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10 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Kid’s Immune System (naturally)
Do you ever wonder why sickness seems to be seasonal? Is there really a “flu season”? Can viruses sense when winter is coming?
The truth is, when the weather takes a turn, so does our lifestyle. We go from lots of time outside, at the beach, in the sunshine, grilling on the patio… To libraries, indoor play-dates, hot chocolate, snuggle up movie sessions. Not to mention how there tends to be an increase in the amount of desserts and festive foods we consume as the holidays approach.
Here are some ways we help our immune systems out through the year!
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I am sure this does not come as a shock to you seeing how often I write about the importance of the sun. We have been trained as parents to keep our kids in the shade and to their detriment, lather them in sunscreen.
Mitochondrial Response to Sunlight
Sunlight is one of the most powerful mitochondrial boosters that exists. And if you don’t remember your 5th grade biology class, our mitochondria are the “powerhouse” of the cell. In fact, 90% of the energy we use for everyday life is provided for us through our mitochondria- so… pretty important stuff!
Most modern diseases actually start in the mitochondria. What happens when our mitochondrial function drops? Weight gain, poor sleep, chronic fatigue, hormonal issues, and a weakened immune system.
Vitamin D and Sunlight
Proper vitamin D absorption is crucial to a strong immune system and deficiency increases the length and frequency of illness.
During the summer months, this is not difficult. Simply spend time in the sun with your kids when the sun is at its highest. For most caucasian people, 15-20 minutes of high sun is plenty to absorb adequate vitamin D. The amount of time you need in the sun changes depending on how dark your skin is due to the amount of melanin.
How do I know if I have gotten enough vitamin d from the sun?
You will burn! A good rule of thumb is to stay in the sun for half the amount of time it takes for your skin to burn. So if you know you will burn in 2 hours, stay out for an hour!
When you go outside, even if it is cold, try to let as much of your skin be exposed as possible when the sun is at its highest. Even if it is just a 15 minute walk or bike ride, get outside! Yes you can take vitamin d supplements but you will not absorb and use the vitamin d as efficiently and there are downsides to taking vitamin D orally.
Mushrooms have so many benefits. But did you know about the immune support mushrooms provide?
How could mushrooms improve my immune system?
In my post 5 Amazing Health Benefits of Mushrooms, I go over a few different adaptogenic mushrooms worth looking into.
2. Reishi Mushroom
When dealing with respiratory illness reishi mushroom is a must. Reishi is used to aid in coughing, wheezing and even phlegm dispersion.
Red reishi in particular has been shown to increase the body’s ability to absorb oxygen and reduce the coughing reflex for people suffering from bronchitis.
Reishi is also a natural antihistamine and is used for immune system support by helping your body to respond to irritants and toxins like mold and dust.
Current research has also shown that polysaccharides in reishi strengthen the immune system in patients with lung cancer! But reishi isn’t the only mushroom that helps support the lungs.
3. Chaga Mushroom
The polysaccharides in chaga mushrooms are also amazing immune “modulators”.
What are immune modulators? Simply put, if your immune system needs to be boosted (when you catch a bug) or if your immune system is suppressed (when you are dealing with an allergy) the polysaccharides helps to regulate it.
Research published in Mycobiology discovered that the immune system T-cells increased in animals who ate chaga mushrooms. This is important because your T-cells are responsible for your “adaptive immune system” that make antibodies and also attack pathogens.
4. Shiitake Mushrooms
YALL… if you take anything from this blog- take this! You can find shiitake mushrooms all year round and this little health hack is so easy!
I am just going to quote my old blog 5 Amazing Health Benefits of Mushrooms for this section.
Paul Stamets conducted a study on shiitake mushrooms and their vitamin D level that was truly astounding.
shiitake mushrooms dried outdoors in 6 hours of sunlight over two days had more vitamin D when they were dried with their gills facing up—they went from 100 IU per 3.5 oz to nearly 46,000 IU!
Not only can we increase the levels of vitamin D drastically, but these mushrooms contained a significant amount of vitamin D even after being preserved and stored for a year. In addition, the shiitake mushroom can withstand heat levels up to 400 degrees without detracting significant amounts of its precious vitamin resources.
I typically take my organic shiitake mushrooms, lay them gills up in the sun for the day, and then dehydrate them in my air fryer.
After they are dehydrated and cooled I store them in my fridge and use them in stews and soups throughout the winter.
What if my kid won’t eat mushrooms?
As much as I hate to admit this. I don’t like mushrooms, and my kids are not fans either… its a texture thing.
In order to get our daily dose of mushrooms in, especially during winter months, I mix in dried mushrooms powered into honey and give them a spoonful. My kids love it!
I also have a hot cocoa recipe that is my absolute favorite was to get mushrooms in.
Where can I buy adaptogenic mushrooms?
Ok we all know that honey is a common thing that is suggested when we are sick. There are honey throat drops, honey tea and honey sprays, but do we know why or how honey can heal?
How Can Honey Help the Immune System?
First, let’s break down what is actually healing about “honey” and the different things bee’s actually help produce.
Propolis is a compound bee’s make from the sap of needle-leaved trees or evergreens. Hundreds of polyphenol compounds have been found in propolis. Polyphenols are amazing antioxidants that help fight disease in the body.
The flavonoids found in propolis have antiviral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties and can aid in multiple things like wound healing, skin care and even treating cancer.
We use a blend of propolis from Beekeepers Naturals called B. Superfood and also use a concentrated version that sprays right into our throats. My kids love this throat spray and we start using it the second they are showing signs of a sore throat or a cold.
6. Bee Pollen
Bee pollen might be small but it is mighty! It packs a big punch when it comes to improving our immune system because of its high flavonoid compounds.
Ingesting bee pollen can speed up your kids recovery from illness, help relieve respiratory illness and even balance the endocrine system.
7. Royal Jelly
Royal jelly has earned a reputation to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
In multiple test-tube and animal studies, specific amino acids, fatty acids and phenolic compounds have been found in royal jelly.
These compounds appear to have a potent antioxidant effect, boosting your immune system and decreasing the amount of time you or your kids are ill.
This PubMed article illustrates how royal jelly has the ability to enhance the body’s natural immune response to foreign viruses and bacteria.
Where can I find bee pollen, propolis & royal jelly?
If you go to Beekeepers Naturals you can in their B.Powered Superfood Honey which includes all three! I like to order my B. Powered Superfood through Thrive Market so I can save 15% but you can also order this from Amazon.
How do you and your kids take bee pollen and royal jelly?
The blend we buy is sweet and delicious! I have done a number of things with this blend for me and the kids.
- Give them a spoonful (with a few mushrooms, vitamin c, and beef liver pills mixed in)
- Mix it into our raw milk yogurt
- Spread it on top of a piece of toast
- Mix it into our raw milk
- Add to a cup of tea or coffee
- Mix into hot cocoa
I am not big on taking “multivitamins” and supplements for many reasons.
Most of the vitamins sold at stores are not bio-available (your body cannot absorb them) and ultimately are just creating really expensive pee.
There are “supplements” however that are really easy on our body and are very bio-available due to the fact that they are made out of real food.
8. Whole Food Vitamin C
Vitamin C and ascorbic acid are two different things. Always read the ingredients of the Vitamin C you and your kids are consuming.
Whole food Vitamin C like this one is made out of organic berries and orange peel to give you and your kids the immune system boost you need!
Consuming high doses of Vitamin C can cause gastrointestinal disruptions so pay attention to the amount you are taking, but 6-8 grams has been shown to decrease the duration of severe colds.
Foods that are particularly high in Vitamin C are
How do I give my kids Vitamin C?
The easiest way I give my kids Vitamin C supplements by mixing it into a spoonful of honey. I also try to have food sources of vitamin c around or in my freezer so I can blend up a smoothie if I feel a cold coming on.
9. Beef Liver
Where do I even start? You guys have heard me talk your ear off about beef liver, but let me do another deep dive about why I am always giving my kids beef liver to boost their immune system.
As you know from my blog Liver & Collagen: Why Ancestral Eating Matters, liver is particularly rich in a multitude of vitamins and minerals. A few hard to find minerals and vitamins liver is rich in includes B-vitamins, vitamin B12 and folate, copper, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc.
A 3.5-ounce portion of cooked beef liver provides:
- Protein: 27 grams
- Vitamin B12: 1,386% of the RDI
- Copper: 730% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 522% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 201% of the RDI
- Niacin: 87% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 51% of the RDI
- Selenium: 47% of the RDI
- Zinc: 35% of the RDI
- Iron: 34% of the RDI
But since cooking and eating liver is not super convenient (or delicious) for me and my kids I supplement with these beef liver pills.
How to Get Liver Into Your Kids Diet
- Buy a good grass-fed liver and blend it in your blender until smooth- freeze them in use cube trays and cover-thaw and add a few cubes into your ground beef dishes. Ie. Taco meat, chili, burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, ziti, lasagna..
- Get a quality desiccated beef liver pill (will share source further down) and just take the supplement if you can swallow pills. For your kids- open a pill and mix it into a tablespoon of honey, a pouch, their meals… smoothie… whatever they will take
10. Oyster Supplements
Do you want to know what food is incredibly nutrient-dense and full of zinc, selenium, and B12? You’ve got it! Oysters.
Oysters are chocked full of key minerals for immune support and can be easily supplemented with these capsules.
Oyster-Min Capsules combine heavy-metal-free oyster meat powder with mustard seeds and celery seeds for a naturally mineral-rich combination with tons of health benefits!
I have been supplementing off and on with these oyster supplements and my blood work reflects it! My doctor was shocked at my zinc, copper and selenium levels after analyzing my recent blood panel.
These important minerals have been so depleted from our kids’ diets and our soil, and our kids immune systems desperately need them in order to thrive.
How do I get oyster supplements into my kids diet?
You guessed it! A good old spoon full of honey. I normally scoop about a tablespoon of BeeKeeper’s Superfood into a cup, add a capsule of beef liver, a capsule of oyster and a capsule of vitamin c, mix it all together and spoon it into their eager and drool filled little mouths!
You could also easily hide these kinds of pills in stews, soups and taco meat.
What are your go to immune boosters for your kids?? Drop them in the comments below!
Denisow, B., & Denisow‐Pietrzyk, M. (2016). Biological and therapeutic properties of bee pollen: a review. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 96(13), 4303-4309.
Kačániová, M. et al (2015). Antimicrobial activity of bee collected pollen against clostridia. Scientific Papers Animal Science and Biotechnologies, 47(2), 362-365.
Khider, M. et al (2013). Egyptian honeybee pollen as antimicrobial, antioxidant agents, and dietary food supplements. Food Science and Biotechnology, 22(5), 1-9.
Komosinska-Vassev, K. et al (2015). Bee pollen: chemical composition and therapeutic application. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015.
Pascoal, A. et al (2014). Biological activities of commercial bee pollens: Antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 63, 233-239.
Ulbricht, C. et al (2009). An evidence-based systematic review of bee pollen by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Journal of dietary supplements, 6(3), 290-312.