How To Boost Your Child’s Immune System

germ busting ginger drink for colds and flu in a cute foxy mug

Maybe you’re preparing for the usual Winter-time viruses, or maybe you’ve just got sick of your child catching every germ shared at school, or maybe y’know, there’s a freakin’ global pandemic! Whatever the reason, there’s often times when we might want to boost our children’s immune systems (or even our own!)  So I thought I would share with you all my top tips for boosting your immunity, with suggestions for natural remedies and homeopathic remedies that can help you beat the germs.

Sleep and Stress:

Stress and lack of sleep can really impact our ability to fend off infections. With this in mind, it’s important to make sure we aren’t overstretching ourselves in the Winter months when cold and flu viruses are more common. You might need to take a moment and do a schedule/life MOT to see if there’s anything you can change or do to ensure you and your kids get adequate sleep and rest. This isn’t always possible, so to try mitigate stressful times for yourself you might want to consider trying meditation (you could use an app like Headspace) or the excellent Stress Relief homeopathic remedy from Helios.

You might think your kids are too young to be stressed, you also might not have been taught any coping strategies yourself as a child, but it is never too early to start helping children learn how to deal with stress, or learn how to tune in to their bodies and their feelings. Cosmic Kids have some great guided meditation videos for children, also the app Moshi Twilight might be aimed at getting little children to sleep, but certainly some of the audio stories on there are suitable for getting children to think about mindfulness and relaxation. (There’s a free story called the Mindful Moshling that we listen to).

For more ideas on getting a good night’s sleep see my article here (aimed at adults, but it can still be helpful to think about your child’s evening routine and sleep environment).

small child sleeping peacefully, good sleep boosts immunity.
Nutrition:

This is a biggie! Your body needs a whole variety of vitamins and minerals in order to function optimally. This is achievable if you eat a wide variety of plant foods (the wider the variety the better!) but sometimes our established eating habits are not the best and we need a little nudge towards the veg. Feeding children can be especially hard and I know many parents can feel stressed about what their kids are (or aren’t!) eating. Here are some ideas of how to get more of these vital nutrients in to your diet without particularly changing much of what you eat:

  • Smoothies! Really the easiest way, especially with kids – try out different combinations, try sneaking a same-coloured veggie in to a fruit smoothie, vary the plant milks you use, add in extras such as this Flaxseed Vitamin D mix or hemp hearts, save money and time by using pre-chopped frozen bags of fruit.  We even make ‘chocolate milkshake’ that has banana in it and one with cherries that we call ‘black forest gateau’ flavoured, sounds decadent but the vitamins are in there!
  • Soups – again just vary the kind of veg you chuck in, half the time I don’t even use a recipe, it’s just ‘ooh what’s lurking in the fridge?’ soup with a veggie stock cube chucked in it!
  • Pre/probiotics – gut health is super important to immunity, there’s conflicting science on whether probiotics actually make much of a difference, so I’m not going to be all evangelical about them, but I do sometimes use this probiotic powder and add it to yoghurt & smoothies. Prebiotic foods appear to make more of an impact on gut health, our little gut microbes really love a good snack and foods such as bananas and asparagus should feature in your diet to keep them happy.
  • Pimp your faves – if you or your child has a meal they love that could easily be ‘pimped’ with extra veg or fruit, go for it! Add lentils to spag bol and chilli, if you usually use a plain tomato sauce on pasta, try blending other veggies like courgette into it and seeing if it’s still eaten! Replace regular pasta with chickpea or lentil pasta. If you’re making your kids a sandwich, place extra veggies on the plate too – fair enough if they don’t get eaten, but at least they’ll get used to the idea that veggies are there and after enough exposure they’re likely to get eaten. Try cutting veggies and fruit in to fun shapes or using food picks to make meals more fun. Bake with veggies (try out my courgette brownies or beetroot pancakes!)
  • Reduce Sugar Intake – sugar negatively impacts the immune system so try to limit sugary foods (although don’t replace the sugar with artificial synthetic sweeteners like aspartame!) and sweeten things if needed with natural sweeteners like ‘sweet freedom’, agave, rice syrup, coconut sugar, date syrup, carob etc.
  • Hydration – this is really important if you or the kids do get ill – try to keep fluid intake up, warm drinks are especially soothing and help to loosen mucus, try the Ginger Drink recipe below, or herbal teas.
healthy green smoothies are a great way to get extra vitamins in to children
Natural Remedies:
  • Elderberry – (NOTE: re covid-19: some people have been suggesting that elderberry might be counterproductive if given for this virus due to it raising levels of cytokines, there have been no official studies done on this though, so I can’t really advise you either way!) The research on this (for cold & flu) states that this really only works once you ARE already ill, then it can reduce the amount of time and severity of the illness. It doesn’t do much as a preventative – however, considering the amount of vitamin C in elderberries I should imagine that they do still help to support your immune system the rest of the time too. I’m currently giving the kids this supplement, which contains elderberry and zinc, but we have in the past made our own elderberry syrup.
  • Ginger – Ginger is awesome for colds and flu, the bioactive compounds, gingerols and shogaols have anti-inflammatory properties which can help sooth sore throats and it also has antimicrobial properties too which can help fight off viruses. One study found that it was as effective as antibiotics at fighting strep throat, however that research was done in test tubes and more research needs to be done on whether the same effect is seen in actual people!
  • Turmeric & Cinnamon – both turmeric and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects on the body and can help alleviate cold and flu symptoms, chuck them in porridge, soups, curry etc or in my warm Ginger Drink recipe below!
  • Honey – just a note here on honey (if you’re not vegan), studies show that it is effective against many different kinds of bacteria if in DIRECT CONTACT with it (so great for wounds), but only certain types of honey, and only if they’ve been stored appropriately and not been heat treated, so I wouldn’t bother taking it internally for health reasons, as there’s little evidence to suggest (currently) that the antiviral/antibacterial effects survive digestion. It might help a sore throat as it would come in to direct contact with bacteria there (although unlikely to have much of an effect if your sore throat is caused by a virus) or at least it might feel soothing, but so would a warm drink!
Ginger Germ Busting Drink:
Ingredients:
  • Root ginger
  • Lemon juice
  • Agave syrup/honey/other liquid sweetener (optional)
  • Cinnamon & turmeric
Method:
  • Chop up about 2 inches of root ginger, add to a blender along with the juice of half a lemon (or a good squirt from a bottle), a squidge of liquid sweetener and a tsp each of turmeric and cinnamon. Pour over about 2 cups of hot water (I boil it and let it cool slightly – too hot can damage the vitamin c in the lemon juice) The amounts of ginger/sweetness/lemon can be adjusted to taste really – I like mine quite zingy and gingery, the kids prefer theirs a bit sweeter.
  • Blend for about 30 seconds and then strain through a seive in to a mug. If there’s some left over, leave it ‘stewing’ in the blender and strain it later. (yes you might stain your blender slightly with the turmeric but it washes out after a couple of washes!) You can keep it in the fridge for a few days if you make a big batch. I actually quite like it cold, but warm drinks are more soothing if you’re stuffy.
Germ busting ginger drink in a cute foxy mug
Supplements:
  • Vitamin D – (if vegan remember to check whether it’s from lanolin or not) Vitamin D is important for our immune system, deficiency is linked to autoimmune diseases and increased susceptibility to infections. In the UK it is highly unlikely that we get sufficient amounts even in Summer, but definitely not in the Winter months! I highly recommend supplementing this. I use the BetterYou Dlux sprays (they do an infant one too) as they taste nice and sublingual absorption is more efficient – the vitamin goes straight in to systemic circulation just like when we absorb vitamin D from the sun, unlike if we take an oral supplement, which has to be digested first.
  • B12 – Very important for vegans or those on a plant-based diet as it’s difficult to get adequate B12 through diet alone. B12 plays an important role in white blood cell production, so deficiency can impact your immune system negatively. Again we use the BetterYou spray for ease and efficiency.
  • Vitamin C – again vitamin C is necessary for proper immune functioning and a deficiency can make you more susceptible to infections. Some great sources of vitamin C include kiwis, berries, citrus fruits, broccoli but if you fall ill then a high dose of vitamin C could help. I quite like the Emergen-c brand of drinks powder for myself, but there are lots of choice out there for Vitamin C supplements, just watch out for artificial sweeteners in some brands of ‘effervescent drinks’.
  • Zinc – if you eat a varied diet you’re quite likely to have sufficient levels of zinc to keep your immune system functioning fine, plant-based zinc is less bioavailable than animal-based zinc so if you think your child might not be getting adequate amounts (they all seem to go through a picky-eating phase at some point!) then you might want to consider a supplement. We use this immunity supplement which contains zinc (as well as elderberry, vitamin C and D)
  • Combination 12 Tissue Salts – a homeopathic supplement, not for use long term, but can be used for a few weeks to support the immune system generally if an infection is going round or if someone has been ill, this would aid recovery. It’s made up of a combination of 12 mineral salts that are present in the body and the tablets dissolve easily on the tongue, making them perfect for giving to children.
some suggested supplements for boosting immunity - vitamin d, b12, zinc and tissue salts combination 12
Encourage Good HYGIENE:

Remind children about hand washing before eating, when coming in to the house, after going to the toilet etc. Point out that they should try not to touch their face/eat their bogies/put their hands in their mouth while out and about and if they do get sick show them to cough and sneeze in to their elbow and not their hands! You could also get a mini hand sanitiser for their lunchbox, in case they forget to wash their hands before lunch at school.

Homeopathic Remedies:

Remember it is better to see a homeopath as they can tailor the remedy and potency to your unique symptom picture, which is more likely to be effective, and there are SO MANY remedies that can be used for cold and flu like symptoms, however the following remedies might help if you happen to have a kit in already.

  • Gelsemium – this is the ‘number one’ flu remedy and is being recommended as the main remedy when treating coronavirus. Symptoms include lethargy & aching with drooping eyes. Fever, chills and a feeling of pressure in the face.
  • Mercurius Sol – Sensitive to temperatures, swollen lymph nodes with bad breath, tonsils and ears infected.
  • Eupatorium Per – Aching back, joints and muscles, throbbing headache, chronic loose cough that is worse at night with a sore feeling in the chest. Runny nose with sneezing.
  • Bryonia – Very irritable (children don’t want to be picked up or touched), aching – especially in chest, dry hacking cough, cough is worse in the warmth.
  • Aconite – use at the first tiny inkling of infection, when the fever comes on suddenly (we’ve managed to avoid illness quite a few times by nipping it in the bud with this remedy!)
  • Arsenic Album – For people who suffer from frequent colds, sore throats or chest problems. Feelings of weakness and restlessness with a stuffy nose. Head feels really hot but rest of the body is chilly.

Hopefully you can use some of these ideas to help give you and your family a health boost and beat those pesky germs!

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