We spend far too long taking our little ones to the doctors: runny noses, ear infections and fevers that pass from one member of the family to the other. Most common coughs and colds start as viral infection which is self-limited, but sometimes can develop to secondary bacterial infection which means that the use of antibiotics is necessary. 

If all this sounds too familiar, then is time to start boosting your whole family’s immune system the natural way! Our very own local pharmacist and complementary health therapist Kiki Marselou tells us how….

DIET

The nature has given us plenty of options to fight the infections, but unfortunately is not always easy to convince children to eat greens.

Ideally, we need a minimum of 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. An easy way to achieve this is to start the day with a smoothie packed with seasonal fruits, super-foods, like avocado(contains lycopene and beta-carotene and more potassium than bananas) , 1 teaspoon of raw honey and a scoop of chlorella( a well known algae since antiquity that boosts the immune system and has a detoxification effect). Berries have an exceptional antioxidant profile and you can them frozen and add them to the smoothie.

Try and use the fruits with their skin whenever is possible (consider buying organic) since the skin is often the most nutritious part of the plant.

PROBIOTICS

These live microorganisms can help to prevent diarrhoea, reduce its severity and can promote the production of antibodies. Another study showed that children taking Lactobacillus reduced the frequency and severity of respiratory infections. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/effect of long-term consumption of probiotic milk on infections in children attending day care centres). You can either use a good quality supplement or add Kefir milk (fermented milk which comes in different flavours, sold in most super markets) or kefir yoghurt on their diet.

BROTH

Nothing can beat this old-fashion remedy for colds! You can prepare a bone broth, or the vegetarian option where you substitute bones with seaweed and shiitake mushrooms. Whichever broth suits you family’s needs, it is the best way to speed up healing at the first signs of a cold, as they contain minerals such as calcium and magnesium and are rich in cysteine, an amino acid that thins mucus and makes it easier to expectorate it from the lungs. 

NUTRITIONAL YEAST

This is a food additive made form an organism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and the harvested and deactivated (this means it doesn’t grow like the baking yeast). The benefits of the nutritional yeast are linked to a high content in beta-glucan, a fibre correlated with improved immune function. A new study considers it as one of the best foods to prevent common childhood infections. You only need a teaspoon a day and it you can sprinkle it on any pasta dish, add on soups, or stir in mashed potatoes.

ELDERBERRIES (Sambucus Nigra): T

This is a plant rich in anthocyanins and flavonoids, and therefore they have an important antioxidant effect. The fruits are found in late summer and autumn and it is a folk tradition preparing a flu-boosting cordial from these berries. Attention though, as the raw fruits are poisonous. Nowadays there are many products over the counter based on this plant.

PROPOLIS 

Honeybee products have been used since ancient times to boost our immune system and are particularly useful to prevent from upper respiratory tract infections. Propolis is used from the bees for its antibacterial effect, to defend their hives. Especially if your child suffers from recurrent tonsillitis, a propolis spray is something you want to keep in the cupboard. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Propolis: a wonder bees product and its pharmacological potentials.

VITAMINS

Vitamin C does not need much introduction: it has been established that in combination with zinc can reduce the duration and severity of the infections. A supplement which provides 100mg of Vit C should be enough for a child, but doses vary according the age. Worth remembering that Vit C is water soluble so there is no risk of accumulation in the body.

Vit D: The UK guidelines recommend a supplement of 10mcg Vit D during the winter months for all children aged from 1 years old. For babies under 1 year, the recommended dose is 8.5mcg daily. Deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity and susceptibility to infection, and unfortunately especially during winter, food alone is not enough to cover our needs. Avoid giving a supplement close to bedtime as it can interfere with sleep.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/vit D and the immune system.

Dark Chocolate

Sucking a piece of dark chocolate (min 70% cacao) can alleviate symptoms better than codeine according to British researchers, so fighting that cough is not that hard as you thought after all!

As a general advice, food can work with us or against us: if you child is always sick, cut back on foods that fuel inflammation: refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, processed meat and refined white flours should be avoided. Also, everyone is unique so a tailor-made plan from a qualified healthcare professional, aiming to boost the immune system is the best way to go ahead.

Kiki Marselou is a qualified pharmacist with training in complementary health, such as homeopathy, nutrition and dietary supplements. She is a lecturer for the Centre of Integrative Health in Bristol and founder of ” NaturalVitaHealth”. Her clinical practice is based in Bath, Somerset, but also consults people around the world via webcam at www.naturalvitahealth.com

Medical disclaimer: This article is based on my personal experience and research and should not be used in place of a medical advice. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read in this article.