Beat the Antibiotic Cycle

Every year the winter chill hits with a vengeance it brings along with it an array of ailments that afflict children. From snotty running noses, to bronchitis, breaking the antibiotic cycle this winter might make all the difference... Most moms and dads will agree that for them the word ‘winter’ conjures up images of children sick in bed, boxes and boxes of tissues, wet coughs, chesty wheezes, runny noses and fevers! For the majority of adults we can barely remember the last time we were sick and yet our children seem to pick up one infection after the other and it can be extremely frustrating - especially when we’re doing everything we can to protect them! To understand just why children get sick so often, (and what can be done about it), we need to look at the immune system more closely.

What is the Immune System?

There is lots of talk about 'boosting the immune system' - but what are we really talking about when we say that?

The immune system is an amazingly intricate and complex system that keeps our children healthy and protects them against all sorts of ‘invaders’ including viruses, bacteria, microbes, parasites and toxins. A child’s eyes, nose and mouth are all possible ports of entry for invading germs but luckily tears, nasal secretions and saliva all contain enzymes to keep the invaders at bay – ‘soldiers’ as the first line of defence. But what happens when a child has a runny nose that never seems to stop, or a wet cough? Our first thought may be that antibiotics are the cure-all, right? In actual fact, antibiotics might be the first step in a recurrent cycle...

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How antibiotics can compromise the immune system

Antibiotics were developed to treat bacterial infections for when our own immune systems are unable to mount an adequate response. It makes sense then, that if our immune systems were strong enough, we might not need the antibiotics. Most parents may not realize that antibiotics are not effective against viruses and should not be taken for a viral infection. The paradox is that antibiotics were developed to help the immune system but in reality they actually impair it. In 1972 the Baylor School of Medicine in Houston documented that some antibiotics actually prevented white blood cells from attacking and killing bacteria.

We are all aware of the new trend to take pro-biotics while we are taking an antibiotic. This is done to replace the ‘good’ bacteria in our digestive tract in order to reduce the gastric side effects of the antibiotics. However there are also bacteria in the gut that produce specific proteins that stimulate our immune systems so when we kill off these bacteria too we are putting a temporary halt on our immune system and increasing our susceptibility to additional infections. The more antibiotics a child is given, the more we depress his or her immune system and the more depressed his or her immune system is the more likely it is that another infection will present itself and will most likely be met with another antibiotic and so the vicious antibiotic cycle continues... Remember the runny nose, and wet phlegm coughs? This is the body’s way of ridding itself of the flu virus or bacteria. When antibiotics and decongestants are prescribed to ‘dry up’ the symptoms of colds and flu, the usually moist membranes of the nose then dry out, leaving them susceptible to further infection. Children may then find that their runny nose has ceased, but the ‘icky’ mucous sits in their chest. The snotty nose may have stopped running, but now their nose is totally blocked – creating breathing difficulty. This may cause them to sleep with their mouths open – leading to throat infections. It is also important to remember that many of the symptoms that we seek to treat are actually the body’s way of dealing with the infection and are proof that the immune system is working and doing its job.

So what is the best plan of action?

Natural alternatives to antibiotics

Boosting the immune system with natural means can allow your body to naturally fight off infectious agents - without the drawbacks of antibiotic therapy. Natural herbal and homeopathic decongestants can help to clear the airways and nasal passages by promoting the expulsion of the pathogen (virus, germs or bacteria). In this way they can assist the body’s natural instinct to fight the flu, and restore harmony without compromising the immune system further.

There’s no question that a child who is congested and clogged will have difficulty sleeping. Thankfully a natural remedy can assist moms and dads in providing adequate rest for the tired, unwell child. Congesto-K KiddieRub can provide welcome relief to congested noses and chests. Being an aromatherapy oil, Congesto-K KiddieRub can be used soothingly and massaged directly onto the chest. The triple ingredients of Niaouli oil, Eucalyptus oil and Ginger oil provide healing vapours that are breathed in during the night, opening airways and promoting easy breathing – thus improving circulation and loosening tight chests, encouraging the loosening of mucus. 

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Are there any natural remedies for flu symptoms in little ones?

Yes there are! Firstly, the homeopathic flu vaccine (administered orally) is a must for the whole family at the start of winter – with booster repeat doses at regular intervals. Effectively protecting the body specifically against the current year’s flu virus, BaniFlu is easy to administer to young and old alike and avoids the side effects and problems commonly associated with the conventional flu vaccine. For the dreaded sniffles and pesky flu symptoms, little ones can benefit from Sniffly Sprinkles (to treat and clear cold and flu infections) This remedy can be used as a natural aid to open noses and chests and sooth tickly irritated coughing. To sustain the fight against further infection, natural remedies can provide a second line of defence.

But what to do when ear or throat infections have already taken hold?
In terms of childhood flu, there is little more painful than an ear infection. Luckily there is a natural solution – Ear-OK Drops can be used directly into the ear. They are presented in a sweet almond oil base – suitable for use in even the most sensitive of ears. This natural remedy can be used directly inside the ear – and uses ingredients such as Lavender extract and soothing Tea Tree Oil to reduce angry inflammation and neutralize infection - providing much needed relief.

Often during the winter season, the throat and tonsils get the brunt of the damage, and a ‘strep’ throat or throat infection can be increasingly hard to ‘shake’. Children usually find a sore throat the first indication that a cold or the flu is on its way (and a great excuse to eat jelly and ice-cream!). For throat protection, Throat and Tonsil Dr. can help to ‘sterilize’ and clean the throat and lessen swelling by utilizing the properties of healing homeopathics and herbs such as Salvia officinalis and Gallium aperine.

Using a combination of BaniFlu and Throat and Tonsil Dr. at the first signs of an attack of tonsilitis can help to naturally resolve tonsillitis and the underlying infection and therefore prevent tonsilectomy – one of the most common childhood operations. Tonsils are one of the first lines of defence and play an important role in protecting the body against infection. When they swell and become painful, this means they are doing their job! The fever that often accompanies tonsillitis is also nature’s way of increasing body temperature to a level which helps to drive out pathogens and therefore promote healing and recovery. Unfortunately modern medicine sees these as ‘symptoms’ of illness which need to be suppressed – leaving the body defenceless against illness and increasingly reliant on antibiotics.

Remember that while reputable natural remedies can safely and effectively lessen symptoms and strengthen the immune system, if you don’t see an improvement in your child’s condition within two to three days, it is a good idea to consult a health care professional.

Tips to boost your child’s immune system

Here are some of the lifestyle factors that you can employ to keep your child’s immune system in peak condition and able to ward off recurrent infections.

Firstly, make sure that your child gets enough sleep – this means both an adequate quality of sleep as well as an adequate length of sleep. Sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining a strong and healthy immune system. Secondly, you also need to ensure that your child has a wholesome, nutritious diet rich in fresh fruits, and vegetables (preferably organically grown), wholegrains, legumes and natural oils as a healthy diet is also essential for optimal immune functioning. Granny didn’t tell us ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ for no reason after all!

Some specific foods to try and include in your child’s diet:

  1. Foods containing selenium. Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium but tuna is also a good source and probably easier to include in your child’s diet. Selenium inhibits the formation of free radicals. It does this by activating an inhibitory enzyme that halts this process.
  2. Vitamin C is another essential requirement for the optimal functioning of the immune system. Foods rich in Vit. C include kiwi fruit, guavas and red peppers. Oranges are also good sources of Vit. C but as not quite as rich as we are all inclined to think they are!
  3. Other citrus fruits, tomatoes and sweet potatoes are also rich in Vit. C as well as the anti-oxidant beta-carotene
  4. Garlic, if your child will eat it, not only has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties but also has more than 70 sulphur-containing compounds that help the body make other immune-stimulating compounds such as cysteine and glutathione
  5. Cultured or fermented foods such as yoghurt provide your child with the‘good’ bacteria which help to fight off the ‘bad’ bacteria
  6. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, to keep hydrated will keep all body systems healthy, not only the immune system.
  7. Healthy fats are also necessary and these are found in things like olive oil, avos, fatty fish and nuts
  8. Wheatgerm is a good source of zinc and Vit. E – both important for the immune system
  9. Zinc can also be found in seafoods, eggs, turkey and pumpkin seeds.
  10. B6 helps with the production of antibodies and good sources include bananas, carrots, lentils, tuna, salmon, sunflower seeds and wholegrain flour
  11. Unfortunately with our pressured lifestyles and modern methods of producing food we often do not get the vitamins and minerals that we need and a good multivitamin can help to replenish these levels.Use organically grown foodswhere possible as they do contain higher amounts of vitamins and minerals. Organic is not a new concept – until pesticides and the like were developed this century this is all that people ate!
Unhealthy foods depress the immune system. Foods to avoid include:
  1. Foods high in sugar such as sweets. Sugar is well known to depress certain cells of the immune system (such as macrophages and NK cells)
  2. Highly processed and refined foods
  3. Foods high in hydrogenated oils
  4. Fried foods
  5. Try to avoid white flour, breads and pasta and opt for the healthier wholewheat alternative

Lifestyle advice:

  1. Exercise and keeping active is not only good for your body and your mind but also helps to optimise immune functioning. In addition regular moderate exercise will help to relax your child and will also encourage healthy sleep. Plus of course the more we move, the more our lymph is circulated and the more efficiently this system can function (the lympathic system plays an important part in immune fuctioning). But don’t encourage overly excessive exercise as this can then negatively affect the immune system.
  2. Help your child to maintain a healthy weight. Being too thin or overweight can both depress the immune system.
  3. Stress, although hopefully this is more applicable to us adults than to our children, is also bad for the immune system. While small amounts of stress can be beneficial, prolonged stress depresses the immune system. If your child is experiencing anything like this it is important to treat it. Anxiety and depression can also compromise the immune system – a healthy mind leads to a healthy body!
  4. Laugh! The chemicals produced when we are happy have receptor sites on cells all over our body - so happy minds can make happy, healthy cells!
  5. Keep your children away from cigarette and tobacco smoke. The chemicals contained in even second hand smoke all depress the immune system and have a negative impact on its functioning.
  6. Reduce exposure to germs. Teach your children good hygiene habits such as washing their hands before meals and after going to the toilet. Stay away from people who are sick and, where possible, keep your children in smaller day care centers or crèches.
  7. We are surrounded by toxic chemicals and pollutants wherever we go, both at home and in the outside environment. We need to get informed and to use safe non-toxic chemicals in our home, in our toiletries and in our gardens.
  8. Avoid excessive sun exposure as this can depress the immune system – ever wondered why cold sores are so common after spending time in the sun? We do need sunlight to produce Vit. D so don’t avoid it entirely – be sensible about the time of day and length of time your child spends in the sun and put on sunblock!

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There are many herbs with a long history of use that are well known to strengthen different parts of the immune system. Our KiddieBoost remedy can be used safely and effectively to support little bodies without side effects. Here’s to health and harmony!

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