We all dread seeing our kids fighting a nasty cold or flu, but there’s only so much we can do to prevent germs and bacteria from creeping into our homes.
I remain grounded in this truth –
Each season of motherhood has its tests.
Personally, I choose to look at sickness as not just a seasonal problem, but rather an opportunity for growth. The silver lining? My son’s immune system strengthens and I’m given the chance to comfort and nurture my little one back to health.
The good news is that there is so much we can do to be prepared. So, while the inevitable truth is that our family’s immunity will be tested at times, what you can do is educate and empower yourself to fight back. So, here are five strategies for kicking colds and flu naturally.
1. Reduce the Spread of Colds and Flu.
The phrase, “basic is best” applies nicely here. Sometimes, the most obvious things can also be the best solutions.
Here are some simple habits to help prevent you and your child succumbing to or spreading colds and flu within your family:
- Wash hands before every meal and snack with soap and water. The most important factor in defeating infections through handwashing is the duration – take at least 30 seconds to wash hands before drying thoroughly. For non-toxic, paraben and SLS free options I love this soap at home and when we’re out and about these individual castile soap wipes.
- A Canadian habit I’ve picked up that we don’t practice so much Downunder is to always take your shoes off when entering the home – such a simple way to prevent traipsing germs from the outside inside (especially when you have little kids who are so close to the floor).
- Regularly clean highly-used surfaces and household items in your home. As a new mother, I became acutely aware of the cocktail of unregulated toxins that can enter our homes even with seemingly “green” products (more on that in a future post). So I got to love using Baking Soda, Vinegar and Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap (which you can use for almost anything!) as well as making the switch to Branch Basics.
- Regularly wash and/or air out bedding especially when your littles are unwell.
2. Sleep It Off.
As we all know, sleep is a valuable form of natural medicine. When your little one is sick, it’s so important to make sure they are getting lots of sleep and rest and then some.
If you’ve been a Raised Good reader for a while, you know that I’m an advocate for bedsharing. Even if your family’s sleeping style is different, I encourage you to open that opportunity to your sick child, as well as contact naps during the day. The comfort your child will experience from your touch alone will do wonders on their road back to health.
3. Wake Up and Smell the Fresh Air, Literally.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside our homes is generally between two and five times more polluted than the air outside. It’s a shocking statistic, isn’t it?
With more time spent indoors over the winter months when we’re more likely to get colds and flu, it’s an important issue to address. The great news is that there is so much we can do to improve indoor air quality and reduce allergens, viruses, bacteria and mold spores within our homes to help our families stay healthy or recover faster:
- Open the windows: Open the windows and allow cool, fresh air to move throughout your home. Filled with fresh oxygen and beneficial bacteria, outdoor air will serve your contagious home better than any disinfectant spray. If you live in a colder environment, open your windows for 10-15 minutes every three to four hours, or consider an air purifier.
- Beeswax candles: Beeswax candles act as natural air purifiers. Be sure to avoid paraffin candles that are petroleum-derived and can release benzene, toluene, and soot into the air. Beeswax candles ionise the air and neutralise toxic compounds and other contaminants, with the added benefit of burning slowly so you don’t need to replace them as often. Here are some 100% beeswax candles.
- Himalayan salt lamps: Himalayan pink salt lamps, like this one, act as natural ionic air purifiers that pull toxins from the environment and neutralise them. As an added bonus, you can leave your lamp on during the night because the natural orange glow doesn’t disrupt sleep hormones.
- Houseplants: Plants are essential to our existence; through photosynthesis, they convert the carbon dioxide we breathe out into fresh oxygen for us to then inhale. And, as one famous NASA experiment found indoor plants can purify and rejuvenate the air while removing carcinogenic compounds like formaldehyde and benzene. Research has also found that soil microorganisms in indoor plants may play a role in cleaning indoor air. Not all indoor plants are created equal – among the best indoor plants for air purification are the golden pothos, English ivy, Boston ferns, and snake plants. Consider at least two good-sized plants per 100 square feet.
- Essential oils: Multiple studies have shown that diffusing specific essential oils can kill airborne bacteria and fungi. One study showed that following 10 minutes of exposure to Thieves Oil (a blend of five essential oils and found here) there was an 82% reduction in M. luteus bioaerosol, a 96% reduction in the P. aeruginosa bioaerosol, and a 44% reduction in the S. aureus bioaerosol. Other studies show that Cinnamon Bark oil is potent against various fungi that can affect the respiratory tract, while Cinnamon Bark, Lemongrass and Thyme are effective against respiratory bacteria.
And finally, spend less time indoors and get outside! Life was meant to be lived outside, not inside four walls. So, go for a walk in nature, breathe in the fresh air and you’ll feel healthier. If you’re looking for some inspiration to get outside with your kiddo, read this post and this post and then read The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv and you’ll be outside in no time!
4. Fuel With Freshness
As easy as it is to reach for comfort foods when we’re feeling ill, your body needs fresh produce that is easy to digest (so your body can focus its energy on healing), rich in antioxidants and loaded with immune supportive vitamins.
Organic fruits and vegetables are always top of my list and juicing them when you’re sick will make their vitamins more bioavailable to you and your littles.
My son and I make a cold-pressed apple and carrot juice every morning (make sure to use organic as both carrots and apples are on the Dirty Dozen list) which is loaded with beta-carotene, a precursor to VItamin A, a powerhouse immune-boosting antioxidant. Here’s a link to an immune-boosting juice by one of my favourite Canadian nutritionists, Joy McCarthy. We also love a daily smoothie packed with greens to feed healthy gut bacteria, fueled by coconut water for hydration and loaded with powders like Beet crystals or Greens First.
Here are a handful of immune-supporting foods that you’ll want to have on hand when your family is sick or trying to dodge illness:
Garlic: Garlic is nature’s antibiotic thanks to a phytochemical allicin, which has been shown to be effective against common infections such as colds, flu, stomach viruses, and Candida yeast, as well as more pathogenic microbes including tuberculosis and botulism. The act of chopping or crushing garlic stimulates the enzymatic process that converts alliin into allicin so always use fresh garlic and once you’ve chopped it, let it sit on your cutting board for at least 5-10 minutes. Add garlic to soups, stews, hummus, salad dressings, and pasta sauces.
Mushrooms: Mushrooms are considered superfoods and with good reason. They are a rare dietary source of Vitamin D, a good source of zinc and contain more selenium than any other vegetable – all amazing immunity boosters and infection fighters. Mushrooms also contain beta-glucan, a polysaccharide that activates the immune system helping to prevent infections by regulating white blood cell activity, keeping them in a highly prepared state so they are ready to attack foreign invaders. Speaking of mushrooms, have you heard of mushroom coffee or mushroom cacao? Check out Four Sigmatic, and consider trading your morning coffee (or one of them!) for a Four Sigmatic mushroom coffee with chaga and lion’s mane to support immunity, focus, and creativity. Or switch your nightcap for a decadent cacao blend with reishi mushrooms to support stress and restful sleep. Use code RAISEDGOOD for 10% off your order.
Bone broth: bone broth is incredibly rich in minerals and easily digested amino acids, making it a superfood for gut health. Many kids will drink it straight (my son won’t!) or you can use it as a base for soup or cook rice or quinoa in it. Recently I’ve also been using this chocolate flavoured bone broth powder and adding it to smoothies.
Eliminate sugar: white blood cells are the soldiers of our immune systems, protecting us against infectious disease and foreign invaders. Studies have shown that eating sugar can paralyze the white blood cells for half an hour or more, literally paralysing our body’s defenses. Other studies have shown that 100g of sugar (the amount you’d find in a bottle of soda) renders white blood cells 40% less effective, negatively impacting your immune system for up to 5 hours. If that wasn’t enough refined sugars also rob our bodies of minerals as our bodies process it. And the irony is that refined sugars offer zero health benefits – as hard as it may be, limit processed foods that hide sugar under a variety of names and replace sugar with wholefood alternatives like Maple syrup, raw unpasteurized honey, dates and coconut sugar.
5. Supplements to prevent illness and speed recovery
As much as I’d love our family to get all we need from food, the reality is that between picky childhood eating, frequent travel, living in low light during Canadian winters and the reality that our soil isn’t as rich in vitamins and minerals as it used to be, we do rely on a handful of go-to supplements to help our family’s immune systems stay healthy. I hope these suggestions may help your family too.
St. Francis Deep Immune for Kids and Adults: The ultimate immune formula for the whole family. (with both adult and child options). Made with a powerful complement of adaptogenic herbs, you’ll always find this item at our home. Here it is for kids and for adults.
Zinc Lozenges: Zinc prevents colds and boosts your immune system while you’re fighting one. There are a number of natural food sources including shellfish, legumes, seeds, and nuts. But when you feel the tingle of illness coming on, it’s a great idea to start supplementing with a zinc lozenge immediately. This one is my little guy’s favourite which also combines with immune-boosting elderberry.
MycoShield Immune Support Spray: Our local health food store got us onto this spray and my husband and I both wouldn’t be without it now. Serving as a proactive immune support system, this five-mushroom-blend can do wonders in a pinch. It’s available as capsules here or as a spray here (we love the peppermint spray).
Probiotics (and fermented foods): Supporting gut health is critical so whenever I feel under the weather, I fuel up as much as I can on fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, miso, and tempeh. Also, consider taking a daily probiotic supplement (make sure it’s multistrain) to help you maintain a healthy balance of “good” bacteria. One of my favourite books on this topic is Dr. Brett Finlay’s, Let Them Eat Dirt: How Microbes Can Make Your Child Healthier. As it turns out, one of the best things we can do for our kids’ health is to let them get dirty. Why? Because exposure to soil organisms helps populate and promote a healthy microbiome which is essential to good health. And of course, natural sunlight will also boost your dose of vitamin D while enhancing your family’s mood at the same time which brings me to…
Vitamin D3: Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin and if you, like me, live in the northern hemisphere there isn’t a lot of sunshine from November to May. In 2012, this study suggested that 50% of the global population is Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is important in regulating and supporting immunity, preventing disease and illness, protecting against the development of autoimmune diseases, preventing viral or bacterial upper respiratory infections, reducing inflammation in the body, strengthening the barrier of the skin which can help prevent infection, preventing childhood eczema…just to name a few. I’d recommend getting your Vitamin D levels checked and supplementing with a product like this one as appropriate.
Elderberry: one of nature’s greatest and tastiest sources of Vitamin C. My son loves taking elderberry syrup and we use this one. Some amazingly resourceful mamas make their own elderberry syrup and if you’d like to give it a try, here is an elderberry kit to get you started. My hubby and I also use Ener-C for extra vitamin C when we need it.
Dealing with sickness is never fun, so take it easy on yourself. Clear your schedule. Call in help. Reset your expectations. And remember that it can also be a powerful bonding experience depending on how you approach it. We should remember to take advantage of every moment that our children cling to us for protection and comfort. Lean into this short season mama – as they say, this too shall pass. And your comfort and presence will outweigh any supplement or superfood!
Being able to nurture your child back to health is a humbling and honorable experience that deserves to be recognized. Take this season as an opportunity to grow your trust, intuition, and unconditional love for your child. Allow them to freely rely on you and find comfort in your wholeness during their temporary illness.