Introduction by Safe Baby Healthy Child Founders Sandra Blum and Samantha Fox Olson
It’s that time of year again, cold and flu season. The time when our little kids start sneezing and coughing and passing around the bugs.
We went to Safe Baby Healthy Child Health Expert Dr. Murray Clarke, ND., D.Hom., L.Ac. for his tips on the top ten immune boosters for your child. Share this, bookmark it and post it on your social media pages. Let’s keep our kids’ immune systems strong!
Best Immune Boosters For Kids
1. Vitamin C
In today’s world, vitamin C continues as a superstar in the natural health field. In recent years it has become an even more critical nutrient due to its extremely important function as both an antioxidant and as the primary vitamin for immune system support. Vitamin C supports a vast array of processes within the human body, from assisting in the detoxification of environmental toxins, to tissue repair, immune support and immune defense. Vitamin C is not manufactured in the body, so we must obtain this essential vitamin from outside sources.
Vitamin C directly affects several components of the human immune system. For example, vitamin C has been shown to stimulate both the production and function of leukocytes (white blood cells), especially neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes which are the important immune cells involved in both preventing and fighting against colds, coughs, flu and other infections. (Adv Nutr Res. 1994).
Studies indicate that taking vitamin C can be helpful to reduce the duration and severity of colds and the flu when the symptoms start (Cochrane Review). However the full benefits of vitamin C are really gained by regular daily use. In this way the body and immune system stay stronger from all the beneficial effects and you are able to reduce your child’s risk of catching whatever may be going around their school or neighborhood.
2. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 is the new star in the vitamin world. There has been a wealth of research over the past few years which sheds new light on why receiving the correct amount of vitamin D3 is so important for a fully functional immune system. Studies now show us that the immune cells which are directly involved in fighting infections have their very own vitamin D receptor sites, which means that they will only function properly and respond appropriately when they are receiving the correct amount of vitamin D on a daily basis.
A 2010 study found that children taking 1,200 IUs of vitamin D3 per day, were 42 percent less likely to come down with the flu. The trial followed 340 children for four months during the height of the winter flu season. Half of the study participants received pills that contained 1,200 IU of vitamin D; the other half received placebo pills. Researchers found that type A influenza rates in the vitamin D group were 42 percent lower than in the placebo group. (Am J Clin Nutr. 2010).
Giving your child vitamin D3 along with vitamin C on a daily basis throughout
the winter season is a great way to improve their immune defenses.
Colostrum is nature’s first and finest food for the immune system. After birth, for the first 2-3 days it is not milk that is given from the mother’s breast to the new born baby, it is Colostrum. Colostrum delivers all of the vital immune components from the mother to the infant so that the baby can receive immediate immune protection from the outside world as well as receive the nutrients and immune factors that activate their own immune system to start functioning independently.
Colostrum contains a complete smorgasbord of immune factors, including immunoglobulins, lysosomes (for destroying bacteria and viruses), lymphokines (for antiviral activity) and Proline Rich Peptides (PRP’s) which also inhibit viral infections, stimulate natural killer T-cell activity and allow the many different parts of the immune system to communicate effectively in order to coordinate a correct and complete immune response.
Colostrum is such an important and effective immune supplement that a 2007 study comparing the efficacy of the flu vaccine versus supplementing with Colostrum found that Colostrum was more effective at preventing the flu than the flu vaccine itself.
The result: “Colostrum, both in healthy subjects and high-risk cardiovascular patients, is at least 3 times more effective than vaccination to prevent flu and is very cost-effective”. (J. Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis, April 2007).
Probiotics are often called “friendly” bacteria because they play so many important roles within the human digestive tract. Without these bacteria, like acidophilus and bifidobacterium, the human body would not be able to utilize much of the nutrition from our food and our intestinal tract would be much more prone to infections from bacteria, yeast and viruses. These “friendly” bacteria help us to digest and absorb the nutrients in the food that we eat as well as directly protecting us from any unhealthy bacteria or viruses that may also be in the food that we consume.
For hundreds of years, naturopathic doctors have said,
“keep the digestive system clean and strong and the immune system will also stay strong”.
This makes complete sense in light of current medical knowledge where we now understand that as much as 70% of the immune system is physically situated around the intestines and that by keeping the intestinal ecology healthy with probiotics, we simultaneously keep the immune system healthy and strong.
An 18-month study examined the effect of probiotics lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium on children aged 3 to 5 years. The 326 children who participated in the study were divided into three test groups: one given milk with lactobacillus acidophilus, one group given milk with lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium and a third group who received only milk as a placebo. The results showed that:
- the lactobacillus acidophilus group had 53% fewer fevers, 41% fewer coughs and 28% fewer runny noses than the placebo group;
- the group given both bacteria strains had 72% fewer fevers, 62% fewer coughs and 59% fewer runny noses than the placebo group; and
- the lactobacillus acidophilus group recovered from cold symptoms 32% faster and the two-bacteria group recovered 48% faster than the placebo group, when they did get sick, with less antibiotic use (68% and 84% less, respectively).
Modern research has found that the echinacosides found in echinacea have antibacterial properties as well as the ability to stimulate and strengthen immune response by increasing the production and activity of immune cells such as leukocytes, lymphocytes and monocytes, as well as cytokines.
Lately there have been some conflicting reports and conclusions on the effectiveness of echinacea for the treatment of colds and flu. These mixed results appear to be due to the quantities and quality of the echinacea extracts used in the studies rather than the echinacea not working effectively.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut combined findings from 14 previously reported trials examining echinacea to prevent or treat the common cold. This combined trial analysis showed a strong benefit, where use of the herbal supplement was found to reduce the risk of catching a cold by 58%, while the combination of echinacea and vitamin C reduced cold incidence by 86% in one study.
6. Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra)
Historically, black elderberries are also among the most widely used naturopathic remedies for preventing and treating coughs, colds and flu. Modern science has now also confirmed these therapeutic properties. In 1995, Israeli scientists reported their results in treating patients with elderberry extract during an outbreak of influenza. Significant improvement of the symptoms, including fever, was seen in 93% of the cases in the elderberry-treated group within 2 days, whereas in the control group, only 91% of the patients showed improvement within 6 days. A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of the elderberry-treated group.
In 2011, researchers in Germany reported that a concentrated liquid extract of black elderberries (Sambucus nigra) inhibited the growth of influenza A and B viruses and also bacteria associated with upper respiratory tract infections.
Most recently, a 2012 study evaluated the effectiveness of elderberry in mice infected with the human influenza virus. Oral administration of elderberry suppressed viral replication and strongly enhanced the animals’ immune systems and ability to fight influenza. The authors concluded that elderberry had a beneficial effect by stimulating an immune response and preventing viral infection. Elderberry stands out as one of the most effective herbals known to help in preventing and treating colds and flu.
7. Olive Leaf Extract
Perhaps the oldest of all the herbal remedies for treating a wide array of infections is the olive leaf. References to the medicinal use of this extract can be found dating back to biblical times. And once again modern science has caught up with historical experience and we now know what is in the olive leaf extract that makes it effective against so many types of bacteria and viruses.
“The main constituent of olive leaf is the phytochemical oleuropein. Other ingredients include esters, multiple iridoids, rutin, apigenin, luteolin and more.
[With these ingredients,] olive leaf has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and it appears to interact with the protein in cold and flu virus particles to halt infection, according to the Alternative Medicine Review. Zest for Life notes “Research indicates that olive leaf extract may be a true antiviral compound, as it appears to selectively block an entire virus-specific system”.
Research suggests that olive leaf extract enhances the body’s efforts to fight invading organisms via two processes. Firstly, by stimulating immune system cells to surround and destroy invading bacteria and viruses, and secondly by interrupting the ability of bacteria and viruses to replicate themselves and cause infection. It is very rare in the world of medicine to find an herbal extract that is capable of directly destroying both bacteria and viruses.
For thousands of years olive leaves have been used to treat and protect against an array of medical concerns. People all over the world have used olive leaf extract to help their immune system ward off colds and flu and for this purpose it is one of the very best.
8. Larch Arabinogalactan
Larch Arabinogalactan may not be as well known as echinacea, elderberry or olive leaf extract, however, it is another herbal extract that has demonstrated very effective immune boosting properties.
Larch arabinogalactan is produced from the western larch tree. It is found as a white powder that has a good taste and is very easily dissolved in water or juice. Studies indicate that it works in a very similar manner to echinacea, where it is capable of activating specialized immune cells such as the natural killer cells and macrophages which are actively involved in preventing and fighting colds and flu. Larch has also been shown to increase the release of interferon, another vital immune component for fighting viruses. (Altern Med Rev. 1999).
Results from a European study published this year found that supplementation with larch arabinogalactan was associated wit