It is back to school time and while many parents look forward to getting back into a routine, some are not looking forward to all the germs children spread to each other. While the best way to prevent germs from spreading is by washing our hands with warm, soapy water for 20-seconds, most children and adults are failing to do this important step in cold and flu prevention. The other important way to ensure a healthy and functioning immune system is to eat a diet that is low in refined sugars, trans-fats and boxed, processed foods, but supplementing can be a great way to get some important vitamins and minerals needed to support our defenses. However, not all supplements are created equal and many big companies just use fillers such as cornstarch, gelatin (often from hooves of animals), artifical sugars, dyes and other non-essential ingredients. How do you know you are getting quality vitamins? Well first, the important vitamins and minerals that support our immune system is:, Vitamin D3, probiotics, Omega-3/DHA and Zinc. Here is what you need to know about each and how to shop for some good quality supplements:
- Vitamin D: Known as the “sunshine” vitamin is not actually a vitamin, but a hormone. When we are deficient, studies show people have more frequent colds and flus. Over 300 research articles have proved this is one important supplement we must take a closer look at in our diets. The ideal way to get Vitamin D3 is from the sun, however, Vitamin D3 drops are the easiest and most effective way to supplement. Drops can be added to all drinks and foods without altering the taste. If you are someone who gets sick quite often or has a history of cancer, heart disease and diabetes in your family, you can request a vitamin d test from your family doctor, or you can purchase an at-home test through the Vitamin D Council. Recommended brands: Support local and buy Carlson’s Vitamin D3 drops from Arlington Heights or Pure Encapsulations Vitamin D3 drops. Read: Family Health 101: How much vitamin d your family needs
- Probiotics: Research has proven preventative probiotic use does cut colds and flus according to the Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics. We all have a balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut that keeps our immunity in check. Approximately 70 percent of our immune system lies in our large intestine and when it becomes imbalanced, we are more prone to getting sick. A high sugar, processed and fast food diet can decrease our immunity. Also those who have food allergies or food sensitivites also have a decreased immunity. When we have either, our immune system has to work harder to keep up if we eat foods our bodies cannot tolerate. If you are sick more than twice per year, take a good look at one’s diet. All probiotics need to be stored in the refrigerator and adults need at least 15 billion cultures, children over 2-years of age, 5 billion, infants 0-2 years of age, 1 billion.Recommended brands: HCL by Pharmax (which is shipped locally from Wood Dale) or Renew Life. Read: Considering probiotics? Consider the whole family
- Omega-3’s/DHA: Studies show Omega-3 fatty acids are not only good for the heart, but they also support a child’s memory, focus and learning. This is a double bonus as it also increases the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up the bacteria. These fats are crucial as it decreases inflammation in the body that is caused by stress, but also helps strengthen the cell membranes thus, speeding up the healing process. Choose fish oils that are “ultra-purified.” This means harmful contaminants, (such as PCB’s, mercury and dioxins) due to contaminated waters has been removed. Buy “pharmaceutical grade” which means it follows it follows the proper ratio of Omega-3’s and Omega-6 fatty acids and contaminants have been removed. Fish oil should be purchases in a dark bottle and needs to be refrigerated. DHA is sensitive to heat and can go rancid fast. Liquid form is best. Try to avoid purchasing fish oil pills as they are filled with other oils such as soybean, partially-hydrogenated oils and other oil fillers. Recommended brands: Buy locally and purchase Carlson’s Fish Oils or purchase Nordica Naturals online. Read: The ABC’s of DHA
- Zinc: This trace mineral does a lot to keep your child healthy. This is another double bonus nutrient as it not only supports the immune system, but it is important in helping the child to pay attention, their ability to process information as well as remember and retain new info. Kids and adults who have ADD/ADHD are often deficient in zinc and show improvement after four months of supplementation. Because 200 enzymes in our bodies rely on zinc, it is zinc’s ability to connect with our immune systems and brain to help fight infections and improve their ability to focus that is crucial for children. A zinc deficiency may show up as white spots or bands on your fingernails. It is best to get zinc through your foods, including oysters, raw pumpkin seeds, pinenuts (make pesto) and pecans, roasted and unsalted peanuts, toasted wheat germ, wheat bran, brewer’s yeast and low fat roast beef (not deli-meat), oatmeal and brown rice.
When you look at all of the evidence, finding the right dietary supplement to boost your child’s immunity can be easy as 1-2-3!