on height, weight and age.

Minimise hidden sugar in your child’s diet
Sugar reduces the immune response and lowers our ability to fight a bug. Eliminate lollies, juices, honey, jams, boxed cereals, sultanas, flavoured milks, sweetened yoghurts for the best chance at recovery.

Be informed about Vitamin D
Research has identified Vitamin D as a key factor in promoting healthy immune response, and supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of flu infection by half1. Ensure your children get regular safe and smart sunscreen-free exposure to the sun; and include Vitamin D rich foods like oily fish, eggs and fortified milk.

Probiotics and immunity
Probiotics have demonstrated effectiveness in providing kids’ protection against infections such as colds and flu’s2. In fact, over 70 percent of your child’s immune tissue surrounds their gut. Remember the effects of Probiotics are strain-specific, so speak to your health care professional.

Rest rest rest
Getting adequate sleep is essential to prevent and manage infection. Lack of sleep reduces our immune response and makes us more susceptible to catching bugs.

Other tips
Essential oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and lemon are natural decongestants. A couple of drops into a vaporiser while sleeping or in the bath can break down mucous and improve breathing. Chest rubs with pure paw paw and calendula calm (Petroleum-free) can soothe dry and chapped skin around the nose.

Remember
Always speak with a health professional before giving your children any supplements, or if symptoms worsen or persist. Also, delay immunisation appointments if your child has an acute infection, a runny nose or seems not themselves.

References:
1. Urashima M et al. Randomised trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza-A in school children. Am J Clinical Nutrition 2010 May; 91(5):1255-1260.

2. Leyer GJ et al. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics 2009 Aug; 124(2):e172-179.

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Preparing for Winter

The best Naturopathic approach to supporting our Immune function as we prepare for winter is an all-inclusive plan involving diet, lifestyle, stress reduction, exercise, nutritional supplements, herbal medicines and a positive outlook.

Firstly lets take a look at what depletes our immune function. Stressful circumstances, lack of sleep and poor nutritional status have a powerful impact on our immune function, as does smoking and high sugar diets – intake of 100g of refined sugar such as sweets / honey / bottled fruit juice / alcohol – depresses immune cell activity by 50% for up to 4 hours after ingestion, leaving us more susceptible to infection.

Taking the following measures will both boost your immune function and your vitality during the winter months:

• Eating regular meals
• Choosing a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables daily
• Opting for whole grains, raw nuts, legumes, seeds and cold water fish
• Getting adequate sleep and regular exercise
• Having a relaxed and positive mental attitude & laughing lots
• Taking a daily high-potency multi vitamin/mineral supplement
• Healthy gut flora, good digestion and avoidance of dietary allergens are imperative to optimal immunity, as more than 70% of our immune system directly surrounds the gut!

In addition, a large amount of research shows that garlic has immune enhancing properties and is antiviral, even at one clove per day. A daily fresh vegetable juice (eg. carrot, celery, ginger, parsley, beets, apple, lemon) is a wonderful supplement to a basic good diet, adding vitamins A, C, minerals and antioxidants.

Numerous herbal medicines – Indian, Chinese and Western – are available to naturally support our Immune function, but be wary of over-the-counter products and self prescribing as many products are ineffective due to quality, manufacturing and dosage issues. For valuable advice, speak to a qualified Naturopath or Herbalist.

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