Have you had a child off school with an illness already this term? Are you kids more cranky than normal? The winter can be tough for even the most robust kids. Dark mornings, cold and wet days and no chance to play in the garden after school, can make most children run down. Here are some great tips to keep your kids happy and healthy during the dark and gloomy winter months, until the sun starts shining and spring kicks in.
Rosemary, sage, thyme, ginger, garlic and turmeric are my top herbs to keep the immune system strong and mood even. Rosemary strengthens the immune system thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps to boost mood and memory and will enable optimal uptake of vitamin D. Ginger and garlic are two of nature’s great antimicrobial herbs. We use ginger a great deal in our juices and both ginger and garlic in our cooking. We add them to curries and noodle soups as well as salads. I use a squeeze of garlic in some warm olive oil as ear drops if any of the children have sore ears. I then pop a woolly hat on their head, even when indoors and this seems to prevent an infection taking hold.
This is one of the most crucial vitamins for a positive mood and a strong immune system and it is wise for almost everyone to be taking this vitamin in the winter months. Living in the UK with little to no sun in the winter and not much in the summertime, means that as a nation most people are chronically low. If your child has dark skin then the risk of low vitamin D levels is much higher. You can easily test vitamin D levels for you and your children through a finger prick blood test. You can arrange this through your naturopath or nutritional therapist.
So how can you boost up your children’s vitamin D levels? Great dietary sources are herring, mackerel and salmon. Rosemary and sage help the body absorb vitamin D so this is why it is so important to add these delicious herbs to your food throughout the winter. The healthy fats in bone broth also help your children assimilate vitamin D.
If your kids are not fish eaters then you may need to supplement with a fish oil supplement or a vitamin D spray or drops. The recommended Vitamin D dose for children below 5 years old is 35 units per pound per day which is approximately 1,000iu for an average sized two year old. Children aged 5-10 can take up to 2,500iu per day.
Most people are very aware of the need for vitamin C during the winter. It is very difficult to overdose on vitamin C and you know if your children are having too much as they will start to experience loose bowels. At first sign of a sniffle or a sore throat then ramp up the vitamin C.
Great dietary sources are fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, kiwi fruit, strawberries and pineapple. Raw cacao is one of the nature’s greatest sources so you can sprinkle this on their porridge or add it to smoothies. Baobab is one of our favourite immune boosters and tastes lovely and citrusy. Add a teaspoon of Baobab powder to some orange juice or a smoothie to super charge. Drinking freshly squeezed pineapple juice is also one of the best ways to help a sore throat and kids love it!
Optimal zinc levels are essential for positive outlook and strong immunity. This is a key mineral to keep your kids happy and healthy. Signs your children need more zinc are white spots on the nails, low mood, fussy eating and poor immunity. Red meat (beef and lamb in particular), sesame seeds (think tahini), pumpkin seeds, cashews, organic milk and lentils are core sources of zinc.
Most people have heard the old wives tale that chicken soup is a cure all! Well in our household it comes out at every opportunity to keep everyone strong and healthy. It is packed with easy to digest protein, minerals and collagen to soothe a sore tummy. It also helps to clear excess mucous from the upper respiratory tract (so remember to grab a handful of tissues when slurping it!).
There is more and more research on the benefits of beneficial gut bacteria for the immune system and the mood. If your child had an out of sync gut (think bloating, wind, pale stools, a loose or sluggish bowel) then probiotics may well be the answer. Some people choose to buy probiotic powders for their children but it is just as easy to make home grown probiotics in the form of kefir (cultured milk – think fizzy yoghurt – add some fruit to make it kid-friendly), kimchi (pickled red cabbage – tastes delicious) and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).