Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Battle for Your Health

There’s a war going on in your house. Well, at least within your body. Your immune system is much like the armed forces. Without it, your body could be invaded on a regular basis and taken over or even destroyed by enemy invaders.

I’ve learned more than I want to know about immune systems thanks to the unwelcomed invasion of Alopecia Areata in my youngest son’s body. Since that time, I’ve been building up the defense systems of everyone in the house. The result? We’re still hosting Alopecia, but beyond that we rarely get sick. I have an opportunity to reflect on this each fall when we go to our “well” check ups and the doctor comments on how he/she hasn’t seen this child since the last “well” visit. 

Just recently I watched as an enemy invader germ tried to take down each of my kids in succession. Happily, it failed. Each child complained briefly of a slightly sore throat and general tiredness which lasted a day or so. I loaded them up with vitamin C and gave Tylenol to the biggest complainers, even allowing one of them to spend a day at home “resting” (actually watching nonstop TV and eating). Their immune systems were victorious. None of them ever sported a fever.
Their strong fortified systems fended off the worst of it and it’s a distant memory already. I remember the day when a passing virus would have leveled my children, spiking their fevers and requiring a desperate run to the pediatrician’s office where we would be told it just has to run its course. The “course” would include a few days of really sick, followed by a cold that would hang around for a week or longer. Their immune systems made short work of this latest virus.

 Beyond following an organic diet, here’s my advice for beefing up your and your child’s immune system: 

  1. Eat real food. Fruits, veggies, whole grains. If you don’t recognize everything in the ingredients list – don’t eat it or feed it to your kids. Avoid excessive sugar. Cut out the food dyes and artificial sweeteners. Give your body the right ingredients to defend itself. When you load it up with artificial ingredients, it is weakened simply by the effort of trying to process things not meant to be eaten by people. That weakened state leaves it vulnerable, while whole food fortifies it with plenty of good nutrition.
  2. Drink lots (and lots and lots) of water. Offer water with every meal. Encourage water drinking all day long. I try to drink a glass when I get up and one before each meal. Water helps keep your system running smoothly, flushing out toxins and giving you energy. Dehydrated people (most people are) are tired and not equipped to fight off enemy germs.
  3. Get enough sleep. This is the hardest one for our family. My kids are teenagers (or almost) and their bodies are adopting nocturnal leanings that make it hard for them to go to sleep early. Sadly, the school district doesn’t seem to be concerned with these teenage tendencies and requires them to be on a school bus by 7am. I don’t have any answers for this one. I’ve been trying to let the natural consequences of gong to bed at midnight and being forced out of bed by a parental unit at 6am do the teaching, but it is a slow process. One child (the girl child of course!) has begun to figure this out.
  4. Exercise! I swear by this. I know for a fact that a good run can knock out the first wave of a cold or virus much quicker than any medicine I can take. Get your kids moving somehow, some way. If they aren’t in sports, find another way. I used to let my youngest trade 30 minutes on the treadmill for 30 minutes of TV time. I know it’s bribery, but hopefully it’s also a lesson. Model exercise and invite your kids to join you.
  5. Find some alone time. Stress has a big impact on your immune system. Stressed out people get sick. Find ways to counter that in your kids by making sure they get time to do their own thing. They don’t need constant stimulation. One of my kids makes music, another takes walks and writes, and the third spends solitary time with his legos. I know that when they aren’t getting these opportunities their stress level goes up. Try to create spaces in your kids days for quiet time. Sometimes this requires a little manipulation. My kids computers automatically shut down for several hours each day, effectively forcing them to find something else to do. Nine times out of ten it leads to quality down time. 
These days you can’t walk down the grocery aisle without being blasted by products claiming to boost your immune system. I’m here to tell you that there is no processed food or multi-vitamin that can even compete with the five things listed above. In fact, I’d wager to guess that most “immune boosting” products cancel themselves out by containing artificial ingredients, preservatives, and dyes. 

If you’re a vitamin taker, consider adding Vitamin D to the line up. Research continues to reveal that most of us are deficient in it, especially in the darker months. 

As winter approaches, take the time to access and reinforce your kids’ defense systems. Who knows what’s coming down the pike this year in terms of colds and flus. Be prepared.


  1. I find it challenging to get enough sleep nowadays because I need to juggle tasks at home and at work. Have to do it or else kids will go crazy as they are not yet that old to do things on their own.

  2. I am so thankful for my health and taking steps to insure that I continue to remain this way. Making a life style change to maintain that health and improve on it so my body can be a strong healthy body.

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