Last year was the first year that my 2 kids were in daycare and preschool and we got ALL the colds. Prior to this our kids had a family friend who nannied for us, and my husband and I worked schedules that meant we often only had 1 day off together as a family of 4 to ensure our kids had the care they needed, especially at the height of the pandemic. It was hard but we made it work.
We missed so many of the colds that would have been brought home from daycare because of our planning, and WOW we made up for it last year. Thankfully I only caught one cold due to following the easy immune supporting advice I give my patients.
Here is my immune health advice to help you (and me) avoid all the colds that will soon be swirling in school hallways, classrooms, and big toys once school is in full swing. I know that you all wash your hands and sneeze into your elbow so I will skip those suggestions.
Sleep: Is critical to supporting our innate immune system making natural killer cells who’s job is to rapidly respond to viral infections. Sleep deprivation is linked to lower production of these important immune cells. It’s okay to use melatonin sleep aids from time to time to make sure you get enough sleep.
Age: Hours of Sleep
0-3 months old: 14-17 hours
4 to 11 months old: 12-15 hours
1 to 2 years old: 11-14 hours
3 to 5 years old: 10-13 hours
6 to 13 years old: 9 to 11 hours
14 to 17 years old: 8 to 9 hours
18 years and better: 7 to 9 hours
Eat: Dietary factors that depress immune function include nutrient deficiencies, excess intake of sugary substances, eating your food allergens, and high cholesterol levels. Eating habits that enhance immune function include eating a varied diet high in colorful vegetables and fruit which are naturally high in essential nutrients, antioxidants, carotenes, and flavonoids.
Focus on whole, natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, organic meats, seeds, and nuts.
Fat & Refined Sugar: Be mindful about how often you eat high fat and refined sugars. The consumption of sugar (glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice) significantly reduces Immune cells (called neutrophils) ability to engulf and destroy infected cells for up to 5 hours after consumption and starts about 30 minutes after eating the sugary food. (I confess we still do sugar in our family…we do dip cones on Wednesday after daycare pick up because life needs treats but are mindful that it is a treat and not a daily expectation. I know other families that do French Fry Fridays during the school year- pick your pleasure and pick your timing to best serve your immune health goals.)
Protein: Make sure you get enough protein to support the growth and repair every living person does daily. Too little protein on a daily basis will impair your innate immune system’s ability to fight off infections. Ideally aim for 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight at a minimum. (Note: New research suggests that 1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight/0.45 grams of protein per pound of body weight is best for women to support healthy muscle mass and prevent osteoporosis.)
Immune supporting nutrients: Ideally you would get these in your diet, but appropriate supplementation is helpful too.
Vitamin A &Beta-carotene: supports healthy mucosa linings of nose, eyes and GI surfaces your primary physical barrier to viruses entering the body
Vitamin C: directly antiviral by itself and enhances our immune system’s response to viral infections. Generally, I suggest avoiding orange juice for vitamin C due to its high sugar content and the recent revelation that very high levels of PFAS, a class of “forever chemicals” have been found in the commercially available orange juices.
Vitamin D: we make this during the summer (assuming we are outside to play or work in the sun) and deplete it over the fall and winter months. Having adequate levels of vitamin D reduces the frequency of upper respiratory infections. Vitamin D levels can be tested with your annual labs, but I suggest paying cash for this since insurance companies choose to not cover it unless you have a select number of illnesses.
Zinc: An important mineral which is directly antiviral and helps the immune cells bind to virally infected cells and for our immune systems cells to transform into the version of themselves that fight the virally infected cells.
B vitamins: Insufficient levels of many B vitamins, especially Folic Acid which is the most common vitamin deficiency in the US is linked to slow production of immune antibodies being produced to infections and low levels of immune cells circulating looking for infections.
Overlooked Immune Support:
Mushrooms: Medicinal Mushrooms like Maitake, Shiitake, Reishi, and Cordyceps sinensis are filled with immune priming substances called Beta-glucans which bind to all types of White Blood Cells (our immune system army) switching them “On” so they are ready and looking for viruses, bacteria and pre-cancerous cells ensuring a swift immune response. The key to mushrooms is to cook them before you eat them to make these important substances available for absorption.
Probiotics: Perhaps one of the best kept secrets of those of us with good immune health is the use of probiotics. Certain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been shown to reduce the number of colds in school aged children. These strains of probiotics are shown to increase the Immune system’s cells (lymphocytes) circulating in the mucosal tissues of our nose, throat, eyes and GI track where they are able to quickly attack and neutralize the viruses we encounter before they make us sick. There are a variety of food sources of immune supporting Lactobacillusand Bifidobacterium foods and many quality supplements on the market to choose from.
As you are getting ready for the school year to start, please take a few minutes to support your immune system so you don’t catch every cold that goes around the school. For more support on setting, you and your family up for a healthy school year, call the office to schedule a visit at (206) 291-6543 or visit my website to schedule a visit.