As moms, dads and guardians of school aged children we all know how much exposure our children have to cold and flu viruses in the classroom. The reality we all live with is it would be impossible for us to protect them entirely against this exposure meaning; it is our job to ensure they have a strong and supported defense system. This post aims to provide you with some incredibly valuable information on simple strategies to you can use at home to ensure the entire family is eating for healthy immune Protection.
I am sure we all know why the immune system is important, but for the sake of clarification, “Our Immune systems protect us against harmful organisms, bacteria, viruses and even cancerous cells!”. It plays a pretty big role in our day-to-day health and quality of life, and your diet has one of the biggest impacts on how strong and efficient your immune system is.
Lets first look at what could be a cause for concern when it comes to symptoms of a poor functioning immune system. As a Nutritionist, I see many of these issues in my practice and my experience has shown that even simple dietary strategies can make a huge difference.
Symptoms that can be related to a poor functioning immune system
Now you don’t have to have any of the above listed symptoms or conditions to be concerned. My goal is not to instil fear, but emphasize the importance of a lifestyle that promotes a healthy immune system. For some people once their immune system “crash” or become “suppressed”, it can be very difficult to get them back up to a healthful state. Also once we have the above symptoms it is very likely that our immune system has been suffering for some time, and now you are at the point where the symptoms are a results of a poorly functioning immune system. As a practitioner who works with chronic illness and disease, I can promise you one thing, you don’t want to wait until there is a problem to address it! Preventative Nutrition and Lifestyle habits are key, and a major reason why as a mom of four children we stay consistent with immune boosting strategies at home.
Moving forward lets take a peak at what suppresses the immune system.
Refined Sugar – It is well known in the natural health field of study that sugar suppresses the immune system. Dr. Bill Sears, a Renowned (and most published) Paediatrician states on his website (www.askdrsears.com) “The harmful effects of excess sugar can depress immunity and cause a 50% decrease in white blood cells ability to kill bacteria and 40% decrease in white blood cells to attack other germs”. Lets not forget that refined sugar found in soda’s, sugary foods, refined breakfast cereals, granola bars, candy bars etc. is also a Major contributor to diabetes, Cardiovascular disease and mood instability.
Convenience Foods – These are our processed and fast food options. Not only do these foods lack in naturally occurring nutrients (required by the immune system daily), but they also contain many “anti-nutrient” chemicals such as preservatives, colourings, and flavour enhancers all of which require the body to use its own stored nutrients in order to assimilate and eliminate these potentially harmful chemicals. These foods are ok every once and while, but absolutely destructive to our health and immune systems if consumed on a regular basis!
Too much of the wrong protein – Now in North America protein deficiency is not common, however the type of protein we consume makes a difference! Animal products are an excellent source of protein however it is also a significant source of unhealthy saturated fats. Animal protein also leaves behind and acidic ash after it is digested and if consumed in excess or as the primary source of protein it can disrupt the natural ph. of our bodies and is linked to diseases such as osteoporosis (calcium is leached from bones to neutralize acids). Plant based protein (discussed below) is a much more health promoting choice for dietary protein. (I know, I know, I am going against our beloved food guide, but the research is there! The more plant protein and less animal protein we consume the healthier we will be!! The book the China Study written by Dr. Campbell and Dr. Schurman.) http://nutritionstudies.org
We have looked at why the immune system is important, some symptoms of a suppressed immune system and now what we want to avoid, so what is it we are suppose to do?
Here is the good stuff, the simple strategies any family can incorporate!!
#1 – EAT PLANTS. Sounds simple and it is, eating a variety of plant foods also known as whole foods daily will supply your body with not only a wide variety of immune boosting nutrients, but also provide your body with clean burning protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
Whole Foods Include (should be 80% of daily caloric intake):
The listed food groups above should be in the least processed form. E.g. eating and apple over drinking processed apple juice. Most cancer organizations recommend the average Canadian adult consume 7-13 servings of fruit and vegetables a day! This can be a challenge for busy families and is entirely the reason I recommend Juice Plus to my clients. http://canada.juiceplus.com/clinical-research/juice-plus-clinical-research
Plants are also the most bioavailable source of micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients), which are essential for a healthy functioning immune system. These include nutrients that when we are lacking in them can contribute to immune deficiency symptoms (vitamins – A,D,C,E, folate; Minerals Zinc, Magnesium)
SUPPORT YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM WITH JUICE PLUS+.
Juice Plus+ supports key measures of immune system function in healthcare professionals with direct patient contact; in young law school students; in an elderly population; and in athletic men.
Charité University Medical Centre, Berlin, Germany
University of Florida
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#2 – STAY HYDRATED – Drinking lots of water helps oxygenate your blood and helps your body to eliminate toxins. A clean body has a less stressed immune system. Water also helps your body to produce lymphatic fluid, which is where your white blood cells travel to reach and destroy harmful bacteria and viruses!
#3 – CHOOSE NATURAL OVER SYNTHETIC – In our busy world many parents are looking for convenient solutions to bridge the gap between what they are suppose to eat vs. what they are actually eating. Many families rely on synthetic vitamin and mineral formulations to supplement missing nutrients. The problem with synthetic nutrients (If it has a dosage mg, mcg, IU, Its synthetic!) is they are poorly absorbed and current nutritional science shows that taking mega doses of one nutrient can cause deficiencies in other nutrients. Mother nature has perfectly packaged our nutrition in a safe and bioavailable way. The more plants you consume the more nutrition your body gets without the potential for imbalances, also reducing your need for man made vitamins.
#4 – FOCUS ON PLANT BASED PROTEIN – Plant based protein (all plants actually contain protein) provides the amino acids necessary for building antibodies which helps our immune system defend itself against viruses and bacteria. Plants are considered a “smokeless fuel” meaning they don’t have the acidic by-products that come from consuming animal protein. We also know that the more plants you and your family consume the lower your risks for many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, auto immune conditions, Inflammatory conditions and risks for infections!
Good Plant Sources of Protein
Organic soy (Edamame, Tofu)
Steel Cut Oats
Dark Green Veggies (Spinach, Kale, Chard)
Legumes (Beans, peas and lentils)
At our house we make healthy protein smoothies as a way to supplement our children’s diet. This is not an uncommon practice for families in today’s busy world. I do want to stress that if you are going to use a protein supplement for children, choose a plant based shake mix (preferably a non GMO organic plant sourced) over a whey-based product. Whey is incredibly difficult for the digestive system to digest and can cause liver and kidney concerns if over consumed or used with children. If you have questions on what protein shake mixes I recommend for your family feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Summary our immune systems are vital to our health and quality of life, and it takes daily attention to ensure a healthy well function defense system. Avoiding processed and focusing on whole food choices, staying hydrated and plant-based proteins will go a long way in supporting a strong immune system.
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This has offered me the gift of “Being Present”. I have more face-to-face time, and time connecting individually with my children then ever before!
As a parent we constantly question whether or not we are making the right choices for our children. And for many parents a good educational experience is perceived as critical to our children’s long-term success.
I was a very young mom, with no post secondary education. My husband and I learned first hand how tough it was to be out in the real world raising children, without a good education to back us up. Our employment options were limited within the minimum wage range, which did not fit our vision for our future.
I ended up putting myself through school twice, in order to find a career I was (and still am) passionate about. I learned first hand how tough life without a proper education could be.
I was nursing babies, keeping up with post secondary studies, holding one or two jobs at a time, and suffering from a pure, and unrelenting exhaustion. As much as this was character building for me, I would love to set my children up in a way to help them avoid this special little life experience.
Lets face it we all want life to be a little easier for our children than it may have been for us, and if I can help my children avoid the experience of working a night shift (so they can get in some study time, and pay the bills) followed by a day shift at job 2, I will!
Now as a mom of four children (currently aged 15, 12, 8, and 5), one of my biggest goals for them is to have a good educational experience, that focuses on their passions and strengths, and that helps set them up for happy and successful futures.
Pretty much like every parent, right!
For 3 of 4 of our children who are “normal” learners, there is no fear around this for them. However we have a 12 year daughter who has a diagnosed learning disability, called Dyslexia. Through a professional assessment, she was diagnosed, and placed within the first percentile of her grade level. The psychologist left us with the feeling that our daughter will likely never be a confident learner.
Fast forward three more years through the public school system, countless hours at home trying to work with our daughter, tutors, home study books, and a ton of frustration on both of our parts, and our daughter was 11 years old (grade 6) and totally illiterate.
Now for any parent, this is devastating! Reading is how we navigate todays world. Not only was my child suffering every day at school, but her self worth and confidence was dwindling, she refused to try anything that felt difficult, and she had learned to use “I cant” as a shield. My husband and I were hurting for her, and I was searching for a solution.
This is what brought us to Montessori. While looking at a Montessori program upon recommendation, for our busy four year old, we discovered our local Montessori school also had an elementary program.
We enrolled our girls right after a consultation with the school principle and it turned out to be exactly the solution we had been looking for! Our daughter went from less than 10 word recognition in her first few days of Montessori, to almost 70 words in her first week! The one on one instruction, and student lead curriculum allowed our beautiful daughter to flourish, and find her own learning style. The teachers were incredible, her peers where understanding, and we were so incredibly grateful! Montessori is absolutely the right educational program for children who are dyslexic. And we were so grateful to have found it!
This private Montessori school was exactly what we were looking for up until this past June, when after 30 years of running the school, the owners decided it was time to retire. We were devastated! I tend not to be a overly emotional mom, but there were many nights after we were told the news, that I laid in bed teary eyed, as my heart was crushed for my daughter. We found what we had been looking so long for, and it turned out we were only meant to be there for a short while. I was absolutely heartbroken and unsure of what was going to be our options moving forward.
We could go back to the public school system, move forward with the new private school program, which was being launched collectively by a few parents, or take on private one on one education at home. These seemed to be the only three options available to us in our area.
Now for public school, we are lucky to have a wonderful school we can enrol our children in, however, our experience was one where our daughter’s needs were not being met. Frankly I’m not sure how any one teacher can teach 30 students with 30 different learning styles, let alone a child with a significant difference in learning ability. I have nothing but love and respect for public school teachers. It is an almost impossible task and yet, their passion and leadership has such a wonderful impact on so many students. For us however, this truly felt like it was no longer the right option.
Then there was the new up and coming Montessori school, and it was definitely a top runner! However there was something in my gut that told me this may not the right place for our daughter this year. She left a program that had the same leadership and location for 30 years. I was not sure how a new school, new program, and new routine, would impact her. If there is one thing I have learned in being a mom and entrepreneur is you have to listen to your gut. I did not have a bad feeling about this new school, just the feeling that this change was not where we were meant to go.
Then there was homeschooling, and if I am being honest, it totally scared the shit out of me! I understand that although homeschooling is not typically done over 6 hours a day (usually 2) it is a huge commitment. AND….
What if my children don’t want to listen to me?
What if I teach them something wrong?
Will this hurt them socially?
What will I teach them?
Isn’t homeschooling for crunchy moms?
Am I a crunchy mom?
Omg am I seriously considering this?
The inner turmoil over this is real, but despite my instant fear and insecurity about being my children’s primary teacher, I did feel a powerful enough pull to take a serious look.
I decided to go to the experts, and connected with some local homeschool moms. I found their children were actually quite normal!! In fact I found most of the homeschool children I was interacting with had very high IQ’s and amazing social skills! There was also an underlying confidence about these children. I was impressed and incredibly intrigued!
So I did more research, I did some soul searching, I asked for divine guidance, and through it all I realized that Homeschooling is something that may just work for our family.
The reality is, it will offer our daughter one on one education for almost a full year before she enters high school in the next school year. In addition to this, after all my research and connecting with other home school moms, I have come to point where I actually am starting to feel like I can do this!
It wont be perfect, it may get a little messy, but my heart is telling me, it will be what is best!
The Montessori program worked so well for us because of the style of education it offered. The student led program allows students to focus on strengths and creativity. Children can choose what subjects they spend their time on each day with an emphasis on real life skills and responsibility. This is exactly the type of environment we want to continue with at home!
We decided to start our homeschool routine this summer, to test drive it and see how our three younger children (oldest is in high school) and myself would actually feel about it. I found tons of amazing curriculums and online resources available. I joined some local homeschool groups, and sat with my children as we planned many educational opportunities for at home!
Now I understand, not all parents share the same lifestyle where they are able to stay home full time with their children. Our family like most Canadian families requires a double income to get by, and this opportunity for me to homeschool is only due to my home based, direct sales business, and the financial security, and time freedom this business has blessed our family with. Without a home based career there is no way I would have been able to take this on.
Running a business from home is not easy and it takes an incredible amount of work and self-discipline. I am incredibly lucky to do something I am passionate about. I have simply had to create separate work hours, and school hours within our day. My children are very understanding of mommy’s work time and play together, play outside and even spend time reading, doing art, or just connecting as I work.
We have also discovered and incredible blessing in all of this, and it was something I did not realize I was missing in the first place!
Homeschooling has offered me the gift of “Being Present”. I have more face-to-face time, and time connecting individually with my children then ever before!
Like many busy families our daily routine was get up early, make breakfast and lunches, dress the children, get myself ready, and run out the door by 8:30am to do school drop off. I would dash home, tidy up from the morning mess, do some work, eat lunch, do more work, dash to pick up the children from school, run home make dinner, clean out lunch pails and head out to support my home based business. This typical day often left me anxious and simply wishing I had more time.
Conversations with my children use to be reserved for the drive to and from school, and if we were lucky an hour before bed. It was chaotic, exhausting and what we considered to be normal life.
With our new homeschooling routine, I am now up enjoying a coffee and sitting with my early bird, 5 year old (usually discussing Mincecraft). We watch the weather report and have breakfast together. Usually by then the girls are up and I feed them before grabbing a quick shower and getting my day started.
I do 1-2 hours of work before we begin our homeschool routine. The younger two children start first on our chosen activities (usually reading, writing and math) and our oldest daughter starts about an hour after the fist two. I sit with all three of the children, 5 days a week, and help learn the days lessons, read stories with them, do art projects, and have amazing face to face time.
I am present, and it’s the biggest reward I could of ever hoped for! We have library days, gymnastics, and nature walks. We prepare meals and snacks together, have play dates and are planning some great family trips this coming fall. This has become a good choice for all of us!
Although it takes more time out of my day, it has actually reduced the busyness of our family. Things are slower, less chaotic, and my children are learning incredibly well! Once a task or lesson is mastered they move on. They set the pace, and have each found personal determination to complete tasks. It’s absolutely wonderful to watch!
This is real life experience without the rush. They focus on what they are passionate about, and I am seeing their confidence grow every day. There is no judgement, and there is more joy. It may only be for one year, to help our oldest daughter enter high school as prepared as we can help her be, but I will be forever grateful for this opportunity and for the ability to take this on.
What does the future hold? I’m not sure. However I do intend to study more about Montessori, as it has now become a passion deep in my heart to help more families with children who are dyslexic or have differences in learning abilities.
For now I will homeschool, I will be present, I will treasure this time, and I will be grateful that my career has offered me this flexibility and gift. It will be a year we will never forget!
If you have a child who is struggling academically please know it is not your fault, your child’s teachers fault, or the fault of your child. Learning challenges are tough and can be heartbreaking! Look at the programs and resources available and educate yourself on the options. I truly believe our children are “gifted” with these challenges as part of their life’s journey. Like our family, if you look hard enough you will find a solution, whether it be in a private school, a Montessori Program, a tutor, or homeschooling. There are so many options. I know the feeling of helplessness of watching your child truly suffer academically and the worry you may have about their future. Children are resilient, and if we simply love them and search for the right answers, you will find it. Thank you for reading this and sharing in our journey with us.
Alisa Herriman, mom, entrepreneur, nutritionist, speaker, homeschooler
Alisa Herriman has been researching and teaching Nutrition since 2003. Leaving her job in the health care industry to share her passion for healthy living, Alisa travels all over Canada sharing her mission and teaching communities how to prevent and fight disease with Nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.