In addition to all of the healthy food chatter that goes on around here, I wanted to touch on a topic I get asked about quite often. Every mom knows that nothing quite takes you out of the game as much as one of the babes getting sick does, never mind actually being sick yourself, or…God forbid…your man being sick (in this case, just go ahead and call the ambulance).
I kid, I kid.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the incredible connections between our gut health and the health of every other part of our bodies. A large part of my nutrition practice is centered around helping people heal their gut, because we consider a healthy gut to be a major ‘root’ of health.
There are several things that contribute to gut dysfunction, but multiple rounds of antibiotics (though maybe necessary) can disrupt the healthy gut microbiome if not properly restored. Over time, this can become a slippery slope, contributing to a multitude of things that gut health has been connected to. Antibiotics obviously serve an important and incredible purpose when necessary, but because we know what we do about gut health, I consider natural prevention of an illness as much an investment in future health as I do immediate prevention of the ‘yuck’.
With that, we do everything we can to prevent getting sick in the first place. Our day-to-day action plan consists of nourishing our body with foods that will naturally boost our immune system and help fight off infections, in addition to adding some specific supplements when risk of illness is higher.
This little support regime has avoided a lot of major ‘yuck’ in our house, and despite being exposed and feeling symptoms coming on, has often helped us minimize these symptoms to a few hours rather than several days.
We don’t use any of these every day, but certainly amp up our use when cold/flu season rolls around (or, ahem, back-to-school).
Here are 2 of the major strategies to decrease our risk:
Strategy #1 Boosting our immune system internally with nutrients that help increase your bodies natural defenses against infections, and
Strategy #2 Having natural anti-microbial agents on board to help kill infections at their entry points (ie nose, mouth, etc.)
Lets start with some things to help with #1
Perhaps you’ve heard your grandma talk about this stuff. Up until the 1940’s, cod liver oil was the number one supplement recommended for pregnant women and children to protect against infectious disease and ensure strong bones and teeth.
Fermented Cod Liver Oil is a powerhouse of vitamin A, vitamin D, and Omega 3’s (DHA/EPA). The addition of butter oil to the blend further increases absorbability and provides vitamin K2 which is often void in the standard American diet, but is incredibly important for many things. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and EPA/DHA are very important for:
- strong bones and teeth
- healthy skin
- acute eyesight
- mineral metabolism
- immune support
- steady growth
- brain development
- and even good behavior (give my kids ALL THE OIL)
- Vitamin K helps to form a wide, healthy palette which decreases likelihood of crowded teeth
What is the best kind to take?
Since fish can be naturally high in mercury content, it’s important to get any fish oil product from a source that is mindful of this. Generally, I like Green Pastures and Nordic Naturals, as both of these companies seem to be very mindful of source, sustainability practices, and mercury content.
We chose a fermented oil, based on research suggesting that the fermentation process may increase the vitamin content, making the nutrients more absorbable (compared to synthetic forms of vitamins), and may even decrease certain toxicities commonly found in other fish oils.
How much should I take?
Since this is in gel form, things can get a little messy which is why we do it in the tub. For my little ones (starting after age 1) I combine 1/2 tsp of this with about 1/2 teaspoon of honey (per child) which provides approximately:
- 10,000 IU of Vitamin A
- 1,000 IU of Vitamin D
- DHA & EPA, Vitamin K
Each batch varies in vitamin content due to the fermentation process.
We started with VERY small amounts (just a taste on the tip of my finger) to make sure they tolerated it and worked up slowly over the course of several weeks.
We used to do this 2-3 times weekly, but now we just do so during cold/flu season as needed, and supplement with other things at other times of the year.
How do you get kids to take fish oil?
I would consider my kids extremely squeamish about taking any kind of medicine—even the ‘bubble gum’ medicine. So, I think I expected my kids to hate the Cod Liver Oil blend, BUT they actually argue over who gets the last spoonful. Whhhhhat?
First of all, we get the cinnamon flavor which doesn’t taste bad at all .
I think the key is all in how it’s presented. We have never called it ‘fish oil’ or anything related to ‘fish’ around them. We lovingly call it ‘cinnamon & honey’. I seriously think this is the only reason they take it. They also have seen us take it–I always say, I would rather have 5 seconds of a weird taste than sleepless nights of sick kids 🙂
We mix the gel together with 1-2 tsp of raw honey and chase it with water. You could also try mixing with some unsweetened applesauce.
While I have seen recommendations of giving this to babies, I have never given it to any of mine under the age of one. If you would like to read more about giving cod liver oil to younger children, this is a great resource.
Side note: I have noticed that if they get the cinnamon-flavored oil on the outside of their mouth, our kids get a little red patch for a few minutes afterwards. I believe this is from the natural cinnamon in the product, which can sometimes be more reactive for children. I wash their mouth with a clean wet cloth and it disappears within a few minutes.
Cod Liver Oil summary….
Option #1: Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil Blend (Cinnamon) (we do 1/2 tsp. during cold/flu season as needed)
If you’d prefer a gummy option, this combo would be a good alternative (though it doesn’t have Vitamin A)
If fish oil is out of the question, you may consider a good quality multivitamin. I like alternating nutrient sources, so we have both on hand and switch between the two. On average, we probably do 2 nights of a multivitamin (some weeks are better than others) and add in the Cod Liver Oil support during cold/flu season.
Not all vitamins (especially kids vitamins) are created equal. There is a wide range of quality and the form that any specific vitamin or mineral is in makes a huge difference in how it can actually be absorbed and used within the body.
For example, most vitamins in stores have folate as ‘folic acid’. Interestingly, many cannot use this form of folate (MTHFR, anyone?). Excess folic acid for someone with this mutation can actually be harmful over time. A better alternative is to simply make sure folate is in the usable form, known as methylfolate.
This, along with a few other considerations, is why I love the Phytomulti Kids formula (they have chewables or gummies). You can find this kids chewable multivitamin on amazon, but it is MUCH cheaper if you buy it through my practitioner account which you can access here.
This berry-flavored liquid contains a blend of elderberry syrup and mushrooms which both are known for their immune-boosting benefits.
We refer to this as “berries”, and the kids love it. (I tell ya, it’s all about the mind games.)
We do a dropper full once-a-day during cold/flu season when they’re not sick to help boost the immune system, and then a dropper full twice a day if they are sick.
As I mentioned before, it is well established that a large part of our immune system is actually in our gut. That is, the healthy gut bacteria in our intestines plays an enormous role in how well our body fights off infections.
With recurring infections of any kind, first establishing a healthy gut should always be a priority. To boost immune system, it is always wise to keep the good bacteria happy. There are several ways to do this including eating lots of healthy fiber, minimizing sugar, and eating naturally fermented foods.
A high-quality probiotic can also be helpful. While I don’t have our kids take one daily, it is something we do intermittently, particularly during cold/flu season.
During the warmer months we do less probiotics and just try to play in the dirt more often (because this is natures best probiotic).
For probiotic supplements, we switch back and forth between several brands, since the diversity of bacteria is equally important to the amount we have.
(Note: if you choose to order these off of Amazon, they may not arrive refrigerated. Therefore, I order through this website. You’ll have to establish an account but they’ll be less expensive through my practitioner account compared to Amazon.)
Since germs mostly make their home in the nose and throat, keeping these areas clean and clear make the risk of infection go WAY down. These are the strategies to help with Strategy #2
5. Silver Spray
It’s actually silver, but we treat this stuff like GOLD in our house. It’s like the holy grail. Colloidal silver is an incredibly effective natural anti-microbial against pathogenic bacteria, virus’, parasites, etc. so it goes to work on killing the germs that cause the ‘yuck’.
Whenever we feel that infamous swollen/scratchy throat feeling, everyone elbows their way to the bottle of silver spray. It has literally stopped the beginnings of a cold dead in its tracks and saved us so many times.
As a means of protection during cold/flu season and back-to-school season, I give this to the kids when they get home from school (or as soon as they get in the car), out of the church nursery, etc. We do 6 sprays in the back of the mouth, swish, gargle, swallow as a prevention dose and this on repeat several times a day if we are fighting something.
We have also had success using this topically for certain skin rashes, and I’ve even used it with success for pink eye. It can also be combined with antibiotic therapies if your doctor does prescribe them.
I keep a bottle of this in every bag I own and use it on pacis dropped on the floor, as hand sanitizer, and other nasty things in public.
We have used a few different brands, but this one has been our favorite because it seems like it is most potent and works the best. They have also just released a nasal spray that will be another great line of defense (and it doesn’t kill the beneficial bacteria!)
6. Nasal Spray
Speaking of nasal spray… this is one we use routinely. Mucous membranes become dry when the air gets cold and furnaces get turned on. As a result, nose dryness can become a breeding ground for infections.
In an effort to keep things moist, common saline spray is often used, but studies have shown that this too can cause a drying effect.
The spray that we use is different from just saline, in that it contains xylitol, a popular sugar alcohol. Interestingly, xylitol helps reduce tissue inflammation and naturally opens airways. It also helps moisturize and cleanse, essentially acting like a soap for the nose that makes the nasal environment very inhospitable to any infections.
This is something we do whenever the kids have a stuffy nose or congestions of any kind, and then typically after church nursery and school. I also plan on adding in the silver nasal spray intermittently, especially when I feel they may have been exposed to something.
Tips to Simplify:
To keep things ultra simple, we have a vitamin/supplement bin that we keep in our linen closet. When it’s time to re-stock I add it to our household inventory sheet (in the linen closet) so I remember to order more.
I give the kids most of their things during bath time, which helps simplify the process and reduce messes. Brushing teeth in the bathtub right afterwards further cuts down on mess and time.
I also keep the silver sprays in each purse and diaper bag for easy access when we’re out and about.
Note: I may make a small percentage off of anything purchased from one of the links, at not extra cost to you. But, please know that I only recommend products that we love and use in our home regularly.
I am not a physician, so it is always wise to run these by your doctor before starting anything new or making any changes.