ABCs of Children’s Immune Health – By Dr. Julie Durnan ND

One of the most common questions we hear from parents in the clinic is:  “How can I boost my child’s immune system?”.  This is an especially hot topic in the fall so I thought it would be handy to provide patients with a list of our all time favourite immune boosters.
A.  Vitamin A.  Found in organic butter (yes, not margarine!).
B.  Berries.  A diet rich in pigmented berries will provide your growing child with an abundance of antioxidants, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
C. Vitamin C.  Found in bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and of course, our favourite kale.
D. That’s Vitamin D.  Supplement children 2000IU to 4000IU per day depending on age and weight.  This vitamin is especially important for us Canadians, particularly those of us who live on the North Shore.
E.  Elderberry Syrup.  A wonderful fruit syrup full of antioxidants and shown to reduce incidence of colds and flus in children who take longterm.
F.  Food colourings and additives.  Avoid them.  If you’re still buying orange cheese or artificially coloured crackers (fishy crackers),  find chemical-free alternatives.
G.  Green leafy veggies.  These contain iron, folic acid, fibre, and minerals.  You can hide them in smoothies or popsicles, steam them and add tamari as a side dish, or serve them raw with other chopped veggies and dip.  Aim for at least one serving per day.
H.  Herbal teas:  Astragalus/Echinacea/Ginger/Garlic botanicals are great teas for boosting children’s immune systems.  Just as effective is adding these to soups, sauces, or stirfries.
I.  Infection. Prevent the spread of infection by washing hands frequently and covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
J.  Junk food.  Get it out of the house.  Kids are exposed to enough candy and processed foods at school and friends’ parties.  Keep your child’s daily diet free from sugar and processed foods.
K.  Keep their necks warm during cold, damp, windy weather.  According to Chinese medicine theory, when our “wind gates” (located at the back of the neck) are uncovered, they allow viruses to enter and infect the body.  Keep kids cozy with scarves and warm jackets during the fall and winter.
L.  Licorice.  This herb can be a wonderful tonic for the lungs and overall immune health.  It is great for cough and building the immune system.  It can be taken as a tincture/glycerite/syrup/tea.
M.  Multivitamin.  When kids get picky, it’s a good time to introduce a daily multi as an insurance policy that they are getting all they need for optimal immune function.
N. Nutrition. In the face of frequent colds or flus, it’s very important to focus on good solid nutrition and to rule out any food intolerances.
O.  Organic.  Avoid pesticides and herbicides as these contribute to the overall toxic load that can interfere with hormonal function, immune function and growth.
P.  Probiotics.  70% of our immune systems are in our digestive tracts.  Supplement your child with 5 to 40 billion probiotic organisms per day, depending on age.
Q.  Quiet time.  Kids need down time.  Things get busy with school and activities.  Allow for some time to rest and recharge.
R.  Regular meals.  These are the foundation for great eating habits and a wonderful time to catch up with family members  and talk about your day!
S.  Sleep.  Children under the age of 12 need up to 11 hours of sleep per night.  Sleep deprivation can result in lowered immunity.
T.  TV.  Turn it off.
U. Unconditional love.  A five year old once told me the secret to raising healthy children:  “Just love your kids”.  I think she’s got it right.
V.  Veggies. 5 to 10 servings per day. Yes, you heard me correctly!
W.  Water.  Plenty of fluid.  Up to 8 cups per day depending on child’s weight.
X.  Exercise.  Children need a minimum of 60 minutes of activity per day.  We are so fortunate to live here and have so many outdoor activities at our doorstep.  Get out there!
Y.  You need to lead by example.  If your child sees you eating your veggies, taking your required supplements, exercising, and resting as needed, they will learn that this is the norm and it will be much easier for them to develop healthy habits.
Zinc.  Foods such as oysters, cocoa, nuts, wheat germ, pumpkin/squash/watermelon seeds.  Also, zinc lozenges are nice and soothing for sore throats.

And don’t forget to bring your little ones in to the clinic for regular naturopathic check-ups.  We recommend well-child visits once per season to rule out any chronic issues that may be dampening their immune response.  Together, we will keep them vital and strong.  Happy Fall!