Keeping your family healthy during the winter can begin by simply preventing illness in the first place. Holistic pediatric nurse coach and mother Leah Bodenbach offers this three-part guide on how to enhance your natural immunity so your family doesn’t miss out on the pleasures of the season.
It's a known fact that wintertime is when all the crazy bugs are floating around. Whether it's the flu, colds or coughs, it can be an interesting few months for us all. And while you may not be able to fully prevent getting sick, a healthy immune system is one way to give your body extra protection. So I've developed practical immune-boosting methods based on years of experience as a nurse and a mama. These are tried and true!
Part 1: Basic Tips to Stay Healthy
- Wash your hands with soap and water. The physical removal of germs is what actually helps prevent the transmission of germs.
- Blow your nose after outings or when you’ve been exposed to sickness. Blow those noses after parties, get togethers, playdates, congested places and travel, especially after visiting airports. Better yet, irrigate nasal passages with a neti pot for children that are of age.
- Get daily exercise. Moving the body for at least 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day helps increase macrophages, the type of white blood cells that actually eat pathogens. It could be as simple as a family walk or dance party!
- Drink water. It may seem too easy, but the body is made up of nearly 70% water, so hydration is important to keep the whole system working well. To calculate a body's water need per day, take body weight and divide by two. This equals the total ounces of water you should drink daily.
- Practice stress reduction. This means emotional, physiological, and psychological stress. All stress is interpreted the same to our cells.
- Sleep. Deep, restorative, consistent sleep is how the body repairs and resets to keep the immune system strong.
Those six pillars, along with a diet rich in quality whole foods and some targeted supplements to boost immune function can be crucial for the sick season.
Part 2: Immune-Boosting Foods and Supplements for Sickness
Use Food As Medicine
Eating colorful foods is a main principle of protective nutrition. Nutrient-rich foods, such as those high in vitamins A, C, and E, help support the immune system to stave off seasonal viral infections. An easy way to remember this is with the acronym "ACE." Here is a non-comprehensive list of ACE foods.
|Vitamin A Rich Foods||Liver (in whole food form or desiccated pill), broccoli, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potato, apricot, papaya|
|Vitamin C Rich Foods||Oranges, berries, kiwis, tomatoes, dark leafy greens|
|Vitamin E Rich Foods||Sunflower seeds, almonds, salmon, avocado|
Other foods that nourish the body as well as the gut — where a large part of the immune system lives — are homemade bone both and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir, all of which are rich in live probiotics.
Targeted Supplements to Help You Recover
- Elderberry: Elderberry contains high amounts of antioxidants and may even protect DNA. Because elderberry is packed full of immunity properties, it is believed to decrease inflammation and may reduce the duration and severity of cold and flu-like symptoms, specifically upper respiratory symptoms.
- Cod Liver Oil: Cod liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A and D, which all support a healthy immune response and reduce inflammation.
- Vitamin D3: Our number one source of Vitamin D3 is sunlight. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, you likely do not get enough during winter. Some food sources of vitamin D3 are free-range hen or duck eggs, mushrooms, and caviar (fish roe.)
Part 3: Homeopathic Treatments When Sick
- Oscillococcinum: This is a trusted, reliable way to reduce flu-like symptoms, including fever.* In clinical studies Oscillococcinum was shown to shorten both the duration of symptoms.1-2 Because of how convenient and portable it is, Oscillococcinum is one of my favorite go-to medicines for the family and can be used in children 2 years of age and older.
- ColdCalm: This is great for cold symptoms like runny a nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, and minor sore throat.** ColdCalm for ages 3 and up is available in meltaway tablets, as well as new ColdCalm On the Go Pellets that are great if you are traveling. There’s also ColdCalm Baby for the youngest babies at age 6 months. It comes in pre-filled vials of tasteless liquid medicine that is incredibly easy to give to young children. Because of the individual doses, ColdCalm Baby is easy to pack in the diaper bag or give in the middle of the night, without measuring out a sticky syrup.
Feel confident moving through the winter months with these tips and tricks! Whether you're on the road or flying this time of year, you can be prepared by boosting your immune system and having the right things on hand if cold and flu does hit your household.
About Leah Bodenbach, RN, BSN: Leah is a holistic pediatric nurse coach, mom of three (with two on the way), and founder of Blooming Motherhood and Blooming Motherhood and Company. She teaches moms how to integrate holistic and modern medicine at home and how to prevent chronic illness through baby's first foods. Check out her book, “The All Organic Baby Food Cookbook” and e-course, “Foundational First Foods.” Follow her on IG @bloomingmotherhood and @bloomingmotherhoodco.
- Papp, R., G. Schuback, E. Beck, et. al. “Oscillococcinum® in Patients with Influenza-Like Syndromes: A Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Evaluation.” British Homoeopathic Journal 87, no. 2 (1998): 69-76. doi:10.1038/sj.bhj.5800208.
- Ferley, J.P., D. Zmirou, D. Dadhemar, and F. Balducci. “A Controlled Evaluation of a Homoeopathic Preparation in the Treatment of Influenza-Like Syndromes.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 27, no. 3 (1989): 329-35. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.1989.tb05373.x.
*These “Uses” have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
**Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated.