By Dr. Holly German, N.D.
Back to school season often means the start of cold and flu season for many families. While exposure to microbes in the classroom is inevitable, actually contracting an illness is preventable. Unlike antibiotic and antiviral medications, many natural treatments can actually help reduce susceptibility or at least limit the intensity and duration of common colds and flus. Ideally, families can begin implementing these practices before the start of the school season so that kids can go into the season really strong and vital.
These remedies can safely and effectively keep children and adults healthy and vibrant.
Hygiene: As simple as it is, basic hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of contagious disease. There is a lot beneficial flora on the skin so it’s not necessary to go overboard with hand sanitizers. Hand washing with warm water and gentle soap is sufficient.
Sleep: Our immune systems are most active while we are deeply asleep. Make sure the house is quiet an hour before bedtime, turn bright lights down, turn electronics off, and get the nightly chores done well before bedtime. Sipping on Chamomile, Catnip, or Avena (oatstraw) teas before bed is a good way to wind down for a deep, restorative sleep.
Nutrition: Key immune nutrients are Vitamins A, C, and D; and minerals such as Selenium and Zinc. Bright colored fruits and veggies have a wide spectrum of vitamins and Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds are rich in minerals. Sun exposure is the best way to get Vitamin D but in winter months, supplementation is helpful. Limiting immune busters like sugar, trans fats, and individual food intolerances (determined by an elimination diet or a finger-stick test) will help to bolster immunity.
Immune Building Herbs: Certain herbs are safe to use long term as immune builders to help reduce susceptibility to colds and flus. Some helpful tonic herbs include astragalus, isatis, cordyceps, larch, and elderberry. A daily spoonful of elderberry syrup is an easy and kid-friendly option.
GI Support: Probiotics are a simple way to boost immunity in the GI tract and throughout the body. This is especially important of your child has taken antibiotics and/or if they eat non-organic animal products. Saccharomycess boulardii is a strain that has been shown to increase the immune response in mucous membranes and therefore is well-suited to prevent respiratory illnesses.
Diet: Kids aren’t hungry when they’re sick for a reason. Less food intake will allow more energy to be used for supporting a strong immune response and less energy to be used for digestion. Plenty of water, bone broths, teas, and fresh juices are essential. Avoid sugar and known food intolerances that can drain the immune system. Light soups with garlic, onions and ginger are also beneficial; you can throw in some brown rice and organic chicken or beans for heartier appetites.
Herbs also work well during an acute illness to help lessen the severity and intensity of an illness. Many herbs are anti-viral in addition to being anti-bacterial, so are more effective than antibiotic prescriptions for most colds and flus, since these illnesses are caused by a virus. Echinacea, Goldenseal, Elderberry, Osha, Licorice, and Myrrh are all generally safe immune boosting herbs.
Homeopathy has the potential to profoundly reduce the intensity and duration of an illness. While homeopathy is most effective when highly individualized (with the help of a Naturopathic Doctor or other knowledgeable practitioner), there are a few remedies that are commonly effective in colds/flus. Allium c., Arsenicum, Belladonna, Kali b., Pulsatilla, and Nux v. are a few common cold/flu remedies.
Dr. Holly German works with people of all ages to support them in optimal wellness. For a free 15 minute consultation, please call 831-515-8699 and check out her website: www.DrHollyGerman.com