"Let your voice go, let it pierce through your soul."
Lyrics from Sing To The Mountain by Elephant Revival
A new school year is upon us, and this is the time of year when kids get back into the swing of schedules, sports, homework, fun times at school, and sharing germs with friends. With that being said, this is also the time of year that I start ramping up my family's immune system in preparation for the inevitable illnesses that seem to surface during the fall and winter months.
I am by no means an expert in any healthcare and wellness field*; however, my passion, research and personal experience regarding natural health has illustrated the potential for a better way. I have found that a multi-faceted integrative approach prepares our bodies to enter into cold and flu season with a reduced likelihood of catching a pesky illness and a significantly improved recovery time should you fall ill.
Completely avoiding colds, flu, and other bugs is next to impossible. The below recommendations are based on my family's experience and may help to ward off illnesses, or at the very least, minimize the amount of time your kiddos are away from school, correlating to less time away from work for parents and caregivers.
Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is critical when it comes to establishing a strong immune system. Some studies indicate that 70 to 80 percent of your immune system is situated in your digestive tract. We have good and bad germs in our bodies at all times, but when that balance gets tipped, infection and illness may occur.
There are plenty of good probiotic brands marketed to kids, but I prefer giving my daughter the same probiotic I use, which is a 50 billion CFU/twelve strand brand. I divide one 50 billion CFU capsule into two separate doses throughout the week. It mixes in well with yogurt, applesauce, smoothies, and even nut butters.
If I know stomach viruses are running rampant, I will increase the amount and frequency of probiotics. This doesn’t mean you will be able to avoid the dreaded stomach flu, but you can increase the chance of it being a milder case with quicker a recover. Who wouldn’t want that!?
The gut-brain connection has been well documented translating to a healthier microbiome not only being of benefit to immune function but also positively impacting digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders, food allergies, mood and behavioral issues, and developmental disabilities such as ADHD and autism. For more information about gut health and its relationship to mental health check out this article.
A good quality probiotic is something we do not skimp on in our house. Although fermented foods, yogurt, kombucha, and kefir all contain probiotics, I only use these products in addition to the high quality probiotic supplement I give my family,
2. Cod liver oil
Yep, I give my daughter Cod liver oil, and you know what? She doesn’t mind it! Sadly, a typical child’s diet usually falls short of adequate levels of vitamins A and D as well as omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA). Along with its many immune boosting benefits, cod liver oil can also help protect vision, improve mood, support cognitive development, and possibly reduce depression. I live in the Midwest where the winters are long and the vitamin D is critically lacking so cod liver oil is a must for optimal immune health and well-being during the winter months. I give my daughter a 1/2 tsp of this lemon-flavored cod liver oil brand daily.
As a Dental Hygienist I also recommend the use of cod liver oil for the reduction of tooth related decay as well as complications due to hypoplastic enamel. For more information check out this article.
3. Elderberry syrup
I always have a mason jar filled with elderberry syrup in my refrigerator. The dried berries of the Sambucis Nigra plant are high in the immune-boosting compounds A, B, and C that have been shown to effectively combat colds and flu. As a preventative measure, I give my daughter ½-1 tsp daily as soon as the school year begins. If she does come down with an illness or when flu season is in full force I increase the dose to 1-2 TBSP twice a day until the flu epidemic subsides or the illness has run its course. I like to use a small shot glass to combine the elderberry syrup and a liquid liposomal vitamin C which I discuss in more detail below.
You can buy ready-to-use elderberry syrup online or at your nearest health food store, but be aware that some brands use refined sugar. I prefer to make my own from an economical viewpoint as well as a purer ingredient list. For more information and the recipe I use, check out this Wellness Mama's blog post.
Note: Plan ahead and purchase your elderberries in bulk PRIOR to the cold and flu season. Last year there was a 50% increase in price due to the higher demand of elderberries during the cold and flu season. This is where I buy my elderberries.
4. Liposomal vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a vital role in the health and function of the immune cells and is arguably the most widely recognized anti-oxidant and immune system booster. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, which does not efficiently interact with the cell membrane wall as it is made up of fatty acids. Some estimates indicate that traditional oral vitamin C intake has a 20% absorption rate into the bloodstream with the other 80% accumulating in the colon, which is why some people experience unpleasant digestive disturbances, such as cramping and diarrhea, due to it drawing water into the colon. This is why I prefer an oral liposomal vitamin C delivery.
Liposomes are tiny “nano-sized” fat soluble vehicles for carrying nutrients into the cell walls. Liposomal vitamin C is packaged like a bodily cell so it passes through the digestive barrier and efficiently delivers the nutrient directly into the bloodstream. This results in a higher absorption rate with over 90% of the cells being bathed in vitamin C. I prefer using this brand of oral liposomal vitamin C and dose my daughter with 500 mg (1/2 tsp) daily combined in a small shot glass with elderberry syrup. If she comes down with an illness I will increase the dose to 1000 mg until symptoms subside.
A proper diet rich in vitamins and minerals is the best source of nutrients, but many kids who eat a standard American diet do not get an adequate amount of the crucial nutrients they need. Sorry to break the news to you, but "fortified" cereals are not going to make the cut. Although my family eats a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, wholesome grains, and locally sourced meat, I feel an additional high quality multi-vitamin is beneficial to incorporate any trace minerals that we may not be receiving from our diet.
Be cautious of gummy vitamins that may be loaded with refined sugar. If using a gummy vitamin opt for brands that are derived from naturally occurring sugar sources like this brand.
6. Vitamin D3
Not only is it beneficial for building strong bones, a 2012 systematic review and meta-analysis of five trials reported that vitamin D lowers children’s risk for respiratory tract infections such as colds, flu, and pneumonia. Sunshine and diet are two ways in which adequate vitamin D levels are achieved. Let’s face it, the majority of kids are not spending enough time outdoors; and if you live in the northern hemisphere, it becomes even tougher to ensure adequate vitamin D levels. Check out this article for more information regarding the vitamin D deficiency epidemic. As the days become shorter and the temperatures begin to cool, I start to increase my family's daily vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin D is fat soluble, which makes it possible to accumulate too much vitamin D, a rare condition called hypercalcemia. I personally do not think it is a concern with the amount I give my daughter daily, but if you are concerned you can converse with your doctor who can test the amount of vitamin D present in the body via a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. Read this well documented article from WebMD for more information regarding the safety and dosage of vitamin D3 for children and adolescents.
I recommend this brand, which delivers 2000 IU's per drop. Starting in October until April, I give my daughter one drop, 1-3 times per week in addition to what she receives through her multi-vitamin and cod liver oil.
7. Activated charcoal
Nobody likes the stomach bug, but if you know me well, you know that I HATE the dreaded bug and usually summon my husband to deal with any vomit that may occur. I can handle snot and diarrhea all day long but if there is vomit I want out. If there are reported cases of stomach illness in school or if anyone in our family has come down with the dreaded monster I will pull out the activated charcoal and dose my family immediately.
Most commonly used to treat poisoning and drug overdoses, activated charcoal is rapidly gaining attention as a remedy for stomach bugs that oftentimes cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Charcoal is a fine, black powder derived from wood or other natural materials by heating them in an airless environment. Charcoal used for health conditions is usually "activated" to make it a very fine powder, which increases its effectiveness. Activated charcoal can chemically attach to a variety of particles and gases, which makes it great for removing potentially toxic substances from the digestive tract. Activated charcoal is not absorbed into the body, but instead is excreted via the feces, transporting toxins that bind to it.
If you or your child is exhibiting symptoms of stomach illness you can use the charcoal to help them recover quicker. Activated charcoal typically comes in a powder or capsule form. I have this inexpensive brand on hand at all times. For my daughter, I will open up a capsule (about 200 mg) and mix it into a small amount of 100% pure fruit juice such as blueberry or grape and hope for the best that she can keep it down. I will give this dose twice daily until symptoms subside. Charcoal is a dark color so a darker liquid can help to disguise it. Another great option to have on hand is activated charcoal gummies, recipe here.
Side note tidbit for adults: in the event you have one too many glasses of wine or other alcoholic beverage of choice, activated charcoal may also prevent (if taken beforehand) or lessen hangover related symptoms. Of course, remember to drink plenty of water with it!
This particular supplement is a homeopathic, which is a system of alternative medicine that embraces a holistic and natural approach to the treatment of illness. Its guiding philosophy is “like treats like”. Read here for more detailed information about homeopathy.
Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic medicine that works naturally with your body to temporarily relieve flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, headache, body aches, chills and fever. It works best when taken at the first signs of flu-like symptoms, which is why I always keep it in my purse or car for quick access in the event I am not at home when symptoms quickly present themselves. During peak flu season I give the members of my family a preventative dose 1-2 times a week until flu activity subsides. I buy my Oscillococcinum here.
Please note: During high flu season it can be difficult to find this popular homeopathic medicine so I recommend you stock up prior to cold and flu season.
9. Colloidal silver
Colloidal silver is nano sized minerals in a solution containing water. It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties, helps heal wounds and cuts, and helps treat skin issues such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Read here for additional uses and benefits of colloidal silver.
I love using colloidal silver drops for eye and ear infections as well as a mist spray for use at the first sign of a sore throat. Additionally, I have used diluted colloidal silver in a nasal rinse to assist with sinus infections and inflammation due to allergies. Using colloidal silver also offers many uses in the household when it comes to disinfecting, read here.
There is some debate regarding the safety and efficacy of colloidal silver. Please do your research and utilize your judgement to discern if colloidal silver resonates with your family's health needs. With that being said, I will almost always reach for colloidal silver when someone in my family exhibits symptoms of illness.
I always recommend using a tiny particle "nano" silver with a low 10 ppm formulation. This particular brand comes in a dropper and is formulated for kids with clear dosage information. A spray mist is also beneficial to have on hand for use with sore throats. For adult dosing I recommend this.
Acupuncture is my personal go-to for overall balance, health and well-being; increasingly more parents are turning to acupuncture as an effective method of reestablishing and maintaining health within their children's constitution. Acupuncture for children has been shown to assist with a wide range of ailments that are common to kids such as colds, coughs, flu, allergies, asthma, digestive disorders, ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
Concerned about potential anxiety your child may have about needles? Rest assured, the needles used in pediatric acupuncture are very thin and nothing like the needles used for blood tests and shots. In fact, most report feeling no discomfort upon insertion. Finding a skilled acupuncturist that has experience working with children can help ease any anxiety that children (and their parents) may have. Additionally, there are other effective non-needle acupuncture techniques that can be used, such as acupressure, Shonishin, and Gua Sha.
To learn more about acupuncture and its many benefits, check out this article which happens to be written by my awesome acupuncturist.
11. Diet and lifestyle
I love the fact there are so many wonderful supplement options available when it comes to boosting immune health, but in my opinion, the most important lifestyle contributing factors are a wholesome diet, minimal processed food and sugar, reducing environmental toxins, daily exercise and play, adequate water intake, a low stress environment, and the proper amount of quality sleep.
Regardless of whether your family follows a standard American diet, on-the-go, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, vegan, or vegetarian lifestyle - the important fact remains that a balance of good quality carbohydrates, fats, proteins, green leafy vegetables, and fruits are necessary for optimal health and well-being.
Planning healthy lunches for your kids and doing weekly meal planning for dinner is a wonderful way to reduce the tendency to reach for unhealthy options or take convenience trips through the drive-thru. I love using a Crock-Pot, Instant Pot, and Air Fryer and factor in plenty of food for leftover use throughout the week. Pinterest has a plethora of quick and healthy recipe ideas! I also really enjoy the recipes and wellness suggestions from Jamey Florek Wellness, Wellness Mama, and Against All Grain.
Additionally, there are many wonderful podcasts related to family health and wellness. Check out Real Mom Nutrition and Wellness Mama.
For many families, back to school means a calendar chock full of homework, after school activities, and sporting events. Seemingly, we live in a world that has a propensity to thrive on the 'societal norm' of busyness and full schedules. Maintaining a healthy life balance is crucial in supporting a healthy immune system and overall well-being. Claiming time to slow down and truly enjoy the experiences of life in a state of 'presently being' versus 'actively doing' can really have a positive impact on the mind-body connection; on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
Let kids be kids, give them time and space to cultivate their creativity, and seriously---let them get dirty!
To your health and well-being,
Owner of Soul Inspired Journey
Mama. Wife. Life and Well-Being Coach. Natural Health & Wellness Enthusiast. Influencer.
I would love to hear what your family is doing to achieve optimal health, wellness, and balance during the school year. Please feel free to pass this article along! Leave your comments below and as always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Nelson is a life and well-being coach with a special focus on utilizing the law of attraction to create a life of optimal health, balance and well-being. Working with clients all over the world, Amy is passionate about guiding others to connect with their inherent gifts and passions and ultimately shine their light. Amy resides in Wisconsin with her husband and seven-year-old daughter. For more information about Amy and the services she provides, click here.
*LEGAL DISCLAIMER: All information and resources found on SoulInspiredJourney.com are based off of experience, research, and opinions Amy Nelson has in regards to her family’s health and well-being. Amy is NOT a doctor, therapist, psychiatrist or lawyer. No intention is made to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any diseases or conditions. All information contained within this website is to inspire readers to take responsibility for their own health and well-being after first consulting with their health care provider. Please use your own discernment and intuition; take what resonates, discard what doesn't and always seek the guidance of a medical professional/naturopathic doctor if you have any concerns or questions and before embarking on any dietary and lifestyle changes. The information presented in this website is intended for educational purposes and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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