Hippocrates, known as the “father of medicine,” is known for saying “Let thy food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be thy food.”
While some believe catching colds in cold season is just what you do, we love that you know there are some things you can do to fortify your family. …cause an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
*Please seek the advice of a health professional prior to self-treating any illness with medicinal herbs.
1. Raw Foods
Raw foods are chock full of enzymes and vitamins that can be damaged or destroyed completely by heat. Many people today eat very little fruits and vegetables, and even less are eating these in their natural state. Consuming more raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds gives the body more of a fighting edge as they help to optimize the overall health of the body while strengthening its resilience. While some foods are made more palatable and/or digestible by cooking, most fruits and vegetables can be turned into gorgeous, colorful, delectable dishes with no heat in no time.
2. Probiotics & Prebiotics
Health experts estimate that anywhere from 60-80% of your immune work happens in the gut. An unhealthy gut can put the body in overload mode and make it more susceptible to sickness. Many parents have had great success in boosting their children’s immunity by including prebiotics and probiotics in their diets. Probiotics are the “good bacteria” found in the intestines that kill the bad bacteria. It is especially important to replenish probiotics in the digestive tract if you’ve used antibiotics, which kill the good bacteria with the bad. Prebiotics are a special form of dietary fiber that nourishes the probiotics in the gut. Supplements can be purchased that contain both, however, you can also give those tummies a regular boost through simple, everyday foods.
Probiotics: Make sure the food/beverage you are purchasing for these contain LIVE CULTURES. Probiotics can be destroyed by heat and time. So, the fresher, the better. Its good to get an array of good gut flora (different strains will be listed with the ingredients). Find these in kefir (milk, water or juice), yogurt, kombucha, fermented juices (no, I’m not telling you to pour jr. a glass of wine. Many grocers now carry juices with live cultures for gut health); raw cheese, and other raw fermented foods, like sauerkraut, beet kvass and others. Again, be sure the product was not pasteurized post-fermentation. Many companies do this to yield a product with the right flavor and a longer shelf life. Probiotics are living organisms that are useless to you dead.
Prebiotics: This is another area where raw foods are key. Raw foods, such as bananas, garlic and asparagus are all excellent sources of the undigestible fibers that promote the growth of probiotics in the intestines.
3. Elderberry (Sambucus)
Known for being loaded powerful antioxidants and immune boosting properties, elderberry has long ranked high on the list of go-to remedies for health professionals and moms alike. Elderberry has been used for centuries for coughs, colds, flus, bacterial and viral infections and tonsilitis. Its bioflavanoids and other proteins are said to diminish/destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect the body’s cells. Israel’s Hasassah’s Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system so efficiently that they’re using it to treat cancer and AIDS patients with it.
Elderberry is sold as a tasty syrup for kids and adults. Our favorite is Nature’s Way Sambucus with Echinacea. We keep this stuff on hand for a quick immune boost when around others who are sick or at the first sight of infection. If you happen to be thinking about making your own, please note, the berries of certain cultivars of this plant can be toxic when eaten raw. Elderberries should be cooked down for safety, digestibility and palatability.
A well known immune booster, echinacea can be purchased as a tea, tincture, supplement or syrup. The University of Maryland reports that several studies suggest echinacea contains substances that boost immune function, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have hormonal, antiviral and antioxidant effects, making it potentially useful for urinary tract infections, yeast infections, ear infections, hay fever, sinusitis, athlete’s foot, and slow-healing wounds.
Caution: Those with allergies to ragweed, chrysanthemums or marigolds should exercise caution when considering echinacea as it may trigger an allergic reaction. Caution should also be exercised by individual’s taking immunosuppressant medication.
Garlic has been used for centuries for treating a host of ailments. It was used to prevent gangrene in the soldiers of both World Wars. It has been used as an antiseptic and applied to wounds to prevent infection. It is rich in antioxidants to fight off free radicals and is commonly used to kill parasites and boost the immune system, amongst many other ailments.
Raw garlic, not cooked or dried, is most beneficial for health, since heat and water inactivate sulfur enzymes, which can diminish garlic’s antibiotic effects.
6. Vitamin D3
Crucial for bone health and immunity, the body produces this when exposed to sunlight. 15 minutes a day can do wonders for people with lighter skin. Darker skin types may require more exposure to produce sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. D3 levels can run low in the winter but may be adequately restored by stepping into the sun with the face and hands exposed. Vitamin D3 can also be purchased as a supplement in capsule form or in a small dissolvable tablet.
Vitamin D can also be obtained through mushrooms, eggs, dairy products and many flesh foods.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the gift of joy. Chronic low-joy environments are associated with many things we will be talking about in the future but, for the sake of this article, let’s just talk about how it relates to our bodies’ ability to ward off disease. Studies consistently show links between mental/emotional disposition and health. Pessimism, depression, constant frustrations, a negative environment – all of these things way on the whole person and make the body more susceptible to disease. Same goes for our kids. Joy and laughter support a healthy mind and healthy body. Don’t resist the opportunity to enjoy a good laugh and make memories you and your children will enjoy for a lifetime.
With an estimated 90% of the population chronically dehydrated, this point certainly warrants the space. Water is critical for good heath, especially when it comes to immunity. Water oxygenates blood, flushes out toxins, supports lymph production (critical in immune response), keeps eyes and mouth clean, aids digestion and assimilation, prevents and aids many chronic ailments. As much as possible, spring waters and home-filtered waters should chosen over municipal water thats often laden with a toxic excess of flouride, as well as chemical disinfecting agents and other chemicals that are less than supportive to the immune system.
Exercise works wonders for the body, including boosting immunity. Our bodies have more lymph than blood but, unlike the blood flowing through the heart, the lymphatic system has no pump. The lymphatic system is responsible for transporting white blood cells to fight infection. The lymphatic system relies on your body movement. Do your kids seem bounce everywhere like mine do? While there’s a time and a place for all things, I try not to dissuade them when I can help it as bouncing is one of the best ways to get lymph moving through the body. Even a steady, gentle bounce on a small rebounder can be of great benefit.
While I know you’re busy and life has more demands coming at you than you can shake a stick at, hear me when I tell you – you’ve got to make time for rest. It is crucial that you not only get your 7-8 hours sleep a night but that you also set aside a day to take it easy each week. I’m a mom too. I totally get it. I’ve struggled with this more times than I can count and it doesn’t take long for it to catch up with me either. The body has to have time to cleanse and repair itself and it needs rest to do this. This is especially true for children as they have the added demand of growing and learning so much.
11. Cutting Out the Sweets
I know, this is the tough one for so many and kids especially love their sweets but avoiding sugary foods is especially important for the immune system. Studies have shown that sugar consumption can inhibit the immune system for upwards to 6 hours after eating it! Boost the immune system with naturally sweet substitutes. If “super-sweet” is a “must,” try dates (especially Medjools). They are especially good with a touch of almond/nut butter smeared down the center and can totally satisfy a craving for a decadent dessert with only a few. Stevia can also help to decrease sugar consumption without the threat of mutiny for suddenly removing sugar from the household.