Does your child get sick every winter? Can you prevent the annual colds, bugs, flu, croup? There are definitely some foods, herbs and supplements that help – a lot! One of the easiest things you can do is add supplements that help the immune system function more robustly. It’s no secret that dozens of nutrients, plant components, single herb extracts, or herbs in combination have potent, positive effects on the many layers of our busy, miraculous immune systems. Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and countless other traditional cultures know this better than western physicians, who rely on drugs and surgery.
The right foods make an even bigger difference. When there is a commitment to eating whole “clean” (organic, unprocessed) food as a regular habit, especially less sugar, less processed stuff, and plenty of plant foods that give minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds, it’s easier for your immune system to function. Viruses and microbes love sugar as much as you do. Eating sugar has an immediate suppressive effect on white blood cells’ ability to attack bacteria. And, the stress of constantly clearing toxins like heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides or GMO foods bogs your immune system down.
Popping pills can’t nourish your kids’ immune potential as much as a routine of whole food, less sugar, and less processed starchy food (pasta, bread, bagels, granola bars, crackers, chips). While you’re working on that, rotate these through winter to shore up your family’s immune systems. There are so many to choose from, not to mention items that your Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner or Naturopath can offer you for acute illnesses, to lessen the duration and severity of symptoms. While prescription drugs generally suppress symptoms, traditional medicine practices do the opposite: They modulate the immune system in its effort to kill pathogens, and to aid organs and lymph in eliminating the consequent toxins.
This list is for good daily maintenance. Use them consistently – the benefits build over time. As always, especially if your child uses medications, check with your doctor about adding supplements:
• N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is widely available in capsules, but not found in food. We make it ourselves from protein we eat, when well nourished; it’s an amino acid the body uses to make glutathione, a major antioxidant. But extra stresses on the immune system can increase demand, and it’s easy to less than you may need – especially for kids I meet in my practice, who tend to have trouble eating good diets. NAC is especially helpful for lung tissue and has some pedigree for helping asthma, inflammatory conditions, and reducing bouts of flu and respiratory illnesses. 300 to 900 mg daily is a usual dose, depending on body weight. It is used in higher doses for obsessive compulsive symptoms, but lower doses are notable for helping lung tissue.
• Broad spectrum, high potency probiotic: Buy from a reputable brand devoted to high quality. Cheap probiotics aren’t worth it. Unless you’ve been given specific reasons not to from your GI doctor, most kids can use a potency between 25 to 75 billion CFUs daily per dose. Less won’t have much impact. Probiotics are emerging for not only supporting gut health, which many now regard as a cornerstone of immune health, but for aiding lung health too!
• Cod Liver Oil and Vitamin D: Kids can safely use a half teaspoon dose daily up to 100 pounds body weight or so. Heavier kids can use a teaspoon or two. Vitamin D should be checked with your doctor each fall. If it’s below 40, use 2000-5000 IU daily for kids. Debate continues on whether you ought to use fermented cod liver oil. I let parents choose whatever they can comply with daily, since, unless you pick a very poor product, some is better than none. For non-fermented, check Nordic Naturals or Pharmax. These are my preferences in that case. Enjoy free shipping and discounts off your Nordic Naturals purchases by ordering here and entering my practitioner ID 107159.
• Astragalus: This is a time honored herb in many traditions. For western herbalists, it is noted for its ability to boost B cells, T cells, and the body’s ability to identify bacteria and viruses. If your child tends to be sick often or have low energy, after you make sure his or her diet is adequate and fully nourishing, you can add a tool like astragalus to tone immune function. Capsules or tinctures are available. Peruse options here – over thirty of them as capsules or tinctures. For young kids, glycerite tinctures are ideal.
• Andrographis: Check out this list of benefits when andrographis is used for colds, flu, and infections. Shorter duration of illness and reducing severity are documented effects of using this herb. Both anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating, this herb can be a better choice than echinacea for kids who have chronic inflammation from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, or allergies. If your child feels worse using this herb, it is possible that it is clearing a latent viral load that needs to go. Kids will feel sicker if this is done too quickly, so back down or withdraw the herb to a level that is tolerable.
• Vitamin C and Zinc: Use vitamin C to bowel tolerance daily, especially if your kids shun vitamin C rich foods daily. Buffered forms of C work may be easier to tolerate for kids who have normal digestion and who are not on reflux medicines; if your child uses reflux medicine, a non-buffered form may be best. If kids are eating a lot of sugary stuff (orange juice, fortified juice, fresh fruit, sweetened yogurt not to mention candy, ketchup, and obvious sources) then you may want to add more. Lozenges, capsules, liquids, powders – every option is out there. With zinc, this will support better white blood cell production for infection fighting. To dose vitamin C, start at 250 mg for young kids under 40 lbs and increase to one, two or three grams (1000-3000 mg). Loose watery stools mean too much C. Constipated kids may get relief by using high doses of buffered C. For zinc, 30-50 mg daily can be safely used in most cases, as long as your child’s iron status is normal. High doses of zinc can worsen iron status, so check with your doctor or contact me for guidance if you’re not sure (your child must become a patient of mine in order for me to give individual care).
• Iron and mineral-rich foods, with strong protein and plenty of healthy fats and oils: Snacks like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, butters from nuts and seeds, any dark leafy greens your child will accept are perfect. Homemade broths are perfect as a start to a cold day or after school snack, because they give all of these good nutrients. See my blog on mineral rich snacks for kids here (these support adrenal glands, which will pump out more cortisol when your child gets sick). If your child struggles to eat protein rich foods, try powders in smoothies, puddings, broths, cocoa, or even tea. Check this blog for protein powders, here for all smoothie blogs, and here for a hot cocoa that avoids common allergens but tastes creamy and delicious. And of course.. if your child has an undiagnosed gluten or dairy sensitivity, infections will be more frequent and take longer to recover if they are eating those foods daily.
Gluten sensitivity can cause all sorts of noise
Be sure to visit my blog on immune boosting foods too. I love it when my clients tell me their kids are not getting sick for the first time in years, once we begin thorough and individualized nutrition support. If that sounds good, let’s talk soon! Contact me here or schedule your time to speak with me by choosing an option here.
Can a baby have a fungal infection? Yes – and undiagnosed, untreated fungal (yeast, thrush) infections could be one of one biggest failures of pediatrics today. How could this be?
I have often seen untreated thrush/fungal/yeast infections in babies, toddlers, and kids persist, then shift, into deeper, entrenched problems. Then the prescription drug parade ensues, usually in this order, with only limited or modest success: Prilosec (or other reflux medicine); Pediasure; Miralax; Ritalin, Concerta, or other stimulant, followed by something for anxiety or depression, like Straterra, Zoloft or Seroquel. Is this health care, or drug dependency? And are the kids feeling great, or lousy?
Most children who come to me for nutrition intervention only get to me as a last resort. They’ve been to gastroenterologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, feeding therapists, occupational therapists, behavior therapists, speech therapists. The last thing their parents want to do is change up the food in the house – especially when specialists don’t help them do that, and they tell parents it won’t do any good anyway (as most of them have told my patients). Too much work, right?
But eventually parents are at wits’ end. They have a picky child who eats poorly, grows weakly, or has reflux. Or they have an enthusiastic but still picky eater (read: stuffs food in mouth to choking) who loves starchy, sugary food like bread, chips, cheese crackers, candy, carbs, dairy junk (yogurt tubes or sugary milk substitutes). Their kids have big behavior problems: Tantrums well past toddler years. They can easily melt down, overstimulated, in public places, like restaurants, supermakets, or malls. They struggle at school, for being aggressive, combative, inattentive, or oppositional. All before they are five or six years old…. Uncle! Time to try that crazy nutrition stuff.
You’ve probably heard of Candida, or yeast infections, or thrush. And we’ve all heard a lot about gut biome, and how crucial it is for many aspects of health. This burgeoning area of research may not make the pharmaceutical industry very happy. Turns out that nearly any chronic condition – from Alzheimer’s, asthma, and autism to anxiety, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and much more – may be treatable through improving the microflora (bacteria) in your gut.
How do you do that?
Easy. You change what you eat. You use the right probiotics, tailored to your stool testing or your history. You clear out nasty gut microbes that don’t help you, and there are many fabulous herbs that can do that. You do this as a lifestyle, not as a ten day course of a drug. And, your body begins to restore itself from the inside out. That is the “crazy nutrition stuff” in a nutshell – and it’s not what your pediatrician is primarily trained to offer.
Recent reports indicate that you can even improve conditions like these through a fecal transplant – using a healthy donor’s poo to reboot your own colon with microbes that know how to run a clean shop in there. Good gut bugs communicate intimately with the immune system, and help it “learn” – learn what is friend, what is foe, what to react to, what to ignore, what to kill and pull apart, what to leave alone.
The pharmaceutical industry only makes hay when they can sell a patented product (as in for example, hundreds of millions of dollars in a single year from just one vaccine). But they can’t get far with … your poo. That stuff is yours. It’s definitely not patentable. Pharma also can’t get far with food, which is not patentable either. If you eat better, they lose money. Food isn’t patentable unless it’s processed beyond recognition or engineered genetically by Monsanto (patenting everything you eat is their business model, which is why they really don’t want you to learn about how bad GMO foods are for your gut, or to even know they’re in your food – hence the labeling battles). Probiotics are naturally occurring organisms. Not patentable, because they simply already exist. But food, probiotics, and even someone else’s poo may be better for kids than many of the drugs they are routinely given.
I digress a little here, but to a point: These addled kids tend to have really disrupted gut biomes. And, they are very often full of yeast. This can be like thrush throughout the GI tract, whether or not it’s visible in the mouth. That means there is too much Candida, Saccharomyces or other fungal strains in charge of the gut biome – and hence, your child’s digestion, absorption, and eliminations.
We find this out with stool testing that looks beyond the basic horrible microbes your insurance company pays a gastroenterologist to check for. We look for beneficial species like Lactobacillus strains, Bifido strains, and others. We also screen for annoying microbes like Klebsiella or Citrobacter species that may well be usual enough to find in a human gut, but not to excess. They shouldn’t be in charge of the conversation in there, so to speak. And if a child is underweight or in weak nutrition status, these microbes can have a pervasive negative impact.
And, we find yeast. Lots of yeast.
This is how untreated thrush can situate itself and make your child miserable
Now, here’s the thing. Fungal microbes are somewhat usual members of our micro biome. But, they are normally kept in check by a healthy immune system. Mostly, they only raise an eyebrow for your doctor if your child has (a) florid thrush, in which white fluffy fungal stuff is literally coming out both ends – mouth and anus; or, (b) very serious immune deficiency problems, like leukemia or AIDS or neutropenia. If a child has a fungal skin rash, usual practice is to give a topical anti fungal cream. Other than that, pediatricians and gastroenterologists are generally unconcerned about yeast overgrowth in the body, because they are trained to only manage it for immune suppressed people.
But thrush can indicate yeast is a player even after an oral medicine like gentamicin clears it from the mouth. It’s easy to find out. Besides checking stool cultures or stool DNA analysis for yeast, I may also request a urine microbial acid test that looks for the “trash” that yeast cells make. Finding loads of this trash in urine means that yeast is present somewhere in body, possibly to a degree that is disruptive for mood, behavior, stooling, appetite, or more. It may even mean that a child’s repeat urinary tract infections are from yeast, not bacteria – in which case, antibiotics will not only do no good but will actually worsen the infection.
You can look at yeast (or mold for that matter) in many other ways with other lab tests, but the bottom line is this: A lot of children seem to be walking around with a lot more fungal and mold microbes in them than is healthy. What does this do? Typical symptoms are:
– Constipation severe enough for kids to be Miralax or enema-dependent, or to have had hospitalizations to clear fecal impactions
– Bedwetting well into school age years or even later
– Aggressive, rageful, violent, or oppositional behavior severe and frequent enough to impede learning, socializing, or ordinary tasking; abates if favorite foods are given, flares when hungry
– Appetite rigid for sweets, starches, dairy foods, and wheat (pizza, bread, pasta, crackers, mac and cheese, cookies)
– Refusal of protein foods (meats, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, nut butters)
– Extreme pickiness for textures; easily upset by mixed food textures; refusal of fresh foods especially vegetables
– Dependence on reflux medicines (fungal infections can cause reflux, and reflux medicines cause fungal infections!)
– Allergies or sensitivities to many foods (which may be undiagnosed as well)
– Chronic fatigue, frequent malaise, with intermittent hyperactive bursts
The incredibly simple thing is this: Clear these fungal loads out of a child’s gut or body, and you have a different child. Behavior, appetite, everything starts to improve. The constipation ends. Gradually, given the right food and the right tools, the gut will start to heal up too.
But we haven’t even talked about the real problem here. Candida albicans, one of the most common yeast microbes found in our intestines, can shape shift from its initial “bud” form to a more debilitating “mycelial” form (see the pictures above). In this case, it grows little threads called hyphae that penetrate the gut wall tissue. It uses these to suck in nutrients for itself. It literally sends out little fingers that puncture your gut wall, in order to anchor itself there, eat and grow more, and hide better from your immune system. Watch the video to see what I mean:
Once in this mode, yeast and thrush infections are harder to clear. They create “leaky gut”, which creates more food allergies, more food sensitivities, and more susceptibility to other infections – including yeast infections in other locations. Many children start life susceptible to this scenario from birth. How? By receiving antibiotics directly or indirectly through mom, by getting a hepatitis B shot (made from a yeast strain called Saccharomyces cerevisaie), by arriving via C-section (in which case they miss getting mom’s vaginal flora on the way out), or by getting formula instead of breast milk (which favors undesirable microbes over beneficial ones).
Given that we know all this, we can do better for our kids. Many drugs prescribed for children – from Ritalin to Reglan – may become unnecessary, if underlying Candida infections are cleared, better food is in the mix, and the gut biome gets to work as intended. This can be straightforward to manage with the right non-prescription tools. Click the appointment tab above if you’d like to work with me on strategies to clear problems caused by untreated thrush or yeast infections. I look forward to hearing from you!
Functional medicine – which prioritizes nutrition – has emerged over the last decade or two as an answer to frustrations many of us feel with “mainstream” medicine.
If you’ve taken your kids (or yourself) to the doctor and come away frustrated or uncertain, or if you’ve had a chronic health problem that your doctor couldn’t fix, then you know why functional medicine is here.
Our health care system squeezes doctors into insurance models that require them to see dozens of patients a week, or even daily. In this model, doctors can only diagnose and treat what health insurers pay for. If your doctor steps outside that model of pre-approved diagnosis codes and treatments, he doesn’t get paid. Ever feel rushed out of an appointment? That’s because the health insurer determines how long your doctor is paid to speak with you for any diagnosis, and what is suitable for treatment.
If your doctor spends time discussing how food, nutrition, or supplements can help you, there is no insurance code for that. Your doctor won’t get paid to investigate that for you or talk with you about it, when they take insurance. These tools work, but are excluded from care because they don’t make profits on the stratospheric scale that patentable drugs do.
Functional medicine doctors step away from this system. They refuse insurance not because they’re greedy, but because they want to direct your care based on their training – not based on what a health insurance claim review person thinks. This frees them to look at you as an individual case, without the punitive system of insurance that may not pay. They can spend as much time with you as they like, and are free to suggest foods, nutrients, herbs or tools besides drugs that can help. They may also use prescription drugs, but will not exclusively use them, as mainstream doctors do.
I used to work for a health insurer. I was astounded to learn that the people who review claims – and decide your fate – may have virtually no training in health sciences. Why would they know more than your doctor, about what is best for you?
The downside of seeing a functional medicine practitioner is out of pocket expense. If you paid your insurance-covered doctor for an hour of his or her time, what do you think it would cost? Hundreds of dollars, perhaps over a thousand dollars, depending on the specialist or nature of the visit. Functional medicine doctors routinely charge as much as attorneys do – $300-$600 hourly or more. You can still submit their invoices to your insurance as long as codes are on them, and some functional medicine doctors will provide coded invoices. You may get some coverage this way. But many families find that a functional medicine perspective is crucial, so they pay for it if possible.
Autism is one diagnosis that leaves children suffering horribly, when functional medicine is left out. Insurers code autism one way – 299.00 is the code for it – and the only services this code triggers are psychiatric. Your insurance will cover psychiatric medications for this code, maybe a brain scan, or perhaps some behavior therapy services, depending on your state laws. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get some speech and language therapy paid for and some occupational therapy. No other treatments for code 299.00 are paid for, period. Nothing relating to the child’s actual physical health is acknowledged. Insurers benefit by keeping autism narrowly categorized as a psychiatric disorder. This way, they don’t have to pay for anything else.
Kids with autism typically have multiple, complex physiological challenges that impact sleep, eating, eliminations, growth pattern, illnesses or allergies, and more. You can take your child to one specialist after another (neurologist, gastroenterologist, allergist, and so on) under your insurance, and each will have their own prescription drugs and procedures. None of these treatments will be coordinated with the others. Your child will be dependent on many drugs and his autism features are not likely to shift much.
A functional medicine approach looks at the whole child. Lab tests to check allergies, immune function, gut function, toxic burden, and neurotransmitter function are usual. These are lab tests that your insurance may only cover if administered by different specialists, or may not cover at all. But they let a functional medicine MD see the whole picture. A care plan is made that allows your child to thrive. Not just be free from illness, but thrive. Development can explode, new language may drop in abruptly, learning may flourish, and your child can begin functioning in ways you never thought possible. Once the brain is freed from inflammation and toxicity, and nutrients flush cells that have lacked them for months or years, big shifts happen. This is functional medicine – it makes you function at your best.
Functional nutrition is the focus of my practice. I’m honored to know and work with Jill Carnahan MD as my authorizing physician on lab testing that I use in my practice, so your child can access many of the same tools with me as are possible with a functional medicine physician – at lower cost for hourly consult fees ($200 instead of $300 and up per hour). Have you added this piece in for your child yet? It can resolve many problems, and lay groundwork for higher level care with a functional medicine physician. It may help your child soar. If your child has had not had success with usual in-network health resources, this may be the charm. Learn more at my blog for topics, strategies, and solutions from functional nutrition, or set up an appointment today. Explore at the Institute For Functional Medicine.
Did you catch these recent news items on toxins in our food and water? Both have major impacts for the health of kids nationwide.
In the first clip below, a concerned Nebraska farmer challenges stone-faced fracking lobbyists to drink the water that they tell residents is safe. (Don’t know what fracking is? Learn more here from a not-industry-sponsored source). Here in Colorado, where I live, we’ve heard the same mantra – most famously, from our goofily named governor Hickenlooper, who claims to have sipped fracking fluid in a closed meeting with Halliburton officials. The Washington Post went so far as to print the absurd notion (from industry-funded University of Colorado researchers) that because fracking fluid and ice cream, toothpaste, and laxatives have some of the same ingredients, it must be okay to ingest fracking fluid.
Would this be the moment to tell you about one of my patients who, at age eight, fell into a coma during a procedure for fecal impaction? He was given so much laxative (a product called Go Lytely, which contains polyethylene glycol) he nearly died.
Whether you’re drinking a lot of polyethylene glycol at once for a bowel impaction, or a little of it daily for years (along with benzene, toluene, and other known and potent carcinogens) from your fracking-contaminated tap, it’s not a good thing – especially if you’re a toddler weighing 24 pounds. Or, a fetus.
So far, besides Governor Hickenlooper’s one shot glass of fracking fluid, there aren’t any takers on drinking the stuff – except for unwitting residents who don’t have a choice but to sip, shower, and drink it every day, because that’s all that comes out of their tap. Those whose water has been poisoned by fracking can get a lawyer – but don’t have much recourse otherwise. Here in Colorado, because of arcane and dated mining laws written in the 1800s, it is legal for an oil and gas company to frack right underneath homes, schools, or any other place they please, with total impunity for toxic effects on people, animals, crops, or water. Setbacks of a few hundred feet may mean nothing, as suggested by a recent study that found more birth defects, still births, and low birth weight babies born to women who lived in the vicinity of fracking activity. And because of the infamous Halliburton Loophole, oil and gas companies don’t have to disclose what is in fracking fluid because it’s “proprietary”, nor do they have to meet federal clean water standards when they dirty up your region’s drinking water.
Watch the silence as these pro-frackers are offered a glass of their own elixir:
Another item that quietly happened recently was an interview with a French television journalist and a Monsanto spokesperson, Patrick Moore. Mr. Moore makes the off-hand comment that it’s safe to drink “a whole quart” of RoundUp, the glyphosate pesticide that GMO crops need by the ton (they actually need more RoundUp than non-GMO crops, despite promises years ago that one of the many “miracles” of GMO foods was going to be that they would reduce pesticide use. Didn’t happen). Monsanto owns both RoundUp and patents on several GMO seed crops, and obviously wants to continue selling both. But when challenged to make good on his claim that RoundUp is safe to consume by the quart, Mr. Moore loses his cool, insults the journalist, and ends the interview. Once again, no takers:
So. Here in the US we have 21 states actively fracking with no meaningful safety oversight. We have twenty years of GMO crops freely grown and consumed in the US (but not in other developed nations) without so much as a labeling law, never mind safety studies (click here to learn why I tell my patient families to avoid GMO foods). There’s no doubt that this has already put a generation of children at risk. It’s also no wonder that our children are more sick and disabled than ever in our history as a nation. What kind of future can our country have, when corporate rights supersede our children’s rights?
But that’s not all our kids face when it comes to insurmountable, unavoidable toxic exposures. Vaccines are so full of toxins, our Supreme Court ruled them to be “unavoidably unsafe” with a sort of “too bad, so sad” decision in 2011. Devastated by vaccine injuries and left with life long disability including autism, Hanah Poling received a payment from the US Department of Health and Human Services Vaccine Injury Compensation Program of 1.5 million dollars as compensation for her injury (a lot less than usual medical malpractice awards, by the way). Her parents (a neurologist who has received National Institutes of Health grant funding in his career, and a nurse) went on to pursue a civil case based on the fact that the product that injured their daughter was unsafe. But the Supreme Court disagreed. It basically said, yes, vaccines are unsafe at times, and families just have to take that risk, so… shrug. Our society does not permit this sort of corporate carte blanche protection for cars, other drugs, or any other product. Just vaccines.
Remember when Paul Offit, academic (non-practicing) pediatrician who has made untold millions on vaccine patents, stated that it’s safe to give babies ten thousand vaccines at once? A lot of people challenged him to be first in line on this. There’s even a Facebook page devoted to Offit’s nutty claim. So far, he has followed the cowardly example of his peers in other industries: He has declined to drink his own Kool-Aid.
We have industries operating outside of a reasonable regulatory context in such a way as to expose our children to an unprecedented flow of toxic substances. We have over a million children with autism in the US today. Did toxins play a role? Watch the film Trace Amounts and you may find that this question is settled in your mind once and for all. Or listen to MIT scientist Stephanie Seneff explain why she believes glyphosate causes autism. Our kids have more cancer, diabetes, allergies, asthma, disability, and chronic illness than ever before. Until our elected officials can stand up to corporate interests for change, it’s up to parents to protect our children, with the cleanest, most toxin-free food, water, and health care we can afford. Visit Moms Across America and Fearless Parent for resources and info on keeping your kids as healthy as possible.
Have allergies hit your neighborhood yet? Snow is receding for many of us and that means… pollen – and a tough time for many kids. Fall or spring, when allergies hit, several natural tools work well. Put these naturopathic supports in your toolbox to alleviate allergy symptoms. These can work gently and quickly to ease sneezing, runny nose, weeping stinging eyes, or congestion, without some of the side effects some children have from drugs like Benadryl or Claritin. Somnolence (too sleepy), hyperactivity, or insomnia are common unwanted effects from these drugs. The right prescription drug can literally be a life saver too, especially for asthmatic kids during this challenging time of year. Be sure to follow your physician’s instructions, and don’t mix herbs or supplements with medicines unless your pharmacist or physician says it’s okay.
Non- inflammatory diet – Avoid trigger foods that exacerbate inflammatory reactions. If your child has rashes or eczema that come and go, hives, wheezing, or asthma, test for food reactions, not just inhaled allergens. Test both allergy (IgE) and sensitivity (IgG). Avoiding trigger foods can markedly improve respiratory and skin symptoms. This testing is a routine part of my pediatric nutrition practice. Sugary processed foods and processed fats also worsen inflammation in the body, so minimize those by replacing them with whole foods and healthy fat sources (fish oils, avocado, organic eggs or meats, organic nuts and seeds, flax meal, olive oil).
Quercetin – This is one of many flavonoids, which are phenolic compounds found in many plants, including herbs, teas, fruits, vegetables, roots, and wine. Quercetin has broad anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It is not an anti-histamine, but it does inhibit enzymes that start inflammatory cascades in cells. You’ll find lots of quercetin in onions, raw apples, berries, and broccoli. It is widely available as a supplement in capsules or in chewable blends for kids. Quercetin can protect against damage caused in tissues and cells by swelling and inflammation. It can also chelate iron. If your child has low iron or anemia, use this with professional supervision. If your child has iron overload, quercetin may help. Otherwise, usual doses are 250-500 mg daily for school aged kids.
Fenugreek – Like quercetin, fenugreek has strong anti-oxidant and free-radical-scavenging power, meaning it will help cells avoid damage from reactive oxygen species that wreak havoc in the body when inflammation from allergies is high. It has a long history in traditional medicine across many cultures, and has been used in breastfeeding to increase milk supply. For seasonal allergies, its astringent properties may help drain inflammation in sinuses and lungs, and break apart mucus trapped in those spaces. Available in tinctures or capsules; my preferred encapsulated brand is from Medi-Herb. Antronex from Standard Process is another favorite of mine for easing sinus drainage and phlegm; it contains fenugreek, comes as a small, slippery, easy to swallow tablet, and can be safely dosed up to several daily as needed til symptoms improve.
Butterbur – This herb showed itself to be as effective as Allegra in a clinical trial for hay fever. The same outcome occurred in another trial that compared butterbur to Zyrtec. And again when butterbur was tested against placebo. No side effects were noted in these trials. So, it works – but can your child use it? It hasn’t been tested in children for allergies as far as I could find, but it has been tested in children for migraines, with no toxicity or ill effects observed. This makes it a possible winner for kids who need allergy relief but get too drowsy or activated with the usual over the counter drugs. Dosage tested in children was 50-150 mg daily for four months.
Probiotics – The good news on probiotics just won’t quit. Taking probiotics helps reduce upper respiratory infections and inflammation, and can reduce seasonal allergy symptoms like rhinitis (runny nose!). Make them a routine part of your child’s daily food and supplement plan. Lactobacillus strains that have been proven effective at reducing allergic symptoms in sinuses are L. paracasei, L. acidophilus, and L. salivarius. Bifido species were helpful too. These strains can be found at relevant potencies in better probiotics, such as from Klaire, VSL, Custom Probiotics, or Kirkman Labs. Don’t expect them to be cheap, and keep them refrigerated. Chewable probiotics sitting on your supermarket shelves are of virtually no value – the potency is dubious, and too low in any case; and, there are unnecessary fillers that may have more allergens. Buy the good stuff. My clients can do that here at 10% off – let me help you pick one. Ask for regular (not chilled pack) shipping to save a bundle and immediately store in refrigerator on arrival.
Nettles – Nettle is another somewhat miraculous herb. It has anti-histamine power, and inhibits mast cells, which are another key component of allergic reactions. Like quercetin, it also interrupts enzymes in cells that trip inflammatory cascades. It seems to most relieve itching and sneezing. It’s available as dried leaves which can be steeped as tea, which many kids will be agreeable to sip if they aren’t feeling well. It’s also widely available in capsules, chewables, or tinctures. 100-300 mg daily for children is a usual dose.
Vitamin C – Years ago, researchers found that a 2 gram (2000 milligram) dose of Vitamin C lowered histamine in test subjects by nearly 40%. It actually interrupts histamine formation in the first place. Two grams is an ordinary dose that you may have used before during colds or flu. Vitamin C is a natural laxative too. For some kids, this dose may loosen bowels (perhaps a desired effect, if your child has constipation). Start at about 100 mg and work up slowly, to make sure you don’t trigger diarrhea. Taking this with bioflavonoids makes C even more effective.
Measles Infection – Has your child had measles infection? There is an up side: Getting actual measles has shown a lifelong protective effect against allergic diseases (and certain cancers!). If your child contracts measles, be sure to support them nutritionally, as this can give them an easier, uncomplicated course of infection. Check my post on how to do that here.
Homeopathics – A number of homeopathic remedies in 12c or 30c potencies (available at many health food stores) can quickly alleviate allergy symptoms. These are used by placing 3-5 pellets under the tongue in an empty mouth, away from foods or fluids. Let them dissolve. If no change in symptoms, the dose can be repeated in 30 to 40 minutes for 12c potency pellets; or 45 minutes to every two hours for 30 c potency pellets. When the correct remedy is used, a clear response occurs. When it does, stop – more is not better. If a partial improvement occurs with a relapse into worsening symptoms, then you’re likely on the right track and another dose is indicated. If no improvement occurs, you’ve chosen the wrong remedy. Euphrasia, Sabadilla, and Allium Cepa are common choices for allergy season. A helpful blog on this can be found here.
There are so many options to help your kids feel better during allergy season, and they don’t all have to be pharmaceutical ones. If your child does well with those – celebrate! If they struggle with side effects or only partial improvement, natural supports may work better. This is a short list. There are many more options that skilled providers have at their fingertips. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider a product for children like D-Hist Junior chewables (10% off to my clients and followers). It has a blend of some of the items mentioned here, and may be a helpful add on to medications if your doctor gives it a thumbs up.
Curcumin (which comes from turmeric root) has garnered more and more attention for its many healthful effects. Dubbed the “Solid Gold” of India, it’s one of the preferred tools for kids I work with too, because most of them have chronic inflammatory conditions like asthma, eczema, autoimmune problems, or food allergies. One of curcumin’s standout properties is that it is a potent anti-inflammatory, so it helps my patients with these conditions improve. It also has broad anti-microbial action, and can kill some bacteria, viruses, molds, and even cancer cells. It became a darling of the autism community a few years ago when it emerged as a key part of supplement protocols for kids on the spectrum. At least one study showed it could improve social behaviors in rats poisoned to trigger autism-like features. Curcumin also reduced repetitive, obsessive behaviors in the rats. Another study showed curcumin can reduce oxidative stress in the brain and exert a protective effect against certain toxins – two problems frequently found in children with autism. It boosts glutathione levels in the body, which is a powerful antioxidant that our own cells make to protect against toxins and infections. Glutathione itself shows benefits for autism features as well. And, it is an excellent source of iron, zinc, and manganese.
When curcumin pills and powders starting pouring on the market, these were objectionable for some of the kids and parents in my practice. They were hard to swallow, or tasted too pungent. Apex Energetics makes a tasty liquid version, which gives 420 mg standardized curcuminoid extract per teaspoon in an easy to administer suspension. This works well and kids love it – but it’s expensive.
The good news is that you don’t have to make your kids swallow a bunch of costly pills or buy expensive supplements to get enough curcumin and turmeric daily. All you need is a lot of high quality organic turmeric spice and/or some fresh organic turmeric root. It actually tastes good in a lot of foods besides your favorite curries – which you can liberally add more turmeric to as well. I’m currently eating about 2-3 tablespoons daily of turmeric powder, and fresh root when I have it. The root is softer and less stringy than fresh ginger root, which makes it easy to add to smoothies.
If eating turmeric isn’t appealing for your child, I recommend the Apex product mentioned above over powders, pills, or capsules. You can find it via health care providers like me, or through web-based supplement sellers. It’s very easy to administer, formulated for easy absorption (with medium chain trigylcerides and vegetable glycerin), and it’s easy to control the dose. It will work to correct oxidative stress in the body. Caveat: Dosing this too quickly can cause your child to feel worse, if they have entrenched inflammation from conditions like asthma, autoimmune problems, or autism. It’s best to start with a lower dose (~100 mg) and work up to at least 420-500 mg daily. Many children do well on about a gram (1000 mg) of curcuminoids daily, with slow ramping up.
If you’re using turmeric powder to get curcumin’s antioxidant benefits, you’ll need to eat somewhere in the range of 1-2 tablespoons of turmeric daily. Powdered turmeric spice has about 3% curcumin in it by weight. To reach a beneficial dosing range for curcumin (400 mg or higher daily), eat powdered turmeric by the tablespoon! Curry powders, which are spice blends that contain turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and other spices, don’t deliver as much curcumin – but that’s no reason to pass on curry dishes, which are just plain delicious with loads of nutritional benefits. You can also add extra plain turmeric powder to any curry dish to boost curcumin in it.
What about fresh turmeric root? I have not yet found analysis for fresh root versus powder, but it’s likely that any whole, fresh food has more nutrition value and active phytochemicals than a powdered dried form.
Fresh turmeric, powdered or raw, has a fruity essence that pairs well with unexpected flavors. Here’s a few ideas – and if you need help purchasing supplement items mentioned in this blog, contact me.
Tumeric Raspberry Salad Dressing: Whisk with a fork or immersion blender, makes enough for 2-3 salads:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1-2 teaspoons sesame tahini
1 Tablespoon turmeric powder or 1/2 inch minced, peeled fresh root
1 scoop organic grass fed whey powder such as ImmunoPro
2 Tablespoons turmeric powder or 1 inch peeled fresh root
2 Tablespoons organic unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon organic flax meal
dash organic stevia powder or 1/2 teaspoon raw honey
Mild Thai Red Curry Sauce Over Salmon: This recipe is adapted from At Blanchard’s Table: A Trip To The Beach. Prepare this sauce while your fish is baking, and enjoy with wild caught (not farmed) salmon, ahi, haddock or any firm fish. Rinse the salmon and lay it on aluminum foil on a baking sheet, skin side down. Pour the sauce over the salmon. Bake at 400 degrees for 9-15 minutes (depending on size and thickness of the fish) til just flaking but not dry. Remove from oven and wrap the foil to enclose the fish lightly. Let it rest for 2-5 minutes and serve.
1 TBSP coconut or olive oil
1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup chicken broth (best if it’s your homemade stuff, or use organic full fat broth)
1 can unsweetened canned organic full fat coconut milk (not So Delicious coconut milk in carton)
1 Tablespoon gluten free tomato puree
1 Tablespoon Thai Red Curry Paste
2 Tablespoons turmeric powder or 2 inches peeled minced root
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika (more if you like it hotter)
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 teaspoon peeled minced ginger root
1 teaspoons gluten free tamari sauce
Heat the oils gently and add garlic and ginger, cooking x 1 minute. Add the turmeric, cumin, curry powder, curry paste, and paprika. Stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
Raise the heat to medium and add the tomato puree, tamari, coconut sugar, coconut milk, and chicken broth, whisking well after each addition. Cool for about 10 minutes, stirring often – don’t let it boil. When edges are gently bubbling, pour over fish and bake.
With balsamic and ghee glazed beets and cauli-cilantro “rice”