At this time of year, I’m often asked the best way to keep kids strong and healthy through the winter months, and this year is no exception!! As with most matters of health, there is no one quick fix but there are lots of simple winter health tips and small changes that we can make to help ourselves and our children and give a welcome winter helping hand to everyone’s immune systems.
The winter months can be tough and leave us reaching for quick-fix cold and flu medicines or lozenges for our kids. It may mean also keeping your children off school for a few days (or weeks) as they are feeling so ‘icky’. Some of the medicines that we might give on auto-pilot often contain some additional weird and unwanted ingredients like colourings and sweeteners. And although they might create some instant relief, this is often short-lived and are not supporting the child’s underlying immunity. We also have to be careful not to give a child anti-fever medicines too often, as these can put pressure on a child’s liver.
But the great news is that there is a wealth of wonderful natural remedies that will not only give our little one’s instant relief, but also build their immune systems so that they are stronger and less vulnerable to winter bugs in the future. You will also find many of them are great tasting and very easy to give your kids, so that these might become a regular in your household.
Here are my top tips to supercharge your families’ immune systems over the winter months, and to keep those snuffles, coughs and splutters at bay. You can keep them in your larder or fridge and use them as needed. At a time when Covid-19 is rearing its head again, natural immunity is all the more important.
You’ve heard this before, but I’ll say it again. Everyone should be taking vitamin D in the winter anyway, but as there is increasing evidence that it can also help with Covid-19, it’s cheap and harmless, there’s really no reason not to. I love the BetterYou range as it’s a spray, which is easy, and kids love it too!
A great delicious way to help relieve a sore throat is freshly blended pineapple juice. It is super-delicious and easy to make, and much nicer tasting than lozenges or a throat spray. Pineapple juice has natural anti-inflammatory properties and will help soothe and ease the pain, the vitamin C will help keep the immune system in check. If your children do not like plain pineapple then blend with fresh orange or mango.
Packed full of vitamin c, iron, potassium, calcium and antioxidants this mighty “super food” is a powerful addition to adding to your kids’ morning smoothies or orange juice. Baobab tastes slightly like sherbet, so even the fussiest children will love the slightly tangy taste added to a tropical juices or smoothies. We love this Zingy Baobab Carrot Juice recipe for inspiration.
Manuka, Jarrah and Red Gum honey have antimicrobial properties which have significant potential therapeutic benefits. Enjoy the honey raw, as a natural sweetening ingredient in cooking or diluted in warm water or with fresh lemon juice. Honey is the only recommended remedy for cough by the NHS for children aged 12 months to 12 years.
Ginger is one of nature’s wonderful “super foods”. Full of nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins it is great at boosting immunity, reducing pain, and is also anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory. Simply squeeze a small piece of peeled fresh ginger (the size of your child’s thumb) together with a couple of apples, then get your kids to down the shot in one. You may want to “chase” the shot with more apple juice, but most kids just love the ginger kick.
Over the winter months add extra garlic to your cooking to benefit from its vast number of immune-boosting properties. Packed full of vitamins and antioxidants it is one cooking ingredient you want to embrace to help ward off coughs, colds and flu. Think garlicky hummus, pesto, chicken roasted with garlic, fish dishes or even packed into a tomato sauce. Garlic is the super ingredient that will not only pack that extra punch of flavour, but boost your immune system too.
Kefir is a bubbly, slightly sour yoghurt-type product you can buy or make. It is a great source of beneficial probiotic healthy bacteria’s, healthy yeast strains, protein, amino acids and a wide range of vitamins, including high levels of vitamin B12, calcium and magnesium. It is a fantastic source of nutrients to supercharge the immune system, maintain strong bones and optimal gut health.
You can easily make your own kefir at home by culturing kefir grains or using a powdered kefir culture starting kit to create your own kefir yoghurt, water or milk. Simply take one cup of milk (you can use coconut milk, or almond too), and one teaspoon of active kefir grains and combine in a clean jar, cover the jar with cheesecloth or a paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Leave it to ferment for twelve to forty-eight hours at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and then strain through a plastic sieve. Enjoy as a milk drink on its own, or mix with smoothies or use as you would regularly use milk.
Packed full of antioxidants, flavonoids and vitamins, elderberry has been flagged by several research papers as an extremely effective anti-viral berry. We love the Pukka Elderberry Syrup as it also contains ginger and thyme.
Better still, you can find some elderberries in your local hedgerows which are conveniently in season in early winter. This is good old mother nature giving us a helping hand when we need it. It is easy to make, just put your elderberries in water. You need one part berries to three parts water and simply bring to the boil, then simmer for thirty minutes. You then strain the mixture through a sieve and add natural raw honey to your preferred taste of sweetness. Keep in the fridge for up to a month. Take one to three teaspoons up to four times a day at the first sign of a virus coming on, or take one to two teaspoons daily as a healthy tonic to ward off viruses and to boost your kids’ immune systems.
Don’t think that just because you are taking vitamin D you don’t have to go out for lovely long walks in nature. Simply moving is good for you; but getting out in nature exposes you to all sorts of microbes that boost your microbiome.
This article was originally published on 19 Nov 2016, and has been updated to reflect Covid-19.