It’s that time of year again, back to school and back to routine. We are also entering the cold and flu season, although for some families the sniffling has already started. On average, an adult contracts a common cold virus approximately 2-4 times per year, a school aged child approximately six times, and an infant as many as eight times per year. It is estimated that 40% of time lost from work and 30% of school absences are due to the common cold.
Certain nutrients have been shown to not only prevent colds but also reduce the length and severity of the symptoms experienced. Some of these immune boosting nutrients include:
- Vitamin C is one of the most important immune boosting nutrients and is well known for its use in cold and flu prevention and treatment. Humans are one of the few mammals unable to make their own vitamin C and the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is set at the amount needed to prevent scurvy, which is pretty low! The best food sources of vitamin C include asparagus, papaya, oranges, cantaloupe, cauliflower, broccoli, green peppers, kale, lemons, strawberries and rose hips. Some forms of vitamin C can be dissolved in water to help increase fluid consumption which is so important while sick (consider half a dose for children).
- Probiotics are particularly important for supporting our immune system. The human gut has approximately 500 different species of these beneficial bacteria which outnumber our cells 10:1 and we are only now beginning to understand everything that they do for us. Choose a formulation that contains human-strains and is dairy-free when possible. Probiotics are safe for all ages including infants.
- Vitamin D (D3) acts as both a vitamin and a hormone in our body. We are still discovering all of the actions D3 is part of in our bodies. We do know that it is an important component to maintaining a healthy immune system. Most Canadians become deficient in D3 during the winter months as we do not get the correct angle of sunlight like we do in the summer months.
As vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, there is an upper limit to how much a person should take. This means that it is stored in the body and not eliminated right away. Too much can elevate serum calcium levels which may increase risk of kidney stones. Consult your healthcare practitioner to identify your serum levels before supplementing with more than 1000 IUD.
- Zinc is an essential micronutrient that has many important functions in our bodies. Supporting the immune system is just one of these. Getting the correct amount of zinc is particularly important as there is an upper limit, especially in children.
- Natural remedies such as oscillococcinum (for flu) and coryzalia (for colds) are helpful products that can stop a flu or cold in its tracks, especially when taken at the onset of symptoms. Make sure to take 30 minutes away from strong tasting foods such as coffee or toothpaste as this can decrease the effectiveness. They also taste great and are safe for toddlers.
- Herbs are very supportive for our immune systems.
Oil of oregano is one of my go-to herbs with its antimicrobial properties, make sure you pick one up with at least 75% carvecrol, the active ingredient, and be cautious of how much you use for your first time as it’s HOT – wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after use and avoid contact with eyes (and keep out of reach of children)!
St. Francis and Orange Naturals create amazing herbal tinctures specific for colds and flu's and provide child-friendly formulations.
- This immune boosting tea blend can be enjoyed while sitting in a warm bath right before wrapping up and going to sleep. Drinking a warm, soothing cup of tea when feeling under the weather not only provides a medicinal purpose but it also helps put you in a relaxing state. It contains notable immune boosting herbs that are safe for children.
Read this post to find out the difference between cold, flu's and allergies. For information about preventing allergies, check out this post. Tips for preventing the spread of colds and flu's are available here.
For tips to improve overall health and wellbeing, nutrition, recipes and meal plans, visit Integrative Health.
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