It's the season of colds, viral infections, asthma and the flu, but there are some practical steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting sick.
Start by making sure that you and your children have optimal levels of vitamins and minerals needed for a strong immune system to fight all those winter nasties.
Here are 5 steps you can take to protect yourselves this winter.
1. Eat a healthy diet, especially lots of vegetables and some fruit – to get your vitamin C, antioxidants, and other immune-boosting nutrients. Try to eat all the colours of the rainbow every day, or at least most. Include immune enhancing vegetables, such as reishi and shitake mushrooms, which contain beta-glucans that help fight infections; also serve some berries every day, which are high in antioxidants and great for your health. And don’t forget to add your daily dose of spices and herbs, such as garlic, turmeric, ginger, oregano and cinnamon (which actually kill bad bacteria!). Remember, variety is the key, don't eat the same foods everyday. For example whatever you eat today, don't eat the same food tomorrow. If you have a picky eater, follow a special diet or would like some assistance in regards to Autism, ADHD, Candida, Asthma, Autoimmune etc, just drop me a line to arrange your Free Initial Appointment.
2. Avoid sugar, this suppresses the immune system.
Regardless of the season, sugar is not our friend.You can achieve the same “sweet happiness moments” from fruit, fruit smoothies, or a yummy mixture of nuts and dried fruits, preservative free of course.
If you want to sweeten herbal tea use Manuka honey, which is well known for its immune boosting effects due to its “NPA” or non-peroxide activity. The higher the activity indicator (10+ for example), the stronger the honey is at killing bacteria and viruses.
3. Let in the Sunshine - Vitamin D
The optimal level is around 120nmol/L. A level below 80 nmol/L is considered insufficient and below 50nmol/L is deficient. Given that most individuals in Australia and New Zealand are vitamin D deficient in the winter (below 50nmol/L), it is likely that your vitamin D will be insufficient and that you or love one will benefit from a vitamin D supplement (or a trip to Fiji). In the winter the sun is at an angle at which it is just too weak to produce vitamin D in our skin.
Vitamin D up-regulates cathelicidin, an antimicrobial protein, which is powerful at killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The lower the vitamin D level, the higher the risk of asthma, a viral infection, eczema, allergic reactions, as well as low moods, and of course – everyone knows that – vitamin D deficiency can cause soft bones or rickets. In Northern European countries children receive a daily dose of vitamin D from the government to boost their immune system and strengthen their bones.
Parents routinely report, it appears their tan is washing off, doesn't last... often those on the Autism Spectrum, or those with Asthma, Eczema, Behavioural Concerns etc are not absorbing enough. When we think about it, we cover ourselves with clothes, and we spend most of our time indoors. This is a big part of why we are not getting enough vitamin D and why many countries have adopted public health policies recommending vitamin D supplements. Giving a person who is vitamin D deficient a tiny dose of vitamin D is not going to fix the problem. You need a dose that gets your blood level into that optimal range of 100-150nmol/L.
4. Zinc and selenium
Unfortunately the soils in Australia and NZ are extremely low in zinc and selenium. Even if you eat a fabulous diet, lots of variety, you will not be getting enough zinc or selenium. This is especially true during growth spurts when your child needs extra amounts. If your child has white spots on his fingernails, this may be a sign of mineral deficiencies. Zinc is essential for the immune system, fighting infections, skin healing, brain function and mood. Children with a zinc deficiency can have more frequent infections, may be irritable, become picky eaters, have sensory issues and can struggle with learning and attention. Selenium, a potent anti-oxidant, is vital for the immune system and the thyroid gland; it may also help to prevent certain cancers. You only need a tiny dose every day – which you can get from eating 3 Brazil nuts (or one Brazil nut for a child – of course, do not give nuts to children with nut allergies or if oxalates are an issue!)
Warning... You can overdose on zinc and selenium, it's best to work with an integrative practitioner that can test and correctly analysis your levels, who can then recommend the appropriate supplements for your particular bioindividual needs. Always keep supplements away from children and stick to the dose recommended by your health professional.
5. Feed your gut flora
Probiotics. There has been an explosion of interest in the microbiome, the bacteria that live in and on us. It is clear that gut bacteria play an essential part in human health and even mood. Children who take a daily probiotic get sick less often compared to children who don’t take one, also helps with Asthma and Eczema. You can get probiotics as powders or capsules or, even better, eat fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics: kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, olives and pickles (yoghurt is not the best source, as it does not contains large amounts of probiotics and often contains sugar and additives).
Warning... It is best to identify the actual bacteria first, working with an Integrative Practitioner will enable you to complete a Complete Digestive Stool Analysis assessment for digestive, absorption, metabolic, inflammation, including identifying the actual bacteria required for your particular bio individual needs. Also... if behaviour is a concern fermented foods, aged foods and/or particular strains of bacteria could exacerbate these behaviours. If you would like to discuss this further give me a call on the clinic mob Ph: 0417 550 411
As parents, we just want the best for our families. If you follow these 5 steps, you may all enjoy a healthier winter this year, free from nasty infections. If you still manage to contract something, you should get over the illness faster. If you or your child gets sick with a virus there is no need to artificially lower the fever with medications, in fact there is a lot of research showing just how detrimental some of these over the counter medications can be. A high temperature is the body’s way of fighting an infection, of killing the virus or bacteria, which are making you sick. If you lower this artificially you may end up being sick for longer. If you and/or your child has a very high-temperature*, take him or her to your doctor to rule out any serious infections. If you are dealing with a cold or viral illness, supportive measures, including the 5 points above and extra vitamin C plus immune boosting herbs, such as elderberry, olive leaf extract, goldenseal or echinacea may get you back to optimal health quickly.
Please note: if natural food chemicals like salicylates, oxalates etc are a concern some herbs and foods should be avoided.
*Infants under 3 months should be assessed for a temperature of 38 Celsius or higher. Infants between 3-6 months should be taken to the doctor or hospital for a temperature of 38.3 or higher. Babies 6-12 months should be assessed by a doctor for a temperature of 39.4C. For older children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends seeing a doctor if the temperature is above 40C. In older children, the height of the fever does not matter as much as how sick your child looks and acts: If your child is playful, eating and not overly bothered by the fever, then he or she is probably not gravely ill. If your child is lethargic, refuses to eat, struggles to breathe, is in pain, or has a rash you should see a doctor.