Immune System Support: What a Naturopathic Doctor would tell her own friends and family (Part II)

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That cold or flu hits… what to do? Natural and conventional medicine do not need to be used exclusively. Talk with you child’s pediatrician, naturopathic provider and feel out what’s best for your family at any given time. Brands listed below reflect what I’ve had clinical experience with – there are no financial interests to disclose! Quality matters with natural medicine and not all brands are created equally.

Nutrition and supplementation:

  • Eliminate the sugar and dairy. Sugar is going to feed the icky-feelings and dairy is very mucus-producing. Sharing this with kids will help them learn about why you’re making these choices.
  • Emphasize gastrointestinal health because a great deal of the immune system is located in the gut. Think: Keep bowels moving! Make sure your child stays hydrated with broths and water – aiming for half of your their weight in ounces per day. For example, if your child is 90 lbs, then 45 oz of water per day is usually indicated. If kidney issues are present, please know that this recommendation may be modified – check in with your child’s providers for guidance.
  • Antimicrobial (anti-virus, anti-bacteria, etc.) foods and kitchen herbs and spices should be used liberally: Ramp up the garlic, lightly steamed or cooked vegetables perhaps via a soup broth, rosemary, thyme, turmeric. Aim for a variety of colors in veggies and spices to maximize the variety of antioxidants.
  • To fill in nutritional gaps, supplementation is often helpful. Baseline support for the immune system when it comes to supplements for kids include: vitamin D, probiotics and fish oil. A total of 2,000 IU vitamin D daily is often suggested for maintenance throughout fall and winter; higher doses may be indicated on a case-by-case basis if labs show values less than 50ng/ml. Probiotics ought to contain several billion CFUs (5-25 depending on a child’s weight) and a variety of strains. I like Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic for Infants and Ther-Biotic Children’s Chewable. With fish oil, quality particularly matters as you want to avoid any heavy metal contaminants. Nordic Naturals is a great option because of their purity testing as well as their variety of flavors and delivery options (liquid or chewable).

Herbal Medicine:

  • Antimicrobial herbal tinctures (yes – there is such a thing and your medicine cabinet ought to contain some!) work against harmful viruses and bacteria. One of my favorite line of products for supporting the immune system in kids is Herb Pharm. Screen the ingredient profile for any known allergies or intolerances. This kids line offers sweet (think honey) flavors versus your traditional alcohol-based herbal tinctures. They provide excellent dosage guidelines often in a range which can be adjusted with severity of symptoms. A favorite of mine is their Immune Fortifier blend which may be used at a low dose for prevention throughout fall and winter – astragalus and reishi tonify the immune system. Many people are aware of elderberry these days which you’ll see in several of the Herb Pharm products, but know that there are many other supportive herbs to consider and use.
  • Teas are another way to keep your child hydrated. Consider nettle leaf for high histamine symptoms (i.e. runny or itchy eyes, nose or throat) which is also rich in minerals. Chamomile and lemon balm are nourishing to the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. A calm nervous system translates to higher quality sleep – an essential tool in healing. Purchase organic herbs to avoid pesticide residues and steep 1 TBS per 8oz water, at least 5-6 minutes. Sip 1-3 cups daily, warm or iced per child’s preference. A few of my favorite organic tea blends are Traditional Medicinals and Mountain Rose Herbs.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle Support:

  • Warming socks nightly during acute illness.
  • Castor oil: At bedtime, rub a small amount of castor oil all over your child’s abdomen (think rib cage to hip bones) and cover with an old t-shirt. Do this nightly to support liver detoxification pathways, reduce abdominal inflammation and enhance lymph flow – a big player in the immune system. You may use castor oil like this whether or not your child is sick as it’s a powerful way to build vitality and prevent illness.

Homeopathy: I touched on this heavily in Part I of this blog in terms of trying to get a constitutional remedy on board prior to an acute illness. During an active cold or flu, your child may shift into needing a different homeopathic remedy while they’re ill. The best way to get the correct remedy in this case if to consult with a trained provider. A well-selected homeopathic during acute illness will speed along recovery and can be used safely and effectively alongside any pharmaceutical interventions. It’s gentle and deep-acting.

There you have it! What questions do you have? Feel free to comment below.

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