As the weather changes and the Melbourne cold and flu season approaches, every parent wants to know the same things, “What can I do to boost my child’s immune system and what can I do when they get sick?”
Firstly we need to understand what our immune system does and where it is located. Your immune system is your body’s defence against infection and illness. It recognises the cells that make up your body, and will try to get rid of anything that is unfamiliar. It destroys germs, bacteria, viruses and parasites.
It has 3 main lines of defense:
1st is to keep invaders out (through skin, mucous membranes, stomach acid, tears, etc)
2nd is a non specific response to defend against the pathogens that have broken through the 1st line of defence such as increase inflammation, cause a fever etc.
3rd is a more specific line of defence mounted against a specific pathogen, these include white blood cells, antibodies, T cells, B cells etc.
If one fails then the next line of defence is at the ready.
It is located in the lymphatic system. I won’t go into the detail but suffice to say this is all around your body. White blood cells are made in your bone marrow and are a major part of your immune system and come out fighting when there is an infection. Another important place that houses your immune system is the gut. Around 70% of the cells that make up your immune system is found in your gut. So ensuring that your child’s gut health is optimal ensures that if they do get sick they will fight it off quickly.
The best place to start is do all the common sense things such as:
- Eliminating junk food and sugary foods from your child’s diet as sugar is known to reduce your immune system;
- Decrease dairy products as these can increase mucous in your sinus area and just add to an already snotty situation;
- Increase fluid intake
- Ad making sure sleep and rest is a priority as well as keeping stress down as all of these things can reduce your immune system and your ability to fight off infection.
The other main things to do are:
- Eat wholesome foods such as chicken soup, vegetables and protein
- drink warm drinks such as hot herbal teas, soup
- Adding garlic into your cooking especially if they have a lot of mucous
- if there is a sore throat a warm glass of water with some lemon, ginger, cinnamon and honey added can soothe the throat
There are also many herbal and nutritional remedies that are excellent when you are sick, these include:
- Herbs such as Echinacea, Elder flower, Elder Berry, Thyme, Ginger, Pelagonium, Licorice, Eyebright to name but a few. These and other herbs are used depending on the symptoms that you are experiencing by a qualified naturopath.
- Vitamin C to boost your immune system
- Zinc to boost your immune system
- Probiotics to boost your immune system and support your gut health where a lot of your immune system lives.
- Adequate levels of Vitamin D goes a long way to preventing and shortening the duration of illness.
- Cod Liver oil which is high in vitamin D and A has been used to support the immune system
- For a cough rub onto the chest and feet a penetrating heat product that contains eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary and lemon essential oils.
- Burn in an oil burner eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary and lemon essential oils to help clear the air and clear sinuses.
Start all of these things as soon as you have the first sign of a cold or flu for example a sore throat, runny nose, cough, or body aches. They will ensure that the duration and the severity of your cold and flu are greatly reduced.
Nicole Haak is an experienced Melbourne Naturopath whose gentle approach and warm nature enable her to be an empathetic and supportive practitioner who takes a genuine interest in her clients’ needs. She has a deep passion for what she does. This is evident by her holistic approach to helping her patients find solutions to their health concerns and improve their quality of life.