As parents to 3 young children including our lovely 4 year old son Ned, we were intrigued by today's headlines outlining the latest recommendations for children aged 2-4 years of age to be given the flu vaccination.
Whether you choose to vaccinate or not, optimising your child's immune system can be a crucial aspect of restoring balance post-vaccination and or during illness. Here are 5 ways in which you can do so, naturally:
Check for Artificial colours & flavourings in food
Children are routinely eating food that swamps their body in a sea of artificially produced foods. This cocktail of artificially made chemicals can impact on the sophistication of the immune system and create a load that may increase a child’s susceptibility to auto-immune diseases (such as diabetes, arthritis), known as ‘developmental plasticity’. According to the Food Commission a child will have eaten its own weight in food additives by the time they are 17 years old. Check food labels for the main culprits listed here.
Be conscious of stress in your child.
Children get stressed too, in fact stress among children is increasing and childhood is getting shorter. Stress affects the endocrine, digestive and immune systems and creates imbalance both mentally and physically. Some individuals may be more vulnerable to the effects of stressors on their immune system in adult life as a result of inadequate nutrition in early life.
Give your child the run-around!
Daily exercise outdoors not only exposes your child to greater amounts of Vitamin D but it also improves the lymphatic system whose job it is to locate and immobilise infection efficiently. Only 30% of boys and 12% of girls are reaching the government recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity a day. The work of Dr Jayne Donegan states the significant impact daily fresh air and plenty of vitamin D can have on immune function and, in her view, renders many vaccinations unnecessary.
Watch their A's and D's
Although the importance of Vitamin D in pregnancy and children under 5 is now well accepted in the medical field, Vitamin A remains a nutrient of controversy, especially during pregnancy. However both these fat-soluble vitamins play a central, critical role in our children's defences against infection. As with all viral infections, the flu virus depletes vitamin A, particularly if you have flu with a high fever. I would urge readers to look to the work of Sally Fallon of the Weston A Price Foundation for an interesting look at the impact that Vitamin A deficiency might have on development. Food sources of Vitamin D provide the more active form of vitamin D (1.25-dihydroxyvitamin D) rather than the storage form often used in supplements. Oil rich fish is the richest source of this Vitamin D however intake is very low in children, particularly in adolescents and so supplementation may be necessary. Food-State Vitamin D used in our Wild Nutrition formulas has been verified by Dr Jeffrey Bland as the active food form of Vitamin D and includes a significant quantity of vitamin D metabolites including D1, 2, and D4.
Boost their beneficial flora
It is now well established that probiotics play a critical function in immune acquisition in infancy. Multiple studies show a reduction in infectious and antibiotic or post vaccination-associated diarrohea from taking lactobacillus strains including rhamnosus and casei. Evidence also suggests that taking probiotic strains can reduce the risk of allergic disease in children delivered by Caesarean Section. At the age of 5 there was a 17% decrease in allergenic disease in those who had been exposed to probiotics in the last trimester and in early life compared to those in the placebo group.
Flu strains change annually so just remember that getting vaccinated this winter won't protect you for the next. There are also multiple strains of influenza which may not be negated by receiving the jab. Indeed some studies suggest the shot covers only about 10% of the types of flu that are going around, and the Cochrane review march 2014 showing only very modest effects at reducing flu symptoms.
The vaccination debate is a lengthy and complicated one with extreme opinions on both sides but I do feel that none of us are in a position to judge what is right for someone else's child. Instead we can only arm ourselves with information to make the most informed choices we can for our own. Whichever route you choose to take, make natural immune support the starting point.
If you are looking to supplement, our Wild Nutrition Bespoke Child Food-Grown Daily Multinutrient and Bespoke Child Multi Strain Biotic are available here.
For more ways to support your child's immune system, read our post 'Eating to beat the winter chills'.
Lemberg D.A, Ooi, C.E & Da, A.D (2007) Probiotics in paediatric gastrointestinal diseases. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 43: 331-336
Kuitunen M, Kukkonen K, Juntunen-Backman K et al (2009) Probiotics prevent IgE-assocated allergy until five years in caesarean-delivered children but not in the total cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 123: 335-341
Jefferson T et al (2014). Vaccines to prevent influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Review. 2014 March 13;3: CD001269
Arnica Group http://www.arnica.org.uk
Dr Jayne Donegan http://www.jayne-donegan.co.uk
Sally Fallon Morrell http://www.westonaprice.org/author/sfallon/