Thursday, May 2, 2019

#parentingtruth No. 16 - the immune system

parenting truths, childhood, healthy immune systems

As a mom or dad, there are a lot of things to think about. Sometimes the sheer number of things you are responsible for can be overwhelming. We started early with choosing to protect our children, both their hearts and minds, and their immune systems.

There are a few key points that we followed that allowed our girls to keep their immune systems stronger. This is not an exhaustive list, but the basic principles that helped me determine if this thing: food, activity, living situation, was a good fit for us.

  1. Less sugar, more food
I was “that mom” long before it was a catch phrase. I was the one who limited their children’s sugar intake. In fact, there ended up being days of the year that we did not even leave home because everywhere we went, some well-meaning person would want to offer them a treat. (Think the day before Halloween and the weekend before Easter.) It is not like our girls never had sweets, they just had them with a lot more moderation than most children. By not filling their bellies with sugar, or refined flour, they were hungry to eat more real food, like organic beef, fruits and vegetables. So if you are wondering if your children are eating too much sugar… the answer is probably yes. Learning to appreciate a treat, instead of expecting one, is a good food lesson for all of us. :)

2. Soap
Just use good old-fashioned soap and water to clean your hands. Use it every time before you eat, and every time you use the bathroom. Seems like a simple concept right? Unfortunately too many people would rather slop some hand sanitizer on their children than take the time to teach proper hand washing. You don’t need antibacterial soap either, you just need to use soap - consistently! Soap kills germs, and removes dirt. Overuse of hand sanitizer can kill off even the good bacteria that live in your gut and help you digest food. It should be a last resort, not a first option. So go get some soap. It can be bars of soap from a local artisan, it can be a bar of ivory from the grocery store, or it can be foamy soap in a silly dispenser… just get back to teaching your children how and when to wash their hands. Their immune systems will thank you for it!

3. Immunizations
Ah, here it is… the one thing that divides more parents than politics - the topic of immunizations. Here is my take on it: you can choose to immunize your child or not, it is 100% your choice, not anyone else’s. I have friends whose children have had ever vaccine ever recommended, and others whose children have not had a single vaccine in their lives. Our girls fall somewhere in the middle. Now that they are both legal adults, if their are any immunizations that they did not have as children that they want to receive now, it would be a simple process for them to go get those. If they don’t want to ever have another vaccination, that is their choice as well. As the parent, you have to go with your own convictions.

I have two small things to say about this debate:
A- whatever you choose, do NOT ever shame another parent because of their vaccine choices. Their family their choice.
B- I’ve seen some studies on immune response. If you choose to get your child a vaccination, of any kind, it would be wise to give them at least two or three days at home, without anyone else’s germs to be fighting off, as their body work on its response to the vaccine. The same goes for adults who choose to get the flu shot: get it on a Thursday afternoon, take Friday off and don’t go out in public until Monday. Better safe, than sick. Your immune system can only handle so much at a time.

4. Vitamins and supplements
We have always tried to feed our girls real food. Even so, even when the majority of their diet is organic or at least non-gmo food, there comes a time when it is wise to use vitamins and supplements for better health. Personally, I am anemic. It is almost impossible for me to eat enough iron-rich foods in a week to keep up with my body’s demands. So every morning, I take a multivitamin with iron. I’ll probably still be taking it when I’m 70, although most women stop taking iron by their late 40’s. That’s just how my body works ( or doesn’t.) When our girls hit puberty, it was a war, so we decided that they needed to take a B Complex each and every day. Oh my, what relief… for all of us. Use what works for your children in their specific situation. Consider visiting a nurse-practitioner or a naturopath for advise on what to supplement with and in what amounts.

5. Stay home when you are sick
Again, this seems like a no-brainer, but I am sure you can think of someone just in the past week or two who you saw at (work, sporting event, church, grocery store, tc) who was obviously sick and would have been better at home. Yes, I know money is often the issue that sends adults back to work when they are still sick, but at least let your children stay home when they are sick. Let their bodies rest and heal. Call Grandma, your neighbor, a friend from church… there has to be someone that can watch your child.

One last thought

Bring the outdoors in, and take yourself and your family outside on a regular basis. Fresh air and sunshine fix a lot of immune issues. :)

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