Kids vs Bugs
Now that fall has set in and the winter months are approaching, chances are your child has experienced some sort of sickness and their immune system has taken a hit. It is no surprise to see your kid get sick up to eight times per year—they may even get you sick. But don’t worry; this is a normal process for the development of an efficient and strong immune system! So how can you ensure the immune system is working at its best?
Start with the basics! Wash your hands with soap and water over using hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizers don’t differentiate between the good and bad bacteria on our skin, and can actually have a detrimental effect on our immunity. Even worse: they can create superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics. Next, you want to drink plenty of water, eat a diet predominately focused on plant-based whole foods (think eating for the colour of the rainbow), reduce sugar intake, and get plenty of quality sleep.
Once your basics are covered, you can call in some additional support to help your immune system function optimally. The first thing you need to do is facilitate the growth of the good bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract (GIT) with the use of probiotics. Up to 70–80% of our immunity comes from the good bacteria in our GIT, and probiotics have an immunomodulatory effect—meaning they will help increase or decrease the immune response depending on the body’s needs. However, not all probiotics are created equal, and the most important thing you can look for in a capsule is that it is enteric-coated. This means the capsule can withstand the attack from the stomach acid, preserving the valuable bacteria inside. Not to fret though; if your kid can’t swallow a pill, you can hide powdered probiotics in their food such as yogurt, smoothies, and apple sauce and still reap some benefits.
Next, take some vitamin D! It is critical in our innate and adaptive immunity, helping us fend off colds and reducing the duration by up to two full days. Dosing of vitamin D has recently been under critical evaluation for being too low, and current research is suggesting the following dosing guidelines to be more accurate:
< 1 y.o. 1000 IU/day
> 1 y.o. 2000–3000 IU/day
> 18 y.o. 8000 IU/day
It may take some time for these to be the official recommended dosing, so speak to a health-care professional before using these doses.
Finally, if you are worried your child is not getting enough nutrients from their diet—yes, kids have been known to be picky eaters—you can add in a multivitamin short-term to help boost immune function. Powder-delivered products may be much easier for kids to consume, and making sure the supplement contains therapeutic doses of vitamins C and A, zinc, B vitamins, minerals, and iron will ensure a healthy physical and mental body.
In closing, getting sick this fall and winter is probably going to happen, but how long it lasts, how severe it is, and the frequency of it can be improved upon. Simple adjustments to your diet, lifestyle, and supplement regime could be all it takes. Think of catching these colds as keeping our immune system up-to-date! And always remember to get out in nature; it is after all the best form of medicine!
See you outside this fall and winter!
Dr. Tanner Alden, ND
Dr. Alden is a naturopathic doctor running a family practice in
North Vancouver, BC. He has a keen interest in GI health, stress
and burnout, and autoimmune disease.