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Building Your Child’s Immune System Naturally

The arrival of Fall means crisp Autumn temperatures, crunching through the leaves, and pumpkin flavored everything. Along with these fall favorites, the start of school herald the beginning of cold and flu season.

Most common viruses find their way into our bodies via our eyes, nose, mouth, or ears. The pathogens either hitch a ride on our hands, or are spread through minute airborne droplets that are easily spread from person to person.

Common colds are actually a good way for our bodies to build up its defenses against bigger viruses and infections. If your child recovers from a common cold within seven days with no complications, chances are that your child has a well functioning immune system.

If your child seems to catch every sneeze and sniffle that’s making the rounds among your child’s daycare buddies and play dates, your child may be showing signs of a weak immune system.

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9 Start With a Healthy Diet

Your child’s immune system can be compromised by food allergies, preservatives, additives, and sugar. In children with food allergies, the digestive system is taxed, and inflammation becomes an issue, making warding off even common viruses and bacteria a difficult task.

The same goes for excess preservatives and additives, your child’s body simply isn’t equipped to deal with the toxic overload. Research has shown that sugar impacts your child’s immunity. The best thing you can do to boost your child’s immunity, is to eliminate additives, preservatives, and sugar wherever possible.

Apples, oranges, carrots, and berries give your child’s body a boost of vitamin C, which kicks the body’s production of white blood cells into high gear. White blood cells are the body’s soldiers that help fight off sickness. Another benefit of this vitamin C boost, is the increase of the body’s production of interferon, a powerful antibody that coats the cells and blocks out viruses.

Healthcare professionals recommend five servings of fruits and veggies each day to help keep your child’s immune system in tip top shape.

Probiotics

Probiotics are helpful bacteria that naturally live in our guts. They help with digestion, help flush out toxins, and protect our bodies from harmful viruses and bacteria. Any disruption in the ideal levels of these friendly bacteria can cause issues in the way that the body wards off infection.

Over the counter probiotic supplements for children are readily available at your local health food store, or pharmacy. Depending on your child’s age, a daily dose of five to twenty billion colony forming units can help keep illness at bay.

8 Sleep

Between school, daycare, and activities more and more children are becoming sleep deprived. Excess caffeine and sugars, too much screen time, and simply not making quality sleep a priority are just a few of the contributing factors.

A lack of sleep not only affects your child’s mood, it can have an effect on how well his or her body is able to fight off disease and infection.

Sleep deprivation reduces the natural killer cells in the body, which in turn makes your body more likely to succumb to illness, due to impaired immune system function.

Studies show that children who are in daycare are especially at risk for becoming sleep deprived, due to the inability to nap in a strange setting.

Newborns require up to eighteen hours of sleep a day, toddlers require twelve to thirteen hours, and preschoolers and school aged children need ten hours of sleep a day for optimal health.

Electromagnetic frequency has been proven to have a detrimental affect on the quality of sleep people in today’s technology obsessed world are getting, the same is true for our children. Limit exposure before bed, and remove devices from sleeping rooms whenever possible to avoid sleep disturbances.

7 Stress

Today’s parents are overscheduled and overstressed, and the effects of their hectic lifestyles spill over into their children’s lives as well. Stress causes the body to release cortisone and adrenaline, and, over a period of time, overactive stress hormones cause damage to the immune system.

Make sure to limit your child’s exposure to stress wherever possible. Keep your schedule manageable so that your family has plenty of downtime to recharge. Keeping your stress levels low will help your family’s emotional health as well.

Breast is Best

To help protect your child from allergies, diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, SIDS, and urinary tract infections, choose to breastfeed your baby for at least the first year of life. Mother’s breast milk is packed full of antibodies and immune boosting white blood cells and antibodies that will protect your child from disease now, and help him or her to avoid diabetes, Crohn's disease , and cancer later in life.

Even if you can’t commit to breastfeeding baby for a year, healthcare providers urge mothers to nurse their newborns for at least three months to help supplement the natural immunity babies receive from their mothers at birth.

6 Get Moving!

It’s no secret that exercise is a vital part of living a healthy lifestyle. Incorporating regular movement into your child’s life benefits his or her entire body. A healthy body makes it easier for your child to fight off infection and disease. By establishing an active lifestyle at a young age, your child will also decrease his or her risks for heart disease, diabetes, and depression later in life.

Making exercise a family activity is the best way to incorporate consistent activity into your lives. Just thirty minutes every day can make a difference in the entire family’s health profile.Exercising as a family can be fun! 

Here are a few great ways for your family to get off of the couch and get moving:

  • roller blading
  • go for walks or hikes
  • go swimming
  • golfing
  • family basketball game
  • play catch
  • go to the park
  • tennis
  • bike riding

5 Stop the Spread of Germs

Limiting your child’s exposure to germs doesn’t actually help his or her immune system, it keeps your child’s immune system from becoming overstressed. Healthcare professionals agree that proper handwashing goes a long way towards keeping children and adults healthy.

Take the time to teach your child proper handwashing technique, here are the simple steps of proper handwashing:

  • wet hands
  • apply soap
  • lather and scrub, paying special attention to fingernails and nail beds for at least fifteen seconds, or as long as it takes to sing the ABC’s
  • rinse both sides of hands with running water
  • dry hands on a clean towel, using the towel to shut off the faucet

Hand Washing is necessary before and after meals, after playing outdoors, or playing with pets, after blowing their nose, or using the bathroom. You may want to have your child wash his or her hands after coming home from daycare as well. For quick clean ups on the go, carry antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer.

To encourage hand washing, have your child pick out child friendly soaps, towels, hand sanitizer, and wipes.

If your child becomes ill, you should throw away their toothbrush as soon as the illness has passed. While your child isn’t able to catch the same virus more than once, germs can easily be spread from household member to household member via the germs that are on a toothbrush. If your child has a bacterial infection, he or she can repeatedly become reinfected from the germs that remain on their toothbrush. Be sure to change the glass that you use in the bathroom as well. Better yet, use disposable paper cups in the bathroom to avoid cross contamination.

Another way to keep germs at bay is to disinfect doorknobs, light switches, remotes, telephones, and any other surface or object that frequently comes into contact with your hands or is vulnerable to aerosolized droplets from your mouth or nose.

4 No Smoking

If either your or your spouse smokes, quit immediately. Cigarette smoke harbors over four thousand toxins that can cause irritation or even kill the cells in the body. Because a children breathe at a faster rate than adults, they are especially susceptible to the toxins contained in cigarette smoke. A child’s natural detoxification system is still immature, intensifying the effects of exposure to toxins.

Exposure to secondhand smoke increases your child’s risk of the following:

  • SIDS
  • asthma
  • ear infections
  • bronchitis
  • pneumonia

As a parent, you should tell friends and family who smoke that you do not allow smoking in your home. If you or your spouse feels unable to quit smoking to better your child’s health, smok outdoors. This doesn’t completely remove your child’s exposure to toxins, but it is better than smoking anywhere near your child.

Supplements

Natural supplements can help boost your child’s immunity, and ward off illness. Here are just a few of the supplements that are proven immunity boosters:

  • Zinc- 20mg to 40mg daily
  • Vitamin C - 250mg to 500mg daily, available in chewable form, powder, or drops
  • Echinacea- gummy chewables and drops are available for children
  • children’s multivitamin
  • fruit and vegetable supplement- especially important if your child won’t eat fruits and veggies

3 A Little Dirt is a Good Thing

While hygiene is definitely important to overall health, but researchers have proven that exposure to some dirt and germs is good for a child's developing immune system.

Think of it this way, just as a baby’s brain needs stimulation and interaction to function at optimal levels, your child’s immune system requires interaction with germs and microbes to help it to learn to defend itself against the everyday invaders that we are all in contact with every day.

Studies show that children who live on farms, or attend daycares often have less instances of allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases as children, and later in life. It seems that giving your child’s immune system the opportunity to flex its muscles, within reason, offers life long benefits.

2 The Benefits of NOT Treating a Fever

Fevers can actually be beneficial in building your child’s immune system and helping them to get over illness more quickly. Having said that, anytime that a child presents a fever of 102 or higher, some form of treatment is needed.

Low grade fevers, below 102, are a sign that your child’s immune system is working well to attack whatever illness may be present in the body. Bacteria and viruses thrive in normal body temperatures, higher temperatures actually help the body to get rid of illness quicker than if you treat a low grade fever.

Using ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat a fever can be risky. Both have been known to cause liver failure when given regularly. Both medicines introduce foreign substances into the body, and the body has to use valuable energy to filter out toxins and harmful ingredients that could be used to heal the body and flush out illness.

There are some instances when even a low grade fever requires attention:

  • a child under three months has a fever of 100.4 or higher
  • fever lasts for more than two days
  • the child complains of a stiff neck, listlessness, or is sensitive to light
  • dehydration is present
  • signs of respiratory issues
  • exposure to toxins or poisons causes the fever
  • a gut feeling that something just isn’t right with your child

1 Avoid Antibiotics Whenever Possible

There are certain conditions where antibiotics are indicated to effectively treat an illness. But more often than not, the use of antibiotics is not indicated. In fact, many doctors prescribe them at the insistence of concerned parents, often to the detriment of the child’s overall health.

When your child’s healthcare provider indicates that a course of antibiotics may be necessary to treat illness or infection, request that a culture be collected to show whether or not the issue is viral or bacterial.

Besides the risk of dangerous side effects and allergic reactions, antibiotics wreak havoc on the bacteria in the gut. Antibiotics can’t distinguish between healthy and unhealthy bacteria, and destroying the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut opens your child up for repeated illness due to decreased immunity.

If your child legitimately needs a course of antibiotics, it's necessary to take measures to restore balance to the bacteria in the gut. The gut makes up roughly seventy percent of our immunity, and the use of antibiotics kills off eighty percent of the beneficial bacteria found in the gut. This leave your child wide open to repeated illnesses, due to a compromised immune system.

Supplementing with probiotics helps to restore the balance of bacteria in the gut, and reactivates the immune system. Without supplementation, it can take up to eighteen months for normal bacteria balance to be restored.

The body was created to protect itself from disease, bacteria, and viruses. Modern diets have been depleted of the nutrients that the body requires to heal itself. GMOs, pesticides and modern farming practices have allowed our food supply to become void of nutrition, and our children are suffering for it. Naturally restoring the body’s ability to heal itself is just one step towards restoring our families to the health that our ancestors enjoyed a generation ago.

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